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any intention, as he has since explained, of pursuing the rebels, and taking advantage of their retreat, but to “get rid of superfluous baggage and other impediments which accumulate so easily around an army encamped for a long time in one locality”—to give the troops “some experience on the march and bivouac preparatory to the campaign,” and to afford them also a “good intermediate step between the quiet and comparative comfort of the camps around Washington and the vigor of active operations.” These objects, in General McClellan's opinion, were sufficiently accomplished by what the Prince de Joinville, of his staff, styles a “promenade” of the army to Manassas, where they learned, from personal inspection, that the rebels had actually evacuated that position;and on the 15th, orders were issued for a return of the forces to Alexandria. On the 11th of March, the President issued another order, stating that “Major-General McClellan having perSonally taken the field at the head of the Army of the Potomac, until otherwise ordered, he is relieved from the command of the other military departments, retaining command of the Department of the Potomac.” MajorGeneral Halleck was assigned to the command of the Department of the Mississippi, and the Mountain Depart ment was created for Major-General Fremont. All the commanders of departments were also required to report directly to the Secretary of War. On the 13th of March, a council of war was held at head-quarters, then at Fairfax Court-House, by which it was decided that, as the enemy had retreated behind the Rappahannock, operations against Richmond could best be conducted from Fortress Monroe, provided:–

1st. That the enemy's vessel, Merrimac, can be neutralized.

2d. That the means of transportation, sufficient for an immediate trans. fer of the force to its new base, can be ready at Washington and Alexandria to move down the Potomac; and,

8d. That a naval auxiliary force can be had to silence, or aid in silenting, the enemy's batteries on the York River.

* See General McClellan's Report, dated August 4, 1863.

4th. That the force to be left to cover Washington shall be such as to give an entire feeling of security for its safety from menace.

NotE.—That with the forts on the right bank of the Potomac fully garrisoned, and those on the left bank occupied, a covering force in front of the Virginia line of twenty-five thousand men would suffice. (Keyes, Heintzelman, and McDowell.)

A total of forty thousand men for the defence of the city would suffice. (Sumner.)

Upon receiving a report of this decision, the following communication was at once addressed to the commanding general:—

WAR DEPARTMENT, March 18, 1863.

The President having considered the plan of operations agreed upon by yourself and the commanders of army corps, makes no objection to the same, but gives the following directions as to its execution:—

1st. Leave such force at Manassas Junction as shall make it entirely certain that the enemy shall not repossess himself of that position and line of communication.

2d. Leave Washington entirely secure.

3d. Move the remainder of the force down the Potomac, choosing a new base at Fortress Monroe, or anywhere between here and there; or, at all events, move such remainder of the army at once in pursuit of the enemy by some route. Edwin M. STANToN,

Secretary of War. Major-General GEoRGE B. McCLELLAN.

It will readily be seen, from these successive orders, that the President, in common with the whole country, had been greatly pained by the long delay of the Army of the Potomac to move against the enemy while encamped at Manassas, and that this feeling was converted into chagrin and mortification when the rebels were allowed to withdraw from that position without the slightest molestation, and without their design being even suspected until it had been carried into complete and successful execution. He was impatiently anxious, therefore, that no more time should be lost in delays. In reply to the Secretary of War, General McClellan, before embarking for the Peninsula, communicated his intention of reaching, without loss of time, the field of what he believed would be a decisive battle, which he expected to fight between West Point and Richmond. On the 31st of March, the President, out of deference to the importunities of General Fremont and his friends, and from a belief that this officer could make good use of a larger force than he then had at his command in the Mountain Depart(ment, ordered General Blenker's division to leave the Army of the Potomac and join him; a decision which he announced to General McClellan in the following letter:—

Executive MANsion, WASHINgton, March 31, 1862.

MY DEAR SIR:—This morning I felt constrained to order Blenker's division to Fremont, and I write this to assure you that I did so with great pain, understanding that you would wish it otherwise. If you could know the full pressure of the case, I am confident that you would justify it, even beyond a mere acknowledgment that the Commander-in-Chief may order what he pleases.

Yours, very truly, A. LINcol.N. Major-General McCLELLAN.

General Banks, who had at first been ordered by General McClellan to occupy Manassas, and thus cover Washington, was directed by him, on the 1st of April, to throw the rebel General Jackson well back from Winchester, and then move on Staunton at a time “nearly coincident with his own move on Richmond;” though General McClellan expressed the fear that General Banks “could not be ready in time” for that movement. The four corps of the Army of the Potomac, destined for active operations by way of the Peninsula, were ordered to embark, and forwarded as rapidly as possible to Fortress Monroe. On the 1st of April, General McClellan wrote to the Secretary of war, giving a report of the dispositions he had made for the defence of Washington; and on the 2d, General Wadsworth submitted a statement of the forces under his command, which he regarded as entirely inadequate to the service required of them. The President referred the matter to Adjutant-General Thomas and General E. A. Hitchcock, who made a report on the same day, in which they decided that the force left by General McClel. lan was not sufficient to make Washington “entirely secure,” as the President had required in his order of March 13; nor was it as large as the council of officers held at Fairfax Court-House on the same day had adjudged to be necessary. In accordance with this decision, and for the purpose of rendering the Capital safe, the army corps of General McDowell was detached from General McClellan's immediate command, and ordered to report to the Secretary of War. On reaching Fortress Monroe, General McClellan found Commodore Goldsborough, who commanded on that naval station, unwilling to send any considerable portion of his force up the York River, as he was employed in watching the Merrimack, which had closed the James River against us. He therefore landed at the Fortress, and commenced his march up the Peninsula, having reached the Warwick River, in the immediate vicinity of Yorktown, which had been fortified, and was held by a rebel force of about eleven thousand men, under General Magruder—a part of them, however, being across the river at Gloucester. He here halted to reconnoitre the position; and on the 6th wrote to the President that he had but eighty-five thousand men fit for duty—that the whole line of the Warwick River was strongly fortified— that it was pretty certain he was to “have the whole force of the enemy on his hands, probably not less than a hundred thousand men, and probably more,” and that he should commence siege operations as soon as he could get up his train. He entered, accordingly, upon this work, telegraphing from time to time complaints that he was not properly supported by the Government, and asking for re-enforcements. On the 9th of April, President Lincoln addressed him the following letter:—

WASHINgrox, April 9, 1862. MY DEAR SIR:—Your dispatches, complaining that you are not properly sustained, while they do not offend me, do pain me very much. Blenker's division was withdrawn from you before you left here, and you know the pressure under which I did it, and, as I thought, acquiasced in it—certainly not without reluctance. After you left, I ascertained that less than twenty thousand unorganized men, without a single field battery, were all you designed to be left for the defence of Washington and Manassas Junction, and part of this even was to go to General Hooker's old position. General Banks's corps, once designed for Manassas Junction, was diverted and tied up on the line of Winchester and Strasburg, and could not leave it without again exposing the Upper Potomac and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. This presented, or would present, when McDowell and Sumner should be gone, a great temptation to the enemy to turn back from the Rappahannock and sack Washington. My implicit order that Washington should, by the judgment of all the commanders of army corps, be left entirely secure, had been neglected. It was precisely this that drove me to detain McDowell. I do not forget that I was satisfied with your arrangement to leave Banks at Manassas Junction: but when that arrangement was broken up, and nothing was substituted for it, of course I was constrained to substitute something for it myself. And allow me to ask, do you really think I should permit the line from Richmond, rid Manassas Junction, to this city, to be entirely open, except what resistance could be presented by less than twenty thousand unorganized troops? This is a question which the country will not allow me to evade. There is a curious mystery about the number of troops now with you. When I telegraphed you on the sixth, saying you had over a hundred thousand with you, I had just obtained from the Secretary of War a statement taken, as he said, from your own returns, making one hundred and eight thousand then with you and en route to you. You now say you will have but eighty-five thousand when all en route to you shall have reached you. How can the discrepancy of twenty-three thousand be accounted for? As to General Wool’s command, I understand it is doing for you preeisely what a like number of your own would have to do if that command was away. I suppose the whole force which has gone forward for you is with you by this time. And if so, I think it is the precise time for you to strike a blow. By delay, the enemy will relatively gain upon you—that is, he will gain faster by fortifications and re-enforcements than you can by reenforcements alone. And once more let me tell you, it is indispensable to you that you strike a blow. I am powerless to help this. You will dome the justice to remember I always insisted that going down the bay in search of a field, instead of fighting at or near Manassas, was only shifting, and not surmounting a difficulty; that we would find the same enemy, and the same or equal intrenchments, at either place. The country will not fail to note, is now noting, that the present hesitation to move upon an intrenched enemy is but the story of Manassas repeated. I beg to assure you that I have never written you or spoken to you in greater kindness of feeling than now, nor with a fuller purpose to sustain

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