October 25, 1862
General George B. McClellan responds to President Lincoln’s sarcastic question of the previous day about the inaction of federal cavalry: “In reply to your telegram of this date, I have the honor to state that from the time this Army left Washington on the 7th of Sept my Cavalry has been constantly employed in making reconnaissances, scouting and picketing. Since the battle of Antietam six Regiments have made one trip of two hundred miles, marching fifty five miles in one day while endeavoring to reach Stewart’s Cavalry. General Pleasanton in his official report, states that he with the remainder of our available Cavalry while on Stewart’s track marched seventy eight miles in twenty four hours. Besides these two remarkable expeditions our Cavalry has been engaged in picketing and scouting one hundred and fifty miles or river front, even since the battle of Antietam, and has made repeated reconnaissances since that time, engaging the enemy on every occasion. Indeed it has performed harder service since the battle than before. I beg you will also consider that this same Cavalry was brought from the Peninsula where it encountered most laborious service and was at the commencement of this campaign in low condition and from that time to the present it has had no time to recruit.
If any instance can be found where overworked Cavalry has performed more labor than mine since the battle of Antietam I am not conscious of it.”
General George B. McClellan writes General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck: “As the moment is at hand for the advance of this Army a question arises for the decision of the General in Chief, which although perhaps implicitly decided by the President in his letter of the 13th should be clearly presented by me as I do not regard it as in my province to determine it. This question is the extent to which the line of the Potomac should be guarded after this Army leaves, in order to cover Maryland and Pennsylvania from invasion by large or small parties of the enemy. It will always be somewhat difficult to guard the immediate line of the river, owing to its great extent and the numerous passages which exist. It has long appeared to me that the best way of covering this line would be occupying Front Royal, Strasburg, Wardensville and Moorefield at the debouches of the several vallies in which they are situated. These points, or suitable places in their vicinity, should be strongly intrenched and permanently held. One great advantage of this arrangement would be the covering of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and an essential part of the system would be the construction of the link of railway from Winchester to Strasburg, and the rebuilding of the Manassas Gap Railway bridge over the Shenandoah. He intrechment of Manassas Junction would complete the system for the defence of the approaches to Washington and the Upper Potomac. Many mothers ago I recommended this arrangement, in fact gave orders for it to be carried into effect. I still regard it as essential under all circumstances.
The view of the Chief Engineer of this Army in regard to the defences and Garrisons of Harper’s Ferry and its dependencies are in your possession. The only troops under my command outside of the organization of the Army of the Potomac are the Maryland Bridge…
President Lincoln was also busy commuting military sentences. In an “Order Disapproving Death Sentence of Jose Maria Rivas,” President Lincoln writes: “Waiving the question of jurisdiction in the case, the sentence is not approved, because the accused is not shown to have been within our lines in disguise, or by false pretense, except by hearsay testimony; and because in his admission that he was a “Spy,” he may not have understood the technical term, and may have meant no more than that he was a scout of the enemy. He clearly is a prisoner of war.” Rivas had been arrested as a spy in New Mexico. In an “Order Mitigating Death Sentence of Sely Lewis,” President Lincoln wrote: “So far as the sentence in the case relates to the accused as a Spy, it is disapproved, the Commission not having jurisdiction of the offense. The sentence of death is mitigated imprisonment for the term of six months, commencing this day.”