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

. (page 22 of 46)
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 22 of 46)
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ten thousand is near Orleans, following on in the same direction.
Stripped bare, as we are here, I will do all we can to prevent them
crossing the Potomac at Harper s Ferry or above. McDowell has about
twenty thousand of his forces moving back to the vicinity of Port Royal,
and Fremont, who was at Franklin, is moving to Harrisonburg, both
those movements intended to get in the enemy s rear.

One more of McDowell s brigades is ordered through here to Harper s
Ferry ; the rest of his forces remain for the present at Fredericksburg.
We are sending such regiments and dribs from here and Baltimore as
we can spare to Harper s Ferry, supplying their places in some sort,
calling in militia from the adjacent States. We also have eighteen can
non on the road to Harper s Ferry, of which arm there is not a single
one at that point. This is now our situation.

If McDowell s force was now beyond our readi, we should be entirely
helpless. Apprehensions of something Uke this, and no unwillingness to sus
tain you, has always been, my reason for witliholdiiig McDowcWs forces
from you.

Please understand this, and do the best you can with the forces you


A. LINCOLN, President
Major-General McCLKLLAN.

Jackson continued his triumphant march through the Shen-
andonh valley, and for a time it seemed as if nothing could
prevent his crossing the Potomac, and making his appear
ance in rear of Washington. The President promptly
announced this state of things to General McClellan in the

following dispatch :

WASHINGTON, May 25, 1862 2 p. M.

The enemy is moving north in sufficient force to drive General Banks
before him- precisely in what force we cannot tell He is also threat
ening Leesburg and Geary on the Manassas Gap Railroad, from both
north and south ; in precisely what force we cannot telL I think the
movement is a general and concerted one. Such as would not be if he
was acting upon the purpose of a very desperate defence of Richmond.
I think the time is near when you must either attack Richmond or give
up the job, and come to the defence of Washington. Let me hear from
you instantly. A. LINCOLN.



To this General McClellan replied that, independency of the
President s letter, " The time was very near when he should
attack Richmond." lie knew nothing of Banks s position and
force, but thought Jackson s movement was designed to pre
vent re-enforcements being sent to him.

On the 26th, the President announced to General McClellan
the safety of Banks at William sport, and then turned his at
tention, with renewed anxiety, to the movement against Rich
mond, urging General McClellan, if possible, to cut the railroad
between that city and the Rappahannock, over which the
enemy obtained their supplies. The general, on the evening of
the 26th, informed him that he was " quietly closing in upon the
enemy preparatory to the last struggle 1 that he felt forced to
take every possible precaution against disaster, and that his
" arrangements for the morrow were very important, and if
successful would" leave him free to strike on the return of the
force attacked." The movement here referred to was one
against a portion of the rebel forces at Hanover Court-House,
which threatened McDowell, and was in position to re-enforce
Jackson. The expedition was under command of General Fitz-
Jobn Porter, and proved a success. General McClellan on the
28th announced it to the Government as a "complete rout"
of the rebels, and as entitling Porter to the highest honors.
In the same dispatch he said he would do his best to cut off
Jackson from returning to Richmond, but doubted if he could.
The great battle was about to be fought before Richmond, and he
adds : " It is the policy and the duty of the Government to send
me by water all the well-drilled troops available. All unavailable
troops should be collected here." Porter, he said, had cut all
the railroads but the one from Richmond to Fredericksburg,
which was the one concerning which the President had evinced
the most anxiety. Another expedition was sent to the South
Anna River and Ashland, which destroyed some bridges with
out opposition. This was announced to the Government by


General McClellan as another " complete victory" achieved by
the heroism of Porter, accompanied by the statement that
the enemy were even in greater force than he had supposed.
"I will do," said the dispatch, u al! that quick movements can
accomplish, and you must send me all the troops you can, and
leave to me full latitude as to choice of commanders." In
reply, the President sent him the following :

WASHINGTON, May 28, 1862.

I am very glad of General F. J. Porter s victory ; still, if it was a total
rout of the enemy, I am puzzled to know why the Richmond and Fred-
ericksburg Railroad was cot seized again, as you say you have all the
railroads but the Richmond and Fredericksburg. I am puzzled to see
how, lacking that, you can have any, except the scrap from Richmond to
West Point. The scrap of the Virginia Central, from Richmond to Han
over Junction, without more, is simply nothing. That the whole of the
enemy is concentrating on Richmond, I think, cannot be certainly known
to you or me. Saxton, at Harper s Ferry, informs us that large forces,
supposed to be Jackson s and Ewell s, forced his advance from Charles-
town to-day. General King telegraphs us from Fredericksburg that con
trabands give certain information that fifteen thousand left Hanover
Junction Monday morning to re-enforce Jackson. I am painfully im
pressed with the importance of the struggle before you, and shall aid you
all I can consistently with my view of the due regard to all points.


Major-General MCCLELLAN.

To a dispatch reporting the destruction of the South Anna
Railroad bridge, the President replied thus :

WASHINGTON, May 29, 1862.

Your dispatches as to the South Anna and Ashland being seized by
our forces this morning is received. Understanding these points to be
on the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad, I heartily congratulate
the country, and thank General McClellan and his army for their seizure.


On the 30th, General McClellan telegraphed to the Secretary
of War, complaining that the Government did not seem to ap
preciate the magnitude of Porter s victory, and saying that his


army was now well in hand, and that " another day will make
the probable field of battle passable for artillery."

On the 25th of May, General Keycs with the Fourth Corps
had been ordered across the Chickahominy, and was followed
by the Third, under General Heintzelman one Division of the
Fourth, under General Casey, being pushed forward within
seven miles of Richmond, to Seven Pines, which he was
ordered to hold at all hazards. On the 28th, General Keyes
was ordered to advance Casey s Division three-quarters of a mile
to Fair Oaks. General Keyes obeyed the order, but made
strong representations to head-quarters of the extreme danger
of pushing these troops so far in advance without adequate
support, and requested that General Heintzelman might be
brought within supporting distance, and that a stronger force
might be crossed over the Chickahominy to be in readiness for
the general engagement which these advances would be very
likely to bring on. These requests were neglected, and General
Keyes was regarded and treated as an alarmist. On the after
noon of the 30th he made a personal examination of his front,
and reported that he was menaced by an overwhelming force
of the enemy in front and on both flanks, and he again urged
the necessity for support, to which he received a very abrupt
reply that no more troops would be crossed over, and that the
Third Corps would not be advanced unless he was attacked.
At about noon the next day be was attacked on both flanks
and in front, General Casey s Division driven back with heavy
loss, and in spite of a stubborn and gallant resistance on the
part of his corps, General Keyes was compelled to fall back with
severe losses, some two miles, when the enemy was checked,
and night put an end to the engagement. On hearing the
firing at head-quarters, some four miles distant, General
McClellan ordered General Sumner to hold his command in
readiness to move. General Sumner not only did so, but
moved them at once to the bridge, and on receiving authority


crossed over, and, by the greatest exertions over muddy roads,
reached the field of battle in time to aid in checking the rebel
advance for the night. Early the next morning the enemy
renewed the attack with great vigor, but the arrival of General
Sumner, and the advance of General Heintzelman s Corps,
enabled onr forces, though still greatly inferior, not only to re
pel the assault, but to inflict upon the enemy a signal defeat.
They were driven back in the utmost confusion and with ter
rible losses upon Richmond, where their arrival created the
utmost consternation, as it was taken for granted they would
be immediately followed by our whole army.

General McClellan, who had remained with the main body
of the army on the other side of the Chickahominy during the
whole of the engagements of both days, crossed the river after
the battle was over, and visited the field. " The state of the
roads," he says, " and the impossibility of manoeuvring artil
lery, prevented pursuit." He returned to head-quarters in the
afternoon. On the next day, June 2d, General Heintzelman
sent forward a strong reconnoitering party under General
Hooker, which went within four miles of Richmond without
finding any enemy, "Upon being informed of this fact, General
McClellan ordered the force to fall back to its old position,
assigning the bad state of the roads as the reason for not at
tempting either to march upon Richmond or even to hold the
ground already gained. In a dispatch to Washington on the
2d, he states that he " only waits for the river to fall to cross
with the rest of the army and make a general attack. The
morale of my troops," he adds, " is now such that I can venture
much. I do not fear for odds against me." It seems to have
been his intention then, to concentrate his forces for an im
mediate advance upon the rebel capital, though in his report,
written more than a year afterwards, he says the idea of uniting
the two wings of the army at that time for a vigorous move
upon Richmond was " simply absurd, and was probably never


seriously entertained by any one connected with the Army of
the Potomac." *

The Government at once took measures to strengthen the


army by all the means available. An order was issued, placing
at his command all the disposable forces at Fortress Monroe,
and another ordering McDowell to send McCall s division
to him by water from Fredericksburg. McDowell or Fre
mont was expected to fight Jackson at Front Royal, after
which, part of their troops would become available for
the Army of the Potomac. On the 4th, General McClellan
telegraphed that it was raining, that the river was still high,
that he had "to be very cautious," that he expected an
other severe battle, and hoped, after our heavy losses, he
should no longer be regarded as an alarmist." On the 5th,
the Secretary of War sent him word that troops had been
embarked for him at Baltimore, to which he replied on the
7th, u I shall be in perfect readiness to move forward and take
Richmond the moment Me Call reaches here, and the ground
will admit the passage of artillery" On the 10th, General
McCall s forces began to arrive at White House, and on the
same day General McClellan telegraphed to the Department
that a rumor had reached him that the rebels had been re-en
forced by Beauregard, that he thought a portion of Halleck s
army from Tennessee should be sent to strengthen him, but
that he should " attack with what force he had, as soon as
the weather and ground will permit but there will be a delay,"
he added, u the extent of which no one can foresee, for the
season is altogether abnormal." The Secretary of War re
plied that Halleck would be urged to comply with his request
if he could safely do so that neither Beauregard nor his army
was in Richmond, that McDowell s force would join him as
soon as possible, that Fremont had had an engagement, not

* See Gen. McClellan s Report, August 4, 1863.


wholly successful, with Jackson, and closing with this strong
and cordial assurance of confidence and support :

Be assured, General, that there never has been a moment when my
desire has been otherwise than to aid you with my whole heart, mind,
and strength, since the hour we first met ; and whatever others may say
for their own purposes, you have never had, and never can have, any
one more truly your friend, or more anxious to support you, or more
joyful than I shall be at the success which I have no doubt will soon be
achieved by your arms.

On the Uth, General McClellan wrote to the War Depart
ment that the weather was favorable, and that two days more
would make the ground practicable. He still urges the pro
priety of sending him more troops, but finds a new subject
of complaint in a telegram he had received from McDowell.
The latter, on the 8th, had received the following orders :

The Secretary of "War directs that, having first provided adequately
for the defence of the city of Washington and for holding the position
at Fredericksburg, you operate with the residue of your force as
speedily as possible in the direction of Richmond to co-operate with
Major-General McClellan in accordance with the instructions heretofore
given you. McCaWs Division, which has been by previous order di
rected towards Richmond by water, will still form a part of the Army of
the Rappahannock, and will come under your orders when you are in
a position to co-operate with General McClellan.

General McDowell had telegraphed McClellan as follows on
the 10th of June :

For the third time I am ordered to join you, and hope this time to
get through. In view of the remarks made with reference to my leav
ing you, and not joining you before, by your friends, and of something
I have heard as coming from you ou that subject, I wish to say I go
with the greatest satisfaction, and hope to arrive with my main body
in time to be of service. McCall goes in advance by water. I will be
with you in ten days with the remainder by Fredericksburg.

And again, June 12th :


The delay of Major-General Banks to relieve the Division of my
command in the valley beyond the time I had calculated on, will prevent
my joining you with the remainder of the troops I am to take below at
as early a day as I named. My Third Division (McCall s) is now on
the way. Please do me the favor to so place it that it may le in a position
to join the others as they come down from Fredericksburg.

These telegrams, it will be seen, are in accordance with the
orders to McDowell of the 8th, which directed that McCall s
Division should continue to form part of the Army of the
Rappahannock, and required that McDowell should operate in
the direction of Richmond, to co-operate with McClellan in
accordance with instructions heretofore given him.

These instructions are those of the 17th and 18th of May,
concerning which McClellan sent the President his long tele
gram of the 21st, in which he says:

This fact (McDowell s forces coming within his Department), my
superior rank, and the express language of the sixty-second article of
war, will place his command under my orders, unless it is otherwise
specially directed by your Excellency, and I consider that he will be
under my command, except that I am not to detach any portion of his
forces, or give any orders which can put him out of position to cover

To this the President answered :

You will have command of McDowell after he joins you, precisely
as you indicated in your long dispatch to us of the 21st.

In regard to this, McClellan, in his report (August 4th,
1863), says:

This information, that McDowell s Corps would march from Freder
icksburg on the following Monday the 26th and that he would be
under my command as indicated in my telegram of the 21st, was
cheering news, and I now felt confident that we would on his arrival
be sufficiently strong to overpower the large army confronting us.

Yet in the simple request of McDowell, as to the posting
of his Third (McCall s) Division made to carry out the


plan the news of winch, McClellan says, was so cheering,
and inspired him with such confidence, McClellan sees nothing
but personal ambition on McDowell s part, and protests against
that " spirit " in the following terms :

That request does not breathe the proper spirit. Whatever troops
come to me must be disposed of so as to do the most good. I do not
feel that, in such circumstances as those in which I am now placed,
General McDowell should wish the general interests to be sacrificed for
the purpose of increasing his command.

If I cannot fully control all his troops, I want none of them, but would
prefer to fight the battle with what I have, and let others be responsible for
the results,

The department lines should not be allowed to interfere with me ; but
General McD., and all other troops sent to me, should be placed com
pletely at my disposal, to do with them as I think best. In no other
way can they be of assistance to me. I therefore request that I may
have entire and full control. The stake at issue is too great to allow
personal considerations to be entertained : you know that I have none.

It had been suggested, in some of the journals of the day,
that General McDowell might possibly advance upon Rich
mond from the north, without waiting for McClellan : it is
scarcely possible, however, that any suspicion of such a pur
pose could have had any thing to do with General McClellan s
reiterated and emphatic desire that McDowell should join him
by water, so as to be in his rear, and not by land, which
would bring him on his front, with his peremptory demand
that all McDowell s troops should be " completely at his dis
posal," with his indignant protest against McDowell s personal
ambition, or with his conviction of the propriety and neces
sity of disavowing all personal considerations for himself.
But it is certainly a little singular that a commander, intrusted
with an enterprise of such transcendent importance to his
army and country, who had been so urgently calling for re-
enforcements as absolutely indispensable to success, should
have preferred not to receive them, but to fight the battle


with what he had, rather than have the co-operation of
McDowell under the two conditions fixed by the President, (l),
that he should not deprive him of his troops, or, (2), post them
so as to prevent their being kept interposed between the
enemy and Washington. Even if he could leave " others to
be responsible for the results," it is not easy to see how he
could reconcile the possibility of adverse results with his pro
fessedly paramount concern for the welfare of his country.

On the 20th of June, he telegraphed the President that
troops to the number probably of 10,000 had left Richmond
to re-enforce Jackson ; that his defensive works on the Chick-
ahominy, made necessary by his " inferiority of numbers,"
would be completed the next day ; and that he would be glad
to learn the " disposition, as to numbers and position, of the
troops not under his command, in Virginia and elsewhere,"
as also to lay before his Excellency, " by letter or telegraph,
his views as to the present state of military affairs throughout
Ike whole country. 1 To this he received the following reply :

"WASHINGTON, June 21, 1862 6 P. M.

Your dispatch of yesterday, two p. M., was received this morning.
If it would not divert too much of your time and attention from the
army under your immediate command, I would be glad to have your
views as to the present state of military affairs throughout the whole
country, as you say you would be glad to give them. I would rather it
should be by letter than by telegraph, because of the better chance of
secrecy. As to the numbers and positions of the troops not under your
command, in Virginia and elsewhere, even if I oould do it with accu
racy, which I cannot, 1 v uld rather not transmit either by telegraph
or letter, because of the chances of its reaching the enemy. 1 would
be very glad to talk with you, but you cannot leave your camp, and I
cannot well leave here. A. LINCOLN, President.

Major-General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN.

The President also stated that the news of Jackson s having
been re-enforced from Richmond was coniiimcd by Gen. King
at Fredericksburg, and added, " If this is true, it is as good


as a re-enforcement to you of an equal force." In acknowl
edging the first dispatch, Gen. McClellan said, be " perceived
that it woul4 be better to defer the communication be desired
to make" on the condition of the country at large ; he soon,
indeed, had occasion to give all his attention to the army
under his command.

Gen. McClellan had been, for nearly a month, declaring his
invention to advance upon Richmond immediately. At times
as has been seen from his dispatches, the movement was fixed
for specific days, though in every instance something occurred,
when the decisive moment arrived, to cause a further post
ponement. On the 18th, again announcing his intention to
advance, he said that a " general engagement might take
place at any hour, as an advance by us involves a battle more
or less decisive." But in the same dispatch he said, " After
to-morrow we shall fight the rebel army as soon as Providence
will permit." But in this case, as in every other, in spite of
his good intentions, and the apparent permission of Provi
dence, Gen. McClellan made no movement in advance, but
waited until he was attacked. He had placed his army astride
the Chickahominy the left wing being much the si. ngest
and most compact, the right being comparatively weak K ^d
very extended. He had expended, however, a great deal ot
labor in bridging the stream, so that either wing could have
been thrown across with great ease and celerity. Up to the
24th of June, Gen. McClellan believed Jackson to be in strong
force at Gordonsville, where he was receiving re-enforcements
from Richmond with a view to operations in that quarter.
But on that day he was told by a deserter that Jackson was
planning a movement to attack his right and rear on the 28th,
and this information was confirmed by advices from the War
Department on the 25th. On that day, being convinced that
he is to be attacked, and will therefore be compelled to fight,
he writes to the Department to throw upon others the re-


sponsibility of an anticipated defeat. lie declares the rebel
force to be some 200,000, regrets his "great inferiority of
numbers," but protests that he is not responsible for it, as he
has repeatedly and constantly called for re-enforcements, and
declares that if the result of the action is a disaster, the
u responsibility cannot be thrown on his shoulders, but must
rest where it belongs." He closes by announcing that a re-
connoissance which he had ordered had proved successful, that
he should probably be attacked the next day, and that he
felt " that there was no use in again asking for re-enforcements."
To this the President replied as follows :

WASHINGTON, June 26, 1862.

Tour three dispatches of yesterday in relation, ending with the state
ment that you completely succeeded in making your point, are very
gratifying. The later one, suggesting the probability of your being
overwhelmed by 200,000 men, and talking of to whom the responsi
bility will belong, pains me very much. I give you all I can, and act on
the presumption that you will do the best you can with what you have
while you continue, ungenerously I think, to assume that I could give
you more if I would. I have omitted I shall omit no opportunity
to send you re-enforcements whenever I can.


Gen. McClellan had foreseen the probhbility of being at
tacked, and had made arrangements for a defeat. " More than
a week previous," he says in his report, " that is, on the 18th,"
he had prepared for a retreat to the James River, and had or
dered supplies to that point. His extreme right was attacked
at Mechanicsville on the afternoon of the 26th, but the enemy
were repulsed. The movement, however, disclosed the pur

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 22 of 46)