President Lincoln Leaves the Capital to Inspect the War of the Potomac

October 1, 1862

Without advance notice, President Lincoln leaves Washington early in the morning by train for the Maryland headquarters of the Army of the Potomac – accompanied by a number of Illinois friends including General John McClernand, U.S. Marshal Ward Hill Lamon, and Illinois Secretary of State Ozias M. Hatch as well as John W. Garrett, president of B& O Railroad. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Called this morning at the White House, but learned the President had left the city.  The porter said he made no mention whither he was going, nor when he would return.  I have no doubt he is on a visit to McClellan and the army.  None of his Cabinet can have been aware of this journey.”

At mid-day, the president’s train arrives at Harper’s Ferry where he is escorted to the headquarters of  General Edwin V. Sumner.  Later General George B.  McClellan arrives from his headquarters and  reviews Union troops with President Lincoln.   McClellan complains to his wife: “A cloudy day.  If it does not rain I think I will go to W[illiam]sport & Hagerstown today — to see that part of the country, for there is no telling but that I might have to fight a battle there one of these days & it is very convenient to know the ground.  In this last battle the rebels possessed an immense advantage in knowing every part of the ground, while I knew only what I could see from a distance…

I rode all over the battle field again yesterday — so as to be sure that I understand it all before writing my report.  I was but the more impressed with the great difficulties of the undertaking & the magnitude of the success. Did I tell you that our losses at South mt Antietam amounted to within one or two hundred of 15,000, that we took some 6000 prisoners, 39 colors, 14 guns, 14,500 small arms etc. etc.  Pretty fair trophies after a battle so stubbornly contested.

Yesterday I received at last a telegram from Halleck about the battle of Antietam…

I don’t know where we are drifting but do not like the looks of things — time will show…

I do not yet know what are the military plans of the gigantic intellects at the head of the Govt.

General McClellan also wrote General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck: “I take it for granted that we will hereafter hold Harper’s Ferry as a permanent arrangement, whatever line of operations may be adopted for the main Army.  In this event a permanent and reliable bridge is needed there across the Shenandoah.  Mr. Roebling can build a double track suspension bridge on the existing piers in three or four weeks.  The wire is now in possession of government and the cost will be some five thousand dollars ($5000) besides the wire.  No pontoon nor trestle bridge can be made to resist the freshets.  The ask authority to have this work undertaken at once.  I would also renew the recommendation that a permanent wagon bridge be made across the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry.  This without reference to the future operations of the main Army, but simply as a necessity for the proper defence of Harper’s Ferry itself.”

Published in: on October 1, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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