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he held the only pass available in that region, for many miles, by which an army could be successfully moved into Eastern Virginia. From Huttonsville a decent road leads to Staunton, sixty miles distant, a point of great strategic importance, lying in the rear both of Winchester, and of Richmond, and commanding the lines of the James River canal, and of the Virginia and Tennessee Railway.
Had any unity of design existed at Washington as to the prosecution of the war, it is easy to see how favorable an opportunity was here presented for new and formidable movements against the enemy in Eastern Virginia. As things actually were, however, no such results were to be looked for; and General McClellan, learning that the position of affairs in the Kanawha Valley was far from satisfactory, prepared himself at once for an effort in that direction, and was on the point of moving in person to the assistance of General Cox, there commanding, when he was suddenly summoned to Washington.
GENERAL MCCLELLAN TAKES COMMAND IN WASHINGTON.
THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN, AND THE CONDITION OF THE ARMY, CHANGE IN THE PROSPECTS OF THE WAR. REORGANIZATION OF THE FORCES. GENERAL MCCLELLAN APPOINTED TO THE CHIEF COMMAND UPON THE RESIGNATION OF GENERAL SCOTT.
GENERAL MCCLELLAN, on arriving in Washington, found himself called upon not merely to assume the command of an army shattered and demoralized by defeat, but to construct a military system for a continent at war.
The persistent opposition of Lieutenant-General Scott to any advance of the army at Washington upon the positions of Beauregard at Manassas had been overcome by the "pressure" which politicians and the press had brought to bear upon the president and his cabinet. General Scott knew the true condition of that army; he was opposed, to use his own words, "to a little war by piecemeal," and he desired time enough to organize a force in some degree proportionate to the work which was to be done before attempting to do that work. Of the whole force called into the field under the president's proclamations of April 17th and May 3d, and which amounted in the aggregate to about one hundred and fifty thousand men, including eighteen thousand sailors, much more than one half, or seventy-five thousand men, had been summoned under arms for three months only; the president's most conspicuous advisers, if not the president himself, having expected that before the expiration of this term the rebel government at Montgom
ery would have ceased to exist, and the seceding States have been restored to their places in the Federal system.
Of these troops it was perfectly idle to expect anything like effective service in a campaign of invasion. The testimony taken by the Committee on the Conduct of the War in respect to the battle of Bull Run conclusively proves that it was hardly worth while to seek for strategic explanations of the results of that battle elsewhere than in the simple fact of its having been fought at all. General McDowell, who commanded the expedition, and with whose plan of operations it is not easy to find any substantial fault, testifies: "I had had no opportunity to test my machinery, to move it around and see whether it would work smoothly or not. In fact, such was the feeling, that when I had one body of eight regiments reviewed together, the general censured me for it, as if I was trying to make some show." "I wanted very much a little time; all of us wanted it. We did not have a bit of it. The answer was, 'You are green, it is true, but they are green also; you are all green alike.' We went on in that way."
Of such a way there was but one end.
The country could not understand, ignorant as it was of war and war's requirements, how it could possibly be true that after three months of preparation and of parade an army of thirty thousand men should be still utterly unfit to move thirty miles against a series of earthworks held by no more than an equal number of other men. Those whose duty it was to enlighten the country were as much in the dark on the subject themselves as their fellow-citizens, and the few military men who pleaded for patience and practical measures got neither justice nor comprehension at their hands. Not all military men, it is true, did so plead. Professional rivalry, jealousy, envy; the desire of promotion and of conspicuous command; in some cases a mere craving for the popularity to be so easily won by falling in with the public clamor of the hour, led some men who should have known better, and probably did know
better, into reinforcing the "pressure" which was driving so many brave but undisciplined men to useless slaughter.
The battle was fought. A "foolish affair," to use the language of Gen. Barnard, which preceded it on the 18th of July, contributed greatly to heighten the confidence of the enemy and to disturb the morale of the advancing army. But so far as the troops actually engaged on the 21st of July were led and manœuvred into fighting, they fought for the most part gallantly and well, with the bravery which is common to their race. There were exceptions, of course, as in the case of that regiment of which Major Barry testifies: "When I rode in among them and implored them to stand, telling them that the guns would never be captured if they would only stand, they seemed to be paralyzed, standing with their eyes and mouths wide open, and did not seem to hear me.”
But in the great majority of instances the men broke because nobody "rode in among them and implored them to stand.” New troops, unaccustomed to being killed, and confused by the noise and the sudden movements incident to a battle, cannot very safely be left to the light of nature. Captain Griffin testifies: "A great many of our regiments turned right off the field as they delivered their fire, turning even as they delivered their volleys. They did not go off in any system at all, but went right off as a crowd would walking the street, every man for himself, with no organization at all."
Colonel Davis, himself a volunteer officer, testifies: "I can tell you what I think is the cause of the whole defeat of that day. The troops were raw; the men had been accustomed to look to their colonels as the only men to give them commands. They did not understand the command devolving in succession upon the lieutenant-colonel, major, and the captains in their order of rank. The officers themselves did not know what to do; they were themselves raw and green. Every man went in to do his duty, and knew nothing about anybody else. When the colonels were killed or wounded the subordinate officers
did not know what to do, and the men did not know whether to obey them or not. When they lost their commanding officers, or those to whom alone they had been instructed to look for commands, they supposed they had a right to leave the field. That, I think, was the cause of many regiments retiring from the field; not from any cowardice or fear of fighting, but because, having lost their colonels, they supposed they were out of the battle.”
The battle once over and definitely lost, the army, of course, morally speaking, became a mob. Much fault has been found, not, perhaps unnaturally, with the very vivid colors in which Mr. Russell of the London Times has painted the retreat from Manassas; and it is certainly but fair that justice should be done to the firm front displayed by the Union reserves at Centreville. But the victorious enemy, exhausted by the conflict, did not make any serious pursuit on the day of the victory; and they were prevented by political considerations, against which General Beauregard indignantly but vainly contended, from following up their advantage by an attempt upon Washington.* Had they made such an attempt the real extent of the demoralization suffered by the Union army in consequence of the disastrous day of Manassas would have been fully and terribly revealed.
General Keyes, who of course did not understand at that time the reasons which withheld the enemy from moving upon
* "In conclusion, it is proper, and doubtless expected, that through this report my countrymen should be made acquainted with some of the sufficient causes that prevented the advance of our forces and a more vigorous pursuit of the enemy to and beyond the Potomac. The war department has been fully advised long since of all those causes, some of which only are proper to be here communicated.”—Gen. Beauregard's Official Report of the Battle of Manassas. Southern History of the War. Richardson, New York, p. 31. This report of General Beauregard was not made public at the South until the winter of 1862, and it was well understood that the Louisiana general, in the first draft of his report, had been much more explicit in his allusions to the policy of President Davis.