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[109] be commanded by Gen. Nath'l P. Banks. Gen. McClellan, “in compliance with the President's War Order No. 2,” made this disposition.1

Gen. McClellan's original plan contemplated an advance on Richmond by way of the lower Rappahannock, landing at Urbana, and making a secondary base of West Point, at the head of York river; and this would seem, whether regarded abstractly or in the light of subsequent experience, to be far preferable to the route on which he ultimately decided, having its base at Fortress Monroe; but either of these, and indeed any approach to Richmond otherwise than from the north, was exposed to the serious if not fatal objection that it involved a division and dispersion of our forces, or left the National metropolis, with its enormous depots of arms, munitions, and provisions, to say nothing of its edifices and archives, at the mercy of the Rebels, who could hardly fail to rush upon, sack, and burn it, if our grand army were transferred bodily to the base of the Virginian Peninsula. The President, therefore, before giving his assent to Gen. McClellan's project, addressed to him the following letter:

Executive Mansion, Washington, February 3, 1862.
my dear Sir: You and I have distinct and different plans for a movement of the Army of the Potomac; yours to be done by the Chesapeake, up the Rappahannock to Urbana, and across land to the terminus of the railroad on the York river; mine to move directly to a point on the railroad southwest of Manassas.

If you will give satisfactory answers to the following questions, I shall gladly yield my plan to yours:

1st. Does not your plan involve a greatly larger expenditure of time and money than mine?

2d. Wherein is a victory more certain by your plan than mine?

3d. Wherein is a victory more valuable by your plan than mine?

4th. In fact, would it not be less valuable in this: that it would break no great line of the enemy's communications, while mine would?

5th. In case of disaster, would not a retreat be more difficult by your plan than mine?

Yours, truly,

These inquiries seem not to have been directly answered; but, in a long letter of even date, to the Secretary of War, Gen. McClellan urges the strength of the Rebel position at and around Manassas Junction; the reported fact that the fords of the Occoquan were watched by the Rebels and defended by concealed batteries on the heights in their rear, which were being strengthened by additional intrenchments; that, during our advance from the Accotink to the Occoquan, our right flank becomes exposed to an attack from Fairfax Station, Sangster's, and Union Mills; that it would not do to divide our army by leaving a portion in front of Centerville while the rest crosses the Occoquan; that the roads in this quarter were liable, for some time yet, to be obstructed by rains and snow, so that “it seems certain that many weeks may elapse before it is possible to commence the march ;” and that--

Assuming the success of this operation, and the defeat of the enemy as certain, the question at once arises as to the importance of the results gained. I think these results would be confined to the possession of the field of battle, the evacuation of the line of the upper Potomac by the enemy, and the moral effect of the victory; important results, it is true: but not decisive of the war, nor securing the destruction of the enemy's

1 March 13.

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