Generfal McClellan’s Failures and Friendship

April 23, 1862

President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton talk over the disposition of Union troops protecting Washington.   Sec. Stanton issues orders to General McDowell not to cross Rappahannock River and pursue Confederates who recently evacuated Fredericksburg, Virginia.

General George B. McClellan, whose letters to his wife betray his anger at President Lincoln, writes the commander in chief: “I am well aware of the firm friendship & confidence you have evinced for me, & instead of again thanking you for it will endeavor to assure that it is not misplaced.” He goes on to discuss his preparations for battle:

Do not misunderstand the apparent inaction here — not a day, not an hour has been lost, works have been constructed that may almost be called gigantic — roads built through swamps & difficult ravines, material brought up, batteries built.  I have tonight in batter & ready for action 5 100 pdr  Parrott guns, 10 4 1/2″ Ordnance guns, 18 20 pdr Parrotts, 6 Napoleon guns & 6 10 pdr Parrotts — this not counting the batteries in front of Smith & on his left — 45 guns.  I will add to it tomorrow night 5 30 pdr Parrotts, 6 20 pdr Parrotts, from 5 to 10 13″ mortars, & (if it arrives in time) 1 200 pdr Parrott.  Before sundown tomorrow I will essentially complete the redoubts necessary to strengthen the left of the 1st Parallel; & will construct that Parallel as far as Wormley’s Creek from the left, & probably all the way to York River tomorrow night.  I will then be secure against sorties.  It has become necessary to make tomorrow morning early a ‘forced reconnaissance’ to gain some information as to the ground on the left flank of the proposed 1st Parallel –this ground is strongly held by the enemy’s pickets, is swampy & covered with thick brush & timber — I cannot now tell what facilities they possess for crossing the stream in force — to gain this information I have ordered Col Gove to move with Regt, the 22nd Massachusetts, early in the morning — I have taken all possible precautions, so that the object may be gained without loss — yet it is possible that many lives may be lost — there is no other way of accomplishing the object, & I merely wish to state beforehand what the purpose is, in order that the result may be understood.  I do not propose to open fire at present unless the enemy attempt to interfere with the construction of the 1st Parallel & the new batteries which will be commenced at once.  If he will permit it I will at once build a battery at close range for 5 more 100 pdrs & another 200 pdr rifle, batteries for the 10 & 8 inch mortars, 8″ howitzers, & additional 30 & 20 pounder Parrotts, in the mean time pushing the approaches forward as rapidly as possible.  I still hope that we will not be seriously interfered with until I can open an overwhelming fire & give the assault from a reasonable distance under its cover.  My course must necessarily depend to a great extent upon that of the enemy — but I see the way clear to success & hope to make it brilliant, although with but little loss of life.  I expect great aid from the Galena — Franklin will probably land as soon as she arrives — his preparations ought to be completed tomorrow.

Published in: on April 23, 2012 at 12:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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