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The following was telegraphed to General Halleck on the 28th :
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
“Nothing especially new except corroboration of reports that re-enforcements are reaching Richmond from south. It is not confirmed that any of Bragg's troops. are yet here. My opinion is more and more firm that here is the defence of Washington, and that I should be at once re-enforced by all available troops to enable me to advance. Retreat would be disastrous to the army and the cause.
I am confident of that.
On the 30th I sent the following to the general-in-chief:
“I hope that it may soon be decided what is to be done by this army, and that the decision may be to re-enforce it at once. We are losing much valuable time, and that at a moment when energy and decision are sadly needed. “GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, “Major General. “Major General H. W. HALLEck, “Commanding U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.”
About half an hour after midnight, on the morning of August 1, the enemy brought some light batteries to Coggin's point and the Coles house, on the right bank of James river, directly opposite Harrison's landing, and opened a heavy fire upon our shipping and encampments. . It was continued rapidly for about thirty minutes, when they were driven back by the fire of our guns; this affair was reported in the following despatch:
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY of The PotoMAC,
“Firing of night before last killed some ten (10) men and wounded about (15) fifteen.
“No harm of the slightest consequence done to the shipping, although several were struck. Sent party across river yesterday to the Coles house, destroyed it and cut down the timber; will complete work to-day, and also send party to Coggin's point, which I will probably occupy. I will attend to your telegraph about pressing at once; will send Hooker out. Give me Burnside, and I will stir these people up. I need more cavalry; have only (3,700) thirty-seven hundred for duty in cavalry division.
“Adjutant General's office forgot to send Sykes's commission as major general, with those of other division commanders; do me the favor to hurry it on.
“G. B. McGLELLAN, “Major General, Commanding. “Major General H. W. HALLEck, “ Washington, D. C.”
To prevent another demonstration of this charac'er, and to insure a debouche on the south bank of the James, it became necessary to occapy Coggin's point, which was done on the 3d, and the enemy, as will be seen from the following despatch, driven back towards Petersburg:
* “Headquarters ARMY of THE PotoMAC, “Berkeley, August 3, 1862–10 p.m. “Coggin's point was occupied to-day, and timber felled so as to make it quite defensible. I went over the ground myself, and found that Duane had, as usual, selected an admirable position, which can be intrenched with a small amount of labor, so as to make it a formidable téte de pont, covering the landing of a large force. “I shall begin intrenching it by the labor of contrabands to-morrow. The position covers the Coles house, which is directly in front of Westover. We have now a safe debouche on the south bank, and are secure against midnight cannonading. A few thousand more men would place us in condition at least to annoy and disconcert the enemy very much. “I sent Colonel Averill this morning with three hundred (300) cavalry to examine the country on the south side of the James, and try to catch some cavalry at Sycamore church, which is on the main road from Petersburg to Suffolk, and some five (5) miles from the Coles house. IIe found a cavalry force of five hundred and fifty (550) men, attacked them at once, drove in their advance guards to their camp, where we had a sharp skirmish, and drove them off in disorder. “He burned their entire camp, with their commissary and quartermaster's stores, and then returned and re-crossed the river. He took but (2) two prisoners, had one man wounded by a ball, and one by a sabre cut. “Captain McIntosh made a handsome charge. The troops engaged were of the (5th) fifth regulars, and the (3d) third Pennsylvania cavalry. “Colonel Averill conducted this affair, as he does everything he undertakes,
to my entire satisfaction. “G. B. McCLELLAN, “Major General, Commanding.
“Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLEck,
On the 1st of August I received the following despatches: “WASHINGTON, July 30, 1862—8 p.m. “A despatch just received from General Pope says that deserters report that the enemy is moving south of James river, and that the force in Richmond is very small. I suggest he be pressed in that direction, so as to ascertain the
facts of the case.
“H. W. HALLECK, - - “Major General. “Maj. Gen. G. B. McCLELLAN.”
“WASHINGTON, July 30, 1862—8 p.m. “In order to enable you to move in any direction, it is necessary to relieve you of your sick. The Surgeon General has, therefore, been directed to make arrangements for them at other places, and the Quartermaster General to provide transportation. I hope you will send them away as quickly as possible, and
advise me of their removal. “H. W. HALLECK, “Major General.
“Maj. Gen. G. B. McCLELLAN.”
It is clear that the general-in-chief attached some weight to the report received from General Pope, and I was justified in supposing that the order in regard to the removing the sick contemplated an offensive movement rather
than a retreat, as I had no other data than the telegrams just given, from which to form an opinion as to the intentions of the government. The following telegram strengthened me in that belief:
“WASHINGTON, July 31, 1862–10 a. m.
“General Pope again telegraphs that the enemy is reported to be evacuating Richmond, and falling back on Danville and Lynchburg. - “H. W. HALLECK, “Major General. “Maj. Gen. G. B. McCLELLAN.”
In occupying Coggin's point, as already described, I was influenced by the necessity of possessing a secure debouche on the south of the James, in order to enable me to move on the communications of Richmond in that direction, as well as to prevent a repetition of midnight cannonades.
To carry out General Halleck's first order, of July 30, it was necessary first to gain possession of Malvern hill, which was occupied by the enemy, apparently in some little force, and controlled the direct approach to Richmond. Its temporary occupation, at least, was equally necessary in the event of a movement upon Petersburg, or even the abandonment of the Peninsula. General Hooker, with his own division, and Pleasonton's cavalry, was therefore directed to gain possession of Malvern hill on the night of the 2d of August.
He failed to do so, as the following despatch recites:
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY of The PotoMAC,
“The movement undertaken up the river last night failed on account of the incompetency of guides.
“The proper steps have been taken to-day to remedy this evil, and I hope to be ready to-morrow night to carry out your suggestions as to pressing, at least to accomplish the first indispensable step.
“G. B. McCLELLAN, “Major General, Commanding. “Maj. Gen. HALLEck, “Commanding United States Army.”
On the 4th General Hooker was re-enforced by General Sedgwick's division, and having obtained a knowledge of the roads, he succeeded in turning Malvern hill, and driving the enemy back towards Richmond.
The following is my report of this affair at the time:
“MALVERN HILL, August 5, 1862–1 p. m.
“General Hooker, at 5.30 this morning, attacked a very considerable force of infantry and artillery stationed at this place, and carried it handsomely, driving the enemy towards New Market, which is four miles distant, and where it is said they have a large force. We have captured 100 prisoners, killed and wounded several, with a loss on our part of only three killed and eleven wounded; among the latter, two officers. “I shall probably remain here to-night, ready to act as circumstances may require, after the return of my cavalry reconnoissances. “The mass of the enemy escaped under the cover of a dense fog; but our cavalry are still in pursuit, and I trust may succeed in capturing many more. “This is a very advantageous position to cover an advance on Richmond, and only 143 miles distant; and I feel confident that with re-enforcements I would march this army there in five days. “I this instant learn that several brigades of the enemy are four miles from here on the Quaker road, and I have taken steps to prepare to meet them.
“General Hooker's dispositions were admirable, and his officers and men displayed their usual gallantry. “GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, - “Major General, Commanding. “Major General H. W. HALLEck, “Commanding United States Army.”
“MALverN Hill, August 5, 1862—8 p.m.
“Since my last despatch Colonel Averill has returned from a reconnoissance, in the direction of Savage's station, towards Richmond. He encountered the 18th Virginia cavalry near White Oak swamp bridge, charged and drove them some distance towards Richmond, capturing 28 men and horses, killing and wounding several.
“Our troops have advanced (12) twelve miles in one direction, and (17) seventeen in another, towards Richmond to-day.
“We have secured a strong position at Coggin's point, opposite our quartermaster's depot, which will effectually prevent the rebels from using artillery hereafter against our camps.
“I learn this evening that there is a force of 20,000 men about six miles back from this point, on the south bank of the river. What their object is I do not know, but will keep a sharp lookout on their movements.
“I am sending off sick as rapidly as our transports will take them. I am also doing everything in my power to carry out your orders, to push reconnoissances towards the rebel capital, and hope soon to find out whether the reports regarding the abandonment of that place are true.
“GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, “Major General. “Major General H. W. HALLEck, “Commanding United States Army.”
To the despatch of 1 p.m., August 5, the following answer was received:
And soon after the following:
“WASHINGTON, August 6, 1862.
“You will immediately send a regiment of cavalry and several batteries of artillery to Burnside's command at Aquia creek. It is reported that Jackson
is moving north with a very large force.
“Major General. “Major General G. B. McCLELLAN.”
On the 4th I had received General Halleck's order of the 3d, (which appears below,) directing me to withdraw the army to Aquia, and on the same day sent an earnest protest against it. A few hours before this, General Hooker had informed me that his cavalry pickets reported large bodies of the enemy advancing and driving them in, and that he would probably be attacked at daybreak.
Under these circumstances I had determined to support him; but as I could not get the whole army in position until the next afternoon, I concluded, upon the receipt of the above telegram from the general-in-chief, to withdraw General
Hooker, that there might be the least possible delay in conforming to General Halleck's orders. I therefore sent to General Hooker the following letter:
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY of the PotoMAC,
“My DEAR GENERAL: I find it will not be possible to get the whole army
into position before some time to-morrow afternoon, which will be too late to sup
port you, and hold the entire position, should the enemy attack in large force at daybreak, which there is strong reasons to suppose he intends doing. “Should we fight a general battle at Malvern, it will be necessary to abandon the whole of our works here, and run the risk of getting back here. “Under advices I have received from Washington, I think it necessary for you to abandon the position to-night, getting everything away before daylight. “Please leave cavalry pickets at Malvern, with orders to destroy the Turkey creek bridge when they are forced back. “The roads leading into Haxall’s from the right should be strongly watched, and Haxall’s at least held by strong cavalry force and some light batteries as long as possible. “I leave the manner of the withdrawal entirely to your discretion. “Please signal to the fleet when the withdrawal is about completed. “Report frequently to these headquarters. “General Summer was ordered up to support you, but will halt where this passes him, and will inform you where he is. “GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, “Major General. “General J. HookER, “Commanding at Malvern Hill.”
And the following reply was sent to General Halleck:
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE PotoMAC,
“Despatch of to-day received. I have not quite (4,000) four thousand cavalry for duty in cavalry division, so that I cannot possibly spare any more.
“I really need many more than I now have to carry out your instructions.
“The enemy are moving a large force on Malvern hill. In view of your despatches, and the fact that I cannot place the whole army in position before daybreak, I have ordered Hooker to withdraw during the night if it is possible; if he cannot do so, I must support him.
“Until this matter is developed I cannot send any batteries; I hope I can do so to-morrow if transportation is on hand.
“I will obey the order as soon as circumstances permit. My artillery is none too numerous now. I have only been able to send off some (1,200) twelve hundred sick. No transportation. There shall be no delay that I can avoid.
“GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, “Major General, Commanding. “Major General H. W. BALLEck, “Commanding U. S. Army.”
Five batteries, with their horses and equipments complete, were embarked on the 7th and 8th, simultaneously with General Hooker's operations upon MalVern.
I despatched a cavalry force under Colonel Averill towards Savage's station, to ascertain if the enemy were making any movements towards our right