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 23 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 23 of 46)
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pose of the rebel army to crush his right wing and cut off
his communications, if possible. Two plans were open to his
adoption: he might have brought over his left wing, and so
strengthened his right as to give it a victory, or he might
have withdrawn his right across the Chickahominy in itself
^ defensive line and have pushed his whole force into


Richmond, and upon the rear of the attacking force. Con
centration seemed to be absolutely essential to success in any
event. But he did not attempt it. He left the right wing to
contend next day with 30,000 men, without support, against the
main body of the rebel army, and only withdrew it across the
Chickahominy after it had been beaten with terrific slaughter on
the 27th, in the battle ot Gaines s Mill. On the evening of that
day he informed his corps commanders of his purpose to fall
back to the James River, and withdrew the remainder of his
right wing across the Chickahominy. On the next day the
whole army was put in motion on the retreat ; and Gen. Mc-
Clellan found time again to reproach the Government with
neglect of his army. If he had 10,000 fresh men to use at
once, he said, he could take Richmond ; but as it was, all he
could do would be to cover his retreat. He repeated that he
was " not responsible" for the result, and that he must have
instantly very large re-enforcements; and closed by saying
to the Secretary of War what we do not believe any sub
ordinate was ever before permitted to say to his superior
officer without instant dismissal " If I save this army now
I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or to any persons
in Washington : you have done your best to sacrifice this army"
To this dispatch the President replied as follows :

WASHINGTON, June 28, 1862.

Save your army at all events. Will send re-enforcoments as fast as
we can. Of course, they cannot reach you to-day, to-morrow, or next
day. I have not said you were ungenerous for saying you needed re-
enforcements ; I thought you were ungenerous in assuming that I did
not send them as fast as I could. I feel any misfortune to you and
your army quite as keenly as you feel it yourself. If you have had
a drawn battle or a repulse, it is the price we pay for the enemy not
being in Washington. We protected Washington, and the enemy con
centrated on you. Had we stripped Washington, he would have been
upon us before the troops sent could have got to you. Less than a


week ago you notified us that re-enforcements were leaving Richmond
to come in front of us. It is the nature of the case, and neither you
nor the Government is to blame. A. LINCOLN.

Under general orders from General McClellan, he and his
staff proceeding in advance, and leaving word where the corps
commanders were to make successive stands to resist pursuit,
but taking no part personally in any one of the succeeding en
gagements, the army continued its march towards James River.
They first resisted and repulsed the pursuing rebels on the 29th
at Savage Station, in a bloody battle, fought under General Sum-
ner, and on the 30th had another severe engagement at Glen-
dale. On the 1st of July, our troops, strongly posted at Mal-
vern Hill, were again attacked by the rebels, whom they re
pulsed and routed with terrible slaughter ; and orders were at
once issued for the further retreat of the army to Harrison s
Landing, which General McClellan had personally examined
and selected on the day before. Even before the battle of
Malvcrn Hill, he had telegraphed to Washington for " fresh
troops," saying he should fall back to the river if possible; to
which dispatch he received the following reply :

WASHINGTON, July 1, 1862 3.30 p. M.

It is impossible to re-enforce you for your present emergency. If we
had a million of men we could not get them to you in time. "We have
not the men to send. If you are not strong enough to face the enemy,
you must find a place of security, and wait, rest, and repair. Maintain
your ground if you can, but save the army at all events, even if you
fall back to Fort Monroe. We still have strength enough in the country,
and will bring it out. A. LINCOLN.

Major-General G. B. McCLELLAN.

On the next day, in reply to a request from General McClel
lan for 50,000 more troops, the President thus addressed him :

WASHINGTON, July 2, 1862.

Your dispatch of yesterday induces me to hope that your army is
having some rest. In this hope, allow me to reason with you for a mo-


mont. When you ask for 50,000 men to bo promptly sent; you, you
surely labor under some gross mistake of fact. Recently you sent
papers showing your disposal of forces made last spring for the de
fence of Washington, and advising a return to that plan. I find it in
cluded in and about Washington 75,000 men. Now, please be assured
that I have not men enough to fill that very plan by 15,000. All of
General Fremont s in the Valley, all of General Banks s, all of General
McDowell s not with you, and all in Washington taken together, do
not exceed, if they reach, GO.OOO. With General Wool and General Dix
added to those mentioned. I have not, outside of your army, 75,000
men east of the mountains. Thus, the idea of sending you 50,000, or
any other considerable forces promptly, is simply absurd. If in your
frequent mention of responsibility you have the impression that I blame
you for not doing more than you can, please be relieved of such impres
sion. I only beg, that in like manner, you will not ask impossibilities
of me. If you think you are not strong enough to take Eichmond just
now, I do not ask you to try just now. Save the army, material, and
personnel, and I will strengthen it for the offensive again as fast as I can.
The governors of eighteen States offer me a new levy of 300,000, which
I accept. A. LINCOLN.

On the next day, the 3d, General McClellan again wrote
for 100,000 men " more rather than less," in order to enable
him to " accomplish the great task of capturing Richmond,
and putting an end to the rebellion ;" and at the same time he
sent his chief of staff, General Marcy, to Washington, in order
to secure a perfect understanding of the state of the army.
The General said he hoped the enemy was as completely worn
out as his own army, though he apprehended a new attack,
from which, however, he trusted the bad condition of the
roads might protect him. On the 4th, he repeated his call
for " heavy re-enforcements," but said he held a very strong
position, from which, with the aid of the gunboats, he could
only be driven by overwhelming numbers. On the same day
he received the following from the President :

I understand your position as stated in your letter, and by General
Marcy. To re-enforce you so as to enable you to resume the offensive


within a month, or even six weeks, is impossible. In addition to that
arrived and now arriving from the Potomac (about ten thousand men,
I suppose), and about ten thousand, I hope, you will have from Burn-
side very soon, and about five thousand from Hunter a little later, I do
not see how I can send you another man within a month. Under these
circumstances, the defensive, for the present, must be your only care.
Save the army, first, where you are, if you can; and secondly, by re
moval, if you must. You, on the ground, must be the judge as to which
you will attempt, and of the means for effecting it. I but give it as my
opinion, that with the aid of the gunboats and the re-enforcements men
tioned above, you can hold your present position ; provided, and so long
as you can keep the James River open below you. If you are not toler
ably confident you can keep the James River open, you had better re
move as soon as possible. I do not remember that you have expressed
any apprehension as to the danger of having your communication cut on
the river below you, yet I do not suppose it can have escaped your
attention. A. LINCOLN.

P. S. If at any time you feel able to take the offensive, you are not
restrained from doing so.

A. L.

At this point on the 7th of July, General McClellan sent to
the President a letter of advice on the general conduct of his
Administration. He thought the time had come " when the
Government should determine upon a civil and military policy
covering the whole ground of our national trouble," and he
proceeded to lay down the basis of such a policy as ought to
be adopted. The war against the rebellion, he said, " should
not be a war looking to the subjugation of the people of any
State in any event. Neither confiscation of property, political
execution of persons, territorial organization of States, nor
forcible abolition of slavery, should be contemplated for a
moment. He added :"

Military power should not be allowed to interfere with the relations
of servitude, either by supporting or impairing the authority of the mas
ter, except for repressing disorder, as in other cases. Slaves, contra
band, under the act of Congress, seeking military protection, should


receive it. The right of the Government to appropriate permanently to
its own service claims to slave labor, should be asserted, and the right
of the owner to compensation therefor should be recognized. This
principle might be extended, upon grounds of military necessity and
security, to all the slaves of a particular State, thus working manu
mission in such State; and in Missouri, perhaps in Western Virginia
also, and possibly even in Maryland, the expediency of such a measure
is only a question of time. * *

Unless the principles governing the future conduct of our struggle
shah 1 be made known and approved, the effort to obtain requisite forces
will be almost hopeless. A declaration of radical views, especially upon
slavery, will rapidly disintegrate our present armies.

He closed this letter by saying that to carry out these views
the President would require a Commander-in-Chief who pos
sessed his confidence and could execute his orders : he did not
ask that place for himself, but would serve in any position that
might be assigned him. u I may be," he adds, u on the brink of
eternity ; and as I hope for forgiveness from my Maker, I have
written this letter with sincerity towards you, and from love
for my country."

The President, instead of entering upon a discussion as to
the general policy of his Administration, continued to urge the
general s attention to the state of his own army ; and in order
to inform himself more accurately as to its actual condition
and prospects, visited the camp on the 8th of July, at Har
rison s Landing. The actual strength of the array seems to
have been at that time a matter of considerable difference of
opinion ; and in regard to it, on returning to Washington, the
President thus addressed the general :


MY DEAR SIR: I am told that over 160,000 men have gone with your

army on the Peninsula. When I was with you the other day, we made

out 86.000 remaining, leaving 73,500 to be accounted for. I beh eve

3,500 will cover all the killed, wounded, and missing, hi all your battles


and skirmishes, leaving 50,000 who have left otherwise. Not more than
5,000 of these have died, leaving 45,000 of your army still alive, and not
with it. I believe half or two-thirds of them are fit for duty to-day.
Have you any more perfect knowledge of this than I have ? If I am
right, and you had these men with you, you could go into Richmond in
the next three days. How can they be got to you, and how can they be
prevented from getting away in such numbers for the future ?


In reply to this letter, the general disclosed the fact that
38,250 men of his army were absent by authority i. e., on fur
loughs granted by permission of the Commanding General.
The actual number of troops composing his army on the 20th of
July, according to official returns, was 158,314, and the aggre
gate losses in the retreat to the James River was 15,249.

During the President s visit to the camp, the future move
ments of the army were a subject of anxious deliberation. It
was understood that the rebels were gathering large forces for
another advance upon Washington, which was comparatively
unprotected and as General McClellan did not consider him
self strong enough to take the offensive, it was felt to be
absolutely necessary to concentrate the army, either on the
Peninsula or in front of Washington, for the protection of the
capital. The former course, after the experience of the past
season, was felt to be exceedingly hazardous, and the corps
commanders of the Army of the Potomac were decidedly in
favor of the latter. General McClellan at once addressed
himself to the task of defeating the project. On the llth, he
telegraphed to the President that " the army was in fine
spirits, and that he hoped he would soon make him strong
enough to try again." On the 12th, he said he was "more
and more convinced that the army ought not to be withdrawn,
but promptly re-enforced and thrown again upon Richmond."
He " dreaded the effects of any retreat on the morale of his
men"- though his previous experience should have obviated


any such apprehension in his mind. " If we have a little
more than half a chance," he said, "we can take Richmond."
On the 17th, he urged that General Burnside s whole com
mand in North Carolina should be ordered to join him, to
enable him to "assume the offensive as soon as possible." On
the 18th, he repeated this request ; and on the 28th, again urged
that he should be " at once re-enforced by all available troops."
On the 25th, General Halleck had visited the camp, and, after
a careful inspection of the condition of the army, called an in
formal council of the officers, a majority of whom, upon
learning the state of affairs, recommended its withdrawal from
the Peninsula. On the 30th, he issued an order to General
McClellan to make arrangements at once for a prompt removal
of all the sick in his army, in order to enable him to move "in
any direction." On the 2d of August, not having received
any reply, General Halleck renewed his order to "remove
them as rapidly as possible ;" to which, on the 3d, General
McClellan replied that it was " impossible to decide what cases
to send off unless he knew what was to be done with the
army " and that if he was to be " kept longer in ignorance
of what was to be effected, he could not be expected to
accomplish the object in view." In reply, General Hal leek
informed him that his army was to be " withdrawn from the
Peninsula to Acquia Creek," but that the withdrawal should
be concealed even from his own officers. General McClellan,
on the 4th, wrote a long protest against this movement
saying it mattered not what partial reverses might be sus
tained elsewhere there was the " true defence of Washing
ton," and he asked that the order might be rescinded. To
this letter, after again urging General McClellan on the 4th to
hasten the removal of the sick, which he was " expected to
have done without waiting to know what were or would be
the intentions of the Government respecting future move
ments," General Halleck on the 6th addressed him as follows :


WASHINGTON, August 6, 1862. )

GENERAL : Your telegram of yesterday was received this morning, and
I immediately telegraphed a brief reply, promising to write you moro
fully by mail.

You, General, certainly could not have been more pained at receiving
my order than I was at the necessity of issuing it. I was advised by
high officers, in whose judgment I had great confidence, to make the
order immediately on my arrival here, but I determined not to do so
until I could learn your wishes from a personal interview. And even
after that interview I tried every means in my power to avoid with
drawing your army, and delayed my decision as long as I dared to
delay it.

I assure you, General, it was not a hasty and inconsiderate act, bnt
one that caused me more anxious thoughts than any other of my life.
But after full and mature consideration of all the pros and cons, I was
reluctantly forced to the conclusion that the order must be issued
there was to my mind no alternative.

Allow me to allude to a few of the facts in the case.

You and your officers at our interview estimated the enemy s forces
in and around Richmond at two hundred thousand men. Since then,
you and others report that they have received and are receiving large
re-enforcements from the South. General Pope s army, covering Wash
ington, is only about forty thousand. Your effective force is only about
ninety thousand. You are thirty miles from Richmond, and General
Pope eighty or ninety, with the enemy directly between you, ready to fall
with his superior numbers upon one or the other as he may elect; neither can
re-enforce the other in case of such an attack.

If General Pope s army be diminished tore-enforce you, Washington,
Maryland, and Pennsylvania, would be left uncovered and exposed. If
your force be reduced to strengthen Pope, you would be too weak to
even hold the position you now occupy, should the enemy turn round
and attack you in full force. In other words, the old Army of the
Potomac is split into two parts, with the entire force of the enemy
directly between them. They cannot be united by land without expos
ing both to destruction, and yet they must be united. To send Pope s
forces by water to the Peninsula is, under present circumstances, a
military impossibility. The only alternative is to send the forces on the
Peninsula to some point by water, say Frederick sburg, where the two
armies can be united.


Let me now allude to some of the objections which you have urged :
you say that the withdrawal from the present position will cause tho
certain demoralization of the army, " which is now in excellent discipline
and condition."

I cannot understand why a simple change of position to a new and
by no means distant base will demoralize an army in excellent discipline,
unless the officers themselves assist in that demoralization, which I am
satisfied they will not.

Tour change of front from your extreme right at Hanover Court- House
to your present condition was over thirty miles, but I have not heard
that it demoralized your troops, notwithstanding the severe losses they
sustained in effecting it.

A new base on the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg brings you
within about sixty miles of Richmond, and secures a re-enforcement of
forty or fifty thousand fresh and disciplined troops.

The change with such advantages will, I think, if properly represented
to your army, encourage rather than demoralize your troops. Moreover,
you yourself suggested that a junction might be effected at Yorktown,
but that a flank march across the isthmus would be more hazardous than
to retire to Fort Monroe.

You will remember that Yorktown is two or three miles further than
Fredericksburg is. Besides, the latter is between Richmond and
"Washington, and covers Washington from any attack of the enemy.

The political effect of the withdrawal may at first be unfavorable; but
I think the public are beginning to understand its necessity, and that
they will have much more confidence in a united army than in its sep
arated fragments.

But you will reply, why not re-enforce me here, so that I can strike
Richmond from my present position ? To do this, you said, at our inter
view, that you required thirty thousand additional troops. I told you
that it was impossible to give you so many. You finally thought you
would have "some chance" of success with twenty thousand. But you
afterwards telegraphed me that you would require thirty-five thousand,
as the enemy was being largely re-enforced.

If your estimate of the enemy s strength was correct, your requisition
was perfectly reasonable ; but it was utterly impossible to fill it until
new troops could be enlisted and organized, which would require several

To keep your army in its present position until it could be so re-en
forced would almost destroy it in that climate.


The months of August and September are almost fatal to whites who
live on that part of James River ; and even after you received the re-
enforcement asked for, you admitted that you must reduce Fort Darling
and the river batteries before you could advance on Richmond.

It is by no means certain that the reduction of these fortifications
would not require considerable time perhaps as much as those at York-

This delay might not only be fatal to the health of your army, but in
the mean time General Pope s forces would be exposed to the heavy
blows of the enemy without the slightest hope of assistance from you.

In regard to the demoralizing effect of a withdrawal from the Penin
sula to the Rappahannock, I must remark that a large number of your
highest officers, indeed a majority of those whose opinions have been re
ported to me, are decidedly in favor of the movement. Even several of
those who originally advocated the line of the Peninsula now advise its

I have not inquired, and do not wish to know, by whoso advice or for
what reasons the army of the Potomac was separated into two parts
with the enemy between them, I must take things as I find them.

I find the forces divided, and I wish to unite them. Only one feasible
plan has been presented for doing this. If you, or any one else, had
presented a better plan, I certainly should have adopted it. But all of
your plans require re-enforcements which it is impossible to give you.
It is very easy to ask for re-enforcements, but it is not so easy to give
them when you have no disposable troops at your command.

I have written vory plainly as I understand the case, and I hope you
will give me credit for having fully considered the matter, although I
may have arrived at very different conclusions from your own.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. H. HALLECK, General-in-Chief.

Major-General Gr. B. MCCLELLAN, Commanding, etc., Berkeley, Virginia.

The order for the removal of the sick was given to General
McClellan on the 2d of August. On the 7th he reported that
3,740 had been sent, and 5,700 still remained. On the 9th, Gen
eral Halleck telegraphed McClellan that the enemy was massing
his forces in front of General Pope and Burnside to crush them
and move upon Washington, and that re-enforcements must at
once be sent to Aquia Creek ; to which he replied that he


would " move the whole army as soon as the sick were dis
posed of." On the 12th, in rcplyto the most pressing orders
for immediate dispatch from General Halleck, who urged that
Burnside had moved 13,000 troops in two days to Aquia
Creek, General McClellan said if Washington was in danger,
that army could scarcely arrive in time to save it. On the 14th,
he announced that the movement had commenced; on the
17th, he said he "should not feel entirely secure until he had
the whole army beyond the Chickahominy, but that he would
then begin to forward troops by water as fast as transportation
would permit." On the 23d, General Franklin s Corps started
from Fortress Monroe ; General McClellan followed the next
day, and reached Aquia Creek on the 24th, and Alexandria on
the evening of the 26th of August.

On the 27th of June the President had issued an order con
solidating into one army, to be called the Army of Virginia,
the forces under Major-Gen erals Fremont, Banks, and McDow
ell. The command of this army was assigned to Major-Gen-
eral John Pope ; and the army was divided into three corps,
of which the first was assigned to Fremont, the second to
Banks, and the third to McDowell. Upon receiving this order
Major-General Fremont applied to be relieved from the com
mand which it assigned him, on the ground that by the ap
pointment of General Pope to the chief command, his (Fre
mont s) position was " subordinate and inferior to that hereto
fore held by him, and to remain in the subordinate rank now
assigned him, would largely reduce his rank and consideration
in the service." In compliance with his request, General Fre
mont was at once relieved.

On the 27th of August, General McClellan was ordered by
General Halleck to " take entire direction of the sending out
of the troops from Alexandria 1 1 to re-enforce Pope, whom the

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 23 of 46)