« AnteriorContinuar »
The old dominion is divided naturally into three sections: The Eastern, extending from salt-water to the Blue Ridge; the JMiddle or Valley, lying between the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies, and the Western reaching from the Alleghanies to the Ohio River. The Middle and Western had their own grounds of quarrel with the Eastern, and there were bitter strifes to be intensified by civil war.
In May, 1861, Brigadier-General George B. McClellan was assigned to the department of the Ohio, including Western Virginia. With him were Rosecrans, Morris, Reynolds, Milroy and others who have won distinction. The contest really opened at Philippi. The engagements of Laurel Hill, Rich Mountain, and Carrick's Ford followed. The campaign was short and successful.
Before Washington the enemy was concentrating in threatening strength. The armory and public store-houses at Harper's Ferry were burned to prevent their seizure; Massachusetts and Pennsylvania troops were fired upon in Baltimore, navy yards were burned, and all this time General Scott was busy devising grand schemes for great campaigns. He projected a movement of three columns on Baltimore, but General Butler quietly moved on the Relay House and took Baltimore as a matter of course.
July 21st came the disaster of Bull Run. Patterson suffered Johnson to escape from Winchester, and his coming turned the day almost won against the Federal troops.
On the 25th, General McClellan, (after Major-General, U. S. A.) arrived in Washington to assume command of the Army of the Potomac. He gathered, equipped and disciplined one of the mightiest armies ever led by a commander. In materiel none had ever equaled it. It had unbounded confidence in the loyalty, skill and courage of its leader—ready to follow him anywhere. The nation believed the army would be unconquerable and resistless. It waited for it to move. In sight of that magnificent army floated the rebel flag. The people waited.
It is no purpose of this work to enter a discussion of the questions concerning that army, or to arbitrate those which have arisen concerning its different leaders. After waiting, the country heard that Manassas was evacuated, but the enemy was gone. With rare magnanimity he left his wooden guns!
CAMPAIGNS OF THE POTOMAC. 539
The cry, "On to Richmond!" was everywhere, and the grand army moved and sat down before Yorktown, which in due time was also evacuated, and another bootless victory won. Then came Williamsburg and West-Point. Then followed the terrible battles of the Chickahominy, Fair Oaks, Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mills, Peach Orchard, and Savage Station, White Oak Swamp and Glendale, and Malvern Hill—names never to be forgotten, forever linked with the memories of May 31st to July 2, 1862. They were horrible for their slaughter. Never army fought better than ours, and victories were won, but the commander found it necessary to command retreat, and back, still back, until the broken remnants of that proud army were at Harrison's Landing.
Pope took command of the Army of Virginia. He had been crowned with glory in the campaign of the Mississippi, and had shown himself possessed of military ability. He was sacrificed by jealousies and the refusal of co-operation. It might have been different.
Again General McClellan wields the Marshals' baton. Lee crosses the mountains, and then follow the battles of South Mountain, Crampton's Gap and Antietam. At the latter place, as at Malvern Hill, it seemed that a bold onward push would have given us the army of Lee, and virtually have ended the war. But it was not so to be. We were to be more severely disciplined and to learn that God was teaching us high moral duties in the red flames of war.
With Antietam, closed General McClellan's military career. It has been discussed fully by his admirers and opponents. Virtually the questions at issue between him and the President were carried before the Supreme Court of the popular ballot, on the 8th of November, 1864, and the decision was given. Let the controversy rest. And yet, a calm examination seems to show the lack of that deep, stern, terrible earnestness which a man must have who would successfully wield vast masses of men.
Next came Burnside. He had won eclat at Roanoake, Eden, Plymouth, and Hatteras. A braver General and a more successful corps commander had rarely worn the double star. He was modest and distrustful of his ability. The battle of Fredricksburg came on. It was the old story. As with Pope, so with Burnside. The want of co-operation, and from that, disaster. The army fell back across the river. Before he would make another advance the General issued the celebrated "Order No. eight," dismissing from the service, subject to the President's approval, several officers high in rank, and ordering others, with the same condition, to report to the Adjutant-General of the United States' Army. The measure was a bold one, but General Burnside knew that only with unity could he hope for success. He erred in making that order so sweeping, for it included some who may have used unsoldierly freedom of criticism, but who were, nevertheless, brave and loyal.
That order was forwarded to the President, with General Burnside's resignation of his commission, if the President preferred to accept it. After mature deliberation, Mr. Lincoln decided not to approve the order, but to relieve him of his command and appoint General Hooker as his successor. General Burnside was assigned to the department of the Ohio.
On the 26th of January, 1863, General Hooker assumed command. After preliminary movements, the battle of Chancellorsville occurred last of April and early in May. General Hooker claimed the capture of 5,000 prisoners, fifteen colors, seven pieces of artillery, and to have "placed hors de combat 18,000 of Lee's chosen troops; destroyed his depots filled with vast amounts of stores; deranged his communications; captured prisoners within the fortifications of his capital and filled his country with fear and consternation." On the other hand General Lee called for a day of special thanksgiving for the "glorious victory" won over an " enemy strongly entrenched in the tangled depths of a wilderness."
The Secretary of War took a sober view in his dispatches to the Governors. He conceded the failure of General Hooker's principal operations, but that there had been "no serious disaster to the organization and efficiency of the army. It is now occupying its former position on the B-appahannock, having recrossed the river without any loss in the movement. Not more than one-third of General Hooker's force was engaged. General Stoneman's operations have been a brilliant success. Part of his force advanced to within two miles of Richmond, and the enemy's communications have been cut in every direction." It was in this engagement that
TEIPPLE DAtfGEK. 541
the ablest field-marslial of the Confederate service, General " Stonewall " Jackson—a tower of strength to the rebellion—fell.
In June, General Lee moved with masterly strategy. He concentrated his forces for a decisive campaign, which should place at his mercy either Washington, or the rich towns and cities of Pennsylvania. At the same time, as parts of one grand scheme, the disaffected population of New York was to rise en masse / Morgan was to cross the Ohio and pass on a grand raid through Indiana and Ohio, rallying to his standard the peace-men of the Northwest, while secret leagues with their chief officers in Canada were to order their uprising. Loyal Governors were to be assassinated; camps of rebel prisoners were to be opened, Northern cities were to be given to the flames. Never did the country stand in graver peril —never was it nearer signal deliverance. In God's good Providence eaeh of these schemes was to be baffled.
General Ewell with the divisions of Johnson and Early moved up the Shenandoah valley through Snicker's Gap, and overwhelmed the force of General Milroy at Winchester, compelling him to retreat with much loss to Harper's Ferry. The capture of Martinsburg followed, and on to Chambersburg, McConnelsville, &c.
It was now evident that grave perils were upon our cause. The President issued a proclamation on the 15th of June, calling for one hundred thousand six-months' militia from the States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Western Virginia. The Governors issued earnest calls, and troops poured in for the defense of Northern soil and the nation's capital.
General Hooker hurried forward the forces under his command, his first care being Washington, and his rapid movements left Lee at the choice between attacking him in the strong defences of that city, to fall back, or move into Maryland and Pennsylvania. He held Winchester, and Ewell was in Pennsylvania, but could not draw Hooker from Virginia. The fords of the Potomac between Harper's Ferry and Williamsport were seized. On the 21st of June, Lee ^ssued his orders regulating the troops on the march. Correspondence of an important character was intercepted by General Hooker, disclosing the plan of the enemy. Ewell's corps, the rebel advance, passed from Williamsport to Hagerstown, on the 22d entered Greencastle, Pennsylvania, and on the 23d Chambersburg was re-oecupied by his force.
General Lee crossed into Maryland on the 24th. At the same time his main army crossed the fords at Shepherdstown and Williamsport. The movement continued up the Cumberland Valley, on the west side of the Catoctin Mountains, the advance moving in two columns; one by way of the Harrisburg and Chambersburg Railroad toward Harrisburg, and the other from Gettysburg eastward to the Northern Central Railroad, connecting Baltimore and Harrisburg, and thence extending to York and Lancaster. On the 27th Carlisle was occupied, and the same day the rebel cavalry was within four miles of Harrisburg, the capital of the great State of Pennsylvania. On the 27th General Lee issued orders from the "Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia, Chambersburg, Penn." The rebel army was then distributed as follows: The main body, with the corps of Longstreet and Hill, were at or near Chambersburg; the divisions of Rhodes and Johnson, Early's corps, were in the vicinity of Carlisle and Harrisburg, while Early's own division with Gordon's brigade, was at York—Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and then on to New York!
It was not so written. No Union capital or principal city was to be occupied by the rebel army! In the midst of disloyal exultation, the "dream of the barley-cake" fell upon their leaders, and on the 28th orders were issued for both lines to fall back on Gettysburg. The army of the Union had crossed the Potomac, and its head was at South Mountain. Lee must protect his threatened communications, must assume the defensive.
On the 22d the Union army occupied the line of the Potomac on the Virginia side of the river, extending beyond Leesburg, and held all the gaps of the Bull Run range. Saturday, the 27th, it was at Frederick, Md. That day the order came relieving Hooker, and transferring the command to Major-General Meade. Hooker, too, found the demon of in-co-operation too hard for him, and desired to be relieved. The change took the army, as it did the country, by surprise. A forward movement was ordered by the new commander. The sixth and eleventh corps, which were at Middletown, in the valley between the Catoctin and the Blue Ridge, were moved east