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Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

History of the administration of President Lincoln : including his speeches, letters, addresses, proclamations, and messages. With a preliminary sketch of his life online

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondHistory of the administration of President Lincoln : including his speeches, letters, addresses, proclamations, and messages. With a preliminary sketch of his life → online text (page 21 of 46)
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service required of them. The President referred the matter
to Adjutant-General Thomas and General E. A. Hitchcock,
who made a report on the same day, in which they decided
that the force left by General McClellan was not sufficient to
make Washington " entirely secure," as the President had
required in his order of March 13 ; nor was it as large as the
council of officers held at Fairfax Court-IIouse on the same
day had adjudged to be necessary. In accordance with this
decision, and for the purpose of rendering the capital safe,
the army corps of General McDowell was detached from
General McClellan s immediate command, and ordered to re
port to the Secretary of War.

On reaching Fortress Monroe, General McClellan found
Commodore Goldsborough, who commanded on that naval
station, unwilling to send any considerable portion of his force
up the York River, as he was employed in watching the Mer-
rimac, which had closed the James River against us. He had,
therefore, landed at the Fortress and commenced h-is march
up the Peninsula, having reached the Warwick River, in the
immediate vicinity of Yorktown, which had been fortified, and
was held by a rebel force of about 11,000 men, under
General Magruder a part of them, however, being across
the river at Gloucester. He here halted to reconnoitre the
position ; and on the 6th, wrote to the President that he had
but 85,000 men fit for duty that the whole line of the
Warwick River was strongly fortified that it was pretty



THE PRESIDENT S LETTEK TO GEN. M CLELLAN. 231

certain lie was to "have the whole force of the enemy on his
hands, probably not less than 100,000 men, and probably
more, 1 and that he should commence siege operations as soon
as he could get up his train. He entered, accordingly, upon
this work, telegraphing from time to time complaints that
he was not properly supported by the Government, and asking
for re-enforcements.

On the 9th of April, President LINCOLN addressed him the

following letter :

WASHINGTON, April 9, 1862.

MY DEAR SIR: Tour dispatches, complaining that you are not prop
erly sustained, while they do not offend me, do pain me very much.

Blenker s division was withdrawn from you before you left here, and
you know the pressure under which I did it, and, as I thought, acqui
esced in it certainly not without reluctance.

After you left, I ascertained that less than twenty thousand unorgan
ized men, without a single field battery, were all you designed to be
left for the defence of Washington and Manassas Junction, and part of
this even was to go to General Hooker s old position. General Banks s
corps, once designed for Manassas Junction, was diverted and tied up
on the line of \Yinchester and Strasburg, and could not leave it with
out again exposing the Upper Potomac and the Baltimore and Ohio
Hail road. This presented, or would present, when McDowell and Sum-
ner should be gone, a great temptation to the enemy to turn back from
the Rappahannock and sack Washington. My implicit order that
Washington should, by the judgment of all the commanders of army
corps, be left entirely secure, had been neglected. It was precisely
this that drove me to detain McDowell.

I do not forget that I was satisfied with your arrangement to leave
Banks at Manassas Junction : but when that arrangement was broken
up, and nothing was substituted for it, of course I was constrained to
substitute something for it myself. And allow me to ask, do you really
think I should permit the line from Richmond, via Manassas Junction,
to this city, to be entirely open, except what resistance could be pre
sented by less than twenty thousand unorganized troops ? This is a
question which the country will not allow me to evade.

There is a curious mystery about the number of troops now with you.
When I telegraphed you on the sixth, saying you had over a hundred
thousand with you, I had just obtained from the Secretary of War a



232 PEESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

statement taken, as he said, from your own returns, making one hun
dred and eight thousand then with you and en route to you. You now
say you will have but eighty-five thousand when all en route to you
shall have reached you. How can the discrepancy of twenty -three
thousand be accounted for ?

As to General "Wool s command, I understand it is doing for you pre
cisely what a like number of your own would have to do if that com
mand was away.

I suppose the whole force which has gone forward for you is with
you by this time. And if so, I think it is the precise tune for you to
strike a blow. By delay, the enemy will relatively gain upon you
that is, he will gain faster by fortifications and re-enforcements than you
can by re-enforcements alone. And once more let me tell you, it is in
dispensable to you that you strike a blow. I am powerless to help this.
You will do me the justice to remember I always insisted that going
down the bay in search of a field, instead of fighting at or near Manas-
sas, was only shifting, and not surmounting, a difficulty; that we
would find the same enemy, and the same or equal intrenchments, at
either place. The country will not fail to note, is now noting, that the
present hesitation to move upon an intrenched enemy is but the story
of Manassas repeated.

I beg to assure you that I have never written you or spoken to you
in greater kindness of feeling than now, nor with a fuller purpose to
sustain you, so far as, in my most anxious judgment, I consistently
can. But you must act.

Yours, very truly,

A. LIXCOLN.

Major-General MCCLELLAN.

In this letter the President only echoed the impatience and
eagerness of the whole country. The most careful inquiries
which General Wool, in command at Fortress Monroe, had
been able to make, satisfied him that Yorktown was not held
by any considerable force; and subsequent disclosures have
made it quite certain that this force was so utterly inadequate
to the defence of the position that a prompt movement upon
it would have caused its immediate surrender, and enabled our
army to advance at once upon Richmond. General McClellan
decided, however, to approach it by a regular siege ; and it was



THE REBEL STEEXGTH AT YOKKTOWX. 233

not until this design had become apparent, that the rebel Gov
ernment began to re-enforce Magruder.* He continued his

*The following extract from the official report of Major-General
Magruder, dated May 3d, 1862, and published by order of the Confederate
Congress, is conclusive as to the real strength of the force which Gen
eral McClellan had in front of him at Yorktown :

HEAD-QUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OP THE PENINSULA, )
LEE S FARM, May 3, 1862. \

General S. COOPER, A. and I. G. C. S. A. :

GENERAL : Deeming it of vital importance to hold Yorktown on York
River, and Mulberry Island on James River, and to keep the enemy in
check by an intervening line until the authorities might take such steps
as should be deemed necessary to meet a serious advance of the enemy in
the Peninsula, I felt compelled to dispose my forces in such a manner
as to accomplish these objects with the least risk possible under the
circumstances of great hazard which surrounded the little army I com
manded.

I had prepared as my real line of defence, positions in advance at
Harwood s and Young s Mills. Both flanks of this line were defended
by boggy and difficult streams and swamps. * * In my opinion this
advanced line, with its flank defences, might have been held by 20,000
troops. * Finding my forces too weak to attempt the defence of this line,
I was compelled to prepare to receive the enemy on a second line on War
wick River. This line was incomplete in its preparations. Keeping then
only small bodies of troops at Harwood s and Young s Mills, and on Ship
Point, I distributed my remaining forces along the Warwick line, embra
cing a front from Yorktown to Minor s farm of twelve miles, and from the
latter place to Mulberry Island Point one and a half miles. I was com
pelled to place in Gloucester Point, Yorktown, and Mulberry Island, fixed
garrisons amounting to 6, 000 men, my whole force being 11,000, so that it viill
be seen that the balance of the line, embracing a length of thirteen mile?., was
defended by about 5,000 men.

After the recounoissances in great force from Fortress Monroe and New
port News, the enemy, on the 3d of April, advanced and took possession
of Harwood s Mill. He advanced in two heavy columns, one along the
old York road, and the other along the Warwick road, and on the 5th of
April appeared simultaneously along the whole part of our line from
Minor s farni to Yorktown. I have no accurate data upon which to base
an exact statement of his force; but from various sources of information
I was satisfied that I had before me the enemy s Army of the Potomac,
under the command of General McClellan, with the exception of the two
corps d armee of Banks and McDowell respectively forming an aggregate
number certainly of not less than 100,000, since ascertained to have been
120,000 men.

On every portion of my lines he attacked us with a furious cannona
ding and musketry, which was responded to with effect by our batteries
and troops of the line. His skirmishers also were well thrown forward
on this and the succeeding day, and energetically felt our whole line, but
were everywhere repulsed by the steadiness of our troops. Tims with
5.000 men, exclusive of the garrisons, vie stopped and held in check over one
hundred thousand of the enemy. Every preparation was made in anticipa
tion of another attack by the enemy. The men slept in the trenches arid



234 .-RESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

applications to the Government for more troops, more cannon,
more transportation all which were sent forward to him as
rapidly as possible, being taken mainly from McDowell s
corps. On the 14th of April, General Franklin, detached
from that corps, reported to General McClellan, near York-
town, but his troops remained on board the transports. A
month was spent in this way, the President urging action in
the most earnest manner, and the commanding general delay
ing from day to day his reiterated promises to commence
operations immediately. At last, on the morning of the 4th
of May, it was discovered that the rebels had been busy for a
day or two in evacuating Yorktown, and that the last of their
columns had left that place, all their supply-trains having been
previously removed on the day and night preceding. General
McClellan, in announcing this event to the Government, added
that u no time would be lost" in the pursuit, and that he
should " push the enemy to the wall." General Stoneman,
with a column of cavalry, was at once sent forward to overtake
the retreating enemy, which he succeeded in doing on the
same day, and was repulsed. On the 5th, the forces ordered
forward by General McClellan came up, and found a very
strong rear-guard of the rebels strongly fortified, about two
miles east of Williamsburg, and prepared to dispute the
advance of the pursuing troops. It had been known from the
beginning that a very formidable line of forts had been erected
here, and it ought to have been equally well known by the
commanding general that the retreating enemy would avail

under arms, but, to my utter surprise, he permitted day after day to elapse
without an assault.

In a few days the object of his delay was apparent. In every direction in
front of our lines, through the intervening woods and along the open fields,
earthworks began to appear. Through the energetic action of the govern
ment re-enforcements began to pour in, and each hour the army of the Ibn-
insida grew stronger and stronger, until anxiety passed from my mind as to
the result of an attack upon us.

J. BANKHEA.D MAGRUDER, Major- General.



THE BATTLE OF WILLIAMSBUEG. 235

himself of them to delay the pursuit. General McClellan,
however, had evidently anticipated no resistance. He remained
at his head-quarters, two miles in the rear of Yorktown, until
summoned by special messenger in the afternoon of the 5th,
who announced to him that our troops had encountered the
enemy strongly posted, that a bloody battle was in progress,
and that his presence on the field was imperatively required.
Replying to the messenger that he had supposed our troops in
front " could attend to that little matter," General McClellan
left his head-quarters at about half-past two, p. M., and reached
the field at five. General Hooker, General Heintzelman, and
General Surnner, had been fighting under enormous difficulties,
and with heavy losses, during all the early part of the day ; and
just as the commanding general arrived, General Kearney
had re-enforced General Hooker, and General Hancock had
executed a brilliant flank movement, which turned the
fortunes of the day, and left our forces in possession of the
field.

General McClellan does not seem to have understood that
this affair was simply an attempt of the rebel rear-guard to
cover the retreat of the main force, and that when it had
delayed the pursuit it had accomplished its whole purpose.
He countermanded an order for the advance of two divisions,
and ordered them back to Yorktown ; and in a dispatch sent
to the War Department the same night, he treats the battle
as an engagement with the whole rebel army. " I find, 5 ho
says, " General Joe Johnson in front of me in strong force,
probably greater, a good deal, than my own." He again
complains of the inferiority of his command, says he will do all
he can " with the force at his disposal," arid that he should " run
the risk of at least holding them in check here (at Williams-
burg) while he resumed the original plan" which was to
send Franklin to West Point by water. But the direct pursuit
of the retreating rebel army was abandoned owing, as the



230 PKESIDEXT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

general said, to the bad state of the roads, which rendered it
impracticable. Some five days were spent at Williams-
burg, which enabled the rebels, notwithstanding the " state of
the roads," to withdraw their whole force across the Chicka-
liominy, and establish themselves within the fortifications in
front of Richmond. On the morning of the 7th, General
Franklin landed at West Point, but too late to intercept the
main body of the retreating army : he was met by a strong
rear-guard, with whom he had a sharp but fruitless en
gagement.

The York River had been selected as the base of operations,
in preference to the James, because it " was in a better position
to effect a junction with any troops that might move from
Washington on the Fredericksburg line;"* and arrange
ments were made to procure supplies for the army by
that route. On the 9th, Norfolk was evacuated by the
rebels, all the troops withdrawing in safety to Richmond;
and the city, on the next day, was occupied by General
Wool. On the llth, the formidable steamer Merrimac, which
had held our whole naval force at Fortress Monroe completely
in check, was blown up by the rebels themselves, and our
vessels attempted to reopen the navigation of the James
River, but were repulsed by a heavy battery at Drury s bluff,
eight miles below Richmond. After waiting for several days
for the roads to improve, the main body of the army was put
in motion on the road towards Richmond, which was about
forty miles from Williamsburg ; and, on the 16th, head
quarters were established at White House, at the point where
the Richmond railroad crosses the Pamunkey, an affluent
of the York River the main body of the army lying along
the south bank of the Chickahominy, a swampy stream, be
hind which the rebel army had intrenched itself for the
defence of Richmond.

* See General McClellan s testimony Report of Committee on Con
duct of the War, Vol. i., p. 431.



General McClellan began again to prepare for fighting the
" decisive battle" which he had been predicting ever since the
rebels withdrew from Manassas, but which they had so far suc
ceeded in avoiding. A good deal of his attention, however,
was devoted to making out a case of neglect against the Gov
ernment. On the 10th of May, when he had advanced but
three miles beyond William sburg, he sent a long dispatch tc
the War Department, reiterating his conviction that the rebels
were about to dispute his advance with their whole force, and
asking for " every man" the Government could send him. If
not re-enforced he said he should probably be " obliged to fight
nearly double his numbers strongly intrenched." Ten days
previously the official returns showed that he had 160,000 men
under his command. On the 14th, he telegraphed the Presi
dent, reiterating his fears that he was to be met by overwhelm
ing numbers, saying that he could not bring more than 80,000
men into the field, and again asking for " every man" that the
AVar Department could send him. Even if more troops
should not be needed for military purposes, he thought a great
display of imposing force in the capital of the rebel govern
ment would have the best moral effect. To these repeated de
mands the President, through the Secretary of War, on the
18th of May, made the following reply :

WASHINGTON, May 18 2 p. M.

GENERAL : Your dispatch to the President, asking re-enforcements,
has been received and carefully considered.

The President is not willing to uncover the capital entirely ; and it is
believed that even if this were prudent, it would require more time to
effect a junction between your army and that of the Rappahannock oy
the way of the Potomac nnd York River, than by a land march. In order,
therefore, to increase the strength of the attack upon Richmond at the ear
liest moment, General McDowell has been ordered to march upon that city
by the shortest route. He is ordered, keeping himself always in posi
tion to save the capital from all possible attack, so to operate as to put
his left wing in communication with your right wing, and you are in-



238 PRESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

Btructed to co-operate so as to establish this communication as soon as
possible by extending your right wing to the north of Richmond.

It is believed that this communication can be safely established either
north or south of the Pamunkey River.

In any event, you will be able to prevent the main body of the ene-
n.y s forces from leaving Richmond, and falling in overwhelming force
upon General McDowell. He will move with between thirty-five and
fc^ty thousand men.

A copy of the instructions to General McDowell are with this. The
specific task assigned to his command has been to provide against any
danger to the capital of the nation.

At your earnest call for re-enforcements, he is sent forward to co
operate in the reduction of Richmond, but charged, in attempting this,
not to uncover the city of Washington, and you will give no order, either
before or after your junction, which can put him out of position to cover
this city. You and he will communicate with each other by telegraph
or otherwise, as frequently as may be necessary for sufficient co-opera
tion. When General McDowell is in position on your right, his supplies
must be drawn from West Point, and you will instruct your staff officers
to be prepared to supply him by that route.

The President desires that General McDowell retain the command of
the department of the Rappahannock, and of the forces with which ho
moves forward.

By order of the President. EDWIN M. STANTON.

In reply to this, on the 21st of May, General McClellan re
peated his declarations of the overwhelming force of the rebels,
and urged that General McDowell should join him by water
instead of by land, going down the Rappahannock and the Bay
to Fortress Monroe, and then ascending the York and Pamun
key Rivers. He feared there was " little hope that he could
join him overland in time for the coining battle. Delays," he
says, " on my part will be dangerous : I fear sickness and de
moralization. This region is unhealthy for Northern men, and
unless kept moving, I fear that our soldiers may become dis
couraged" a fear that was partially justified by the experience
of the whvrle month succeeding, during which he kept them
idle. He complained also that McDowell was not put more



239

completely under his command, and declared that a movement
by land would uncover Washington quite as completely as one
by water. He was busy at that time in bridging the Chickar-
horniny, and gave no instructions, as required, for supplying
McDowell s forces on their arrival at West Point.

To these representations, he received from the President tho
following reply :

WASHINGTON, May 24, 1862.

I left General McDowell s camp at dark last evening. Shields s com
mand is there, but it is so worn that he cannot move before Monday
morning, the 26th. We have so thinned our line to get croops for other
places that it was broken yesterday at Front Royal, with a probable loss
to us of one regiment infantry, two companies cavalry, putting General
Banks in some peril

The enemy s forces, under General Anderson, now opposing General
McDowell s advance, have, as their line of supply and retreat, the road
to Richmond.

If, in conjunction with McDowell s movement against Anderson, you
could send a force from your right to cut off the enemy s supplies from
Richmond, preserve the railroad bridge across the two forks of the Pamnn-
key, and intercept the enemy s retreat, you will prevent the army now-
opposed to you from receiving an accession of numbers of nearly 15,000
men; and if you succeed in saving the bridges, you will secure a line of
railroad for supplies iu addition to the one you now have. Can you not
do this almost as well as not, while you are building the Chickahominy
bridges ? McDowell and Shields both say they can, and positively will
move Monday morning. I wish you to move cautiously and safely.

You will have command of McDowell, after he joins you, precisely as you
indicated in your long dispatch to us of the 2lst.

A. LINCOLN, President.

Major-General G. B. McCLELLAN.

General Banks, it will be remembered, had been sent by
General McClellan on the 1st of April, to guard the approaches
to Washington by the valley of the Shenaudoah, which were
even then menaced by Jackson with a considerable rebel force.
A conviction of the entire insufficiency of the forces left for tho



240 PRESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

protection of the capital, had led to the retention of McDowell,
from whose command, however, upon General McClellan s
urgent and impatient applications, General Franklin s division
had been detached. On the 23d, as stated in the above letter
from the President, there were indications of a purpose on
Jackson s part to move in force against Banks; and this pur
pose was so clearly developed, and his situation became so
critical, that the President was compelled to re-enforce him, a
movement which he announced in the following dispatch to
General McClellan :

May 24, 1862. (From Washington, 4 P. M.)

In consequence of General Banks s critical position, I have been com
pelled to suspend General McDowell s movements to join you. The
enemy are making a desperate push upon Harper s Ferry, and we are
trying to throw General Fremont s force, and part of General Mc
Dowell s, in their rear.

A. LINCOLN, President.

Major-General G. B.



Unable apparently, or unwilling to concede an^ thing what
ever to emergencies existing elsewhere, General McClellan re
monstrated against the diversion of McDowell, in reply to
which he received, on the 26th, the following more full expla
nation from the President :

WASHINGTON, May 25, 1862.

Your dispatch received. General Banks was at Strasburg with
about 6,000 men, Shields having been taken from him to swell a column
for McDowell to aid you at Richmond, and the rest of his force scattered
at various places. On the 23d, a rebel force, of 7,000 to 10,000, fell upon
one regiment and two companies guarding the bridge at Port Royal,
destroying it entirely ; crossed the Shenandoah, and on the 24th, yes
terday. pushed on to get north of Banks on the road to Winchester.
General Banks ran a race with them, beating them into Winchester
yesterday evening. This morning a battle ensued between the two
forces, in which General Banks was beaten back into full retreat toward
Martinsburg, and probably is broken up into a total rout. Geary, on
(he Mauassas Gap Railroad, just now reports that Jackson is now near



JACKSON S BAID ra THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY. 241

Front Royal with 10,000 troops, following up and supporting, as I
understand, the force no\v pursuing Banks, Also, that another force of



Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondHistory of the administration of President Lincoln : including his speeches, letters, addresses, proclamations, and messages. With a preliminary sketch of his life → online text (page 21 of 46)