Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CH. XXIV. do, all that soldiers could accomplish; but they were

overwhelmed by vastly superior numbers, even after I brought my last reserves into action. The loss on both sides is terrible. I believe it will prove to be the most desperate battle of the war. The sad remnants of my men behave as men. Those battalions who fought most bravely, and suffered most, are still in the best order. My regulars were superb, and I count upon what are left to turn another battle, in company with their gallant comrades of the volunteers. Had I 20,000 or even 10,000 fresh troops to use to-morrow, I could take Richmond, but I have not a man in reserve, and shall be glad to cover my retreat, and save the material and personnel of the army. If we have lost the day, we have yet preserved our honor, and no one need blush for the Army of the Potomac. I have lost this battle because my force was too small. I again repeat that I am not responsible for this, and I say it with the earnestness of a general who feels in his heart the loss of every brave man who has been needlessly sacrificed to-day. I still hope to retrieve our fortunes, but to do this the Government must view the matter in the same earnest light that I do. You must send me very large reënforcements, and send them at once. I shall draw back to this side of Chickahominy, and think I can withdraw all our material. Please understand that in this battle we have lost nothing but men, and those the best we have. In addition to what I have already said, I only wish to say to the President that I think he is wrong in regarding me as ungenerous when I said that my force was too weak. I merely intimated a truth which to-day has been too plainly proved. If, at this instant, I could dispose of ten thousand fresh men, I could gain a victory to-morrow. I know that a few thousand more men would have changed this battle from a defeat to a victory. As it is, the Government must not and can not hold me responsible for the result. I feel too earnestly to-night; I have seen too many dead and wounded comrades to feel otherwise than that the Government has not sustained this army. If you do not do so now, the game is lost. If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or to any other persons in Washington. You have done your best to sacrifice this army.

W. R. Vol. XI., Part I.,

p. 61.

It is probable that no other general would have CH. XXIV. retained his commission for twenty-four hours after the receipt of such a communication by his superiors; but it is easy to see the reason why he was never called to account for it. The evident panic and mental perturbation which pierced through its incoherence filled the President with such dismay that its mutinous insolence was entirely overlooked. He could only wonder what terrible catastrophe, already accomplished or to come, could have wrung such an outcry as this from the general commanding. Even the surrender of the army was not an impossible disaster to expect from a general capable of writing such a dispatch. Secretary Chase has left a memorandum showing that some such action was regarded as indicated by General McClellan's telegrams, and that even after his arrival at Harrison's Landing, General Marcy, his father-in-law and chief-of-staff, in a visit to Washington, spoke of it as a possibility. Not knowing the extent of the mischance which had fallen upon the army, the President hastened at once to send a kind and encouraging answer to McClellan's dispatches:

Save your army at all events. Will send reënforcements 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 reënforcements. I thought you were ungenerous in assuming that I did not send them as fast as I could. I feel any misfortune to

1 This is the language of Mr. General Marcy, who had Chase's memorandum : “ Gen- been sent up to explain personeral McClellan himself, in his dis- ally the situation to the Presipatches before reaching Harri- dent, spoke of the possibility son's Landing, referred to the of his capitulation at once, or possibility of being obliged to within two or three days." capitulate with his entire army; Schuckers, “Life of 8. P. Chase," and after reaching that place, p. 447.

W. R.

Part III.,

P. 269.

CH. XXIV. 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 we pay for the enemy not being in Washington. We protected Washington, and the enemy concentrated on you. Had we stripped Washington, he would have been upon us before the troops could have gotten to you. Less than a week ago you notified us that reënforcements were leaving Richmond to come in front of us. It is the

nature of the case, and neither you nor the Government Vol. XI., are to blame. Please tell at once the present condition

and aspect of things.

The President also, with the greatest diligence, sent dispatches on the same day to General Dix, at Fort Monroe, to Admiral Goldsborough, commanding the naval forces in the James, and to General Burnside, in North Carolina, directing all three of them to strain every nerve in order to go to McClellan's assistance. At the same time he ordered Halleck to send a large portion of his forces to the rescue.

As the 29th and 30th of June passed without news of any further catastrophe, the President and the-Secretary of War began to think better of the situation, and concluded that it might possibly be improved by a change of base to the James. Mr. Stanton telegraphed to General Wool that it looked " more like taking Richmond than at any time before.” But on the 1st of July a dispatch, dated at Turkey Bridge, arrived from General McClellan, who was still under the influence of great agitation, announcing that he is “hard pressed by superior numbers," and fearing that he shall be forced

1862

1 This order was afterwards to the abandonment of Tennessee. revoked, on Halleck's representa- — W. R. Vol. XI., Part III., pp. tion that the detachment of so 279, 285. See also Chap. XIX., large a force would be equivalent p. 353 et seq.

W. R. Vol. XI.,

p. 280.

to abandon his material and save his men under CH. XXIV. cover of the gunboats. “If none of us escape, we shall at least have done honor to the country. I

Part III., shall do my best to save the army. Send more gunboats." While waiting for his troops to come to the new position he had chosen for them, he continued asking for reënforcements. “I need," he says, “50,000 more men, and with them I will retrieve our fortunes." The Secretary of War at once answered that reënforcements were on the way, 5000 from McDowell and 25,000 from Halleck. “Hold your ground," he says encouragingly," and you

will be in Richmond before the month is over.” Ibid., p. 281. On the morning of the battle of Malvern, McClellan writes again, “I dread the result if we are attacked to-day by fresh troops. I now pray for time." It Ibid., p. 282. has been seen that his dread was uncalled for. Meanwhile, before hearing of the battle, the President had telegraphed:

It is impossible to reënforce you for your present July 1, 1862. 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.

W. R. Vol. XI., Part I.,

p. 71.

On the 2d, the flurry of the week having somewhat subsided, the President sent him the following:

Your dispatch of Tuesday morning induces me to hope your army is having some rest. In this hope allow me to reason with you a moment. When you ask for 50,000 men to be promptly sent you, you surely labor under some gross mistake of fact. Recently you sent papers

CH. XXIV. showing your disposal of forces made last spring for the

defense of Washington, and advising a return to that plan. I find it included in and about Washington 75,000 men. Now, please be assured I have not men enough to fill that very plan by 15,000. All of Frémont's in the Valley, all of Banks's, all of McDowell's not with you, and all in Washington, taken together, do not exceed, if they reach, 60,000. With Wool and Dix added to those mentioned I have not, outside of your army, 75,000 men east of the mountains. Thus the idea of sending you 50,000, 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 impression. 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 personnel, and I will July 2, 1862. strengthen it for the offensive again as fast as I can. The Vol. XI., Governors of eighteen States offer me a new levy of Part III.,

300,000, which I accept.

Lincoln to MoClellan,

p. 286.

This quiet and reasonable statement produced no effect upon the general. On the 3d he wrote again in a strain of wilder exaggeration than ever. He says:

It is of course impossible to estimate, as yet, our losses; but I doubt whether there are to-day more than 50,000 men with their colors. To accomplish the great task of capturing Richmond and putting an end to this rebellion reenforcements should be sent to me, rather much over

than much less than 100,000 men. I beg that you will be Part Xli, fully impressed by the magnitude of the crisis in which

we are placed.

W.R.

P. 292.

The didactic, not to say magisterial, tone of this dispatch formed a not unnatural introduction to the general's next important communication to the President, laying before him an entire body of ad

« AnteriorContinuar »