Report of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, U. S. Army,
commanding the Army of the Potomac (Part 4)
Reports of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, U. S. Army, commanding the Army of the Potomac, of operations August 14- November 9.
Operations in Northern Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.--September 3-November 14, 1862.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XIX/1 [S# 27]
NEW YORK, August 4, 1863.
Brig. Gen. LORENZO THOMAS,
Adjutant-General, U S. Army.
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.
* * * * * * * * * *
On the 1st of September I went into Washington, where I had an interview with the General-in-Chief, who instructed me verbally to take command of its defenses, expressly limiting my jurisdiction to the works and their garrisons, and prohibiting me from exercising any control over the troops actively engaged in front under General Pope. During this interview I suggested to the General-in-Chief the necessity of his going in person or sending one of his personal staff to the army under General Pope for the purpose of ascertaining the exact condition of affairs. He sent Colonel Kelton, his assistant adjutant-general.
During the afternoon of the same day I received a message from the General-in-Chief to the effect that he desired me to go at once to his house to see the President.
The President informed me that he had reason to believe that the Army of the Potomac was not cheerfully co-operating with and supporting General Pope; that he had "always been a friend of mine," and now asked me, as a special favor, to use my influence in correcting this state of things. I replied, substantially, that I was confident that he was misinformed; that I was sure, whatever estimate the Army of the Potomac might entertain of General Pope, that they would obey his orders, support him to the fullest extent, and do their whole duty. The President, who was much moved, asked me to telegraph to "Fitz John Porter or some other of my friends," and try to do away with any feeling that might exist, adding that I could rectify the evil and that no one else could.
I thereupon told him that I would cheerfully telegraph to General Porter, or do anything else in my power to gratify his wishes and relieve his anxiety; upon which he thanked me very warmly, assured me that he could never forget my action in the matter, &c., and left.
I then wrote the following telegram to General Porter, which was sent to him by the General-in-Chief:
WASHINGTON, September 1, 1862.
I ask of you, for my sake, that of the country, and the old Army of the Potomac, that you and all my friends will lend the fullest and most cordial co-operation to General Pope in all the operations now going on. The destinies of our country, the honor of our arms, are at stake, and all depends now upon the cheerful co-operation of all in the field. This week is the crisis of our fate. Say the same thing to my friends in the Army of the Potomac, and that the last request I have to make of them is that for their country's sake they will extend to General Pope the same support they ever have to me.
I am in charge of the defenses of Washington, and am doing all I can to render your retreat safe should that become necessary.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN.
To which he sent the following reply:
September 2, 1869---10 a.m.
General GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN,
Major-general, Commanding, Washington:
You may rest assured that all your friends, as well as every lover of his country, will ever give, as they have given, to General Pope their cordial co-operation and constant support in the execution of all orders and plans. Our killed, wounded, and enfeebled troops attest our devoted duty.
F. J. PORTER.
Neither at the time I wrote the telegram nor at any other time did I think for one moment that General Porter had been or would be in any manner derelict in the performance of his duty to the nation and its cause. Such an impression never entered my mind. The dispatch in question was written purely at the request of the President.
On the morning of the 2d the President and General Halleck came to my house, when the President informed me that Colonel Kelton had returned from the front; that our affairs were in a bad condition; that the army was in full retreat upon the defenses of Washington; the roads filled with straggler, &c. He instructed me to take steps at once to stop and collect the stragglers, to place the works in a proper state of defense and to go out to meet and take command of the army when it approached the vicinity of the works; then to place the troops in the best position--committing everything to my hands.
I immediately took steps to carry out these orders, and sent an aide to General Pope with the following letter:
Washington, September 2, 1862
Maj. Gen. JOHN Pope,
Commanding of Virginia:
GENERAL General Halleck instructed me to repeat to you the order he sent this morning to withdraw your army to Washington without unnecessary delay. He feared that his messenger might miss you and desired to take this double precaution.
In order to bring troops upon ground with which they are already familiar, it would be best to move Porter's corps Upon Upton's Hill, that it may occupy Hall's Hill, &c.; McDowell's to Upton's Hill; Franklin's to the works in front of Alexandria; Heintzelman's to the same vicinity; Couch to Fort Corcoran, or, if practicable to the Chain Bridge; Sumner either to Fort Albany or to Alexandria, as may be most convenient.
In haste, general, very truly, yours,
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
Major-General, U. S. Army.
In the afternoon I crossed the Potomac and rode to the front, and at Upton's Hill met the advance of McDowell's corps, and with it Generals Pope and McDowell. After getting what information I could from them, I sent the few aides at my disposal to the left, to give instructions to the troops approaching in the direction of Alexandria, and, hearing artillery firing in the direction of the Vienna and Langley road, by which the corps of Sumner, Porter, and Sigel were returning, and learning from General Pope that Sumner was probably engaged, I went with a single aide and three orderlies by the shortest line to meet that column. I reached the column after dark, and proceeded as far as Lewinsville, where I became satisfied that the rear corps (Sumner's) would be able to reach its intended position without any serious molestation. I therefore indicated to Generals Porter and Sigel the positions they were to occupy, sent instructions to General Sumner, and at a late hour of the night returned to Washington.
Next day I rode to the front of Alexandria, and was engaged in rectifying the positions of the troops and giving orders necessary to secure the issuing of the necessary supplies, &c. I felt sure on this day that we could repulse any attack made by the enemy on the south side of the Potomac.
On the 3d the enemy had disappeared from the front of Washington, and the information which I received induced me to believe that he intended to cross the Upper Potomac into Maryland. This materially changed the aspect of affairs and enlarged the sphere of operations; for, in case of a crossing in force, an active campaign would be necessary to cover Baltimore, prevent the invasion of Pennsylvania, and clear Maryland. I therefore on the 3d ordered the Second and Twelfth Corps to Tennallytown, and the Ninth Corps to a point on the Seventh street road near Washington, and sent such cavalry as was available to the fords near Poolesville, to watch and impede the enemy in any attempt to cross in that vicinity.
On September 5 the Second and Twelfth Corps were moved to Rockville, and Couch's division (the only one of the Fourth Corps that had been brought from the Peninsula) to Offutt's Cross-Roads.
On the 6th the First and Ninth Corps were ordered to Leesborough; the Sixth Corps and Sykes' division of the Fifth Corps to Tennallytown.
On the 7th the Sixth Corps was advanced to Rockville, to which place my headquarters were moved on the same day.
All the necessary arrangements for the defense of the city under the new condition of things had been made, and General Banks was left in command, having received his instructions from me.
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 Washington 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:
Command September 4 September 6 September 9 September 16 BURNSIDE -- -- -- -- 9th Corps, Reno Seventh-street road Leeslborough Brookville 1st Corps, Hooker Upton's Hill do do SUMNER -- -- -- -- 12th Corps, Williams Tennallytown Rockville Middlebrook Damascus 2d Corps, Sumner do do do Clarksburg FRANKLIN -- -- -- -- 6th Corps, Franklin Alexandri Seminary Tennallytown Darnestown Barnesville Couch's division Tennalytown Offutt's Cross-Roads Mouth of Seneca Poolesville Sykes'division Tennallytown Rookville Rokville Command September 11 September 12 September 13 September 14 BURNSIDE -- -- -- -- 9th Corps, Reno New Market Frederick Middletown South Mountain 1st Corps, Hooker Ridgeville New Market and on the Monocacy Frederick Do SUMNER -- -- -- -- 12th Corps, Williams Damascus Ijamsville Cross Roads do Do 2d Corps, Sumner Clarksburg Urbana do Do FRANKLIN -- -- -- -- 6th Corps, Franklin Barnesville Licksville Cross-Road Buckeystown Burkittville Couch's division Poolesville Barnesville Licksville Do Sykes' division Middlebrook Urbana Frederick Middletown
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 mouth 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 Sigel? 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 information from Wheeling that the line is cut, corroborates the idea that the enemy is re-crossing 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:
September 16, 1862--12.30 p.m.
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 appeared to me to be a part of their plan, and hence my anxiety on the subject. Heavy rain might prevent it.
H. W. HALLECK,
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, 1 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 mistaken 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 1 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 ton, always rested on the Potomac, and my center was continually in position to re-enforce the left or right, as occasion might require. Had I advanced my left flank along the Potomac more rapidly than the other columns marched upon the roads to the right, I should have thrown that flank out of supporting distance of the other troops and greatly exposed it, and if I had marched the entire army in one column along the bank of the river, instead of upon five different parallel roads, the column, with its trains, would have extended about 50 miles, and the enemy might have defeated the advance before the rear could have reached the scene of action. Moreover, such a movement would have uncovered the communications with Baltimore and Washington on our right and exposed our right and rear. I presume it will be admitted by every military man that it was necessary to move the army in such order that it could at any time be concentrated for battle and I am of opinion that this object could not have been accomplished in any other way than the one employed. Any other disposition of our forces would have subjected them to defeat in detached fragments.
On the 10th of September I received from my scouts information which rendered it quite probable that General Lee's army was in the vicinity of Frederick, but whether his intention was to move toward Baltimore or Pennsylvania was not then known. On the 11th I ordered General Burnside to push a strong reconnaissance across the National road and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad toward New Market, and, if he learned that the enemy had moved toward Hagerstown, to press on rapidly to Frederick, keeping his troops constantly ready to meet the enemy in force. A corresponding movement of all the troops in the center and on the left was ordered in the direction of Urbana and Poolesville.
On the 12th a portion of the right wing entered Frederick, after a brisk skirmish at the outskirts of the city and in the streets.
On the 13th the main bodies of the right wing and center passed through Frederick. It was soon ascertained that the main body of the enemy's forces had marched out of the city on the two previous days, taking the roads to Boonsborough and Harper's Ferry, thereby rendering it necessary to force the passes through the Catoctin and South Mountain ridges and gain possession of Boonsborough and Rohrers ville before any relief could be extended to Colonel Miles at Harper's Ferry.
On the 13th an order fell into my hands, issued by General Lee, which fully disclosed his plans, and I immediately gave orders for a rapid and vigorous forward movement. The following is a copy of the order referred to:
SPECIAL ORDERS No. 191.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
September 9, 1862.
The army will resume its march to-morrow, taking the Hagerstown road. General Jackson's command will form the advance, and, after passing Middletown, with such portion as he may select, take the route toward Sharpsburg, cross the Potomac at the most convenient point, and, by Friday night, take possession of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, capture such of the enemy as may be at Martinsburg, and intercept such as may attempt to escape from Harper's Ferry.
General Longstreet's command will pursue the same road as far as Boonsborough, where it will halt with the reserve, supply, and baggage trains of the army
General McLaws, with his own division and that of General R. H. Anderson, will follow General Longstreet. On reaching Middletown he will take the route to Harper's Ferry, and by Friday morning possess himself of the Maryland Heights, and endeavor to capture the enemy at Harper's Ferry and vicinity.
General Walker, with his division, after accomplishing the object in which he is now engaged, will cross the Potomac at Cheek's Ford, ascend its right bank to Lovetttsville, take possession 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,
Maj. Gen. D. H. HILL,
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 refrain from censuring those in high command when it thinks such censure deserved.
The General-in-Chief 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 makes 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 commission states, Colonel Ford s little army was in reality relieved by those officers, it was relieved by me.
I had on the morning of the 10th sent the following dispatch in reintion to the command at Harper's Ferry:
CAMP NEAR ROCKVILLE September 10, 1862---9.45 a.m.
Major-GeneraI 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 suggest that he be ordered to join me by the meet practicable mute.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
To this I received the following reply:
[WASHINGTON, D.C., September 11, 1862.]
GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN, Major-General:
There is no way for Colonel Miles to join you at present. His only chance is to defend his works till you can open communication with him.
H. W. HALLECK.
It seems necessary for a distinct understanding of this matter to state that I was directed on the 12th to assume command of the garrison of Harper's Ferry as soon as I should open communications with that place, and that when I received this order all communication from the direction in which I was approaching was cut off. Up to that time, however, Colonel Miles could, in my opinion, have marched his command into Pennsylvania by crossing the Potomac at Williamsport or above, and this opinion was confirmed by the fact that Colonel Davis marched the cavalry part of Colonel Miles' command from Harper's Ferry on the 14th, taking the main road to Hagerstown, and he encountered no enemy except a small picket near the mouth of the Antietam.
Before I left Washington, and when there certainly could have been no enemy to prevent the withdrawal of the forces of Colonel Miles, I recommended to the proper authorities that the garrison of Harper's Ferry should be withdrawn, via Hagerstown, to aid in covering the Cumberland Valley, or that, taking up the pontoon bridge and obstructing the railroad bridge, it should fall back to the Maryland Heights and there hold out to the last. In this position it ought to have maintained itself for many days.
It was not deemed proper to adopt either of these suggestions, and when the matter was left to my discretion it was too late for me to do anything but endeavor to relieve the garrison. I accordingly directed artillery to be fired by our advance at frequent intervals, as a signal that relief was at hand. This was done, and, as I afterwards learned, the reports of the cannon were distinctly heard at Harper's Ferry. It was confidently expected that Colonel Miles would hold out until we had carried the mountain passes and were in condition to send a detachment to his relief. The left was therefore ordered to move through Cramp-ton's Pass in front of Burkittsville, while the center and right marched upon Turner's Pass in front of Middletown.
It may be asked by those who are not acquainted with the topography of the country in the vicinity of Harper's Ferry why Franklin, instead of marching his column over the circuitous road from Jefferson via Burkittsville and Brownsville, was not ordered to move along the direct turnpike to Knoxville and thence up the river to Harper's Ferry. It was for the reason that I had received information that the enemy were anticipating our approach in that direction, and had established batteries on the south side of the Potomac which commanded all the approaches to Knoxville. Moreover the road from that point winds directly along the river bank at the foot of a precipitous mountain, where there was no opportunity of forming in line of battle, and where the enemy could have placed batteries on both sides of the river to enfilade our narrow approaching columns. The approach through Cramp-ton's Pass, which debouches into Pleasant Valley in rear of Maryland Heights, was the only one which afforded any reasonable prospect of carrying that formidable position. At the same time the troops upon that road were in better relation to the main body of our forces.
On the morning of the 14th a verbal message reached me from Colonel Miles, which was the first authentic intelligence I had received as to the condition of things at Harper's Ferry. The messenger informed me that on the preceding afternoon Maryland Heights had been abandoned by our troops after repelling an attack of the rebels, and that Colonel Miles' entire force was concentrated at Harper's Ferry, the Maryland, Loudoun, and Bolivar Heights having been abandoned by him and occupied by the enemy. The messenger also stated that there was no apparent reason for the abandonment of the Maryland Heights, and that Colonel Miles instructed him to say that he could hold out with certainty two days longer. I directed him to make his way back if possible, with the information that I was approaching rapidly and felt confident I could relieve the place.
On the same afternoon I wrote the following letter to Colonel Miles, and dispatched three copies by three different couriers on different routes. I did not, however, learn that any of these men succeeded in reaching Harper's Ferry.
MIDDLETOWN, September 14, 1862.
Col. D. S. MILES:
COLONEL: The army is being rapidly concentrated here. We are now attacking the pass on the Hagerstown road over the Blue Ridge A column is about attacking the Burkittsville and Boonsborough Passes. You may count on our making every effort to relieve you. You may rely upon my speedily accomplishing that object. Hold out to the last extremity. If it is possible, reoccupy the Maryland Heights with your whole force. If you can do that, I will certainly be able to relieve you. As the Catoc-tin Valley is in our possession, you can safely cross the river at Berlin or its vicinity, so far as opposition on this side of the river is concerned. Hold out to the last.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
On the previous day I had sent General Franklin the following instructions:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY-- OF THE POTOMAC,
Camp near Frederick, September 13, 1862---6.20 p.m.
Maj. Gen. W. B. FRANKLIN,
Commanding Sixth Corps:
GENERAL: I have now full information as to movements and intentions of the enemy. Jackson has crossed the Upper Potomac to capture the garrison at Martinsburg and cut off Miles' retreat toward the west. A division on the south side of the Potomac was to carry Loudoun Heights and cut off his retreat in that direction. McLaws, with his own command and the division of R. H. Anderson, was to move by Boonsborough and Rohrersville to carry the Maryland Heights. The signal officers inform me that he is now in Pleasant Valley. The firing shows that Miles still holds out. Longstreet was to move to Boonsborough and there halt with the reserve corps, D. H. Hill to form the rear guard, Stuart's cavalry to bring up stragglers, &c. We have cleared out all the cavalry this side of the mountains and north of us.
The last I heard from Pleasonton he occupied Middletown, after several sharp skirmishes. A division of Burnside's command started several hours ago to support him. The whole of Burnside's command, including Hooker's corps, march this evening and early to-morrow morning, followed by the corps of Sumner and Banks and Sykes' division, upon Boonsborough, to carry that position. Couch has been ordered to concentrate his division and join you as rapidly as possible. Without waiting for the whole of that division to join, you will move at daybreak in the morning, by Jefferson and Burkittsville, upon the road to Rohrersville. I have reliable information that the mountain pass by this road is practicable for artillery and wagons. If this pass is not occupied by the enemy in force, seize it as soon as practicable, and debouch upon Rohrersville, in order to cut off the retreat of or destroy McLaws' command. If you find this pass held by the enemy in large force, make all your dispositions for the attacked and commence it about half an hour after you hear severe firing at the pass on the Hagerstown pike, where the main body will attack. Having gained the pass, your duty will be first to cut off, destroy, or capture McLaws' command and relieve Colonel Miles. If you effect this, you will order him to Join you at once with all his disposable troops, first, destroying the bridge over the Potomac, if not already done, and, leaving a sufficient garrison to prevent the enemy from passing the ford, you will then return by Rohrersville on the direct road to Boonsborough if the main column has not succeeded in its attack. If it has succeeded, take the road by Rohrersville to Sharpsburg and Williamsport, in order either to cut off the retreat of Hill and Longstreet toward the Potomac, or prevent the repassage of Jackson. My general idea is to cut the enemy in two and beat him in detail. I believe I have sufficiently explained my intentions. I ask of you, at this important moment, all your intellect and the utmost activity that a general can exercise.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
Again, on the 14th, I sent him the following:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Frederick, September 14, 1862--2 p.m.
Your dispatch of 12.30 just received. Send back to hurry up Couch. Mass your troops and carry Burkittsville at any cost We should have strong opposition at both passes. As fast as the troops come up I will hold a reserve in readiness to support you. If you find the enemy in very great force at any of these passes, let me know at once, and amuse them as best you can, so as to retain them there. In that event I will probably throw the mass of the army on the pans in front of here. If I carry that it will clear the way for you, and you must then follow the enemy as rapidly as possible.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
General Franklin pushed his corps rapidly forward toward Crampton's Pass, and at about 12 o'clock on the 14th arrived at Burkittsville, immediately in rear of which he found the enemy's infantry posted in force on both sides of the road, with artillery in strong positions to defend the approaches to the pass. Slocum's division was formed upon the right of the road leading through the gap and Smith's upon the left. A line formed of Bartlett's and Torbert's brigades, supported by Newton, whose activity was conspicuous, advanced steadily upon the enemy at a charge on the right. The enemy were driven from their position at the base of the mountain, where they were protected by a stone wall, steadily forced back up the slope until they reached the position of their battery on the road, well up the mountain. There they made a stand. They were, however, driven back, retiring their artillery en echelon until, after an action of three hours, the crest was gained and the enemy hastily fled down the mountain on the other side.
On the left of the road Brooks' and Irwin's brigades, of Smith's division, formed for the protection of S1ocum's flank, charged up the mountain in the same steadily manner, driving the enemy before them until the crest was carried. Four hundred prisoners from seventeen different organizations, 700 stand of arms, one piece of artillery, and three colors were captured by our troops in this brilliant action. It was conducted by General Franklin in all its details. These details are given in a report of General Franklin, herewith submitted, and due credit awarded to the gallant officers and men engaged.
The loss in General Franklin's corps was 115 killed, 416 wounded, and 2 missing. The enemy's loss was about the same. The enemy's position was such that our artillery could not be used with any effect. The close of the action found General Franklin's advance in Pleasant Valley on the night of the 14th, within 3 ½ miles of the point on Maryland Heights, where he might, on the same night or on the morning of the 15th, have formed a junction with the garrison of Harper's Ferry had it not been previously withdrawn from Maryland Heights, and within 6 miles of Harper's Ferry.
On the night of the 14th the following dispatch was sent to General Franklin:
BOLIVAR, September 15--1 a.m.
GENERAL * * * The commanding.general directs that you occupy with your command the road from Rohrersville to Harper's Ferry, placing a sufficient force at Rohrcrsville to hold that position in case it should be attacked by the enemy from Boonsborough. Endeavor to open communication with Colonel Miles at Harper's Ferry, attacking and destroying such of the enemy as you may find in Pleasant Valley. Should you succeed in opening communication with Colonel Miles, direct him to Join you with his whole command, with all the guns and public property that he can carry with him. The remainder of the guns will be spiked or destroyed; thereat of the public property will also be destroyed. You will then proceed to Boonsboroough, which place the commanding general intends to attack to-morrow, and join the main body of the army at that place; should you find, however that the enemy have retreated from Boonsborough toward Sharpsburg, you will endeavor to fall upon him and cut off his retreat.
By command of Major-General McClellan:
GEO. D. RUGGLES,
Colonel and Aide de Camp
On the 15th the following were received from General Franklin:
AT THE FOOT OF MOUNT PLEASANT,
In Pleasant Valley, 3 miles from Rohrersville, September 15.--8.50 a.m.
General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN:
General: My command started at daylight this morning, and I am waiting to have it closed up here. General Conch arrived about 10 o'clock last night. I have ordered one of his brigades and one battery to Rohrersville or to the strongest point in its vicinity. The enemy is drawn up in line of battle about 2 miles to our front, one brigade in sight. As soon as I am sure that Rohrersville is occupied, I shall move forward to attack the enemy. This may be two hours from now. If Harper's Ferry has fallen, and the cessation of firing makes me fear that it has--it is my opinion that I should be strongly re-enforced.
W. B. FRANKLIN,
Major-General, Commanding Corps.
September 15, 11 a.m.
General GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN, Commanding:
GENERAL: I have received your dispatch by Captain O'Keeffe. The enemy is in large force in my front, in two lines of battle stretching across the valley, and a large column of artillery and infantry on the right of the valley looking toward Harper's Ferry?. They outnumber me two to one. It will, of course, not answer to pursue the enemy under these circumstances. I shall communicate with Burnside as soon as possible. In the mean time I shall wait here until I learn what is the prospect of re-enforcement. I have not the force to Justify an attack on the force I see in front. I have had a very close view of it, and its position is very strong.
W. B. FRANKLIN,
Major-General, Commanding Corps.
Colonel Miles surrendered Harper's Ferry at 8 a.m. on the 15th, as the cessation of the firing indicated, and General Franklin was ordered to remain where he was, to watch the large force in front of him, and protect our left and rear until the night of the 16th, when he was ordered to join the main body of the army at Keedysville, after sending Couch's division to Maryland Heights.
While the events which have just been described were taking place at Crampton's Gap, the troops of the center and right wing, which had united at Frederick on the 13th, were engaged in the contest for the possession of Turner's Gap.
On the morning of the 13th General Pleasonton was ordered to send McReynolds' brigade and a section of artillery in the direction of Gettysburg, and Rush's regiment toward Jefferson to communicate with Franklin, to whom the Sixth U.S. Cavalry and a section of artillery had previously been sent, and to proceed with the remainder of his force in the direction of Middletown, in pursuit of the enemy.
After skirmishing with the enemy all the morning, and driving them from several strong positions, he reached Turner's Gap of the South Mountain in the afternoon, and found the enemy in force and apparently determined to defend the pass. He sent back for infantry to General Burnside, who had been directed to support him, and proceeded to make a reconnaissance of the position. The South Mountain is at this point about 1,000 feet in height, and its general direction is from northeast to southwest. The National road from Frederick to Hagerstown crosses it nearly at right angles through Turner's Gap, a depression which is some 400 feet in depth.
The mountain on the north side of the turnpike is divided into two crests, or ridges, by a narrow valley, which, though deep at the pass, becomes a slight depression at about a mile to the north. There are two country roads, one to the right of the turnpike and the other to the left, which give access to the crests overlooking the main road. The one on the left, called the "Old Sharpsburg road," is nearly parallel to and about half a mile distant from the turnpike, until it reaches the crest of the mountain, when it bends off to the left. The other road, called the " Old Hagerstown road," passes up a ravine in the mountains about a mile from the turnpike, and, bending to the left over and along the first crest, enters the turnpike at the Mountain House, near the summit of the pass.
On the night of the 13th the positions of the different corps were as follows:
Reno's corps at Middletown, except Rodman's division at Frederick. Hooker's corps on the Monocacy, 2 miles from Frederick. Sumner's corps near Frederick. Banks' corps near Frederick. Sykes' division near Frederick. Franklin's corps at Buckeystown. Couch's division at Licksville.
The orders from headquarters for the march on the 14th were as follows:
13th, 11.30 p.m.--Hooker to march at daylight to Middletown.
13th, 11.30 p.m.--Sykes to move at 6 a.m. after Hooker, on the Middletown and Hagerstown road.
14th, 1 a.m.--Artillery reserve to follow Sykes closely.
13th, 8.45 p.m.--Sumner to move at 7 a.m.
14th, 9 a.m.--Sumner ordered to take the Shookstown road to Middletown.
13th, 6.45 p.m.--Couch ordered to move to Jefferson with his whole division.
On the 14th General Pleasonton continued his reconnaissance. Gibson's battery and afterwards Benjamin's battery of Reno's corps were placed on high ground to the left of the turnpike, and obtained a direct fire on the enemy's position in the gap.
General Cox's division, which had been ordered up to support General Pleasonton, left its bivouac near Middletown at 6 a.m. The First Brigade reached the scene of action about 9 a.m., and was sent up the Old Sharpsburg road by General Pleasonton to feel the enemy and ascertain if he held the crest on that side in strong force. This was soon found to be the ease, and General Cox having arrived with the other brigade, and information having been received from General Reno that the column would be supported by the whole corps, the division was ordered to assault the position. Two 20-pounder Parrotts of Simmonds' battery and two sections of McMullin's battery were left in the rear in position near the turnpike, where they did good service during the day against the enemy's batteries in the gap. Colonel Scammon's brigade was deployed, and, well covered by skirmishers, moved up the slope to the left of the road, with the object of turning the enemy's right, if possible. It succeeded in gaining the crest and establishing itself there, in spite of the vigorous efforts of the enemy, who was posted behind stone walls and in the edges of timber, and the fire of a battery which poured in canister and case-shot on the regiment on the right of the brigade. Colonel Crook's brigade marched in columns at supporting distance. A section of McMullin's battery, under Lieutenant Crome (killed while serving one of his guns). was moved up with great difficulty, and opened with canister at very short range on the enemy's infantry, by whom, after having done considerable execution, it was soon silenced and forced to withdraw. One regiment of Crook's brigade was now deployed on Scammon's left and the other two in his rear, and they several times entered the first line and relieved the regiments in front of them when hard pressed. A section of Simmonds' battery was brought up and placed in an open space in the woods, where it did good service during the rest of the day.
The enemy several times attempted to retake the crest, advancing with boldness, but were each time repulsed. They then withdrew their battery to a point more to the right, and formed columns on both our flanks. It was now about noon and a lull occurred in the contest which lasted about two hours, during which the rest of the corps was coming up. General Willcox's division was the first to arrive. When he reached the base of the mountain, General Cox advised him to consult General Pleasonton as to a position. The latter indicated that on the right, afterwards taken up by General Hooker. General Willcox was in the act of moving to occupy this ground when he received an order from General Reno to move up the Old Sharpsburg road and take a position to its right, overlooking the turnpike. Two regiments were detached to support General Cox, at his request. One section of Cook's battery was placed in position near the turn of the road (on the crest), and opened fire on the enemy's batteries across the gap. The division was proceeding to deploy to the right of the road, when the enemy suddenly opened (at 150 yards) with a battery which enfiladed the road at this point, drove off Cook's cannoneers with their limbers, and caused a temporary panic, in which the guns were nearly lost. But the Seventy-ninth New York and Seventeenth Michigan promptly rallied, changed front under a heavy fire, and moved out to protect the guns, with which Captain Cook had remained. Order was soon restored, and the division formed in line on the right of Cox, and was kept concealed as much as possible under the shelter of the hillside until the whole line advanced. It was exposed not only to the fire of the battery in front, but also to that of the batteries on the other side of the turnpike, and lost heavily.
Shortly before this time Generals Burnside and Reno arrived at the base of the mountain, and the former directed the latter to move up the divisions of Generals Sturgis and Rodman's to the crest held by Cox and Willcox, and to move upon the enemy's position with his whole force as soon as he was informed that General Hooker (who had just been directed to attack on the right) was well advanced up the mountain.
General Reno then went to the front and assumed the direction of affairs, the positions having been explained to him by General Pleasonton. Shortly before this time I arrived at the point occupied by General Burnside, and my headquarters were located there until the conclusion of the action. General Sturgis had left his camp at 1 p.m., and reached the scene of action about 3.30 p.m. Clark's battery, of his division, was sent to assist Cox's left, by order of General Reno, and two regiments (Second Maryland and Sixth New Hampshire) were detached by General Reno and sent forward a short distance on the left of the turnpike. His division was formed in rear of Willcox's, and Rod-man's division was divided; Colonel Fairchild's brigade being placed on the extreme left, and Colonel Harland's, under General Rodman's personal supervision, on the right.
My order to move the whole line forward and take or silence the enemy's batteries in front was executed with enthusiasm. The enemy made a desperate resistance, charging our advancing lines with fierceness, but they were everywhere routed, and fled.
Our chief loss was in Willcox's division. The enemy's battery was found to be across a gorge and beyond the reach of our infantry, but its position was made untenable, and it was hastily removed and not again put in position near us; but the batteries across the gap still kept up a fire of shot and shell.
General Willcox praises very highly the conduct of the Seventeenth Michigan in this advance--a regiment which had been organized scarcely a month, but which charged the advancing enemy in flank in a manner worthy of veteran troops; and also that of the Forty-fifth Pennsylvania, which bravely met them in front.
Cook's battery now reopened fire. Sturgis' division was moved to the front of Willcox's, occupying the new ground gained on the further side of the slope, and his artillery opened on the batteries across the gap. The enemy made an effort to turn our left about dark, but were repulsed by Fairchild's brigade and Clark's battery.
At about 7 o'clock the enemy made another effort to regain the lost ground, attacking along Sturgis' front and part of Cox's. A lively fire was kept up until nearly 9 o'clock, several charges being made by the enemy and repulsed with slaughter, and we finally occupied the highest part of the mountain.
General Reno was killed just before sunset, while making a reconnaissance to the front., and the command of the corps devolved upon General Cox. In General Reno the nation lost one of its best general officers. He was a skillful soldier, a brave and honest man.
There was no firing after 10 o'clock, and the troops slept on their arms ready to renew the fight at daylight, but the enemy quietly retired from our front, during the night, abandoning their wounded, and leaving their dead in large numbers scattered over the field.
While these operations were progressing on the left of the main column, the right, under General Hooker, was actively engaged. His corps left the Monocacy early in the morning, and its advance reached the Catoctin Creek about I p.m. General Hooker then went forward to examine the ground.
At about 1 o'clock General Meade's division was ordered to make a diversion in favor of Reno. The following is the order sent:
SEPTEMBER 14--1 p.m.
GENERAL: General Reno requests that a division of yours may move up on the right (north) of the main road. General McClellan desires you to comply with this request, holding your whole corps in readiness to support the movement, and taking charge of in yourself. Sumner's and Banks' corps have commenced arriving. Let General McClellan be informed as soon as you commence your movement.
GEO. D. RUGGLES,
Colonel, Assistant Adjutant-General And Camp
Meade's division left Catoctin Creek about 2 o'clock, and turned off to the right from the main road on the Old Hagerstown road to Mount Tabor Church, where General Hooker was, and deployed a short distance in advance, its right resting about 14 miles from the turnpike. The enemy fired a few shots from a battery on the mountain side, but did no considerable damage. Cooper's battery (B), First Pennsylvania Artillery, was placed in position on high ground at about 3.30 o'clock, and fired at the enemy on the slope, but soon ceased by order of General Hooker, and the position of our lines prevented any further use of artillery by us on this part of the field. The First Massachusetts Cavalry was sent up the valley to the right to observe the movements, if any, of the enemy in that direction, and one regiment of Meade's division was posted to watch a road coming in the same direction. The other divisions were deployed as they came up, General Hatch's on the left and General Ricketts', which arrived at 5 p.m., in the rear. General Gibbon's brigade was detached from Hatch's division by General Burnside for the purpose of making a demonstration on the enemy's center up the main road, as soon as the movements on the right and left had sufficiently progressed. The First Pennsylvania Rifles, of General Seymour's brigade, were sent forward as skirmishers to feel the enemy, and it was found that he was in force. Meade was then directed to advance his division to the right of the road, so as to outflank them, if possible, and then to move forward and attack, while Hatch was directed to take with his division the crest on the left of the Old Hagerstown road, Ricketts' division being held in reserve. Seymour's brigade was sent up to the top of the slope on the right of the ravine through which the road runs, and then moved along the summit parallel to the road, while Colonel Gallagher's and Colonel Magilton's brigades moved in the same direction a1ong the slope and in the ravine.
The ground was of the most difficult character for the movement of troops, the hillside being very steep and rocky, and obstructed by stone walls and timber. The enemy was very soon encountered, and in a short time the action became general along the whole front of the division. The line advanced steadily up the mountain side, where the enemy was posted behind trees and rocks, from which he was gradually dislodged. During this advance, Colonel Gallagher, commanding the Third Brigade, was severely wounded, and the command devolved upon Lieut. Col. Robert Anderson.
General Meade, having reason to believe that the enemy was attempting to outflank him on his right, applied to General Hooker for re-enforcements. General Duryea's brigade, of Ricketts' division, was ordered up, but it did not arrive until the close of the action. It was advanced on Seymour's left, but only one regiment could open fire before the enemy retired and darkness intervened.
General Meade speaks highly of General Seymour's skill in handling his brigade on the extreme right, securing by his maneuvers the great object of the movement-the outflanking of the enemy.
While General Meade was gallantly driving the enemy on the right, General Hatch's division was engaged in a severe contest for the possession of the crest on the left of the ravine. It moved up the mountain in the following order: Two regiments of General Patrick's brigade deployed as skirmishers, with the other two regiments of the same brigade supposing them; Colonel Phelps' brigade in line of battalions in mass at deploying distance; General Doubleday's brigade in the same order bringing up the rear. The Twenty-first New York, having gone straight up the slope instead of around to the right, as directed, the Second U.S. Sharpshooters was sent out in its place. Phelps' and Doubleday's brigades were deployed in turn as they reached the woods, which began about half-way up the mountain. General Patrick with his skirmishers soon drew the fire of the enemy, and found him strongly posted behind a fence, which bounded the cleared space on the top of the ridge, having on his front the woods through which our line was advancing, and in his rear a corn-field full of rocky ledges, which afforded good cover to fall back to if dislodged.
Phelps' brigade gallantly advanced under a hot fire to close quarters, and after ten or fifteen minutes of heavy firing on both sides (in which General Hatch was wounded while urging on his men) the fence was carried by a charge, and our line advanced a few yards beyond it, somewhat sheltered by the slope of the hill. Doubleday's brigade, now under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Holmann (Colonel Wainwright having been wounded, relieved Phelps, and continued firing for an hour and a half, the enemy, behind ledges of rocks some 30 or 40 paces in our front, making a stubborn resistance, and attempting to charge on the least cessation of our fire. About dusk Colonel Christian's brigade, of Ricketts' division, came up and relieved Doubleday's brigade, which fell back into line behind Phelps'. Christian's brigade continued the action for thirty or forty minutes, when the enemy retired, after having made an attempt to flank us on the left, which was repulsed the Seventy-sixth New York and Seventh Indiana. The remaining brigade of Ricketts' division (General Hartsuff's) was moved up in the center, and connected Meade's left with Doubleday's right. We now had possession of the summit of the first ridge, which commanded the turnpike on both sides of the mountain, and the troops were ordered to hold their positions until further orders, and slept on their arms. Late in the afternoon General Gibbon, with his brigade and one section of Gibbon's battery (B, Fourth Artillery), was ordered to move up the main road on the enemy's center. He advanced a regiment on each side of the road, preceded by skirmishers and followed by the other two regiments in double column, the artillery moving on the road until within range of the enemy's guns, which were firing on the column from the gorge.
The brigade advanced steadily, driving the enemy before it from his positions in the woods and behind stone walls until they reached a point well up toward the top of the pass, when the enemy, having been re-enforced by three regiments, opened a heavy fire on the front and on both flanks The fight continued until 9 o'clock, the enemy being entirely repulsed, and the brigade, after having suffered severely, and having expended all its ammunition, including even the cartridges of the dead and wounded, continued to hold the ground it had so gallantly won until 12 o'clock, when it was relieved by General Gorman's brigade of Sedgwick's division, Sumner's corps (except the Sixth Wisconsin, which remained on the field all night). General Gibbon, in this delicate movement, handled his brigade with as much precision and coolness as if upon parade, and the bravery of his troops could not be excelled.
The Second Corps (Sumner's) and the Twelfth Corps (Williams') reached their final positions shortly after dark. General Richardson's division was placed near Mount Tabor Church, in a position to support our right, if necessary. The Twelfth Corps and Sedgwick's division bivouacked around Bolivar, in a position to support our center and left.
General Sykes' division of Regulars and the Artillery Reserve halted for the night at, Middletown. Thus, on the night of the 14th the whole army was massed in the vicinity of the field of battle, in readiness to renew the action the next day or to move in pursuit of the enemy.
At daylight our skirmishers were advanced, and it was found that he had retreated during the night, leaving his dead on the field and his wounded uncared for.
About 1,500 prisoners were taken by us during the battle, and the loss to the enemy in killed was much greater than our own, and probably also in wounded. It is believed that the force opposed to us at Turner's Gap consisted of D H Hill's corps (15 000)and a part, if not the whole, of Longstreet's, and perhaps a portion of Jackson's, probably some 30,000 in all. We went into action with about 30,000 men, and our losses amounted to 1,568 aggregate (312 killed, 1,234 wounded, and 22 missing).
On the next day I had the honor to receive the following very kind dispatch from His Excellency the President:
Washington, September 15, 1862--2.45 p.m.
Your dispatch of to-day received. God bless you and all with you. Destroy the rebel army if possible.
On the night of the battle of South Mountain orders were given to the corps commanders to press forward the pickets at early dawn. This advance revealed the fact that the enemy had left his positions, and an immediate pursuit was ordered--the cavalry under General Pleasonton and the three corps under Generals Sumner, Hooker, and Mansfield, the latter of whom had arrived that morning and assumed command of the Twelfth (Williams') Corps by the National turnpike and Boons-borough, the corps of Generals Burnside and Porter (the latter command at that time consisting of but one weak division, Sykes') by the Old Sharpsburg road, and General Franklin to move into Pleasant Valley, occupy Rohrersville by a detachment, and endeavor to relieve Harper's Ferry; Generals Burnside and Porter, upon reaching the road from Boonsborough to Rohresville, were to re-enforce Franklin, or to move on Sharpsburg, according to circumstances. Franklin moved toward Brownsville and found there a force of the enemy, much superior in numbers to his own, drawn up in a strong position to receive him. At this time the cessation of firing at Harper's Ferry indicated the surrender of that place. The cavalry overtook the enemy's cavalry in Boonsborough, made a daring charge, killing and wounding a number, and capturing 250 prisoners and 2 guns. General Richardson's division of the Second Corps, pressing the rear guard of the enemy with vigor, passed Boonsborough and Keedysville, and came upon the main body of the enemy, occupying in large force a strong position a few miles beyond the latter place.
It had been hoped to engage the enemy during the 15th. Accordingly, instructions were given that if the enemy were overtaken on the march, they should be attacked at once; if found in heavy force and in position, the corps in advance should be placed in position for attack, and await my arrival. On reaching the advanced position of our troops, I found but two divisions, Richardson's and Sykes', in position. The other troops were halted in the road, the head of the column some distance in rear of Richardson. The enemy occupied a strong position on the heights on the west side of Antietam Creek, displaying a large force of infantry and cavalry, with numerous batteries of artillery, which opened on our columns as they appeared in sight on the Keedysville road and Sharpsburg turnpike, which fire was returned by Captain Tidball's light battery, Second U.S. Artillery, and Pettit's battery, First New York Artillery. The division of General Richardson, following close on the heels of the retreating foe, halted and deployed near Antietam River, on the right of the Sharpsburg road. General Sykes, leading on the division of Regulars on the Old Sharpsburg road, came up and deployed to the left of General Richardson, on the left of the road.
Antietam Creek in this vicinity is crossed by four stone bridges--the upper one on the Keedysville and Williamsport road; the second on the Keedysville and Sharpsburg turnpike, some 2 ½ miles below; the third about a mile below the second, on the Rohrersville and Sharpsburg road, and the fourth near the mouth of Antietam Creek, on the road leading from Harper's Ferry to Sharpsburg, some 3 miles below the third. The stream is sluggish, with few and difficult fords. After a rapid examination of the position, I found that it was too late to attack that day, and at once directed the placing of the batteries in position in the center, and indicated the bivouacs for the different corps, massing them near and on both sides of the Sharpsburg turnpike. The corps were not all in their positions until the next morning after sunrise.
On the morning of the 16th it was discovered that the enemy had changed the position of his batteries. The masses of his troops, however, were still concealed behind the opposite heights. Their left and center were upon and in front of the Sharpsburg and Hagerstown turnpike, hidden by woods and irregularities of the ground, their extreme left resting upon a wooded eminence near the cross-roads to the north of J. Miller's farm, their left resting upon the Potomac. Their line extended south, the right resting upon the hills to the south of Sharps-burg, near Snavely's farm.
The bridge over the Antietam, described as No. 3, near this point was strongly covered by riflemen, protected by rifle-pits, stone fences, &c., and enfiladed by artillery. The ground in front of this line consisted of undulating hills, their crests in turn commanded by others in their rear. On all favorable points the enemy's artillery was posted, and their reserves, hidden from view by the hills on which their line of battle was formed, could maneuver unobserved by our army, and, from the shortness of their line, could rapidly re-enforce any point threatened by our attack. Their position, stretching across the angle formed by the Potomac and Antietam, their flanks and rear protected by these streams, was one of the strongest to be found in this region of country, which is well adapted to defensive warfare.
On the right, near Keedysville, OR both sides of the Sharpsburg turnpike, were Sumner's and Hooker's corps. In advance, on the right of the turnpike and near the Antietam River, General Richardson's division, of General Sumner's corps, was posted. General Sykes' division, of General Porter's corps, was on the left of the turnpike and in line with General Richardson, protecting the Bridge No. 2, over the Antietam. The left of the line, opposite to and some distance from Bridge No. 3, was occupied by General Burnside's corps.
Before giving General Hooker his orders to make the movement which will presently be described, I rode to the left of the line to satisfy myself that the troops were properly posted there to secure our left flank from any attack made along the left bank of the Antietam, as well as to enable us to carry Bridge No. 3.
I found it necessary to make considerable changes in the position of General Burnside's corps, and directed him to advance to a strong position in the immediate vicinity of the bridge and to reconnoiter the approaches to the bridge carefully. In front of Generals Sumner's and Hooker's corps, near Keedysville, and on the ridge of the first line of hills overlooking the Antietam, and between the turnpike and Pry's house on the right of the road, were placed Captains Taft's, Langner's, Von Kleiser's, and Lieutenant Wever's batteries of 20-pounder Parrott guns; on the crest of the hill, in the rear and right of Bridge No. 3, Captain Weed's 3-inch and Lieutenant Benjamin's 20-pounder batteries. General Franklin's corps and General Couch's decision held a position in Pleasant Valley, in front of Brownsville, with a strong force of the enemy in their front. General Morell's division, of Porter's corps, was en route from Boonsborough, and General Humphreys' division of new troops en route from Frederick, Md. About daylight on the 16th the enemy opened a heavy fire of artillery on our guns in position, which was promptly returned. Their fire was silenced for the time, but was frequently renewed during the day. In the heavy fire of the morning, Major Arndt, commanding First Battalion First New York Artillery, was mortally wounded while directing the operations of his batteries.
It was afternoon before I could move the troops to their positions for attack, being compelled to spend the morning in reconnoitering the new position taken up by the enemy, examining the ground, finding fords, clearing the approaches, and hurrying up the ammunition and supply trains, which had been delayed by the rapid march of the troops over the few practicable approaches from Frederick. These had been crowded by the masses of infantry, cavalry, and artillery pressing on with the hope of overtaking the enemy before he could form to resist an attack. Many of the troops were out of rations on the previous day, and a good deal of their ammunition had been expended in the severe action of the 14th.
My plan for the impending general engagement was to attack the enemy's left with the corps of Hooker and Mansfield, supported by Sumner's and, if necessary, by Franklin's, and, as soon as matters looked favorably there, to move the corps of Burnside against the enemy's extreme right, upon the ridge running to the south and rear of Sharps-burg, and, having carried their position, to press along the crest toward our right, and, whenever either of these flank movements should be successful, to advance our center with all the forces then disposable.
About 2 p.m. General Hooker with his corps, consisting of Generals Ricketts', Meade's, and Doubleday's divisions, was ordered to cross the Antietam at a ford, and at Bridge No. 1, a short distance above, to attack and, if possible, turn the enemy's left. General Sumner was ordered to cross the corps of General Mansfield (the Twelfth) during the night and hold his own (the Second) Corps ready to cross early the next morning. On reaching the vicinity of the enemy's left, a sharp contest commenced with the Pennsylvania Reserves--the advance of General Hooker's corps--near the house of D. Miller. The enemy were driven from the strip of woods where he was first met. The firing lasted until after dark, when General Hooker's corps rested on their arms on ground won from the enemy.
During the night General Mansfield's corps, consisting of Generals Williams' and Greene's divisions, crossed the Antietam at the same ford and bridge that General Hooker's troops had passed, and bivouacked on the farm of J. Poffenberger, about a mile in rear of General Hooker's position. At daylight on the 17th the action was commenced by the skirmishers of the Pennsylvania Reserves. The whole of General Hooker's corps was soon engaged, and drove the enemy from the open field in front of the first line of woods into a second line of woods beyond, which runs to the eastward of and nearly parallel to the Sharpsburg and Hagerstown turnpike.
This contest was obstinate, and as the troops advanced the opposition became more determined and the number of the enemy greater. General Hooker then ordered up the corps of General Mansfield, which moved promptly toward the scene of action.
The First Division, General Williams', was deployed to the right on approaching the enemy; General Crawford's brigade on the right, its right resting on the Hagerstown turnpike; on his left General Gordon's brigade. The Second Division, General Greene's, joining the left of Gordon's, extended as far as the burned building to the northeast of the white church on the turnpike. During the deployment, that gallant veteran, General Mansfield, fell mortally wounded while examining the ground in front of his troops. General Hartsuff, of Hooker's corps, was severely wounded while bravely pressing forward his troops, and was taken from the field.
The command of the Twelfth Corps fell upon General Williams. Five regiments of the First Division of this corps were new troops. One brigade of the Second Division was sent to support General Doubleday.
The One hundred and twenty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers were pushed across the turnpike into the woods beyond J. Miller's house, with orders to hold the position as long as possible.
The line of battle of this corps was formed, and it became engaged about 7 a.m., the attack being opened by Knap's (Pennsylvania), Cothran's (New York), and Hampton's (Pittsburgh) batteries. To meet this attack the enemy had pushed a strong column of troops into the open fields in front of the turnpike, while he occupied the woods on the west of the turnpike in strong force. The woods (as was found by subsequent observation) were traversed by outcropping ledges of rock. Several hundred yards to the right and rear was a hill which commanded the debouche of the woods and in the fields between was a long line of stone fences, continued by breastworks of rails, which covered the enemy's infantry from our musketry. The same woods formed a screen, behind which his movements were concealed, and his batteries on the hill and the rifle-works covered from the fire of our artillery in front. For about two hours the battle raged with varied success, the enemy endeavoring to drive our troops into the second line of wood, and ours in turn to get possession of the line in front. Our troops ultimately succeeded in forcing the enemy back into the woods near the turnpike, General Greene with his two brigades crossing into the woods to the left of the Dunker Church. During this conflict General Crawford, commanding the First Division after General Williams took command of the corps, was wounded, and left the field.
General Greene being much exposed and applying for re-enforcements, the Thirteenth New Jersey, Twenty-seventh Indiana, and the Third Maryland were sent to his support, with a section of Knap's battery.
At about 9 o'clock a.m. General Sedgwick's division of General Sumner's corps arrived. Crossing the ford previously mentioned, this division marched in three columns to the support of the attack on the enemy's left. On nearing the scene of action the columns were halted, faced to the front, and established by General Sumner in three parallel lines by brigade, facing toward the south and west; General Gorman's brigade in front, General Dana's second, and General Howard's third, with a distance between the lines of some 70 paces. The division was then put in motion, and moved upon the field of battle under fire from the enemy's concealed batteries on the hill beyond the roads. Passing diagonally to the front across the open space, and to the front of the First Division of General Williams' corps, this latter division withdrew. Entering the woods on the west of the turnpike and driving the enemy before them, the first line was met by a heavy fire of musketry and shell from the enemy's breastworks and the batteries on the hill commanding the exit from the woods. Meantime a heavy column of the enemy had succeeded in crowding back the troops of General Greene's division, and appeared in rear of the left of Sedgwick's division. By command of General Sumner, General Howard faced the third line to the rear, preparatory to a change of front to meet the column advancing on the left; but this line, now suffering from a destructive fire both in front and on its left, which it was unable to return, gave way toward the right and rear in considerable confusion, and was soon followed by the first and second lines. General Gotman's brigade and one regiment of General Dana's soon rallied and checked the advance of the enemy on the right. The second and third lines now formed on the left of General Gorman's brigade, and poured a destructive fire upon the enemy.
During General Sumner's attack he ordered General Williams to support him. Brigadier-General Gordon with a portion of his brigade moved forward, but when he reached the woods the left of General Sedgwick's division had given way, and finding himself, as the smoke cleared up, opposed to the enemy in force with his small command, he withdrew to the rear of the batteries at the second line of woods. As General Gordon's troops unmasked our batteries on the left, they opened with canister, the batteries of Captain Cothran, First New York, and I, First Artillery, commanded by Lieutenant Woodraft, doing good service. Unable to withstand this deadly fire in front and the musketry fire from the right, the enemy again sought shelter in the woods and rocks beyond the turnpike.
During this assault Generals Sedgwick and Dana were seriously wounded and taken from the field. General Sedgwick, though twice wounded and faint from loss of blood, retained command of his division for more than an hour after his first wound, animating his command by his presence.
About the time of General Sedgwick's advance, General Hooker, while urging on his command, was severely wounded in the foot and taken from the field, and General Meade was placed in command of his corps. General Howard assumed command after General Sedgwick retired.
The repulse of the enemy offered opportunity to rearrange the lines and reorganize the commands on the right, now more or less in confusion. The batteries of the Pennsylvania Reserve, on high ground near J. Poffenberger's house, opened fire, and checked several attempts of the enemy to establish batteries in front of our right, to turn that flank and enfilade the lines.
While the conflict was so obstinately raging on the right, General French was pushing his division against the enemy still farther to the left. This division crossed the Antietam at the same ford as General Sedgwick, and immediately in his rear. Passing over the stream in three columns, the division marched about a mile from the ford, then, facing to the left, moved in three lines towards the enemy; General Max Weber's brigade in front, Col. Dwight Morris' brigade of raw troops, undrilled, and moving for the first time under fire, in the second, and General Kimball's brigade in the third. The division was first assailed by a fire of artillery, but steadily advanced, driving in the enemy's skirmishers, and encountered the infantry in some force at the group of houses on Roulette's farm. General Weber's brigade gallantly advanced, with an unwavering front, and drove the enemy from their position about the houses.
While General Weber was hotly engaged with the first line of the enemy, General French received orders from General Sumner, his corps commander, to push on with renewed vigor, to make a diversion in favor of the attack on the right. Leaving the new troops, who had been thrown into some confusion from their march through corn-fields, over fences, &c., to form as a reserve, he ordered the brigade of General Kimball to the front, passing to the left of General Weber. The enemy was pressed back to near the crest of the hill, where he was encountered in greater strength, posted in a sunken road forming a natural rifle-pit running in a northwesterly direction. In a corn-field in rear of this road were also strong bodies of the enemy. As the line reached the crest of the hill, a galling fire was opened on it from the sunken road and corn-field. Here a terrific fire of musketry burst from both lines, and the battle raged along the whole line with great slaughter.
The enemy attempted to turn the left of the line, but were met by the Seventh Virginia and One hundred and thirty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers and repulsed. Foiled in this, the enemy made a determined assault on the front, but were met by a charge from our lines which drove them back with severe loss, leaving in our hands some 300 prisoners and several stand of colors. The enemy, having been repulsed by the terrible execution of the batteries and the musketry fire on the extreme right, now attempted to assist the attack on General French's division by assailing him on his right and endeavoring to turn this flank, but this attack was met and checked by the Fourteenth Indiana and Eighth Ohio Volunteers, and by canister from Captain Tompkins' battery, First Rhode Island Artillery. Having been under an almost continuous fire for nearly four hours, and the ammunition nearly expended, this division now took position immediately below the crest of the heights on which they had so gallantly fought, the enemy making no attempt to regain their lost ground.
On the left of General French General Richardson's division was hotly engaged. Having crossed the Antietam about 9.30 a.m. at the ford crossed by the other divisions of Sumner's corps, it moved on a line nearly parallel to the Antietam, and formed in a ravine behind the high grounds overlooking Roulette's house; the Second (Irish) Brigade, commanded by General Meagher, on the right; the Third Brigade, commanded by General Caldwell, on his left, and the brigade commanded by Colonel Brooke, Fifty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, in support. As the division moved forward to take its position on the field, the enemy directed a fire of artillery against it, but, owing to the irregularities of the ground, did but little damage.
Meagher's brigade, advancing steadily, soon became-engaged with the enemy, posted to the left and in front of Roulette's house. It continued to advance, under a heavy fire, nearly to the crest of the hill overlooking Piper s house, the enemy being posted in a continuation of the sunken road and corn-field before referred to. Here the brave Irish Brigade opened upon the enemy a terrific musketry fire.
All of General Sumner's corps was now engaged--General Sedgwick on the right, General French in the center, and General Richardson on the left. The Irish Brigade sustained its well-earned reputation. After suffering terribly in officers and men, and strewing the ground with their enemies as they drove them back, their ammunition nearly expended, and their commander, General Meagher, disabled by the fall of his horse, shot under him, this brigade was ordered to give place to General Caldwell's brigade, which advanced to a short distance in the rear. The lines were passed by the Irish Brigade, breaking by company to the rear, and General Caldwell's, by company to the front, as steadily as on drill. Colonel Brooke's brigade now became the second line.
The ground over which Generals Richardson's and French's divisions were fighting was very irregular, intersected by numerous ravines, hills covered with growing corn, inclosed by stone walls, behind which the enemy could advance unobserved upon any exposed point of our lines. Taking advantage of this, the enemy attempted to gain the right of Richardson's position in a corn-field near Roulette's house, where the division had become separate(1 from that of General French. A change of front by the Fifty-second New York and Second Delaware Volunteers, of Colonel Brooke's brigade, under Colonel Frank, and the attack made by the Fifty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, sent farther to the right by Colonel Brooke to close this gap in the line, and the movement of the One hundred and thirty-second Pennsylvania and Seventh Virginia Volunteers, of General French's division, before referred to, drove the enemy from the corn field and restored the line.
The brigade of General Caldwell, with determined gallantry, pushed the enemy back opposite the left and center of this division, but, sheltered in the sunken road, they still held our forces on the right of Caldwell in check. Colonel Barlow, commanding the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth New York Regiments, of Caldwell's brigade, seeing a favorable opportunity, advanced the regiments on the left, taking the line in the sunken road in flank, and compelled them to surrender, capturing over 300 prisoners and three stand of colors.
The whole of the brigade, with the Fifty-seventh and Sixty-sixth New York Regiments, of Colonel Brooke's brigade, who had moved these regiments into the first line, now advanced with gallantry, driving the enemy before them in confusion into the cornfield beyond the sunken road. The left of the division was now well advanced, when the enemy, concealed by an intervening ridge, endeavored to turn its left and rear.
Colonel Cross, Fifth New Hampshire, by a change of front to the left and rear, brought his regiment facing the advancing line. Here a spirited contest arose to gain a commanding height, the two opposing forces moving parallel to each other, giving and receiving fire. The Fifth, gaining the advantage, faced to the right and delivered its volley. The enemy staggered, but rallied and advanced desperately at a charge. Being reenforced by the Eighty-first Pennsylvania, these regiments met the advance by a counter-charge. The enemy fled, leaving many killed, wounded, and prisoners, and the colors of the Fourth North Carolina in our hands.
Another column of the enemy, advancing under shelter of a stone wall and corn-field, pressed down on the right of the division; but Colonel Barlow again advanced the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth New York against these troops, and, with the attack of Kimball's brigade on the right, drove them from this position.
Our troops on the left of this part of the line having driven the enemy far back, they, with re-enforced numbers, made a determined attack directly in front. To meet this, Colonel Barlow brought his two regimens to their position in line, and drove the enemy through the corn-field into the orchard beyond, under a heavy fire of musketry, and a fire of canister from two pieces of artillery in the orchard, and a batted-farther to the right, throwing shell and case-shot. This advance gave us possession of Piper's house, the strong point contended for by the enemy at this part of the line, it being a defensible building several hundred yards in advance of the sunken road. The musketry fire at this point of the line now ceased. Holding Piper's house, General Richardson withdrew the line a little way to the crest of a hill, a more advantageous position. Up to this time the division was without artillery, and in the new position suffered severely from artillery fire, which could not be replied to. A section of Robertson's horse battery, commanded by Lieutenant Vincent, Second Artillery, now arrived on the ground and did excellent service. Subsequently a battery of brass guns, commanded by Captain Graham, First Artillery, arrived, and was posted on the crest of the hill, and soon silenced the two guns in the orchard. A heavy fire soon ensued between the battery farther to the right and our own. Captain Graham's battery was bravely and skillfully served, but, unable to reach the enemy, who had rifled guns of greater range than our smooth-bores, retired by order of General Richardson, to save it from useless sacrifice of men and horses. The brave general was himself mortally wounded while personally directing its fire.
General Hancock was placed in command of the division after the fall of General Richardson. General Meagher's brigade, now commanded by Colonel Burke, of the Sixty-third New York, having refilled their cartridge-boxes, was again ordered forward, and took position in the center of the line. The division now occupied one line in close proximity to the enemy, who had taken up a position in the rear of Piper's house. Col. Dwight Morris, with the Fourteenth Connecticut and a detachment of the One hundred and eighth New York, of General French's division, was sent by General French to the support of General Richardson's division. This command was now placed in an interval in the line between General Caldwell's and the Irish Brigade.
The requirements of the extended line of battle had so engaged the artillery that the application of General Hancock for artillery for the division could not be complied with immediately by the chief of artillery or the corps commanders in his vicinity. Knowing the tried courage of the troops, General Hancock felt confident that he could hold his position, although suffering from the enemy's artillery, but was too weak to attack, as the great length of the line he was obliged to hold prevented him from forming more than one line of battle, and, from his advanced position, this line was already partly enfiladed by the batteries of the enemy on the right, which were protected from our batteries opposite them by the woods at the Dunker Church.
Seeing a body of the enemy advancing on some of our troops to the left of his position, General Hancock obtained Hexamer's battery from General Franklin's corps, which assisted materially in frustrating this a task. It also assisted the attack of the Seventh Maine, of Franklin's corps, which, without other aid, made an attack against the enemy's line and drove in skirmishers who were annoying our artillery and troops on the right. Lieutenant Woodruff, with Battery I, First Artillery, relieved Captain Hexamer, whose ammunition was expended. The enemy at one time seemed to be about making an attack in force upon this part of the line, and advanced a long column of infantry toward this division, but, on nearing the position, General Pleasonton opening on them with sixteen guns, they halted, gave a desultory fire and retreated closing the operations on this portion of the field.
I return to the incidents occurring still farther to the right.
Between 12 and 1 p.m. General Franklin's corps arrived on the field of battle, having left their camp near Crampton's Pass at 6 a.m., leaving General Couch with orders to move with his division to occupy Maryland Heights. General Smith's division led the column, followed by General Slocum's.
It was first intended to keep this corps in reserve on the east side of the Antietam, to operate on either flank or on the center, as circumstances might require, but on nearing Keedysville the strong opposition on the right, developed by the attacks of Hooker and Sumner, rendered it necessary at once to send this corps to the assistance of the right wing.
On nearing the field, hearing that one of our batteries (A, Fourth U.S. Artillery), commanded by Lieutenant Thomas, who occupied the same position as Lieutenant Woodruff's battery in the morning, was hotly engaged without supports, General Smith sent two regiments to its relief from General Hancock's brigade. On inspecting the ground, General Smith ordered the other regiments of Hancock's brigade, with Frank's and Cowan's batteries, First New York Artillery, to the threatened position. Lieutenant Thomas and Captain Cothran, commanding batteries, bravely held their positions against the advancing enemy, handling their batteries with skill.
Finding the enemy still advancing, the Third Brigade of Smith's division, commanded by Colonel Irwin, Forty-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers, `as ordered up, and, passing through Lieutenant Thomas' battery, charged upon the enemy and drove back the advance until abreast of the Dunker Church. As the right of the brigade came opposite the woods it received a destructive fire, which checked the advance and threw the brigade somewhat into confusion. It formed again behind a rise of ground in the open space in advance of the batteries.
General French having reported to General Franklin that his ammunition was nearly expended, that officer ordered General Brooks with his brigade to re-enforce him. General Brooks formed his brigade on the right of General French, where they remained during the remainder of the day and night, frequently under the fire of the enemy's artillery.
It was soon after the brigade of Colonel Irwin had fallen back behind the rise of ground that the Seventh Maine, by order of Colonel Irwin, made the gallant attack already referred to.
The advance of General Franklin's corps was opportune. The attack of the enemy on this position, but for the timely arrival of his corps, must have been disastrous had it succeeded in piercing the line between Generals Sedgwick's and French's divisions. General Franklin ordered two brigades of General Slocum's division, General Newton's and Colonel Torbert's, to form in column to assault the woods that had been so hotly contested before by Generals Sumner and Hooker. General Bartlett's brigade was ordered to form as a reserve. At this time General Sumner, having command on the right, directed further offensive operations to be postponed, as the repulse of this, the only remaining corps available for attack, would peril the safety of the whole army.
General Porter's corps, consisting of General Sykes' division of Regulars and Volunteers and General Morell's division of Volunteers, occupied a position on the east side of Antietam Creek, upon the main turnpike leading to Sharpsburg, and directly opposite the center of the enemy's line. This corps filled the interval between the right wing and General Burnside's command, and guarded the main approach from the enemy's position to our trains of supply. It was necessary to watch this part of our line with the utmost vigilance, lest the enemy should take advantage of the first exhibition of weakness here to push upon us a vigorous assault for the purpose of piercing our center and turning our rear, as well as to capture or destroy our supply trains. Once having penetrated this line, the enemy's passage to our rear could have met with but feeble resistance, as there were no reserves to re enforce or close up the gap.
Toward the middle of the afternoon, proceeding to the right, I found that Sumner's, Hooker's, and Mansfield's corps had met with serious losses. Several general officers had been carried from the field severely wounded, and the aspect of affairs was anything but promising. At the risk of greatly exposing our center, I ordered two brigades from Porter's corps, the only available troops, to re-enforce the right. Six battalions of Sykes' Regulars had been thrown forward across the Antietam Bridge on the main road to attack and drive back the enemy's sharpshooters, who were annoying Pleasonton's horse batteries in advance of the bridge. Warren's brigade, of Porter's corps, was detached to hold a position on Burnside's right and rear, so that Porter was left at one time with only a portion of Sykes' division and one small brigade of Morell's division (but little over 3,000 men) to hold his important position.
General Sumner expressed the most decided opinion against another attempt during that day to assault the enemy's position in front, as portions of our troops were so much scattered and demoralized. In view of these circumstances, after making changes in the position of some of the troops, I directed the different commanders to hold their positions, and, being satisfied that this could be done without the assistance of the two brigades from the center, I countermanded the order, which was in course of execution.
General Slocum's division replaced a portion of General Sumner's troops, and positions were selected for batteries in front of the woods. The enemy opened several heavy fires of artillery on the position of our troops after this, but our batteries soon silenced them.
On the morning of the 17th, General Pleasonton, with his cavalry division and the horse batteries, under Captains Robertson, Tidball, and Lieutenant Hains, of the Second Artillery, and Captain Gibson, Third Artillery, was ordered to advance on the turnpike toward Sharpsburg, across Bridge No. 2, and support the left of General Sumner's line. The bridge being covered by a fire of artillery and sharpshooters, cavalry skirmishers were thrown out, and Captain Tidball's battery advanced by piece and drove off the sharpshooters, with canister, sufficiently to establish the batteries above mentioned, which opened on the enemy with effect. The firing was kept up for about two hours, when, the enemy's fire slackening, the batteries were relieved by Randol's and Van Reed's batteries, U.S. Artillery. About 3 o'clock, Tidball, Robertson, and Hains returned to their positions on the west of Antietam, Captain Gibson having been placed in position on the east side to guard the approaches to the bridge. These batteries did good service, concentrating their fire on the column of the enemy about to attack General Hancock's position, and compelling it to find shelter behind the hills in rear.
General Sykes' division had been in position since the 15th, exposed to the enemy's artillery and sharpshooters. General Morell had come up on the 16th, and relieved General Richardson, on the right of General Sykes. Continually under the vigilant watch of the enemy, this corps guarded a vital point.
The position of the batteries under General Pleasonton being one of great exposure, the battalion of the Second and Tenth U.S. Infantry, under Captain Poland, Second Infantry, was sent to his support. Subsequently four battalions of regular infantry, under Captain Dryer, Fourth Infantry, were sent across to assist in driving off the sharpshooters of the enemy.
The battalion of the Second and Tenth Infantry, advancing far beyond the batteries, compelled the cannoneers of a battery of the enemy to abandon their guns. Few in numbers and unsupported they were unable to bring them off. The heavy loss of this small be y of men attests their gallantry.
The troops of General Burnside held the left of the line opposite Bridge No. 3. The attack on the right was to have been supported by an attack on the left. Preparatory to this attack, on the evening of the 16th General Burnside's corps was moved forward and to the left, and took up a position nearer the bridge.
I visited General Burnside's position on the 16th, and after pointing out to him the proper dispositions to be made of his troops during the day and night, informed him that he would probably be required to attack the enemy's right on the following morning, and directed him to make careful reconnaissances.
General Burnside's corps, consisting of the divisions of Generals Cox, Willcox, Rodman, and Sturgis, was posted as follows: Colonel Crook's brigade, Cox's division, on the right; General Sturgis' division immediately in rear; on the left was General Rodman's division, with General Scammon's brigade, Cox's division, in support; General Willcox's division was held in reserve.
The corps bivouacked in position on the night of the 16th.
Early on the morning of the 17th, I ordered General Burnside to form his troops and hold them in readiness to assault the bridge in his front, and to await further orders. At 8 o'clock an order was sent to him by Lieutenant Wilson, Topographical Engineers, to carry the bridge, then to gain possession of the heights beyond, and the advance along their crest upon Sharpsburg and its rear. After some time had elapsed, not hearing from him, I dispatched an aide to ascertain what had been done. The aide returned with the information that but little progress had been made. I then sent him back with an order to General Burnside to assault the bridge at once, and carry it at all hazards: The aide returned to me a second time with the report that the bridge was still in the possession of the enemy; whereupon I directed Colonel Sacket, Inspector-General, to deliver to General Burnside my positive order to push forward his troops without a moment's delay, and, if nec essary, to carry the bridge at the point of the bayonet, and I ordered Colonel Sacket to remain with General Burnside and see that the order was executed promptly.
After these three hours' delay, the bridge was carried at 1 o'clock by brilliant charge of the Fifty-first New York and Fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers. Other troops were then thrown over and the opposite bank occupied, the enemy retreating to the heights beyond. A halt was then made by General Burnside's advance until 3 p.m., upon hearing which I directed one of my aides, Colonel Key, to inform General Burnside that I desired him to push forward his troops with the utmost vigor, and carry the enemy's position on the heights; that the movement was vital to our success; that this was a time when we must not stop for loss of life if a great object could thereby be accomplished; that if, in his judgment, his attack would fail, to inform me so at once, that his troops might be withdrawn and used elsewhere on the field. He replied that he would soon advance, and would go up the hill as far as a battery of the enemy on the left would permit. Upon this report I again immediately sent Colonel Key to General Burnside with orders to advance at once, if possible, to flank the battery or storm it, and carry the heights, repeating that if he considered the movement impracticable to inform me so, that his troops might be recalled. The advance was then gallantly resumed, the enemy driven from the guns, the heights handsomely carried, and a portion of the troops even reached the outskirts of Sharpsburg. By this time it was nearly dark, and strong re-enforcements just then reaching the enemy from Harper's Ferry, attacked General Burnside's troops on their left flank and forced them to retire to a lower line of hills nearer the bridge. If this important movement had been consummated two hours earlier, a position would have been secured upon the heights from which our batteries might have enfiladed the greater part of the enemy's line, and turned their right and rear. Our victory might thus have been much more decisive.
The following is the substance of General Burnside's operations, as given in his report:
Colonel Crook's brigade was ordered to storm the bridge. This bridge (No. 3) is a stone structure of three arches with stone parapets. The banks of the stream on the opposite side are precipitous, and command the eastern approaches to the bridge. On the hillside immediately by the bridge was a stone fence, running parallel to the stream. The turns of the roadway as it wound up the hill were covered by rifle-pits and breastworks of rails, &c. These works and the woods that covered the slopes were filled with the enemy's riflemen, and batteries were in position to enfilade the bridge and its approaches.
General Rodman was ordered to cross the ford below the bridge. From Colonel Crook's position it was found impossible to carry the bridge. General Sturgis was ordered to make a detail from his division for that purpose. He sent forward the Second Maryland and the Sixth New Hampshire. These regiments made several successive attacks in the most gallant style, but were driven back. The artillery on the left were ordered to concentrate their fire on the woods above the bridge. Colonel Crook brought a section of Captain Simmonds' battery to a position to command the bridge. The Fifty-first New York and Fifty-first Pennsylvania were then ordered to assault the bridge. Taking advantage of a small spur of the hills which ran parallel to the river, they moved toward the bridge. From the crest of this spur they rushed with bayonets fixed and cleared the bridge. The division followed the storming party, also the brigade of Colonel Crook, as a support. The enemy withdrew to still higher ground, some 500 or 600 yards beyond, and opened a fire of artillery on the troops in the new position on the crest of the hill above the bridge. General Rodman's division succeeded in crossing the ford after a sharp fire of musketry and artillery, and joined on the left of Sturgis, Scammon's brigade crossing as support. General Willcox's division was ordered across to take position on General Sturgis' right.
These dispositions being completed, about 3 o'clock the command moved forward, except Sturgis' division, left in reserve. Clark's and Durell's batteries accompanied Rodman's division, Cook's battery with Willcox's division, and a section of Simmonds' battery with Colonel Crook's brigade. A section of Simmonds' battery and Muhlenberg's and McMullin's batteries were in position. The order for the advance was obeyed by the troops with alacrity. General Willcox's division, with Crook in support, moved up on both sides of the turnpike leading from the bridge to Sharpsburg, General Rodman's division, supported by Scammon's brigade, on the left of General Willcox. The enemy retreated before the advance of the troops. The Ninth New York, of General Rodman's division, captured one of the enemy's batteries and held it for some time. As the command was driving the enemy to the main heights on the left of the town, the light division of General A. P. Hill arrived upon the field of battle from Harper's Ferry, and with a heavy artillery fire made a strong attack on the extreme left. To meet this attack, the left division diverged from the line of march intended, and opened a gap between it and the right. To fill up this, it was necessary to order the troops from the second line. During these movements General Rodman was mortally wounded. Colonel Harland's brigade, of General Rodman's division, was driven back. Colonel Scammon's brigade, by a change of front to rear on his right flank, saved the left from being driven completely in. The fresh troops of the enemy pouring in, and the accumulation of artillery against this command, destroyed all hope of its being able to accomplish anything more.
It was now nearly dark. General Sturgis was ordered forward to support the left. Notwithstanding the hard work in the early part of the day, his division moved forward with spirit. With its assistance the enemy were checked and held at bay.
The command was ordered to fall back by General Cox, who commanded on the field the troops engaged in this affair beyond the Antietam. The artillery had been well served during the day. Night closed the long and desperately contested battle of the 17th. Nearly 200,000 men and five hundred pieces of artillery were for fourteen hours engaged in this memorable battle. We had attacked the enemy in a position selected by the experienced engineer then in person directing their operations. We had driven them from their line on one flank and secured a footing within it on the other. The Army of the Potomac, notwithstanding the moral effect incident to previous reverses, had achieved a victory over an adversary invested with the prestige of recent success. Our soldiers slept that night conquerors on a field won by their valor and covered with the dead and wounded of the enemy.
The night, however, brought with it grave responsibilities. Whether to renew the attack on the 18th or to defer it, even with the risk of the enemy's retirement, was the question before me.
After a night of anxious deliberation, and a full and careful survey of the situation and condition of our army, the strength and position of the enemy. I concluded that the success of an attack on the 18th was not certain. I am aware of the fact that under ordinary circumstances a general is expected to risk a battle if he has a reasonable prospect of success; but at this critical juncture I should have had a narrow view of the condition of the country had I been willing to hazard another battle with less than an absolute assurance of success. At that moment--Virginia lost, Washington menaced, Maryland invaded--the national cause could afford no risks of defeat. One battle lost and almost all would have been lost. Lee's army might then have marched, as it pleased, on Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, or New York. It could have levied its supplies from a fertile and undevastated country, extorted tribute from wealthy and populous cities, and nowhere east of the Alleghanies was there another organized force able to arrest its march.
The following are among the considerations which led me to doubt the certainty of success in attacking before the 19th:
The troops were greatly overcome by the fatigue and exhaustion attendant upon the long-continued and severely contested battle of the 17th, together with the long day and night marches to which they had been subjected during the previous three days. The supply trains were in the rear, and many of the troops had suffered from hunger. They required rest and refreshment. One division of Sumner's and all of Hooker's corps on the right had, after fighting most valiantly for several hours, been overpowered by numbers, driven back in great disorder, and much scattered, so that they were for the time somewhat demoralized. In Hooker's corps, according to the return made by General Meade, commanding, there were but 6,729 men present on the 18th, whereas on the morning of the 22d there were 13,093 men present for duty in the same corps, showing that previous to and during the battle 6,364 men were separated from their command.
General Meade, in an official communication upon this subject, dated September 18, 1862, says:
I inclose a field return of the corps made this afternoon, which I desire you will lay before the commanding general. I am satisfied the great reduction in the corps since the recent engagements is not due solely to the casualties of battle, and that a considerable number of men are still in the rear, some having dropped out on the march, and many dispersing and leaving yesterday during the fight. I think the efficiency of the corps, so far as it goes, good. To resist an attack in our present strong position I think they may be depended on, and I hope they will perform duty in case we make an attack, though I do not think their morale is as good for an offensive as a defensive movement.
One division of Sumner's corps had also been overpowered, and was a good deal scattered and demoralized. It was not deemed by its corps commander in proper condition to attack the enemy vigorously the next day.
Some of the new troops on the left, although many of them fought well during the battle and are entitled to great credit, were, at the close of the action, driven back and their morale impaired.
On the morning of the 18th, General Burnside requested me to send him another division to assist in holding his position on the other side of the Antietam, and to enable him to withdraw his corps as if he should be attacked by a superior force. He gave me the impression that if he were attacked again that morning, he would not be able to make a very vigorous resistance. I visited his position early, determined to send General Morell's division to his aid, and directed that it should be placed on this side of the Antietam, in order that it might cover the retreat of' his own corps from the other side of the Antietam should that become necessary, at the same time it was in position to re-enforce our center or right if that were needed.
Late in the afternoon I found that, although he had not been attacked, General Burnside had withdrawn his own corps to this side of the Antietam, and sent over Morell's division alone to hold the opposite side.
A large number of our heaviest and most efficient batteries had consumed all their ammunition on the 16th and.17th, and it was impossible to supply them until late on the following day. Supplies of provisions and forage had to be brought up and issued, and infantry ammunition distributed. Finally, re-enforcements to the number of 14,000 men, to say nothing of troops expected from Pennsylvania, had not arrived, but were expected during the day.
The 18th was, therefore, spent in collecting the dispersed, giving rest to the fatigued, removing the wounded, burying the dead, and the necessary preparations for a renewal of the battle.
Of the re-enforcements, Couch's division, marching with commendable rapidity, came up into position at a late hour in the morning. Humphreys' division of new troops, in their anxiety to participate in the battle which was raging when they received the order to march from Frederick about 3.30 p.m. on the 17th, pressed forward during the entire night, and the mass of the division reached the army during the following morning. Having marched more than 23 miles after 4.30 o'clock on the preceding afternoon, they were, of course, greatly exhausted, and needed rest and refreshment. Large re-enforcements expected from Pennsylvania never arrived.
During the 18th orders were given for a renewal of the attack at day light on the 19th.
On the night of the 18th the enemy, after passing troops in the latter part of the day from the Virginia shore to their position behind Sharps-burg, as seen by our officers, suddenly formed the design of abandoning their position and retreating across the river. As their line was but a short distance from the river, the evacuation presented but little difficulty and was effected before daylight.
About 2,700 of the enemy's dead were, under the direction of Major Davis, assistant inspector-general, counted and buried upon the battlefield of Antietam. A portion of their dead had been previously buried by the enemy. This is conclusive evidence that the enemy sustained much greater loss than we.
Thirteen guns, 39 colors, upwards of 15,000 stand of small-arms, and more than 6,000 prisoners were the trophies which attest the success of our arms in the battles of South Mountain, Crampton's Gap, and Antietam. Not a single gun or color was lost by our army during these battles.
An estimate of the forces under the Confederate General Lee, made up by direction of General Banks from information obtained by the examination of prisoners, deserters, spies, &c., previous to the battle of Antietam, is as follows:
General T J Jackson's corps 24,778 General James Longstreet's corps 23,342 General D H Hill's two divisions 15,525 General J E B Stuart, cavalry 6,400 Generals Ransom's and Jenkins' brigade 3,000 Forty-six regiments not included in above 18,400 Artillery, estimated at 400 guns 6,000 Total 97,445
These estimates give the actual number of men present and fit for duty.
Our own forces at the battle of Antietam were as follows:
First Corps 14,856 Second Corps 18,813 Fifth Corps (one division not arrived) 12,930 Sixth Corps 12,300 Ninth Corps 13,819 Twelfth Corps 10,126 Cavalry Division 4,320 Total in action 87,164
When our cavalry advance reached the river on the morning of the 19th, it was discovered that nearly all the enemy's forces had crossed into Virginia during the night, their rear escaping under cover of eight batteries, placed in strong positions upon the elevated bluffs on the opposite bank. General Porter, commanding the Fifth Corps, ordered a detachment from Griffin's and Barnes' brigades, under General Griffin, to cross the river at dark and carry the enemy's batteries. This was gallantly done under the fire of the enemy. Several guns, caissons, &c., were taken, and their supports driven back half a mile.
The information obtained during the progress of this affair indicated that the mass of the enemy had retreated on the Charlestown and Martinsburg roads toward Winchester. To verify this and to ascertain how far the enemy had retired, General Porter was authorized to detach from his corps, on the morning of the 20th, a reconnoitering party in greater force. This detachment crossed the river and advanced about a mile, when it was attacked by a large body of the enemy, lying in ambush in the woods, and driven back across the river with considerable loss. This reconnaissance showed that the enemy was still in force on the Virginia bank of the Potomac, prepared to resist our further advance.
It was reported to me on the 19th that General Stuart had made his appearance at Williamsport with some 4,000 cavalry and six pieces of artillery, and that 10,000 infantry were marching on the same point from the direction of Winchester. I ordered General Couch to march at once with his division and a part of Pleasonton's cavalry, with Franklin's corps within supporting distance for the purpose of endeavoring to capture this force. General Couch made a prompt and rapid march to Williamsport and attacked the enemy vigorously, but they made their escape across the river.
I dispatched the following telegraphic report to the General-in-Chief:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Sharpsburg September 19, 1862.
Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK,
Commanding U. S. Army:
I have the honor to report that Maryland is entirely freed from the presence of the enemy, who have been driven across the Potomac. No fears now be entertained for the safety of Pennsylvania. I shall at once occupy Harper's Ferry.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
On the following day I received this telegram:
WASHINGTON, September 20, 1862--2 p.m.
Maj. Gen. GEORGE B. MCCLEI.LAN:
We are still left entirely in the dark in regard to your own movements and those of the enemy This should not be so. You should keep me advised of both, so far as you know them.
H. W. HALLECK,
To which I answered as follows:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Near Sharpsburg, September 20, 1862--8 p.m.
General-in- Chief, Washington :
Your telegram of to-day is received. I telegraphed you yesterday all 1 knew, and had nothing more to inform you of until this evening. Williams' corps (Banks') occupied Maryland Heights at 1 p.m. to-day. The rest of the army is near here, except Couch's division, which is at this moment, engaged with the enemy in front of Williamsport. The enemy is retiring via Charlestown and Martinsburg on Winchester. He last night reoccupied Williamsport by a small force, but will be out of it by morning. I think he has a force of infantry near Shepherdstown.
I regret that you find it necessary to couch every dispatch I have the honor to receive from you in a spirit of fault-finding, and that you have not yet found leisure to say one word in commendation of the recent achievements of this army, or even to allude to them.
I have abstained from giving the number of guns, colors, small-arms, prisoners, &c., captured until I could do so with some accuracy. I hope by to-morrow evening to be able to give at least an approximate statement.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
On the same day I telegraphed as follows:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
September 20, 1862.
Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK,
Commanding U.S. Army :
As the rebel army, now on the Virginia side of the Potomac, must., in a great measure, be dependent for supplies of ammunition and provisions upon Richmond, I would respectfully suggest that General Banks be directed to send out a cavalry force to cut their supply communication opposite Washington. This would seriously embarrass their operations, and will aid this army materially.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
Maryland Heights were occupied by General Williams' corps on this day, and on the 22d General Sumner took possession of Harper's Ferry.
It will be remembered that at the time I was assigned to the command of the forces for the defense of the National Capital, on the 2d day of September, 1862, the greater part of all the available troops were suffering under the disheartening influences of the serious defeat they had encountered during the brief' and unfortunate campaign of General Pope. Their numbers were greatly reduced by casualties, their confidence was much shaken, and they had lost something of that esprit de corps which is indispensable to the efficiency of an army. Moreover, they had left behind, lost, or worn out the greater part of their clothing and camp equipage, which required renewal before they could be in proper condition to take the field again.
The intelligence that the enemy was crossing the Potomac into Maryland was received in Washington on the 4th of September, and the Army of the Potomac was again put in motion, under my direction, on the following day, so that but a very brief interval of time was allowed to reorganize or procure supplies.
The sanguinary battles of South Mountain and Antietam, fought by this army a few days afterwards, with the reconnaissances immediately following, resulted in a loss to us of 10 general officers, many regimental and company officers, and a large number of enlisted men, amounting in the aggregate to 15,220. Two army corps had been sadly cut up, scattered, and somewhat demoralized in the action on the 17th.
In General Sumner's corps alone 41 commissioned officers and 819 enlisted men had been killed; 4 general officers, 89 other commissioned officers, and 3,708 enlisted men had been wounded, besides 548 missing; making the aggregate loss in this splendid veteran corps, in this one battle, 5,209.
In General Hooker's corps the casualties of the same engagement amounted to 2,619.
The entire army had been greatly exhausted by unavoidable overwork, fatiguing marches, hunger, and want of sleep and rest previous to the last battle.
When the enemy recrossed the Potomac into Virginia, the means of transportation at my disposal were inadequate to furnish a single day's supply of subsistence in advance.
Many of the troops were new levies, some of whom had fought like veterans, but the morale of others had been a good deal impaired in those severely contested actions, and they required time to recover as well as to acquire the necessary drill and discipline.
Under these circumstances I did not feel authorized to cross the river with the main army over a very deep and difficult ford in pursuit of the retreating enemy, known to be in strong force on the south bank, and thereby place that stream, which was liable at any time to rise above a fording stage, between my army and its base of supply.
I telegraphed on the 22d to the General-in-Chief as follows:
As soon as the exigencies of the service will admit of it, this army should be reorganized. It is absolutely necessary, to secure its efficiency, that the old skeleton regiments should be filled up at once, and officers appointed to supply the numerous existing vacancies. There are instances where captains are commanding regiments, and companies are without a single commissioned officer.
On the 23d the following was telegraphed to the General-in Chief:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Near Shepherstown, September 23, 1862--9.30 a.m.
From several different sources I learn that General R. E. Lee is still opposite to my position at Leetown, between Shepherdstown and Martinsburg, and that General Jackson is on the Opequon Creek, about 3 miles above its mouth, both with large forces. There are also indications of heavy re-enforcements moving toward them from Winchester and Charlestown. I have, therefore, ordered General Franklin to take position with his corps at the cross-roads, about 1 mile northwest of Bakerville, on the Bakerville and Williamsport road, and General Couch to establish his division near Downville, leaving sufficient force at Williamsport to watch and guard the ford at that place. The fact of the enemy's remaining so long in our front, and the indications of an advance of re-enforcements, seem to indicate that he will give us another battle with all his available force.
As I mentioned to you before, our army has been very much reduced by casualties in the recent battles and in my judgment all the re-enforcements of old troops that can possibly be dispensed with around Washington and other places should be instantly pushed forward by rail to this army. A defeat at this juncture would be ruinous to our cause. I cannot think it possible that the enemy will bring any forces to bear upon Washington till after the question is decided here, but if he should, troops can soon be sent back from this army by rail to re-enforce the garrison there.
The evidence I have that re-enforcements are coming to the rebel army consists in the fact that long columns of dust extending from Winchester to Charlestown and from Charlestown in this direction, and also troops moving this way, were seen last evening. This is corroborated by citizens. General Sumner, with his corps and Williams' (Banks'), occupies Harper's Ferry and the surrounding heights. I think he will be able to hold his position till re-enforcements arrive.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
On the 27th I made the following report:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
September 27, 1862--10 a.m.
All the information in my possession goes to prove that the main body of the enemy is concentrated not far from Martinsburg, with some troops at Charlestown; not many in Winchester. Their movements of late have been an extension toward our right and beyond it. They are receiving re-enforcements in Winchester, mainly, I think, of conscripts, perhaps entirely so.
This army is not now in condition to undertake another campaign nor to bring on another battle, unless great advantages are offered by some mistake of the enemy or pressing military exigencies render it necessary. We are greatly deficient in officers. Many of the old regiments are reduced to mere skeletons. The new regiments need instruction. Not a day should be lost in filling the old regiments---our main dependence-and in supplying vacancies among the officers by promotion.
My present purpose is to hold the army about as it is now, rendering Harper's Ferry secure and watching the river closely, intending to attack the enemy should he attempt to cross to this side.
Our possession of Harper's Ferry gives us the great advantage of a secure but we cannot avail ourselves of it until the railroad bridge is finished, because we cannot otherwise supply a greater number of troops than we now have in the Virginia side at that point. When the river rises so that the enemy cannot cross in force. I purpose concentrating the army somewhere near Harper's Ferry, and then acting according to circumstances, viz, moving on Winchester, if from the position and attitude of the enemy we are likely to gain a great advantage by doing so, or else devoting a reasonable time to the organization of the army and instruction of the new troops, preparatory to an advance on whatever line may be determined. In any event, I regard it as absolutely necessary to send new regiments at once to the old corps for purposes of instruction, and that the old regiments be filled at once. I have no fears as to an attack on Washington by the line of Manassas. Holding Harper's Ferry as I do, they will not run the risk of an attack on their flank and rear while they have the garrison of Washington in their front. I rather apprehend a renewal of the attempt in Maryland should the river remain low for a great length of time, and should they receive considerable addition to their force.
I would be glad to have Peck's division as soon as possible. I am surprised that Sigel's men should have been sent to Western Virginia without my knowledge. The last I heard from you on the subject was that they were at my disposition. In the last battles the enemy was undoubtedly greatly superior to us in number, and it was only by very hard fighting that we gained the advantage we did. As it was, the result was at one period very doubtful, and we had all we could do to win the day. If the enemy receives considerable re-enforcements and we none, it is possible that I may have too much on my hands in the next battle. My own view of the proper policy to be pursued, is to retain in Washington merely the force necessary to garrison it, and to send everything else available to re-enforce this army. The railways give us the means of promptly re-enforcing Washington should it become necessary. If I am re-enforced, as I ask, and am allowed to take my own course, I will hold myself responsible for the safety of Washington. Several persons recently from Richmond say that there are no troops there except conscripts, and they few in number. I hope to give you details as to late battles by this evening. I am about starting again for Harper's Ferry.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
The work of reorganizing, drilling, and supplying the army I began at the earliest moment. The different corps were stationed along the river in the best positions to cover and guard the fords. The great extent of the river front from near Washington to Cumberland (some 150 miles), together with the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, was to be carefully watched and guarded, to prevent, if possible, the enemy's raids. Reconnaissances upon the Virginia side of the river, for the purpose of learning the enemy's positions and movements, were made frequently, so that our cavalry, which, from the time we left Washington, had performed the most laborious service, and had from the commencement been deficient in numbers, was found totally inadequate to the requirements of the army. This overwork had broken down the greater part of the horses; disease had appeared among them, and but a very small portion of our original cavalry force was fit for service. To such an extent had this arm become reduced, that when General Stuart made his raid into Pennsylvania on the 11th of October with 2,000 men, I could only mount 800 men to follow him.
Harper's Ferry was occupied on the 22d, and in order to prevent a catastrophe similar to the one which had happened to Colonel Miles, I immediately ordered Maryland, Bolivar, and Loudoun Heights to be strongly fortified. This was done as far as the time and means at our disposal permitted.
The main army of the enemy during this time remained in the vicinity of Martinsburg and Bunker Hill, and occupied itself in drafting and coercing every able-bodied citizen into the ranks, forcibly taking their property where it was not voluntarily offered, burning bridges, and destroying railroads.
On the 1st day of October His Excellency the President honored the Army of the Potomac with a visit, and remained several days, during which he went through the different encampments, reviewed the troops, and went over the battle-fields of South Mountain and Antietam. I had the opportunity during this visit to describe to him the operations of the army since the time it left Washington, and gave him my reasons for not following the enemy after he crossed the Potomac.
On the 5th of October the division of General Cox (about 5,000 men) was ordered from my command to Western Virginia.
On the 7th of October I received the following telegram:
WASHINGTON D. C. October 6, 1862,
I am instructed to telegraph you as follows: The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south. Your army must move now while the roads are good. If you cross the river between the enemy and Washington, and cover the latter by your operation you can be re-enforced with 30,000 men. If you move up the Valley of the Shenandoah, not more than 12,000 or 15,000 can be sent to you. The President advises the interior line, between Washington and the enemy, but does not order it. He is very desirous that your army move as soon as possible. You will immediately report what line you adopt and when you intend to cross the river; also to what point the re-enforcements are to be sent. It is necessary that the plan of your operations be positively determined on before orders are given for building bridges and repairing railroads.
I am directed to add that the Secretary of War and the General-in-Chief fully concur with the President in these instructions.
H. W. HALLECK,
At this time General Averell with the greater part of our efficient cavalry was in the vicinity of Cumberland, and General Kelley, the commanding officer, had that day reported that a large force of the enemy was advancing on Colonel Campbell at Sir John's Run. This obliged me to order General Averell to proceed with his force to the support of Colonel Campbell, which delayed his return to the army for several days.
On the 10th of October Stuart crossed the river at McCoy's Ferry with 2,000 cavalry and a battery of horse artillery, on his road into Maryland and Pennsylvania, making it necessary to use all our cavalry against him. This exhausting service completely broke down nearly all of our cavalry horses, and rendered a remount absolutely indispensable before we could advance on the enemy.
The following were the dispositions of troops made by me to defeat the purposes of this raid:
General Averell, then at Green Spring, on the Upper Potomac, was ordered to move rapidly down upon the north side of the river with all his disposable cavalry, using every exertion to get upon the trail of the enemy and follow it up vigorously. General Pleasonton, with the remaining cavalry force, was ordered to take the road by Cavetown, Harmon's Gap, and Mechanicstown, and cut off the retreat of the enemy should he make for any of the fords below the position of the main army. His orders were to pursue them with the utmost rapidity, not to spare his men or horses, and to destroy or capture them if possible. General Crook, at that time commanding Cox's division at Hancock, en route for Western Virginia, was ordered to halt, place his men in cars, and remain in readiness to move to any point above should the enemy return in that direction, keeping his scouts well out on all the roads leading from the direction of Chambersburg to the Upper Potomac. The other commanders between Hancock and Harper's Ferry were instructed to keep a vigilant watch upon all the roads and fords, so as to prevent the escape of the rebels within these limits. General Burnside was ordered to send two brigades to the Monocacy Crossing, there to remain in cars with steam up, ready to move to any point on the railroad to which Stuart might be aiming, while Colonel Rush, at Frederick, was directed to keep his Lancers scouting on the approaches from Chambersburg, so as to give timely notice to the commander of the two brigades at the Monocacy Crossing. General Stoneman, whose headquarters were then at Poolesville, occupying with his division the different fords on the river below the mouth of the Monocacy, was directed to keep his cavalry well out on the approaches from the direction of Frederick, so as to give him time to mass his troops at any point where the enemy might attempt to cross the Potomac in his vicinity. He was informed of General Pleasonton's movements.
After the orders were given for covering all the fords upon the river, I did not think it possible for Stuart to recross, and I believed that the capture or destruction of his entire force was perfectly certain; but, owing to the fact that my orders were not in all cases carried out as I expected, he effected his escape into Virginia without much loss.
The troops sent by General Burnside to the Monocacy, owing to some neglect in not giving the necessary orders to the commander, instead of remaining at the railroad crossing, as I directed, marched 4 miles into Frederick, and there remained until after Stuart had passed the rail-road, only 6 miles below, near which point it was said he halted for breakfast.
General Pleasonton ascertained, after his arrival at Mechanicstown, that the enemy were only about an hour ahead of him, beating a hasty retreat toward the mouth of the Monocacy. He pushed on vigorously, and near its mouth overtook them with a part of his force, having marched 78 miles in twenty-four hours, and having left many of his horses broken down upon the road. He at once attacked with his artillery, and the firing continued for several hours, during which time he states that he received the support of a small portion of General Stoneman's command, not sufficient to inflict any material damage upon the enemy.
General Stoneman reports that, in accordance with his instructions, he gave all necessary orders for intercepting the return of the rebels, and Colonel Staples, commanding one of his brigades, states that he sent two regiments of infantry to the mouth of the Monocacy and one regiment to White's Ford; that on the morning of the 12th, about 10 o'clock, he, by General Stoneman's order, marched the remaining three regiments of his command from Poolesville toward the mouth of the Monocacy; that before getting into action he was relieved by General Ward who states that he reported to General Pleasonton with his command while the enemy was crossing the river, and was informed by him (General Pleasonton) that he was too late, and that nothing could be done then.
General Pleasonton, in his report of this affair, says:
It was at this time that Colonel Ward reported to me from General Stoneman's division, with a brigade of infantry, a regiment of cavalry, and a section of artillery. I told him that his command could be of no use, as the enemy had then crossed the river These are the only troops that I knew of that were in that vicinity, and this was the first intimation I received that any troops were endeavoring to assist me in capturing the rebels. I succeeded in preventing the enemy from crossing at the mouth of the Monocacy, and drove him to White's Ford, 3 miles below. Had White's Ford been occupied by any force of ours previous to the time of the occupation by the enemy, the capture of Stuart's whole force would have been certain and inevitable. But with my small force, which did not exceed one-fourth of the enemy's, it was not practicable for me to occupy that ford while the enemy was in front.
It would seem from the report of General Stoneman that the disposition he made of his troops previous to the arrival of Stuart was a good one. He stationed two regiments at the mouth of the Monocacy and two regiments at White's Ford, the latter in the very place where the crossing was made, and the former only 3 miles off, with a reserve of three regiments at Poolesville, some 6 miles distant. General Pleasonton's report shows that from the time the firing commenced until the enemy were across the river was about four and a halt' hours. General Stoneman states that he started the reserve from Poolesville at about 9 o'clock, but it appears from the report of General Pleasonton that it did not reach him until 1.30 o'clock.
At the time I received the order of October 6 to cross the river and attack the enemy, the army was wholly deficient in cavalry, and a large part of our troops were in want of shoes, blankets, and other indispensable articles of clothing, notwithstanding all the efforts that had been made since the battle of Antietam, and even prior to that date, to refit the army with clothing as well as horses. I at once consulted with Colonel Ingalls, the chief quartermaster, who believed that the necessary articles could be supplied in about three days. Orders were immediately issued to the different commanders who had not already sent in their requisitions, to do so at once, and all the necessary steps were forthwith taken by me to insure a prompt delivery of the supplies. The requisitions were forwarded to the proper department at Washington, and I expected that the articles would reach our depots during the three days specified; but day after day elapsed and only a small portion of the clothing arrived. Corps commanders, upon receiving notice from the quartermasters that they might expect to receive their supplies at certain dates, sent the trains for them, which, after waiting, were compelled to return empty. Several instances occurred where these trains went back and forth from the camps to the depots as often as four or five different times without receiving their supplies, and I was informed by one corps commander that his wagon train had traveled over 150 miles to and from the depots before he succeeded in obtaining his clothing. The corps of General Franklin did not get its clothing until after it had crossed the Potomac and was moving into Virginia; General Reynolds' corps was delayed a day at Berlin to complete its supplies; and General Porter only completed his on reaching the vicinity of Harper's Ferry.
I made every exertion in my power, and my quartermasters did the same, to have these supplies hurried forward rapidly, and I was repeatedly told that they had filled the requisitions at Washington and that the supplies had been forwarded. But they did not come to us, and of course were inaccessible to the army. I did not fail to make frequent representation of this condition of things to the General-in-Chief, and it appears that he referred the matter to the Quartermaster-General, who constantly replied that the supplies had been promptly ordered. Notwithstanding this, they did not reach our depots.
The following extracts are from telegrams upon this subject:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
October 11, 1862--9 a.m.
Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK,
We have been making every effort to get supplies of clothing for this army, and Colonel Ingalls has received advices that they have been forwarded by railroad, but owing to bad management on the roads, or from some other cause, they come in very slowly, and it will take a much longer time than was anticipated to get articles that are absolutely indispensable to the army unless the railroad managers forward supplies more rapidly.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
October 11, 1862.
Maj. Gen. H..W. HALLECK,
Commander-in-Chief, Washington :
I am compelled again to call your attention to the great deficiency of shoes and other indispensable articles of clothing that still exists in some of the corps in this army. Upon the assurances of the chief quartermaster, who based his calculation upon information received from Washington, that clothing would be forwarded at certain times, corps commanders sent their wagons to Hagerstown and Harper's Ferry for it. It did not arrive as promised, and has-not yet arrived. Unless some measures are taken to insure the prompt forwarding of these supplies, there will necessarily be a corresponding delay in getting the army ready to move, as the men cannot march without shoes. Everything has been done that can be done at these headquarters to accomplish the desired result.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
October 15, 1862--7 p.m.
Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK,
I am using every possible exertion to get this army ready to move. It was only yesterday that a part of our shoes and clothing arrived at Hagerstown. It is being issued to the troops as rapidly as possible.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
October 15, 1862--7.30 p.m.
Col. R. INGALLS,
Care of Colonel Rucker, Quartermaster, Washington:
General Franklin reports that there is by no means as much clothing as was called for at Hagerstown. I think, therefore, you had better have additional supplies, especially of shoes, forwarded to Harper's Ferry as soon as possible.
R. B. MARCY,
Chief of Staff
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
October 16, 1862.
Col. R. INGALLS,
Care of Colonel Rucker, Quartermaster, Washington:
General J. F. Reynolds just telegraphs as follows: "My quartermaster reports that there are no shoes, tents, blankets, or knapsacks at Hagerstown. He was able to procure only a complete supply of overcoats and pants, with a few socks, drawers, and coats. This leaves many of the men yet without a shoe. My requisitions call for 5,255 pairs of shoes."
Please push the shoes and stockings up to Harper's Ferry as fast as possible.
R. B. MARCY,
Chief of Staff.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Camp near Knoxville, Md., October 9, 1862.
Col. C. G. SAWTELLE,
Depot Quartermaster, Washington:
You did right in sending clothing to Harper's Ferry. You will not be able to send too much or too quickly. We want blankets, shoes, canteens, &c., very much.
Lieutenant-Colonel and Aide-de-Camp. Chief Quartermaster.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Camp near Knoxville, Md., October 10, 1862.
Capt. AUGUSTUS BOYD,
Shipments to Hagerstown must be made direct through to avoid the contemptible delays at Harrisburg. If Colonel Crosman was ordered to send clothing, I hope he has sent it, for the suffering and impatience are excessive.
Lieutenant-Colonel and Aide-de-Camp, Chief Quartermaster.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Camp near Knoxville, October 13, 1862.
Capt. GEORGE H. WEEKS,
Depot Quartermaster, Hagerstown :
Has the clothing arrived yet? If not, do you know where it is? What clothing as taken by the rebels at Chambersburg? Did they capture any property that was en route to you? Have we not got clothing at Harrisburg? Send an agent over the road to obtain information, and hurry up the supplies. Reply at once.
Lieutenant-Colonel and Aide-de-Camp, Chief Quartermaster.
SHARPSBURG, October 15, 1862.
I have just returned from Hagerstown, where I have been for the clothing for the corps. There was nothing there but overcoats, trousers, and a few uniform coats and socks. There were not any shoes, blankets, shirts, or shelter-tents. Will you please tell me where and when the balance can be had? Shall I send to Harper's Ferry for them to-morrow? The corps surgeon has just made a requisition for forty-five hospital tents. There are none at Hagerstown. Will you please to inform me if I can get them at Harper's Ferry?
Captain and Quartermaster.
HAGERSTOWN, October 15, 1862.
I want at least 10,000 suits of clothing in addition to what I have received. It should be here now.
G. H. WEEKS,
HARPER'S FERRY, October 22, 1862.
Chief Quartermaster, &c. :
We have bootees, 12,000; great-coats, 4,000; drawers and shirts are gone; blankets and stockings nearly so; 15,000 each of these four articles are wanted.
Captain and Assistant Quartermaster.
October 24, 1862--11 a.m.
Capt. D. G. THOMAS,
Military Storekeeper, Washington:
Please send to Captain Bliss, at Harper's Ferry, 10,000 blankets, 12,000 caps, 5,000 overcoats, 10,000 pairs bootees, 2,000 pairs artillery and cavalry boots, 15,000 pairs stockings, 15,000 drawers, and 15,000 pants. The clothing arrives slowly. Can it not be hurried along faster? May I ask you to obtain authority for this shipment?
Lieutenant-Colonel and Aide-de-Camp, Chief Quartermaster.
HAGERSTOWN, October 30.
Clothing has arrived this morning. None taken by rebels. Shall I supply Franklin, and retain portions for Porter and Reynolds until called for?
G. H. WEEKS,
Captain and Assistant Quartermaster.
The following statement, taken from a report of the chief quartermaster with the army, will show what progress was made in supplying the army with clothing from the 1st of September to the date of crossing the Potomac on the 31st of October, and that a greater part of the clothing did not reach our depots until after the 15th of October:
Statement of clothing and equipage received at the different depots of the Army of the Potomac from September 1, 1862, to October 31, 1862.
Drawers 10,700 17,000 40,000 30,000 97,700 Forage caps 4,000 11,000 19,500 -- 34,500 Stockings 6,200 22,025 65,200 30,000 123,425 Sack coats 4,190 -- -- -- 4,190 Cavalry jackets 3,000 500 1,250 1,500 6,250 Canteens 6,000 10,221 9,000 3,008 28,229 Flannel shirts 6,200 18,325 18,876 2,200 45,301 Haversacks 6,000 12,989 5,000 9,900 33,889 Trousers (mounted) 4,200 1,000 2,500 5,000 12,700 Roofs 4,200 6,000 3,600 20,040 33,840 Shelter-tents 11,100 3,000 9,000 -- 23,100 Camp kettles 799 1,302 1,894 -- 3,995 Mess-pans 2,030 2,100 4,500 -- 8,630 Overcoats (foot) 3,500 12,000 14,770 -- 30,270 Artillery jackets 1,200 500 1,750 1,000 4,450 Blankets 20 -- 6,500 4,384 10,904 Overcoats (mounted) 1,200 875 3,500 2,015 7,590 Felt hats 2,200 7,000 -- -- 9,200 Infantry coats 2,000 12,600 22,500 7,500 44,060 Trousers (foot) 2,000 9,500 39,620 25,000 76,120 Bootees 2,000 7,000 52,900 -- 61,900 Knit shirts -- 2,655 2,424 11,595 16,674
Colonel Ingalls, chief quartermaster, in his report upon this subject, says:
There was great delay in receiving our clothing. The orders were promptly given by me and approved by General Meigs, but the roads were slow to transport, particularly the Cumberland Valley road. For instance, clothing ordered to Hagerstown on the 7th of October for the corps of Franklin, Porter, and Reynolds, did not arrive there until about the 18th, and by that time, of course, there were increased wants and changes in position of troops. The clothing of Sumner arrived in great quantities near the last of October, almost too late for issue, as the army was crossing into Virginia. We finally left 50,000 suits at Harper's Ferry, partly on the cars just arrived and partly in store.
The causes of the reduction of our cavalry force have already been recited. The difficulty in getting new supplies from the usual sources led me to apply for and obtain authority for the cavalry and artillery officers to purchase their own horses. The following are the telegrams and letters on this subject:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF the POTOMAC,
October 12, 1862--12.45 p.m.
It is absolutely necessary that some energetic means be taken to supply the cavalry of this army with remount, horses. The present rate of supply is 1,050 per week for the entire army here and in front of Washington. From this number the artillery draw for their batteries.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
The General-in-Chief, in a letter to me dated Washington, D.C., October 14, 1862, replies to this dispatch in the following language:
I have caused the matters complained of in your telegrams of the 11th and 12th to be investigated.
In regard to horses, you say that the present rate of supply is only 150 per week for the entire army here and in front of Washington. I find from the records that the issues for the last six weeks have been 8,754, making an average per week of 1,459.
One thousand and fifty is the number stated in the original dispatch, now in my possession; and as not only figures were used, but the number was written out in full, I can hardly see how it is possible for the telegraphic operator to have made a mistake in the transmission of the message.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
October 14, 1862--7 p.m.
Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK,
* * * * * * * * * *
With my small cavalry force it is impossible for me to watch the line of the Potomac properly or even make the reconnaissances that are necessary for our movements. This makes it necessary for me to weaken my line very much by extending the infantry to guard the innumerable fords. This will continue until the river rises, and it will be next to impossible to prevent the rebel cavalry raids. My cavalry force, as I urged this morning, should be largely and immediately increased, under any hypothesis, whether to guard the river or advance on the enemy, or both.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
The following is an extract from the official report of Colonel Ingalls:
Immediately after the battle of Antietam, efforts were made to supply deficiencies in clothing and horses. Large requisitions were prepared and sent in. The artillery and cavalry required large numbers to cover losses sustained in battle, on the march, and by diseases. Both of these arms were deficient when they left Washington. A most violent and destructive disease made its appearance at this time, which put nearly 4,000 animals out of service. Horses reported perfectly well one day would be dead lame the next, and it was difficult to foresee where it would end or what number would cover the loss. They were attacked in the hoof and tongue. No one seemed able to account for the appearance of this disease. Animals kept at rest would recover in time, but could not be worked. I made application to send West and purchase horses at once, but it was refused on the ground that the outstanding contracts provided for enough; but they were not delivered sufficiently fast nor in sufficient numbers until late in October and early in November. I was authorized to buy 2,500 late in October, but the delivery was not completed until in November, after we had reached Warrenton.
In a letter from General Meigs, written on the 14th of October and addressed to the General-in-Chief, it is stated:
There have been issued, therefore, to the Army of the Potomac since the battles in front of Washington, to replace losses, 9, 254 horses.
What number of horses were sent to General Pope before his return to Washington I have no means of determining; but the following statement, made upon my order by the chief quartermaster with the army, and who had means for gaining accurate information, forces upon my mind the conclusion that the Quartermaster-General was in error:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Chief Quartermaster's Office, October 31, 1862.
Horses purchased since September 6, 1862, by Colonel Ingalls, chief quartermaster, and issued to the forces under the immediate command of Maj Gen George B McClellan 1,200 Issued and turned over to the above force by Capt J J Dana, assistant quartermaster (in Washington) 2,261 Issued to forces at and near Washington, which have since joined the command 352 Total purchased by Colonel Ingalls and issued and turned over by Captain Dana to the forces in this immediate command 3,813 Issued by Capt J J Dana, assistant quartermaster, to the forces in the vicinity of Washington 3,363 Grand total purchased by Col R Ingalls, chief quartermaster, and issued and turned over by Capt J J Dana, assistant quartermaster, to the entire Army of the Potomac and the forces around Washington 7,176
About 3,000 horses have been turned over to the Quartermaster's Department by officers as unfit for service. Nearly 1,500 should now be turned over also, being worn out and diseased.
Lieutenant-Colonel and Quartermaster.
This official statement, made up from the reports of the quartermasters who received and distributed the horses, exhibits the true state of the case, and gives the total number of horses received by the Army of the Potomac and the troops around Washington during a period of eight weeks as 7,176, or 2,078 less than the number stated by the Quartermaster-General. Supposing that 1,500 were issued to the army under General Pope previous to its return to Washington, as General Meigs states, there would still remain 578 horses which he does not account for.
The letter of the General-in-Chief to the Secretary of War on the 28th of October, and the letter of General Meigs to the General-in. Chief on the 14th of October, convey the impression that, upon my urgent and repeated applications for cavalry and artillery horses for the Army of the Potomac, I had received a much greater number than was really the case.
It will be seen from Colonel Myers' report that of all the horses alluded to by General Meigs, only 3,813 came to the army with which I was ordered to follow and attack the enemy. Of course the remainder did not in the slightest degree contribute to the efficiency of the cavalry or artillery of the army with which I was to cross the river. Neither did they in the least facilitate any preparations for carrying out the order to advance upon the enemy, as the General-in-Chief's letter might seem to imply.
During the same period that we were receiving the horses alluded to, about 3,000 of our old stock were turned in to the Quartermaster's Department, and 1,500 more reported as in such condition that they ought to be turned in as unfit for service, thus leaving the active army some 700 short of the number required to make good existing deficiencies, to say nothing of providing remounts for men whose horses had died or been killed during the campaign and those previously dismounted. Notwithstanding all the efforts made to obtain a remount, there were, after deducting the force engaged in picketing the river, but about 1,000 serviceable cavalry horses on the 21st day of October. In a letter dated October 14, 1862, the General-in Chief says:
It is also reported to me that the number of animals with your army in the field is about 31,000. It is believed that your present proportion of cavalry and of animals is much larger than that of any other of our armies.
What number of animals our other armies had I am not prepared to say, but military men in European armies have been of the opinion that an army, to be efficient while carrying on active operations in the field, should have a cavalry force equal in numbers to from one-sixth to one-fourth of the infantry force. My cavalry did not amount to one-twentieth part of the army, and hence the necessity of giving every one of my cavalry soldiers a serviceable horse.
Cavalry may be said to constitute the antennae of the army. It scouts all the roads in front, on the flanks, and in the rear of the advancing columns, and constantly feels the enemy. The amount of labor falling on this arm during the Maryland campaign was excessive.
To persons not familiar with the movements of troops, and the amount of transportation required for a large army marching away from water or railroad communications, the number of animals mentioned by the General-in-Chief may have appeared unnecessarily large; but to a military man who takes the trouble to enter into an accurate and detailed computation of the number of pounds of subsistence and forage required for such an army as that of the Potomac, it will be seen that the 31,000 animals were considerably less than was absolutely necessary to an advance.
As we were required to move through a country which could not be depended upon for any of our supplies, it became necessary to transport everything in wagons and to be prepared for all emergencies. I did not consider it safe to leave the river without subsistence and forage for ten days.
The official returns of that date show the aggregate strength of the army for duty to have been about 110,000 men of all arms. This did not include teamsters, citizen employes, officers' servants, &c, amounting to some 12,000, which gave a total of 122,000 men. The subsistence alone of this army for ten days required for its transportation 1,830 wagons, at 2,000 pounds to the wagon, and 10,980 animals. Our cavalry horses at that time amounted to 5,046 and our artillery horses to 6,836.
To transport full forage for these 22,862 animals for ten days required 17,832 additional animals; and this forage would only supply the entire number (40,694) of animals with a small fraction over half allowance for the time specified.
It will be observed that this estimate does not embrace the animals necessary to transport quartermaster's supplies, baggage, camp equipage, ambulances, reserve ammunition, forage for officers' horses, &c., which would greatly augment the necessary transportation.
It may very truly be said that we did make the march with the means at our disposal, but it will be remembered that we met with no serious opposition from the enemy; neither did we encounter delays from any other cause. The roads were in excellent condition, and the troops marched with most commendable order and celerity.
If we had met with a determined resistance from the enemy, and our progress had been very much retarded thereby, we would have consumed our supplies before they could have been renewed. A proper estimate of my responsibilities as the commander of that army did not justify me in basing my preparations for the expedition upon the supposition that I was to have an uninterrupted march. On the contrary, it was my duty to be prepared for all emergencies; and not the least important of my responsibilities was the duty of making ample provision for supplying my men and animals with rations and forage.
Knowing the solicitude of the President for an early movement, and sharing with him fully his anxiety for prompt action, on the 21st of October I telegraphed to the General-in-Chief as follows:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
October 21, 1862.
Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, Washington :
Since the receipt of the President's order to move on the enemy, I have been making every exertion to get this army supplied with clothing absolutely necessary for marching.
This, I am happy to say, is now nearly accomplished. I have also, during the same time, repeatedly urged upon you the importance of supplying cavalry and artillery horses, to replace those broken down by hard service, and steps have been taken to insure a prompt delivery. Our cavalry, even when well supplied with horses, is much inferior in numbers to that of the enemy, but in efficiency has proved itself superior. So forcibly has this been impressed upon our old regiments by repeated successes, that the men are fully persuaded that they are equal to twice their number of rebel cavalry. Exclusive of the cavalry force now engaged in picketing the river, I have not at present over about 1,000 horses for service. Officers have been sent in various directions to purchase horses, and I expect them soon. Without more cavalry horses our communications from the moment we march would be at the mercy of the large cavalry force of the enemy, and it would not be possible for us to cover our flanks properly, or to obtain the necessary information of the position and movements of the enemy in such a way as to insure success. My experience has shown the necessity of a large and efficient cavalry force. Under the foregoing circumstances, I beg leave to ask whether the President desires me to march on the enemy at once, or to await the reception of the new horses, every possible step having been taken to insure their prompt arrival.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
On the same day General Halleck replied as follows:
WASHINGTON, October 21, 1862--3 p.m.
Maj. Gen. GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN:
Your telegram of 12 m. has been submitted to the President. He directs me to say that he has no change to make in his order of the 6th instant. If you have not been and are not now in condition to obey it, you will be able to show such want of ability. The President does not expect impossibilities, but he is very anxious that all this good weather should not be wasted in inactivity. Telegraph when you will move, and on what lines you propose to march,
H. W. HALLECK,
From the tenor of this dispatch I conceived that it was left for my judgment to decide whether or not it was possible to move with safety to the army at that time, and this responsibility I exercised with the more confidence in view of the strong assurances of his trust in me as commander of that army with which the President had seen fit to honor me during his last visit.
The cavalry requirements, without which an advance would have been in the highest degree injudicious and unsafe, were still wanting. The country before us was an enemy's country, where the inhabitants furnished to the enemy every possible assistance, providing food for men and forage for animals, giving all information concerning our movements, and rendering every aid in their power to the enemy's cause. It was manifest that we should find it, as we subsequently did, a hostile district, where we could derive no aid from the inhabitants that would justify dispensing with the active co-operation of an efficient cavalry force. Accordingly, I fixed upon the 1st of November as the earliest date at which the forward movement could well be commenced.
The General-in-Chief, in a letter to the Secretary of War on the 28th of October, says:
In my opinion there has been no such want of supplies in the army under General McClellan as to prevent his compliance with the orders to advance against the enemy.
Notwithstanding this opinion, expressed by such high authority, I am compelled to say again that the delay in the reception of necessary supplies up to that date had left the army in a condition totally unfit to advance against the enemy; that an advance under the existing circumstances would, in my judgment, have been attended with the highest degree of peril, with great suffering and sickness among the men, and with imminent danger of being cut off from our supplies by the superior cavalry force of the enemy, and with no reasonable prospect of gaining any advantage over him.
I dismiss this subject with the remark that I have found it impossible to resist the force of my own convictions, that the commander of an army who, from the time of its organization, has for eighteen months been in constant communication with its officers and men, the greater part of the time engaged in active service in the field, and who has exercised this command in many battles, must certainly be considered competent to determine whether his army is in proper condition to advance on the enemy or not, and he must necessarily possess greater facilities for forming a correct judgment in regard to the wants of his men and the condition of his supplies than the General-in-Chief in his office at Washington City. The movement from Washington into Maryland, which culminated in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, was not a part of an offensive campaign, with the object of the invasion of the enemy's territory and an attack upon his capital, but was defensive in its purposes, although offensive in its character, and would be technically called a "defensive offensive campaign? It was undertaken at a time when our army had experienced severe defeats, and its object was to preserve the National Capital and Baltimore, to protect Pennsylvania from invasion, and to drive the enemy out of Maryland. These purposes were fully and finally accomplished by the battle of Antietam, which brought the Army of the Potomac into what might be termed an accidental position on the Upper Potomac.
Having gained the immediate object of the campaign, the first thing to be done was to insure Maryland from a return of the enemy; the second, to prepare our own army, exhausted by a series of severe battles, destitute to a great extent of supplies, and very deficient in artillery and cavalry horses, for a definite offensive movement, and to determine upon the line of operations for a further advance.
At the time of the battle of Antietam the Potomac was very low, and presented a comparatively weak line of defense unless watched by large masses of troops. The reoccupation of Harper's Ferry, and the disposition of troops above that point, rendered the line of the Potomac secure against everything except cavalry raids. No time was lost in placing the army in proper condition for an advance, and the circumstances which caused the delay after the battle of Antietam have been fully enumerated elsewhere.
I never regarded Harper's Ferry or its vicinity as a proper base of operations for a movement upon Richmond. I still considered the line of the Peninsula as the true approach, but for obvious reasons did not make any proposal to return to it.
On the 6th of October, as stated above, I was ordered by the President, through his General-in-Chief, to cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy, or drive him south. Two lines were presented for my choice:
1st. Up the Valley of the Shenandoah, in which case I was to have 12,000 to 15,000 additional troops.
2d. To cross between the enemy and Washington--that is, east of the Blue Ridge--in which event I was to be re-enforced with 30,000 men.
At first I determined to adopt the line of the Shenandoah, for these reasons: The Harper's Ferry and Winchester Railroad and the various turnpikes converging upon Winchester afforded superior facilities for supplies. Our cavalry being weak, this line of communication could be more easily protected. There was no advantage in interposing at that time the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah between the enemy and myself.
At the period in question the Potomac was still very low, and I apprehended that, if I crossed the river below Harper's Ferry, the enemy would promptly check the movement by recrossing into Maryland, at the same time covering his rear by occupying in strong force the passes leading through the Blue Ridge from the southeast into the Shenandoah Valley. I anticipated, as the result of the first course, that Lee would fight me near Winchester, if he could do so under favorable circumstances, or else that he would abandon the Lower Shenandoah and leave the Army of the Potomac free to act upon some other line of operations. If he abandoned the Shenandoah, he would naturally fall back upon his railway communications. I have since been confirmed in the belief that if I had crossed the Potomac below Harper's Ferry in the early part of October, General Lee would have recrossed into Maryland.
As above explained, the army was not in condition to move until late in October, and in the mean time circumstances had changed. The period had arrived when a sudden and great rise of the Potomac might be looked for at any moment; the season of bad roads and difficult movements was approaching, which would naturally deter the enemy from exposing himself very far from his base, and his movements all appeared to indicate a falling back from the river toward his supplies. Under these circumstances, I felt at liberty to disregard the possibility of the enemy's recrossing the Potomac, and determined to select the line east of the Blue Ridge, feeling convinced that it would secure me the largest accession of force and the most cordial support of the President, whose views from the beginning were in favor of that line.
The subject of the defense of the line of the Upper Potomac, after the advance of the main army, had long occupied my attention. I desired to place Harper's Ferry and its dependencies in a strong state of defense, and frequently addressed the General-in-Chief upon the subject of the erection of field works and permanent bridges there, asking for the funds necessary to accomplish the purpose. Although I did my best to explain, as clearly as I was able, that I did not wish to erect permanent works of masonry, and that neither the works nor the permanent bridges had any reference to the advance of the army, but solely to the permanent occupation of Harper's Ferry, I could never make the General-in-Chief understand my wishes, but was refused the funds necessary to erect the field-works, on the ground that there was no appropriation for the erection of permanent fortifications, and was not allowed to build the permanent bridge on the ground that the main army could not be delayed in its movements until its completion. Of course I never thought of delaying the advance of the army for that purpose, and so stated repeatedly. On the 25th of October I sent to the General-in-Chief the following telegram:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
October 25, 1862---10.45 p.m.
General-in-Chief, Washington :
As the moment is at hand for the advance of this army, a question arises for the decision of the General-in-Chief, which, although perhaps impliedly decided by the President in his letter of the 13th, should be clearly presented by me, as I do not regard it as in my province to determine it. This question is the extent to which the line of the Potomac should be guarded, after the army leaves, in order to cover Maryland and Pennsylvania from invasion by large or small parties of the enemy. It will always be somewhat difficult to guard the immediate line of the river, owing to its great extent and the numerous passages which exist. It has long appeared to me that the best way of covering this line would be by occupying Front Royal, Strasburg, Wardensville, and Moorefield, or the debouches of the several valleys in which they are situated. These points, or suitable places in their vicinity, should be strongly intrenched and permanently held. One great advantage of this arrangement would be the covering the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and an essential part of the system would be the construction of the link of railway from Winchester to Strasburg, and the rebuilding of the Manassas Gap Railway Bridge over the Shenandoah. The intrenchment of Manassas Junction would complete the system for the defense of the approaches to Washington and the Upper Potomac. Many months ago I recommended this arrangement--in fact, gave orders for it to be carried into effect. I still regard it as essential under all circumstances.
The views of the chief engineer of this army in regard to the defenses and garrison of Harper's Ferry and its dependencies are in your possession.
The only troops under my command, outside of the organization of the Army of the Potomac, are the Maryland brigade, under General Kenly; the Fifty-fourth Pennsylvania [Colonel Campbell]; Twelfth Illinois Cavalry [Colonel Voss], and Colonel Davis' Eighth New York Cavalry; total, 2,894 infantry, one battery, and about 900 cavalrymen. There are also two of my regiments of cavalry (about 750 men) guarding the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Hancock and Cumberland. As I have no department, and command simply an active army in the field, my responsibility for the safety of the line of the Potomac and the States north of it must terminate the moment I advance so far beyond that line as to adopt another for my base of operations. The question for the General-in-Chief to decide, and which I regard as beyond my province, is this:
1st. Shall the safety of Harper's Ferry and the line of the Potomac be regarded as assured by the advance of the army south of the Blue Ridge, and the line left to take care of itself?
2d. If it is deemed necessary to hold the line, or that hereinbefore indicated in advance of it, how many troops shall be placed there, at what points (and in what numbers and of what composition at each), and where shall they be supplied, i.e., from this army or from other sources?
Omitting the detached troops mentioned above and the small garrisons of Boons-borough and Frederick, the last returns show the strength of this army for duty to be about 116,000 officers and men. This includes the divisions of Stoneman and Whipple, but does not include Heintzelman, Sigel, and Bayard.
If Harper's Ferry and the river above are rendered fully secure, it is possible that the active army, if it supplies the garrison, may be reduced so much as to be inadequate to the purposes contemplated If it is preserved intact, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad may be unduly exposed.
I leave the decision of these grave questions to the General-in-Chief. I know nothing of the number of troops at Baltimore, &c.
An important element in the solution of this problem is the fact that a great portion of Bragg's army is probably now at liberty to unite itself with Lee's command.
I commence crossing the river at Berlin in the morning, and must ask a prompt decision of the questions proposed herein.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
To which I received the following reply:
WASHINGTON, October 26, 1862--1.35 p.m.
Maj. Gen. GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN:
In addition to the command which you had when I came here, you also have the greater part of that of Major-General Pope. Moreover, you have been authorized to use any troops within your reach in General Wool's department and in Western Virginia. General Banks' command is also under your direction, with the single restriction that he is not to remove troops from Washington till he has notified me of his orders.
Since you left Washington I have advised and suggested in relation to your movements, but I have given you no orders. I do not give you any now. The Government has intrusted you with defeating and driving back the rebel army in your front. I shall not attempt to control you in the measures you may adopt for that purpose. You are informed of my views, but the President has left you at liberty to adopt them or not, as you may deem best. You will also exercise your own discretion in regard to what points on the Potomac and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad are to be occupied or fortified. I will only add that there is no appropriation for permanent intrenchments on that line. Moreover, I think it will be time enough to decide upon fortifying Front Royal, Strasburg, Wardensville, and Moorefield when the enemy is driven south of them and they come into our possession.
I do not think that we need have any immediate fear of Bragg's army. You are within 20 miles of Lee's, while Bragg is distant about 400 miles.
H. W. HALLECK,
On the 29th I sent the following:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
October 29, 1862--1.15 p.m.
On the 25th instant I sent you a dispatch requesting you to decide what steps should be taken to guard the line of the Potomac when this army leaves here. To this I received your reply that I had been intrusted by the President with defeating and driving away the rebel army; that you had given me no orders heretofore, did not give me any then, &c. Under these circumstances, I have only to make such arrangements for guarding this extended line as the means at my disposal will permit, at the same time keeping in view the supreme necessity of maintaining the moving army in adequate force to meet the rebel army before us.
The dispositions I have ordered are as follows, viz: Ten thousand men to be left at Harper's Ferry; one brigade of infantry in front of Sharpsburg; Kenly's brigade of infantry at Williamsport; Kelley's brigade, including Colonel Campbell's Fifty-fourth Pennsylvania Infantry, at Cumberland, and between that point and Hancock. I have also left four small cavalry regiments to patrol and watch the river and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from Cumberland down to Harper's Ferry.
I do not regard this force as sufficient to cover securely this great extent of line, but I do not feel justified in detaching any more troops from my moving columns. I would therefore recommend that some new regiments of infantry and cavalry be sent to strengthen the forces left by me. There should be a brigade of infantry and section of artillery in the vicinity of Cherry Run, another brigade at Hancock, an additional brigade at Williamsport, one regiment at Hagerstown, and one at Chambersburg, with a section of artillery at each place if possible. This is on the supposition that the enemy retain a considerable cavalry force west of the Blue Ridge. If they go east of it, the occupation of the points named in my dispatch of the 25th instant will obviate the necessity of keeping many of these troops on the river.
There are now several hundred of our wounded, including General Richardson, in the vicinity of Sharpsburg, that cannot possibly be moved at present.
I repeat that I do not look upon the forces I have been able to leave from this army as sufficient to prevent cavalry raids into Maryland and Pennsylvania, as cavalry is the only description of troops adequate to this service, and I am, as you are aware, deficient in this arm.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
To which I received on the 30th this reply:
WASHINGTON, October 30, 1862--11.30 a.m.
Maj. Gen. GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN :
Your telegram of yesterday was received late last evening. The troops proposed for Thoroughfare Gap will be sent to that place whenever you are in position for their co-operation, as previously stated, but no new regiments can be sent from here to the Upper Potomac. The guarding of that line is left to your own discretion with the troops now under your command.
H. W. HALLECK,
I accordingly left the Twelfth Corps at Harper's Ferry, detaching one brigade to the vicinity of Sharpsburg. General Morell was placed in command of the line from the mouth of the Antietam to Cumberland; General Slocum in command of Harper's Ferry and the line east of the mouth of the Antietam.
The orders given to these officers were as follows:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
October 29, 1862--1 p.m.
General H. W. SLOCUM,
Commanding Army Corps, Harper's Ferry:
The general commanding directs that you send one brigade of your corps to march at once to the position now occupied by General F. J. Porter's corps, in front of Sharpsburg, to watch and guard the line of the river from the ford near the mouth of the Antietam Creek to the mouth of the Opequon Creek. The officer in command will also take steps to afford proper protection to the sick and wounded in the hospitals in the vicinity of Sharpsburg and Boonsborough. The regiment now at Boons-borough will be placed under his orders. General Kenly, at Williamsport, will guard the river from the mouth of the Opequon above, including the ford at the mouth of the Opequon.
The commanding general also directs that you take immediate steps to establish the remainder of your corps as follows, viz: One brigade on Maryland Heights, one brigade on Loudoun Heights, with the remainder on Bolivar Heights and at Harper's Ferry.
These dispositions should be made at once, so that General Couch can move with his corps.
Please acknowledge the receipt of this.
R. B. MARCY,
Chief of Staff.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
October 31, 1862.
General GEORGE W. MORELL,
Commanding Upper Potomac :
General: I am instructed by the commanding general to say to you that he has selected you to perform the highly important and responsible duty of taking charge of and commanding the troops left for the defense of the line of the Potomac River, from the mouth of the Antietam to Cumberland, as well as any other troops that may hereafter be sent for the protection of the Maryland and Pennsylvania frontier, within the limits of the lines herein specified. The force which has been left to guard the line is not deemed adequate to prevent cavalry raids, but it is all that the commanding General feels authorized to detach from the Army of the Potomac at the present time, and it devolves upon you to make the best use of this force in your power. You will have four cavalry regiments under your command, which should be so distributed along the river as to watch all the available fords and give timely notice to the infantry of the approach of any force of rebels. You will afford all the protection in your power to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. You will endeavor to prevent any cavalry raids into Maryland and Pennsylvania. You will take steps to have all the sick and wounded of our army, as well as of the rebel army within your lines, properly taken care of until they can be sent to general hospitals, or discharged or paroled. You will make your headquarters at Hagerstown, and occasionally visit the different parts of your line. You will please report promptly to these headquarters everything of importance that occurs within the limits of your command. The three brigades now at Cumberland, Williamsport, and Sharpsburg, including the Fifty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers, near Cumberland, will be under your command. They are commanded by Generals Kelley, Kenly, and Gordon.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Assistant Adjutant General.
On the 25th of October the pontoon bridge at Berlin was constructed, there being already one across the Potomac and another across the Shenandoah, at Harper's Ferry.
On the 26th two divisions of the Ninth Corps and Pleasonton's brigade of cavalry crossed at Berlin and occupied Lovettsville. The First, Sixth, and Ninth Corps, the cavalry, and the reserve artillery crossed at Berlin between the 26th of October and the 2d of November.
The Second and Fifth Corps crossed at Harper's Ferry between the 29th of October and the 1st of November. Heavy rains delayed the movement considerably in the beginning, and the First, Fifth, and Sixth Corps were obliged to halt at least one day at the crossings, to complete, as far as possible, necessary supplies that could not be procured at an earlier period.
The plan of campaign I adopted during this advance was to move the army, well in hand, parallel to the Blue Ridge, taking Warrenton as the point of direction for the main body, seizing each pass on the Blue Ridge by detachments as we approached it, and guarding them after we had passed as long as they would enable the enemy to trouble our communications with the Potomac. It was expected that we would unite with the Eleventh Corps and Sickles' division near Thoroughfare Gap. We depended upon Harper's Ferry and Berlin for supplies until the Manassas Gap Railway was reached. When that occurred, the passes in our rear were to be abandoned, and the army massed ready for action or movement in any direction.
It was my intention if, upon reaching Ashby's or any other pass, I found that the enemy were in force between it and the Potomac in the Valley of the Shenandoah, to move into the valley, and endeavor to gain their rear. I hardly hoped to accomplish this, but did expect that, by striking in between Culpeper Court-House and Little Washington, I could either separate their army and beat them in detail, or else force them to concentrate as far back as Gordonsville, and thus place the Army of the Potomac in position either to adopt the Fredericksburg line of advance upon Richmond, or to be removed to the Peninsula, if, as I apprehended, it were found impossible to supply it by the Orange and Alexandria Railroad beyond Culpeper.
On the 27th of October the remaining divisions of the Ninth Corps crossed at Berlin, and Pleasonton's cavalry advanced to Purcellville. The concentration of the Sixth Corps, delayed somewhat by intelligence as to the movements of the enemy near Hedgesville, &c., was commenced on this day, and the First Corps was already in motion for Berlin.
On the 28th the First Corps and the general headquarters reached Berlin.
On the 29th the reserve artillery crossed and encamped near Lovettsville. Stoneman's division, temporarily attached to the Ninth Corps, occupied Leesburg; Averell's cavalry brigade moved toward Berlin from Hagerstown; two divisions of the Ninth Corps moved to Wheatland, and one to Waterford. The Second Corps commenced the passage of the Shenandoah at Harper's Ferry, and moved into the valley east of Loudoun Heights.
On the 30th the First Corps crossed at Berlin and encamped near Lovettsville, and the Second Corps completed the passage of the Shenandoah. The Fifth Corps commenced its march from Sharpsburg to Harper's Ferry.
On the 31st the Second Corps moved to the vicinity of Hillsborough; the Sixth Corps reached Boonsborough; the Fifth Corps reached Harper's Ferry, one division crossing the Shenandoah.
On the 1st of November the First Corps moved to Purcellville and Hamilton; the Second Corps to Wood Grove; the Fifth Corps to Hillsborough; the Sixth Corps reached Berlin, one division crossing. Pleasonton's cavalry occupied Philomont, having a sharp skirmish there and at Bloomfield.
On November 2 the Second Corps occupied Snicker's Gap; the Fifth Corps, Snickersville; the Sixth Corps crossed the Potomac and encamped near Wheatland; the Ninth Corps advanced to Bloomfield, Union, and Philomont. Pleasonton drove the enemy out of Union. Averell was ordered to join Pleasonton. The enemy offered no serious resistance to the occupation of Snicker's Gap, but advanced to regain possession of it with a column of some 5,000 to 6,000 infantry, who were driven back by a few rounds from our rifled guns.
On the 3d the First Corps moved to Philomont, Union, Bloomfield, &c.; the Second Corps to the vicinity of Upperville; the Fifth Corps remained at Snicker's Gap; the Sixth Corps moved to Purcellville; the Ninth Corps moved toward Upperville. Pleasonton drove the enemy out of Upperville after a severe fight.
On the 4th the Second Corps took possession of Ashby's Gap; the Sixth Corps reached Union: the Ninth Corps, Upperville; the cavalry occupied Piedmont. On the 5th the First Corps moved to Rectortown and White Plains; one division of the Second Corps to the intersection of the Paris and Piedmont with the Upperville and Barbee's road; the Sixth Corps to the Aldie pike, east of Upperville; the Ninth Corps beyond the Manassas Railroad, between Piedmont and Salem, with a brigade at Manassas Gap. The cavalry under Averell had a skirmish at Manassas Gap, and the brigade of Pleasonton gained a handsome victory over superior numbers at Barbee's Cross-Roads. Bayard's cavalry had some sharp skirmishing in front of Salem.
On the 6th the First Corps advanced to Warrenton; the Second Corps to Rectortown; the Fifth Corps commenced its movement from Snicker's Gap to White Plains; the Ninth Corps to Waterloo and vicinity on the Rappahannock; the Eleventh Corps was at New Baltimore, Thoroughfare and Hopewell Gaps; Sickles' division guarding the Orange and Alexandria Railroad from Manassas Junction toward Warrenton Junction; the cavalry near Flint Hill; Bayard to cut off what there might be in Warrenton and to proceed to the Rappahannock Station.
November 7 General Pleasonton was ordered to move toward Little Washington and Sperryville, and thence toward Culpeper Court-House.
November 8 the Second Corps moved half way to Warrenton; the Fifth Corps to New Baltimore.
November 9 the Second and Fifth Corps reached Warrenton; the Sixth Corps New Baltimore.
Late on the night of the 7th I received an order relieving me from the command of the Army of the Potomac, and directing me to turn it over to General Burnside, which I at once did.
I had already given the orders for the movements of the 8th and 9th. These orders were carried into effect without change.
The position in which I left the army, as the result of the orders I had given, was as follows:
The First, Second, and Fifth Corps, Reserve Artillery, and general headquarters, at Warrenton; the Ninth Corps on the line of the Rappahannock, in the vicinity of Waterloo; the Sixth Corps at New Baltimore; the Eleventh Corps at New Baltimore, Gainesville, and Thoroughfare Gap; Sickles' division of the Third Corps on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad from Manassas Junction to Warrenton Junction; Pleasonton across the Rappahannock at Amissville, Jefferson, &c., with his pickets at Hazel River, facing Longstreet, 6 miles from Culpeper Court-House; Bayard, near Rappahannock Station.
The army was thus massed near Warrenton, ready to act in any required direction, perfectly in hand, and in admirable condition and spirits. I doubt whether during :he whole period that I had the honor to command the Army of the Potomac it was in such excellent condition to fight a great battle. When I gave up the command to Genera. Burnside the best information in our possession indicated that Longstreet was immediately in our front near Culpeper; Jackson, with one, perhaps both, of the Hills, near Chester and Thornton's Gaps, with the mass of their three west of the Blue Ridge.
The reports from General Pleasonton, on the advance, indicated the possibility of separating the two wings of the enemy's forces, and either beating Longstreet separately or forcing him to fall back at least upon Gordonsville, to effect his junction with the rest of the army.
The following is from the report of General Pleasonton:
At this time and from the 7th instant my advance pickets were at Hazel River, within 6 miles of Culpeper, besides having my flank pickets toward Chester and Thornton's Gaps extended to Gaines' Cross-Roads and Newby's Cross-Roads, with numerous patrols in the direction of Woodville, Little Washington, and Sperryville.
The information gained from these parties, and also from deserters, prisoners, contrabands, as well as citizens, established the fact of Longstreet with his command being at Culpeper, while Jackson with D. H. Hill, with their respective commands, were in the Shenandoah Valley, on the western side of the Blue Ridge, covering Chester and Thornton's Gaps, and expecting us to attempt to pass through and attack them.
As late as the 17th of November a contraband just from Strasburg came in my camp and reported that D. H. Hill's corps was 2 miles beyond that place, on the railroad to Mount Jackson. Hill was tearing up the road and destroying the bridges, under the impression that we intended to follow into that valley, and was en route for Staunton. Jackson's corps was between Strasburg and Winchester. Ewell and A. P. Hill were with Jackson. Provisions were scarce, and the rebels were obliged to keep moving to obtain them.
Had I remained in command, I should have made the attempt to divide the enemy as before suggested, and could he have been brought to a battle within reach of my supplies, I cannot doubt that the result would have been a brilliant victory for our army.
On the 10th of November General Pleasonton was attacked by Longstreet with one division of infantry and Stuart's cavalry, but repulsed the attack. This indicates the relative position of our army and that of the enemy at the time I was relieved from the command.
It would be impossible to participate in operations such as those described in the foregoing pages without forming fixed opinions upon subjects connected with the organization of our armies and the general conduct of military operations.
This report would be incomplete without a brief allusion to some general considerations which have been firmly impressed upon me by the events which have occurred. To my mind the most glaring defect in our armies is the absence of system in the appointment and promotion of general and other officers and the want of means for the theoretical instruction of the mass of officers. The expansion of the army was so great and so rapid at the commencement of the existing war that it was perhaps impossible, in the great scarcity of instructed officers, to have adopted any other course than that which was pursued; but the time has arrived when measures may be initiated to remedy existing defects and provide against their recurrence.
I think that the army should be regarded as a permanent one; that is to say its affairs should be administered precisely as if all who belonged to it had made it their profession for life, and those rules for promotion, &c., which have been found necessary in the best foreign armies to excite honorable emulation, produce an esprit de corps, and secure efficiency, should be followed by us. All officers and soldiers should be made to feel that merit--that is to say, courage, good conduct, the knowledge and performance of the duties of their grade, and fitness to exercise those of a superior grade--will insure to them advancement in their profession, and can alone secure it for them. Measures should be adopted to secure the theoretical instruction of staff officers at least, who should, as far as possible, be selected from officers having a military education or who have seen actual service in the field. The number of cadets at the Military Academy should be at once increased to the greatest extent permitted by the capacity of the institution. The Regular Army should be increased and maintained complete in numbers and efficiency. A well-organized system of recruiting and of depots for instruction should be adopted in order to keep the ranks of the regiments full, and supply promptly losses arising from battle or disease. This is especially necessary for the artillery and cavalry arms of the service, which from the beginning of the war have rendered great services, and which have never been fully appreciated by any but their comrades. We need also large bodies of well-instructed engineer troops. In the arrangement and conduct of campaigns the direction should be left to professional soldiers. A statesman may perhaps be more competent than a soldier to determine the political objects and direction of a campaign; but those once decided upon, everything should be left to the responsible military head without interference from civilians. In no other manner is success probable. The meddling of individual members or committees of Congress with subjects which, from lack of experience, they are of course incapable of comprehending, and which they are too apt to view through the distorted medium of partisan or personal prejudice, can do no good, and is certain to produce incalculable mischief.
I cannot omit the expression of my thanks to the President for the constant evidence given me of his sincere personal regard, and his desire to sustain the military plans which my judgment led me to urge for adoption and execution. I cannot attribute his failure to adopt some of those plans, and to give that support to others which was necessary to their success, to any want of confidence in me; and it only remains for me to regret that other counsels came between the constitutional commander-in-chief and the general whom he had placed at the head of his armies--counsels which resulted in the failure of great campaigns.
If the nation possesses no generals in service competent to direct its military affairs without the aid or supervision of politicians, the sooner it finds them and places them in position the better will it be for its fortunes.
I may be pardoned for calling attention to the memorandum submitted by me to the President on the 4th of August, 1861, my letter to him of July 7, 1862, and other similar communications to him and to the Secretary of War. I have seen no reason to change, in any material regard, the views there expressed.
After a calm, impartial, and patient consideration of the subject--a subject which demands the closest thought on the part of every true lover of his country--I am convinced that, by the proper employment of our resources, it is entirely possible to bring this war to a successful military issue. I believe that a necessary preliminary to the re-establishment of the Union is the entire defeat or virtual destruction of the organized military power of the Confederates, and that such a result should be accompanied and followed by conciliatory measures, and that, by pursuing the political course I have always advised, it is possible to bring about a permanent restoration of the Union--a reunion by which the rights of both sections shall be preserved, and by which both parties shall preserve their self-respect while they respect each other.
In this report I have confined myself to a plain narrative of such facts as are necessary for the purposes of history. Where it was possible I have preferred to give these facts in the language of dispatches written at the time of their occurrence, rather than to attempt a new relation.
The reports of the subordinate commanders, hereto annexed, recite what time and space would fail me to mention here--those individual instances of conspicuous bravery and skill by which every battle was marked. To them I must especially refer, for without them this narrative would be incomplete and justice fail to be done. But I cannot omit to tender to my corps commanders, and to other general officers under them, such ample recognition of their cordial co-operation and their devoted services as those reports abundantly avouch. I have not sought to defend the army which I had the honor to command, nor myself, against the hostile criticisms once so rife. It has seemed to me that nothing more was required than such a plain and truthful narrative to enable those whose right it is to form a correct judgment on the important matters involved.
This report is, in fact, the history of the Army of the Potomac. During the period occupied in the organization of that army, it served as a barrier against the advance of a lately victorious enemy while the fortification of the capital was in progress, and under the discipline which it then received it acquired strength, education, and some of that experience which is necessary to success in active operations, and which enabled it afterward to sustain itself under circumstances trying to the most heroic men. Frequent skirmishes occurred along the lines, conducted with great gallantry, which inured our troops to the realities of war.
The army grew into shape but slowly, and the delays which attended on the obtaining of arms, continuing late into the winter of 1861-'62, were no less trying to the soldiers than to the people of the country. Even at the time of the organization of the Peninsular campaign some of the finest regiments were without rifles; nor were the utmost exertions on the part of the military authorities adequate to overcome the obstacles to active service.
When at length the army was in condition to take the field, the Peninsular campaign was planned, and entered upon with enthusiasm by officers and men. Had this campaign been followed up as it was designed, I cannot doubt that it would have resulted in a glorious triumph to our arms and the permanent restoration of the power of the Government in Virginia and North Carolina, if not throughout the revolting States. It was, however, otherwise ordered, and, instead of reporting a victorious campaign, it has been my duty to relate the heroism of a reduced army, sent upon an expedition into an enemy's country, there to abandon one and originate another and new plan of campaign, which might and would have been successful if supported with appreciation of its necessities, but which failed because of the repeated failure of promised support at the most critical and, as it proved, the most fatal moments. That heroism surpasses ordinary description. Its illustration must be left for the pen of the historian in times of calm reflection, when the nation shall be looking back to the past from the midst of peaceful days. For me, now, it is sufficient to say that my comrades were victors on every field save one, and there the endurance of but little more than a single corps accomplished the object of the fighting, and,. by securing to the army its transit to the James, left to the enemy a ruinous and barren victory.
The Army of the Potomac was first reduced by the withdrawal from my command of the division of General Blenker, which was ordered to the Mountain Department, under General Fremont. We had scarcely landed on the Peninsula when it was further reduced by a dispatch revoking a previous order giving me command of Fort Monroe, and under which I had expected to take 10,000 men from that point to aid in our operations. Then, when under fire before the defenses of Yorktown, we received the news of the withdrawal of General McDowell's corps of about 35,000 men. This completed the overthrow of the original plan of the campaign. About one-third of my entire army (five divisions out of fourteen, one of the nine remaining being but little larger than a brigade) was thus taken from me. Instead of a rapid advance, which I had planned, aided by a flank movement up the York River, it was only left to besiege Yorktown. That siege was successfully conducted by the army, and, when these strong works at length yielded to our approaches, the troops rushed forward to the sanguinary but successful battle of Williamsburg, and thus opened an almost un-resisted advance to the banks of the Chickahominy. Richmond lay before them, surrounded with fortifications and guarded by an army larger than our own, but the prospect did not shake the courage of the brave men who composed my command. Relying still on the support which the vastness of our undertaking and the grand results depending on our success seemed to insure us, we pressed forward. The weather was stormy beyond precedent; the deep soil of the Peninsula was at times one vast morass; the Chickahominy rose to a higher stage than had been known for years before. Pursuing the advance, the crossings were seized, and the right wing extended to effect a junction with re-enforcements now promised and earnestly desired, and upon the arrival of which the complete success of the campaign seemed clear. The brilliant battle of Hanover Court-House was fought, which opened the way for the First Corps, with the aid of which, had it come, we should then have gone into the enemy's capital. It never came. The bravest army could not do more under such overwhelming disappointment than the Army of the Potomac then did. Fair Oaks attests their courage and endurance when they hurled back again and again the vastly superior masses of the enemy. But mortal men could not accomplish the miracles that seemed to have been expected of them. But one course was left---a flank march in the face of a powerful enemy to another and better base--one of the most hazardous movements in war. The Army of the Potomac, holding its own safety and almost the safety of our cause in its hands, was equal to the occasion. The seven days are classical in American history--those days in which the noble soldiers of the Union and Constitution fought an outnumbering enemy by day and retreated from successive victories by night through a week of battle, closing the terrible series of conflicts with the ever memorable victory of Malvern, where they drove back, beaten and shattered, the entire eastern army of the Confederacy, and thus secured for themselves a place of rest and a point for a new advance upon the capital from the banks of the James. Richmond was still within our grasp had the Army of the Potomac been re-enforced and permitted to advance; but counsels which I cannot but think subsequent events proved unwise prevailed in Washington, and we were ordered to abandon the campaign. Never did soldiers better deserve the thanks of a nation than the Army of the Potomac for the deeds of the Peninsular campaign, and although that meed was withheld from them by the authorities, I am persuaded they have received the applause of the American people.
The Army of the Potomac was recalled from within sight of Richmond and incorporated with the Army of Virginia. The disappointments of the campaign on the Peninsula had not damped their ardor or diminished their patriotism. They fought well, faithfully, gallantly, under General Pope, yet were compelled to fall back on Washington, defeated and almost demoralized.
The enemy, no longer occupied in guarding his own capital, poured his troops northward, entered Maryland, threatened Pennsylvania, and even Washington itself. Elated by his recent victories, and assured that our troops were disorganized and dispirited, he was confident that the scat of war was now permanently transferred to the loyal States, and that his own exhausted soil was to be relieved from the burden of supporting two hostile armies; but he did not understand the spirit which animated the soldiers of the Union. I shall not, nor can I, living, forget that when I was ordered to the command of the troops for the defense of the capital, the soldiers with whom I had shared so much of the anxiety and pain and suffering of the war had not lost their confidence in me as their commander. They sprang to my call with all their ancient vigor, discipline, and courage. I led them into Maryland. Fifteen days after they had fallen back defeated before Washington, they vanquished the enemy on the rugged heights of South Mountain, pursued him to the hard-fought field of Antietam, and drove him, broken and disappointed, across the Potomac into Virginia.
The army had need of rest. After the terrible experiences of battles and marches, with scarcely an interval of repose, which they had gone through item the time of leaving for the Peninsula, the return to Washington, the defeat in Virginia, the victory at South Mountain and again at Antietam, it was not surprising that they were in a large degree destitute of the absolute necessaries to effective duty. Shoes were worn out, blankets were lost, clothing was in rags; in short, the army was unfit for active service, and an interval for rest and equipment was necessary. When the slowly forwarded supplies came to us, I led the army across the river, renovated, refreshed, in good order and discipline, and followed the retreating foe to a position where I was confident of decisive victory, when, in the midst of the movement, while my advance guard was actually in contact with the enemy, I was removed from the command.
I am devoutly grateful to God that my last campaign with this bravo army was crowned with a victory which saved the nation from the greatest peril it had then undergone. I have not accomplished my purpose if, by this report, the Army of the Potomac is not placed high on the roll of the historic armies of the world. Its deeds ennoble the nation to which it belongs. Always ready for battle, always firm, steadfast, and trustworthy, I never called on it in vain; nor will the nation ever have cause to attribute its want of success, under myself or under other commanders, to any failure of patriotism or bravery in that noble body of American soldiers.
No man can justly charge upon any portion of that army, from the commanding general to the private, any lack of devotion to the service of the United States Government and to the cause of the Constitution and the Union. They have proved their fealty in much sorrow, suffering, danger, and through the very shadow of death. Their comrades, dead on all the fields where we fought, have scarcely more claim to the honor of a nation's reverence than the survivors to the justice of a nation's gratitude.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
Major-General, U.S. Army.
Source: "Official Records of the War of the Rebellion"
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