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ENERAL BURNSIDE'S first care after landing his
troops, and seeing them comfortably bestowed, was to ascertain the condition of the Army of the Potomac, and to consult with General McClellan in regard to future operations. He found the army at Harrison's Landing in a somewhat broken condition after the severities of the campaign. He found the officers almost unanimous for the evacuation of the Peninsula, and the concentration of all the forces operating in Virginia in the neighborhood of Washington. He also found, that the best of feeling did not prevail at headquarters between General McClellan and General Halleck who had been appointed to the chief command of all the armies of the United States on the 11th of July. The correspondence between General McClellan and the Secretary of War was not conducted in the most friendly spirit, though there was no open breach. Of course, in such a state of affairs, a certain degree of partizanship prevailed in the army itself. The officers and men took sides—some for, some against their commanding gen
eral. The policy of the campaign had been somewhat freely discussed around the camp fires and at the Corps and Division headquarters. While some were enthusiastic in their support of their general, others were ready to go as far as the rules of the service would permit in condemnation of the plans, and methods of the campaign. Coming from the harmony and concord of the Department of North Caroliua, General Burnside was as much pained as surprised, to perceive the existence of this spirit of petty jealousy and discord. He still indulged the hope, that the differences between General McClellan and the Secretary of War might be composed, that better counsels might prevail and that a blow might be struck against General Lee and his army, if not in the direction of Petersburg, then immediately towards Richmond itself. He did not wholly agree with the policy of evacuation. But, after long and anxious consultation with General McClellan at his headquarters, in company with Generals Halleck and Meigs, he found that General Halleck had determined upon the measure and was not to be moved from it. In the early part of August the step was finally resolved upon. It was about this time, that the offer of the command of the army of the Potomac was made to General Burnside, and was by him declined. He thought that General McClellan had hardly had a fair chance. The season had been one of extraordinary severity, as regarded the movements of troops. The heat had been intense, the rains almost constant. Terrible battles had been fought, and great losses had been suffered by disease. The plans of the campaign had been very seriously deranged by the diversion of General McDowell's corps in pursuit of General Jackson. The armies in Virginia had thus been separated, and General Lee taking advantage of the fact, attacked the right and rear of the Army of the Potomac with such violence as to force it from its base to the James river. Had General McDowell, instead of marching to Front Royal and its neighborhood, left General Fremont to take care of General Jackson, and hastened to Richmond, forming a junction with General McClellan and attacking
General Lee, the result might have been different. The place to defeat Jackson was not among the Bull Run mountains but in front of Richmond. Had the Secretary of War, who was then acting as general-in-chief, taken advantage of Jackson's diversion, and vigorously pushed McDowell forward, there can be but little question, that the raid down the Shenandoah would have been a most serious misfortune to the rebel army. As it happened, it was the defeat of all the plans and operations of our own generals. To give General McClellan his due, it certainly was not his fault, that General McDowell was not forced into the gap, and the rebel lines pierced, broken and destroyed. Thus reasoning, General Burnside pleaded that another opportunity might be given to the unfortunate commander of the Army of the Potomac, and General McClellan was accordingly retained.
But General Lee's movements now began to make the evacuation of the Peninsula a necessity. Major General John Pope on the 14th of July was put in command of our forces in Virginia north of General McClellan's position. He concentrated his army, to which was given the name of the Army of Virginia, and pushed boldly southward, declaring his intention to subsist upon the country through which he marched. He reached as far as Cedar Mountain, in Culpepper County, on the 9th of August, and had a sharp engagement with General Jackson without decisive results. General Lee was feeling our position. Contented to have forced General McClellan to the James, and leaving a small force in the intrenchments around Richmond, the commander of the Rebel army began a counter movement against Washington, which was now defended only by General Pope's Army of Virginia. To save that army and the capital itself, a junction must somehow be formed between the separate forces. It was decided to move General Burnside's command to Aquia Creek and Fredericksburg, and the Army of the Potomac to Aquia Creek and Alexandria, as seemed most convenient at the time. As soon as the forces joined, all the troops south of the Potomac were to be