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In The House Of Representatives, January 13, J 864.
Resolved, That ten thousand copies of the official report of Major General McClellan (not including the accompanying documents) be printed for the use of the members of the present House.
38th Congress, ) HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. (Ex. Doc. 1st Session. ) \ No. 15.
ORGANIZATION OF THE. ARMY. OF THE POTOMAC.
L ET T E E
THE SECRETARY OF WAR,
The report of Major General George B. McClellan upon the organization of the Army of the Potomac, and its campaigns in Virginia and Maryland, from July 26, 1861, to November 7, 1862.
December 23, 1863.-—Laid on the table and ordered to be printed.
War Department, Washington City, D. C, December 22, 1863. Sir: In compliance with the resolution dated December 15, 1863, I have the honor to communicate herewith "the report made by Major General George B. McClellan, concerning the organization and operations of the army of the Potomac while under his command, and of all army operations while he was commander-in-chief."
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
Hon. Schuyler Colfax,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
New York, August 4, 1863.
Sir: I have the honor to submit herein the official report of the operations of the army of the Potomac while under my charge. Accompanying it are the reports of the corps, division, and subordinate commanders, pertaining to the various engagements, battles, and occurrences of the campaigns, and important documents connected with its organization, supply, and movements. These, with lists of maps and memoranda submitted, will be found appended, duly arranged, and marked for convenient reference.
Charged, in the spring of 1861, with the operations in the department of the Ohio, which included the States of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and latterly Western Virginia, it had become my duty to counteract the hostile designs of the enemy in Western Virginia, which were immediately directed to the destruction of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad and the possession of the Kanawha valley, with the ultimate object of gaining Wheeling and the control of the Ohio river.
The successful affairs of Phillippi, Rich Mountain, Carrick's Ford, &c., had been fought, and I had acquired possession of all Western Virginia north of the Kanawha valley, as well as of the lower portion of that valley.
I had determined to proceed to the relief of the upper Kanawha valley, as soon as provision was made for the permanent defence of the mountain passes leading from the east into tlie region under control, when I received at Beverly, in Randolph county, on the 21st of July, 1861, intelligence of the unfortunate result of the battle of Manassas, fought on that day.
On the 22d I received an order by telegraph, directing me to turn over my command to Brigadier General Rosecrans, and repair at once to Washington.
I had already caused reconnoissances to be made for intrenchments at the Cheat Mountain pass; also on the Hunterville road, near Elkwater, and at Red House, near the main road from Romney to Grafton. During the afternoon and night of the 22d I gave the final instructions for the construction of these works, turned over the command to Brigadier General Rosecrans, and started, on the morning of the 23d, for Washington, arriving there on the afternoon of the 26th. On the 27th I assumed command of the division of the Potomac, comprising the troops in and around Washington, on both banks of the river.
With this brief statement of the events which immediately preceded my being called to the command of the troops at Washington, I proceed to an account, from such authentic data as are at hand, of my military operations while commander of the army of the Potomac.
The subjects to be considered naturally arrange themselves as follows:
The organization of the army of the Potomac. The military events connected with the defences of Washington, from July, 1861, to March, 1862. The campaign on the Peninsula, and that in Maryland.
The great resources and capacity for powerful resistance of the sojjth at the breaking out of the rebellion, and the full proportions of the great conflict about to take place, were sought to be carefully measured; and I had also endeavored, by every means in my power, to impress upon the authorities the necessity for such immediate and full preparation as alone would enable the government to prosecute the war on a scale commensurate with the resistance to be offered.
On the fourth of August, 1861, I addressed to the President the following memorandum, prepared at his request:
The object of the present war differs from those in which nations are engaged, mainly in this: that the purpose of ordinary war is to conquer a peace, and make a treaty ou advantageous terms; in this contest it has become necessary to crush a population sufficiently numerous, intelligent and warlike to constitute a nation. We have not only to defeat their armed and organized forces in the field, but to display such an overwhelming strength as will convince all our antagonists, especially those of the governing, aristocratic class, of the utter impossibility of resistance. Our late reverses make this course imperative. Had we been successful in the recent battle, (Manassas,) it is possible that we might have been spared the labor and expenses of a great effort.
Now we have no alternative. Their success will enable the political leaders of the rebels to convince the mass of their people that we are inferior to them in force and courage, and to command all their resources. The contest began with a class, now it is with a people—our military success can alone restore the former issue.
By thoroughly defeating their armies, taking their strong places, and pursuing a rigidly protective policy as to private property and unarmed persons, and a lenient course as to private soldiers, we may well hope for a permanent restoration of a peaceful Union. But in the first instance the authority of the government must be supported by overwhelming physical force.
Our foreign relations and financial credit also imperatively demand that the military action of the government should be prompt and irresistible.
The rebels have chosen Virginia as their battle-field, and it seems proper for us to make the first great struggle there. But while thus directing our main efforts, it is necessary to diminish the resistance there offered us, by movements on other points both by land and water.
Without entering at present into details, I would advise that a strong movement be made on the Mississippi, and that the rebels be driven out of Missouri.
As soon as it becomes perfectly clear that Kentucky is cordially united with us, I would advise a movement through that State into Eastern Tennessee, for the purpose of assisting the Union men of that region and of seizing the railroads leading from Memphis to the east.
The possession of those roads by us, in connexion with the movement on the Mississippi, would go far towards determining the evacuation of Virginia by the rebels. In the mean time all the passes into Western Virginia from the east should be securely guarded, but I would advise no movement from that quarter towards Richmond, unless the political condition of Kentucky renders it impossible or inexpedient for us to make the movement upon Eastern Tennessee through that State. Every effort should, however, be made to organize,, equip and arm as many troops as possible in Western Virginia, in order to render the Ohio and Indiana regiments available for other operations.
At as early a day as practicable, it would be well to protect and re-open theBaltimore and Ohio railroad. Baltimore and Fort Monroe should be occupied by garrisons sufficient to retain them in our possession.
The importance of Harper's Ferry and the line of the Potomac in the direction of Leesburg will be very materially diminished so soon as our force in this vicinity becomes organized, strong and efficient, because no capable general will cross the river north of this ,city, when we have a strong army here ready to cut off his retreat.