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vices in the battle of Bull Run, had, in September, been promoted to a Major-Generalship, and assigned to command at Winchester, and who had led ‘ a strong force westward, expecting to surprise and capture our detachments holding Bath and Romney, though he succeeded in taking both those places, driving out their garrisons, capturing a few prisoners, and destroying at IRomney very considerable supplies, yet his unsheltered troops suffered so severely from storm and frost, while so many of his horses were disabled by falling on the icy roads, that his losses probably exceeded the damage inflicted on us; and his blow was fairly countered by Gen. F. W. Lander, who led 4,000 men southward from the Potomac," and, bridging the Great Cacapon in the night, made a dash at Iłlooming Gap, which he surprised, killing 13 and capturing 75 Rebels, including 17 officers, with a loss of 2 men and 6 horses. Gen. Simon Cameron had been succeeded" by IIon. Edwin M. Stanton—an eminent lawyer, without pretensions to military knowledge, and of limited experience in public affairs, but evincing a rough energy and zeal for decisive efforts, which the country hailed as of auspicious augury. Two weeks later,’ a War Order was issued by the President, commanding a general advance upon the enemy from every quarter on the 22d of February proximo, and declaring that “the Secretaries of War and of the Navy, with all their subordinates, and the General-in-Chief, with all other commanders and subordinates of land and naval forces, will severally be held to their strict
and full responsibilities for the prompt execution of this order.” Four days later, a “Special War Order No. 12 was likewise issued to Gen. McClellan, commanding him, on or before the 22d prox. aforesaid, to impel “all the disposable force of the Army of the Potomac,” “for the immediate object of seizing and occupying a point upon the railroad south-westward of what is known as Manassas Junction.” Though these orders are signed Abraham Lincoln, they doubtless received their initial impulse from the new Secretary of War, who had already urged Gen. McClellan to take immediate steps to “secure the reopening of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and free the banks of the lower Potomac from the Rebel batteries which annoyed passing vessels.” Gen. M. had been previously urged by the President to organize his army into four or five distinct corps, under Generals of his own choice; which he had declined, and still declined, to do; alleging that he wished first to test his officers in active service as division commanders, so that he “might be able to decide from actual trial who were best fitted to exercise those important commands.” At length,’ the President issued ‘General War Order No. 2,’ directing the organization of the Army of the Potomac into four corps, to be commanded by Gens. McDowell, Sumner, IIeintzelman, and Keyes respectively, beside the forces to be left for the defense of Washington under Brig.-Gen. James S. Wadsworth, who should also be Military Governor of the District of Columbia, and a fifth, composed of the forces on the upper Potomac, to be commanded by Gen. Nath’l P. Banks. Gen. McClellan, “in compliance with the President's War Order No. 2,” made this disposition.” Gen. McClellan's original plan contemplated an advance on Richmond by way of the lower Rappahannock, landing at Urbana, and making a secondary base of West Point, at the head of York river; and this would seem, whether regarded abstractly or in the light of subsequent experience, to be far preferable to the route on which he ultimately decided, having its base at Fortress Monroe; but either of these, and indeed any approach to Richmond otherwise than from the north, was exposed to the serious if not fatal objection that it involved a division and dispersion of our forces, or left the National metropolis, with its enormous dépôts of arms, munitions, and provisions, to 'say nothing of its edifices and archives, at the mercy of the Rebels, who could hardly fail to rush upon, sack, and burn it, if our grand army were transferred bodily to the base of the Virginian Peninsula. The President, therefore, before giving his assent to Gen. McClellan's project, addressed to him the following letter:
* Jan. 1, 1862. * Feb. 13. "Jan. 13. "Jan. 27. * Gen. McClellan's Report. " March 8.
LIN COLN AND M C C L E L LAN ON ROUTES.
“ExecutIve MANsion, WASHINGTON, !
“My DEAR SIR: You and I have distinct and different plans for a movement of the Army of the Potomac ; yours to be done by the Chesapeake, up the Rappahannock to Urbana, and across land to the terminus of the railroad on the York river; mine to move directly to a point on the railroad southwest of Manassas.
“If you will give satisfactory answers to the following questions, I shall gladly yield my plan to yours:
greatly larger expenditure of time and money than mine? “ 2d. Wherein is a victory more certain by your plan than mine? “3d. Wherein is a victory more valuable by your plan than mine? “4th. In fact, would it not be less valuable in this: that it would break no great line of the enemy's communications, while mine would 7 “5th. In case of disaster, would not a retreat be more difficult by your plan than mine ! “Yours, truly, “ABRAHAM LINooDN.” These inquiries seem not to have been directly answered; but, in a long letter of even date, to the Secretary of War, Gen. McClellan urges the strength of the Rebel position at and around Manassas Junction; the reported fact that the fords of the Occoquan were watched by the Rebels and defended by concealed batteries on the heights in their rear, which were being strengthened by additional intrenchments; that, during our advance from the Accotink to the Occoquan, our right flank becomes exposed to an attack from Fairfax Station, Sangster's, and Union Mills; that it would not do to divide our army by leaving a portion in front of Centerville while the rest crosses the Occoquan; that the roads in this quarter were liable, for some time yet, to be obstructed by rains and snow, so that “it seems certain that many weeks may elapse before it is possible to commence the march;” and that—
“Assuming the success of this operation, and the defeat of the enemy as certain, the question at once arises as to the importance of the results gained. I think these results would be confined to the possession of the field of battle, the evacuation of the line of the upper Potomac by the enemy, and the moral effect of the victory; important results, it is true; but not decisive of the war,
- * nor securing the destruction of the enemy's main army; for he could fall back upon other positions, and fight us again and again, should the condition of his troops permit. If he is in no condition to fight us again out of the range of the intrenchments at Richmond, we would find it a very difficult and tedious matter to follow him up there ; for he would destroy his railroad bridges and otherwise impede our progress, through a region where the roads are as bad as they well can be ; and we would probably find ourselves forced at last to change the whole theater of war, or to seek a shorter land route to Richmond, with a smaller available force, and at an expenditure of much more time than were we to adopt the short line at once. We would also have forced the enemy to concentrate his forces and perfect his defensive measures, at the very points where it is desirable to strike him when least prepared.”
“ist. Does not your plan involve a
19 March 13.
On the other hand, Gen. McClellan urged in favor of an advance by the route he preferred, that—
“It affords the shortest possible landroute to Richmond, and strikes directly at the heart of the enemy's power in the East. “The roads in that region are passable at all seasons of the year. “The country now alluded to is much more favorable for offensive operations than that in front of Washington (which is very unfavorable), much more level, more cleared land, the woods less dense, the soil more sandy, and the Spring some two or three weeks earlier. A movement in force on that line obliges the enemy to abandon his intrenched position at Manassas, in order to hasten..to cover IRichmond and Norfolk. IIe must do this ; for, should he permit us to occupy Richmond, his destruction can be averted only by entirely defeating us in a battle, in which he must be the assailant. This movement, if successful, gives us the capital, the communications, the supplies of the IRebels; Norfolk would fall; all the waters of the Chesapeake would be ours; all Virginia would be in our power, and the enemy forced to abandon Tennessee and North Carolina. The alternative presented to the enemy would be, to beat us in a position selected by ourselves, disperse, or pass beneath the Caudine Forks. “Should we be beaten in a battle, we have a perfectly secure retreat down the Peninsula upon Fortress Monroe, with our flanks perfectly covered by the fleet. “I)uring the whole movement, our left flank is covered by the water. Our right is secure, for the reason that the enemy is too distant to reach us in time; he can only
oppose us in front; we bring our fleet into full play.”
IIe further urged, in favor of a landing at Urbana, that—
“This point is easily reached by vessels of heavy draught; it is neither occupied nor observed by the enemy; it is but one march from West Point, the key of that region, and thence but two marches to Richmond. A rapid movement from Urbana would probably cut off Magruder in the Peninsula, and enable us to occupy Iłichmond before it could be strongly réenforced. Should we fail in that, we could, with the cooperation of the navy, cross the James and show ourselves in rear of Richmond, thus forcing the enemy to come out and attack us; for his position would be untenable with us on the southern bank of the river. Should circumstances render it not advisable to land at Urbana, we can use Mob Jack Bay; or, the worst coming to the worst, we can take Fortress Monroe as a base, and operate with complete security—although with less celerity and brilliancy of results—up the Peninsula.”
The President deferred to these urgent representations, though they involved the necessity of a long delay and a heavy expense in procuring transportation by water for so great an army. The duty of obtaining the requisite vessels was devolved on John Tucker, Assistant-Secretary of War; who, on the 5th of April, reported that he had chartered therefor 113 steamers, 188 schooners, and S8 barges, and that these had—within 37 days from the time he first received the order, and most of it within 30 days—transported from I’erryville, Alexandria, and Washington, to Fortress Monroe, 121,500 men, 14,592 animals, 1,150 wagons, 44 batteries, and 74 ambulances, beside pontoon-bridges, telegraph materials, and the enormous quantity of equipage, &c., required for such an army; with a total loss of 9 barges and 8 mules: the former having been driven ashore in a gale when within a few miles of Fortress Monroe. IIe
adds that the change which had meantime been made from Urbana to Fortress Monroe, as the point of debarkation, had caused delay in the movement. The force of Gen. McClellan’s objections to the advance desired and at first commanded by President Lincoln, depends entirely on the correctness of his estimate of the Rebel numbers in his front. He estimated throughout that these ranged from 80,000 to 120,000 men, with over 300 cannon." On the other hand, those who were eager for a direct and decisive blow, insisted, from first to last, that the Rebel army at no time exceeded 60,000 in number, and was oftener below 50,000.” Gen. Beauregard had relinquished” the command of the Army of Virginia, to take direction in the West, and been succeeded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, who soon commenced a quiet and careful evacuation of his Winter camps, which he completed on the 8th of March ; retiring southward behind the Tapidan, leaving nothing of the least value to our service. So admirably was this usually perilous movement conducted, or so
worthless was McClellan’s observation and secret service, that no hint of it appears to have reached our General until the day after its completion.” IIe then ordered an advance of our grand army upon Centerville and Manassas, as transports had not yet been provided for their passage down the Potomac and Chesapeake, and with a view of giving them, he says, “an opportunity to gain some experience on the march and bivouac, preparatory to the campaign, and to get rid of the superfluous baggage and other ‘impedimenta,’ which accumulate so easily around an army encamped for a long time in one locality.” IIis cavalry advance, Col. Averill, reached the enemy's deserted lines at Centerville at noon next day. Of course, no enemy was found there, nor nearer than Warrenton Junction; where Gen. Stoneman, with our cavalry, discovered them in force on the 14th, and returned without attacking them. The main body of our army had commenced its return to the Potomac on the 11th ; on which day the President issued ‘War Order No. 3,” relieving Gen. McClellan from the
* He states in his official Report that the chief of his secret service corps, Mr. E. J. Allen, reported, on the 8th of March, that the forces of the Rebel Army of the Potomac at
that date were as follows:
At Manassas, Centerville, Bull Run, Upper
At Leesburg and vicinity.. 4,500 “
*The writer visited, early in January, Gen. Wadsworth, in his camp near Ball's CrossRoads; when, on this point, Gen. W. said: “I see and examine all deserters and contrabands who reach us from the Rebel camps in our front; and their testimony convinces me that they have but fifty or sixty regiments in all—certainly not over 50,000 men.” This, of course, did not in
| clude outlying detachments, whether at and
toward Winchester or below tho Occoquan.
Most Rebel writers who touch this point, and British officers who served with or visited the Rebel army during the ensuing campaign, were unanimous in making their total effective force during that Winter less than 50,000..
* Jan. 30.
* Pollard says:
“For the space of three weeks before the army left its intrenchments at Manassas, preparations were being made for falling back to the line of the Rappahannock, by the quiet and gradual removal of the vast accumulations of army stores; and, with such consummate address was this managed, that our own troops had no idea of what was intended until the march was taken up. The first intimation the enemy had of the cvacuation of Manassas was the smoke of the soldiers' huts that had been fired by our army.”