« PrejšnjaNaprej »
thwarting all the arrangements by which General Mc Clellan had reported that his capture was certain. On the 13th, in consequence of his protracted delays, the President addressed to General McClellan the following letter:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, October 18, 1862.
MY DEAR SIR:-You remember my speaking to you of what I called your over-cautiousness. Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you cannot do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess, and act upon the claim?
As I understand, you telegraphed General Halleck that you cannot subsist your army at Winchester unless the railroad from Harper's Ferry to that point be put in working order. But the enemy does now subsist his army at Winchester, at a distance nearly twice as great from railroad transportation as you would have to do without the railroad last named. He now wagons from Culpepper Court-House, which is just about twice as far as you would have to do from Harper's Ferry. He is certainly not more than half as well provided with wagons as you are. I certainly should be pleased for you to have the advantage of the railroad from Harper's Ferry to Winchester; but it wastes all the remainder of autumn to give it to you, and, in fact, ignores the question of time, which cannot and must not be ignored.
Again, one of the standard maxims of war, as you know, is, "to operate upon the enemy's communications as much as possible, without exposing your own." You seem to act as if this applies against you, but cannot apply in your favor. Change positions with the enemy, and think you not be would break your communication with Richmond within the next twenty-four hours? You dread his going into Pennsylvania. But if he does so in full force, he gives up his communications to you absolutely, and you have nothing to do but to follow and ruin him; if he does so with less than full force, fall upon and beat what is left behind all the easier.
Exclusive of the water line, you are now nearer Richmond than the enemy is, by the route that you can and he must take. Why can you not reach there before him, unless you admit that he is more than your equal on a march? His route is the arc of a circle, while yours is the chord. The roads are as good on yours as on his.
You know I desired, but did not order, you to cross the Potomac below instead of above the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge. My idea was, that this would at once menace the enemy's communications, which I would seize if he would permit. If he should move northward, I would follow him closely, holding his communications. If he should prevent our seizing his communications, and move toward Richmond, I would press closely to him, fight him if a favorable opportunity should present, and at least try to beat him to Richmond on the inside track. I say "try;" if
we never try, we shall never succeed. If he inake a stand at Winchester, moving neither north nor south, I would fight him there, on the idea that if we cannot beat him when he bears the wastage of coming to us, we never can when we bear the wastage of going to him. This proposition is a simple truth, and is too important to be lost sight of for a moment. In coming to us, he tenders us an advantage which we should not waive. We should not so operate as to merely drive him away. As we must beat him somewhere, or fail finally, we can do it, if at all, easier near to us than far away. If we cannot beat the enemy where he now is, we never can, he again being within the intrenchments of Richmond. Recurring to the idea of going to Richmond on the inside track, the facility of supplying from the side away from the enemy is remarkable, as it were, by the different spokes of a wheel, extending from the hub towards the rim, and this whether you move directly by the chord, or on the inside arc, hugging the Blue Ridge more closely. The chord-line, as you see, carries you by Aldie, Haymarket, and Fredericksburg, and you see how turnpikes, railroads, and finally the Potomac by Aquia Creek, meet you at all points from Washington. The same, only the lines lengthened a little, if you press closer to the Blue Ridge part of the way. The gaps through the Blue Ridge I understand to be about the following distances from Harper's Ferry, to wit: Vestal's, five miles; Gregory's, thirteen; Snicker's, eighteen; Ashby's, twenty-eight; Manassas, thirty-eight; Chester, forty-five; and Thornton's, fifty-three. I should think it preferable to take the route nearest the enemy, disabling him to make an important move without your knowledge, and compelling him to keep his forces together for dread of you. The gaps would enable you to attack if you should wish. For a great part of the way you would be practically between the enemy and both Washington and Richmond, enabling us to spare you the greatest number of troops from here. When, at length, running to Richmond ahead of him enables him to move this way, if he does so, turn and attack him in the rear. But I think he should be engaged long before such point is reached. It is all easy if our troops march as well as the enemy, and it is unmanly to say they cannot do it. This letter is in no sense an order.
For over a fortnight longer General McClellan delayed any attempt to move his army in obedience to the President's order. He spent this interval in complaints of inadequate supplies, and in incessant demands for re-enforcements; and on the 21st inquired whether it was still the President's wish that he should march upon the enemy at once, or await the arrival of fresh horses. He was told in reply that the order of the 6th was unchanged, and that
while the President did not expect impossibilities, he was very anxious that all this good weather should not be wasted in inactivity." General McClellan states in his report that he inferred, from the tenor of this dispatch, that it was left to his own judgment whether it would be safe for the army to advance or not; and he accordingly fixed upon the first of November as the earliest date at which the forward movement could be commenced. On the 25th he complained to the Department of the condition of his cavalry, saying that the horses were fatigued and greatly troubled with sore tongue; whereupon the President addressed him the following inquiry :
WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, October 25, 1862. I have just read your dispatch about sore-tongue and fatigued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues any thing?
The General replied that they had been engaged in making reconnoissances, scouting, and picketing; to which the President thus rejoined :
Executive MANSION, WASHINGTON, October 26, 1862,
Yours in reply to mine about horses received. Of course you know the facts better than I. Still, two considerations remain: Stuart's cavalry outmarched ours, having certainly done more marked service on the Peninsula and every where since. Secondly: will not a movement of our ariny be a relief to the cavalry, compelling the enemy to concentrate instead of "foraging" in squads everywhere? But I am so rejoiced to learn from your dispatch to General Halleck that you began crossing the river this morning. A. LINCOLN.
The General replied in a long dispatch, rehearsing in detail the labors performed by his cavalry, to which he thought the President had done injustice. This note elicited the following reply :
EXECUTIVE Mansion, WASHINGTON, October 26, 1862, Yours of yesterday received. Most certainly I intend no injustice to any, and if I have done any I deeply regret it. To be told, after more than five weeks' total inaction of the army, and during which period we had sent to that army every fresh horse we possibly could, amounting in the whole to seven thousand nine hundred and eighteen, that the cavalry
horses were too much fatigued to move, presented a very cheerless, almost hopeless, prospect for the future, and it may have forced something of impatience into my dispatches. If not recruited and rested then, when could they ever be? I suppose the river is rising, and I am glad to believe you are crossing. A. LINCOLN.
The General next started, as a new topic of discussion, the extent to which the line of the Potomac should be guarded after he left it, so as to cover Maryland and Pennsylvania from further invasions. He thought strong garrisons should be left at certain points, complained that his forces were inadequate, and made some suggestion concerning the position of the rebel army under Bragg, which led General Halleck in reply to remind him that Bragg was four hundred miles away, while Lee was but twenty. On the 27th the General telegraphed to the President that it was necessary to "fill up the old regiments of his command before taking them again into action," to which the President thus replied:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, October 27, 1862. Your dispatch of three P. M. to-day, in regard to filling up old regiments with drafted men, is received, and the request therein shall be complied with as far as practicable. And now I ask a distinct answer to the question, Is it your purpose not to go into action again till the men now being drafted in the States are incorporated in the old regiments?"
The General, in reply, explained that the language of the dispatch, which was prepared by one of his aids, had incorrectly expressed his meaning, and that he should not postpone the advance until the regiments were filled by drafted men. The army was gradually crossed over, and on the 5th of November the General announced to the President that it was all on the Virginia side. This was just a month after the order to cross had been given-the enemy meantime having taken possession of all the strong points, and falling back, at his leisure, towards his base of operations. These unaccountable delays in the movement of the army created the most intense dissatisfaction in the public mind, and completely exhausted the patience of the Government. Accordingly, on the 5th of Novem
ber, an order was issued relieving General McClellan from the command of the Army of the Potomac, and directing General Burnside to take his place.
Thus closed a most remarkable chapter in the history of the war. For over fifteen months General McClellan had commanded the Army of the Potomac, the largest and most powerful army ever marshalled till then upon this continent-consisting of one hundred and sixty thousand men, and furnished, in lavish profusion, with every thing requisite for effective service. Throughout the whole of this long period that army had been restrained by its commander from attacking the enemy. Except in the single instance of Antietam, where, moreover, there was no possibility of avoiding an engagement, every battle which it fought was on the defensive. According to the sworn testimony of his own commanders, General McClellan might have overwhelmed the rebel forces arrayed against him at Manassas, at Yorktown, after Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, Malvern Hill, and Antietam; but on every one of these occasions he carefully forbore to avail himself of the superiority of his position, and gave the enemy ample time to prepare for more complete and effective resistance. It is no part of our present purpose to inquire into the causes of this most extraordinary conduct on the part of a commander to whom, more completely than to any other, were intrusted the destinies of the Nation during one of the most critical periods. Whether he acted from an innate disability, or upon a political theory-whether he intentionally avoided a decisive engagement in order to accomplish certain political results which he and his secret advisers deemed desirable, or whether he was, by the native constitution of his mind, unable to meet the gigantic responsibilities of his position when the critical moment of trial arrived, are points which the public and posterity will decide from an unbiased study of the evidence which his acts and his words afford. As the record we have given shows, President Lincoln lost no oppor tunity of urging upon him more prompt and decisive