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It will be seen from what has preceded that I lost no time that could be avoided in moving the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula to the support of the Army of Virginia; that I spared no effort to hasten the embarkation of the troops at Fort Monroe, Newport News, and Yorktown, remaining at Fort Monroe myself until the mass of the army had sailed, and that after my arrival at Alexandria I left nothing in my power undone to forward supplies and re-enforcements to General Pope. I sent with the troops that moved all the cavalry I could get hold of. Even my personal escort was sent out upon the line of the railway as a guard, with the provost and camp guards at headquarters, retaining less than 100 men, many of whom were orderlies, invalids, members of bands, &c. All the headquarters teams that arrived were sent out with supplies and ammunition, none being retained even to move the headquarters camp. The squadron that habitually served as my personal escort was left at Falmouth with General Burnside, as he was deficient in cavalry.
I left Washington on the 7th of September. At this time it was known that the mass of the rebel army had passed up the south side of the Potomac in the direction of Leesburg, and that a portion of that army had crossed into Maryland; but whether it was their intention to cross their whole force with a view to turn Washington by a flank movement down the north bank of the Potomac, to move on Baltimore, or to invade Pennsylvania, were questions which at that time we had no means of determining. This uncertainty as to the intentions of the enemy obliged me, up to the 13th of September, to march cautiously, and to advance the army in such order as continually to keep Wash. ington and Baltimore covered, and at the same time to hold the troops well in hand, so as to be able to concentrate and follow rapidly if the enemy took the direction of Pennsylvania, or to return to the defense of Washington if, as was greatly feared by the authorities, the enemy should be merely making a feint with a small force to draw off our army, while with their main forces they stood ready to seize the first favorable opportunity to attack the capital.
In the mean time the process of reorganization, rendered necessary after the demoralizing effects of the disastrous campaign upon the other side of the Potomac, was rapidly progressing; the troops were regaining confidence, and their former soldierly appearance and discipline were fast returning. My cavalry was pushed out continually in all directions, and all possible steps were taken to learn the positions and movements of the enemy.
The following table shows the movements of the army from day to day up to the 14th of September:
t Command. September 4. September 6. September 9, September 10.
Buertaine. oth Corps, Reno . . . . . Seventh-street road. Leesborough .......|Brookville-...... Ist Corps, Hooker. . Upton's Hill........ [...... do ...-----------|------do ...-----.
8tatnett. 12th Corps, Williams. Tennallytown ...... Rockville........... Middlebrook....] Damascus. od Corps, sumner. - - - - - do.............!------ do ...----------|-----. do . . . . . . . . . Clarksburg. oth Corps, Franklin. Alexandria Seminary Tennallytown . . . . . . . Darnestown..... Barnesville. Conch's division..... Tennallytown ... .... Öffutt's Cross Roads Mouth of Seneca. Poolesville. Sykes division....... ---------------------- Tennallytown ...... |Rockville - - - - - - - Rockville.
The right wing, consisting
of the First and Ninth Corps, under the command of Major-General Burnside, moved on Frederick; the First Corps via Brookville, Cooksville, and Ridgeville, and the Ninth Corps via Damascus and New Market.
The Second and Twelfth Corps, forming the center, under the command of General Sumner, moved on Frederick; the former via Clarksburg and Urbana, the Twelfth Corps on a lateral road between Urbana and New Market, thus maintaining the communication with the right wing, and covering the direct road from Frederick to Washington. The Sixth Corps, under the command of General Franklin, moved to Buckeystown via Darnestown, Dawsonville, and Barnesville, covering the road from the moutb of the Monocacy to Rockville, and being in a position to connect with and support the center should it have been necessary, as was supposed, to force the line of the Monocacy.
Couch's division moved by the River road," covering that approach, watching the fords of the Potomac, and ultimately following and supporting the Sixth Corps.
The following extracts from telegrams received by me after my departure from Washington will show how little was known there about the enemy's movements, and the fears which were entertained for the safety of the capital. On the 9th of September General Halleck telegraphed me as follows:
Until we can get better advices about the numbers of the enemy at Dranesville, I think we must be very cautious about stripping too much the forts on the Virginia side. It may be the enemy's object to draw off the mass of our forces, and then attempt to attack from the Virginia side of the Potomac. Think of this.
Again, on the 11th of September, General Halleck telegraphed me as follows:
Why not-order forward Keyes or Sigelt I think the main force of the enemy is in your front. More troops can be spared from here.
This dispatch, as published by the Committee on the Conduct of the War, and furnished by the General-in-Chief, reads as follows:
Why not order forward Porter's corps or Sigel's? If the main force of the enemy is in your front, more troops can be spared from here.
I remark that the original dispatch as received by me from the telegraph operator is in the words quoted above, "I think the main force of the enemy," &c.
In accordance with this suggestion, I asked, on the same day, that all the troops that could be spared should at once be sent to re-enforce me, but none came.
On the 12th I received the following telegram from His Excellency the President:
Governor Curtin telegraphs me, “I have advices that Jackson is crossing the Potomac at Williamsport, and probably the whole rebel army will be drawn from Maryland.”
The President adds:
Receiving nothing from Harper's Ferry or Martinsburg to-day, and positive infor
mation from Wheeling that the line is cut, corroborates the idea that the enemy is recrossing the Potomac. Please do not let him get off without being hurt.
On the 13th General Halleck telegraphed as follows:
Until you know more certainly the enemy's force south of the Potomac you are wrong in thus uncovering the capital. I am of the opinion that the enemy will send a small column toward Pennsylvania to draw your forces in that direction, then suddenly move on Washington with the forces south of the Potomac and those he may cross over.
Again, on the 14th, General Halleck telegraphed me that—
Scouts report a large force still on the Virginia side of the Potomac. If so, I fear you are exposing your left and rear.
Again, as late as the 16th, after we had the most positive evidence that Lee's entire army was in front of us, I received the following:
WAR DEPARTMENT, September 16, 1862–12.30 p.m. Major-General McCLELLAN:
Yours of 7 a.m. is this moment received. As you give me no information in regard to the position of your forces, except that at Sharpsburg, of course I cannot advise. I think, however, you will find that the whole force of the enemy in your front has crossed the river. I fear now more than ever that they will recross at Harper's Ferry or below, and turn your left, thus cutting you off from Washington. This has ap ared to me to be a part of their plan, and hence my anxiety on the subject. A
vy rain might prevent it. H. W. HALLECK General-in-Chief.
The importance of moving with all due caution so as not to uncover the National Capital until the enemy's position and plans were developed was, I believe, fully appreciated by me, and as my troops extended from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to the Potomac, with the extreme left flank moving along that stream, and with strong pickets left in rear to watch and guard all the available fords, I did not regard my left or rear as in any degree exposed. But it appears from the foregoing telegrams that the General-in-Chief was of a different opinion, and that my movements were, in his judgment, too precipitate, not only for the safety of Washington but also for the security of my left and rear. The precise nature of these daily injunctions against a precipitate advance may now be perceived. The General-in-Chief, in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, says: In respect to General McClellan going too fast or too slow from Washington, there can be found no such telegram from me to him. . He had unistaken the meaning of the telegrams I sent him. I telegraphed him that he was going too far, not from Washington, but from the Potomac, leaving General Lee the opportunity to come down the Potomac and get between him and Washington. I thought General McClellan should keep more on the Potomac, and press forward his left rather than his right, so as the more readily to relieve Harper's Ferry. As I can find no telegram from the General-in-Chief recommending me to keep my left flank nearer the Potomac, I am compelled to believe that when he gave this testimony he had forgotten the purport of the telegrams above quoted, and had also ceased to remember the fact, well
known to him at the time, that my left, from the time I left Washing
SPECIAL ORDERs, HEADQUARTERS ARMY of NorthERN WIRGINLA,
now engaged, will cross the Potomac at Cheek's Ford, ascend its right bank to Lovettsville, take ssion of Loudoun Heights, if practicable, by Friday morning, Keys' Ford on his left, and the road between the end of the mountain and the Potomac on his right. He will, as far as practicable. co-operate with General McLaws and General Jackson in intercepting the retreat of the enemy. General D. H. Hill's division will form the rear guard of the army, pursuing the road taken by the main body. The reserve artillery, ordnance, supply trains, &c., will precede General Hill. General Stuart will detach a squadron of cavalry to accompany the commands of Generals Longstreet, Jackson, and McLaws, and with the main body of the cavalry will cover the route of the army and bring up all stragglers that may have been left behind. The commands of Generals Jackson, McLaws, and Walker, after accomplishing the objects for which they have been detached, will join the main body of the army at Boonsborough or Hagerstown. Each regiment on the march will habitually carry its axes in the regimental ordnance wagons, for use of the men at their encampments to procure wood, &c. By command of General R. E. Lee: R. H. CHILTON,
Assistant Adjutant-General. Maj. Gen. D. H. HILL, Commanding Division.
In the report of a military commission, of which Maj. Gen. D. Hunter was president, which convened at Washington for the purpose of investigating the conduct of certain officers in connection with the surrender of Harper's Ferry, I find the following:
The commission has remarked freely on Colonel Miles, an old officer, who has been killed in the service of his country, and it cannot from any motives of delicacy restain from censuring those in high command when it thinks such censure deserved.
The *...*&#. has testified that General McClellan, after having received orders to repel the enemy invading the State of Maryland, marched only 6 miles per day, on an average, when pursuing this invading enemy.
The General-in-Chief also testifies that, in his opinion, he could and should have relieved and protected Harper's Ferry, and in this opinion the commission fully concur.
I have been greatly surprised that this commission in its investigations never called upon me nor upon any officer of my staff, nor, so far as I know, upon any officer of the Army of the Potomac able to give an intelligent statement of the movements of that army. But another paragraph in the same report Inakes testimony from such sources quite Superfluous. It is as follows:
By a reference to the evidence it will be seen that, at the very moment Colonel Ford abandoned Maryland Heights, his little army was in reality relieved by Generals Franklin's and Sumner's corps at Crampton's Gap, within 7 miles of his position.
The corps of Generals Franklin and Sumner were a part of the army which I at that time had the honor to command, and they were acting under my orders at Crampton's Gap and elsewhere; and if, as the com. mission states, Colonel Ford’s “little army was in reality relieved” by those officers, it was relieved by me.
s had on the morning of the 10th sent the following dispatch in relation to the command at Harper's Ferry:
CAMP NEAR Rockville, September 10," 1862–9.45 a. m.
Major-General HALLEck, Washington, D.C.:
Colonel Miles is at or near Harper's Ferry, as I understand, with 9,000 troops. He can do nothing where he is, but could be of great service if ordered to join me.' I snggest that he be ordered to join me by the most practicable route. GEO. B. McCLELLAN, Major-General.
* September 11, according to files of Headquarters of the Army.