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[110]

It is possible, however—and there is a considerable volume of evidence converging on this point—that General McClellan, during all the earlier portion of the month before Yorktown, had it in his mind, even without McDowell's corps, to undertake the decisive turning movement by the north side of the York. In this event, it would not only be in the direction of his plan to make no attack, but it would play into his hands that his opponent should accumulate his forces on the Peninsula. Yet this halting between two opinions had the result that, when he had abandoned the purpose of making the turning movement, it had become too late for him to make a direct attack—‘all anxiety’ as to the result of which had by that time ‘passed from the mind’ of his opponent. From subsequent evidence, it would appear that a movement, not with the view of assaulting the fortifications of Yorktown (that would have been a bloody enterprise), but of breaking the line of the Warwick, thus investing Yorktown, if not compelling its immediate evacuation, was an operation holding out a reasonable promise of success.1

1 General Heintzelman, in his evidence before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, states it as his impression that, had he been allowed, he could have carried the line of the Warwick. ‘I think,’ says he, ‘if I had been permitted when I first landed on the Peninsula to advance, I could have isolated the troops in Yorktown, and the place would have fallen in a few days; but my orders were very stringent not to make any demonstration. I supposed, when I first got there, that we could force the enemy's lines at about Wynn's Mills, isolate Yorktown, so as to prevent the enemy from re-enforcing it, when it would have fallen in the course of a little while.’ Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 347.

General McClellan, however, expressed a contrary opinion:

Question. In your opinion could Heintzelman have captured Yorktown by a rapid movement immediately upon his landing upon the Peninsula?

Answer. No; I do not think he would have done it. When we did advance, we found the enemy intrenched and in strong force wherever we approached.

Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 429.

General Barnard, who was chief-engineer of the army on the Peninsula, has, in his work on the Peninsular Campaign, stated with much emphasis, that McClellan should have assaulted; but this opinion apres coup is somewhat damaged by the fact that he, at the time, gave a professional judgment against assault.

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