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On the twenty-sixth day of June, 1862, by special order of the President of the United States, I was assigned to the command of the army of Virginia. That army was constituted as follows:

First corps, under Major-General Fremont.

Second corps, under Major-General Banks.

Third corps, under Major-General McDowell.

In addition to these three corps, a small and unorganized force under Brig.-Gen. Sturgis was posted in the neighborhood of Alexandria, and was then in process of being organized for field service. The forces in the intrenchments around Washington were also placed under my command. All the disposable movable forces consisted of the three corps first named. Their effective strength of infantry and artillery as reported to me was as follows:

Fremont's corps, eleven thousand five hundred strong; Banks's corps, reported at fourteen thousand five hundred, but in reality only about eight thousand; McDowell's corps, eighteen thousand four hundred--making a total of thirty-eight thousand men.

The cavalry numbered about five thousand, but most of it was badly mounted and armed, and in poor condition for service. These forces were scattered over a wide district of country, not within supporting distance of each other, and many of the brigades and divisions were badly organized, and in a demoralized condition. This was particularly the case with the army corps of Major-Gen. Fremont, a sad report of which was made to me by Gen. Sigel, when he relieved Gen. Fremont in command of the corps.

My first labors were directed to the reorganization of some of the divisions and brigades of that corps, and to supplying the whole force with much of the material absolutely necessary for troops in the field. The corps of Banks and Fremont were in the valley of the Shenandoah, between Winchester and Middletown, the bulk of the forces being in the vicinity of the latter place.

One division of McDowell's corps was at Manassas Junction, with its advance thrown forward to Catlett's station. The other division was posted in the vicinity of Falmouth, opposite Fredericksburgh. When I first assumed command of these forces, the troops under Jackson had retired from the valley of the Shenandoah and were in rapid march toward Richmond, so that, at that time, there was no force of the enemy of any consequence within a week's march of any of the troops assigned to my command.

It was the wish of the Government that I should cover the city of Washington from any attacks from the direction of Richmond, make such dispositions as were necessary to assure the safety of the valley of the Shenandoah, and at the same time to so operate upon the enemy's lines of communication in the direction of Gordonsville and Charlottesville, as to draw off, if possible, a considerable force of the enemy from Richmond, and thus relieve the operations against that city of the army of the Potomac. The first object I had in view was to concentrate, as far as possible, all the movable forces under my command, and to establish them in such positions as best to effect the objects set forth. It seemed to me that the security of the Shenandoah Valley was not best attained by posting troops within the valley itself, but that the necessary results could be better accomplished, and the other objects with which I was charged best promoted, by concentrating these forces at some point or points from which, if any attempts were made to enter the valley of the Shenandoah from Richmond, I should be able, by rapid marching, to interpose between such force and the main body of the enemy, and cut off its retreat. I felt confident, and this confidence waste justified by subsequent results, that no considerable force of the enemy would attempt to enter the valley of the Shenandoah while the forces under my command were so posted as to be able without difficulty to intercept its retreat and fall upon its rear. I accordingly sent orders to Major-Gen. Sigel, commanding the First corps, to move forward from Middletown, cross the Shenandoah at Front Royal, and, pursuing the west side of the Blue Ridge, to take post at Sperryville, by passing through Luray Gap. At the same time I directed Major-Gen. Banks, crossing the Shenandoah at the same point, to move forward and take post between six and ten miles east of Sperryville. Gen. McDowell was ordered to move Ricketts's division of his corps from Manassas Junction to Waterloo Bridge, the point where the turnpike from Warrenton to Sperryville crosses the Upper Rappahannock. King's division of the same corps it was thought best to leave at Fredericksburgh, to cover the crossing of the Rappahannock at that point, and to protect the railroad there to Acquia Creek, and the public buildings which had been erected at the latter place. While I yielded to this wish of the War Department, the wide separation of this division from the main body of the army, and the ease with which the enemy would be able to interpose between them, engaged my earnest attention and gave me very serious uneasiness. While these movements were in progress, commenced the series of battles which preceded and attended the retreat of Gen. McClellan from the Chickahominy toward Harrison's Landing. When first General McClellan began to intimate by his despatches that he designed making this movement toward James River, I suggested to the President of the United States the impolicy of such a movement, and the serious consequences which would be likely to result from it, and urged upon him that he should send orders to Gen. McClellan that if he were unable to maintain his position upon the Chickahominy, and were pressed by superior forces of the enemy, to mass his whole force on the north side of that stream, even at the risk of losing much material of war, and endeavor to make his way in the direction of Hanover Court-House; but in no event to retreat with his army further to the south than the White House on York River. I stated to the President that the retreat to James River was carrying General McClellan away from any reinforcements that could possibly be sent him within a reasonable time,

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J. C. Fremont (10)
Irwin McDowell (8)
G. B. McClellan (8)
N. P. Banks (8)
F. Sigel (4)
S. D. Sturgis (2)
Ricketts (2)
Edward A. King (2)
T. J. Jackson (2)
Catlett (2)
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June 26th, 1862 AD (2)
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