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the nature of the river, it was doubtful and subsistence on the Virginia side, to whether such a bridge could be constructed; supply the troops, and enable them to move that if it could not, I would at least occupy on Winchester, independently of the bridge. the ground in front of Harper's Ferry, in The next day (Friday), I sent a strong reorder to cover the rebuilding of the rail. connoissance to Charlestown, and under its road bridge; and finally, when the com- protection, went there myself. I then de. munications were perfectly secure, move termined to hold that place, and to move op Winchester.
the troops composing Lander's and Wil" When I arrived at the place I found liains's commands at once on Martinsbury the batteau bridge nearly completed; the and Bunker Hill, thus effectually covering holding-ground proved better than had been the reconstruction of the railroad. anticipated; the weather was favorable, “Having done this, and taken all the there being no wind. I at once crossed steps in my power to insure the rapid trans. over the two brigades which had arrived, mission of supplies over the river, I reand took steps to hurry up the other two, turned to this city, well satisfied with what belonging respectively to Banks's and had been accomplislied. While up the Sedgwick's divisions. The difficulty of river I learned that the President was discrossing supplies had not then become ap- satisfied with the state of affairs; but on parent. That night I telegraphed for a my return here, understood from the Secregiment of regular cavalry and four bat- retary of War that upon learning the teries of heavy artillery to come up the whole state of the case the President was next day (Tbursday), besides directing fully satisfied. I contented myself thereKeyes's division of infantry to be moved up : fore with giving to the Secretary a brief on Friday.
statement, as I have written here." “Next morning the attempt was made The design aimed at was entirely conto pass the canal boats through the lift- passed, and before the first of April, the lock, in order to commence at once the date of my departure for the Peninsula, construction of the permanent bridge. It the railroad was in running order. As a was then found for the first time that the demonstration upon the left flank of the lock was too small to permit the passage enemy, this movement no doubt assisted in of the boats, it having been built for a class deteripining the evacuation of his lines on of boats running on the Shepandoah canal, the 8th and 9th of March. and too narrow by some four or six inches On my return from Harper's Ferry, on for the canal boats. The lift-locks, above the 28th of February, the preparations and below, are all large enough for the necessary to carry out the wishes of the ordinary boats. I had seen them at Ed- President and Secretary of War in regara wards's ferry thus used. It has always been to destroying the batteries 00 the lower represented to the engineers by the mili- Potomac were at once undertaken. Mature tary railroad employees, and others, that reflection couvinced me that this operation the lock was large enough, and the differ. would require the movement of the entire ence being too small to be detected by the army, for I felt sure that the enemy would eye, no one had thought of measuring it, resist it with his whole strength. I under. or suspecting any difficulty. I thus sud- took it with great reluctance, both ou denly found myself unable to build the account of the extremely unfavorable permanent bridge. A violent gale had condition of the roads and my firm conarisen, which threatened the safety of our viction that the proposed movement to the only means of communication; the narrow lower Chesapeake would necessarily, as it approach to the bridge was so crowded and subsequently did, force the enemy to clogged with wagons that it was very clear abandon all his positions in front of Washthat, under existing circumstances, nothing ington. Besides, it did not forward my more could be done than to cross over the plan of campaign to precipitate this evacuabaggage and supplies of the two brigades. tion by any direct attack, nor to subject Of the others, instead of being able to cross the army to any needless loss of life and both during the morning, the last arrived material by a battle near Washington, only in time to go over jusi before dark. which could produce no decisive results. It was evident that the troops under orders The preparations for a movement towards would only be in the way, should they the Occoquan, to carry the batteries, were, arrive, and that it would not be possible however advanced as rapidly as the season to subsist thein for a rapid march on Win- permitted, and I had invited the comchester. It was therefore deemed neces- manders of divisions to meet at headsary to countermand the order, content quarters on the 8th of March, for the ourselves with covering the reopening of purpose of giving them their instructions, the railroad for the present, and in the and receiving their advice and opinion in meantime use every exertion to establish, regard to their commands, when an interas promptly as possible, depots of forage view with the President. iudicated to
me the possibilty of a change in my tions, or until the President shall hereafter orders.
give express permission. Il is excellency sent for me at a very early “That any movement as aforesaid. en hour on the morning of the 8th, and re-route for a new base of operations, which newed his expressions of dissatisfaction may be ordered by the general-in-chief, with the affair of Harper's Ferry, and and which may be intended to move upon with my plans for the new movement down the Chesapeake bay, shall begin to move the Chesapeake. Another recital of the upon the day as early as the 18th March, same facts which had before given satisfac instant, and the general-in-chief shall be tion to his excellency again produced, as responsible that it mores as early as that I supposed, the same result.
The views which I expressed to the 1 * Ordered, That the army and navy coPresident were re-enforced by the result of operate in an immediate effort to capture a meeting of my general officers at head the enemy's batteries upon the Potomac quarters. At that meeting my plans were between Washington and the Chesapeake laid before the division commanders, and bay. were approved by a majority of those
“ABRAHAM LINCOLN present. Nevertheless, on the same day! “L. THOMAS, Adj. Gen.'' two important orders were issued by the President, without consultation with me. After what has been said already in The first of these was the general war regard to the effect of a movement to the order No. 2, directing the formation of lower Chesapeake it is unnecessary for me army corps, and assigning their com- to comment upon this document, further manders.
than to say that the time of beginning the I had always been in favor of the movement depended upon the state of principle of an organization into army readiness of the transports, the entire corps, but preferred deferring its practical control of which had been placed by the execution until some little experience in Secretary of War in the hands of one of campaign and on the field of battle should the Assist. Secretaries, and not under the show what general officers were most Quartermaster General; so that even if competent to exercise these high com- the movement were not impeded by the mands, for it must be remembered that we condition imposed, in regard to the then had no officers whose experieuce in baiteries on the Potomac, it could not war on a large scale was sufficient to prove have been in my power to begin it before that they possessed the necessary qualifi- the 18th March, unless the Assist. Secrecations. An incompetent commander of tary of War had completed his arrangean army corps might cause irreparable ments by that time. I damage, while it is not probable that an! Meanwhile important events were ocincompetent division commander could curring which materially modified the cause any very serious mischief. These designs for the subsequent campaign. The yiews had frequently been expressed by appearance of the Merrimack off Old Point me to the President and members of the Comfort, and the encounter with the United cabinet; it was therefore with as muchStates gquadron on the 8th of March, regret as surprise that I learned the ex- threatened serious derangement of the istence of this order.
plan for the Peninsula movement. But The first order has been given above; the engagement between the Monitor and the second order was as follows :
Merrimack on the 9th of March, demon
strated so satisfactorily the power of the (President's General War Order No. 3.]
former, and the other naval preparations “EXECUTIVE MANSJON, were so extensive and formidable, that the
“Washington, March 8, 1862. security of Fort Monroe, as a base of " Ordered, That no change of the base operations, was placed beyond a doubt ; of operations of the army of the Potomac and although the James river was closed shall be made without leaving in and to us, the York river, with its tributaries, about Washington such a force as, in the was still open as a line of water communiopinion of the general-in-chief and the cation with the fortress. The general plan, commanders of army corps, shall leave therefore, remained undisturbed, although said city entirely secure.
less promising in its details than when the "That no more than two army corps James river was in our control. (about fifty thousand troops) of said army! On Sunday, the 9th of March, informa of the Potomac shall be moved en route tion from čarious sources made it apparent for a new base of operations until the i that the enemy was eracuating his positions navigation of the Potomac, from Washing- at Centreville and Mapassas as well as on ton to the Chesapeake bay, shall be freed the upper and lower Potomac. The from enemy's batteries, and other obstruc- President and Secretary of War were present when the most positive information alry advance reached the enemy's lines at reached me, and I expressed to them my Centreville, passing through his recently intention to cross the river immediately, occupied camps and works, and finding and there gain the most authentic informa- still burning heaps of military stores and tion, prior to determining what course to much valuable property. pursue.
Immediately after being assigned to the The retirement of the enemy towards command of the troops around WashingRichmond had been expected as the natural ton, I organized a secret service force, consequence of the movement to the under Mr. E. J. Allen, a very experienced Peninsula, but the adoption of this course and efficient person. This force, up to immediately on ascertaining that such a the time I was relieved from command, movement was intended, while it relieved was continnally occupied in procuring me from the results of the undue anxiety from all possible sources information reof my superiors, and attested the character garding the strength, positions and moveof the design, was unfortunate in that the ments of the enemy. then almost impassable roads between our All spies, “contrabands," deserters, positions and theirs deprived us of the refugees, and many prisoners of war, comopportunity for inflicting damage usually ing into our lines from the front, were afforded by the withdrawal of a large army carefully examined, first by the outpost in the face of a powerful adversary. and division commanders, and then by my
The retirement of the enemy and the chief of staff and the Provost Marshal occupation of the abandoned positions General. Their statements, taken in which necessarily followed presented an writing, and in many cases under oath, opportunity for the troops to gain some from day to day, for a long period previous experience on the march and bivouac pre- to the evacuation of Manassas, comprised paratory to the campaign, and to get rid a mass of evidence which, by careful diof the superfluous baggage and other “im-gests and collations, enabled me to estipediments" which accumulate so easily mate with considerable accuracy the around an army encamped for a long time strength of the enemy before us. Sunin one locality.
maries showing the character and results A march to Manassas and back would of the labors of the secret service force produce no delay in enibarking for the accompany this report and I refer to Tower Chesapeake, as the transports could them for the facts they contain, and as a not be ready for some time, and it afforded measure of the ignorance which led some & good intermediate step between the journals at that time and persons in high quiet and comparative comfort of the office unwittingly to trifle with the reputacamps around Washington, and the rigors tion of an army, and to delude the country of active operations, besides accomplish- with Quaker gun stories of the defences ing the important object of determining and gross understatements of the numbers the positions and perhaps the future de- of the enemy. signs of the enemy, with the possibility of The following orders were issued for the being able to harass their rear.
examination of persons coming from the I therefore issued orders during the direction of the enemy: night of the 9th of March for a general movement of the army the next morning
["Circular.] towards Centreville and Manassas, sending "HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, in advance two regiments of cavalry under
“Washington, Dec. 16, 1861. Col, Averill with orders to reach Manas “The major general commanding disas if possible, ascertain the exact condi- rects that hereafter all deserters, prisoners, tion of affairs, and do whatever he could spies, 'contrabands,' and all other persons to retard and annoy the enemy if really in whatever coming or brought within our retreat; at the same time I telegraphed lines from Virginia, shall be taken immeto the Secretary of War that it would be diately to the quarters of the commander necessary to defer the organization of the of the division within whose lines they ariny corps until the completion of the may come or be brought, without previous projected advance upon Manassas, as the examination by any one, except so far as divisions could not be brought together in may be necessary for the officer commandtime. The Secretary replied, requiring ing the advance guard to elicit information immediate compliance with the President's regarding his particular post; that the order, but on my again representing that division commander examine all such perthis would compel the abandonment or sons himself, or delegate such duty to a postponement of the movement to Manas-proper officer of his staff, and allow do gas, he finally consented to its postpone other persons to hold any communication ment.
with them; that he then immediately send At noon on the 10th of March the cav- them. with a sufficient guard, to the pro vost marshal in this city for further exam. might determine whether we had the inforination and safe-keeping, and that striu- mation it was proposed to obtain, and that gent orders be given to all guards having I might give the necessary orders to other such persons in charge not to hold any commanders, so that the scouts should communication with them whatever; and not be molested by the guards. further, that the information elicited from It will be seen from the report of the such persons shall be immediately commu- chief of the secret service corps, dated nicated to the major general commanding, March 8, that the forces of the rebel army or the chief of staff, and to no other person of the Potomac, at that date were as whatever.
follows: * The major general commanding fur. At Manassas, Centreville, Bull run, Upper ther directs that a sufficient guard be
Occoquau, and vicinity......... .80,000 men.
At Brooks's station, Dumiries, Lower Oc. placed around every telegraph station
coquan, and vicinity...
.18.000 men. pertaining to this army, and that such | At Leesburg and vicinity....
.... 4,500 inen. In the Shenandoah valley......
.....13,000 men. guards be instructed not to allow any person, except the regular telegraph
115,500 men. corps, general officers, and such staff offi- About three hundred field guns and from cers as may be authorized by their chief, twenty-six to thirty siege guns were with to enter or loiter around said stations the rebel army in front of Washington. within hearing of the sound of the tele- The report made on the 17th of March, graph instruinents.
after the evacuation of Manassas and Cep"By command of Maj. Gen. MCCLELLAN. treville, corroborates the statements con
"S. WILLIAMS, tained in the report of the 8th, and is
"Assistant Adj. Gen." fortified by the affidavits of several rail"HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
road engineers, constructors, baggage-mas. Washington, Feb. 26, 1862.
ters, &c., whose opportunities for forming “ GENERAL ORDER No. 27.
correct estimates were unusually good.
Those affidavits will be found in the ac“All deserters from the enemy, prison
companying reports of the chief of the ers, and other persons coming within our
secret service corps. lines, will be taken at once to the provost
A reconnoissance of the works at Centremarshal of the nearest division, who will
ville, made by Licut. McAlester, United examine them in presence of the division
States engineers, on March 14, 1862, and a commander or an officer of his staff desig
survey of those at Manassas, made by a nated for the purpose. This examination
party of the United States coast survey, will only refer to such information as murm April, 1052, (oniirmed also my concluaffect the division and those near it, es
sions as to the strength of the enemy's depecially those remote from general head- |
fences. Those at Centreville consisted of
two lines, one facing east and the other quarters. “As soon as this examination is com
north. The former consisted of seven pleted-and it must be made as rapidly as
works, viz: one bastion fort, two redoubts, possible—the person will be sent, under
two lunettes, and two batteries ; all con
taining embrasures for forty guns, and conproper guard, to the Provost Varshal
nected by infantry parapets and double caGeneral, with a statement of his replies to the questions asked. Upon receiving him,
poniéres. It extended along the crest of
ihe ridge a mile and three quarters from its the Provost Marshal General will at once
junction with the northern front to ground send him, with his statement, to the chief of staff of the army of the Potomac, who
thickly wooded and impassable to an atwill cause the necessary examination to be
The northern front extended about one made. The Provost Marshal General will
and one-fourth mile to Great Rocky run, have the custody of all such persons. Division commanders will at once communi
and thence three-fourths of a mile further cate to other division commanders all
to thickly wooded, impassable ground in information thus obtained which affects
the valley of Cub run. "It consisted of six
o lunettes and batteries with embrasures for them. ****** * * * * * * * thirty-one guns, connected by an infantry "By command of Maj. Gen. MCCLELLAN. Parape
I parapet in the form of a cremaillère line “S. WILLIAMS,
with redaus. At the town of Centreville,
on a high hill commanding the rear of all “Assistant Adj. Gen."
the works within range, was a large hexaIn addition to the foregoing orders, the gonal redoubt with ten embrasures. division cominanders were instructed, wlien- Manassas station was defended in all diever they desired to send out scouts to-rections by a system of detached works, wards the enemy, to make known the with platforms for heavy guns arranged for object at headquarters, in order that Ilmarine carriages, and oftea connected by
infantry parapets. This system was ren- | 12, I was informed throngh the telegraph, dered complete by a very large work, with by a member of my staff, that the follow. sixteen embrasures, which commanded the ing document had appeared in the Nahighest of the other works by about fifty tional intelligencer of that morning : feet.
[President's War Order, No. 3.) Sketches of the reconnoissances above
“EXECUTIVE MANSION, referred to will be found among the maps
“ Washington, March 11, 1862. appended to this report.
“Maj. Gen. McClellan having personFrom this it will be seen that the posi
e polls ally taken the field at the head of the tions selected by the enemy at Centreville and Manassas were naturally very strong,
army of the Potomac, until otherwise or
strong dered, he is relieved from the command of with impassable streams and broken ground,
the other military departments, he retainaffording ample protection for their flanks, and that strong lines of intrenchments swept p
ing command of the department of the
Potomac. all the available approaches. Although the history of every former war
" Ordered further, That the depart
ments now under the respective commands has conclusively shown the great advan
of Gens. Halleck and Hunter, together tages which are possessed by an army act.
with so much of that under Gen. Buell as ing on the defensive and occupying strong lies west of a north and south line indefi. positions, defended by heavy earthworks ; nitely drawn through. Knoxville, Tennesyet, at the commencement of this war, but
see, be consolidated and designated the defew civilians in our country, and, indeed, I not all military men of rauk, had a just ap- til otherwise ordered. Maj. Gen. Halleck
partment of the Mississippi; and that, unpreciation of the fact.
have command of said department. . New levies that have never been in bat
" Ordered, also, That the country west tle cannot be expected to advance without
of the department of the Potomac and east cover under the murderous fire from such!)
lj of the department of the Mississippi be a defences, and carry thein by assault. This is work in which veteran troops frequently
| military department, to be called the mounfalter and are repulsed with loss. That an
atytain department, and that the same be com
manded by Maj. Gen. Fremont. assault of the enemy's positions in front of
“ That all the commanders of departWashington, with the new troops com
| ments, after the receipt of this order by posing the army of the Potomac, during ihe winter of 1861-'62, would have resulted
them, respectively report severally and diin defeat and demoralization was too prob
rectly to the Secretary of War, and that able.
prompt, full and frequent reports will be The same army, though inured to war in
expected of all and each of them.
“ABRAHAM LINCOLN." many battles, hard fought and bravely won, has twice, under other generals, suffered! Though unaware of the President's insuch disasters as it was no excess of pru- tention to remove me from the position of dence then to avoid. My letter to the Sec-1 general-in-chief, I cheerfully acceded to the retary.of War, dated February 3. 1862, and disposition he saw fit to make of my sergiven above, expressed the opinion that the vices, and so informed him in a note on the moveient to the Peninsula would compel 12th of March, in which occur these words : the enemy to retire from his position at “I believe I said to you some weeks Manassas and free Washington from dan. since, in connection with some western ger. When the enemy first learned of that matters, that no feeling of self-interest or plan, they did thus evacuate Manassas. ambition should ever prevent me from deDuring the Peninsula campaign, as at no voting myself to the service. I am glad to foriner period, northern Virginia was com- have the opportunity to prove it, and you pletely in our possession, and the vicinity will find that, under present circumstances, of Washington free from the presence of I shall work just as cheerfully as before, the enemy. The ground so gained was not and that no consideration of self will in lost, nor Washington again put in danger, any manner interfere with the discharge of until the enemy learned of the orders for my public duties. Again thanking you for the evacuation of the Peninsula, sent to the official and personal kindness you have me at Harrison's bar, and were again left so often evinced towards me, I am,' &c., &c. free to advance northward and menace the On the 14th of March a reconnoissance national capital. Perhaps no one doubts of a large body of cavalry with some inthat the best defence of Washington is a fantry, under command of Gen. Stoneman, Peninsula attack on Richmond.
was sent along the Orange and Alexandria My order for the organization of the railroad to determine the position of the army corps was issued on the 13th of enemy, and, if possible, force his rear March ; it has been given above.
across the Rappahannock, but the roads While at Fairfax Court-house, on March I were in such condition that, finding it im