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“WASHINGTON, July 3, 1862–3 p. m.
“Yours of 5.30 yesterday is just received. I am satisfied that yourself, officers and men, have done the best you could. All accounts say better
fighting was never done. Ten thousand thanks for it.
“A. LINCOLN. “Major General G. B. McCLELLAN.”
On the 4th I sent the following to the President:
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
“I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your despatch of the 2d instant. “I shall make a stand at this place, and endeavor to give my men the repose they so much require. “After sending my communication on Tuesday, the enemy attacked the left of our lines, and a fierce battle ensued, lasting until night; they were repulsed with great slaughter. Had their attack succeeded, the consequences would have been disastrous in the extreme. This closed the hard fighting which had continued from the afternoon of the 26th ultimo, in a daily series of engagements wholly unparalleled on this continent for determination and slaughter on both sides. “The mutual loss in killed and wounded is enormous. That of the enemy certainly greatest. On Tuesday morning, the 1st, our army commenced its movement from Haxall's to this point, our line of defence there being too extended to be maintained by our weakened forces. Our train was immense, and about 4 p.m. on the 2d a heavy storm of rain began, which continued during the entire day and until the forenoon of yesterday. “The roads became horrible. Troops, artillery, and wagons moved on steadily, and our whole army, men and material, was finally brought safe into this camp. “The last of the wagons reached here at noon yesterday. The exhaustion was very great, but the army preserved its morale, and would have repelled any attack which the enemy was in condition to make. “We now occupy a line of heights, about two miles from the James, a plain extending from there to the river; our front is about three miles long; these heights command our whole position, and must be maintained. The gunboats can render valuable support upon both flanks. If the enemy attack us in front 'we must hold our ground as we best may, and at whatever cost. “Our positions can be carried only by overwhelming numbers. The spirit of the army is excellent; stragglers are finding their regiments, and the soldiers exhibit the best results of discipline. Our position is by no means impregnable, especially as a morass extends on this side of the high ground from our centre to the James on our right. The enemy may attack in vast numbers, and if so, our front will be the scene of a desperate battle, which, if lost, will be decisive. Our army is fearfully weakened by killed, wounded and prisoners. “I cannot now approximate to any statement of our losses, but we were not beaten in any conflict. * “The enemy were unable, by their utmost efforts, to drive us from any field. Never did such a change of base, involving a retrograde movement, and under incessant attacks from a most determined and vastly more numerous foe, partake so little of disorder. We have lost no guns except 25 on the field of battle, 21 of which were lost by the giving way of McCall's division, under the onset of superior numbers.
“Our communications by the James river are not secure. There are points where the enemy can establish themselves with cannon or musketry and command the river, and where it is not certain that our gunboats can drive them out. In case of this, or in case our front is broken, I will still make every effort to preserve, at least, the personnel of the army, and the events of the last few days leave no question that the troops will do all that their country can ask. Send such re-enforcements as you can; I will do what I can. We are shipping our wounded and sick and landing supplies. The Navy Department should co-operate with us to the extent of its resources. Captain Rodgers is doing all in his power in the kindest and most efficient manner.
“When all the circumstances of the case are known, it will be acknowledged by all competent judges that the movement just completed by this army is unparalleled in the annals of war. Under the most difficult circumstances we have preserved our trains, our guns, our material, and, above all, our honor.
“G. B. McCLELLAN, “Major General. “The PRESIDENT."
To which I received the following reply:
“A thousand thanks for the relief your two despatches, of twelve and one p.m. yesterday, gave me. Be assured the heroism and skill of yourself and officers and men is, and forever will be, appreciated. “If you can hold your present position we shall hive the enemy yet. “A. LINCOLN. “Maj. Gen. G. B. McCLELLAN, “Commanding Army of the Potomac.”.
The following letters were received from his excellency the President:
“WAR IDEPARTMENT, - “Washington City, D.C., July 4, 1862.
“I understand your position as stated in your letter, and by General Marcy. To re-enforce you so as to enable you to resume the offensive within a month, or even six weeks, is impossible. In addition to that arrived and now arriving from the Potomac, (about ten thousand men, I suppose,) and about ten thousand, I hope, you will have from Burnside very soon, and about five thousand from Hunter a little later, I do not see how I can send you another man within a month. Under these circumstances, the defensive, for the present, must be your only care. Save the army, first, where you are, if you can, and, secondly, by removal, if you must. You, on the ground, must be the judge as to which you will attempt, and of the means for effecting it. I but give it as my opinion, that with the aid of the gunboats and the re-enforcements mentioned above, you can hold your present position; provided, and so long as you can keep the James river open below you. If you are not tolerably confident you can keep the James river open, you had better remove as soon as possible. I do not remember that you have expressed any apprehension as to the danger of having i. communication cut on the river below you, yet I do not suppose it can have escaped your attention.
“Yours, very truly, “A. LINCOLN. “Major General McCLELLAN.”
“P. S.—If at any time you feel able to take the offensive, you are not restrained from doing so.
The following telegram was sent on the 7th :
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY of THE POToMAC,
“As boat is starting, I have only time to acknowledge receipt of despatch by General Marcy. Enemy have not attacked. My position is very strong, and daily becoming more so. If not attacked to-day, I shall laugh at them. I have been anxious about my communications. Had long consultation about it with Flag-officer Goldsborough last night; he is confident he can keep river open. He should have all gunboats possible. Will see him again this morning. My men in splendid spirits and anxious to try it again.
“Alarm yourself as little as possible about me, and don't lose confidence in
this army. “G. B. McCLELLAN, “Major General.
“A. LIN colN, President.”
While general-in-chief, and directing the operations of all our armies in the field, I had become deeply impressed with the importance of adopting and carrying out certain views regarding the conduct of the war, which, in my judgment, were essential to its objects and its success.
During an active campaign of three months in the enemy's country, these were so fully confirmed that I conceived it a duty, in the critical position we then occupied, not to withhold a candid expression of the more important of these views from the commander-in-chief, whom the Constitution places at the head of the armies and navies, as well as of the government of the nation.
The following is a copy of my letter to Mr. Lincoln:
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY of THE PotoMAC, “Camp near Harrison's Landing, Va., July 7, 1862.
“MR. PRESIDENT: You have been fully informed that the rebel army is in the front, with the purpose of overwhelming us by attacking our positions or reducing us by blocking our river communications. I cannot but regard our condition as critical, and I earnestly desire, in view of possible contingencies, to lay before your excellency, for your private consideration, my general views concerning the existing state of the rebellion, although they do not strictly relate to the situation of this army, or strictly come within the scope of my official duties. These views amount to convictions, and are deeply impressed upon my mind and heart. Our cause must never be abandoned; it is the cause of free institutions and self-government. The Constitution and the Union must be preserved, whatever may be the cost in time, treasure, and blood. If seces. sion is successful, other dissolutions are clearly to be seen in the future. Let neither military disaster, political faction, nor foreign war shake your settled purpose to enforce the equal operation of the laws of the United States upon the people of every State. “The time has come when the government must determine upon a civil and military policy, covering the whole ground of our national trouble. “The responsibility of determining, declaring, and supporting such civil and military policy, and of directing the whole course of national affairs in regard to the rebellion, must now be assumed and exercised by you, or our cause will be lost. The Constitution gives you power, even for the present terrible exigency. “This rebellion has assumed the character of a war; as such it should be regarded, and it should be conducted upon the highest principles known to christian civilization. It should not be a war looking to the subjugation of the people of any State, in any event. It should not be at all a war upon population, but against armed forces and political organizations. Neither confiscation
of property, political executions of persons, territorial organization of States, or forcible abolition of slavery, should be contemplated for a moment. “In prosecuting the war, all private property and unarmed persons should be strictly protected, subject only to the necessity of military operations; all private property taken for military use should be paid or receipted for; pillage and waste should be treated as high crimes; all unnecessary trespass sternly prohibited, and offensive demeanor by the military towards citizens promptly rebuked. Military arrests should not be tolerated, except in places where active hostilities exist; and oaths, not required by enactments, constitutionally made, should be neither demanded nor received. “Military government should be confined to the preservation of public order and the protection of political right. Military power should not be allowed to interfere with the relations of servitude, either by supporting or impairing the authority of the master, except for repressing disorder, as in other cases. Slaves, contraband under the act of Congress, seeking military protection, should receive it. The right of the government to appropriate permanently to its own service claims to slave labor should be asserted, and the right of the owner to compensation therefor should be recognized. This principle might be extended, upon grounds of military necessity and security, to all the slaves of a particular State, thus working manumission in such State; and in Missouri, perhaps in Western Virginia also, and possibly even in Maryland, the expediency of such a measure is only a question of time. A system of policy thus constitutional, and pervaded by the influences of Christianity and freedom, would receive the support of almost all truly loyal men, would deeply impress the rebel masses and all foreign nations, and it might be humbly hoped that it would commend itself to the favor of the Almighty. “ Unless the principles governing the future conduct of our struggle shall be made known and approved, the effort to obtain requisite forces will be almost hopeless. A declaration of radical views, especially upon slavery, will rapidly disintegrate our present armies. The policy of the government must be supported by concentrations of military power. The national forces should not be dispersed in expeditions, posts of occupation, and numerous armies, but should be mainly collected into masses, and brought to bear upon the armies of the Confederate States. Those armies thoroughly defeated, the political structure which they support would soon cease to exist. “In carrying out any system of policy which you may form, you will require a commander-in-chief of the army, one who possesses your confidence, understands your views, and who is competent to execute your orders, by directing the military forces of the nation to the accomplishment of the objects by you proposed. I do not ask that place for myself. I am willing to serve you in such position as you may assign me, and I will do so as faithfully as ever subordinate served superior. “I may be on the brink of eternity; and as I hope forgiveness from my Maker, I have written this letter with sincerity towards you and from love for my country. “Very respectfully, your obedient servant, “GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, “Major General, Commanding. “His Excellency A. LINcoLN, President.”
I telegraphed the President on the 11th as follows:
“HEADQUARTERs ARMY of THE POTOMAC, “Berkeley, July 11, 1862–3 p.m. # # # # # #
“We are very strong here now, so far as defensive is concerned. Hope you will soon make us strong enough to advance and try it again. All in fine
These telegrams were sent on the 12th, 17th, and 18th, to his excellency the President: “HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, “Berkeley, July 12, 1862–7.15 a. m.
“Hill and Longstreet crossed into New Kent county, via Long bridge. I am still ignorant what road they afterwards took, but will know shortly.
“Nothing else of interest since last despatch. Rain ceased, and everything quiet. Men resting well, but beginning to be impatient for another fight.
“I am more and more convinced that this army ought not to be withdrawn from here, but promptly re-enforced and thrown again upon Richmond. If we have a little more than half a chance we can take it.
“I dread the effects of any retreat upon the morale of the men.
“GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, - “Major General, Commanding. “A. LINCOLN, President.”
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY of THE PotoMAC,
“I have consulted fully with General Burnside, and would commend to your favorable consideration the general's plan for bringing (7) seven additional regiments from North Carolina by leaving Newbern to the care of the gunboats. It appears manifestly to be our policy to concentrate here everything we can possibly spare from less important points, to make sure of crushing the enemy at Richmond, which seems clearly to be the most important point in rebeldom. Nothing should be left to chance here. I would recommend that General Burnside, with all his troops, be ordered to this army, to enable it to assume the offensive as soon as possible.
“GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, “Major General, Commanding. “A. LINCoLN, President.”
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
“No change worth reporting in the state of affairs. Some (20,000) twenty thousand to (25,000) twenty-five thousand of the enemy at Petersburg, and others thence to Richmond. “Those at Petersburg say they are part of Beauregard’s army. New troops arriving via Petersburg. Am anxious to have determination of government that no time may be lost in preparing for it. Hours are very precious now, and perfect unity of action necessary. “GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, * * “Major General, Commanding. .*A. LINColn, President.”