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[144]

Notwithstanding the belief that many in the Northern army were opposed on principle to invading the Southern States, and that they would fight better in defending their own homes than in attacking ours, it was believed that the best, if not the only place, to insure success, was to concentrate our forces, and attack the enemy in their own country. The president, I think, gave no definite opinion in regard to the number of men necessary for that purpose, and I am sure that no one present considered this a question to be finally decided by any other person than the commanding general of this army. Returning to the question that had been twice asked, the President expressed surprise and regret that the number of surplus arms here was so small; and, I thought, spoke bitterly of this disappointment. He then stated, that, at that time, no reinforcement could be furnished to this army of the character asked for, and that the most that could be done would be to furnish recruits to take the surplus arms in store here (say twenty-five hundred stand). That the whole country was demanding protection at his hands, and praying for arms and troops for defence. He had long been expecting arms from abroad, but had been disappointed. He still hoped to get them, but had no positive assurance that they would be received at all. The manufacture of arms in the Confederate States was as yet undeveloped to any considerable extent. Want of arms was the great difficulty; he could not take any troops from the points named, and, without arms from abroad, could not reinforce this army. He expressed regret, and seemed to feel deeply, as did every one present.

When the President had thus clearly and positively stated his inability to put this army in the condition deemed by the general necessary before entering upon an active offensive campaign, it was felt that it might be better to run the risk of almost certain destruction, fighting upon the other side of the Potomac, rather than see the gradual dying-out and deterioration of this army during a winter at the end of which the term of enlistment of half the force would expire. The prospect of a spring campaign, to be commenced under such discouraging circumstances, was rendered all the more gloomy by the daily increasing strength of an enemy already much superior in numbers. On the other hand was the hope and expectation that before the end of winter arms would be introduced into the country; and all were confident that we could then not only protect our own country, but successfully invade that of the enemy.

General Johnston said that he did not feel at liberty to express an opinion as to the practicability of reducing the strength of our forces at points not within the limits of his command; and with but few further remarks from any one, the answer of the President was accepted as final; and it was felt that there was no other course left but to take a defensive position and await the enemy. If they did not advance we had but to await the winter and its results.

After the main question was dropped, the President proposed that, instead of an active offensive campaign, we should attempt certain partial operations —a sudden blow against Sickles or Banks, or to break the bridge over the Monocacy. This, he thought, besides injuring the enemy, would exert a good influence over our troops, and encourage the people of the Confederate States


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