Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

Lincoln, his life and time : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages and proclamations and closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 1) online

. (page 28 of 42)
Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and time : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages and proclamations and closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 1) → online text (page 28 of 42)
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cation that the army should not move until the rebels
were driven from the Potomac, and Generals McDowell,
Suniner, Heintzelman, and Barnard, voting against it.

In this decision the President acquiesced, and on the


8tli of March issued two general war orders, the first
directing the Major-General commanding the Army of
the Potomac to proceed forthwith to organize that part of
said army destined to enter upon active operations into
four army corps, to be commanded, the first "by General
McDowell, the second by General Sumner, the third by
leneral Heintzelman, and the fourth by General Keyes.
General Banks was assigned to the command of a fifth
corps. It also appointed General Wadsworth Military
Governor at Washington, and directed the order to be
" executed with such promptness and dispatch as m t to
delay the commencement of the operations already di
rected to be undertaken by the Army of the Potomac. "
The second of these orders was as follows :


Ordered, That no change of the base of operations of the Army of
the Potomac shall be made without leaving in and about Washington
such a force as, in the opinion of the General-in-Chief and the com
manders of army corps, shall leave said city entirely secure.

That no more than two army corps (about fifty thousand troops) ot
said Army of the Potomac shall be moved en route for a new base of
operations until the navigation of the Potomac, from Washington to the
Chesapeake Bay, shall be freed from the enemy s batteries, and other
obstructions, or until the President shall hereafter give express per

That any movement as aforesaid, en route for a new base of operations,
which may be ordered by the General-in-Chief, and which may be in
tended to move upon the Chesapeake Bay, shall begin to move upon the

y as early as the eighteenth March instant, and the General-in-Chief
hall be responsible that it moves as early as that day.

Ordered, That the army and navy co-operate in an immediate etfort to
capture the enemy s batteries upon the Potomac between Washington
and the Chesapeake Bay. ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

L. THOMAS, Adjutant- General.

This order was issued on the 8th of March. On the
9th, information was received by General McClellan, at
Washington, that the enemy had abandoned his position
in front of that city. He at once crossed the Potomac,
and on the same night issued orders for an immediate ad<
vance of the whole army towards Manassas not with


any intention, as lie lias since explained, of pursuing the
rebels, and taking advantage of their retreat, but to "get
rid of superfluous baggage and other impediments which
accumulate so easily around an army encamped for a long
time in one locality" to give the troops " some expe
rience on the march and bivouac preparatory to the cam
paign," t and to afford them also a "good intermediate
step between the quiet and comparative comfort of the
camps around Washington and the vigor of active oper;
tions."* These objects, in General McClellan s opinion
were sufficiently accomplished by what the Prince de
Joinville, of his staff, styles a "promenade" of the army
to Manassas, where they learned, from personal inspec
tion, that the rebels had actually evacuated that position ;
and on the 15th, orders were issued for a return of the
forces to Alexandria.

On the llth of March, the President issued another or
der, stating that " Major-General McClellan having per
sonally taken the field at the head of the Army of the
Potomac, until otherwise ordered, he is relieved from the
command of the other military departments, retaining
command of the Department of the Potomac." Major-
General Halleck was assigned to the command of the De
partment of the Mississippi, and the Mountain Depai o
ment was created for Major- General Fremont. All the
commanders of departments were also required to report
directly to the Secretary of War.

On the 13th of March, a council of war was held at
head-quarters, then at Fairfax Court-House, by which
was decided that, as the enemy had retreated behind t
fkippahamiock, operations against Richmond could bet>i
"be conducted from Fortress Monroe, provided :

1st. That the enemy s vessel, Merrim-ac-, can be neutralized.

2d. That the means of transportation, sufficient for an immediate trails
fer of the force to its new base, can be ready at Washington and Alexan
dria to move do\vn the Potomac ; and,

3d. That a naval auxilijiry force can be had to silence, or aid in silen
wcg, the enemy s batteries on the York River.

* See General MciTlellaiL 3 Report, dated August 4, 1863.


4tL. That the force, to be lef t to cover Washington shall be such as tc
ifive au entire feeling of security for its safety from menace.

NOTE. That with the forts on the right bank of the Potomac fully
garrisoned, and those on the left bank occupied, a covering force in front
of the Virginia line of twenty-five thousand men would suffice. (Keyes,
Heintzelman, and McDowell.)

A total of forty thousand men for the defence of the city would
suffice (Simmer.)

. Upon receiving a report of this decision, the following
ommunication was at once addressed to the commanding
general :

WAR DEPARTMENT, March 18, 1862.

The President having considered the plan of operations agreed upon
by yourself and the commanders of army corps, makes no objection to
the same, but gives the following directions as to its execution :

1st. Leave such force at Manassas Junction as shall make it entirely
certain that the enemy shall not repossess himself of that position an 1
line of communication.

2d. Leave Washington entirely secure.

3d. Move the remainder of the force down the Potomac, choosing
new base at Fortress Monroe, or anywhere between here and there ; or,
at all events, move such remainder of the army at once in pursuit of th *
enemy by some route. EDWIN M. ST ANTON,

Secretary of War.


It will readily be seen, from these successive orders,
that the President, in common with the whole country,
had been greatly pained b}^ the long delay of the Army
of the Potomac to move against the enemy while en-
\imped at Manassas, and that this feeling was converted
to chagrin and mortification when the rebels were
a [owed to withdraw from that position without the
slightest molestation, and without their design being even
suspected until it had been carried into complete and suc
cessful execution. He was impatiently anxious, there
fore, that no more time should be lost in delays. In
reply to the Secretary of War, General McClellan, before
embarking for the Peninsula, communicated his intention
of reaching, without loss of time, the field of what he
believed would be a decisive battle, which he expected


to fight between West Point and Richmond. On the 31st
of March, the President, out of deference to the importu
nities of General Fremont and his friends, and from a be
lief that this officer could make good use of a larger force
than he then had at his command in the Mountain Depart
ment, ordered General Blenker s division to leave the
Army of the Potomac and join him ; a decision which L<
announced to General McClellan in the following let


MY DEAR SIB: This morning I felt constrained to order Blenker t
division to Fremont, and I write this to assure you that 1 did so with
great pain, understanding that you would wish it otherwise. If you could
know the full pressure of the case, I am confident that you would justify
it, even beyond a mere acknowledgment that the Commander-in-Ohic/
may order what he pleases.

Yours, very truly, A. LINCOLN.

Major-General MOOLELLAN.

General Banks, who had at first been ordered by Gen
eral McClellan to occupy Manassas, and thus cover
Washington, was directed by him, on the 1st of April, to
throw the rebel General Jackson well back from Win
chester, and then move on Staunton at a time " nearly
coincident with his own move on Richmond ;" though
General McClellan expressed the fear that General Banks
" could not be ready in time" for that movement. Tbp
four corps of the Army of the Potomac, destined for acth
operations by way of the Peninsiila, were ordered to em
bark, and forwarded as rapidly as possible to Portress
Monroe. On the 1st of April, General McClellan wrote
to the Secretary of war, giving a report of the dispositions
he had made for the defence of Washington ; and on the
2d, General Wads worth submitted a statement of the forces
under his command, which he regarded as entirely inade
quate to the service required of them. The President re
ferred the matter to Adjutant- General Thomas and Genera]
E. A. Hitchcock, who made a report on the same day, in
which they decided that the force left by General McClel
lan was not sufficient to make Washington " entirely


secure," as the President had required in his ordet oj
March 13 ; nor was it as large as the council of officers
held at Fairfax Court- House on the same day had ad-
j udged to be necessary. In accordance with this decision,
and for the purpose of rendering the Capital safe, the army
;orps of General McDowell was detached from General

1 cClellans immediate command, and ordered to report
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 Merrimack, which had closed the James
River against us. He therefore landed at the Fortress,
and commenced his 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 eleven thousand 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 eighty-five thousand men fit for duty that the
whole line of the Warwick River was strongly fortified
that it was pretty certain he was to "have the whole
force of the enemy on his hands, probably not less than
a hundred thousand men, and probably more," and that

e should commence siege operations as soon as he could
-,et 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, 1F>62.

MY DEAR SIR : Your dispatches, complaining 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


ized men, without a single field battery, were all you designed to be left
for the defence of Washington and Manassas Junction, and part cf thii
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 Winchester and Strasburg, and could not leave it without again
exposing the Upper Potomac and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. This
presented, or would present, when McDowell and Surnner should be gone,
a great temptation to the enemy to turn back from the Rappahannock an&
sack Washington. My implicit order that Washington should, by th
judgment of all the commanders of army corps, be left entirely secure,
had been neglected. It was precisely this that drove ine to detain Mr (

I do not forget that I was satisfied with your arrangement to leave
Banks at Manassas Junction : but Trhen 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, vid Manassas Junction, to
this city, to be entirely open, except what resistance could be presented
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 state
ment taken, as he said, from your own returns, making one hundred 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 command
was away.

I suppose the whole force which has gone forward for you is with yon
by this time. And if so, I think it is the precise time for you to strike a
blow. By delay, the enemy will relatively gain upon you that is, bo
will gain faster by fortifications and re-enforcements than you can by re-
enforcements alone. And once more let me tell you, it is indispensable
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 bar
in search of a field, instead of fighting at or near Manassas, was only
shifting and not surmounting a difficulty ; that we would find the same
enemy, aiiii the same or equal intrenchments, at either place. The coun
try will not tail to note, is now noting, that the present hesitation to
move upon an intrenched enemy is but the story of Mauassas repeated.

1 beg to assure you that I have never written you or spoken to you IB
greater kindness of feeling than no*, nor with a fuller purpose to sutjtair


you, so far as, in my most anxious judgment, i consistently can. Bu
you must act. Yours, very truly,

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 York
liown was not held by any considerable force ; and sub
sequent 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 not until this design had become apparent, that the
rebel Government began to re-enforce Magruder.* He

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


LEK B FABM, May 8, 1862.
General 8. COOFKR, A. and I. G. 0. 8. A. :

GKNKBAL : Deeming it of vital importance to hold Yorktown on York Kiver, and Mulberry
Island on James River, and to keep the enemy in check by an intervening line until the author
Ities might take such steps as should be deemed accessary to meet a serious advance of the one
my in the Peninsula, I felt compelled to dispose of my forces in such a manner as to accomplish
these objects with the least risk possible under the circumstances of great hazard which stir-
rounded the littlct army 1 commanded.

I had prepared, as my real line of defence, positions in advance at Harwood s and Youug i
Mills. Both flanks of this line were defended bv boggy and difficult streams and swamps.
* * In my opinion, this advanced line, with its flank defence 1 *, might have been held
, r.n-enty thousand troops. * * * Finding my forces too tceak to attempt the de
v. 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 force!
along the Warwick line, embracing 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 compelled tc place
in Gloucestar Point, Yorktown, and Mulberry Is ; and, fixed garrisons, amounting to six thou
sand men, iny whole force being eleven tlitiusand. no that it will be seen that the balance of
th* lint, embracing a length of thirteen miles, was defended by about five tho-usand

After the reconnoissances in great force from Fortress Monroe and Newport News, the enemy,
a the 8d of April, advanced and took possession of Ilarwood B Mill He advanced in two heavy
columns, one along the old York road, and the other along the Warwick road, and ou the 5th f
April appearea simultaneously along the whole pnrt of our line from Minor s farm to Yorktowt
I U/ no accurate data upon which to bas an exact statement of Ms force; bBt from


continued his applications to the Government for more
troops, more cannon, more transportation ail 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 McCleJhin, near Yorktown, but his troops re
mained on board the transports. A month was spent in
this way, the President urging action in the most earnest
manner, and the commanding general delaying 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 bus} 7 for a day
or two in evacuating Yorktown, and that the last of their
columns had left that place, all their supply trains hav
ing been previously removed on the day and night pre
ceding. General McClellan, in announcing this event to
the Government, added that " no time would be lost" in
the pursuit, and that he should "pnsh 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 for
ward by General McClellan came up, and found a very
strong rear-guard of the rebels strongly fortilied, about
two miles east of William sburg, and prepared to dispute
the advance of the pursuing troops. It had been known

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 arriiee. of
Ranks and McDowell respectively forming an aggregate number certainly of not less than one
tmndred thousand, since ascertained to have been one hundred and twenty thousand men.

On every portion of my lines he attacked us with a furious cannonading and musketry, -which
was responded to with effect by our batteries and troops of the lino. 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. TI IUH, with five thousand niti:,
KKclumce of the garrisons, we stopped and held in check, over one hundred thousand of tut
enemy. Every preparation was made in anticipation of another attack by the enemy. Th
men slept in the trenches and under arms, but, to my utter surprise, he permitted day after
day to elapse noitli&ut an assault.

In a few days the object of his delay was apparent. In emery direction in front of our line-\
through the intervening woods and along the open Jielda, earthwork* beyan to appear.
Through the energetic action of the Government re-enforcements began to pour in, *nd &.K&
how iti* army of the Peninsula grew stronger and titronrier, until anxiety pitssedfr&m rn\
mind at to the result of an attack upon .*. * * *

J. BAJ^KHEAD MioaroBR, Hajor-GtneraL


from tlie beginning that a very formidable liue of forts
had been erected here, and it ought to have been equally
well known by the commanding general that the retreat
ing enemy would avail himself of them to delay the
pursuit. General McClellan, however, had evidently
anticipated no resistance. He remained at his head-quar
ters, 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 impera
tively 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. Gen
eral Hooker, General Heintzelman, and General Sumner
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 Hank 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 Depart
ment the same night, he treats the battle as an engage
ment with the whole rebel army. "I find," he says,
4 General Joe Johnston 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," and that
he should "run the risk of at least holding them in check
here (at Williamsburg) while he resumed the original
plan" which was to send Franklin to West Point by


water. But the direct pursuit of the retreating rebel
aimy was abandoned owing, as the General said, to the
had state of the roads, which rendered it impracticable.
Some five days were spent at William sburg, which en
abled the rebels, notwithstanding the "state of tho
roads," to withdraw their whole force across the Chick-
.v hominy, and establish themselves within the fortifica
tions in front of Richmond. On the morning of the 7th,
General Franklin landed at West Point, but too late tc
intercept the main body of the retreating army ; he wae
met by a strong rear-guard, with whom he had a sharp
but fruitless engagement.

The York River had been selected as the base of
operations, in preference to the James, because it u wa&
in a better position to eifect a junction with any troops
that might move from Washington on the Fredericksburg
line ;"* and arrangements were made to procure supplier
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 Merrimack^ which had held our whole naval force
at Fortress Monroe completely in check, was blown up
by the rebels themselves, arid our vessels attempted to
reopen the navigation of the James River, but were
repulsed by a heavy battery at Drury s Bluff, eight

5 lies below Richmond. After waiting for several days
/ .>r the roads to improve, the main body of the army waa
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 Pamun-
key, an affluent of the York River the main body of the
army lying along the south bank of the Chickahominy, a
swampy stream, behind which the rebel army had in
trenched itself for the defence of Richmond.

Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and time : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages and proclamations and closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 1) → online text (page 28 of 42)