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broken up into a total rout. Geary, on the Manassas Gap railroad, just now reports that Jackson is now near Front Royal with ten thousand troops, following up and supporting, as I understand, the force now pursuing Banks. Also, that another force of ten thousand is near Orleans, following on in the same direction. Stripped bare, as we are here, I will do all we can to prevent them crossing the Potomac at Harper's Ferry or above. McDowell has about twenty thousand of his forces moving back to the vicinity of Port Royal; and Fremont, who was at Franklin, is moving to Harrisonburg; both these movements intended to get in the enemy's rear.
One more of McDowell's brigades is ordered through here to Harper's Ferry; the rest of his forces remain for the present at Fredericksburg. We are sending such regiments and dribs from here and Baltimore as we can spare to Harper's Ferry, supplying their places in some sort, calling in militia from the adjacent States. We also have eighteen cannon on the road to Harper's Ferry, of which arm there is not a single one at that point. This is now our situation.
If McDowell's force was now beyond our reach, we should be entirely helpless. Apprehensions of something like this, and no unwillingness to sustain you, has always been my reason for withholding McDowell's forces from you.
Please understand this, and do the best you can with the forces you have. A. LINCOLN.
Later, on the same day, the President sent the following:
WASHINGTON, May 25, 1862.
Maj.-Gen. MCCLELLAN: The enemy is moving north in sufficient force to drive Banks before him-in precisely what force we can not tell. He is also threatening Leesburg and Geary on the Manassas Gap railroad, from both north and south, in precisely what force we can not tell. I think the movement is a general and concerted one, such as could not be if he was acting upon the purpose of a very desperate defense of Richmond. I think the time is near when you must either attack Richmond or give up the job, and come to the defense of Washington. Let me hear from you instantly.
On the same day, McClellan replied: "Telegram received. Independently of it, the time is very near when I shall attack Richmond. The object of the movement is probably to pre
I have two corps
vent reënforcements being sent to me. across the Chickahominy, within six miles of Richmond; the others on this side at other crossings within the same distance, and ready to cross when bridges are completed."
Gen. Stoneman was sent out with a small cavalry force to cut the Virginia Central railroad between the Chickahominy and Hanover Court House. This is the eastern one of two lines of railroad from Richmond, both of which meet at Hanover Junction, several miles beyond the Court House. The other extends nearly due north from Richmond to Fredericksburg and Acquia Creek. Both roads cross the South Anna river a few miles south of their junction, and at no great distance apart. To have destroyed both the South Anna bridges of these roads would have cut the enemy's direct communications with the forces in the Valley, and with those resisting McDowell's advance southward. In cutting only one of these roads, several miles south of the South Anna, very little was effected. The President anxiously telegraphed, on the 26th: "Can you not cut the Acquia Creek railroad also? What impression have you as to the intrenched works for you to contend with in front of Richmond? Can you get near enough to throw shells into the city?" McClellan replied (on the same day) that he had "cut the Virginia Central railroad in three places, between Hanover Court House and the Chickahominy," and would "try to cut the other." To the other questions of the President, he replied: "I do not think Richmond intrenchments formidable; but am not certain. Hope very soon to be within shelling distance. Have railroad in operation from White House to Chickahominy. Hope to have Chickahominy bridge repaired to-night. Nothing of interest to-day." Later, he telegraphed as follows:
CAMP NEAR NEW BRIDGE,
Have arranged to carry out your last orders. We are quietly closing in upon the enemy, preparatory to the last struggle. Situated as I am, I feel forced to take every possible precaution against disaster, and to secure my flanks against the probably superior force in front of me. My arrangements for to-morrow
are very important, and if successful, will leave me free to strike on the return of the force detached.
G. B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General. His Excellency, A. LINCOLN, President.
On the 27th, Fitz John Porter, with the Fifth Corps, was sent to disperse a Rebel force near Hanover Court House, threatening the communications of our army, and in a position to reënforce Jackson or to interfere with any southward movement of McDowell. This force was Branch's division, estimated to have been about nine thousand strong. Porter's corps, without needing the aid of Sykes' division of Regulars, sent to his support on the 28th, broke up the Rebel camp, and dispersed Branch's force. The result was thus announced by the Commanding General:
Porter's action of yesterday was truly a glorious victory; too much credit can not be given to his magnificent division and its accomplished leader. The rout of the rebels was complete; not a defeat, but a complete rout. Prisoners are constantly coming in; two companies have this moment arrived with excellent arms.
The President, after receiving this and other glowing dispatches on the subject, as well as repeated demands for reënforcements on the ground that all the Rebel forces were concentrating at Richmond, sent the following:
WASHINGTON, May 28, 1862.
I am very glad of Gen. F. J. Porter's victory; still, if it was a total rout of the enemy, I am puzzled to know why the Richmond and Fredericksburg railroad was not seized again, as you say you have all the railroads but the Richmond and Fredericksburg. I am puzzled to see how, lacking that, you can have any, except the scrap from Richmond to West Point. The scrap of the Virginia Central, from Richmond to Hanover Junction, without more, is simply nothing. That the whole of the enemy is concentrating on Richmond, I think, can not be certainly known to you or me. Saxton, at Harper's Ferry, informs us that large forces, supposed to be Jackson's and Ewell's, forced his advance from Charlestown to-day. Gen. King telegraphs us from Fredericksburg that contrabands give certain information that fifteen thousand left Hanover Junc
tion Monday morning to reënforce Jackson. I am painfully impressed with the importance of the struggle before you, and shall aid you all I can consistently with my view of due regard to all points. A. LINCOLN.
On the 29th, Gen. Marcy (chief of McClellan's staff) sent the following dispatch to the Secretary of War:
A detachment from Gen. F. J. Porter's command, under Major Williams, Sixth Cavalry, destroyed the South Anna railroad bridge at about 9 A. M. to-day; a large quantity of Confederate public property was also destroyed at Ashland this morning.
The President replied:
WASHINGTON, May 29, 1862.
Your dispatch as to the South Anna and Ashland being seized by our forces this morning is received. Understanding these points to be on the Richmond and Fredericksburg railroad, I heartily congratulate the country, and thank Gen. McClellan and his army for their seizure.
Gen. R. B. MARCY.
The President had previously telegraphed to Gen. McDowell, on the 28th: "If Porter effects a lodgment on both railroads, near Hanover Court House, consider whether your force in Fredericksburg should not push through and join him."
It is difficult to conceive any collateral operation which, at this juncture, could have had more positive results, than a thorough breaking of the enemy's communication with Jackson, by destroying the South Anna bridges and otherwise. After receiving the President's congratulations, however, on the supposed accomplishment of this object, the Commanding General telegraphed as follows-clearly implying that Porter's movement had really effected little in that direction, as the event proved:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, May 30, 1862. From the tone of your dispatches, and the President's, I do
not think you at all appreciate the value and magnitude of Porter's victory. It has entirely relieved my right flank, which was seriously threatened; routed and demoralized a considerable portion of the Rebel forces; taken over hundred and fifty prisoners; killed and wounded large numbers; one gun, many small arms, and much baggage taken. It was one of the handsomest things in the war, both in itself and in its results. Porter has returned, and my army is again well in hand. Another day will make the probable field of battle passable for artillery. It is quite certain that there is nothing in front of McDowell at Fredericksburg. I regard the burning of South Anna bridges as the least important result of Porter's movement.
G. B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General. Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
On the 29th, Mr. Lincoln had telegraphed: "I think we shall be able, within three days, to tell you certainly whether any considerable force of the enemy, Jackson or any one else, is moving on Harper's Ferry or vicinity. Take this expected development into your calculation." On the 31st, McClellan said in a dispatch: "A contraband reports that Beauregard arrived in Richmond day before yesterday with troops, and amid great excitement. .. Roads again frightful. Need more ambulances." At the same date, the President sent the following important information:
A circle whose circumference shall pass through Harper's Ferry, Front Royal and Strasburg, and whose center shall be a little north-east of Winchester, almost certainly has within it this morning the forces of Jackson, Ewell and Edward Johnson; quite certainly they were within it two days ago. Some part of their forces attacked Harper's Ferry at dark last evening. Shields, with McDowell's advance, retook Front Royal at 11 A. M. yesterday, with a dozen of our own prisoners taken there a week ago, one hundred and fifty of the enemy, etc. Shields at Front Royal reports a rumor of still an additional force of the enemy, supposed to be Anderson's, having entered the Valley of Virginia. This last may or may not be true. Corinth is certainly in the hands of Gen. Halleck.
The Army of the Potomac, as officially reported on the 31st. of May, numbered 127,166, of which force 98,008 were pres