President Lincoln Worries about the Progress of the Union War Effort in Virginia

July 2 1862

President Lincoln writes General McClellan regarding his request for more troops: “Your despatch of Tuesday morning induces me to hope your Army is having some rest.  In this hope, allow me to reason with you a moment.  When you ask for fifty thousand men to be promptly sent you, you surely labor under some gross mistake of fact.  Recently you sent papers showing your disposal of forces, made last spring, for the defence of Washington, and advising a return to that plan.  I find it included in, and about Washington seventyfive thousand men.  Now please be assured, I have not men enough to fill that very plan by fifteen thousand.  All of Fremont in the valley, all of McDowell, not with you, and all in Washington, taken together do not exceed, if they reach sixty thousand.  With Wool and Dix added to those mentioned, I have not, outside of your Army, seventyfive thousand men East of the mountains.  Thus, the idea of sending you fifty thousand, or any other considerable force promptly, is simply absurd.  If in your frequent mention of responsibility, you have the impression that I blame you for not doing more than you can, please be relieved of such impression. I only beg that in like manner, you will not ask impossibilities of me.  If you think you are not strong enough to take Richmond just now, I do not ask you to try just now.  Save the Army, material and personal; and I will strengthen it for the offensive again, as fast as I can.  The Governors of eighteen states offer me a new levy of three hundred thousand, which I accept.”

General George B. McClellan writes President Lincoln: “I have succeeded in getting this Army to this place on the banks of the James River.  I have lost but one gun which had to be abandoned last night because it broke down.  An hour and a half ago the rear of the wagon train was within a mile of Camp and only one wagon abandoned.  As usual we had a severe battle yesterday and beat the Enemy badly, the men fighting even better than before.  We fell back to this position during the night and morning.  Officers and men thoroughly worn out by fighting every day and working every night for a week.  They are in good spirits and after a little rest will fight better than ever.  If not attacked during this day I will have the men ready to repulse the Enemy tomorrow.  General Ferry is here.  Our losses have been very heavy for we have fought every day since last Tuesday.  I have not yielded an inch of ground unnecessarily but have retired to prevent the superior force of the Enemy from cutting me off — and to take a different base of operations.”  He adds: “I thank you for the reinforcements.  Every thousand men you send at once will help me much.”

Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes in his diary: “At Presidents and War Department this morning…The President showed me despatches from McClelland of Monday night – Had had another hard days fighting and telegraphed that he feared he would have to sacrifice all his stores and munitions to save his men.  Said he was hard pressed and asked for re-inforcements.  A later despatch which arrived this morning stated that he had received some re-inforcements from below, and drive the enemy.  Had also made a change in his position and thought he could maintain himself.  Affairs at Richmond are in a very critical condition, and the President is deeply anxious – So am I.”

Indiana Congressman George W. Julian recalled: “On the second of July I called to see the President, and had a familiar talk about the war.  He looked thin and haggard, but seemed cheerful.  Although our forces were then engaged in a terrific conflict with the enemy near Richmond, and everybody was anxious as to the result, he was quite as placid as usual, and could not resist his ‘ruling passion’ for anecdotes.  If I had judged him by appearances I should have pronounced him incapable of any deep earnestness of feeling; but his manner was so kindly, and so free from the ordinary crookedness of the politician and the vanity and self-importance of official position, that nothing but good-will was inspired by his presence.  He was still holding fast his faith in General McClellan, and this was steadily widening the breach between him and Congress, and periling the success of the war.  The general gloom in Washington increased till the adjournment, but Mr. Sumner still had faith in the President, and prophesied good things as to his final action.”

Published in: on July 2, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

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