General Burnside and President Lincoln Confer Regarding Offensive

November 27, 1862

Meeting aboard the steamer Baltimore near Aquia Creek, President Lincoln discussed military strategy with General Ambrose Burnside, the new commander of the Army of the Potomac.  President Lincoln writes General in chief Henry W. Halleck: “I have just had a long conference with Gen. Burnside.  He believes that Gen. Lees whole army, or nearly the whole of it is in front of him, at and near Fredericksburg.  Gen. B. says he could take into battle now any day, about, one hundred and ten thousand men, that his army is in good spirit, good condition, good moral, and that in all respects he is satisfied with officers and men; that he does not want more men with him, because he could not handle them to advantage; that he thinks he can cross the river in face of the enemy and rive him away, but that, to use his own expression, it is somewhat risky.  I wish the case to stand more favorable than this in two respect.  First, I wish his crossing of the river to be nearly free from risk; and secondly, I wish the enemy to be prevented from falling back, accumulating strength as he goes, into his intrenchments at Richmond.  I therefore propose that Gen. B. shall not move immediately; that we accumulate a force on the South bank of the Rappahanock–at, say, Port-Royal, under protection of one or two gun-boats, as nearly up to twentyfive thousand strong as we can.  At the same time another force of about the same strength as high up the Pamunkey, as can be protected by gunboats.  These being ready, let all three forces move simultaneously, Gen. B.’s force in it’s attempt to cross the river, the Rappahanock force moving directly up the South side of the river to his assistance, and ready, if found admissable, to deflect off to the turnpike bridge immediately North of Hanover C.H.; hurry North, and seize and hold the Mattapony bridge before mentioned, and also, if possible, press higher up the streams and destroy the railroad bridges.  Then, if Gen. B. succeeds in driving the enemy from Fredericksburg, he the enemy no longer has the road to Richmond, but we have it and can march into the city.  Or, possibly, having forced the enemy from his line, we could move upon, and destroy his army.  Gen. B’s main army would have the same line of supply and retreat as he has now provided; the Rappahanock force would that river for supply, and gun-boats to fall back upon; and the Pamunkey force would have that river for supply, and a line between the two rivers–Pamunkey & Mattapony–along which to fall back upon it’s gun-boats.  I think the plan promises the best results, with the least hazzard, of any now conceivable.”  He added: “The above plan, proposed by me, was rejected by Gen. Halleck & Gen. Burnside, on the ground that we could not raise and put in position, the Pamunkey force without too much waste.”

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Published in: on November 27, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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