The campaign in Virginia.
Revelations from the Federal
War Department--attack on Gen. McClellan
--Development of the great man Hitchcock
— Banks Fremont
, &c., &c.
[from the Boston Transcript, June 2.]
When two influential newspapers of this city, claiming to be friendly to the present administration, in utter ignorance of the great facts indispensable to correct judgment, have seen fit to call for the removal of Mr. Stanton
, and when one of those journals the Daily Advertiser,
had been for weeks joining with the New York Herald
and the Boston Courier
, and with everything bitter, factious, and treasonable, in ignorant abuse of that eminent person, it becomes a matter of simple justice that he should have the public benefit of some of the great facts of record in his favor.
We propose, by a simple exhibition of authoritative facts, and in no spirit of mere partisan attack and defence, to show that it is to him, whom the Daily Advertiser
charges with all which it regards as error, while it credits to others all which it regards as wisdom in the central conduct of this war — to him whom so many newspapers have attacked because in the interest of his country and with the thanks of all their readers he stopped their longer doing the work of spies in conveying information to our enemies — to him, whose noble self-abnegation and stern patriotism have closed his mouth from answering a series of falsehoods, beginning with the charge of his diverting troops from Gen. McClellan
, and ending with the charge of his diverting them from Gen. Banks
, to gratify personal jealousy and ambition — that it is to him, next certainly to the President
, that this country owes more to-day than to any other man in it.
To do this we must go back to the condition of affairs when he first took office.
In what we have to say of General McClellan
, we shall draw a clear line between his plans and acts as Commander-in-Chief
, and his ability as a General at the head of an army in the field.
We believe him to be fully competent where he is, and we shall not cease to believe in his eminent fitness and to hope for his triumphant success in his present campaign, unless forced by events and by authoritative military criticism to another conclusion.
It is clear that when the main direction of this war was left to a commander-in-Chief, that more than purely military calculations must occupy his mind; that he must see the value of time in relation to national finances, to a democratic form of Government, and to foreign intervention; in short, that he must have some of the qualities of a great statesman, as well as all of the qualities of a great General.
When Mr. Stanton
became Secretary of War
, what was the posture of affairs under General McClellan
's plan and direction?
The country was under lasting obligations to his demonstrated faculty for organization.
But it becomes necessary to state how little else had been done, why so little had been done, and to whom the country is indebted for what was done in February and March, and to its position before the world to-day.
Whether more could not have been accomplished in Kentucky
, nearly all of whose strategic posts were occupied by the enemy, we are not competent to judge.
But it is clear to military authorities and to the country that Eastern Tennessee
, whose people are the most loyal and the most distressed of the border States, might have been relieved, Knoxville
taken, and the great northern line of communication between Virginia
and the great sources of her supplies broken, weeks or months before General McClellan
ceased to be Commander-in-Chief
The country patiently waited, because we believed it bore wise relation to some great military plan.
The country saw the great Baltimore and Ohio Railroad not only abandoned to the enemy, but its rolling stock neither removed nor destroyed, but given up to him to whom its value was immense. --The responsibility for this loss we do not impute to General McClellan
The road remained in the enemy's possession.
Still patient, but in deep humiliation, the country saw a blockade of the Potomac
quietly allowed, which cost this country millions of dollars, by reducing our immense transportation to one railroad, with a single track, and which placed our Government before the world as besieged in its own Capital.
We know whereof we affirm when we say that five months ago our Navy Department begged to be allowed to remove that blockade.
They demonstrated its removal to be a simple certainty, and an eminent general was anxious to aid by landing troops, confident that he could capture the batteries and the men who manned them.
Their repeated requests were peremptorily refused by the Commander-in-Chief
The plan of the Hatteras
expedition contemplated nothing more than the destruction of the forts and sinking obstructions in the channel, and the occupation of the forts was a wise transcending of instructions.
In this Gen. McClellan
may, perhaps, have had no responsibility.
But the instructions for the Burnside
expedition were substantially his, and by them Gen. Burnside
was limited to perfecting the blockade, and prevented from striking at vital points and cutting important lines of railroad.
Over all this the country wondered, believed, and waited.
We know that, beginning more than five months ago, Gen. Wool
and the Navy Department joined in urgent and repeated applications to be allowed to take Norfolk
, which they demonstrated to be a military and naval certainty.
Besides its immense importance otherwise, the Merrimac
would have been taken while building, the Cumberland
and the Congress
would have been saved, and the James
as well as the York river
would have been open for Gen. McClellan
's march upon Richmond
Their request was peremptorily refused by the Commander-in-Chief
We know that while Gen. McClellan
was still Commander-in-Chief
, Gen. Sherman
reported that he was prepared and anxious to be allowed to take Savannah
; that it was a military certainty, and that it could be done with very little loss of life.
This, too, was forbidden by the Commander- in-Chief
We have given these great selected facts, derived from central and authoritative sources, to indicate the whole circle which the people supposed bore relation to some sufficient and entirely justifying plan in the mind of the Commander-in-Chief
We will add, without assuming to pass judgment, that, while in great European
wars, the spy system has often been such as to tap the very centre of military counsel, while there never was a war offering better opportunity for such a system than this, and while our enemy has notoriously been in possession of nearly all our plans as soon as made, we have lamentably failed in detecting his.
We will not stop to conjecture what Gen. McClellan
's plan was, and we have no right to state such facts bearing upon it as are within our knowledge.
Nobody questioned his loyalty and his faculty for organization, and we shall now show that it becomes entirely unnecessary to discuss his plan; for the plan itself becomes unimportant in the light of the facts we shall now state, some of which are already partially before the country.
came into power when foreign intervention seemed imminent, with no one great military advantage yet followed up, and with capital distrusting the national finances, on which all depended.
With the breadth and vision of a statesman, and with the terrible earnestness and force of will of a Cromwellian, he brought into the national councils, for the first time since the war began, comprehensiveness, decisiveness, and a thorough realization of the value of time to this nation.
For the first time the national will found expression.
Some minor mistakes, like his letter to the New York Tribune
, sprung naturally from his being thoroughly in earnest.
Of great mistakes he made none.
He found General McClellan
virtually directing the whole war; responsible that no more had been done, and fixed in his determination that no advance should be made until April.
In this determination General McClellan
still further fortified himself by a vote of eight of his Generals
saw at once that no advance until April involved national despondency, a tax levied upon a people for an immense debt which had borne no fruit in victories, hot weather, and a full campaign, distrust, and a great fall in national stocks, and a possible if not probable foreign intervention.
Then, through him, was issued the President's Order No. 1
, over Gen. McClellan
's head, and against his protest, peremptorily commanding an advance at all points on the 23d of February. Gen. McClellan
was placed at the head of the Army of the Potomac, and ceased to be Commander-in-Chief Mr. Stanton
simply became a real Secretary of War
taking into his capable hands the reins which Mr. Cameron
had either necessarily given to others or misused himself.
The President had, at last, a great right arm to lean on, and each was strengthened and greater for the other.
The movements in the West
under Commodore Foote
, which sent joy and hope through the nation were made without regard to General McClellan
's plan, and sprang directly from Commodore Foote
's communications and requests to the Navy Department and its orders to him; and without further enumeration, it is only necessary to say that the series of brilliant successes during February and March, which threw new life into the nation, which gave us Fort Henry
, Bowling Green
, Island No.10
, and Nashville
, which brought national stocks to par, and which forced respect for us abroad if it did not prevent intervention, was in direct contravention of the plan of the commander-in-Chief
, and against his protest.
What that plan was, were it proper to disease it, becomes of little consequence when we know that no advance was to be made under it until April, and when it was found that the Commander-in-Chief
had communicated none to the other Major Generals
While expressing, as we have, our faith in General McClellan
as the commander of an army — all the more because, as civilians, we are entirely incompetent to form a judgement of his military acts since he was placed at the head of the Army of the Potomac--we are free to say, and we think all candid men will agree with us, that, in the light of the trust worthy acts we have given, it was the most fortunate event in the history of the war when Edwin M. Stanton
became Secretary of War
, and General McClellan
was placed where nothing more than purely military ability was wanting.
We have reason to believe that nobody regretted more than Mr. Stanton
that the New York Tribune
attacked General McClellan
It is almost the only newspaper on our whole seaboard which has attacked nine and since he has left for Yorktown
even the Tribune's
complaints have mainly ceased.
No one can trace to Mr. Stanton
complaints against General McClellan
as the head of an army, and it is simply cruel to connect him with the random and ill-considered criticisms of others.
ever his opinions may for he is too wise and too just to complain of a General as long as he is kept at the hand of a great army in the face of his enemy.
And now what are the facts as to the charges of diversion of troops facts General McClellan
which have taken contradictory and absurd shapes, which have had the support of some letters written by a few honest officers in the field, with only special and limited knowledge as well as those of omniscient newspaper correspondents, of newspapers which have merited suppression for early treason and persistent factiousness and even of a few Republican newspapers like the Daily Advertiser
which, instead of going to the proper sources for full knowledge, have been as dogmatic as they have been ignorant.
In the first place let it not be forgotten that the President
and Cabinet have at their side a special military adviser Gen. Hitchcock
, who has been called the Cæser of our army, and whose skill as a strategist and whose powers of combination are commensurate, (on the highest military authority) with his general courage and comprehensiveness.
And he is not the only General eminent by nature, culture and experience, who is called into consultation.
The idea that Mr. Stanton
alone interferes with or changes military plans is simply absurd.
No agreement was ever made by the President
of the War Department with General McClellan
to send to the peninsula the whole of McDowell
For reasons no doubt sufficient to his mind, with reference to his position upon the peninsula, he desired the whole, which would have left not a national soldier between the forts across the Potomac
by way of Fredericksburg
.--A large part of McDowell
's command was, however, sent to him, which was so much in excess of agreement; and when the correspondence of the War Department on that subject sees the light, it will be found that the President
himself interfered to prevent the 23,000 men left to Gen. McDowell
from being further sent in excess of original agreement.
But for the President
wisely insisting, that both for the safety of Washington
, and that Gen. McClellan
might be aided by a flank movement under Gen. McDowell
, these 23,000 men should make a part of a sufficient force, all of General McDowell
's army would have gone to the peninsula.
And yet Mr. Stanton
has been charged with diverting troops from Gen. McClellan
, in violation of original agreement, and with his having prevented this very flank movement upon Richmond
, which was long delayed because more men had been sent to Gen. McClellan
than he was entitled to by agreement.
The simple truth is, that the reduction of Gen. McDowell
's command by sending so large a portion of it to Gen. McClellan
, beyond agreement, if not in full compliance with his wishes, caused the very derangement of original plans which has been wickedly charged upon Mr. Stanton
Until Gen. McDowell
's force was increased and the disposition of troops changed, these facts could not be publicly stated.
In regard to the withdrawal of troops from Gen. Banks
it would have simply been decent for the Daily Advertiser,
before attacking the Government
it nominally supports, and before relying on the statements of an excited officer, who only knew certain facts in relation to his own column, to have waited to learn the overruling military reason and necessity for the withdrawal — of which that officer and the Daily Advertiser
knew literally nothing.--General Banks
is not in the habit of communicating to his subordinates the important plans or the necessities for changes of plan of a campaign.
We are at liberty to say as much as this; that General Banks
, on a full understanding of the military necessity, cheerfully acquiesced in the temporary and necessary abandonment of a plan in whose original conception and partial execution he had the most cordial and effective support of the Secretary of War
And we know further that Mr. Stanton
was among the last to yield to the necessity, and that the President
himself intervened and wisely decided that the troops should be withdrawn.
It is, moreover, the fact that the necessity for the diversion of troops from Gen. Banks
grew out of and was in aid of, Gen. McClellan
's wishes and his call for more troops.
Further than this we have no right to speak.
We have only to say further, that the major part of the facts stated in this article, have been for weeks in our possession, and that their publication has been made proper and necessary by the lapse of time, and by the most ignorant, virulent, and persistent attacks upon a Government whose lips have been closed against saying a word which might, even by implication, injure one of its own Generals
or the cause in which we are all engaged.
We have said that we know these facts.
We say this deliberately and on our responsibility as journalists and as gentlemen.
If it be objected that the facts stand unsupported by the names of the sources of information, we can only add that the assumption of knowledge of plans and changes of plans in the many newspapers, which have for two months violently attacked the Secretary of War
and the Government
, rests on no exhibition of authority whatever.
It will be time to name sources of information when any respectable authority, so situated as to know governing facts, is produced.
In due time the whole truth will see the light.