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Chapter 12:

  • Review of the situation
  • -- McClellan succeeds Scott in command of all the armies -- their condition; general disorganization; no plan for the war -- McClellan's plans for the whole war -- Simultaneous movements throughout the country -- orders to Burnside for North Carolina expedition; to Halleck and Buell for operations in the West; to Butler for the New Orleans expedition -- Halleck and Grant -- correspondence of McClellan and Grant.

I do not know that any one worthy of attention has questioned the manner in which was performed the task of converting the unorganized, defeated, and dispirited remains of McDowell's Bull Run command into the Army of the Potomacan army which so long bore on its bayonets the life and honor of the nation.

Everything was to be done. An army was to be created ab initio--out of nothing. Raw material there was, but it was completely raw, and was to be fashioned into shape. Private soldiers, non-commissioned officers, officers, regiments, brigades, divisions, army corps, armies, with all their staff corps, were to be organized and instructed, not merely on paper, but in effective reality.

Small arms, field-guns, siege and garrison artillery, ammunition, equipments, camp-equipage, bridges, ambulances, baggage and supply trains, tents, clothing — all these wonderful instruments, and impedimenta of a modern army were to be fabricated; and not only fabricated, but so made that it would be possible to use them: so strong as to withstand a heavy strain, so light that they could be handled. It added to the difficulty of the task that no army approaching in magnitude that now required had ever existed on this continent, so that our own experience was not of much avail in the crisis so suddenly upon us.

In fact, one of the greatest obstacles I encountered at this time was the difficulty of drawing some of the heads of departments out of the old ruts, and convincing them that what was eminently appropriate for five or ten thousand men was often [199] an absurdity or impossibility for ten or twenty times those numbers. Besides all this — and going on pari passu with it all — was the irresistible and pressing necessity of so fortifying Washington as to provide for its immediate and future safety; so that the active army of operations should not necessarily be tied down to it as its base of operations and be unable to uncover it without endangering its security.

More yet than this, the work was to be done in the face of a victorious enemy, whose outposts were within rifle-shot of our own and in sight of the capital; the only communications of the army and the government passing, as far as to the Susquehanna, through a people of very doubtful loyalty.

Moreover, the government was utterly ignorant of military affairs and incapable of judging the necessities of the situation; too often actuated by mere motives of partisan expediency instead of patriotic resolve. The people, also, were ignorant of war, and sure to be urged to clamorous and senseless impatience by a partisan press.

Finally, I was not only unsupported, but sometimes thwarted by Gen. Scott, whose views often differed from my own. Under these circumstances I had only my own unwavering sense of right to sustain me. In spite of all threats and clamors I quietly persevered in the course I knew to be necessary for the safety of the nation, regardless of the result to my personal fortunes.

The work was accomplished, and I know of no case in history where so great a task was so thoroughly performed in so brief a period.

It certainly was not till late in Nov., 1861, that the Army of the Potomac was in any condition to move, nor even then were they capable of assaulting entrenched positions. By that time the roads had ceased to be practicable for the movement of armies, and the experience of subsequent years proved that no large operations could be advantageously conducted in that region during the winter season.

Any success gained at that time in front of Washington could not have been followed up, and a victory would have given us the barren possession of the field of battle, with a longer and more difficult line of supply during the rest of the winter. If the Army of the Potomac had been in condition to move before [200] winter, such an operation would not have accorded with the general plan I had determined upon after succeeding Gen. Scott as general in command of the armies.

On Nov. 1, 1861, the following private letter was received from the President:


executive Mansion, Nov. 1, 1861.
Maj.-Gen. Geo. E. McCellan:
My dear Sir: Lieut.-Gen. Scott having been, upon his own application, placed on the list of retired officers, with his advice, and the concurrence of the entire cabinet, I have designated you to command the whole army. You will, therefore, assume this enlarged duty at once, conferring with me so far as necessary.

Yours truly,

P. S. For the present let Gen. Wool's command be excepted.

A. L.

Immediately after succeeding Gen. Scott in the chief command of all the armies of the United States I arranged in my own mind the general plans for the operations of the ensuing year. I soon ascertained that more remained to be done in the West than in the East to bring the armies to a state of efficiency, and to that end did all in my power during the autumn and winter.

Until my own sphere of command and responsibility was extended from the Army of the Potomac to all the armies, I supposed that some general plan of operations existed, but now learned that there was none such, and that utter disorganization and want of preparation pervaded the Western armies. I had supposed that they were nearly, if not quite, in condition to act, but found that I was mistaken.

Even if the Army of the Potomac had been in condition to undertake a campaign in the, autumn of 1861, the backward state of affairs in the West would have made it unwise to do so; for on no sound military principle could it be regarded as proper to operate on one line alone while all was quiescent on the others, as such a course would have enabled the enemy to concentrate everything on the one active army. Again, if, within a week or two of the first Bull Run, it had been possible to advance and defeat the Confederate army at Manassas, the moral effect might [201] have justified the attempt, even were it impossible to follow up the victory; but after the lapse of some months it would have been foolish to advance unless prepared to follow up a victory and enter upon a campaign productive of definite results.

Early in Sept., 1861, Gens. W. T. Sherman and G. H. Thomas had been taken from my command and ordered to report to Gen. Robert Anderson, just placed in command of Kentucky. Before many weeks Anderson was relieved, in consequence of failing health, and Sherman succeeded to his duties.

In October he became very much depressed and took an exceedingly gloomy view of the situation. He called for 200,000 men — a force entirely out of the power of the government to supply at that time. On the 2d of Nov. he requested me to order Halleck, Buell, Stevens, and some officers of experience to Kentucky, stating that the importance of his department was beyond all estimate.

On the 3d, after giving in detail the position of the troops, about 25,000, he says: “Our forces are too small to do good and too large to sacrifice.”

On the 4th he telegraphed to me: “The publication of Adj.-Gen. Thomas's report impairs my influence. I insist upon being relieved to your army, my old brigade. Please answer.”

On the 6th he telegraphed me: “. . . If Simon Buckner crosses Green river by the practicable fords, of which there are many at wide marks, may get in McCook's rear. Look at map between camp and Louisville. Two roads, one by Bards-town and other by mouth of Salt river. The great danger is in stripping Ohio and Indiana of troops and putting them on this side with no retreat. The enemy also threatens the lower river at Owensboro, where I have nothing but unorganized volunteers.”

I have not a copy of the telegram, but my memory is clear that he also asked permission to fall back across the Ohio to prevent being cut off.

I knew the condition of affairs well enough to be satisfied not only that there was no danger that the enemy would cross the Ohio river, but also that, if he were mad enough to do so, he would never get back, and believed that the State could be held with the troops then in it. Therefore I gladly and promptly acquiesced in Sherman's request to be relieved, and sent Buell [202] to replace him, ordering Sherman to report to Halleck for duty. On Buell's arrival he found a complete state of disorganization; not only so, but that nothing was being done to mend the matter, and no steps being taken to prepare the troops for the field. A total lack of system prevailed, and everything was allowed to run on as best it could. The new commander at once made himself felt, and justified the propriety of his appointment by the skill and energy with which he devoted himself to the task of bringing order and efficiency out of chaos and helplessness. Buell found no difficulty in holding his own in Kentucky, and drove the enemy out of Kentucky and out of the capital of Tennessee as soon as he had received and organized the reinforcements, which were provided as rapidly as possible, and which Sherman would have received in due course; and, having accomplished the first part of his task, still found means to rescue Grant and Sherman from defeat at Shiloh with the army he had so recently created.

In my letters of instruction to Gen. Buell, Nov. 7 and 12, 1861 (hereafter given), I advised his remaining on the defensive for the moment, on the direct line to Nashville, and that he should throw the mass of his forces, by rapid marches via Cumberland Gap or Walker's Gap, on Knoxville, in order to occupy the railroad at that point to prevent its use by the Confederates, and to rally to us the loyal citizens of that region. Buell found it impossible to carry out these instructions, on account of the unprepared condition of the troops, the state of the roads, and lack of means of transportation.

About the same time I sent Halleck to Missouri to relieve Gen. Fremont in the command of that department. I instructed him to fortify and garrison some important points in the interior, and to concentrate the mass of his troops on or near the Mississippi for such ulterior operations as might prove necessary.

I determined to expedite the preparations of the Western armies as much as possible during the winter, and as early as practicable in the spring throw them forward; commencing their advance so much earlier than that of the Army of the Potomac as to engage all the Confederate Western forces on their own ground, and thus prevent them from reinforcing their army in front of Richmond.

As early as the beginning of Dec., 1861, I had determined not [203] to follow the line of operations leading by land from Washington to Richmond, but to conduct a sufficient force by mater to Urbana, and thence by a rapid march to West Point, hoping thus to cut off the garrison of Yorktown and all the Confederates in the Peninsula; then, using the James river as a line of supply, to move the entire Army of the Potomac across that river to the rear of Richmond.

In pursuance of this plan I did not propose disturbing the Confederate forces at Manassas and Centreville, but, while steadily pushing forward the fortifications of Washington and the instruction and organization of the Army of the Potomac, I desired to hold them there to the last moment, and especially until the Urbana movement was well in process of execution.

There was no possible military reason for disturbing them, and it best answered my purposes to keep them where they were I was not apprehensive of any attack by them after the first few weeks. Their presence served to keep my men on the qui vive. The skirmishes which necessarily occurred gave experience of fire and taught watchfulness. They covered no ground in front of Richmond furnishing supplies needed by either party. They had the longest and most difficult line of supply that they could have.

Early in December this plan was so far matured that, finding Secretary Chase seriously troubled in his financial operations by the uncertainty as to military operations, I went one day to his private office in the Treasury building and of my own volition confidentially laid my plans before him. He was delighted, said it was a most brilliant conception, and thanked me most cordially for the confidence I had thus reposed in him.

Meanwhile the preparations for operations on the lower Atlantic and Gulf coasts were progressing slowly but satisfactorily. Early in January Gen. Burnside received his final instructions for the expedition to the coast of North Carolina. The general purposes of this expedition were to control the navigation of the sounds on the North Carolina coast, thus cutting off the supplies of Norfolk by water, and at the same time covering the left flank of the main army when operating against Richmond by the line of James river, the reduction of New Berne, Beaufort, and Wilmington, which would give us the double advantage of preventing blockade-running at those points and of enabling us [204] to threaten or attack the railways near the coast, upon which Richmond largely depended for supplies. All of these objects were promptly accomplished except the capture of Wilmington. Had I remained in chief command I should have proceeded to its capture as soon as practicable after the fall of Fort Macon, which took place April 26, 1862.

Towards the end of Feb., 1863, I also gave Gen. Butler his final instructions for the capture of New Orleans. This was accomplished chiefly by the gallant action of the naval forces, about the 1st of May. Gen. Butler was ordered to secure all the approaches to New Orleans and open his communications with the column coming down the Mississippi. This being accomplished, Mobile, Pensacola, Galveston, etc., were to be attacked and occupied in turn.

About the middle of February I instructed Gen. T. W. Sherman to undertake the siege of Fort Pulaski and to occupy Fernandina, also directing him to study the problem of the reduction of Charleston and its defences.

By means of these various expeditions, carried out to their legitimate consequences, I hoped, without the employment of any very large land force, to occupy the important harbors on the coast, in order to reduce blockade-running to a minimum, and thus essentially cut off the very valuable assistance the Confederates, in return for their cotton, received from abroad in the way of arms, ammunition, clothing, and other necessary supplies which their own country produced either not at all or in wholly insufficient quantities. In addition to this most vital purpose, the possession of these important points on the coast would enable us to interfere seriously with the use of all railroads near the sea, give us new bases of operation from which either to make independent expeditions inland or to furnish new and short lines of supply to any main army moving parallel with the coast, while at the same time considerable numbers of the Confederate forces were occupied in watching them.

The following letters, and a subsequent paper addressed to the Secretary of War, sufficiently indicate the nature of those combinations: [205]

To the Secretary of War.

headquarters, Army of the Potomac, Washington, Sept. 6, 1861.
Sir: I have the honor to suggest the following proposition, with the request that the necessary authority be at once given me to carry it out: To organize a force of two brigades of five regiments each, of New England men, for the general service, but particularly adapted to coast service; the officers and men to be sufficiently conversant with boat-service to manage steamers, sailing-vessels, launches, barges, surf-boats, floating batteries, etc. To charter or buy for the command a sufficient number of propellers or tug-boats for transportation of men and supplies, the machinery of which should be amply protected by timber; the vessels to have permanent, experienced officers from the merchant service, but to be manned by details from the command. A naval officer to be attached to the staff of the commanding officer. The flank companies of each regiment to be armed with Dahlgren boat-guns, and carbines with waterproof cartridges; the other companies to have such arms as I may hereafter designate; to be uniformed and equipped as the Rhode Island regiments are. Launches and floating batteries with timber parapets of sufficient capacity to land or bring into action the entire force.

The entire management and organization of the force to be under my control, and to form an integral part of the Army of the Potomac.

The immediate object of this force is for operations in the inlets of Chesapeake bay and the Potomac. By enabling me thus to land troops at points where they are needed, this force can also be used in conjunction with a naval force operating against points on the sea-coast. This coast division to be commanded by a general officer of my selection; the regiments to be organized as other land forces; the disbursements for vessels, etc., to be made by the proper department of the army upon the requisitions of the general commanding the division, with my approval.

I think the entire force can be organized in thirty days; and by no means the least of the advantages of this proposition is the fact that it will call into the service a class of men who would not otherwise enter the army.

You will immediately perceive that the object of this force is to follow along the coast and up the inlets and rivers the movements of the main army when it advances.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. B. Mcclellan, Maj-Gen. Commanding. Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War.


Owing chiefly to the difficulty in procuring the requisite vessels and adapting them to the special purposes contemplated, this expedition was not ready for service until Jan., 1862. Then in the chief command, I deemed it best to send it to North Carolina, with the design indicated in the following letter:

To Gen. Burnside.

headquarters of the Army, Washington, Jan. 7, 1862.
general: In accordance with verbal instructions heretofore given you, you will, after uniting with Flag-officer Goldsborough at Fort Monroe, proceed under his convoy to Hatteras inlet, where you will, in connection with him, take the most prompt measures for crossing the fleet over the Bulkhead into the waters of the sound. Under the accompanying general order constituting the Department of North Carolina, you will assume command of the garrison at Hatteras inlet, and make such dispositions in regard to that place as your ulterior operations may render necessary, always being careful to provide for the safety of that very important station in any contingency.

Your first point of attack will be Roanoke island and its dependencies. It is presumed that the navy can reduce the batteries on the marshes and cover the landing of your troops on the main island, by which, in connection with a rapid movement of the gunboats to the northern extremity as soon as the marsh-battery is reduced, it may be hoped to capture the entire garrison of the place. Having occupied the island and its dependencies, you will at once proceed to the erection of the batteries and defences necessary to hold the position with a small force. Should the flag-officer require any assistance in seizing or holding the debouches of the canal from Norfolk, you will please afford it to him.

The commodore and yourself having completed your arrangements in regard to Roanoke island and the waters north of it, you will please at once make a descent on New Berne, having gained possession of which and the railroad passing through it, you will at once throw a sufficient force upon Beaufort and take the steps necessary to reduce Fort Macon and open that port. When you seize New Berne you will endeavor to seize the railroad as far west as Goldsborough, should circumstances favor such a movement. The temper of the people, the rebel force at hand, etc., will go far towards determining the question as to how far west the railroad can be safely occupied and held. Should circumstances render it advisable to seize and hold Raleigh, the main north and south line of railroad passing, through Goldsborough should be so effectually destroyed for considerable distances north and south [207] of that point as to render it impossible for the rebels to use it to your disadvantage. A great point would be gained, in any event, by the effectual destruction of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad.

I would advise great caution in moving so far into the interior as upon Raleigh. Having accomplished the objects mentioned, the next point of interest would probably be Wilmington, the reduction of which may require that additional means shall be afforded you. I would urge great caution in regard to proclamations. In no case would I go beyond a moderate joint proclamation with the naval commander, which should say as little as possible about politics or the negro; merely state that the true issue for which we are fighting is the preservation of the Union and upholding the laws of the general government, and stating that all who conduct themselves properly will, as far as possible, be protected in their persons and property.

You will please report your operations as often as an opportunity offers itself.

With my best wishes for your success, I am, etc., etc.,

Geo. B. McClellan, Maj.-Gen. Commanding-in-Chief Brig.-Gen. A. E. Burnside, Commanding Expedition.

The following letters of instruction were sent to Gens. Halleck, Buell, Sherman, and Butler; and I also communicated verbally to these officers my views in full regarding the field of operations assigned to each, and gave them their instructions as much in detail as was necessary at that time:

To Gen. Halleck.

headquarters of the Army, Washington, D. C., Nov. 11, 1861.
general: In assigning you to the command of the Department of Missouri it is probably unnecessary for me to state that I have entrusted to you a duty which requires the utmost tact and decision.

You have not merely the ordinary duties of a military commander to perform, but the far more difficult task of reducing chaos to order, of changing probably the majority of the personnel of the staff of the department, and of reducing to a point of economy consistent with the interests and necessities of the State a system of reckless expenditure and fraud perhaps unheard of before in the history of the world.

You will find in your department many general and staff [208] officers holding illegal commissions and appointments not recogized or approved by the President or Secretary of War. You will please at once inform these gentlemen of the nullity of their appointment, and see that no pay or allowances are issued to them until such time as commissions may be authorized by the President or Secretary of War.

If any of them give the slightest trouble, you will at once arrest them and send them, under guard, out of the limits of your department, informing them that if they return they will be placed in close confinement. You will please examine into the legality of the organization of the troops serving in the department. Then you find any illegal, unusual, or improper organizations, you will give to the officers and men an opportunity to enter the legal military establishment under general laws and orders from the War Department, reporting in full to these headquarters any officer or organization that may decline.

You will please cause competent and reliable staff officers to examine all existing contracts immediately, and suspend all payments upon them until you receive the report in each case. Where there is the slightest doubt as to the propriety of the contract you will be good enough to refer the matter, with full explanation, to these headquarters, stating in each case what would be a fair compensation for the services or materials rendered under the contract. Discontinue at once the reception of material or services under any doubtful contract. Arrest and bring to prompt trial all officers who have in any way violated their duty, to the government. In regard to the political conduct of affairs, you will please labor to impress upon the inhabitants of Missouri and the adjacent States that we are fighting solely for the integrity of the Union, to uphold the power of our national government, and to restore to the nation the blessings of peace and good order.

With respect to military operations, it is probable, from the best information in my possession, that the interests of the government will be best served by fortifying and holding in considerable strength Rolla, Sedalia, and other interior points, keeping strong patrols constantly moving from the terminal stations, and concentrating the mass of the troops on or near the Mississippi, prepared for such ulterior operations as the public interests may demand.

I would be glad to have you make as soon as possible a personal inspection of all the important points in your department, and report the result to me. I cannot too strongly impress upon you the absolute necessity of keeping me constantly advised of the strength, condition, and location of your troops, together with all facts that will enable me to maintain that general direction of the armies of the United States which it is my purpose to exercise. I trust to you to maintain thorough organization, discipline, [209] and economy throughout your department. Please inform me as soon as possible of everything relating to the gunboats now in process of construction, as well as those completed.

The militia force authorized to be raised by the State of Missouri for its defence will be under your orders.

I am, general, etc., etc.,

George B. McClellan, Maj.-Gen. Commanding U. S. A. Maj.-Gen. H. W. Halleck, U. S. A., Commanding Department of Missouri.

To Gen. Buell.

headquarters of the Army, Washington, Nov. 7, 1861.
general: In giving you instructions for your guidance in command of the Department of the Ohio I do not design to fetter you. I merely wish to express plainly the general ideas which occur to me in relation to the conduct of operations there. That portion of Kentucky west of the Cumberland river is by its position so closely related to the States of Illinois and Missouri that it has seemed best to attach it to the Department of Missouri. Your operations there, in Kentucky, will be confined to that portion of the State east of the Cumberland river. I trust I need not repeat to you that I regard the importance of the territory committed to your care as second only to that occupied by the army under my immediate command. It is absolutely necessary that we shall hold all the State of Kentucky; not only that, but that the majority of its inhabitants shall be warmly in favor of our cause, it being that which best subserves their interests. It is possible that the conduct of our political affairs in Kentucky is more important than that of our military operations. I certainly cannot overestimate the importance of the former. You will please constantly to bear in mind the precise issue for which we are fighting; that issue is the preservation of the Union and the restoration of the full authority of the general government over all portions of our territory. We shall most readily suppress this rebellion and restore the authority of the government by religiously respecting the constitutional rights of all. I know that I express the feelings and opinion of the President when I say that we are fighting only to preserve the integrity of the Union and the constitutional authority of the general government.

The inhabitants of Kentucky may rely upon it that their domestic institutions will in no manner be interfered with, and that they will receive at our hands every constitutional protection. I have only to repeat that you will in all respects carefully regard the local institutions of the region in which you [210] command, allowing nothing but the dictates of military necessity to cause you to depart from the spirit of these instructions.

So much in regard to political considerations. The military problem would be a simple one could it be entirely separated from political influences; such is not the case. Were the population among which you are to operate wholly or generally hostile, it is probable that Nashville should be your first and principal objective point. It so happens that a large majority of the inhabitants of Eastern Tennessee are in favor of the Union; it therefore seems proper that you should remain on the defensive on the line from Louisville to Nashville, while you throw the mass of your forces, by rapid marches by Cumberland Gap or Walker's Gap, on Knoxville, in order to occupy the railroad at that point, and thus enable the loyal citizens of Eastern Tennessee to rise, while you at the same time cut off the railway communication between Eastern Virginia and the Mississippi. It will be prudent to fortify the pass before leaving it in your rear.

To Gen. Buell.

headquarters of the Army, Washington, Nov. 12, 1861.
general: Upon assuming command of the department I will be glad to have you make as soon as possible a careful report of the condition and situation of your troops, and of the military and political condition of your command. The main point to which I desire to call your attention is the necessity of entering Eastern Tennessee as soon as it can be done with reasonable chances of success, and I hope that you will, with the least possible delay, organize a column for that purpose, sufficiently guarding at the same time the main avenues by which the rebels may invade Kentucky. Our conversations on the subject of military operations have been so full, and my confidence in your judgment is so great, that I will not dwell further upon the subject, except to urge upon you the necessity of keeping me fully informed as to the state of affairs, both military and political, and your movements. In regard to political matters, bear in mind that we are fighting only to preserve the integrity of the Union and to uphold the power of the general government; as far as military necessity will permit, religiously respect the constitutional rights of all. Preserve the strictest discipline among the troops, and, while employing the utmost energy in military movements, be careful so to treat the unarmed inhabitants as to contract, not widen, the breach existing between us and the rebels.

I mean by this that it is the desire of the government to avoid unnecessary irritation by causeless arrests and persecution [211] of individuals. Where there is good reason to believe that persons are actually giving aid, comfort, or information to the enemy, it is, of course, necessary to arrest them; but I have always found that it is the tendency of subordinates to make vexatious arrests on mere suspicion. You will find it well to direct that no arrest shall be made except by your order or that of your generals, unless in extraordinary cases, always holding the party making the arrest responsible for the propriety of his course. It should be our constant aim to make it apparent to all that their property, their comfort, and their personal safety will be best preserved by adhering to the cause of the Union.

If the military suggestions I have made in this letter prove to have been founded on erroneous data, you are, of course, perfectly free to change the plans of operations.

Brig.-Gen. D. C. Buell, Commanding Department of the Ohio.

To Gen. T. W. Sherman.

headquarters of the Army, Washington, Feb. 14, 1862.
general: Your despatches in regard to the occupation of Dafuskie island, etc., were received to-day. I saw also to-day, for the first time, your requisition for a siege-train for Savannah.

After giving the subject all the consideration in my power I am forced to the conclusion that, under present circumstances, the siege and capture of Savannah do not promise results commensurate with the sacrifices necessary. When I learned that it was possible for the gunboats to reach the Savannah river above Fort Pulaski, two operations suggested themselves to my mind as its immediate results:

First. The capture of Savannah by a coup de main, the result of an instantaneous advance and attack by the army and navy.

The time for this has passed, and your letter indicates that you are not accountable for the failure to seize the propitious moment, but that, on the contrary, you perceived its advantages.

Second. To isolate Fort Pulaski, cut off its supplies, and at least facilitate its reduction by a bombardment.

Although we have a long delay to deplore, the second course still remains open to us; and I strongly advise the close blockade of Pulaski, and its bombardment as soon as the 13-inch mortars and heavy guns reach you. I am confident you can thus reduce it. With Pulaski you gain all that is really essential: you obtain complete control of the harbor, you relieve the blockading fleet, and render the main body of your force disposable for other operations.

I do not consider the possession of Savannah worth a siege [212] after Pulaski is in our hands. But the possession of Pulaski is of the first importance. The expedition to Fernandina is well, and I shall be glad to learn that it is ours.

But, after all, the greatest moral effect would be produced by the reduction of Charleston and its defences. There the rebellion had its birth; there the unnatural hatred of our government is most intense; there is the centre of the boasted power and courage of the rebels.

To gain Fort Sumter and hold Charleston is a task well worthy of our greatest efforts and considerable sacrifices. That is the problem I would be glad to have you study. Some time must elapse before we can be in all respects ready to accomplish that purpose. Fleets are en route and armies in motion which have certain preliminary objects to accomplish before we are ready to take Charleston in hand. But the time will before long arrive when I shall be prepared to make that movement. In the meantime it is my advice and wish that no attempt be made upon Savannah, unless it can be carried with certainty by a coup de main.

Please concentrate your attention and forces upon Pulaski and Fernandina. St. Augustine might as well be taken by way of an interlude while awaiting the preparations for Charleston. Success attends us everywhere at present.

Very truly yours,

Geo. B. McClellan, Maj.-Gen. Commanding. Gen. T. W. Sherman, Commanding at Port Royal, etc.

To Gen. Butler.

headquarters of the Army, Washington, Feb. 23, 1862.
general: You are assigned to the command of the land forces destined to co-operate with the navy in the attacks upon New Orleans. You will use every means to keep your destination a profound secret, even from your staff officers, with the exception of your chief of staff and Lieut. Weitzell, of the engineers. The force at your disposal will consist of the first thirteen regiments named in your memorandum handed to me in person, the 21st Indiana, 4th Wisconsin, and 6th Michigan (old and good regiments from Baltimore).

The 21st Indiana, 4th Wisconsin, and 6th Michigan will await your orders at Fort Monroe.

Two companies of the 21st Indiana are well drilled as heavy artillery. The cavalry force already en route for Ship island will be sufficient for your purposes.

After full consultation with officers well acquainted with the [213] country in which it is proposed to operate, I have arrived at the conclusion that two (2) light batteries fully equipped, and one (1) without horses, will be all that are necessary.

This will make your force about 14,400 infantry, 275 cavalry, 580 artillery; total, 15,255 men. The commanding general of the Department of Key West is authorized to loan you, temporarily, two regiments, Fort Pickens can probably give you another, which will bring your force to nearly 18,000.

The object of your expedition is one of vital importance — the capture of New Orleans. The route selected is up the Mississippi river, and the first obstacle to be encountered (perhaps the only one) is in the resistance offered by Forts St. Philip and Jackson. It is expected that the navy can reduce these works; in that case you will, after their capture, leave a sufficient garrison in them to render them perfectly secure; and it is recommended that, on the upward passage, a fern heavy guns and some troops be left at the pilot station (at the forks of the river) to cover a retreat in the event of a disaster. These troops and guns will, of course, be removed as soon as the forts are captured.

Should the navy fail to reduce the works you will land your forces and siege-train, and endeavor to breach the works, silence their fire, and carry them by assault.

The next resistance will be near the English Bend, where there are some earthen batteries. Here it may be necessary for you to land your troops and co-operate with the naval attack, although it is more than probable that the navy unassisted can accomplish the result. If these works are taken the city of New Orleans necessarily falls. In that event it will probably be best to occupy Algiers with the mass of your troops, also the eastern bank of the river above the city. It may be necessary to place some troops in the city to preserve order ; but if there appears to be sufficient Union sentiment to control the city, it may be best for purposes of discipline to keep your men out of the city.

After obtaining possession of New Orleans it will be necessary to reduce all the works guarding its approaches from the east, and particularly to gain the Manchac pass.

Baton Rouge, Berwick bay, and Fort Livingston will next claim your attention.

A feint on Galveston may facilitate the objects we have in view. I need not call your attention to the necessity of gaining possession of all the rolling stock you can on the different railways, and of obtaining control of the roads themselves. The occupation of Baton Rouge by a combined naval and land force should be accomplished as soon as possible after you have gained New Orleans. Then endeavor to open your communication with the northern column by the Mississippi, always bearing in mind the necessity of occupying Jackson, Mississippi as soon as you can safely do so, either after or before you have effected the [214] junction. Allow nothing to divert you from obtaining full possession of all the approaches to New Orleans. When that object is accomplished to its fullest extent it will be necessary to make a combined attack on Mobile, in order to gain possession of the harbor and works, as well as to control the railway terminus at the city. In regard to this I will send more detailed instructions as the operations of the northern column develop themselves.

I may briefly state that the general objects of the expedition are, first the reduction of New Orleans and all its approaches; then Mobile and its defences; then Pensacola, Galveston, etc. It is probable that by the time New Orleans is reduced it will be in the power of the government to reinforce the land forces sufficiently to accomplish all these objects. In the meantime you will please give all the assistance in your power to the army and navy commanders in your vicinity, never losing sight of the fact that the great object to be achieved is the capture and firm retention of New Orleans.

I am, etc.,

Geo. B. McClellan, Maj.-Gen. Commanding U. S. Army. Maj.-Gen. B. F. Butler, U. S. Volunteers.

The plan indicated in the above letters comprehended in its scope the operations of all the armies of the Union, the Army of the Potomac as well. It was my intention, for reasons easy to be seen, that its various parts should be carried out simultaneously, or nearly so, and in co-operation along the whole line. If this plan was wise — and events have failed to prove that it was not-then it is unnecessary to defend any delay which would have enabled the Army of the Potomac to perform its share in the execution of the whole work.

The operations in the West began early in February, and soon resulted in the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson and the capture of Nashville. Shiloh took place on the 6th and 7th of April. It was not until May 21 that Corinth was evacuated.

I have already alluded to the very unsatisfactory condition in which Buell found his command, but he very soon satisfied himself that there was no apprehension of a dangerous offensive movement by the enemy, and steadily went to work to organize and discipline his troops. I gave him all the support and assistance in my power, sending him as much in the may of troops, arms, and supplies as the resources of the government and the [215] necessities of other points permitted. He displayed very high qualities as an organizer, and mastered the strategical questions with marked ability; and I am satisfied that one of the very best things I did when in command was sending him to Kentucky.

About the time he went there, and for some months thereafter, immense pressure was brought to bear upon the government to do something at once for the relief of the Union men in East Tennessee. I was fully impressed by the necessity for doing this, and constantly urged Buell to send a column to that region, even at the expense of remaining temporarily on the defensive in front of Bowling Green. But Buell found it impossible to do so, in consequence of the disorganization which prevailed, the lack of transportation and supplies, and the impracticable condition of the roads in the fall and winter. My confidence in Buell's judgment and knowledge of the circumstances was such that I reluctantly acquiesced. I still regret that it was impossible to carry out this intention, for the effect of the occupation of Knoxville at that time would have been of the first importance. But I have no doubt as to the propriety of Buell's decision. He was so true and loyal a soldier that no mere obstacles would have deterred him from carrying out my clearly expressed wishes. He was the best judge as to the possibility of the expedition, and I have no doubt that he was right. Before the close of November Buell and I discussed the propriety of a movement up the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, and concluded that it should form a necessary part of the plan of offensive operations. This was so self-evident a proposition that I had long thought of it, but I am not sure whether the actual suggestion to carry it practically into effect came first from Buell or myself — very likely from Buell; certainly it did not originate with Halleck or any of his surroundings. I will for the moment leave this subject, simply stating that by the 26th of Feb. Nashville was in our hands, and by the 3d of March Columbus, Kentucky. In the course of these operations Halleck delivered himself of several prophetic statements in regard to “good strategy,” each of which proved to be ridiculous.

On the morning of Sunday, March 2, 1862, desiring to give orders for the further movements of Buell's and Halleck's commands, I went to the military telegraph-office--then in the headquarters [216] of the Army of the Potomac at the corner of Pennsylvania avenue and Jackson square — and caused communication to be cut off from all wires except those leading to Halleck's headquarters at St. Louis and Buell's at Nashville. I then called Buell and Halleck to their respective offices, and asked for a full report of the condition of affairs, number, position, and condition of their troops, that of the enemy, etc. Buell promptly gave me the information needed. Halleck replied the same day:

. . . I have had no communication with Gen. Grant for more than a week. He left his command without my authority and went to Nashville. His army seems to be as much demoralized by the victory of Fort Donelson as was that of the Potomac by the defeat of Bull Run. It is hard to censure a successful general immediately after a victory, but I think he richly deserves it. I can get no returns, no reports, no information of any kind from him. Satisfied with his victory, he sits down and enjoys it without any regard to the future. I am worn out and tired with this neglect and inefficiency. C. F. Smith is almost the only officer equal to the emergency.

To this I replied:
Your despatch of last evening received. The success of our cause demands that proceedings such as Grant's should be at once checked. Generals must observe discipline as well as private soldiers. Do not hesitate to arrest him at once, if the good of the service requires it, and place C. F. Smith in command. You are at liberty to regard this as a positive order, if it will smooth your way. I appreciate the difficulties you have to encounter, and will be glad to relieve you from trouble as far as possible.

On the 4th Halleck telegraphed me:

A rumor has just reached me that since the taking of Fort Donelson Grant has resumed his former bad habits. If so, it will account for his repeated neglect of my often-repeated orders. I do not deem it advisable to arrest him at present, but have placed Gen. Smith in command of the expedition up the Tennessee. I think Smith will restore order and discipline. . . .

On the 6th Halleck telegraphed to Grant:

Gen. McClellan directs that you report to me daily the number [217] and position of the forces under your command. Your neglect of repeated orders to report the strength of your command has created great dissatisfaction and seriously interfered with military plans. Your going to Nashville without authority, and when your presence with your troops was of the greatest importance, was a matter of serious complaint at Washington, so much so that I was advised to arrest you on your return.

On the 31st of March Halleck informed Grant:

Gen. McClellan directed me to place Gen. Smith in command of the expedition until you were ordered to join it.

On the 10th of March the adjutant-general of the army, by direction of the President, required from Halleck a report as to Grant's unauthorized visit to Nashville and as to his general conduct. On the 15th Halleck replied that Grant had gone to Nashville to communicate with Buell, that his motives were proper, and advised that no further proceedings be had in the case.

Now to the story which prompts me to insert these despatches. More than a year after the events in question Franklin wrote to me that on meeting Grant at Memphis, or some such point on the Mississippi, Grant asked what had made me hostile to him. Franklin replied that he knew that I was not hostile but very friendly to him. Grant then said that that could not be so, for, without any reason, I had ordered Halleck to relieve him from command and arrest him soon after Fort Donelson, and that Halleck had interfered to save him. I took no steps to undeceive Grant, trusting to time to elucidate the question.

In the latter part of 1866, while I was in Europe, Gen. Grant, through one of his staff, communicated with Gen. Marcy in regard to papers missing from the files of the office of general-in-chief during my tenure of the place.

In searching my papers Gen. Marcy found my retained copy — of the despatch of March 2 from Halleck in which he reports Grant's unauthorized absence, etc. This he forwarded to Gen. Grant, who was thus for the first time informed of the truth. This despatch and my reply had, with many others, disappeared from the files in the office. So with regard to my correspondence as general-in-chief.

The military telegraph-office was first established by me, and was located, as already stated, in the headquarters of the Army [218] of the Potomac. While I was absent from Washington for a couple of days in March the Secretary of War, without any intimation to me, caused the entire office, with all the telegraphic records, to be removed to the War Department.

I was relieved from the general command of the army while with the front near Manassas (March 11), and never re-entered the office of commanding general in the War Department. All the papers there were taken possession of by the Secretary of War, and he and Halleck are alone responsible for any gaps in the files.

Some one abstracted the telegrams above alluded to. As to Halleck's conduct with regard to Grant, no comment by me is necessary. The facts speak for themselves.

[In this connection see “Personal memoirs of U. S. Grant,” vol. i. pp. 324-8; also, North American Review, Dec., 1885. The following correspondence between Gens. Grant and McClellan is appended by the editor:]

Hotel Byron, Villeneuve, Nov. 24, 1866.
Gen. U. S. Grant, Commanding U. S. Army:
general: In a letter received yesterday from Gen. Marcy he says: “I had a note yesterday from a member of Gen. Grant's staff, in which he says it has been officially reported to the general that he (McClellan) had retained in his possession certain records pertaining to the headquarters of the army which were loaned to him while preparing his report in 1862-3.”

I desire to state that I have not knowingly retained or caused to be withheld any document whatever, whether important or unimportant, belonging to the headquarters of the army or to any other department of the government.

When my report was completed I caused all the original subordinate reports and all other documents belonging to the government to be boxed up, and sent them to the adjutant-general of the army in Washington, I think at the same time with my report. My recollection is that they were sent by the hands of my aide-de-camp, Capt. A. McClellan. I do not think it possible that any document can have been overlooked, because in examining my papers subsequently my attention would in all probability have been attracted to it, and, as a matter of course, I would at once have forwarded it to Washington. I shall be under especial obligations to you, general, if you will cause me to be informed what documents are alluded to in the report referred to, also by whom the report was made to you.

To such a general statement as that made to Gen. Marcy [219] at least as it has reached me — I can only return a general reply, as I have already done.

Desiring the favor of an early reply, directed to the care of “Messrs. J. S. Morgan & Co., 22 Old Broad Street, London,”

I am, general, very truly yours,

headquarters, armies of the U. S., Washington, D. C., Dec. 10, 1866.
dear general: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 24th of Nov. In reply I enclose you copies of all letters addressed to Gen. Marcy on the subject of papers supposed to be in your possession. These letters contain a full explanation to yours, and, as you will see, do not imply an intention on your part to withhold any paper properly belonging to the headquarters of the army.

Trusting that this letter, with enclosures, will relieve you of any misapprehension you may have felt from Gen. Marcy's letter, and with the assurance that the general kindly offered to furnish anything we might want from papers retained in your possession.

I remain, very truly yours,

Vevay, Switzerland, Dec. 26, 1866.
my dear general: Yours of the 10th inst. reached me yesterday, and I now fully understand what is wanted.

When called to the command of the United States armies in 1861 I left unchanged the organization of the Army of the Potomac and its headquarters, and in no manner merged them with those of the headquarters of the United States army--the staff for each being distinct, except with regard to my personal aides-de-camp. Thus Gen. Marcy, the chief of staff of the Army of the Potomac, had nothing to do with the headquarters of the army of the United States. Gen. S. Williams was adjutant-general of the Army of the Potomac, while Gen. L. Thomas was my adjutant-general in my capacity as commander of the United States army, etc. The papers and records of the two offices were entirely distinct. I had in the War Department building two rooms for my office as commanding general of the United States army, and thither Gen. Thomas brought to me all papers and matters requiring my action, received my orders thereon, carried back the papers to his own office, where they should be found, together with the orders and letters issued by him thereon in conformity with my instructions. You will the more readily comprehend the state of affairs when I remind you that my [220] predecessor, Gen. Scott, had an office--first in New York, afterwards in Washington — entirely distinct from that of the adjutant-general of the United States army, where he had his own adjutant-general and entirely distinct records; the adjutant-general of the United States army being then simply the adjutant-general of the Secretary of War. I changed the arrangement, dispensed with the machinery of a separate office, and merged all the routine service and records of the command-in-chief with those of the adjutant-general's office. The only papers, to the best of my recollection, kept in my office were the retained copies of my own letters on subjects of an important nature requiring more or less secrecy, such as letters of instruction in regard to military movements. As the telegraph was much used, these letters were not numerous. Col. A. V. Colburn had charge of these letters, and I am not sure whether they were copied into books or simply filed. I kept nothing for myself but the original rough drafts, either in my own handwriting or that of the aides to whom they were dictated. All written reports received went finally to the adjutant-general's office or that of the Secretary of War; none were retained in my office, which was, after all, simply a place for the transaction of business, and not a place of record. When I left Washington in March, 1862, to accompany the Army of the Potomac on its march towards Manassas, I was still the commanding general of the United States army, had no reason whatever to suppose that any change was contemplated by the President, left at a few hours notice, and expected to return in a few days, preparatory to the final movement to the Peninsula. I therefore made no special arrangements in regard to my office in the War Department, and left everything as it happened to be, all my personal aides accompanying me. Two or three days after, while at Fairfax Court-House, I, to my complete surprise, received through the newspapers the orders relieving me from the command of the United States army, and never afterwards entered the office in Washington. I was informed that it was immediately taken possession of by the War Department for its own uses, and have no knowledge of what disposition was made of the papers, etc., found there, further than that it was about the same time stated to me that the War Department had taken possession of everything in the office, as the functions of commanding general were assumed by the secretary. All telegraphic despatches of any importance were sent and received in cipher, and were handed to me translated; the work of deciphering, and the reverse, being executed in the telegraph-office. My recollection is that the cipher copies, at least, were recorded in books, which were kept in the chief telegraph-office; these books were never in my personal possession. This chief office, originally organized under my direction, was in the building occupied as the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. [221] on Pennsylvania avenue and Jackson square. Soon after the accession of the present Secretary of War to office, and during my absence from the city on duty for two or three days, the entire establishment, with all its records, apparatus, and personnel, was removed to the War Department building, without my knowledge, by order of the Secretary of War; and from, that time I ceased to have the slightest control over it. When I returned to the city I found the removal accomplished, which was the first intimation I had of it. In that office should be found copies of all the messages that passed through it. With regard to the books containing the original duplicates of my messages sent, I have now no means of knowing what ones were left in my War Department office when it passed from my possession. I do not think there are any in my possession (among my papers in the United States) except that sent to you by Gen. Marcy. As that was simply my private memorandum, I would be glad to have it returned to Gen. Marcy when you have done with it. I was not aware that the telegrams of Feb. and March, 1862, from Gen. Halleck were among my papers. I have requested Gen. Marcy to forward to you whatever copies of telegrams, etc., he may find. From his letter to me I think that he has examined all my papers, for all that I know of are at Orange. I will do my best to aid him in making a thorough search. When I return to the United States-probably in the course of a few months — I will most cheerfully aid you, in any possible way, to carry out your wishes; but I am at present inclined to think that a close search in Washington will be productive of much better results than one conducted elsewhere.

I must apologize for inflicting so long a letter upon you, and am, my dear general,

Sincerely your friend,

Geo. B. McClellan. Gen. U. S. Grant, Commanding U. S. Armies.

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