The reported communication of Gen. McClellan
to Mr. Colfax
, M. C., of Indiana
, in which he explained to that person that his expectations of a speedy conclusion of the present contest are based upon the anticipated determination of the Southern volunteers to return to their homes at the expiration of their present term of enlistment, sheds some light upon the long and mysterious inaction of the Federal
army on the Potomac
It is presumptuous in a civilian to hazard an opinion upon military matters; but, to our uninitiated minds, it seems clear that McClellan
has never, had the immense numbers at Washington
which his organs pretend, or he would long since have made an advance movement.
Can it be conceived that with an army of two hundred thousand men he would have waited more than three months after the battle of Manassas
before renewing the attack upon the Confederates
Can it be supposed that when five months had passed, and the roads and weather held out every inducement to an advance, and his army had arrived at as high a State of discipline as it is he would still with of two thousand, to
battle? Or can any one suppose that his brief sickness, even if real, would have been permitted to prevent the ‘"on to Richmond
,"’ when to wait for his recovery was to run the risk of losing, as they have lost, the fine weather and good roads, which could not be expected, at that late season of the year, to last much longer?
The truth we believe to be that he has never had an available force of more than seventy-five thousand men, and that he was unwilling to trust that number against the triumphant heroes of Manassas
The policy of McClellan
— at least to us civilians it so seems — has been to hold the Confederates
by a hostile army in their front large enough to make an aggressive movement if our forces materially diminished, and then to endeavor to diminish those forces by seacoast expeditions that should threaten the homes of the brave men upon the Potomac
But in this he has been time after time disappointed; no troops were ordered away, and the seacoast was found able to take care of itself.
All these plans failing but one is left, and that is to wait patiently till the time of our volunteers is up, and then when they have left and their places are supplied by new levies, to hurl his trained legions upon our militia, and realize the long cherished project of ‘"On to Richmond
This, indeed, is said to have been explicitly stated by General McClellan
in his conversation with Mr. Colfax
He appears to have felt no shame about it, considering it, as we suppose it may be considered by military men, a perfectly fair advantage to take of an enemy.
Our own Government, of course, will do all it can to baffle this last resort of the enemy; but it is a matter which only the volunteers can decide.