Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

relating to Army Corps, which dispatch, of course, will have reached you long before this will. I wish to say a few words to you privately on this subject. I ordered the Army Corps organization not only on the unanimous opinion of the twelve generals whom you had selected and assigned as generals of divisions, but also on the unanimous opinion of every military man I could get an opinion from, and every modern military book, yourself only excepted. Of course, I did not on my own judgment pretend to understand the subject. I now think it indispensable for you to know how your struggle against it is received in quarters which we can not entirely disregard. It is looked upon as merely an effort to pamper one or two pets, and to persecute and degrade their supposed rivals. I have had no word from Sumner, Heintzelman, or Keyes—the commanders of these corps are, of course, the three highest officers with you : but I am constantly told that you have no consultation or communication with them; that you consult and communicate with nobody but Gen. Fitz John Porter, and perhaps Gen. Franklin. I do not say these complaints are true or just; but at all events, it is proper you should know of their existence. Do the commanders of corps disobey your orders in any thing?

When you relieved Gen. Hamilton of his command the other day, you thereby lost the confidence of at least one of your best friends in the Senate. And here let me say, not as applicable to you personally, that Senators and Representatives speak of me in their places as they please without question, and that officers of the army must cease addressing insulting letters to them for taking no greater liberty with them.

But to return. Are you strong enough —are you strong enough even with my help-to set your foot upon the necks of Sumner, Heintzelman and Keyes all at once? This is a practical and very serious question to you.

The success of your army and the cause of the country are the same, and of course I only desire the good of the cause. Yours truly, A. LINCOLN.

Gen. McClellan did not conclude to make the changes which he had pronounced so indispensable. On the contrary, availing himself of the President's permission, he soon after created two new corps-the "Fifth Provisional Corps," formed of the divisions of Porter and Sykes, the former taken from the corps of Heintzelman, and the latter Regulars, to be commanded by Gen. Fitz John Porter; and the "Sixth Provisional Corps," consisting of Franklin's division, from McDowell's corps, and

Smith's division, from Keyes' corps, to be commanded by Gen. W. B. Franklin.

The headquarters of the Army of the Potomac reached the White House on the 16th of May, and three days later with the corps of Franklin and Fitz John Porter, had advanced to Tunstall's Station, five miles nearer Richmond. Complaints of the roads and requests for reënforcements were not forgotten in the official dispatches of this period; nor had the President schooled himself to perfect patience with the slow advance up the Peninsula, when he thought that not a moment's unnecessary delay should occur in "pushing the enemy to the wall." On the 14th, Gen. McClellan, being detained by bad roads, took occasion to send a long dispatch, representing his wants and opinions, to which the President, on the 15th, sent the following reply:

Your long dispatch of yesterday is just received. I will answer more fully soon; will say now that all your dispatches to the Secretary of War have been promptly shown to me. I have done and shall do all I could and can to sustain you. I hoped that the opening of James river and putting Wool and Burnside in communication with an open road to Richmond or to you, had effected something in that direction. I am still not willing to take all our force off the direct line between Richmond and here.

On the 20th of May, the advance reached the Chickahominy river, and found Bottom's Bridge, across that stream, as well as the railroad bridge, a mile above, destroyed by the enemy. The position was occupied, and the reconstruction of the bridges commenced. The river being fordable at this time, Casey's division was sent across the river and ordered to throw up defenses. Gen. Heintzelman's entire corps was also thrown across, in support. The center and right were advanced to the left bank of the river. On the 24th, the extreme right occupied Mechanicsville, and one of the brigades (Naglee's) of Heintzelman's corps drove the enemy from the Seven Pines, on the Bottom's Bridge road, the left of the army advancing to that position. The distance from the Chickahominy at Bottom's Bridge to Richmond is about twice as great as the dis

tance to Richmond from the same stream at Mechanicsville. The entire line now extended from the latter point to Seven Pines, about half way from the river to Richmond, the Chickahominy flowing between the left and the right and center. This stream, here about forty feet in width, is subject to sudden variations in volume, heavy rains causing it to overflow the bottom-lands on each side, and rendering it impassable. except by bridges-all of which, in this vicinity, had been destroyed by the enemy. The Meadow Bridge was north of Richmond, near the Virginia Central railroad, and a short distance above the bridge at Mechanicsville. The third, following down the stream six or seven miles, was called New Bridge, and was a less distance above the York river railroad bridge. Between Bottom's Bridge and Mechanicsville, McClellan determined to construct as many as eleven new bridges.

The Rebel line of defenses, within which the enemy had retired, commenced nearly opposite Drewry's Bluff, on the James river, and bending in a northeasterly direction, across. the York river railroad, to the Chickahominy, very nearly followed up the right bank of that stream. The diameter of this semi-circular line was about seven miles, from the center at Richmond. The main body of the enemy, it appears, was encamped on the New Bridge road. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was still in command.

By instructions from the War Department, issued on the 17th of May, Gen. McDowell, to be reënforced by Shields' division, had been directed to establish a communication, as soon as possible, between his left and McClellan's right. Corresponding directions were sent to Gen. McClellan. A gunboat expedition up the James river had meanwhile been repulsed at Fort Darling, and the attempt to approach Richmond by that means had been effectually abandoned. On the 21st, McClellan telegraphed the following, with many other matters, to the President:

I am not sure that I fully comprehend your orders of the 17th instant, addressed to myself and Gen. McDowell. If a junction is effected before we occupy Richmond, it must necessarily be cast of the railroad to Fredericksburg and within my depart

ment. This fact, my superior rank, and the express language of the sixty-second article of war, will place his command under my orders, unless it is otherwise specially directed by your Excellency; and I consider that he will be under my command, except that I am not to detach any portion of his forces, or give any orders which can put him out of position to cover Washington. If I err in my construction, I desire to be at once set right. Frankness compels me to say, anxious as I am for an increase of force, that the march of McDowell's column upon Richmond by the shortest route will, in my opinion, uncover Washington, as to any interposition by it, as completely as its movement by water. The enemy can not advance by Fredericksburg on Washington. Should they attempt a movement, which to me seems utterly improbable, their route would be by Gordonsville and Manassas.

The President replied as follows, under date of May 22:

Your long dispatch of yesterday is just received. You will have just such control of Gen. McDowell and his forces as you therein indicate. McDowell can reach you by land sooner than he could get aboard of boats, if the boats were ready at Fredericksburg, unless his march shall be resisted, in which case the force resisting him will certainly not be confronting you at Richmond. By land he can reach you in five days after starting; whereas by water he would not reach you in two weeks, judging by past experience. Franklin's single division did not reach you in ten days after I ordered it. A. LINCOLN.

How the purpose above indicated came necessarily to be changed, will best appear from the two following dispatches:

MAY 24, 1862.

I left Gen. McDowell's camp at dark last evening. Shields' command is there, but it is so worn that he can not move before Monday morning, the 26th. We have so thinned our line to get troops for other places, that it was broken yesterday at Front Royal, with a probable loss to us of one regiment infantry, two companies cavalry, putting Gen. Banks in some peril.

The enemy's forces, under Gen. Anderson, now opposing Gen. McDowell's advance, have, as their line of supply and retreat, the road to Richmond.

If, in conjunction with McDowell's movement against Anderson, you could send a force from your right to cut off the ene. my's supplies from Ricnmord, preserve the railroad bridge

across the two forks of the Pamunkey and intercept the enemy's retreat, you will prevent the army now opposed to you from receiving an accession of numbers of nearly 15,000 men; and if you succeed in saving the bridges, you will secure a line of railroad for supplies in addition to the one you now have. Can you not do this almost as well as not, while you are building the Chickahominy bridges? McDowell and Shields both say they can, and positively will, move Monday morning. I wish you to move cautiously and safely.

You will have command of McDowell, after he joins you, precisely as you indicated in your long dispatch to us of the 21st. A. LINCOLN.

Maj.-Gen. G. B. MCCLELLAN.

McClellan, in his report, erroneously gives a later dispatch (dated May 24) as the President's response on this occasion.

Intelligence received at a later hour on the same day, caused the President to suspend the order in regard to Gen. McDowell's movement, as the subjoined dispatch indicated to McClellan:

MAY 24, 1862.

In consequence of Gen. Banks' critical position, I have been compelled to suspend Gen. McDowell's movements to join you. The enemy are making a desperate push upon Harper's Ferry, and we are trying to throw Gen. Fremont's force and part of Gen. McDowell's in their rear. A. LINCOLN.

To this, Gen. McClellan replied: "I will make my calculations accordingly."

The next dispatch clearly sets forth the situation of affairs at the time:

WASHINGTON, May 25, 1862.

Your dispatch received. Gen. Banks was at Strasburg with about six thousand men, Shields having been taken from him to swell a column for McDowell to aid you at Richmond, and the rest of his force scattered at various places. On the 23d, a Rebel force of seven to ten thousand fell upon one regiment and two companies guarding the bridge at Port Royal, destroying it entirely; crossed the Shenandoah, and on the 24th, yesterday, pushed on to get north of Banks on the road to Winchester. Gen. Banks ran a race with them, beating them into Winchester yesterday evening. This morning a battle ensued between the two forces, in which Gen. Banks was beaten back into full retreat toward Martinsburg, and probably is

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »