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[224] of impediments, and yet speculative projects are almost daily urged on the War Department to increase the immobility of our armies in the field.

Again, our troops, especially those in the East, lave been very little accustomed to march, at least to that kind of marching usually required by active operations in the field. Absenteeism is one of the most serious evils in all our armies. Hundreds of officers and thousands of men are almost continually away from their commands. Many of these are really stragglers and deserters. In regard to officers, the evil is being abated by summary dismissals, and if the law could be stringently enforced against the men, it would soon put an end to desertions. But straggling on the march and in battle can be prevented only by severe and summary punishment inflicted on the spot. In this and many other important particulars our military laws require revision and amendment. They were mostly enacted for a small army and for times of peace, and are unsuited to the government of the army we now have, and the war in which we are now engaged.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief.


Exhibit no. 1--a copy in cipher.

Berkeley, Va., August 4--12 M.
Major-General Halleck, Commander-in-Chief:
Your telegram of last evening is received. I must confess that it has caused me the greatest pain I ever experienced, for I am convinced that the order to withdraw this army to Acquia Creek will prove disastrous in the extreme to our cause. I fear it will be a fatal blow. Several days are necessary to complete the preparations for so important a movement as this, and while they are in progress, I beg that careful consideration may be given to my statement. This army is now in excellent discipline and condition. We hold a debouche on both banks of the James River, so that we are free to act in any direction, and with the assistance of the gunboats, I consider our communications as secure.

We are twenty-five miles from Richmond, and are not likely to meet the enemy in force sufficient to fight a battle until we have reached fifteen to eighteen miles, which brings us practically within ten miles of Richmond. Our largest line of land transportation would be from this point twenty-five miles, but with the aid of the gunboats we can supply the army by water, during its advance, certainly to within twelve miles of Richmond. At Acquia Creek we would be seventy-five miles from Richmond, with land transportation all the way. From here to Fortress Monroe is a march of about seventy miles, for I regard it as impracticable to withdraw this army and its material except by land. The result of the movement would thus be to march one hundred and forty-five miles to reach a point now only twenty-five miles distant, and to deprive ourselves entirely of the powerful aids of the gunboats and water transportation. Add to this the certain demoralization of this army, which would ensue, the terrible depressing effect upon the people of the North, and the strong probability that it would influence foreign powers to recognize our adversaries ; and these appear to me sufficient reasons to make it my imperative duty to urge in the strongest terms afforded by our language, that this order may be rescinded, and that far from recalling this army, it be promptly reinforced, to enable it to resume the offensive.

It may be said that there are no reenforcements available. I point to General Burnside's forces, to that of General Pope, not necessary to maintain a strict defence in front of Washington and Harper's Ferry; to those portions of the army of the West not required for a strict defence there. Here, directly in front of this army, is the heart of the rebellion. It is here that all our resources should be collected to strike the blow which will determine the fate of this nation. All points of secondary importance elsewhere should be abandoned, and every available man brought here. A decided victory here, and the military strength of the rebellion is crushed. It matters not what partial reverses we may meet with elsewhere — here is the true defence of Washington. It is here on the bank of the James River that the fate of the Union should be decided.

Clear in my conviction of right, strong in the consciousness that I have ever been and still am actuated solely by love of my country, knowing that no ambitious or selfish motives have influenced me from the commencement of this war, I do now, what I never did in my life before, I entreat that this order may be rescinded. If my counsel does not prevail, I will, with a sad heart, obey your order to the utmost of my power, devoting to the movement, one of the utmost delicacy and difficulty, whatever skill I may possess, whatever the result may be, and may God grant that I am mistaken in my forebodings. I shall at least have the internal satisfaction that I have written and spoken frankly, and have sought to do the best in my power to arrest disaster from my country.

Geo. B. Mcclellan, Major-General.
official copy. Headquarters, army, Washington, D. C., November 23, 1862.


Exhibit no. 2.

Washington, August 6, 1862.
Major-General George B. McClellan, Commanding, etc., Berkeley, Va.:
General: Your telegram of yesterday was received this morning, and I immediately telegraphed a brief reply, promising to write you more fully by mail. You, General, certainly could not have been more pained at receiving my order than I was at the necessity of issuing it. I was advised by high officers, in whose judgment I had great confidence, to make the order immediately on my arrival here, but I determined not to do so until I could learn your wishes from a personal interview; and even after that interview I tried every means in my power to avoid with-drawing your army, and delayed my decision as long as I dared to delay it. I assure you, General, it was not a hasty and inconsiderate act,


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