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bank to protect the communications with White House; whereas, were he free to abandon the line of York river, he could move his right wing behind the left to the James by Long Bridge, and so turn the dreaded obstacle. Nevertheless, admitting the advantages of the movement, and the likelihood that it would be accomplished, we are of opinion that, for the reasons already given, the project of operating by the James was injudicious. But we think that though he was wrong in wishing M'Dowell to join him by water rather than by land, yet he was right in desiring to concentrate the two armies, and it is not easy to say how much subsequent calamity Mr Lincoln caused in retaining M'Dowell.
Forced, then, by the President's arrangements to cross the Chickahominy on his present front, McClellan set about diminishing the perils of the passage by multiplying bridges and nullifying the obstacle while waiting for M'Dowell. And meanwhile, to relieve his own right flank, and to extend a hand to M'Dowell, he attacked and captured Hanover Court-House, driving out a division of the enemy; whereupon a Confederate force that had hitherto con
fronted M'Dowell at Fredericksburg fell back towards Richmond, thus proving what we lately asserted namely, that the Confederates could not advance in force against M'Dowell until McClellan should be disposed of.
But a very startling and import
ant element in the combinations
handed with the combined forces of the Confederacy.
That he had not exaggerated the perils of his army astride the Chickahominy, he soon had convincing proof. On the night of the 30th May, the rains had so swelled the stream as to render the bridges impracticable, and to threaten their destruction. This opportu nity Johnston seized, and, issuing from Richmond on the 31st, threw his divisions upon the isolated Federal wing, doubling it up, and driving it back, in the action of Fair Oaks, with heavy loss. But Sumner on the left bank succeeded in completing his bridges, and crossed in time to restore the battle, and to regain the lost ground, the Confederates retiring to Richmond. Sumner's movement was made just time; for, immediately after his passage, the bridges became totally useless."
While McClellan was fortifying his exposed front, and creating more permanent communications over the river, he was cheered by the prophecies of Mr Stanton, and the advice of the President.
"The indications are," says Mr Stanton," that Fremont or M'Dowell will fight Jackson to-day, and as soon as he is disposed of another large body of troops will be at your service.
All interest now
centres in your operations, and full confidence is entertained of your brilliant and glorious success." Mr Lincoln, without prophesying, sustained his General by such counsels as this: With these continuous had just made itself felt. Banks, rains I am very anxious about the left in the Shenandoah valley to Chickahominy so close in your rear, cover the upper Potomac, had just and crossing your line of communiPresident stopped M'Dowell's march which McClellan responds, with upon Hanover, sending him towards what in a less docile commander Front Royal. This McClellan right- might look like sarcasm:
ly characterises as fatal error;
forces were now in full march upon
days, your Excellency may rester ." for all the Southern only obstacle in my way for several a serious and Chickahominy has been almost the McClellan, who, had he been rein- sured that it has not been over
forced by M'Dowell's 40,000, might have made head against them, but
On the 12th June another of who was now left to contend single- M'Dowell's divisions joined McClel
lan by water; and on the following day a force of Confederate cavalry came down upon the York river in McClellan's rear, destroyed some of his stores, and, making a complete circuit round his army, regained Richmond by way of Long Bridge. It is probable that this incident warned him of the necessity of providing for the transference of his depots to the James, an operation which was begun on the 18th. On the 25th he had recommenced his movement towards Richmond, but on the same evening he learned that Jackson was approaching, and would probably attack his right and rear. Next day the enemy assailed his right wing on the left bank of the Chickahominy, his assailants being, however, not the troops of Jackson, who had not yet come up, but the forces that had hitherto interposed between him and Richmond, whose leader, Lee, certain now of Jackson's support, crossed the river, and threw himself upon what he believed to be the vital point of attacknamely, the line which linked his enemy to the York.
McClellan incurred a great deal of ridicule because he described the abandonment of his depots at White House, which appeared to be compulsory and the result of defeat, as a strategic movement." It was held by the world to be a weak attempt to veil a disaster. But it is evident that the world was wrong in its judgment. The movement to the James had long been meditated as part of the plan of campaign, and would have been executed long before but for the direction of M'Dowell's march. That it was compulsory at last is certain; but McClellan must have the credit of having foreseen and provided for the approaching necessity. His forethought alone prevented the destruction of the army. The attacks of the Confederates were all found ed on the supposition that he was entirely dependent on the line of the York, and their fierce onslaught on his right in the seven days' fighting only precipitated his retreat to
the James. But we think that the General speaks much too grandiloquently of the operation itself. Such a change of base," he says, "in the presence of a powerful enemy, is one of the most difficult undertakings in war." So it is under ordinary circumstances-that is to say, when an army must make a flank march across an enemy's front, to take up a new line of supply, on roads to which depots are to be transferred from the old line. McClellan had, for the evacuation of his stores, a railway which ran conveniently behind his line, bringing immediate supplies, and a flotilla which took the rest in perfect safety to the selected point on the James, the line to that river being already covered by one wing of his army, while the enemy, operating under the error we have mentioned, facilitated the concentration of the other. But what McClellan may justly be praised for, and what indeed is his most eminent service, is the conduct of the retreat under the daily and hourly pressure of a superior and persistent foe. On the 27th his right wing received a stunning blow at Gaines' Mill, where he lost 22 guns and a number of men which he does not dare to estimate. Yet he maintained the order and spirit of his troops, and, while falling back incessantly through woods and swamps, was still ready at each halt to oppose his determined pursuers, till he finally found shelter beneath the guns of his flotilla.
Notwithstanding the great losses he had sustained, McClellan's correspondence shows that he never lost heart. He continued to regard his retreat as a temporary measure, and to look forward to another advance upon Richmond. In fact, while sending his sick and encumbrances off by water, finding that the enemy had almost disappeared from his front, he began again to advance, and was evidently ready to recommence the campaign. But events were occurring elsewhere which speedily demolished his hopes.
The troops covering the upper
Potomac had been combined under the unfortunately well-known general John Pope, and had been pushed southward to take the pressure off McClellan. Their very confident commander, not content with proclaiming the victories he was about to achieve, announced that the Confederates in alarm were evacuating Richmond. In the mean time they were really quitting McClellan's front, who, though unassailable, was for the present incapable of an offensive movement, and concentrating before Pope, whose misfortunes then commenced, and were crowded into the briefest possible space. First they defeated his vanguard at Cedar Mountain; then, passing behind the Blue Ridge, they emerged upon his rear, seizing his supplies and papers, and cutting him from the upper Potomac; next they defeated him in an action which he reported as a victory; and, lastly, they drove his whole army in utter rout upon Alexandria, and invaded the Federal States.
At the first appearance of the Confederate army in Pope's front, McClellan was ordered to embark his forces, and land them at Acquia Creek. Against this step he strongly remonstrated; but as his arguments were urged in ignorance of the nature of the crisis, they need not be recapitulated, for he talks of Pope's and Burnside's forces, all too few to oppose Lee, as if they were available to reinforce him. General Halleck responded in a letter which conclusively shows, what facts so soon confirmed, that the only way to unite the armies for the defence of the capital was to withdraw McClellan from the Peninsula. Accordingly he began to embark his divisions, and on the 26th August
arrived in Alexandria, where he was ordered to take the entire direction of the despatch of troops to aid Pope, the communications with whom were presently cut by Lee, and placed in command of the forces destined to defend the capital.
Thus the command of the Army
of the Potomac had passed out of the hands of McClellan, most of his troops being sent to reinforce Pope. But after the defeats of August, the Government officials again turned to McClellan for help. First the President, after saying that "he had always been a friend of his," besought him to use his influence with his late divisional commanders to co-operate cheerfully with Pope. Next, on the morning of the 2d (Sept.) the President and General Halleck came to my house, when the President informed me that Colonel Kelton had returned from the front, that our affairs were in bad condition, that the army was in full retreat upon the defences of Washington, the roads filled with stragglers, &c. He instructed me at once to take steps to stop and collect the stragglers, to place the works in a proper state of defence, and to go out to meet and take command of the army when it approached the vicinity of the works, then to put the troops in the best position for defence, committing everything to my hands." Before following him in his new campaign, we will pause to see what claim this "friend of his" and the Generalin-Chief, Halleck, had by their previous treatment acquired on his good offices to extricate them from their present dilemma.
All the indignities we have already recorded inflicted on him by the Government, McClellan had submitted to with singular good temper. Only once had he been roused to anything like reproach, and then not on personal grounds. The losses he had suffered in the disaster of Gaines' Mill deeply moved him, and he wrote to Mr Stanton: I feel too earnestly tonight. I have seen too many dead and wounded comrades to feel otherwise than that the Govern ment has not sustained this army. If I save the army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you, or to any other persons in Washing ton. You have done your best to sacrifice this army." But he speedily
recovered his equanimity, and went on writing and telegraphing in the most cheerful spirit. It was while, at Harrison's Bar, he was resting his army and restoring its confidence and spirits after the disastrous seven days, that General Halleck telegraphed to him, 2d August, thus: "You have not answered my telegram about the removal of your sick. Remove them as rapidly as I possible, and telegraph me when they will be out of your way. The President wishes an answer as early as possible."
McClellan explains that the telegram which he was blamed for not answering, required him "to send away his sick, and to notify the General-in-Chief when they were removed." As the removal was not completed he had not, of course, replied.
Aug. 4th.-After remonstrating against the removal of his army from the James, McClellan receives the following from Halleck: "My telegram to you of yesterday will satisfy you in regard to future operations. It was expected that you would have sent off your sick as directed, without waiting to know what were or would be the intentions of the Government respecting future movements. President expects that the instructions which were sent to you yesterday with his approval will be carried out with all possible despatch and caution;" and on August 5th he receives, in reply to a request for troops, the still more laconic telegram-"I have no reinforcements to send you.-H. W. Halleck, Major-General." Again, Aug. 9th, "Considering the amount of transportation at your disposal, your delay is not satisfactory. You must move with all possible celerity." McClellan replies, explaining that Halleck is under a mistake, and that the order for embarkation is being executed as rapidly as possible. Nevertheless, on the 10th, Halleck says, "The enemy is crossing the Rapidan in large force. They are fighting General Pope to-day; there must be no
further delay in your movements. That which has already occurred was entirely unexpected, and must be satisfactorily explained. Let not a moment's time be lost, and telegraph me daily what progress you have made in executing the order to transfer your troops." And on the 12th August-"The Quartermaster-General informs me that nearly every available steam vessel in the country is now under your control. To send more from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York would interfere with the transportation of army supplies, and break up the channels of travel by which we are to bring forward the new troops. Burnside moved nearly 13,000 troops to Acquia Creek in less than two days, and his transports were immediately sent back to you." Respecting which taunt about Burnside's comparative diligence, McClellan explains that Burnside was not encumbered with sick or wounded men-he had no cavalry, artillery waggons, or teams. His force consisted of infantry alone, with a few ambulances and officers' horses; his baggage was already on the transports, where it had remained since his arrival from North Carolina, and his men had only to resume their places on board. I may also repeat that the vessels used by General Burnside had not returned from Acquia when the army left Harrison's Bar." All which facts ought unquestionably to have been known to the General-in-Chief, who was thus free and brusque in censuring the commander of the principal
But that he might have a fuller and readier communication with Halleck than could be obtained by sending a despatch seventy miles to the nearest telegraph office, and waiting ten hours for a reply, McClellan journeyed himself to the station and telegraphed to Halleck, "Please come to office-wish to talk to you. What news from Pope?" and again, next day (Aug. 14), "Started to Jamestown Island
to talk with you; found cable broken, and came here. Please read my long telegram," &c. To which Halleck replied, "I have read your despatch. There is no change of plans. You will send up your troops as rapidly as possible. There is no difficulty in landing them. According to your own accounts there is now no difficulty in withdrawing your forces. Do so with all possible rapidity." "Before I had time," says McClellan, "to decipher and reply to this despatch, the telegraph operator in Washington informed me that General Halleck had gone out of the office immediately after writing this despatch, without leaving any intimation of the fact for me, or waiting for any further information as to the object of my journey across the bay. As there was no possibility of other communication with him at that time, I sent the following despatch, and returned to Harrison's Landing: Your orders will be obeyed. I return at once. I had hoped to have a longer and fuller conversation with you after travelling so far for the purpose.'
There was not much encouragement to continue a correspondence with the official personage who, after the curtest reply, walked away, leaving his anxious interlocutor to pour forth his questions to the empty air. Yet McClellan, touched by the fidelity and misfortunes of his army, once more addressed the great man in its behalf. "Please say a kind word to my army," he says on the 18th August, "that I can repeat to them in general orders in regard to their conduct at Yorktown, Williamsburg, &c. .. No one has ever said anything to cheer them but myself. Say nothing about me; merely give my men and officers credit for what they have done. It will do you much good, and will strengthen you much with them, if you issue a handsome order to them in regard to what they have accomplished. They deserve it."
In his report he says, “As no re
ply was received to this communication, and no order was issued by the General-in-Chief, I conclude that my suggestion did not meet with his approbation."
Of course the officials who treated McClellan thus did not imagine they should have any further occasion for his services. They calculated, no doubt, that, as an unsuccessful leader, he would, by popular consent, be consigned to the inevitable limbo destined for all who should disappoint the expectations of the country. On arriving at Washington he was deprived of his troops, who were sent forward as they arrived to help Pope; and had that incapable braggart defeated Lee, McClellan would have been at once set aside. But, as fugitives came pouring into Washington with tidings of disaster, it began to be clear that McClellan, unsuccessful as he was, still possessed the confidence of his men, and that he alone could be trusted to lead them against the enemy. And when the wreck of the Federal corps sought shelter from Lee behind the works of the capital, and the scared Government besought him to save the country, this good citizen, forgetting all injuries and affronts, at once assumed the command, and, promptly reorganising the broken host, led it against his redoubtable opponent.
Lee, crossing the Potomac high up the stream, had moved his columns towards Pennsylvania, his flank being sheltered on the side of Washington by the mountains, the passes of which he held. McClellan moved towards these passes. Of course the nearer to the Potomac he could deliver a blow, the more effectual it would be. But he did not move on the pass which is on the very bank of the river, because the space between the mountain and the water was too narrow to allow of the formation of a line of battle, and was swept by Confederate artillery on both sides of the stream. At South Mountain he attacked the next gap in the ridge and forced it, while the centre and right from Frederick