The Life and Campaigns of General Lee, by Edward Lee Childe, Chapter 7

The Life and Campaigns of General Lee, by Edward Lee Childe

CHAPTER VII.
MACCLELLAN’S RETREAT.

THE battle of the Chickahominy or Cold Harbour was a decisive battle, whatever certain Northern writers may say, who pretend that it was only the first in a series of engagements, all nearly of equal importance, mere incidents in General MacClellan’s change of front from the banks of the York to those of the James. This theory is difficult to support. Had this first encounter been a Federal victory General MacClellan would have marched straight on Richmond, without dreaming of losing time in a change of his base of operations, and the result would have been the taking of the city. The proof that it was a Federal defeat is precisely the necessity MacClellan was under of bearing towards the James, since his communications with the North by the White House were cut off. Far from being able to think of attacking Richmond, all he could do was to save his army. It is true he had an idea of changing his base of operations before the battle; but, having lost it, he had no further choice. It was no longer an army full of spirits and hope which he was directing towards a stronger position than the one he left, but a tired and discouraged mob whom he drew after him, hastening to gain the River James, there to take refuge under the fire of his batteries, and so escape from the pursuit of an enemy bent on his destruction. This result, deciding the whole campaign, was brought about by the battle of the Chickahominy. To wish, therefore, to give no more prominence to this engagement than to those which followed it is to falsify history.

However this may be, MacClellan at least was too good a soldier not to know that the battle of the 27th had been decisive, and his resolution to beat a retreat was attested the night of the battle in an assembly at head-quarters, where he unfolded to his generals his plan and the motives which had dictated it.

On the morning of the 28th of June, nearly all his army was concentrated on the southern side of the Chickahominy. MacClellan gave proof, in the retreat which followed, of a rare skill and much vigour, surrounded as he was by dangers of all kinds. The advantages he was able to possess over his foe ought in nowise to detract from the admiration due to the Federal general-in-chief.

One of these advantages was the uncertainty in which Lee was placed as to what his adversary was going to do. The latter could give battle to reconquer the railway from York River, or retire into the Peninsula, or towards the James. Lee found himself compelled to await his enemy’s movements. It was very unfortunate, but there was nothing to be done. Meanwhile Ewell took the railway from York River, the Federals retiring before him to the other side of the Chickahominy, burning the bridge and destroying the road. The clouds of dust coming from the Federal lines south of the river manifestly indicated that something was preparing. The Federals had just abandoned for good the York River railway; but on the side of the James the Confederates could not detect any sign of movement towards this river. It became, therefore, more and more probable that it was to the Peninsula that MacClellan was directing his army. Ewell advanced, following the north bank of the Chickahominy, in the direction of the different fords leading to Williamsburg, but without discovering anything. General Stuart likewise made a sudden push towards the White House, taking, on his way, some convoys of provender and war material, capturing or putting to flight some scouts and squadrons of artillery. Towards night the blaze in the sky and the explosion of howitzers in the direction of the White House, showed that the enemy was destroying there all they could not carry off. At daybreak Stuart resumed his march, and arrived in sight of a Federal battery, with which he exchanged cannon shots. Stuart took at the White House considerable booty. Nine large barges, loaded with provisions, were burning as the Southern cavalry arrived; the fire likewise devoured an immense number of tents, waggons, railway trucks loaded, five locomotives, buildings of all sorts, ammunition, and an immense amount of material, representing a total of several million dollars: all was destroyed.

Hence, turning to the south, the cavalry went, according to Lee’s orders, and surveyed the bridges and fords over the Chickahominy, leading towards the Peninsula. At New Market, a group of houses near the James, between Richmond and the Federal lines, 6000 men under General Holmes were posted, to hinder the enemy from approaching the river, and to advertise head-quarters of the first indication of a Federal movement. The 28th, therefore, was passed in watching the enemy, completely hidden by the woody nature of the country, and the lines of defence which sheltered him. All the Confederate army received orders to rest under arms all night between the 28th and 29th of June, in order to advance without losing a moment directly it was known in what direction MacClellan would retire. All the tokens which came to him confirmed General Lee in his idea that the Northern army was preparing for a general movement, and as nothing indicated that it would be towards the peninsula, it could only be in the direction of the James.

Lee was right. During daytime on the 28th, MacClellan occupied all the defensive points which could protect the passage of his army across that series of bogs known under the general name of the White Oak Swamp. 5000 ambulances, waggons, tumbrils, and 2500 bullocks, were driven by the single and only road which traversed this district. During the night of the 28th, Porter’s division also retired by the same way. The corps of Sumner, Heintzelman, and Smith received orders to remain north of the swamp, on the side of Richmond, during the whole day on the 29th, till all the conveyances and supplies were out of danger. Although Lee had no doubt about what was occurring, everything was done with such order, that he was not assured of the Federal retreat till discovering at sunrise on the 29th that their lines were abandoned.

Presently Longstreet and A. P. Hill recrossed the Chickahominy at New Bridge, and took the road which goes from Derbytown to Long Bridge. Huger quitted his intrenchments, and his columns defiled by the Charles City Road to fall on the Federal flank. Magruder, following the route to Williamsburg, was to attack their rear; and Jackson, recrossing the river at Grape-vine Bridge, and then passing Savage Station, was to rejoin Magruder. Lee hoped thus to cut off the enemy’s retreat, and capture or destroy the greater part of his army. All the Confederate columns were early on the march; on the 29th Jackson alone, who was obliged to repair the bridge at Grape-vine, could not cross the Chickahominy till the evening.

Lee’s arrangements were excellent, but MacClellan had twenty-four hours’ advance, which, joined to the nature of the country the two armies had to travel, gave him advantages that no pursuit could deprive him of, however vigorous and well-combined.

Magruder, going through the fortified outposts and positions just abandoned, and passing enormous quantities of war material, chiefly in good condition, arrived at Savage Station towards evening. There the Federal General Sumner’s corps was awaiting him. A sanguinary conflict ensued, to which the darkness of night alone put an end. During the night Sumner retreated across the White Oak Swamp, destroying all the bridges in his rear, and all the war-material he could at Savage Station. The Confederates took several hundred prisoners, and found a large number of men killed and wounded in the recent engagement, and likewise a hospital of 2500 invalids. Unfortunately, already the Confederates were ill-provided with medicines for the wounded, and the Federals left but few behind them.

It will not, perhaps, here be uninteresting to recount, following a Northern narrative, some of the scenes which took place during the retreat of the Northern army across this labyrinth of marshes and soft ground, rendered still more inauspicious by drenching rains, and by the thick wood covering their surface:

The line of retreat was straight through the middle of White Oak Swamp. Under one’s eyes was the sad spectacle of thousands of wounded dragging themselves along as best they could, in an extended file. All the ambulances which could be got together were laden with such of the unfortunate wounded as could bear the journey. Many who could not be so carried fell into the hands of the enemy. In the distance shone the fires of the Confederate outposts. The night was very dark, and the clouds seemed to forebode a tempest, but, no matter how exhausted the soldiers were, they could not stop, they must march all night.

Savage Station is about six miles from the White Oak Swamp Bridge. Over this extent a confused multitude of horses, waggons, cannons, ambulances, pontoons, and all the material of a vast army, was hastening. Sometimes a stoppage occurred; it is impossible to describe the confusion then resulting. The waggons, twenty abreast, blocked the road. The officers made unheard-of efforts to extricate them; the drivers swore, the horses plunged, and accidents to the carriages added to the general disorder. That day there was but little fighting, as the enemy was ignorant of our movements. The sun rose on the 29th of June over this scene of tumult and consternation. The heat of the day was oppressive; not a breath of air was felt. Behind us the incessant noise of musketry and growling of artillery were heard. At every footstep set we left all along the road some dead, as well as those too seriously wounded to allow of their transport. Many of our men threw away their knapsacks and other incumbrances, retaining only their arms. Others, being affected with sun-stroke, fell down, foaming at the mouth, a prey to delirium. Cannon-balls, shells, from time to time burst over us, as a warning that the enemy was not far off. Occasionally our rear-guard halted, and then the battle was furiously renewed.

Black clouds brought early darkness, and torrents of rain began to fall. Our rear hastened its march through the darkness and tempest. The forest was illumined by incessant lightning; the thunder was, every minute, growling above our heads. Pellmell on the narrow road, horse-soldiers, foot-soldiers, artillerymen, all confused and intermingled with guns, waggons, columns of infantry, and squadrons of cavalry, we rolled onwards like a gloomy torrent, except, when the lightning whitened our bayonets, and made the frightful scene still more hideous: on the right and left of the road, where the ground presented a firmer bottom, the multitude of fugitives hurried along. Shattered carts, forsaken ammunition-waggons, debris of all kinds, marked the line which the routed army was following. We spoke in whispers. Every sort of noise was avoided, such was the haste to get out of this horrible marsh before daylight. Sometimes a poor soldier would throw himself on the ground for a few moments’ sleep; then, awaking with a start, pale with fright at the idea of falling into the hands of the enemy, he would continue his way half asleep.

It was, indeed, a terrible march. General Jackson arrived at the bridge over the White Oak Swamp on the morning of June 30th. His vanguard had taken above a thousand prisoners, and so many arms were scattered on the ground, that it was necessary to detach two Northern Carolina regiments to gather them and carry them to the rear. The bridge was destroyed, and the enemy in force on the other side disputed the passage. Twenty-eight guns soon swept the opposite bank, and the Confederate skirmishers passed the water-course, but could not maintain themselves on the other side. The enemy disputed the ground so vigorously till night, that Jackson could not advance, although the cannonade at the other extremity of the marshes indicated to him sufficiently clearly that the struggle in which Longstreet was engaged was becoming warmer and warmer. But it was totally impossible to force the passage; there was only a very narrow ford, completely commanded by the enemy’s fire. It would have been madness to attempt to cross.

While Jackson was champing his bit, Longstreet, the same afternoon, had arrived very near Quaker Road, which the Federal army travelled in its precipitate course towards the James. Long Bridge Road, by which Longstreet was approaching, intersected Quaker Road at right angles, very near the place where the latter enters the White Oak Swamp. A little further on, Charles City Road also joins Quaker Road. Huger came by the Charles City Road, while Jackson pursued the Federal rear by Quaker Road. Should these three columns succeed in helping each other, and fall on MacClellan at the same time, Lee would have all his army united, and it would be all over with the Federals. It was, therefore, of the last importance to hinder this concentration, and so secure to the Federal general-in-chief time to draw his army from the dangerous position into which it had fallen, and concentrate it in the plains within reach of the James, where it would have nothing further to fear. For this, three things were necessary: to hinder Jackson from penetrating the White Oak Swamp, which had already taken place; to hold the cross roads between Long Bridge Road and Quaker Road against Longstreet till the Federal army had defiled in safety; and lastly, to prevent Huger’s column joining that of Longstreet Huger, whose movements were a little slow, could not issue from the Charles City Road till the morning of July 1st.

To resist Longstreet, who arrived on the ground at one o’clock, p.m., on the 29th, MacClellan posted the Pennsylvanian reserves, under General MacCall, parallel to the Quaker Road, extending to the New Market Road, and supported by three Federal divisions. General Holmes, on the extreme Confederate right, opened a smart fire on the Federal positions at Malvern Hill, but without result, the gun-boats on the James having been put into use on the other side.

Although Huger had sent word in the morning that his march was slackened because of the obstacles he met with, Lee’s need of him was so great, that, in consequence of the pressing orders transmitted to him, he was in line in the afternoon. When, therefore, Longstreet disposed his forces in order of battle at Frazier’s Farm, Lee, who was with that part of the army, believed he could fully count on Huger and Jackson’s corps in his general attack on the Federal lines, completely ignorant that Jackson had been unable to cross the White Oak Swamp.

About four o’clock, the noise of cannon sounded from the side of the Charles City Road. Believing it was General Huger, Longstreet opened fire with one battery only, to show where he was, but Huger did not come, and the enemy answering by a furious cannonade, the combat began. Longstreet hurled his cavalry against MacCall;—the struggle became intense;—the ground would not allow of an attack by the whole body of troops. Nevertheless, in spite of the enemy’s superior number, and their admirably directed artillery fire, the Confederates kept advancing. General A. P. Hill received orders to support Longstreet with all his division. A determined charge met with full success; several batteries were taken at the point of the bayonet, and the guns afterwards being turned upon the enemy, they were driven from their positions. General MacCall was taken prisoner. The battle lasted till nine o’clock, p.m. The Federals had given way throughout their whole line, except on the right, where they maintained themselves most desperately. The ground was disputed inch by inch, but the battle-field, again excepting the right, remained with the Confederates, who thus obtained the dead and wounded of the Federal army, 14 cannons, and many prisoners.

If General Huger could have arrived in time to attack the right, as Lee intended, the Northern army would have suffered a great disaster.

Thanks to the delay forced on Jackson and the non-arrival of Huger, MacClellan was able to thread the dangerous passages of the White Oak Swamp with the rest of his army, whilst his rearguard kept Jackson in play, and his left wing resisted Longstreet. General Franklin having retired from the Swamp during the night with the Federal rearguard, Jackson was able to pursue his route, and the next morning rejoin the Confederate army on the battlefield of the previous evening. The Federal army was concentrated at Malvern Hill. All the dangers threatening it had passed away with the combat at Frazier’s Farm. The Confederates could no longer hope to cut off its retreat towards the James, for on the 30th of June, that is, the preceding night, its van had reached this river, while its artillery and waggons were parked behind Malvern Hill, and MacClellan was in communication with the Federal batteries.

Lee’s only course now was to force a battle. He knew well that, if successful, the Northern army would be at his mercy; if the affair was not decisively in his favour, the worst that could happen was that the enemy would be able to traverse the few remaining miles separating him from the river. Jackson, therefore, following the Willis Church Road, hastened to get in front of the Federal position at Malvern Hill, a position, by the way, remarkably well-chosen. It was an elevated plain nearly two miles long, and somewhat more than half a mile broad. Masses of infantry, deep and dense, lined this table-land, crowned by 60 huge pieces of ordnance. The Northern army formed a semi-circle, of which Malvern Hill formed the left and a part of the centre, while the right inclined towards the river, through woods and ravines. It rested thus on the James, ready, in case of need, to take shelter under the fire of its gunboats. At the foot of Malvern Hill the country was without trees, but marshy and uneven; the fire of the batteries and gunboats swept it in all directions. Lee had given orders to bring all available artillery into line, in order, as a preliminary step, to reduce the Federal batteries to silence, and throw disorder among the columns of infantry ranged for the contest But the difficulties of the ground were such, that the Confederates could never get their cannon up in time, and to oppose the magnificent Federal batteries they had but 8 or 10 pieces, which were speedily put out of the combat. About six o’clock, General D. H. Hill, deceived by what he thought was the signal for attack, charged with all his division, but, finding himself unsupported, although Jackson might have hastened to his aid, he was obliged to retire with great loss. Jackson’s artillery continued to fire on the Federal position, but his infantry did not stir.

Magruder also, on the Confederate right, made an attempt, which ended like Hill’s. The flux and reflux of the rival armies lasted till night. Without being able to capture the Federal batteries, through the impossibility of keeping up a convergent fire from all their cannon, the Confederates, nevertheless, inflicted serious losses on the Northern infantry, and camped on the battlefield.

MacClellan profited by the night to withdraw his forces, and lead them towards Harrison’s Landing and Westover. Although he had succeeded in repulsing the late Confederate assaults, yet his army had sustained frightful damage. It became absolutely necessary to seek shelter under the fire of the gunboats. The attacks of the enemy had been so vigorous and persevering, making such great gaps in the Northern ranks, that MacClellan’s army, already much tried by this long six days’ retreat, and these sanguinary conflicts, had become completely demoralized. At this critical moment the Federal general-in-chief was afraid to risk another battle, even in the strong position occupied by him. Many killed and wounded were found in the abandoned works, as well as two pieces of cannon, a large number of carriages, tumbrils, and ambulances, and quantities of war-material which had belonged to the commissariat, the medical service, and the engineers. Enormous quantities of munitions had been thrown into the ravines, and on all sides appeared signs of a precipitate retreat.

General Lee’s troops, for that matter, were hardly less fatigued than the army flying towards the James. They, also, had fought for six days, had marched a very difficult road day and night, had suffered cruel losses. No consequence, however; for the next day, July the 2nd, in spite of a drenching rain which fell continually, Stuart’s cavalry pressed the Federal rear with vigour, making prisoners, and leaving it no rest. Towards evening, Longstreet arrived to support him. But the enemy had raised intrenchments on a plateau, Evelington’s Heights, which they fortified during the night. The whole Federal army was encamped along the river—the plateau was strongly fortified—two creeks covered the two flanks, which were likewise defended by intrenchments and gunboats. It was therefore decided not to risk an assault against so strong a position—an assault which must have cost an enormous sacrifice of human life.

Under these circumstances Lee resolved to draw his army nearer Richmond, to give his harassed men some days’ rest, till MacClellan’s movements were more clearly defined.

The critics who blame Lee for not having, on the day after the battle of Malvern Hill, pursued his foe vigorously, and crushed him, forget the state in which his army was. It was not without prolonged and heroic efforts that it had successively taken intrenched positions, chosen with the greatest care, and defended with the greatest valour; that it had, for twenty-five miles from the first field of battle, driven before it an enemy having the disposal of much more numerous forces, much better equipped, and with much better tools. The Federal artillery in particular was excellent, formed on the most recent models, while that of the Confederates was quite as inferior. The country in which this struggle took place was naturally favourable for defence, and it cannot be denied that MacClellan had reaped great advantage from it. He displayed talents of the first order during this retreat; and an army which was able, in the midst of so many trials and disasters, to continue fighting all day and marching all night, enduring its defeats bravely and without flinching, deserves the respect and admiration of both friends and foes. Still MacClellan was wrong, on July 4th, to publish an order of the day but little suitable to the part of a conquered general.

Lee’s army was too much exhausted for him to think of pushing his advantages further. He had compelled his adversary to abandon the line of the Chickahominy. The people of the South were very thankful to him for this great boon. Lee was always sparing of the life of his soldiers, first by temperament, and secondly because he knew that if misfortune happened to this army, the South had not another to replace it. Consequently it is but natural that the Southern generalissimo, satisfied with the brilliant successes he had gained, preferred to reserve it for the future, where so many trials still awaited it.

The total loss of the Confederates during this campaign amounted to 19,533 killed, wounded, and disappeared. Among them were many officers of high rank, and several generals.

The Federals left in the hands of the Confederates more than 10,000 prisoners, and, at the lowest, their losses were upwards of 25,000 men, among whom were many officers and generals; 52 cannons and 35,000 rifles, as well as vast quantities of war-material, became the property of the conquerors. But this was little, compared with what the Federals themselves destroyed during the retreat.

On the 7th of July, while still in the presence of the Federal army on the James River, General Lee addressed to his soldiers an order of the day, in which, after having humbly thanked “Him from whom all victories come,” he congratulated his troops on their valour, and the brilliant results of this short campaign.

Lee had thus saved the Southern capital at the moment when he first took command of the Confederate army, by a blow struck at his adversary, a blow as sudden as irresistible. The dissatisfied, of whom there are always some, discovered that he had not done enough, that he ought to have annihilated the Federal army; but the great mass of people welcomed him with joy on his return to Richmond, and received him as its saviour. He took these demonstrations of public favour with that quite dignity which never left him, whether in the hour of triumph or that of defeat. He saw perfectly, on the 2nd of July, that the Confederate States were as far as ever from having obtained he object of the war. MacClellan had been beaten, but the inexhaustible resources of the government of the United States, Lee well knew, would allow it to raise and equip other and still greater armies.

From the strictly military point of view, MacClellan was far more threatening on the James than if he had remained on the Chickahominy. He had no longer anything to fear, now that his left wing was supported on a river where he possessed a whole flotilla of gunboats. His position was such that the Confederates could not drive him from it. Besides, he could at leisure cross the James and assault Petersburg, the capture of which would probably lead to the abandonment of Richmond, for this little town was situated in the direct line of all the communications of the Confederate capital with the rest of the South. With MacClellan to the south of Richmond, the Confederate government would not be able to dream of detaching a single man towards the North. The Federal general had still 85,000 men and 150 cannons; he could render services to his government of much greater import here than elsewhere. Further, the North would have been able to double the forces of MacClellan’s army; but, in spite of his protestations, justice was not done to his demands, and other events turned away public attention from the banks of the James.

General Lee was not ignorant of any of the dangers which the presence of his adversary on the James made him run, if the latter felt himself sufficiently strong to give effect to his projects. To disquiet him, and, if possible, force him to retire, D. H. Hill was sent to the southern bank of the river. From Cozzin’s Point, opposite the Federal encampment, a battery of forty-three guns, on the night of the 31st of July, opened a very lively fire on the enemy’s hundreds of ships, and on the hostile camp. The vessels were nearly a mile off, and numerous lights, both on land and water, offered to the gunners capital marks. The army and fleet were sleeping in profound peace, little dreaming of the danger threatening them. Shortly after midnight, the Confederate guns simultaneously opened their fire, and for an hour the roar of the cannons mingled with the confused cries of soldiers and sailors. The gunboats presently, responded, but without much effect. Little by little the firing ceased. Next day, the Confederates having retired, MacClellan occupied Cozzin’s point.

North of Richmond, General Jackson, followed soon by other troops, occupied Gordonsville, there to hold in check the Federal army commanded by General Pope. General Stuart, on the 5th of August, routed two brigades of Northern cavalry, and pursued them towards Fredericksburg.

Some movements of MacClellan’s army decided Lee to get near his adversary. Advancing in order of battle, the Confederate general, on the 5th of August, found the enemy in force at Malvern Hill, behind his old intrenchments. After some evolutions, which led to no result, MacClellan retired to Westover, and Lee re-entered his lines. This was the last demonstration made by MacClellan before quitting the Peninsula. The evacuation began on the 16th of August. A part of the army and baggage went by water; the rest took the land road, passing by Yorktown to Fortress Monroe. On the 18th of August, the rear-guard crossed the Chickahominy. As soon as General Lee was sure that MacClellan was finally quitting the James River, he led his army towards the position occupied on the Rapidan by Jackson, whom he rejoined on the 15th of August.

Let us return for an instant to speak of an address sent by General MacClellan to President Lincoln. This important writing belongs to history. It not only throws a new light on the character and views of the most worthy foe whom Lee encountered, but, with admirable clearness, expresses the feelings of a great portion of the Northern people at that moment. The President had asked of General MacClellan a statement of his opinion on the conduct of the war, and, on the 7th of July, amid those disastrous scenes at Harrison’s Landing, the General wrote these truly remarkable words:—

This rebellion has assumed the character of a war; as such it would be regarded, and it should be conducted upon the highest principles known to Christian civilization. It should not be a war looking to the subjection of any state in any event. It should not be at all a war upon population, but against armed forces and political organization. Neither confiscation of property, political executions, territorial organizations of states, nor forcible abolition of slavery, should be contemplated for a moment In prosecuting the war, all private property and unarmed persons should be strictly protected, subject only to the necessity of military operations. All private property taken for military uses should be paid or receipted for; pillage and waste should be treated as high crimes; all unnecessary trespass sternly prohibited; and offensive demeanour by the military towards citizens promptly rebuked. Military arrests should not be tolerated, except in places where active hostilities exist; and oaths, not required by enactments constitutionally made, should be neither demanded nor received. Military government should be confined to the preservation of public order and the protection of political right. Military power should not be allowed to interfere with the relations of servitude, either by supporting or impairing the authority of the master, except for repressing disorder. . . . Slaves, contraband under the act of Congress, seeking military protection should receive it. The right of government to appropriate permanently to its own service claims to slave labour should be asserted, and the right of the owner to compensation, therefore, should be recognised. . . .

. . . A system of policy thus constituted, and pervaded by the influences of Christianity and freedom, would receive the support of almost all truly loyal men, would deeply impress the rebel masses and all foreign nations, and it might be humbly hoped that it would commend itself to the favour of the Almighty.

Unless the principles governing the future conduct of our struggle shall be made known and approved, the effort to obtain requisite forces will be almost hopeless. A declaration of radical views, especially on slavery, will rapidly disintegrate our present armies.

The policy of the government must be supported by concentrations of military power. The national forces should not be dispersed in expeditions, posts of occupation, and numerous armies; but should be mainly collected into masses, and brought to bear upon the armies of the Confederate States. These armies thoroughly defeated, the political structure which they support would soon cease to exist.

In carrying out any system of policy which you may form, you will require a commander-in-chief of the army,—one who possesses your confidence, understands your views, and who is competent to execute your orders, by directing the military forces of the nation to the accomplishment of the objects by you proposed. I do not ask that place for myself. I am willing to serve you in such positions as you may assign me, and I will do so as faithfully as ever subordinate served superior. I may be on the brink of eternity, and, as I hope forgiveness from my Maker, I have written this letter with sincerity towards you, and from love for my country.

This noble and warm statement of his views does the greatest honour to General MacClellan, especially when it is remembered that he wrote it on July 7th, smarting under the blow of the sanguinary check he had just experienced. His self-esteem had been wounded by it, his spirit exasperated; but in this report no traces of such feeling are allowed to be seen, and yet, it must be said, it seems that the man who could be sincere in writing these lines ought never to have consented to take part in a war evidently so contrary to his inward convictions.

This fine epistle was doomed to have no effect at Washington, as is proved to conviction by the fashion in which this inauspicious war was carried on afterwards.

In consequence, it is said, of the opinions expressed above by MacClellan, altogether contrary to those of the party then in power, it was thought necessary to dismiss him from his duties. He had an especially determined enemy in General Halleck, the Federal War Minister. MacClellan wished to cross the James, attack Petersburg, and so cut off all communications between Richmond and the rest of the South. This plan, which succeeded later, in 1865, with General Grant, was not approved by General Halleck and the President, in 1862, probably because they had decided on dismissing MacClellan.

General Lee, on this matter, shared the view of General MacClellan. To those in his confidence he explained how much more vulnerable Richmond was on the southern side. The course of events proved it.

[Notes]

* This property belonged to Lee, and came from General Washington. The latter was married here. The Federals did not leave it a blade of grass.

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