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In consequence of General Banks' critical position, I have been compelled to suspend General McDowell's movements to join you. The enemy are making a desperate push on Harper's Ferry, and we are trying to throw Fremont's force, and part of McDowell's, in their rear.

Next day the news from Banks seems to have greatly increased the excitement in Washington. The following telegrams were sent to General McClellan (May 25th) by President Lincoln:

The enemy is moving north in sufficient force to drive Banks before him, in precisely what force we cannot tell. He is also threatening Leesburg and Geary, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, from both north and south, in precisely what force we cannot tell. I think the movement is a general and concerted one, such as could not be if he was acting upon the purpose of a very desperate defense of Richmond. I think the time is near when you must either attack Richmond or give up the job and come to the defense of Washington. Let me hear from you immediately.

A later one reads:

Your dispatch received. Banks was at Strasburg with about six thousand men, Shields having been taken from him to swell a column for McDowell to aid you at Richmond, and the rest of the force scattered at various places. On the 23d, a rebel force of seven to ten thousand men fell upon one regiment and two companies guarding the bridge at Front Royal, destroying it entirely, crossed the Shenandoah, and, on the 24th (yesterday), pushed to get north of Banks on the road to Winchester. Banks ran a race with them, beating them into Winchester yesterday evening. This morning a battle ensued between the two forces, in which Banks was beaten back into full retreat toward Martinsburg, and probably is broken up into a total rout. Geary, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, just now reports that Jackson is now near Front Royal, with ten thousand, following up and supporting, as I understand, the force now pursuing Banks; also, that another force of ten thousand is near Orleans, following on in the same direction. Stripped bare as we are here, it will be all we can do to prevent them crossing the Potomac at Harper's Ferry or above. We have about twenty thousand of McDowell's force moving back to the vicinity of Front Royal, and Fremont, who was at Franklin, is moving to Harrisonburg. Both of these movements are intended to get in the enemy's rear. One more of McDowell's brigades is ordered through here to Harper's Ferry. The rest of his forces remain, for the present, at Fredericksburg. We are sending such regiments, in dribs, from here and Baltimore as we can spare, to Harper's Ferry, supplying their places, in some sort, by calling in the militia from the adjacent States. We also have eighteen cannon on the road to Harper's Ferry, of which arm there is not a single one yet at that point. This is now our situation. If McDowell's force was now beyond our reach, we should be utterly helpless. Apprehensions of something like this, and no unwillingness to sustain you, has always been my reason for withholding McDowell's force from you. Please understand this and do the best you can with the forces you have.

The exaggeration of this dispatch shows the panic produced. Jackson had no troops at Orleans, or anywhere east of the ridge (except a little cavalry), and his entire force, which was all with him,

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