August 31, 1862
Before leaving Soldiers Cottage for the White House, President Lincoln tells aide John Hay: “Well John we are whipped again, I am afraid. The enemy reinforced on [General John] Pope and drove back his left wing and he has retired to Centerville where he says he will be able to hold his men. I dont like that expression. I dont like to hear him admit that his men need holding.”
Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary that Interior Secretary Caleb “Smith left whilst we were conversing after this detailed narrative, and Stanton, dropping his voice, though no one was present, said he understood from Chase that I declined to sign the protest which he had drawn up against McClellan’s continuance in command, and asked if I did not think we ought to get rid of him. I told him I might not differ with him on that point, especially after what I had heard in addition to what I had previously know, but that I disliked the method and manner of proceeding, that it appeared to me an unwise and injudicious proceeding, and was discourteous and disrespectful to the President, were there nothing else. Stanton said, with some excitement, he know of no particularly obligations he was under to the President, who had called him to a difficult position and imposed upon him labors and responsibilities which no man could carry, and which were greatly increased by fastening upon him a commander who was constantly striving to embarrass him in his administration of the Department. He could not and would not submit to a continuance of this state of things. I admitted they were bad, severe on him, and he could and had stated his case strongly, but I could not from facts within my own knowledge inform them, nor did I like the manner in which it was proposed to bring about a dismissal. He said among other things General Pope telegraphed to McClellan for supplies; the latter informed P. they were at Alexandria, and if P. would send an escort he could have them. A general fighting, on the field of battle, to send to a general in the rear and in repose an escort!
General George B. McClellan telegraphs Henry W. Halleck: “The occasion is grave & demands grave measure. The question is the salvation of the country.”
I learned that our loss yesterday amounted to (15,000) fifteen thousand — we cannot afford such losses without an object. It is my deliberate opinion that the interests of the nation demand that Pope should fall back tonight if possible and not one moment is to be lost.
I will use all the Cavalry I have to watch our right. Pleas answer at once. I feel confident that you can rely upon the information I give you — I shall be up all night & ready to obey any orders to you give me.