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[112] adds that the change which had meantime been made from Urbana to Fortress Monroe, as the point of debarkation, had caused delay in the movement.

The force of Gen. McClellan's objections to the advance desired and at first commanded by President Lincoln, depends entirely on the correctness of his estimate of the Rebel numbers in his front. He estimated throughout that these ranged from 80,000 to 120,000 men, with over 300 cannon.1 On the other hand, those who were eager for a direct and decisive blow, insisted, from first to last, that the Rebel army at no time exceeded 60,000 in number, and was oftener below 50,000.2

Gen. Beauregard had relinquished3 the command of the Army of Virginia, to take direction in the West, and been succeeded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, who soon commenced a quiet and careful evacuation of his Winter camps, which he completed on the 8th of March; retiring southward behind the Rapidan, leaving nothing of the least value to our service. So admirably was this usually perilous movement conducted, or so worthless was McClellan's observation and secret service, that no hint of it appears to have reached our General until the day after its completion.4 He then ordered an advance of our grand army upon Centerville and Manassas, as transports had not yet been provided for their passage down the Potomac and Chesapeake, and with a view of giving them, he says, “an opportunity to gain some experience on the march and bivouac, preparatory to the campaign, and to get rid of the superfluous baggage and other ‘impedimenta,’ which accumulate so easily around an army encamped for a long time in one locality.” His cavalry advance, Col. Averill, reached the enemy's deserted lines at Centerville at noon next day. Of course, no enemy was found there, nor nearer than Warrenton Junction; where Gen. Stoneman, with our cavalry, discovered them in force on the 14th, and returned without attacking them. The main body of our army had commenced its return to the Potomac on the 11th; on which day the President issued “ War Order No. 3,” relieving Gen. McClellan from the

1 He states in his official Report that the chief of his secret service corps, Mr. E. J. Allen, reported, on the 8th of March, that the forces of the Rebel Army of the Potomac at that date were as follows:

At Manassas, Centerville, Bull Run, Upper Occoquan, and vicinity80,000men.
At Brooks's Station, Dumfries, Lower Occoquan, and vicinity18,000men.
At Leesburg and vicinity4,500men.
In the Shenandoah Valley13,000men.
Total number115,500men.

2 The writer visited, early in January, Gen. Wadsworth, in his camp near Ball's Cross-Roads; when, on this point, Gen. W. said: “I see and examine all deserters and contrabands who reach us from the Rebel camps in our front; and their testimony convinces me that they have but fifty or sixty regiments in all-certainly not over 50,000 men.” This, of course, did not include outlying detachments, whether at and toward Winchester or below the Occoquan.

Most Rebel writers who touch this point, and British officers who served with or visited the Rebel army during the ensuing campaign, were unanimous in making their total effective force during that Winter less than 50,000.

3 Jan. 30.

4 Pollard says:

For the space of three weeks before the army left its intrenchments at Manassas, preparations were being made for falling back to the line of the Rappahannock, by the quiet and gradual removal of the vast accumulations of army stores; and, with such consummate address was this managed, that our own troops had no idea of what was intended until the march was taken up. The first intimation the enemy had of the evacuation of Manassas was the smoke of the soldiers' huts that had been fired by our army.

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