President Lincoln Concerned with Confederate Movements in Virginia

June 15, 1862

President Lincoln continued to deal with the demands of General John C. Frémont for assistance in the Shenandoah Valley: “We have no indefinite power of sending re-inforcements; so that we are compelled rather to consider the proper disposal of forces we have than of those we could wish to have.  We may be able to send you some dribs by degrees, but I do not believe we can do more.  As you alone beat Jackson last Sunday I argue that you are stronger than he is to-day, unless he has been re-enforced; and that he cannot have been materially re-enforced, because such re-enforcement could only have come from Richmond, and he is much more likely to go to Richmond that Richmond is to come to him.  Neither is very likely.  I think Jackson’s game – his assigned work – now is to magnify the accounts of his numbers and reports of his movements, and thus by constant alarms keep three or four times as many of our troops away from Richmond as his own force amounts to.  Thus he helps his friends at Richmond three or four times as much as if he were there.  Our game is not to allow this.  Accordingly, by the order of the 8th, I directed you to halt at Harrisonburg, rest your force, and get it well in hand, the objects being to guard against Jackson’s returning by the same route to the Upper Potomac, over which you have just drive him out, and at the same time give some protection against a raid into West Virginia.  Already I have given you discretion to occupy Mount Jackson instead, if, on full consideration, you think best. I do not believe Jackson will attack you, but certainly he cannot attack you by surprise; and if he comes upon you in superior force you by surprise; and if he comes upon you in superior force you have but to notify us, fall back cautiously, and Banks will join you in due time.  But while we know not whether Jackson will move at all, or by what route, we cannot safely put you and Banks both on the Strasburg line, and leave no force on the Front Royal line, the very line upon which he prosecuted his late raid.  The true policy is to place one of you on one line and the other on the other, in such positions that you can united on either once you actually find Jackson moving upon it.  And this is precisely what we are doing.  This protects that part of our frontier, so to speak, and liberates McDowell to go to the assistance of McClellan.  I have arranged this, and am very unwilling to have it deranged.  While you have only asked for Sigel I have spoken only of Banks, and this because Sigel’s force is now the principal part of Bank’s force.”  President Lincoln added: “About transferring General [Robert C.] Schenck’s command, the purchase of supplies, and the promotion and appointment of officers mentioned in your letter, I will consult with the Secretary of War to-morrow.”

President Lincoln writes General George B. McClellan, outside Richmond: “The night between your two late battles of Saturday and Sunday, I went earnestly to work to find a way of putting Gen. [John] Wool’s force under your control without wounding any one’s feelings.  But after all, Gen. [John A.] Dix was a little hurt at being taken from an independent command and put in a dependent one.  I could not help this without giving up the principal object of the move.  So soon as you can, (which I do not expect is yet,) I wish you to give me the benefit of your suggestions as to how an independent command can be given him without detriment.”  The rest of the letter shows that Lincoln is as concerned about protecting Washington as he is about sending reenforcements to McClellan:

The Secretary of War has turned over to me your despatch about sending [Irvin] McDowell to you by water, instead of by land.  I now fear he can not get to you either way in time.  Shields’ Division has got so terribly out of shape, out at elbows, and out at toes, that it will require a long time to get it in again.  I expect to see McDowell within a day or two, when I will again talk with him about the mode of moving.
McCall’s Division has nearly or quite reached you by now.  This, with what you get from Gen. Wool’s old command, and the new regiments sent you, must give you an increase since the late battles of over twenty thousand.  Doubtless the battles and other causes have decreased you half as much in the same time; but then the enemy have lost as many in the same way.
I believe I would come and see you, were it not that I fear my presence might divert you and the army from more important matters.

The White House has become less hectic.  Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes: “Mrs. Lincoln moved out to the ‘Soldiers Home,’ about a mile and a half from the city this past week, so that John and I are left almost alone in the house here.  The President comes in every day at ten and goes out again at four.  I am very glad of the change for several reasons, particularly that it gives us more time to ourselves, the crowd only coming when they know the President to be about.”

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Published in: on June 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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