- Recalled to save the capital
-- Pope defeated
-- the President appeals to McClellan
-- he accepts command
-- alarm in Washington
-- enthusiasm of the army
-- the capital safe
-- the order of Sept. 2
-- Halleck's testimony
-- Stormy cabinet meeting.
Late at night of Aug. 31, I think, Maj. Hammerstein
One of my aides, whom I had sent to the front to bring me news as to the real state of affairs — returned, bringing a despatch from Pope
, which was to be sent to Halleck
The information Hammerstein
brought proved that Pope
's despatch was false throughout.
On the 1st of Sept. I met Gen. Halleck
at his office in Washington
, who by verbal order directed me to take charge of Washington
and its defences, but expressly prohibited me from exercising any control over the active troops under Gen. Pope
At this interview I told him what I had every reason to know to be the true state of affairs.
He doubted the accuracy of my information and believed the statements of Pope
I then told him that he ought to go to the front in person and see what the true condition of affairs was. He said that he was so much occupied with office-duty that it was impossible for him to leave.
I told him that there could be no duty so important for the general-in-chief
of the armies as to know the condition of the chief army of the country, then actually fighting for the defence of the capital, and that his first duty was to go out and see for himself how matters stood, and, if need be, assume command in person.
He merely repeated his reply, and I urged him as strongly as possible to follow my advice.
He still refused, and I then urged him to send out his chief of staff, Gen. Cullum
, who just then entered the room, but Cullum
said that he could not go. Then I asked that Kelton
, his adjutant-general, might be sent.
cheerfully offered to go, and it was determined that he should start immediately.
I took Kelton
to one side and
advised him not to content himself with merely seeing Pope
, but also to make it a point to converse freely with the general officers
and learn their individual opinions.
Next morning while I was at breakfast, about 7 or 7.30 o'clock, the President
and Gen. Halleck
came to my house.
The President informed me that Col. Kelton
had returned and represented the condition of affairs as much worse than I had stated to Halleck
on the previous day; that there were 30,000 stragglers on the roads; that the army was entirely defeated and falling back to Washington
He then said that he regarded Washington
as lost, and asked me if 1 would, under the circumstances, as a favor to him, resume command and do the best that could be done.
Without one moment's hesitation, and without making any conditions whatever, I at once said that I would accept the command and would stake my life that I would save the city.
Both the President
again asserted that it was impossible to save the city, and I repeated my firm conviction that I could and would save it. They then left, the President
verbally placing me in entire command of the city and of the troops falling back upon it from the front.
He instructed me to take steps at once to stop and collect the stragglers, to place the works in a proper state of defence, and to go out to meet and take command of the army when it approached the vicinity of the works; then to put the troops in the best position for defence-committing everything to my hands.
The President left me with many thanks and showing much feeling.
I immediately went to work, collected my staff, and started them in all directions with the necessary orders to the different fortifications; some to the front with orders for the disposition of such corps as they met, others to see to the prompt forwarding of ammunition and supplies to meet the retreating troops.
In the course of the morning I signed a requisition for small arms and ammunition upon the commandant of the arsenal.
After a time it was brought back to me with the statement that it could not be filled for the reason that the contents of the arsenal were all being put, or about being put, on board ship for transportation to New York, or some safe place, in accordance with the orders of the Secretary of War
and general-in-chief, in
order to save the stores from the enemy.
I at once started out and succeeded in having the order countermanded.
At the same time there was a war-steamer anchored off the White House
, with steam up, ready to take off the President
, etc., at a moment's notice.
The only published order ever issued in regard to the extent of my command after my interview with the President
on the morning of the 2d was the following:1
I sent an aide to Gen. Pope
with the following letter:
In a very short time I had made all the requisite preparations and was about to start to the front in person to assume command as far out as possible, when a message came to me from Gen. Halleck
informing me that it was the President
's order that I should not assume command until the troops had reached the immediate vicinity of the fortifications.
I therefore waited until the afternoon, when I rode out to the most advanced of the detached works covering the capital.
I had with me Colburn
, Key, and some other aides, with a small cavalry escort, and rode at once to Munson's Hill.
About the time I reached there the infantry of King
's division of McDowell
's corps commenced arriving, and I halted them and ordered them into position.
Very soon — within twenty minutes--a regiment of cavalry appeared, marching by twos, and sandwiched in the midst were Pope
with their staff officers.
I never saw a more helpless-looking headquarters.
About this time rather heavy artillery-firing was heard in the distance.
When these generals rode up to me and the ordinary salutations had passed, I inquired what that artillery-firing was. Pope
replied that it was no doubt that of the enemy against Sumner
, who formed the rear-guard and was to march by the Vienna
He also intimated that Sumner
was probably in a dilemma.
He could give me no information of any importance in relation to the whereabouts of the different corps, except in a most indefinite way; had evidently not troubled his head in the slightest about the movements of his army in retreat, and had coolly preceded the troops, leaving them to get out of the scrape as best they could.
He and McDowell
both asked my permission to go on to Washington
, to which I assented, remarking at the same time that I was going to that artillery-firing.
They then took leave and started for Washington
I have never since seen Pope
Immediately I despatched all my aides and orderlies with instructions to the troops coming in by the Alexandria
and Central roads, retaining only Colburn
with me. I borrowed three orderlies from some cavalry at hand, and, accompanied by them and Colburn
, started across country as rapidly as possible to reach the Langley
By the time I reached that road the firing had ceased, with the exception of perhaps a dropping shot occasionally.
It was after dark — I think there was moonlight — by the time I met the first troops, which were, I think, of Morell
's division, 5th corps; Porter
had gone on a little while before to make arrangements for the bivouac of his troops.
I was at once recognized by the men, upon which there was great cheering and excitement; but when I came to the regular division (Sykes
's) the scene was the most touching I had
up to that time experienced.
The cheers in front had attracted their attention, and I have been told since by many that the men at once pricked up their ears and said that it could only be for “Little Mac.”
As soon as I came to them the poor fellows broke through all restraints, rushed from the ranks and crowded around me, shouting, yelling, shedding tears, thanking God that they were with me again, and begging me to lead them back to battle.
It was a wonderful scene, and proved that I had the hearts of these men.
I next met Sigel
's corps, and soon satisfied myself that Sumner
was pursuing his march unmolested, so I sent on to inform him that I was in command, and gave him instructions as to his march.
I then returned by the Chain bridge
road, having first given Sigel
his orders; and at a little house beyond Langley
I found Porter
, with whom I spent some time, and at length reached Washington
at an early hour in the morning.
Before the day broke the troops were all in position to repulse attack, and Washington