President Lincoln Confers with General Halleck

November 14, 1862

General Henry W. Halleck meets with President Lincoln regarding troop movements in both the western and eastern theaters.  President Lincoln writes the military governor of Tennessee, Andrew Johnson: “ Your despatch of the 4th. about returning troops from Western Virginia to Tennessee, is just received, and I have been to Gen. Halleck with it. He says an order has already been made by which those troops have already moved, or soon will move, to Tennessee.”  Apparently, at the same meeting, president Lincoln approves the military plan of General Ambrose Burnside in northern Virginia.   Halleck biographer Curt Anders wrote that “on several occasions Halleck and Lincoln had deliberately avoided approving or disapproving Burnside’s proposals.  General Halleck made this clear in a report he prepared on November 15, 1863:

General Burnside proposed to give up [the] pursuit of Lee’s army toward Richmond, and to move down the north side of the Rappahannock to Falmouth, and establish a new base of supplies at Aquia Creek or Belle Plain.  This proposed change of base was not approved by me, and in a personal interview at Warrenton I strongly urged him to retain his present base, and continue his march toward Richmond in the manner pointed out in the President’s letter of October 13 to General McClellan.

General Burnside did not fully concur in the President’s views, but finally consented to so modify his plan as to cross his army by the fords of the Upper Rappahannock, and then move down and seize the the heights south of Fredericksburg, while a small force was to be sent north of the river to enable General Haupt to reopen the railroad and to rebuild the bridges, the materials for which were nearly ready in Alexandria.  I, however, refused to give any official approval of this deviation from the President’s instructions until his assent was obtained.

On my return to Washington, on the 13th, I submitted to him this proposed change in the plan of campaign, and on its receiving his assent, rather than approval, I telegraphed, on the 14th, authority to General Burnside to adopt it.  I here refer, not to General Burnside’s written plan to go to Falmouth, but to that of crossing the Rappahannock above its junction with the Rapidan.

It has been inferred from the testimony of General Burnside before the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, that his plan of marching his whole army on the north of the Rappannock, from Warrenton to Falmouth, had been approved by the authorities in Washington, and that he expected, on his arrival there, to find supplies and pontoons, with gunboats to cover his crossing.  In the first place, that plan was never approved, nor was he ever authorized to adopt it.  In the second place, he could not possibly have expected supplies and pontoons to be landed at points then occupied in force by the enemy…..

Published in: on November 14, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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