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CHAP. XXI. the city could be successfully defended; the most
important archives of the Government were sent, some to Lynchburg and some to Columbia.
But General Johnston had reason to confirm his opinion that McClellan cared little for time. The latter remained several days at Williamsburg after he had ascertained that the enemy had disappeared from in front of him. His visions of
overwhelming forces of rebels were now transferred May, 1862. to Franklin's front. On the 8th he telegraphed the
War Department a story of 80,000 to 120,000 opposed to Franklin, but in full retreat to the Chickahominy. On the 10th he sent an urgent appeal to Washington for more men, claiming that the enemy “are collecting troops from all quarters, especially well-disciplined troops from the South." His own army would inevitably be reduced by sickness, casualties, garrisons, and guards — as if that of the enemy would not. He therefore implored large and immediate reënforcements in a tone which implied that the President could make armies by executive decree. “ If I am not reën. forced,” he says, “it is probable that I will be obliged to fight nearly double my numbers, strongly intrenched.” In face of a morning report of over
100,000 men present for duty he says: “I do not Vol. XI., think it will be at all possible for me to bring
more than 70,000 men upon the field of battle."
He still protested stoutly against the original organization of his army corps, and asked that he might be permitted to break it up or at least to suspend it. He disliked his corps commanders, 1 J.B. Jones, "A Rebel War Clerk's Diary.” Vol. I., pp. 123, 126,
entries of May 8, May 10, and May 19, 1862.
and naturally wished his friends to exercise those CHAP. XXL important commands. He blamed the corps organization for all the trouble at Williamsburg, and said, if he had come on the field half an hour later, all would have been lost. The President was greatly wounded by this persistent manifestation of bad temper, but bore it after his fashion with untiring patience and kindness. He sent an official order, authorizing McClellan to suspend temporarily the corps organization in the Army of the Potomac, and to adopt any that he might see fit, until further orders. At the same time he wrote a private letter to the general, full of wise and kindly warning. He said :
I ordered the army corps organization not only on the unanimous opinion of the twelve generals whom you had selected and assigned as generals of divisions, but also on the unanimous opinion of every military man I could get an opinion from, and every modern military book, yourself only excepted. Of course I did not on my own judgment pretend to understand the subject. I now think it indispensable for you to know how your struggle against it is received in quarters which we cannot entirely disregard. It is looked upon as merely an effort to pamper one or two pets and to persecute and degrade their supposed rivals. I have had no word from Sumner, Heintzelman, or Keyes. The commanders of these corps are of course the three highest officers with you, but I am constantly told that you have no consultation or communication with them; that you consult and communicate with nobody but General Fitz-John Porter and perhaps General Franklin. I do not say these complaints are true or just, but at all events it is proper you should know of their existence. Do the commanders of corps disobey your orders in anything?
When you relieved General Hamilton of his command the other day, you thereby lost the confidence of at least one of your best friends in the Senate. And here let me
CHAP. XXI. say, not as applicable to you personally, that Senators and
Representatives speak of me in their places as they please without question, and that officers of the Army must cease addressing insulting letters to them for taking no greater liberty with them.
But to return : Are you strong enough - are you strong enough, even with my help-to set your foot upon the necks of Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes all at once ?
This is a practical and very serious question for you. May 9, 1862.
The success of your army and the cause of the country
are the same, and of course I only desire the good of the pp. 154, 155. cause.
Lincoln to MoClellan,
W. R. Vol. XI., Part III.,
General McClellan accepted the authorization with alacrity and the sermon with indifference. He at once formed two provisional army corps, giving Fitz-John Porter the command of one and Franklin of the other.
After leaving Williamsburg and joining his army at Cumberland Landing, he reiterated his complaints and entreaties for reënforcements that it was not in the power of the Government to send him. His apprehension had grown to such an extent that on the 14th of May he telegraphed his conviction that he would be compelled, with 80,000 men, to fight "perhaps double my numbers” in front of Richmond; and begged that the Government would send him “by water” — apparently he
did not want them to come overland -"all the pp. 26, 27. disposable troops,» " every man" that could be mus
tered. The President, anxious to leave nothing undone to help and encourage him, replied to these importunate demands first by a friendly private note, in which he said:
Have done and shall do all I could and can to sustain you. I hoped that the opening of James River and
W. R. Vol. XI., Part I.,
putting Wool and Burnside in communication, with an CHAP. XXI. open road to Richmond, or to you, had effected something Lincoln to in that direction. I am still unwilling to take all our
May 15,1862. force off the direct line between Richmond and here.
Part III., He afterwards sent a dispatch through the War Department, received by McClellan on May 18, of which the essential points are as follows:
The President is not willing to uncover the capital entirely, and it is believed that even if this were prudent, it would require more time to effect a junction between your army and that of the Rappahannock by the way of the Potomac and York rivers than by a land march. In order therefore to increase the strength of the attack upon Richmond at the earliest moment, General McDowell has been ordered to march upon that city by the shortest route. He is ordered — keeping himself always in position to save the capital from all possible attack so to operate as to put his left wing in communication with your right wing, and you are instructed to cooperate so as to establish this communication as soon as possible, by extending your right wing to the north of Richmond, . . . but charged, in attempting this, not to uncover the city of Washington; and you will give no order, either before or after your junction, which can put him out of position to cover this city. . . The President desires that General McDowell retain the command of the
Vol. XI., Department of the Rappahannock, and of the forces with which he moves forward.
Events as little foreseen by General McClellan as by the Government, and which had by him been declared impossible,- the defeat of our forces in the Shenandoah and the movement of a large rebel force to the upper Potomac, - prevented the execution of this plan. But it is worthy of notice that immediately on the receipt of the President's instructions, while he was waiting for McDowell to join him, General McClellan evinced no gratifica
CHAP. XXI. tion at this compliance with his wishes. On the
contrary, he lost no time in protesting against it, Vol. XI., and asking that McDowell should be placed ex
plicitly under his orders in the ordinary way. In his report, and in all his subsequent apologies for his campaign, he makes this positive assertion: “ This order rendered it impossible for me to use the James River as a line of operations, and forced
me to establish our depots on the Pamunkey and Ibid.,
to approach Richmond from the north.»1 This charge is an evident afterthought. We will permit it to be answered by General Webb, who is always the friend of McClellan, and his partisan wherever the writer's intelligence and conscience allow it. He says, after quoting the claim made by McClellan in his report:
It is but repeating the proper criticisms made by other writers that General McClellan had frequently mentioned the Pamunkey as his prospective base, that he made no representation to the Government, at the time, that he wished to be free to move by the James, and that ... it was within his power during the first three weeks of June, when he found that McDowell was again withheld from him, to follow the latter route. On one point there can be no question, that the position of his army, as already given, along the left bank of the Chickahominy from Bottom's towards New Bridge, on May 20, with the White
1 Lord Wolseley, relying upon had, in letters to his wife, anMcClellan's erroneous statement, nounced his intention to “close makes it the basis of an attack up on the Chickahominy” and his upon the Administration of Mr. expectation of a battle between Lincoln, which is clearly met and there and Richmond. He had refuted by General James B. Fry resolved upon the line of operain the "North American Review” tions he adopted even before he for December, 1889. He shows left Washington (see Report of not only that McClellan had es- March 19), and it was only after tablished his depots on the Pa- his misfortunes that he bethought munkey before the letter of the himself of charging the Govern18th reached him, but that he ment with having forced him to it.