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 30 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 30 of 42)
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This fact (McDowell s forces coming within his department), my supe
rior rank, and the express language of the sixty-second article of war,
will place his command under my orders, unless it is otherwise specially
flirected 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 Washington

To this the President answered :

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

In regard to this, McClellan, in Ms report (August 4th,
1863), 0*79 ;*


This information, that McDowell s Corps would march from Fiodericks-
burg on the following Monday the 28th 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 (McCalPs) Division made to carry
out the plan the news of which, McClellan says, was so
cheering, and inspired him with such confidence, Mc
Clellan sees nothing but personal ambition on McDowell 1 a
part, and protests against that "spirit" in the following

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 pur
pose of increasing his command.

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

The department lines should not be allowed to interfere with me ; L til
General McD., and all other troops sent to me, should be placed complete
ly at my disposal, to do with them as I think best. In no other way cai
*hey be of assistance to me. I therefore request that I may have entir*
and full control. The stake at issue is too great to allow personal con
siderations to be entertained : you Tcnow that I have none.

It had been suggested, in some of the journals of the
day, that General McDowell might possibly advance
upon Richmond from the north, without waiting for
McClellan : it is scarcely possible, however, that any
suspicion of such a purpose could have had any thing tt
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 Mc
Dowell s troops should be "completely at his disposal,"
with his indignant protest against McDowell s personal
ambition, or with his conviction of the propriety and
necessity of disavowing all personal considerations for
himself. But it is certainly a little singular that a com-



mander, intrusted with an enterprise of such transcendent
importance to his army and country, who had been so
urgently calling for re-enforcements as absolutely indis
pensable 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, (1) 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
professedly paramount concern for the welfare of hia

On the 20th of June, he telegraphed the President that
troops to the number of probably ten thousand had left
Richmond to re-enforce Jackson ; that his defensive
works on the Chickahominy, made necessary by his
"inferiority of numbers," would be completed the next
day ; and that he would be glad to learn the "disposi
tion, 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 tJte
whole country" To this he received the following
reply :

WASHINGTON, Jim* 21, 1S62 6 p. M.

Yi^ir dispatch of yesterday, two p. M., was received this morning. If
U woi/ld not divert too much of your time and attention from the army
<mder your immediate command, I would be glad to have your views a?
to the present state of military affairs throughout the whole country, as
vou say you would be glad to give them. I would rather it should be by
Better 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 could do it with accuracy, which I cannot, I
would rather not transmit, either by telegraph or letter, because of the
chances of its reaching the enemy. I would be very glad to talk
you, bit you cannot leave your camp, and I cannot well leave here.

A. LIJSOCLN, President,
JCqjor-Geueral GBOB&S B. MoCi.iai.Aiir.


The President also stated that the news of Jackson s
having been re-enforced from Richmond was confirmed
by General King at Fredericksburg, and added, " If this
is true, it is as good as a re-enforcement to you of an
equal force." In acknowledging the first dispatch, Gen
eral McClellan said, he " perceived that it would be
better to defer the communication he 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
nis command.

General McClellan had been, for nearly a month, de
claring his intention to advance upon Richmond imme
diately. 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 postponement. On
the 18th, again announcing his intention to advance, he
said that a "general engagement might take place at ant/
JIQW, as an advance by us involves a battle more or less
decisive." Bat in the same dispatch he said, "After to
morrow we shall fight the rebel army as soon as Provi
dence will permit." But in this case, as in every other,
in spite of his good intentions, and the apparent permis
sion of Providence, General McClellan made no move
ment in advance, but waited until he was attacked. He
had placed his army astride the Chickahominy the left
wing being much the strongest and most compact, the
right being comparatively weak and very extended. He
.had expended, however, a great deal of 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, General McClellan believed Jackson to be in strong
force at Gordonsville, where he was receiving re-enforce
ments 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 he is to be attacked, and will

i f 1


therefore be compelled to fight, he writes to the Depart
ment to throw upon others the responsibility of an anticb
pated defeat. He declares the rebel force to be some two
hundred thousand, regrets his " great inferiority of num
bers," 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 " responsibility cannot be thrown on his shoulders,
but must rest where it belongs." He closes by announ
cing that a reconnoissance 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 20, 1862.

Your three dispatches of yesterday in relation, ending with the state
ment that you completely succeeded in making your point, are very grati
tying. The later one, suggesting the probability of your being over
whelmed by two hundred thousand men, and talking of to whom the re
sponsibility 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-enforceinents whenever I can. A. LINCOLN.

General McClellan had foreseen the probability of be
ing attacked, 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 Elver, and had ordered 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 purpose of the rebel
army to crush his light wing and cut off his communica
tions, if possible, Two plans were open to his adoption :
he might have brought over his left wing, and so strength
ened his right as to give it a victory, or he might have
withdrawn his right across the Chickahominy in itself a
strong defensive line and have pushed his whole force into
Ilk hmond, and upon the tear of the attacking force. Con-


oeiitration 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 thirty thousand men,
without support, against the main body of the rebel
army, and only withdrew it acioss the Chickahominy
after it had been beaten with terrific slaughter on the
27th, in the battle of Games s Mill. On the evening
of that day lie informed his corps commanders of his
purpose to fall back to the James River, and withdrew
the remainder of his right wing across the Chicka
hominy. On the next day the whole army was put in
motion on the retreat, and General McClellan found time
again to reproach the Government with neglect of his
army. If he had ten thousand 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 subordinate 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 7iave done your
best to sacrifice tills army"
To this dispatch the President replied as follows :

WASHINGTON, June, 03, 1802.

Save your army at all events. Will send re-enforcements 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-enforce-
merts; 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 wo pay for the enemy not being in Washington.
We protected Washington, and the enemy concentrated on you. Had we
stripped Washington, ha 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 th
nature of the case, and neither you nor the Government is to blame.


Under general orders from General McClellan, be 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 engagements, the army continued its
march towards James River. They first resisted and re
pulsed the pursuing rebels on the 29th at Savage Station,
in a bloody battle, fought under General Sumner, and 03
the 30th bad another severe engagement at Gleridale
On the 1st of July, our troops, strongly posted at Mai
vern Hill, were again attacked by the rebels, whom th^y
repulsed and routed with terrible slaughter ; and orde rs
were at once issued for the farther retreat of the army to
Harrison s Landing, which General McClellan had per
sonally examined and selected on the day before. Even
before the battle of Malvern Hill, he had telegraphed to
Washington for u fresh troops," saying he should fall
back to the river if possible; to which dispatch he
received the following reply :

WASHINGTON, July 1, 18C2 8.30 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.


Major-General G. B. MCCLELLAN.

On the next day, in reply to a request from General
McClellan for fifty thousand more troops, the President
tli us addressed him :

"WASHINGTON, July 2, 1882.

Your dispatch of yesterday induces me to hope that your army is hav
ing some rest. In this hope, allow me to reason with you for a moment.
When you ask for fifty thousand men to be promptly sent you, you surely
labor under some gross mistake of fact. Recently you sent papers show
ing your disposal of forces made last spring for the defence of Washington,
and advising a return to that plan. I find it included in and about Wash
ington seventy-five thousand men. Now, please be assured that I have
u;* 1 : nit-n enough to fill that very plan by fifteen thousand. All of General
in the Valley, all of General Bauks s, all of General McDowell ?


not with you, and all in Washington taken together, do not exceed, if they
reach, sixty thousand. With General Wool and General Dix added to
those mentioned, I have not, outside of your army, seventy-five thousand
men east of the mountains. Thus, the idea of sending you fifty thousand,
or any other considerable force 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 Richmond just
now, I do not ask you to try just now. Save the army, material, and
)wnormel, 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 three hundred
thousand, which I accept. A. LINCOLN.

On the next day, the 3d, General McClellan again wrote
for one hundred thousand men "more rather than less,"
in order to enable him to " accompli sli 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 under
standing 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 u 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 Generbl
ifarcy. 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, 1
suppose), and about ten thousand, I hope, you will have from Burnside
very soon, and about five thousand from Hunter a little later, I do not sea
how I can send you another man within a month. Under these circum
stances, the defensive, for the present, must be your only care. Save tho
army, first, where you are, if you can; and secondly, by removal, 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 mentioned above, you


run hold your present position , provided, and so long as you can keep
the James River open below you. If you are not tolerably confident you
can keep the James River open, you had better remove as soon as pos
sible. I do not remember that you have expressed any apprehension as
to the danger of having your communication cut on the ver below you,
yet I do not suppose it can have escaped your attention.


P. S. If at any time you feel able to take the offensive, you are no$
restrained from doing so. A. L.

At this point, on the 7th of July, General McClellaii
sent the President a letter of advice on the general con-
duct of his Administration. He thought the time had come
1 i 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 mo
ment." He added :

Military power should not be allowed to interfere with the relations ol
servitude, either by supporting or impairing the authority of the master,
except for repressing disorder, as in other cases. Slaves, contraband, 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 * particular State, thus working manumission 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 shall
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
rho possessed his confidence and could execute his orders ;


he did not ask that place for himself, but would serve ic
any position that might be assigned him. "I may be,
he acids, "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 Harrison s Landing. The actual strength
of the army 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 :

EzJEoyr.rK MANSION, WASHINGTON, July 18, 1863.

MY DEAR SIB : I am told that ovsr one hundred and sixty thousand
men have gone with your army on the Peninsula. When I was with you
the other day, we made out eighty-six thousand remaining, leaving seventy-
three thousand five hun Jrc-d to be accounted for. I helieve three thousand
five hundred will cover all the killed, -wounded, and missing, in all your
battles and skirmifhe^, Joaving fifty thousand who have left otherwise.
Not more than five thousand of those haeo died, leaving forty-five thou
sand or your army ptill alive, and net with it. I believe half or two-
thirds of tb iip are fit for duty co-d.-iy. 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 Richgiond in the next three days. How can
ihey be got to you, and how can they be prevented from getting away ic
*uch numbers for the future ? A. LINCOLN.

In reply to this letter, the General disclosed the fact that
thirty-eight thousand two hundred and fifty men of his
army were absent by authority i. e., on furloughs 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 one hundred and fifty
eight thousand three hundred and fourteen, and the aggre
gate losses in the retreat to the James River was fifteen
thousand two hundred and forty-nine.

During the President s, visit to the camp, the future
movements of the army were a subject of anxious delib-


eration. It was understood that the rebels were gather
ing large forces for another advance upon Washington
which was comparatively unprotected and as General
McClellan did not consider himself strong enough to take
the offensive, it was felt to be absolutely necessary to con
centrate the army, either on the Peninsula or in fi ont 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 tele
graphed to the President that u 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 with
drawn, 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,
i% we can take Richmond." On the 17th, he urged that
General Burnside s whole command in North Carolina
should be ordered to join him, to enable him to "assume
the offensive as soon as possible." On the 18th, he re
peated this request ; and on the 28th, again urged that ho
should be "at once re-enforced by all available troops."
On the 25th, General Halleck had visited the camp 5 and.
after a careful inspection of the condition of the army,
called an informal 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 8d, General McClellan
replied that it was "impossible to decide what cases to


Bend off unless lie knew what was to "be done with the
army " -and that if he was to be " kept longer in igno
rance of what was to be effected, he could not be expected
to accomplish the object in view." In reply, General
Halleck informed him that his army was to be "with
drawn from the Peninsula to Aquia Creel^," but that the
withdrawal should be concealed even from his own offi

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 30 of 42)