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wise ordered, Major-General Halleck have command of CHAP. X. said department.
Ordered also, That the country west of the Department of the Potomac and east of the Department of the Mississippi be a military department, to be called the Mountain Department, and that the same be commanded by Major-General Frémont. That all the commanders of departments, after the receipt of this order by them respectively, report severally and directly to the Secretary of War, and that prompt, full, and frequent reports will be
Vol. V., expected of all and each of them.
All the members of the Cabinet present heartily approved the order. The President
his reason for issuing it while General McClellan was absent from Washington - a reason indeed apparent in the opening words, which were intended to take from the act any appearance of disfavor. The general's intimate biographers have agreed that it was because the President was afraid to do it while the general was in Washington. The manner of the order, which was meant as a kindness, was taken as a grievance. Mr. Seward advised that the order be issued in the name of the Secretary of War, but this proposition met with a decided protest from Mr. Stanton. He said there was some friction already between himself and the general's friends, and he feared that the act, if signed by him, would be attributed to personal feeling. The President decided to take the responsibility. In a manly and courteous letter the next day, McClellan accepted the disposition thus made of him.
On the 13th of March, at Fairfax Court House, General McClellan called together the four corps commanders who were with him and submitted to them for discussion the President's order of the 8th.
J. H., Diary.
CHAP. X. The results of the council cannot be more briefly
stated than in the following memorandum, drawn up by the generals who took part in it:
A council of the generals commanding army corps at the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac were of the opinion:
I. That the enemy having retreated from Manassas to Gordonsville, behind the Rappahannock and Rapidan, it is the opinion of the generals commanding army corps that the operations to be carried on will be best undertaken from Old Point Comfort, between the York and James rivers, provided
First. That the enemy's vessel Merrimac can be neutralized;
Second. That the means of transportation, sufficient for an immediate transfer of the force to its new base, can be ready at Washington and Alexandria to move down the Potomac; and
Third. That a naval auxiliary force can he had to silence, or aid in silencing, the enemy's batteries on the York River.
Fourth. That the force to be left to cover Washington shall be such as to give an entire feeling of security for its safety from menace. (Unanimous.)
II. If the foregoing cannot be, the army should then be moved against the enemy behind the Rappahannock at the earliest possible moment, and the means for reconstructing bridges, repairing railroads, and stocking them with materials sufficient for supplying the army should at once be collected for both the Orange and Alexandria and Aquia and Richmond railroads. (Unanimous.)
N. B.— 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 25,000 men would suffice. (Keyes, Heintzelman, and McDowell.) A total of 40,000 men for the defense of the city would suffice. (Sumner.)
These conclusions of the council were conveyed to Washington, and the President on the same day
sent back to General McClellan his approval, and CHAP. X. his peremptory orders for the instant execution of the plan proposed, in these words signed by the Secretary of War: “ 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: First. Leave such force at Manassas Junction as shall make it entirely certain that the enemy shall not repossess himself of that position and line of communication. Second. Leave Washington entirely secure. Third. Move the remainder of the force down the Potomac, choosing a new base at Fort Monroe, or anywhere between here and there, or, at all events, move such remainder of the army at once in pursuit of the enemy by some route.”
No commander could ask an order more unrestricted, more unhampered, than this. Choose your own route, your own course, only go; seek the enemy, and fight him.
Under the orders of John Tucker of the War Department, a fleet of transports had been preparing since the 27th of February. It is one of the many grievances mentioned by General McClellan in his report, that this work was taken entirely out of his hands and committed to those of Mr. Tucker; he thus estops himself from claiming any credit for one of the most brilliant feats of logistics ever recorded. On the 27th of February, Mr. Tucker received his orders; on the 17th of March, the troops began their embarkation; on the 5th of April, Mr. Tucker made his final report, announcing that he had transported to Fort Monroe, from Washington,
W. R. Vol. V.,
CHAP. X. Perryville, and Alexandria, “121,500 men, 14,592
animals, 1150 wagons, 44 batteries, 74 ambulances, besides pontoon bridges, telegraph materials, and the enormous quantity of equipage, etc., required for an army of such magnitude. The only loss," he adds,“ of which I have heard is eight mules and nine barges, which latter went ashore in a gale within a few miles of Fort Monroe, the cargoes being saved." He is certainly justified in closing his narrative with these words: “I respectfully but confidently submit that, for economy and celerity of movement, this expedition is without a parallel on record.” 1
The first corps to embark was Heintzelman's; he took with him from General McClellan the most stringent orders to do nothing more than to select camping-grounds, send out reconnaissances, engage guides and spies, “but to make no important
move in advance." The other forces embarked in McClellan,
turn, McDowell's corps being left to the last; and before it was ready to sail, General McClellan himself started on the 1st of April, with the headquarters on the steamer Commodore, leaving behind him a state of things that made it necessary to delay the departure of McDowell's troops still further.
In all the orders of the President it had been clearly stated that, as an absolute condition precedent to the army being taken away to a new base, enough troops should be left at Washington to make that city absolutely safe, not only from
1 The means by which this work was done were as follows: 113 steamers, each at an average price per day.
$215.10 188 schooners, each at an average price per day. 88 barges, each at an average price per day...
capture, but from serious menace. The partisans CHAP. X. of General McClellan then, and ever since then, have contended that, as Washington could not be seriously attacked without exposing Richmond to capture, undue importance was attached to it in these orders. It would be a waste of words to argue with people who place the political and strategic value of these two cities on a level. The capture of Richmond, without the previous virtual destruction of the rebel armies, would have been, it is true, an important achievement, but the seizure of Washington by the rebels would have been a fatal blow to the Union cause. General McClellan was in the habit of saying that if the rebel army should take Washington while he was at Richmond they could never get back; but it might be said that the general who would permit Washington to be taken could not be relied on to prevent the enemy from doing what they liked afterwards. Mr. Lincoln was unquestionably right in insisting that Washington must not only be rendered safe from capture, but must also be without the possibility of serious danger. This view was adopted by the council of corps commanders, who met on the 13th of March at Fairfax Court House. They agreed unanimously upon this principle, and then, so as to leave no doubt as to details, three of the four gave the opinion that after the forts on the Virginia side were fully garrisoned, and those on the Maryland side occupied, a covering force of 25,000 men would be required.
The morning after General McClellan had sailed for Fort Monroe, the Secretary of War was astonished to hear from General James S. Wadsworth,