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he did not invite, he at least thus voluntarily CHAP. XIX. assumed. Nominally he became general-in-chief, but in actual practice his genius fell short of the high duties of that great station. While he rendered memorable service to the Union, his judgment and resolution sometimes quailed before the momentous requirements of his office, and thrust back upon the President the critical and decisive acts which overawed him. In reality, he was from the first only what he afterwards became by technical orders - the President's chief-of-staff.
ENERAL MOCLELLAN arrived at Fort Mon
roe on the morning of the 2d of April, 1862, to begin the campaign against Richmond on the route chosen by himself. According to his own report he had the next day ready to move 58,000 men and 100 guns, besides the division artillery. They were of the flower of the volunteer army, and included also Sykes's brigade of regulars, Hunt's artillery reserve, and several regiments of cavalry. These were all on the spot, prepared to march, and an almost equal number were on their way to join him. He seemed at first to appreciate the necessity for prompt and decisive action, and with only one day's delay issued his orders for the march up the Peninsula between the York and James rivers.
The first obstacle that he expected to meet was the force of General J. B. Magruder at Yorktown, which McClellan estimated at from 15,000 to 20,000.
Magruder says his force consisted of 11,000, of Magruder, which 6000 were required for the fortifications of
Yorktown and only 5000 were left to hold the line across the Peninsula, 13 miles in length. His only object was to delay as long as possible the advance
W.R. Vol. XI., Part I.,
of the National troops upon Richmond, and his Crap. XX. dispositions were made to that end. If he had had troops enough, he says that he would have made his line of defense between Ship Point, on the York, and the mouth of the Warwick, on the James. But his force being insufficient for that purpose, he took up as a second line the Warwick River, which heads only a mile or so from Yorktown and empties into the James some thirteen miles to the south. Yorktown and its redoubts, united by long curtains and flanked by rifle-pits, formed the left of his line, which was continued by the Warwick River, a sluggish and boggy stream running through a dense wood fringed with swamps. The stream was dammed in two places, at Wynn's Mill and at Lee's Mill; and Magruder constructed three more dams to back up the river and make the fords impassable. Each of these dams was protected by artillery and earthworks.
General McClellan was ignorant not only of these preparations made to receive him, but also of the course of the river and the nature of the ground through which it ran. He knew something of the disposition of Magruder's outposts on his first line, and rightly conjectured that they would retire as he advanced. His orders for the 4th of April were therefore punctually carried out, and he seemed to expect no greater difficulty in his plan for the next day.' He divided his force into two columns – Heintzelman to take the right and march directly to Yorktown; and Keyes, taking the road to the left, to push on to the Half-way
1 In a letter on the 3d he wrote: Yorktown day after to-morrow.” “I hope to get possession of “McClellan's Own Story," p. 307.
CHAP. XX. House in the rear of Yorktown, on the Williams
burg road. He expected Keyes to be there the same day, to occupy the narrow ridge in that neighborhood,“ to prevent the escape of the garrison at Yorktowi by land, and to prevent reënforcements from being thrown in." Heintzelman went forward to the place assigned him in front of Yorktown, meeting with little opposition. Keyes marched by the road assigned him until he came to the enemy's fortified position at Lee's Mill, which to use General McClellan's words, "he found alto
gether stronger than was expected, unapproachable vodi., by reason of the Warwick River, and incapable of
being carried by assault." The energetic and active campaign that day begun was at once given up. Two days of reconnaissances convinced him that he could not break through the line which Magruder's little army of 11,000 men had stretched across the Peninsula, and he resolved upon a regular siege of the place. He began at the same time that campaign of complaint and recrimination against the Government which he kept up as long as he remained in the service.
He always ascribed the failure of his campaign at this point to two causes : first, to the want of assistance by the navy in reducing Yorktown, and second, to the retention of McDowell's corps in front of Washington. If the navy had silenced the batteries at Yorktown and Gloucester, he contended, he could have gone up the Peninsula unchecked. This is unquestionably true; it would be equally true to say in general terms that if somebody else would do our work we would have no work to do. He brings no proof to show that
of the Committee
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he had any right to expect that the navy would CHAP. XX. do this for him. It is true that he asked before he left Washington that the navy might coöperate with him in this plan, and received in reply the assurance that the navy would render him all the assistance in its power. The sworn testimony of Captain Fox, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and of Admiral Goldsborough, shows
Report that nothing was promised that was not performed, and that the navy stood ready to give, and did give, all the assistance to the army which was
I., p. 630. possible. Captain Fox said: “Wooden vessels could not have attacked the batteries at Yorktown and Gloucester with any degree of success. The forts at Yorktown were situated too high, were beyond the reach of naval guns; and I understand that General McClellan never expected any attack to be made upon them by the navy."
Admiral Goldsborough’s evidence is to the same effect: he promised that the Merrimac should never go up the York River, and she did not; he did everything that General McClellan requested of him. His orders from the department were clear and urgent, though general; he was to extend to the army, at all times, any and all aid that he could render; and he never refused to honor any draft that was made
The greatest of McClellan's grievances was the retention of McDowell's corps, and his clamor in regard to this was so loud and long as to blind many careless readers and writers to the facts in the case. We have stated them already, but they may be briefly recapitulated here. A council of war of General McClellan's corps commanders,