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have done as well as he the great work which then was done; and this is one of those assertions of which in the nature of things it is idle to attempt to prove a negative. All that we positively know is, that if the foundations of our military successes had not been laid deeply and well during those critical months which followed the disaster of Manassas, we never should have had any military successes at all.
If Manassas had not been fought and lost; if the system, or want of system, which gave us that action as the result of three months of planning and preparation, had been pushed into the autumn of 1861, the spring of 1862 would have found us without an army worthy of the name, either in the East or in the West. What the consequences of such a condition of affairs, as well to the domestic as to the foreign aspects of the war for the Union, might have been, it is not very easy to say. What they probably would have been it is certainly far from pleasant to imagine.
We all know now how full of brilliant promise for the arms of the Union the whole field of operations began to seem a few months after the general organization of the war had been confided to the young general from Western Virginia. But the identification of General McClellan's name and fortunes with those of the army which he himself led into the field has become so complete that much less than justice is commonly done, even when no injustice is meant to be done to him, in respect to those vast preliminary labors and their results on the destiny of campaigns in which he took no active and apparent part.
The records of the War Department, however, will one day bear out the assertion made by the New York Times of April 13, 1862, at least so far as concerns the honorable revelations concerning General McClellan which sleep in their huge files:
"There are important facts connected with the history of the Army of the Potomac that will cover General McClellan with glory, and smite certain civil and military officials with
the blackest infamy. This chapter cannot now be written. It is sufficient at present to say that Halleck and Buell will not be wanting when the time comes to do that justice to McClellan for the part he took in procuring the victories of Fort Donelson and Fort Henry, Bowling Green and Island No. 10, which has so honorably distinguished General Burnside in his recent report to the War Department."
The report of General Burnside here referred to is his report of the operations in North Carolina. These operations had been planned and suggested by General McClellan early in September, 1861, he being then in command simply of the Army of the Potomac, but being constantly called upon by the government for advice in regard to the whole scope of our military operations. When in November, 1861, General McClellan was formally appointed to the chief command of the armies of the Union, his plan for these operations underwent of course some very important modifications; and his own account of the whole matter may well be inserted here.
THE NORTH CAROLINA EXPEDITION.
The records of the War Department show my anxiety and efforts to assume active offensive operations in the fall and early winter. It is only just to say, however, that the unprecedented condition of the roads and Virginia soil would have delayed an advance till February had the discipline, organization and equipment of the army been as complete at the close of the fall as was necessary, and as I desired and labored, against every impediment, to make them. While still in command only of the Army of the Potomac, namely, in early September, I proposed the formation of a corps of New Englanders for coast service in the bays and inlets of the Chesapeake and Potomac, to co-operate with my own command, from which most of its material was drawn.
On the 1st of November, however, I was called to relieve Lieutenant-General Scott in the chief and general command
of the armies of the Union. The direction and nature of this coast expedition, therefore, were somewhat changed, as will soon appear in the original plan submitted to the secretary of war, and the letter of instructions later issued to General Burnside, its commander. The whole country indeed had now become the theatre of military operations from the Potomac to and beyond the Mississippi, and to assist the navy in perfecting and sustaining the blockade, it became necesssry to extend those operations to points on the sea-coast, Roanoke Island, Savannah and New Orleans. It remained also to equip and organize the armies of the West, whose condition was little better than that of the Army of the Potomac had been.
The direction of the campaigns in the West, and of the operations upon the seaboard, enabled me to enter upon larger combinations, and to accomplish results the necessity and advantage of which had not been unforeseen, but which had been beyond the ability of the single army formerly under my command to effect.
The following letters and a subsequent paper to the Secretary of War sufficiently indicate the nature of those combinations to minds accustomed to reason upon military operations. HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 1861.
Hon. SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War:
SIR: I have the honor to suggest the following proposition, with the request that the necessary authority be at once given me to carry it out: To organize a force of two brigades of five regiments each of New England men, for the general service-but particularly adapted to coast service. The officers and men to be sufficiently conversant with boat service to manage steamers, sailing vessels, launches, barges, surf boats, floating batteries, &c. To charter or buy for the command a sufficient number of propellers or tug-boats for transportation of men and supplies, the machinery of which should be amply protected by timber: the vessels to have permanent experi
enced officers from the merchant service, but to be manned by details from the command. A naval officer to be attached to the staff of the commanding officer. The flank companies of each regiment to be armed with Dahlgren boat guns, and carbines with water-proof cartridges; the other companies to have such arms as I may hereafter designate, to be uniformed and equipped as the Rhode Island regiments are. Launches and floating batteries, with timber parapets of sufficient capacity to land or bring into action the entire force.
The entire management and organization of the force to be under my control, and to form an integral part of the Army of the Potomac.
The immediate object of this force is for operations in the inlets of Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac: by enabling me thus to land troops at points where they are needed, this force can also be used in conjunction with a naval force operating against points on the sea-coast. This coast division to be commanded by a general officer of my selection. The regiments to be organized as other land forces. The disbursements for vessels, &c., to be made by the proper department of the army, upon the requisitions of the general commanding the division, with my approval.
I think the entire force can be organized in thirty days, and by no means the least of the advantages of this proposition is the fact, that it will call into the service a class of men who would not otherwise enter the army.
You will immediately perceive that the object of this force is to follow along the coast, and up the inlets and rivers, the movements of the main army when it advances.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Owing chiefly to the difficulty in procuring the requsite vessels, and adapting them to the special purposes contemplated,
this expedition was not ready for service until January,
When in the chief command I deemed it best to send it to North Carolina with the design indicated in the following letter:
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
Brig.-Gen. A. E. BURNSIDE, Commanding Expedition :
GENERAL: In accordance with verbal instructions heretofore given you-you will, after uniting with flag-officer Goldsborough, at Fort Monroe, proceed under his convey to Hatteras Inlet, where you will in connection with him, take the most prompt measures for crossing the fleet over the bulkhead into the waters of the sound. Under the accompanying general order constituting the Department of North Carolina, you will assume command of the garrison at Hatteras Inlet, and make such dispositions in regard to that place, as your ulterior operations may render necessary-always being careful to provide for the safety of that very important station in any contingency.
Your first point of attack will be Roanoke Island and its dependencies.
It is presumed that the navy can reduce the batteries on the marshes, and cover the landing of your troops on the main island, by which, in connection with a rapid movement of the gunboats to the northern extremity-as soon as the marsh battery is reduced-it may be hoped to capture the entire garrison of the place. Having occupied the island and its dependencies, you will at once proceed to the erection of the batteries and defences necessary to hold the position with a small force. Should the flag-officer require any assistance in seizing or holding the debouches of the canal from Norfolkyou will please afford it to him.
The commodore and yourself having completed your arrangements in regard to Roanoke Island, and the waters north