Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

GHAPTER WIII.

Campaign of the Army of Virginia.-Withdrawal of the Army of tha Potomac from the Peninsula.-First Invasion of Maryland.—McClellan Superseded.

GEN. FREMONT, commanding the Mountain Department, and Gen. Banks, commanding the Department of the Shenandoah, having failed to coöperate effectively in carrying out the President's order intended to entrap Jackson in his bold operations in the Valley, and the subsequent movements of GenMcDowell, in command of the Department of the Rappahannock, having also been unable to render decisive aid in this work, it became manifest that a reorganization of the forces in question, under one head, had become necessary. Some time before the final catastrophe at Richmond, it had also become apparent that the Army of the Potomac, instead of accomplishing its object, was rather in danger of being itself sacrificed. Meanwhile, the capture of New Madrid, the occupation of Corinth, and the rapid advance of our forces down the Mississippi, taking possession of Fort Pillow on the 5th of June, and of Memphis on the 6th, and passing with little opposition to Wicksburg, (before which our fleet appeared on the 25th,) had not only secured substantial results, but had also awakened a desire for similar leadership in the East.

Few events of the war, thus far, had evinced better generalship than the operations at New Madrid and Island Number Ten, in which Maj.-Gen. John Pope was the hero. Aside from Gen. Grant, still needed with the Army of the Tennessee, no other general, at this time, was more emphatically a rising man in the army. The President accordingly determined to call Gen. Pope to Washington, where he arrived about the 20th of June. After full consultation and deliberation, the President having visited Gen. Scott at West Point, on the 24th, it was decided

LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 385

to consolidate the three departments specified above, and to organize a new campaign. In pursuance of this purpose, the President issued his order, on the 26th of June, creating the Army of Virginia, under the command of Gen. Pope, the forces under Gen. Fremont to constitute the First Army Corps, those of Gen. Banks the Second Corps, and those under Gen. McDowell the Third Corps, each to be commanded by those officers respectively. At the time of this action, the critical condition of McClellan's army seemed to impose the necessity of positive measures for protecting Washington and holding the approach into Maryland and Pennsylvania by the Shenandoah Valley, from the first foreseen, as since demonstrated, to be an important element of the military position.

On the 27th, Gen. Fremont asked to be relieved from his command. This request was granted, and his connection with the army, in any active command, has never since becn resumed. Gen. Francis Sigel was soon after put in command of the First Corps of the Army of Virginia in his stead.

Maj.-Gen. Halleck was also called to Washington. It may be safely assumed that the appointment of this officer as General-in-chief of the army was one of the subjects in regard to which the President had anxiously desired the counsel of Gen. Scott, and about which there was a free interchange of views, on the memorable visit of the 24th of June. The appointment of Gen. Halleck as General-in-chief was officially announced on the 11th of July.

On the 28th of June, the Governors of seventeen States united in an address to the President, expressing their belief in the readiness of the people to respond to a call for more troops, and in the popular desire for prompt and vigorous measures to end the rebellion. In response, the following circular was sent to each of the Governors uniting in this suggestion, and the call for three hundred thousand additional troops was at once published:

ExEcuTIVE MANsion, WASHINGTON, July 1, 1862. GENTI.EMEN: Fully concurring in the wisdom of the views expressed to me in so patriotic a manner by you in the com

munication of the 28th day of June, I have decided to call into the service an additional force of three hundred thousand men.

I suggest and recommend that the troops should be chiefly of infantry. The quota of your State would be

I trust that they may be enrolled without delay, so as to bring this unnecessary and injurious civil war to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion.

An order fixing the quotas of the respective States will be issued by the War Department to-morrow.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

Gen. Pope at once entered on the work of preparation for the far from welcome duties assigned him. On ascertaining the condition of the forces placed at his command, he was painfully conscious of the great disproportion of the means at his disposal to the ends that were desired. In addition to the troops within the intrenchments around Washington, the whole effective force at his disposal was as follows: First Corps, 11,500; Second Corps, (as reported,) 14,500; and Third Corps, 18,400—making in all, 44,400. Gen. Pope states, however, that the Second Corps really numbered but about 8,000, so that the total was barely 38,000. With this force, the new Com. manding General had the triple task of defending Washington, holding the Shenandoah Valley, and creating a diversion in favor of the army at Harrison's Landing.

At the first intelligence of Jackson's opset upon the Army of the Potomac by way of Hanover Court House, on the 26th, Gen. Pope had earnestly and repeatedly urged the impolicy of a retreat to the James river, still further away from re-enforcements, but advised, instead, that McClellan should make his way northward, where effective support could be rendered him by the remaining troops in Virginia. This policy of concentration may have been impracticable, under the circumstances ; and at all events, it was little regarded by McClellan, except upon conditions that would expose to the enemy all the approaches to Washington and the Valley. The necessity of cordial coöperation between the little army left for the defense of these positions, and the remnant of McClellan's force, at Harrison's Landing, was obvious. The utter impossibility of send

LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN. 387

. . ing to the latter point any re-enforcements drawn from the former, hardly needs to be stated, and yet it was for precisely the reason that this was not done, that Gen. McClellan, after his disastrous battle at Gaines' Mill, on the 28th, wrote the following letter—which, but for his deliberate reproduction of it in his final report, might have been charitably dismissed as a mere hasty ebullition—received with a forbearance which, perhaps, such unamiable weakness had long since ceased to deserve:

HEADQUARTERs ARMY of THE POToMAC,
SAvAGE's STATION, June 28, 1862, 12.20 A.M.

I now know the full history of the day. On this side of the river (the right bank) we repulsed several strong attacks. On the left bank our men did all that men could 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 twenty thousand or even ten thousand 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 re-enforcements, and send them at once. I shall draw back to this side of the 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 the 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 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 sacrifico this army. G. B. McCLELLAN. Hon. E. M. STANTON.

Further communication with this officer was interrupted until, after his arrival at Harrison's Landing, the following dispatch was sent in reply:

WASHINGTON, July 1, 1862, 3.30 P.M. It is impossible to re-enforce you for your present 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 stroug 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. A. LINCOLN. Maj.-Gen. G. B. McCLELLAN.

Obviously, the chief concern in regard to this army was now to preserve it from further loss—there having been, in fact, apprehensions through the country that its entire surrender would be the ultimate result, even after it had reached its present comparatively secure position. Indeed, had the numbers under Lee at all corresponded with McClellan's estimate, this danger was still imminent. The enemy held one bank of the James river, the chief security to our communications being in the fleet of gunboats under Commodore Rodgers.

It was under these circumstances that Gen. Pope, having unsuccessfully appealed to the chief authorities at Washington to relieve him from a command from which so little was to be

« AnteriorContinuar »