« AnteriorContinuar »
imeiits of which were eight of comparatively new troops, was attacked by superior numbers; yet, according to the reports alluded to, it 4i stood the attack for three hours before it was reinforced." A portion of the division was thrown into great confusion upon the first onslaught of t e enemy, but the personal efforts of General \"aglee, Colonel Bailey and others, who boldly went to the front and encouraged the men by their presence and example at this critical juncture, rallied a great part of the division, and thereby enabled it to act a prominent purt in this severely contested battle. It therefore affords me great satisfaction to withdraw the expression contained in my first despatch, and I cordially give my indorsement to the conclusion of the division commander, "that those parts of his command which behaved discreditably were exceptional cases."
On the 31st, when the battle of Fair Oaks commenced, we bad two of our bridges nearly Completed, but the rising water floacd ihe logaway approaches and made ihem almost impassable, so tha' it was only by the greatest efforts that General Sumner croossed his corps and participated in that hard-fought engagement. The bridges became totally useless af er this corps had passed, and others on a more permanen plan were commenced.
On my way to head-quarters, after the bat tie of Fair Onks, I attempted to cross the bridge where Genetal Sumner had taken over his corps ou the day previous. At the time General Sumner crossed this was the only available bridge above Bottom's ' ridge. I found the approach from the right bank for some 400 yards submerged to the depth of several feet, and on reaching the [dace where the bridge had been, I found a great part of it carried away, so that I could not get mj horse over, and was obliged to send him to Bottom's bridge, six miles below, as- the only practicable crossing.
The approaches to New and Mechanicsville bridges wore also overflowed, and both of them were enfiladed by the enemy's batteries, established upon commanding heights on the opposite side. These batteries were supported by strong forces of the enemy, having numerous rifle-pi's in their front, which would have made* it necessary, even had the approaches been in the best possible condition, to have fought a sanguinary battle, with but little prospect of success, before a passage could have been secured.
The only available means, therefore, of uniting our forces at Fair Oaks for an advance on Richmond soon after the battle, was to march the troops from Mechanicsville and other points on the left bank of the Chickahominy down toBottom's bridge, and thence over the Williamsburg road to the position near Fair Oaks, a distance of about twenty-three (23) miles. In the condition of the roads at that time, this march could not have been made with artillery in less than two days by which time the enemy would have been secure within his intrenchments around Richmond. In short, the idea of uniting the two wings of the army in time to make a vigorous pursuit of the enemy, with the prospect of overtaking him before he reached Richmond, only five miles distant from the field of battle, is simply absurd, and was, I presume,
never for a moment seriously entertained by any one connected with the army of the Potom ic. An advance involving the separation of the t ^ o wings by the impas>able Chickahominy would have exposed each to defeat in detail. Therefore I held the position already gained, and completed our crossings as rapidly as possible.
In the meantime the troops at Fair Oaks were directed to strengthen their positions by a strong Hue of intrenchments, which protected them while (he bridges were being built, gave security to the trains, Migrated a large fighting force, and offered a uafe retreat in the event of disaster.
On the 2d of June I sent the following despatch:
"Headquarters Army Op The Potomac, New Br'ulfje, June 2d, 1862 10.30 A. M.
"Our left is every where advanced considerably beyond the positions it occupied before the bailie.
u i am in strong hopes that the Chickahominy will fall sufficiently to eneable me to cross the right. We have had a terrible time with our communications; bridges and causeways, built with great care, having been washed away with the freshet, leaving us almost cut off from communication. All that human labor can do is being done to accomplish our purpose.
u Please regard the portion of this relating to condition of Chickahominy as confidential, as it would be serious if the enemy were aware of it I do not yet know our loss; it has been very heavy on both sides, as the fighting was desperate; our victory complete. I expect still more fighting before we reac'» Richmond. 41 Geo. B. Mcclellan,
"Major-General" ik Hox. E. M. Staxton, Secretary of War.'''
On the same day I received the following from the Secretary of War:
"Washington, June 2, 1862. "Your telegram has been received, and we are greatly rejoiced at your success, not only in itself, but be.ause of the dauntless spirit and courasre it displays in your troops. You have received, of course, the order made yesterday in respect to Fortress Monroe. The object was to place at your command the disposable force of that department. The indications are that Fremont or McDowell will fight Jackson to-day, and as soon as he is disposed of another large bodv of troops will be at your service. The intelligence from Halleck shows that the rebels are fleeing, find pursued in force from Corinth. All interest now centres in your operations, and full confidence is entertained of your brilliant and glorious success.
"Edwin M. Stanton,
"Secretary of War. "Maj. Gen. Mcclellan."
On the 3d I received the following from the President:
u Washington. June 3, 1862. 44 With these continuous rains, I am very anxious ab< ut tlie Cluckahoutiiiy, so close in your re<r and crossing your line of communication. Please look \>ell to it.
u A. Lincoln. President. "Maj. Gen. Mcclellan."
To which T replied as follows:
44 Hi Adqfautkks, Aumy Ok The Potomac, . - AV«? Bridge, Jim? :-W, 1*62. "Your desp itch <«f ."> i\ M. just received. As the Chiekahominy has been the only obstacle in my way for several days, your Excellency may rest assured that it lias not been overlooked. Every effort has been made, und will continue to be, to protect tin- communications across it. Nothing of importance, except that it is again raining.
44 G. B. Mcclellan,
'• Maj Men, ComcTg. "A. Lincoln,
44 President, Washington"
My views of the condition of our army on the 4th are explained in the following despatch to the President:
44 Headquarters, Army Of The Potomac,
"Terrible rain during the night m-d mornirur; not yet cleared off; Chiekahominy flooded; bridges in bad condition, and still hard at work at them. I have taken every possible step to insure the security of the corps on the right bank, but I cannot reinforce them from here until my bridges are all safe, as my force is too din-ll to insure my right and rear, should the enemy attack in that direction, as they may probably attempt. I have to be verv cautious now. Our loss in the 1 te battle will probably exceed (5.000) five thousand. I have not yet full returns. On account of the effect it might have on our own men and the enemy, I request that you will regard this information as confidential for a few days. I am satisfied that the loss of the enemy was very considerably greater; they were terribly pu-ished. I mention these facts now merely to show you that the army of th<* Potomac has had serious work, and that no child's p ay is before it.
*• You must make your calculations on the supposition that I have been correct from the beginning, in asserting that the serious opposition was to be made 1 ere.
"Geo. B. Mcclellan,
"Maj. Gen. ComcFg.
"A. Lincoln, President."
And in the following to the Secretary of War on the sane day:
44 Headquarters, Army Of The Potomac,
*• New Bridge. June 4, 186£. "Please inform me at once what reinforcements, if any, I can count upon having at Fortress Monroe or White House within the next tliree days, and when each regiment may be expected to arrive. It is of the utmost importance that I should know this immediately. The losses in the battle of the 31st and 1st will
amount to (7,000) seven thousand. Regard this as confidential for the present.
"If I can have (5) tive new regiments for Fort Monro*1 and its d p n* tench s, i c.<n draw (3) three more old r giments from th re saf iy J can well dispose of four more raw regiments on my communications. I can wtll dispos< of from (15) fifteen to (20) tw« nty weli-drilU d r« gim nts among tlr- old brigades, in bringing them up to their original • fteetiw st ength. b< emits are ( sp cially necessary for tm* regular and volunteer batt< ri' s of ai till ry, as well as for the r guUr ami volunt -er r gim nts of infantry. \ftei the losses in ou> last batflf, I trust that I will no longer be regarded as an alarmist. I belie-ve we have at least one more despevat • battle to tight. 44 Geo. B. Mcclkllan,
44 Hon. E. M. Stanton,
Also in my despatch to the Secretary of War on the 5th:
44 Headquarters, Army Of The Potomac, 44 Atiif Bridye, June 5, 1862. 44 Rained most of the night—has now c ased, but it is not clear. The river still very high and troublesome. Enemy opened with several b tteiies on our bridges near h« re this morning; our batteries seem to have pretty much silenced them though some firing still kept up. The rain forces us to remain in .stain q>t<>. W»th great difficulty a division of infantry lias been crossed this morning to support the troop- on the other side should enemy renew attack. I felt obliged to do this, although it leaves us rather weak here.
44 G. B. Mcclkllan, "Major General ConuTg. 44 Hon. E. M. Stanton, "Secretary of War."
On the 15th the Secretary telegraphed me aa
44 Washington, June 5, 1862—8.30 p. m. 441 will send you (5) five new r giments as fast as transportation can take them; the first to start to-morrow from Baltimore. I intend sending you part of McDowell's force as soon as it can return.from its trip to Frpnt Royal, probably as many as you want. The o'der to ship the new regiments to Fort Monro- has already beeu given. I suppose that they may be sent directln to the Fort. Please advise me of this as yoy desire.
44 Edwin M Stanton,
"Secretary of Wan 14 Major General Mcclellan."
On the 7th of June I telegraphed as follows:
44 Headquarters, Army Of The Potomac, 4t Juue nth, 1862,-4.30 p. w.
44 In reply to your despatch of 2 P. M. to-day, I have the honor to state that the Chickahominv river has risen so as to flood the entire bottom to the depth of three and four feet. I am pushing forward the bridges in spite of this, and the men are working night and day, up to their waists in water, to complete them.
44 The wuole face of the country is a perfect bog, - entirely impassable for artillery or even cavalry, except directly in the narrow roads, which renders arry general movement either of this or the rebel army utterly out of the question, until we have more favorable weather.
"Iain glad to learn that you are pressing forward reinforcements so vigorously. I shall be in'perfect readiness to move forward and take Richmond the'moment McCall reaches'here, and the ground will admit the passage of artillery. I have advanced my pickets about a mile to-day, driving oft the rebel pickets, and securing a very advantageous position.
44 The rebels have several batteries establish' ed, eomujauding the debouches from two of our bridges, aiad tire upon our working parties continually,, but as yet they have killed but very few of our men.'
'' Major General.
"Hon. E, M. Stanton."
As.I did not, think it probable that any more reinforcements would be sent me in time for the advance on Richmond, I stated in the foregoing despatch that I should be ready to move when General MeCall's division joined me; but I did not intend to be understood by this that no more reinforcements were wanted, as will be seen from the following despatch:
"June 10, 1862—3.30 p. m.
"I have again information that Beauregard has arrived, and that some of his troops are to follow him, No great reliance, perhaps none whatever, can be attached to this; but it is possible, and ought to be their policy.
441 am completely checked by the weather. The roads and fields are literally impassable for artillery, almost so for infantry. The Chickahominy is in a dreadful state; we have another rain storm on our hands.
441 shall attack as soon as the weather and ground will permit; but there will be a delay, the extent of which no one can foresee, for the season is altogether abnormal.
44 tn view of these circumstances, T present for your consideration the propriety of detaching largely from Halleck's army to strengthen this; for it would seem that Halleck has now Do large organized force in front of him, while we have.
If this cannot be done, or even in connection with it, allow me to suggest the movement of a heavy column from Dalton upon Atlanta. If but the one can be done, it would better conform to military principles to strengthen this army; and even although the reinforcements might not arrive in season to take part in the attack upon Richmond, the moral effect would be great, and they would furnish valuable assistance in ulterior movements.
441 wish to be distinctly understood that whenever the weather permits, I will attack with whatever force I may have, although a larger force would enable me to gain much more decisive results.
441 would be glad to have McCall's infantry seut forward by water at onee, without waiting for his artillery and cavalry.
44 If General Prim returns via Washington, please converse with him as to the condition of attain* here.
44 George B. Mcclellan,
,k' Major General 44 Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, 44 Secretary of War."
Our work upon the bridges continued to be pushed forward vigorously until the 20th, during which time it rained almost every day, and the exposure of the men caused much sickness.
On the 11th the following was received from the Secretary of War:
44 Washington, -June 11, 1862.
44 Your despatch of three thirty (3.30) yesterday has been received. I am fully impressed with the difficulties mentioned, and which no art or skill can avoid, but only endure, and am striving to the uttermost to render you every aid in the power of the Government.
44 Your suggestions will be immediately communicated to General Halleck, with a request that he shall conform to them. At last advice he contemplated sending a column to operate with Mitchell against Chattanooga, and thence upon East Tennessee. Buell reports Kentucky and Tennessee to be in a critical condition, demanding immediate attention. Halleck says the main body of Beauregard's force is with him at Okalona. McCall's force was reported yesterday as having embarked and on its way to join you. It is intended to send the residue of McDowell's force also to join you ai speedily as possible. Fremont had a hard fight day before yesterday with Jackson's fore; at Union church, eight miles from Harrisonburg. He claims the victory, but was pretty badlyhandled; it is clear that a strong force is operating with Jackson, for the purpose of detaining the forces here from you. I am urging as fast as possible the new levies.
44 Be assured, general, that there never has been a moment when my desire has been otherwise than to aid you with my whole heart, mind and strength, since the hour we first met; and whatever others may say for their own purposes, you have never had, and never can have, any one more truly your friend, or more anxious to support you, or more joyful than I shall be at the success which I have no doubt will soon be achieved by your arms.
44 Edwin M. Stanton,
44 Secretary of War.
44 Major General G. B. Mcclellan."
On the 12th and 13th General McCall's division arrived.
On the 13th of June two squadrons of the 5th United States cavalry, under the command of Captain Royall, stationed near Hanover old church, were attacked and overpowered by a force of the enemy's cavalry, numbering about fifteen hundred men, with four guns. They pushed on towards our depots, but at some distance from our main body, and, though pursued, verv cleverly made the circuit of the army, repassing the CllTekahominy at Long bridge.
The burning of two schooners laden with forage and fourteen government wagons, the destraction of some sutlers' storey the Jailing of several of the guard and teamsters at GarlickV Landing, some little damage done at Tunstall's station, and a little eclat, were the precise results of this expedition.
On the 14th I sent the following to the Secretary of War:
"headquarters Army Of The Potom-ac,
*' Camp Lincoln,. June 14, 1862—Midnight
"All quiet in every direction. The stampede of last night has passed away. Weather now very ^ favorable. I hope two days more wtfl make the ground-practicable. I shall advfince as soon as 'the bridges are completed, and the ground fit for-artillery to move, at the same time I would be glad to have whatever troops can be sent to rue. I can use several new regiments to/ advuntage. It ought to be distinctly understood that McDowell and his troops are completely under my eontrol.
■ ■■*$ T? received a telegram from him requesting that McCalPs division might be placed, so as to> join him immediately on hisarrival.
44 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 whioh I iam now placed, General McDowell should wish the general.interests to be sacrificed for the purpose of increasing his. command.
44 If I cannot fully control all his troops, I want none of them, but would prefer to fight the battle with what I have, and let others be responsible for the results.
44 The department lines should not be allowed to interfere with me, but General McDowel[ and all his troops sent to me, should be placed completely at my disposal, to do with them as I think best. In no other way can they be of assistance to me. I therefore request that I may have entire and full control. The stake at issue is too great to allow j*ei sonai considerations to be entertained. You know that I have none. The indications are, from our balloon reconnoissances, and from ail other sources, that the enemy are intrenching, daily increasing in numbers, and determined to fight desperately.
44 Geo. B. Mcclellan, 44 Major General Cammandbvj.
MHon. E. M. Stanton,
44 Secretary of War"
On the 20th the following was communicated to the President.
"headquarters Army Of Tite Potomac,
44 Cut up Lincoln, June 20, 1862—2 p. m.
"Your Excellency's despatch of (11) A. M., received, also that of General Sj^el.
441 have no doubt that Jacksmi has been reinforced from here. There is reason to believe thai General K. S. Ripley has recently joined Lee's army, with a brigade or division from Charleston. Troops have arrived recently from Goldsboro. There is not the slightest reason to suppose that the enemy intends evacuating Richmond; he is daily increasing his defences. I find him everywhere in force, and every reconnoissanee costs many valuable lives. Yet I ?m obliged to feel my way foot by foot at whatever
cost, so great are the difficulties of the country. By to-morrow night the defensive works covering our position on this side the Chickahoininy should be< completed. I am forced to t}iis by my inferiority of nivmbepsv so thai. I may bring the greatest possible numbers into action, and secure the army against! the-.consequences of unforseen disaster. I would be glad to have permission to lay before your excellency, by letter or telegraph, my views;as to the present state of military affairs throughout the whole country. In the mean time I would be pleased to learn the disposition, as< to numbers and position, of the troops not under--my command, in Virginia and elsewhere,
44 GVB. MC^LELLAN,
"Major Gnirrnl Commanding, 44 His Excellency, A. Lincoln, President."
To which I received this reply:
44 Washington, June 21, 1862—-6/>. m.
44 Your despatch of yesterday, two (2) p. M., was received this morning. If it would not divert too much of your time and attention from the army under your immediate command, I would be glad to have your views as to the present state of military affairs throughout the whole country, as you say you would be glad to give them. I would rather it should be by letter than by telegraph, because of the bettor chance of seeresy. 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 with you, but you cannot leave your camp, and I cannot well leave here.
"A. Lincoln. President.
44 Major General G. B. Mcclellan."
To which I sent the following reply:
44 Camp Lincoln, June 22, 1 p. m. 441 have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your telegram of 8 P. M., yesterday.
44 Under the circumstances as stated in your despatch, I perceive that it will be better, at least, to defer for the present the communication I desired to make.
44 G. B. Mcclellan,
"Major General Commanding. 44 His Excellency, the President.
All the information I could obtain, previous to the 24th of June, regarding the movements of General Jackson, led to the belief that ho was at Gordonsville, where he was receiving reinforcements from Richmond, via Lynchburg and Stanton; but what his purposes were did not appear until the date specified, when a young man, very intelligent, but of suspicious appearance, was brought in by our scouts from the direction of Hanover Court House. He at first stated that he was an escaped prisoner from Colonel Kenlev's Maryland regiment, captured at Front Royal, but finally confessed himself to be a deserter from Jackson's command, which he left near Gordonsville on the 21i>n. Jackcon's troops were then, as he said,- moving to Frederickshall, along the Virginia Central Railroad, for the purpose of attacking my rear on the 28th. I immediately despatched two trusty negroes to proceed along the railroad, and ascertain the truth of the statement. They were unable, however, to get beyond'Hanover Court House, where they encountered the enemy's pickets, and were forced to turn back without obtaining the desired information. On that day I sent the following despatch:
"heaihji'ahtkrs, Akmy Of Thk Potomac,
u»/tine 24, 1862—12/). m.
"A very peculiar case of desertion has just occurred from the enemy. The party states he left Jackson, Whiting and Kwell, fifteen brigades, at Gordonsville, on the 21st; that they were moving to Frederickshall, and that it was intended to attack my rear on the 28th. I would be glad to learn, at your earliest convenience, the most exact information you have as to the position and movements of Jackson, as well as the sources from which your information is derived, that I may the bettei compare it with what I have.
"G. B. Mcclkllan,
k4 Major General.
"Hon. E. M. Stanton,
"Secretary of War."
The following is his reply:
Washington, J»ne 25—2.35. 41 We have no definite information as to the numbers or position of Jackson's force. General King yesterday reported a deserter's statement that Jackson's force was, nine days ago, forty thousand men. Some reports place ten thousand rebels, under Jackson, at Gordonsville; others that his force is at Port Republic, Harrisonburg and Luray. Fremont yesterday reported rumors that Western Virginia was threatened, and General Kelly that Ewell was advancing to New creek where Fremont has his depots. The last telegram from Kremout contradicts this rumor. The last tc'egram from Banks says the enemy's pickets are strong in advance at Luray. The people decline to give any information of his whereabouts. Within the last (2) two days, the evidence is strong that for some purpose the enemy is circulating rumors of Jackson's advance in various directions, with a view to conceal the real point of attack. Neither McDowell, who is at Manassas, nor Banks and Fremont, who are at Middletown, appear to have any accurate knowledge of the subject. A letter transmitted to the department yesterday, purporting to be dated Gordonsville, on the fourteenth (14) instant, stated that the actual attack was designed for Washington an<3 Baltimore, as soon as you attacked Richmond; but that the report wa* to be circulated that Jackson had gone to Richmond, in order to m'slead. This letter looked very much like a blind, and induces me to suspect that Jackson's real movement now is toward Richmond. It came from Alexandria, and is certainly designed, like the numerous rumors put afloat, to mislead. I think, therefore, that while the warning of the deserter to you may also be a
blind, that it could not safely be disregarded. I will transmit to you any further information on this subject that may be received here. "edwin M. Stanton,
"Secretary of War. "Major General Mcclellan."
On the 25th, our bridges and intrencnments being at last completed, an advance of our picket line on the left was ordered, preparatory to n general forward movement.
Immediately in ft out of the most advanced redoubt on the Williamsburg road was a large open field; beyond that a swampy belt of timber some five hundred yards wule, which had been disputed ground for many days. Further in advance was an op«m field crossed by the Williamsburg road and the radroad, ami commanded by a redoubt and rifle-pits of the enemy. It was decided to pu-h our lines to the other side of these woo<is, in order to enable us to ascertain the nature of the ground, and to place Generals Heintzelman and Sumner in position to support the attack intended to be made on the old tavern, on the 26th or 27th. by General Franklin, by assaulting that position in the rear.
Between 8 and 9 o'elock on the morning of the 25th the advance was begun by General Heintzleman's corps. The enemy were found to be in strong force all along the line, and contested the advance stubbornly, but, by sunset, our object was accomplished. The troops engaged in this affair were the whole of H<lintzelman's corps. Palmer's brigade of Couch's division of Reyes's corps, and a part of Richardson's division of Stunner's corps. For the details I refer to the report of General Eleintzelman.
The casualties, (not including those in Palmer's brigade, which have not been reported), were as follows:—Officers killed 1, wounded 14, missing 1; enlisted men killed 50, wounded 387, missing 63; total 516.
The following telejrrams were sent to the Secretary of War during the day from the field of operations:
"REnouBT No. 3, June 25, 1862—1.30;?. m.
"We have advanced our pickets on the left considerably, under sharp resistance. < uir men behaved very handsomely. Some firing still continues.
•'george B. Mcct.ellan, "Major General Commanding. "hon. Edwin M. Stanton, "Secretary of War."
"redoudt J^f9 3, Jnne, 25, 1862—8.15 o,m
"The enemy are making a desperate resistance to the advance of our picket lines. Kearney's and one-half of Hooker's are where I want them.
"I have this moment reinforced Hooker's right with a brigade and a couple of guns, and hope in a few minutes to finish the work intended for the day. Our men are behaving splendidly. The enemy are fighting well also.
"This is not a battle, merely an affair of Heintzelman's corps, supported by Keyes, and