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216

SECRET OF HIS POPULARITY.

affecting and imposing a spectacle as was this farewell of Gen. McClellan to the army, whose leader he had been for eighteen months. After visiting the troops at Warrenton and vicinity, he rode out to New Baltimore, where Smith's Division had arrived. The various Regiments were drawn up in line, with bright uniforms and burnished arms, and as their late Chief passed slowly before them, rent the air with cheers. It was a great ovation, shrouded in the gloom of a funeral occasion.

Gen. McClellan's connection with the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac was ended, but nothing could sever the bonds of friendship and affection which united him to them. To many the secret of this great popularity has ever been a mystery. It arose from a variety of causes. It is rarely the case that a Regiment does not become attached to its Colonel, a Brigade to its Brigadier, and a Division or Corps to its Major-General. In the same manner the army became attached to its commander. Long connection increases this attachment, and General McClellan had been associated with these soldiers for nearly a year and a half.

Gen. McClellan possessed a physique and address calculated to excite admiration. Indeed, it was proverbial in the army that no one could doff his hat so gracefully as “Little Mac.” In addition to being Napoleonic in his appearance, he was Napoleonic in his speeches and orders, which equally won their hearts. He was likewise free from that boasting spirit which had made Pope so unpopular.

THE ENTHUSIASM FOR HIM NOT UNIVERSAL.

217

He visited frequently among his troops—an important means of winning popularity. His Generals, appointed and promoted through his influence, thoroughly infused a McClellan element into their commands. An army of Generals bear very much the same relation to their Chief that office-holders do to the head of their party. By maintaining him in his position, they ensure their own, and in promoting his interests, they promote themselves. Especially is this true under a Democratic form of Government, where politics exert such an undue influence in the army.

Gen. McClellan's troops were, furthermore, of the opinion that his plans had been interfered with by · the Washington authorities, and promised reinforcements withheld at the very moment he most needed them. Finally, they believed that he could lead them to victory.

When we speak of this enthusiasm for General McClellan, we do not, however, imply that it was universal. Not only Burnside, but his whole Ninth Army Corps, began to question his military capacity, when he failed to “push the enemy to the wall,” on the day succeeding the battle of Antietam. The troops who had previously been attached to the Department of Virginia proper, as well as the new levies, were to a certain extent indifferent as to who might be their leader.

218 GENERAL BURNSIDE'S ADDRESS TO THE ARMY.

CHAPTER XXIV.

Gen. McClellan's Departure.-Gen. Burnside's Address.- March to Fredericksburg.--Reasons for choosing this Route.--Randolph Estate.-Failure of the Pontoons to Arrive.-Stafford Court House-The Thirty-third preparing Winter Quarters.—Scouting Parties.—The Ashby Family

GEN. MCCLELLAN took his departure for Washington on a special train from Warrenton, Tuesday noon, and Gen. Burnside assumed command, after issuing the following address :

“In accordance with General Orders No. 182, issued by the President of the United States, I hereby assume command of the Army of the Potomac. Patriotism and the exercise of my every energy in the direction of this army, aided by the full and hearty co-operation of its officers and men, will, I hope, under the blessing of God, ensure its success.

“Having been a sharer of the privations, and a witness of the bravery of the old Army of the Potomac in the Maryland campaign, and fully identified with them in their feelings of respect and esteem for Gen. McClellan, entertained through a long and most friendly association with him, I feel that it is not as a stranger that I assume command.

“To the Ninth Army Corps, so long and intimately associated with me, I need say nothing. Our histories are identical.

“With diffidence for myself, but with a proud con

ORGANIZATION OF GRAND DIVISIONS.

219

fidence in the unswerving loyalty and determination of the gallant army now entrusted to my care, I accept its control, with the steadfast assurance that the just cause must prevail.

“A. E. BURNSIDE, Major-General Commanding."

He immediately proceeded to organize the army into three Grand Divisions—the Second and Ninth Corps, under Sumner, comprising the right; Third and Fifth, under Hooker, the centre; and First and Sixth, under Franklin, the left. Gen. Smith succeeded Franklin in the command of the Sixth Corps, and Gen. Howe was placed in charge of the Division.

We had now obtained possession of all the Gaps in the Blue Ridge. But we had merely locked the door after the escape of the animal, for the enemy, instead of being cooped up in the Shenandoah Valley, were in advance of us, well on their way to Culpepper. After mature deliberation and consultation with Gen. Halleck, who had arrived at Warrenton, Gen. Burnside decided to march rapidly to Fredericksburg, cross the Rappahannock at that place, and pushing southward, seize some point on the railroad, and fight a battle with Lee before he could mass all his forces. His reasons for choosing this route in preference to the one by Gordonsville, he has since stated, as follows: “The further we got into the interior of Virginia the larger would be our line of communications, and the greater would be

220 REASONS FOR THE FREDERICKSBURG ROUTE.

the difficulty we would have in keeping them open, as the enemy had on our right flank a Corps that at almost any time could, by a rapid movement, seriously embarrass us. If we were caught by the elements so far from our base of supplies, and at the same time in the enemy's country, where they had means of getting information that we had not, it might, I thought, prove disastrous to the army, as we had but one line of railway by which to supply it. In moving upon Fredericksburg, we would all the time be as near Washington as would the enemy; and after arriving at Fredericksburg, we would be at a point nearer Richmond than we would be even if we should take Gordonsville. On the Gordonsville line the enemy, in my opinion, would not give us a decisive battle at any place this side of Richmond. They could defend Gordonsville until such time as they felt they had given us a check, and then with so many lines of rail open to them, they would move upon Richmond or Lynchburg, and, in either case, the difficulty of following them would be very great." Gen. Halleck agreed to have the pontoons ready for him at Falmouth, opposite Fredericksburg, on his arrival.

Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 15th and 16th, the army started in a south-easterly direction in three columns, with the exception of a small force, which bore off towards Culpepper, to mislead and cause the enemy to think we were going to advance in that direction. The Thirty-third broke camp early on Sunday, and marching sixteen miles, encamped

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