June 24, 1862
In a rare departure from Washington during the Civil War, President Lincoln and General John Pope arrive at West Point to discuss the disposition of General Irvin McDowell’s corps – whether it should be sent to reenforce General George B. McClellan or was more important as a defensive barrier against an attack on Washington. He arrives in West Point at 3 AM and is up and at breakfast at 7:30 AM. Most of the morning is spent in consultations. Later, he tours West Point and a cannon factory.
As a result of the visit, General Scott writes a memorandum for President Lincoln: “The President having stated to me, orally, the present numbers & positions of our forces in front of the rebel armies, south & South west of the Potomack, has done me honor to ask my views, in writing, as to the further dispositions now to be made, of the former, & particularly of the army under [Gen. Irvin] McDowell, towards the suppression of the rebellion.
Premising that, altho’ the statements of the President were quite full & most distinct & lucid — yet from my distance from the scenes of operation, & not having, recently, followed them up, with closeness — many details are still wanted to give professional value to my suggestions — I shall, nevertheless, with great deference, proceed to offer such as most readily occur me — each of which has ben anticipated by the President.
I consider the numbers & positions of [Gen. John C.] Fremont & [Gen. Nathaniel] banks, adequate to the protection of Washington against any force the enemy can bring by the way of the Upper Potomack, & the troops, at Manassas junction, with the garrisons of the forts on the Potomack & of Washington, equally adequate to its protection on the South.
The force at Fredericksburg seems entirely of position, & it cannot be called up, directly & in time, by McClellan, from the want of railroad-transportation, or an adequate supply train, moved by animals. If, however, there be a sufficient number of vessels at hand, that force might reach the head of York river, by water, in time to aid in the operations against Richmond, or in the very improbable case of disaster, there, to serve as a valuable reinforcement to McClellan.
The defeat of the reels, at Richmond, or their forced retreat, thence, combined with our previous victories, would be virtual end of the rebellion, & soon restore entire Virginia to the Union.
The remaining important points to be occupied by us, are — Mobile, Charleston, Chattanooga. These must soon come into our hands.
McDowell’s force, at Manassas, might be ordered Richmond, by the Potomack & York rivers, & be replaced, at Manassas, by [Gen. Rufus] King’s brigade, if there be adequate transports at, or near Alexandria.