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effected the junction. Allow nothing to divert you from obtaining full possession of all the approaches to New Orleans. When that object is accomplished to its fullest extent, it will be necessary to make a combined attack on Mobile, in order to gain possession of the harbor and works, as well as to control the railway terminus at the city. In regard to this, I will send more detailed instructions as the operations of the northern column develop themselves.
“I may briefly state that the general objects of the expedition are, first, the reduction of New Orleans and all its approaches; then Mobile and its defences; then Pensacola, Galveston, &c. It is probable that by the time New Orleans is reduced, it will be in the power of the government to re-enforce the land forces sufficiently to accomplish all these objects. In the mean time you will please give all the assistance in your power to the army and navy commanders in your vicinity, never losing sight of the fact that the great object to be achieved is the capture and firm retention of New Orleans.
“I am, &c.,
“Major General B. F. BUTLER,
The plan indicated in the above letters comprehended in its scope the operations of all the armies of the Union, the army of the Potomac as well. It was my intention, for reasons easy to be seen, that its various parts should be carried out simultaneously, or nearly so, and in co-operation along the whole line. If this plan was wise—and events have sailed to prove that it was not—then it is unnecessary to defend any delay which would have enabled the army of the . Potomac to perform its share in the execution of the whole work.
But about the middle of January, 1862, upon recovering from a severe illness, I found that excessive anxiety for an immediate movement of the army of the Potomac had taken possession of the minds of the administration.
A change had just been made in the War Department, and I was soon urged by the new secretary, Mr. Stanton, to take immediate steps to secure the reopening of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and to free the banks of the lower Potomac from the rebel batteries which annoyed passing vessels.
Very soon after his entrance upon office I laid before him verbally my design as to the part of the plan of campaign to be executed by the army of the Potomac, which was to attack Richmond by the lower Chesapeake. He instructed me to develop it to the President, which I did. The result was, that the President disapproved it, and by an order of January 31, 1862, substituted one of his own. On the 27th of January, 1862, the following order was issued without consultation with me:
[President's General War Order No. 1.]
“ExECUTIVE MANsion, “Washington, January 27, 1862.
“Ordered, That the 22d day of February, 1862, be the day for a general movement of the land and naval forces of the United States against the insurgent forces. That especially the army at and about Fortress Monroe, the army of the Potomac, the army of Western Virginia, the army near Munfordsville, Kentucky, the army and flotilla at Cairo, and a naval force in the Gulf of Mexico, be ready to move on that day.
“That all other forces, both land and naval, with their respective commanders, obey existing orders for the time, and be ready to obey additional orders when duly given.
“That the heads of departments, and especially the Secretaries of War
and of the Navy, with all their subordinates, and the general-in-chief, with all
other commanders and subordinates of land and naval forces, will severally be
held to their strict and full responsibilities for prompt execution of this order. “ABRAHAM LINCOLN.”
The order of January 31, 1862, was as follows:
[President's Special War Order No. 1.] *
- “Executive MANSION, - “Washington, January 31, 1862.
“Ordered, 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 commander-in-chief, and the expedition to move before or on the 22d day of February next. - - “ABRAHAM LINCOLN.”
I asked his excellency whether this order was to be regarded as final, or whether I could be permitted to submit in writing my objections to his plan, and my reasons for preferring my own. Permission was accorded, and I therefore prepared the letter to the Secretary of War which is given below.
Refore this had been submitted to the President, he addressed me the following note:
* “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 done by the Chesapeake, up the Rappahannock to Urbana, and across land to the terminus of the railroad on the York river; mine to move directly to a point on the railroad southwest of Manassas. “If you will give satisfactory answers to the following questions, I shall gladly yield my plan to yours: “1st. Does not your plan involve a greatly larger expenditure of time and money than mine? “2d. Wherein is a victory more certain by your plan than mine? “3d. Wherein is a victory more valuable by your plan than mine ! “4th. In fact, would it not be less valuable in this : that it would break no great line of the enemy’s communications, while mine would 5th. In case of disaster, would not a retreat be more difficult by your plan than mine ! “Yours, truly,
“ABRAHAM LINCOLN, “Major General McCLELLAN.”
These questions were substantially answered by the following letter of the same date to the Secretary of War:
“HEADQUARTERs of THE ARMY, “ Washington, February 3, 1862. “SiR : Task your indulgence for the following paper, rendered necessary by Clr CumstanceS. “I assumed command of the troops in the vicinity of Washington on Saturday, July 27, 1861, six days after the battle of Bull run.
“I found no army to command; a mere collection of regiments cowering on . banks of the Potomac, some perfectly raw, others dispirited by the recent efeat. “Nothing of any consequence had been done to secure the southern approaches to the capital by means of defensive works; nothing whatever had been undertaken to defend the avenues to the city on the northern side of the Potomac. “The troops were not only undisciplined, undrilled, and dispirited; they were fot even placed in military positions. The city was almost in a condition to have been taken by a dash of a regiment of cavalry. “Without one day's delay I undertook the difficult task assigned to me; that task the honorable Secretary knows was given to me without solicitation or foreknowledge. How far I have accomplished it will best be shown by the past and the present. “The capital is secure against attack, the extensive fortifications erected by the labor of our troops enable a small garrison to hold it against a numerous army, the enemy have been held in check, the State of Maryland is securely in our possession, the detached counties of Virginia are again within the pale of our laws, and all apprehension of trouble in Delaware is at an end; the enemy are confined to the positions they occupied before the disaster of the 21st July. More than all this, I have now under my command a well-drilled and reliable army, to which the destinies of the country may be confidently committed. This army is young and untried in battle; but it is animated by the highest spirit, and is capable of great deeds. “That so much has been accomplished and such an army created in so short a time, from nothing, will hereafter be regarded as one of the highest glories of the administration and the nation. “Many weeks, I may say many months ago, this army of the Potomac was fully in condition to repel any attack; but there is a vast difference between that and the efficiency required to enable troops to attack successfully an army elated by victory and intrenched in a position long since selected, studied, and fortified. “In the earliest papers I submitted to the President, I asked for an effective and movable force far exceeding the aggregate now on the banks of the Potomac. I have not the force I asked for. “Even when in a subordinate position, I always looked beyond the operations of the army of the Potomac; I was never satisfied in my own mind with a barren victory, but looked to combined and decisive operations. “When I was placed in command of the armies of the United States, I immediately turned my attention to the whole field of operations, regarding the army of the Potomac as only one, while the most important, of the masses under my command. - *“I confess that I did not then appreciate the total absence of a general plan which had before existed, nor did I know that utter disorganization and want of preparation pervaded the western armies. “I took it for granted that they were nearly, if not quite, in condition to move towards the fulfilment of my plans. I acknowledge that I made a great mistake. - ... • “I sent at once—with the approval of the Executive—officers I considered competent to command in Kentucky and Missouri. Their instructions looked to prompt movements. I soon found that the labor of creation and organization had to be performed there; transportation—arms—clothing—artillery—discipline, all were wanting. These things required time to procure them. * “The generals in command have done their work most creditably, but we are still delayed. I had hoped that a general advance could be made during the good weather of December; I was mistaken. “My wish was to gain possession of the Eastern Tennessee railroad, as a pre
liminary movement, then to follow it up immediately by an attack on Nashville and Richmond, as nearly at the same time as possible. “I have ever regarded our true policy as being that of fully preparing ourselves, and then seeking for the most decisive results. I do not wish to waste life in useless battles, but prefer to strike at the heart. “Two bases of operations seem to present themselves for the advance of the army of the Potomac : “I. That of Washington—its present position—involving a direct attack upon the intrenched positions of the enemy at Centreville, Manassas, &c., or else a movement to turn one or both flanks of those positions, or a combination of the two plans. “The relative force of the two armies will not justify an attack on both flanks; an attack on his left flank alone involves a long line of wagon communication, and cannot prevent him from collecting for the decisive battle all the detachments now on his extreme right and left. “Should we attack his right flank by the line of the Occoquan, and a crossing of the Potomac below that river, and near his batteries, we could perhaps prevent the junction of the enemy's right with his centre, (we might destroy the former;) we would remove the obstructions to the navigation of the Potomac, reduce the length of wagon transportation by establishing new depots at the nearest points of the Potomac, and strike more directly his main railway communication. “The fords of the Occoquan below the mouth of the Bull run are watched by the rebels; batteries are said to be placed on the heights in the rear, (concealed by the woods,) and the arrangement of his troops is such that he can oppose some considerable resistance to a passage of that stream. Information has just been received, to the effect that the enemy are intrenching a line of heights extending from the vicinity of Sangster's (Union mills) towards Evansport. Early in January, Spriggs's ford was occupied by General Rhodes, with 3,600 men and eight (8) guns; there are strong reasons for believing. that Davis's ford is occupied. These circumstances indicate or prove that the enemy anticipates the movement in question, and is prepared to resist it. Assuming for the present that this operation is determined upon, it may be well to examine briefly its probable progress. In the present state of affairs, our column (for the movement of so large a force must be made in several columns, at least five or six) can reach the Accatinck without danger; during the march thence to the Occoquan, our right flank becomes exposed to an attack from Fairfax station, Sangster's, and Union mills. This danger must be met by occupying in some force either the two first named places, or better, the point of junction of the roads leading thence to the village of Occoquan; this occupation must be continued so long as we continue to draw supplies by the roads from this city, or until a battle is won. “The crossing of the Occoquan should be made at all the fords fromWolf's run to the mouth; the points of crossing not being necessarily confined to the fords themselves. Should the enemy occupy this line in force, we must, with what assistance the flotilla can afford, endeavor to force the passage near the mouth, thus forcing the enemy to abandon the whole line, or be taken in flank himself. “Having gained the line of the Occoquan, it would be necessary to throw a column by the shortest route to Dumfries; partly to force the enemy to abandon his batteries on the Potomac; partly to coyer our left flank against an attack from the direction of Aquia; and lastly, to establish our communications with the river by the best roads, and thus give us new depots. The enemy would by this time have occupied the line of the Occoquan above Bull run, holding Brentsville in force, and perhaps extending his lines somewhat further to the southwest.
“Our next step would then be to prevent the enemy from crossing the Occoquan between Bull run and Broad run, to fall upon our right flank while moving on Brentsville. This might be effected by occupying Bacon Race church and the cross-roads near the mouth of Bull run, or still more effectually by moving to the fords themselves, and preventing him from debouching on our side. “These operations would possibly be resisted, and it would require some time to effect them, as, nearly at the same time as possible, we should gain the fords necessary to our purposes above Broad run. Having secured our right flank, it would become necessary to carry Brentsville at any cost, for we could not leave it between the right flank and the main body. The final movement on the railroad must be determined by circumstances existing at the time. “This brief sketch brings out in bold relief the great advantage possessed by the enemy in the strong central position he occupies, with roads diverging in every direction, and a strong line of defence enabling him to remain on the defensive, with a small force on one flank, while he concentrates everything on the other for a decisive action. “Should we place a portion of our force in front of Centreville, while the rest crosses the Occoquan, we commit the error of dividing our army by a very difficult obstacle, and by a distance too great to enable the two parts to support each other, should either be attacked by the masses of the enemy, while the other is held in check. “I should perhaps have dwelt more decidedly on the fact that the force left near Sangster's must be allowed to remain somewhere on that side of the Occoquan until the decisive battle is over, so as to cover our retreat in the event of disaster, unless it should be decided to select and intrench a new base somewhere near Dumfries—a proceeding involving much time. “After the passage of the Occoquan by the main army, this covering force
could be drawn into a more central and less exposed position—say Brimstone '
hill or nearer the Occoquan. In this latitude the weather will for a considerable period be very uncertain, and a movement commenced in force on roads in tolerably firm condition will be liable, almost certain, to be much delayed by rains and snow. It will, therefore, be next to impossible to surprise the enemy, or take him at a disadvantage by rapid manoeuvres. Our slow progress will enable him to divine our purposes, and take his measures accordingly. The probability is, from the best information we possess, that the enemy has improved the roads leading to his lines of defence, while we have to work as we advance. “Bearing in mind what has been said, and the present unprecedented and impassable condition of the roads, it will be evident that no precise period can be fixed upon for the movement on this line. Nor can its duration be closely calculated; it seems certain that many weeks may elapse before it is possible to commence the march. Assuming the success of this operation, and the defeat of the enemy as certain, the question at once arises as to the importance of the results gained. I think these results would be confined to the possession of the field of battle, the evacuation of the line of the upper Potomac by the enemy, and the moral effect of the victory; important results, it is true, but not decisive of the war, nor securing the destruction of the enemy's main army, for he could fall back upon other positions, and fight us again and again, should the condition of his troops permit. If he is in no condition to fight us again out of the range of the intrenchments at Richmond, we would find it a very difficult and tedious matter to follow him up there, for he would destroy his railroad bridges and otherwise impede our progress through a region where the roads are as bad as they well can be, and we would probably find ourselves forced at last to change the whole theatre of war, or to seek a shorter land route to Richmond, with a smaller available force, and at an expenditure of much more time, than were we to adopt the short line at once. We would also have forced the enemy to
concentrate his forces and perfect his defensive measures at the very points
where it is desirable to strike him when least prepared.