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New York, August 4, 1863. Sir: I have the honor to submit herein the official report of the operations of the army of the Potomac while under my charge. Accompanying it are the reports of the corps, division, and subordinate commanders, pertaining to the various engagements, battles, and occurrences of the campaigns, and important documents connected with its organization, supply, and movements. These, with lists of maps and memoranda submitted, will be found appended, duly arranged, and marked for convenient reference.
Charged, in the spring of 1861, with the operations in the department of the Ohio, which included the States of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and latterly Western Virginia, it had become my duty to counteract the hostile designs of the enemy in Western Virginia, which were immediately directed to the destruction of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad and the possession of the Kanawha valley, with the ultimate object of gaining Wheeling and the control of the Ohio river.
The successful affairs of Phillippi, Rich Mountain, Carrick's Ford, &c., had been fought, and I had acquired possession of all Western Virginia north of the Kanawha valley, as well as of the lower portion of that valley..
I had determined to proceed to the relief of the upper Kanawha valley, as soon as provision was made for the permanent defence of the mountain passes leading from the east into the region under control, when I received at Beverly, in Randolph county, on the 21st of July, 1861, intelligence of the unfortunate result of the battle of Manassas, fought on that day.
On the 22d I received an order by telegraph, directing me to turn over my command to Brigadier General Rosecrans, and repair at once to Washington.
I had already caused reconnoissances to be made for intrenchments at the Cheat Mountain pass; also on the Hunterville road, near Elkwater, and at Red House, near the main road from Romney to Grafton. During the afternoon and night of the 22d I gave the final instructions for the construction of these works, turned over the command to Brigadier General Rosecrans, and started, on the morning of the 23d, for Washington, arriving there on the afternoon of the 26th. On the 27th I assumed command of the division of the Potomac, comprising the troops in and around Washington, on both banks of the river.
With this brief statement of the events which immediately preceded my being called to the command of the troops at Washington, I proceed to an account, from such authentic data as are at hand, of my military operations while commander of the army of the Potomac.
The subjects to be considered naturally arrange themselves as follows:
The organization of the army of the Potomac. The military events connected with the defences of Washington, from July, 1861, to March, 1862. The campaign on the Peninsula, and that in Maryland.
The great resources and capacity for powerful resistance of the south at the breaking out of the rebellion, and the full proportions of the great conflict about to take place, were sought to be carefully measured ; and I had also endeavored, by every means in my power, to impress upon the authorities the necessity for
such immediate and full preparation as alone would enable the government to prosecute the war on a scale commensurate with the resistance to be offered.
On the fourth of August, 1861, I addressed to the President the following memorandum, prepared at his request :
The object of the present war differs from those in which nations are engaged, mainly in this : that the purpose of ordinary war is to conquer a peace, and make a treaty on advantageous terms ; in this contest it has become necessary to crush a population sufficiently numerous, intelligent and warlike to constitute a nation. We have not only to defeat their armed and organized forces in the field, but to display such an overwhelming strength as will convince all our antagonists, especially those of the governing, aristocratic class, of the utter impossibility of resistance. Our late reverses make this course imperative. Had we been successful in the recent battle, (Manassas.) it is possible that we might have been spared the labor and expenses of a great effort. . Now we have no alternative. Their success will enable the political leaders of the rebels to convince the mass of their people that we are inferior to them in force and courage, and to command all their resources. The contest began with a class, now it is with a people-our military success can alone restore the former issue.
By thoroughly defeating their armies, taking their strong places, and pursuing a rigidly protective policy as to private property and unarmed persons, and a lenient course as to private soldiers, we may well hope for a permanent restoration of a peaceful Union. But in the first instance the authority of the government must be supported by overwhelming physical force.
Our foreign relations and financial credit also imperatively demand that the military action of the government should be prompt and irresistible.
The rebels have chosen Virginia as their battle-field, and it seems proper for us to make the first great struggle there. But while thus directing our main efforts, it is necessary to diminish the resistance there offered us, by movements on other points both by land and water.
Without entering at present into details, I would advise that a strong movement be made on the Mississippi, and that the rebels be driven out of Missouri.
As soon as it becomes perfectly clear that Kentucky is cordially united with as, I would advise a movement through that State into Eastern Tennessee, for the purpose of assisting the Union men of that region and of seizing the railroads leading from Memphis to the east.
The possession of those roads by us, in connexion with the movement on the Mississippi, would go far towards determining the evacuation of Virginia by the rebels. In the mean timne all the passes into Western Virginia from the east should be securely guarded, but I would advise no movement from that quarter towards Richmond, unless the political condition of Kentucky. renders it impossible or inexpedient for us to make the movement upon Eastern Tennessee through that State. Every effort should, however, be made to organize, equip and arın as many troops as possible in Western Virginia, in order to render the Ohio and Indiana regiments available for other operations..
At as early a day as practicable, it would be well to protect and re-open the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. Baltimore and Fort Monroe should be occupied by garrisons sufficient to retain them in our possession.
The importance of Harper's Ferry and the line of the Potomac in the direction of Leesburg will be very materially diminished so soon as our force in this vicinity becomes organized, strong and efficient,, because no capable general will cross the river north of this city, when we have a strong army here ready to cut off his retreat.
To revert to the west. It is probable that no very large additions to the troops now in Missouri will be necessary to secure that State.
I presume that the force required for the movement down the Mississippi will be determined by its commander and the President. If Kentucky assumes the right position, not more than 20,000 will be needed, together with those that can be raised in that State and Eastern Tennessee, to secure the latter region and its railroads, as well as ultimately to occupy Nashville.
The Western Virginia troops, with not more than five to ten thousand from Ohio and Indiana, should, under proper management, suffice for its protection.
When we have re-organized our main army here, 10,000 men ought to be enough to protect the Baltimore and Ohio railroad and the Potomac, 5,000 will garrison Baltimore, 3,000 Fort Monroe, and not more than 20,000 will be necessary at the utmost for the defence of Washington. For the main army of operations I urge the following composition: 250 regiments of infantry, say ........
225, 000 men. 100 field batteries, 600 guns.......
15, 000 “ 28 regiments of cavalry ....
25, 500 " 5 regiments engineer troops......
The force must be supplied with the necessary engineer and pontoon trains, and with transportation for everything save tents. Its general line of operations should be so directed that water transportation can be availed of from point to point, by means of the ocean and the rivers emptying into it. An essential feature of the plan of operations will be the employment of a strong naval force to protect the movement of a fleet of transports intended to convey a considerable body of troops from point to point of the enemy's sea-coast, thus either creating diversions and rendering it necessary for them to detach largely from their main body in order to protect such of their cities as may be threatened, or else landing and forming establishments on their coast at any favorable places that opportunity might offer. This naval force should also co-operate with the main army in its efforts to seize the important seaboard towns of the rebels.
It cannot be ignored that the construction of railroads has introduced a new and very important element into war, by the great facilities thus given for concentrating at particular positions large masses of troops from remote sections, and by creating new strategic points and lines of operations.
It is intended to overcome this difficulty by the partial operations suggested, and such others as the particular case may require. We must endeavor to seize places on the railways in the rear of the enemy's points of concentration, and we must threaten their seaboard cities, in order that each State may be forced, by the necessity of its own defence, to diminish its contingent to the confederate army.
The proposed movement down the Mississippi will produce important results in this connexion. That advance and the progress of the main army at the .east will materially assist each other by diminishing the resistance to be encountered by each.
The tendency of the Mississippi movement upon all questions connected with cotton is too well understood by the President and cabinet to need any illustration from me.
There is another independent movement that has often been suggested and which has always recommended itself to my judgment. I refer to a movement from Kansas and Nebraska through the Indian territory upon Red river and western Texas for the purpose of protecting and developing the latent Union and free-State sentiment well known to predominate in western Texas, and which, like a similar sentiment in Western Virginia, will, if protected, ultimately organize that section into a free State. How far it wili be possible to support this movement by an advance through New Mexico from California, is a matter which I have not sufficiently examined to be able to express a decided opinion. If at all practicable, it is eminently desirable, as bringing into play the resources and warlike qualities of the Pacific States, as well as identifying them with our cause and connecting the bond of Union between them and the general government.
If it is not departing too far from my province, I will venture to suggest the policy of an ultimate alliance and cordial understanding with Mexico; their sympathies and interests are with us their antipathies exclusively against our enemies and their institutions. I think it would not be difficult to obtain from the Mexican government the right to use, at least during the present contest, the road from Guaymas to New Mexico; this concession would very materially reduce the obstacles of the column moving from the Pacific; a similar permission to use their territory for the passage of troops between the Panuco and the Rio Grande would enable us to throw a column of troops by a good road from Tampico, or some of the small harbors north of it, upon and across the Rio Grande, without risk and scarcely firing a shot.
To what extent, if any, it would be desirable to take into service and employ Mexican soldiers, is a question entirely political, on which I do not venture to offer an opinion.
The force I have recommended is large; the expense is great. It is possible that a smaller force might accomplish the object in view, but I understand it to be the purpose of this great nation to re-establish the power of its government, and restore peace to its citizens, in the shortest possible time.
The question to be decided is simply this: shall we crush the rebellion at one blow, terminate the war in one compaign, or shall we leave it as a legacy for our descendants ?
When the extent of the possible line of operations is considered, the force asked for for the main army under my command cannot be regarded as unduly large; every mile we advance carries us further from our base of operations and renders detachments necessary to cover our communications, while the enemy will be constantly concentrating as he falls back. I propose, with the force which I have requested, not only to drive the enemy out of Virginia and occupy Richmond, but to occupy Charleston, Savannah, Montgomery, Pensacola, Mobile and New Orleans; in other words, to move into the heart of the enemy's country and crush the rebellion in its very heart.
By seizing and repairing the railroads as we advance, the difficulties of transportation will be materially diminished. It is perhaps unnecessary to state that, in addition to the forces named in this memorandum, strong reserves should be formed, ready to supply any losses that may occur.
In conclusion, I would submit that the exigencies of the treasury may be lessened by making only partial payments to our troops, when in the enemy's country, and by giving the obligations of the United States for such supplies as may there be obtained.
GEO. B. MCCLELLAN,
Major General. I do not think the events of the war have proved these views upon the method and plans of its conduct altogether incorrect. They certainly have not proved iny estimate of the number of troops and scope of operations too large. It is probable that I did under estimate the time necessary for the completion of arms and equipments. It was not strange, however, that by many civilians
intrusted with authority there should have been an exactly opposite opinion held on both these particulars.
The result of the first battle of Manassas had been almost to destroy the morale and organization of our army, and to alarm government and people. The national capital was in danger; it was necessary, besides holding the enemy in check, to build works for its defence, strong and capable of being held by a small force.
It was necessary also to create a new army for active operations and to expedite its organization, equipment, and the accumulation of the material of war, and to this not inconsiderable labor all my energies for the next three months were constantly devoted.
Time is a necessary element in the creation of armies, and I do not, therefore, think it necessary to more than mention the impatience with which many regarded the delay in the arrival of new levies, though recruited and pressed forward with unexampled rapidity, the manufacture and supply of arms and equipments, or the vehemence with which an immediate advance upon the enemy's works directly in our front was urged by a partiotic but sanguine people.
The President, too, was anxious for the speedy employment of our army, and, although possessed of my plans through frequent conferences, desired a paper from me upon the condition of the forces under my command and the immediate measures to be taken to increase their efficiency. Accordingly, in the latter part of October I addressed the following letter to the Secretary of War:
Sir: In conformity with a personal understanding with the President yesterday, I have the honor to submit the following statement of the condition of the army under my command, and the measures required for the preservation of the government and the suppression of the rebellion.
It will be remembered that in a memorial I had the honor to address to the President soon after my arrival in Washington, and in my communication addressed to Lieutenant General Scott, under date of 8th of August; in my letter to the President authorizing him, at his request, to withdraw the letter written by me to General Scott; and in my letter of the 8th of September, answering your note of inquiry of that date, my views on the same subject are frankly and fully expressed.
In these several communications I have stated the force I regarded as neces-. sary to enable this army to advance with a reasonable certainty of success, at the same time leaving the capital and the line of the Potomac sufficiently guarded, not only to secure the retreat of the main army, in the event of disaster, but to render it out of the enemy's power to attempt a diversion in Maryland.
So much time has passed, and the winter is approaching so rapidly, that but two courses are left to the government, viz., either to go into winter quarters, or to assume the offensive with forces greatly inferior in numbers to the army I regarded as desirable and necessary. If political considerations render the first course unadvisable, the second alone remains. While I regret that it has not been deemed expedient, or perhaps possible, to concentrate the forces of the nation in this vicinity, (remaining on the defensive elsewhere,) keeping the attention and efforts of the government fixed upon this as the vital point, where the issue of the great contest is to be decided, it may still be that, by introducing unity of action and design among the various armies of the land, by determining the courses to be pursued by the various commanders under one general plan, transferring from the other armies the superftuous strength not required for the purpose in view, and thus re-enforcing this main army, whose destiny it is to decide the controversy, we may yet be able to move with a reasonable prospect of success before the winter is fairly upon us.