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ssailed Turner's Gap, which was abandoned by the Confederates in the night. "It is believed," says McClellan," that the force opposed to us at Turner's Gap consisted of D. H. Hill's corps, and a part, if not the whole, of Longstreet's, and perhaps a portion of Jackson's; probably some 30,000 in all. We went into action with about 30,000 D men, and our losses amounted to 1568, aggregate." This uncandid method of computing the enemy's force, and so making it appear equal to his own, as well as his glorification over the fancied victory, are the less excusable, as McClellan must have known that these detachments were placed in the gaps only to hold them till the main columns had concentrated, and that, this object effected, the sooner they retired the better.
The mountain-ridge being passed, the Federal columns swung round on their left towards the river; and, nearing it, found Lee's army drawn up to bar the way. The Confedertate leader had no doubt calculated on holding, at pleasure, undisturbed possession of the country north of the Potomac, thinking the Federal army too severely shaken by defeat to resume the offensive. But when McClellan moved against him, he had hastened to withdraw his col5 umns towards Virginia, behind the detachments posted to hold the gaps of the ridge. The concentration being effected between the enemy and the Potomac, Lee might have continued his retreat without a battle. But to have retired in face of the enemy without a passage of arms, would have been inconsistent with the character of a commander always more ready to fight than to evade an action. Taking post behind the Antietam Creek, he awaited the onset, while he saw the long trains of his spoils pass the river behind him.
This battle of Antietam may be considered the test of McClellan's fighting qualities. It is the only great action in which he directed all the main operations. For at
Fair Oaks and Seven Pines one wing of the Federals was assailed unexpectedly, and the commanders of corps had to make good their ground as best they could. At Williamsburg it was Sumner who commanded, and at Hanover, Porter. At Gaines' Mill, again, it was General Porter who made the actual tactical dispositions on the field. But when the Federal advance came upon Lee's line of battle at Antietam, it was, McClellan says, too late to attack that day, and he proceeded, after examination of the position, to employ the remainder of the 15th in making deliberate dispositions for the engagement.
Some months ago, in reviewing books on the American war, we commented on the excellent work of Captain Chesney on the cam paigns in Virginia and Maryland. The reader will find, on consulting it, that it records facts, carefully and dispassionately adduced, which are in many important respects at variance with the report of McClellan. We find, for instance, that the troops which opposed him at South Mountain (the division of D. Hill) were 10,000 in_number, instead of 30,000, as the Federal commander estimates their force. It will be found, too, that the force with which Lee barred the way at the Antietam consisted only of a part of Longstreet's corps. The whole of Jackson's force, 24,000, had been employed in the attack on Harper's Ferry, the relief of which post had been one special object of McClellan's advance. Now, the post surrendered at 8 in the morning of the 16th, and McClellan knew it from the cessation of the firing. He must also have known that Jackson's force was thus set free to join Lee. Had he, therefore, attacked at once on the evening of the 15th, when he had five corps at hand, he might have brought above 70,000 men against about a third of their numbers. But, imposed on by Lee's attitude, he contented himself with reconnoitring him that evening.
The Antietam and Potomac both
run southward for some distance in the neighbourhood of the battlefield, but before their junction the Potomac makes an eastward bend. In the hilly wooded space between them is Sharpsburg, at the junction of many roads leading from Maryland to Virginia. In front of Sharpsburg Lee had drawn up his lines, his right resting on the Antietam, which covered about two-thirds of his front, but its course then diverging, his left wing did not command the passages of the upper portion of the stream. Thus, of the three passages leading on Lee's right, centre, and left, that on his left was unguarded.
McClellan, then, after a second reconnoissance, which lasted till two in the afternoon of the 16th, and which was, he says, rendered necessary by a change in the disposition of Lee's batteries, resolved to cross first by the unguarded passage (no doubt because it was unguarded) and to attempt to turn Lee's left, as the preliminary to an attack upon his other flank. Then, when his own left should have pushed back his enemy's right, it was to move along the crest towards the right, and the centre was finally to advance and connect them.
Now, two roads led along Lee's rear from Sharpsburg across the Potomac. That on his left crossed at Williamsport, that on his right at Shepherdstown. If his left only was turned, he could still cross at Shepherdstown-if his right only, he could still retreat on Williamsport; which flank then was it best for McClellan to turn? We have said that the passage of the Antietam would be undisputed on Lee's left, and that it was therefore easiest to attack there. But it often happens that the point of an enemy's line which is weakest, and where it will be easiest to defeat him, is by no means that which offers the most decisive results. And it is a distinctive feature in the character of a great general that he always aims, if possible, not at the point where he may most easily
But if he were
Now the Potomac from Will. port to Shepherdstown runs nearly north and south. If Lee should be compelled to retreat by Williamsport, McClellan, crossing at Shepherdstown, would interpose between him and the Shenandoah valley, between him and all Eastern Virginia, between him and Richmond-would in fact ruin him. compelled to retreat by Shepherdstown, his course down the Shenandoah valley (as was actually the case) would be unimpeded, and nothing would be gained beyond the ground he had stood on. Thus the result of an attack on Lee's right would be enormously greater than that which would follow from an attack on his left. And had a successful attack been made on his right on the 16th it would have cut Jackson from the main body, for he did not join Lee till after midnight.
But, though McClellan's plan contemplated an attack on both flanks, there can be no doubt as to which was the point he specially aimed at. Out of six corps he threw four against the enemy's left, while one only attacked the right, and one, opposite the centre, was not engaged. Now, an attack on the right was not impracticable, for it was made, and was so far successful that Burnside crossed there and held his ground on the further bank. If, then, the four corps had been massed there instead of on the left, and had been equally successful in forcing back by their weight the opposing line, Lee could not have retreated by Shepherdstown, but must have been driven on Williamsport, and the result would have been what we have indicated. We think, therefore, McClellan's whole plan of battle false; and we believe that he was induced to adopt it because the attack on the left was so much easier than that on the right-a consideration which, especially with
such disparity in his favour as existed in the opposing forces, ought not to have controlled his decision. It was so late on the 16th when McClellan began his attack that Hooker's corps only was engaged. It crossed by fords unopposed, attacked Longstreet's left, and at the close of some sharp, indecisive fighting, encamped close to it for the night. Jackson, arriving at midnight, took post opposite Hooker. Next day the general engagement began. All day the four corps in succession were hurled against the left of Lee, which, at the close of the battle, had fallen back about a mile, after varying fortunes, and heavy loss on both sides. Burnside, after failing in two attempts, had also crossed on Lee's right, gained a footing on the crest, and was then driven back upon the bridge,_remaining on the right bank. Lee still held Sharpsburg in the centre.
On the morning of the 18th, the armies faced each other, but the battle was not renewed. McClellan's troops were not in a condition to attack. Hooker's corps and part of Sumner's on the left were demoralised, and Burnside's was so shaky that, after demanding support, he retired, though unassailed, to the left bank. McClellan had lost by his own account more than 12,000 men; but he omits to count among them about 6000 of Hooker's men who abandoned the field, and did not rejoin their colours till the 22d.
Such, then, were the results accomplished by the deliberately arranged attack of 87,000 men on, at the most, 70,000. They had caused one wing of the opposing line to recede a short distance, at the expense, per contra, of a loss of about 20,000 men, and the demoralisation of part of the army. Nevertheless, as the Confederates ultimately retired, McClellan claims a signal victory. But he tells us, in excusing himself for not renewing the battle on the 18th, that he expected large reinforcements from Pennsylvania. This, which might of itself be a
good reason why he should postpone the attack, was also an excellent reason why Lee should not await it. And when it is added that two fresh divisions joined McClellan on the morning of the 18th, while Porter's corps (in the centre) was still almost untouched, there is sufficient to account for Lee's retreat without attributing it to any success gained by McClellan in the action. He was preparing to reengage on the morning of the 19th, when he found that Lee had, during the night, withdrawn his whole force safely beyond the Potomac ; and a strong detachment sent across to ascertain whether he was still in force in the neighbourhood of the river received convincing, if not satisfactory, proof of the fact in a severe disaster.
Accepting, then, the battle of Antietam as a fair criterion of McClellan's fighting quality, we cannot estimate it very highly. Sagacious and sound in combining the movements of a campaign, he would always be apt to forfeit any advantages which his plan had gained by irresolution in striking the blows which his previous operations could only have placed him in a good position to deliver. It is not that we think him deficient in determination-his conduct of the seven days' retreat, when, fiercely pressed by an undoubtedly stronger foe, he kept throughout a firm countenance, and was so little damaged that at the first pause he was ready to resume with spirit his advance, proves that disaster and peril cannot daunt him. But his resolution has only been exhibited in circumstances where there was no alternative, and where to give way was to be destroyed. It does not appear to be of that kind which induces great generals to disregard present risk for the sake of adequate future advantage, and which alone can achieve brilliant strokes in war. He is eminently a prudent and safe general; and it would be difficult probably to inflict upon him any disaster which foresight
could prevent; but, on the other hand, he appears to have radical defects of character which will hinder him from ever achieving notable successes.
In support of this estimate, we would point to his tendency constantly to overrate the strength of his adversary-a tendency which is absolutely fatal to enterprise or to a happy audacity. On first landing in the Peninsula, he immensely exaggerated the force opposing him in the lines of Yorktown; and his false estimate was the means of detaining him there when some of the advantages he had aimed at in his original plan might have followed from a bolder course. Throughout his subsequent operations, up to the battle of Gaines' Mill, he was always crippled by the expectation of being attacked by superior numbers; and we have seen that at South Mountain and Antietam he ridiculously overrated his enemy.
The statements by which he supports his estimates of the enemy's 5th Corps (one div. not arrived), 12,930
strength and comparative losses in battle, are, to say the least, uncandid. Thus at Fair Oaks he had at first four, and afterwards six divisions, against three of the Confederates-viz., Longstreet's, Hill's, and Smith's; and in summing up the results of the two days' engagement, he gives his own loss as 5700, the enemy's as 6700. But in a despatch some days after the battles he places his own losses for the two days at 7000. It is probable, therefore, that the first more favourable balance is obtained by giving the Confederate losses for both days, and his own only for the first day. For he quotes, in confirmation of the Southern casualties, the report of General Johnston, the Confederate commander; and it is most likely that the report would include the two consecutive engagements, since the intervening night would afford no opportunity for ascertaining and reporting the results of the first action. But the example of this kind of manipulation of numbers which, while un
Total in action, 87,164"
Now, when we observe that the artillery, liberally estimated at 400 guns, with a further liberal estimate of fifteen men per gun, are counted on the Confederate side, while none appear on his own, and that D. H. Hill's division, raised from its real number 10,000 to 15,000, formed part of Longstreet's corps, and appears thus to be counted twice over, we may well regard with added suspicion the very doubtful item of forty-six regiments not included in above," and discredit entirely the preposterous balance of 10,000 men on the side of the Confederates in the statement thus manufactured with the "examination of prisoners, deserters, spies, &c.," as its trustworthy basis. We think, therefore, that we are justi fied in regarding this manner of measuring his strength with his enemy's as a habit and a great
defect of his mind, and in setting aside his own estimates when they tell in his favour, especially as we find that on one occasion, soon after the commencement of the Peninsular campaign, the President points out a discrepancy, in his statement of his own numbers, of no less than 23,000, which is not cleared up in the Report.
However, whatever faults McClellan might have committed, one fact was evident, that he alone had saved the Government and the capital, perhaps the whole cause of the Union. Of all the Generals who crowded into Washington in the last calamitous days of August, amidst the wrecks of the corps that had felt the weight of Lee's and Jackson's blows, there was not another under whom the army would have consented to take the field, or probably, if it had, who could have reduced the chaos to order before it was too late. Accepting without a murmur the task of redeeming the failures of his late rival Pope, he had rapidly brought an army, respectable for discipline as well as numbers, into the field, restored its confidence in itself, led it straight upon the enemy, and regained for the Federal Government the control of all the territory north of the Potomac. Whereas, but for him, history would have had a very different picture to paint the Federal army broken, dispirited, and uncontrollable, perhaps mutinous-its chiefs divided in council-the Government either shut up in Washington or fugitives -the Confederates unopposed masters of the country up to the Susquehanna―with all the dissensions and anarchy that such calamities would entail on the North. And, in the first revulsion after his late alarms, the grateful President thus telegraphed to McClellan, "Your despatch of to-day" (about South Mountain) "received. God bless you, and all with you. Destroy the rebel army if possible." But the jealous dislike of Halleck and Stanton was only restrained till it
was safe to vent it. Three days after Antietam, when it was certain that Lee had re-crossed the Potomac, Halleck telegraphs thus, "We are still left entirely in the dark in regard to your own movements and those of the enemy. This should not be so. You should keep me advised of both, so far as you know them." Whereupon McClellan, no doubt invigorated by success, becomes actually resentful. "Your telegram of to-day," he replied, "is received. I telegraphed you yesterday all I knew. I regret that you find it necessary to couch every despatch I have the honour to receive from you in a spirit of fault-finding, and that you have not yet found leisure to say one word in commendation of the recent achievements of this army, or even to allude to them."
But the demeanour of these officials was only significant of their designs. McClellan, successful and applauded, was becoming far too dangerous a personage to be countenanced, or even tolerated much longer. His dismissal was doubtless resolved on at once, but as a necessary preliminary he must be shorn of his popularity. If he could be made to appear dilatory and incapable, the people would soon forget his services, and the best way to exhibit him in this light was to deprive him of the power of acting. Accordingly his army was kept in all respects on a starvation allowance-regiments were allowed to remain mere skeletons, the cavalry and artillery were not re-mounted, the transport service was below the needs of the army, the men were kept half-clothed and shoeless, the accumulation of supplies was insufficient to maintain the troops during an advance-and all the time the Secretary for War and General-inChief were urging the unfortunate commander of this force, which they were studiously rendering helpless, to advance and fight. Even if fully equipped and supplied, the troops could not have been trusted in an offensive movement against Lee,