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rebels might cherish. Even when the army of the Potomac had attained dimensions never before contemplated in the course of military operations upon this continent, and seldom, if ever, equalled in modern times, no portion of its rapidly increasing numbers was permitted to be diverted, even for a brief period, to the accomplishment of other enterprises. The generals in charge of the various expeditions from time to time inaugurated, and from which so much benefit was anticipated—General Butler, General Sherman, General Burnside, and others—were compelled to look elsewhere for the troops to compose their commands, to rely upon the continued patriotism of the people, and the zeal of the executives of the various States for the raising of those regiments which would enable them to depart for the fields of duty assigned to them. No consideration was for a moment allowed to diminish or impair the efficiency of the army of the Potomac, and the unexampled "spectacle was presented to other nations, who were intently watching the course of events in this country, of the largest army of the present century being raised entirely by voluntary enlistments in the brief period of a few months. When Congress assembled in this city, in the beginning of December, 1861, so successful had been the exertions of the authorities, and so zealously had the people responded to their country's call, that the consolidated morning reports, furnished your committee by the adjutant general of the army, showed that, exclusive of the command of General Dix, at Baltimore, the army of the Potomac consisted of about 185,000 men. During the time this large army had been collecting and organizing, nothing of importance had transpired in connexion with it, except the closing of the navigation of the Potomac by the rebels, which your committee treat of more at length in another part of this report, and the melancholy disaster of Ball's Bluff, which is made the subject of a separate report. The weather during the fall season, and for some weeks after the convening of Congress, continued unusually favorable for active military operations. As month after month passed without anything being done by the army of the Potomac, the people too, more and more anxious for the announcement that the work of preparation had been completed and active operations would soon be commenced. From the testimony before your committee it appeared that the army of the Potomac was well armed and equipped, and had reached a high state of discipline by the last of September or the first of October. The men were ready and eager to commence active operations. The generals in command of the various divisions were opposed to going into winter quarters, and the most of them declared they had no expectation of doing so. In reference to the proper organization of so large an army as that about Washington, in order that it might be the better able to act most effectively in the field, the testimony of the witnesses examined upon that point is remarkably unanimous. The generals most familiar with the subject seemed to regard of the utmost importance the division of the army into corps d'armée, and that, too, in time for the instruction of the troops in the movements necessary to render such an organization the most effective. Your committee deemed it so vitally necessary that they repeatedly brought the subject to the attention of the authorities, and urged its immediate adoption with all the arguments in their power. The President and the Secretary of War concurred with them in the necessity of such a measure; but it did not seem to be regarded with much favor by General McClellan. Indeed, General McClellan stated to your committee, at the time of their conference with him, that, although it might at some time be expedient to divide the army into army corps, the subject was one of great difficulty. He said it was a delicate matter to appoint major generals before they had been tried by actual service, and had shown their fitness to be selected to command 30,000 or 40,000 men. A major general could not be stowed away in a pigeon-hole, if he should prove incompetent, so easily as a brigadier general. He proposed, therefore, to himself manage this entire army in some battle or campaign, and then select from the brigadier generals in it such as should prove themselves competent for higher commands. Consequently, the division of the army into army corps was not even begun until after the movement of the army in March had commenced, and then only in pursuance of the direct and repeated orders of the President.
General McClellan, however, continued to oppose the organization of the army into army corps, as will be seen from the following despatch to him from the Secretary of War, dated May 9, 1862:
“The President is unwilling to have the army corps organization broken up, but also unwilling that the commanding general shall be trammelled and embarrassed in actual skirmishing, collision with the enemy, and on the eve of an expected great battle. You, therefore, may temporarily suspend that organization in the army under your immediate command, and adopt any you see fit, until further orders. He also writes you privately.”
The provisional corps of General Fitz-John Porter and General Franklin were thereupon formed by reducing the other corps from three to two divisions.
Your committee endeavored to obtain as accurate information as possible in relation to the strength and position of the enemy in front of Washington. The testimony of the officers in our army here upon that point, however, was far from satisfactory. Early in December an order had been issued from headquarters prohibiting the commanders in the front from examining any persons who should come into our lines from the direction of the enemy; but all such persons were to be sent, without examination, to the headquarters of the army. Restrictions were also placed upon the movements of scouts. The result was, that the generals examined appeared to be almost entirely ignorant of the force of the enemy opposed to them, having only such information as they were allowed to obtain at headquarters. The strength of the enemy was variously estimated at from 70,000 to 210,000 men. Those who formed the highest estimate based their opinion upon information received at headquarters. As to the strength of the enemy's position, the general impression seemed to be, founded upon information obtained from the same source, that it was exceedingly formidable. Subsequent events have proved that the force of the enemy was below even the lowest of these estimates, and the strength of their fortifications very greatly overestimated.
Your committee also sought to ascertain what number of men could be spared from this army for offensive operations elsewhere, assuming that the works of the enemy in front were of such a character that it would not be advisable to move directly upon them. The estimate of the force necessary to be left in and around Washington to act entirely on the defensive, to render the capital secure against any attack of the enemy, as stated by the witnesses examined upon that o was from 50,000 to 80,000 men, leaving 100,000 or upwards that could
used for expeditions at other points.
In connexion with the same subject, your committee inquired in reference to what had been done to render the fortifications here, which had been constructed at such expense and with so great labor, most effective for the defence of Washington. , Your committee are constrained to say that adequate provision never was made to properly man those fortifications and exercise men in the management of the guns. Several of the witnesses testified that they had repeatedly called the attention of the authorities to the matter, but without success. And when the movement of the army commenced in March, the few regiments that had been placed in the forts and partially instructed in the use of the guns, were almost entirely withdrawn, leaving the fortifications to be manned by raw and inexperienced troops.
The subject of .. obstruction of the navigation of the Potomac naturally deNo manded the consideration of your committee. Upon that point your committee ~ would call the attention of Congress to the testimony of Captain G. V. Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Upon reference to his testimony it will appear that in June, 1861, the Navy Department proposed to the War Department that measures be adopted to take possession of Matthias Point, in order to secure the navigation of #. Potomac from any danger of being interrupted. From some cause no steps were then taken for that purpose. The subject was again brought to the attention of the War Department by the Navy Department in the month of August, shortly after the battle of Bull Run. Nothing, however, was done at that time in regard to it. In October, 1861, the Navy Department again urged the matter upon the consideration of the War Department. The Port Royal expedition was then in preparation and would soon |. ready to start. The Navy Department represented that it would be absolutely necessary to send with that expedition, in order to insure its success, the greater portion of the Potomac flotilla, because, being very powerful vessels, of light draught, with their machinery protected, they were better fitted for that service than any other vessels in the possession of the Navy Department. And if anything was to be done by them to secure the uninterrupted navigation of the Potomac, it must be done before they left. It was proposed to the President and the War Department that the gunboats should take and destroy the rebel batteries which had then begun to make their appearance upon the river, and which even then endangered the safety of o passing up and down the Potomac. When that had been done, it was proposed that a sufficient number of troops should be landed at Matthias Point, &c., to intrench themselves, under the protection of the gunboats, until they should be able, with the assistance of the smaller boats of the Potomac flotilla, to hold their position against any force the enemy would be likely to bring against them. It was represented that unless some such steps were taken the departure of those vessels upon the Port Royal expedition would be the signal for the closing of the navigation of the Potomac, which representation the result proved to be correct. As was well urged by the Navy Department, the whole question amounted simply to this: Would the army co-operate with the navy in securing the unobstructed navigation of the Potomac, or, by withholding that co-operation at that time, permit so important a channel of communication to be closed. After repeated efforts, General McClellan promised that 4,000 men should be ready at a time named to proceed down the river. The Navy Department provided the necessary transports for the troops, and Captain Craven, commanding the Potomac flotilla, upon being notified to that effect, collected at Matthias Point all the boats of his flotilla at the time named. The troops did not arrive, and the Navy Department was informed of the fact by Captain Craven. Assistant Secretary Fox, upon inquiring of General McClellan why the troops had not been sent according to agreement, was informed by him that his engineers were of the opinion that so large a body of troops could not be landed, and therefore he had concluded not to send them. Captain Fox replied that the landing of the troops was a matter of which the Navy Department had charge; that they had provided the necessary means to accomplish the landing successfully; that no inquiry had been made of them in regard to that matter, and no notification that the troops were not to be sent. It was then agreed that the troops should be sent the next night. Captain Craven was again notified, and again had his flotilla in readiness for the arrival of the troops. But no troops were sent down at that time, nor were any ever sent down for that purpose. Captain Fox, in answer to the inquiry of the committee as to what reason was assigned for not sending the troops according to the second agreement, replied that the only reason, so far as he could ascertain, was, that General McClellan feared it might bring on a general engagement.
The President, who had united with the Navy Department in firging their proposition, first upon General Scott and then upon General McClellan, manifested great disappointment when he learned that the plan had failed in consequence of the troops not being sent. And Captain Craven threw up his command on the Potomac and applied to be sent to sea, saying that, by remaining here and doing nothing, he was but losing his own reputation, as the blame for permitting the Potomac to be j would be imputed to him and the flotilla under his command.
Upon the failure of this plan of the Navy Department, the effective vessels of the Potomac flotilla left upon the Port Royal expedition. The navigation of the river was almost immediately thereafter closed, and remained closed until the rebels voluntarily evacuated their batteries in the March following, no steps having been taken, in the meantime, for reopening communication by that route.
On the 19th of January, 1862, the President of the United States, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, issued orders for a general movement of all the armies of the United States, one result of which was the series of victories at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, &c., which so electrified the country and revived the hopes of every loyal man in the land.
LiNe OF OperationS.
After this long period of inaction of the army of the Potomac, the President of the United States, on the 31st of January, 1862, issued the following order:
“ExECUTIVE MANsion, “Washington, January 31, 1862. “President's Special War Order No. 1.
“O, dered, That all the disposable force of the army of the Potomac, after providing safely for the defence of Washington, be formed into an expedition for the immediate object of seizing and occupying a point upon the railroad southwestward of what is known as Manassas Junction; all details to be in the discretion of the general-in-chief, and the expedition to move before or on the 22d day of February next. “ABRAHAM LINCOLN.”
To this order General McClellan wrote an elaborate reply of the same date, objecting to the plan therein indicated as involving “the error of dividing our army by a very difficult obstacle, (the Occoquan,) and by a distance too great to enable the two portions to support each other, should either be attacked by the masses of the enemy, while the other is held in check.” He then proceeded to argue in favor of a movement by way of the Rappahannock or Fortress Monroe, giving the preference to the Rappahannock route. He stated that 30 days would be required to provide the necessary means of transportation. He stated that he regarded “success as certain, by all the chances of war,” by the route he proposed, while it was “by no means certain that we can beat them [the enemy] at Manassas.”
To this the President made the following reply:
“ExEcutive MANsion, “Washington, February 3, 1862.
“My DEAR SIR: You and I have distinct and different plans for a movement of the army of the Potomac—yours to be down the Chesapeake, up the Rappahannock to Urbana, and across land to the terminus of the railroad on Yor river; mine to move directly to a point on the railroad southwest of Manassas. If you will give me satisfactory answers to the following questions I shall gladly yield my plan to yours:
“1. Does not your plan involve a greatly larger expenditure of time and money than mine?
“2. Wherein is a victory more certain by your plan than mine?
“3. Wherein is a victory more valuable by your plan than mine?
“4. In fact, would it not be less valuable in this, that it would break no great line of the enemy's communication, while mine would
“5. In case of disaster, would not a safe retreat be more difficult by your plan than by mine?
“Yours, truly, “A. LINCOLN. “Major General McClella N.”
Your committee have no evidence, either oral or documentary, of the discussions that ensued or the arguments that were submitted to the consideration of the President that led him to relinquish his own line of operations and consent to the one proposed by General McClellan, except the result of a council of war, held in February, 1862. That council, the first, so far as your committee have been able to ascertain, ever called by General McClellan, and then by the direction of the President, was composed of twelve generals, as follows: McDowell, Sumner, Heintzelman, Keyes, Fitz-John Porter, Franklin, W. F. Smith, McCall, Blenker, Andrew Porter, Barnard, and Naglee, (from General Hooker's division.)
To them was submitted the question whether they would indorse the line of operations which General McClellan desired to adopt. The result of the deliberation was a vote of eight to four in favor of the movement by way of Annapolis, and thence down the Chesapeake bay, up the Rappahannock, landing at Urbana, and across the country to Richmond. The four generals who voted against the proposed movement were Generals McDowell, Sumner, Heintzelman, and o General Keyes voted for it with the qualification that no change should be made until the enemy were driven from their batteries on the Potomac.
At this point it may be well to consider the principal arguments for and against the movement upon Richmond direct from Washington, and the movement by way of the lower Chesapeake, including that first proposed by way of the Rappahannock river, and the one finally adopted by way of Fortress Monroe and the peninsula.
In expressing opinions upon this and other subjects o more immediately to military operations in the field, your committee do not undertake to form and express opinions of their own, but content themselves with setting forth those expressed in their testimony by military men whose education and experience i. them to speak confidently upon those subjects pertaining to their proeSS10n.
The arguments in favor of the direct and against the lower route to Richmond were many and weighty. Some of them are most tersely expressed in the letter of the President to General McClellan, of February 3, 1862, before referred to. Besides those, the direct movement enabled the largest amount of troops to operate actively in the field, as the army in its movement immediately covered Washington, and thereby rendered the presence of a large force here unnecessary. By the adoption of the lower route, a division of the army was rendered imperative, in order to provide for the safety of the capital against any attack from the enemy. Thus, to use the language of General McClellan himself, in reference to the movement proposed against the enemy while at Manassas, “committing the error of dividing our army by a very difficult obstacle, and by a distance too great to enable the two portions to support each other, should either be attacked by the masses of the enemy while the other is held in check.”
The army in moving direct from Washington avoided all the delays and dis