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Chapter 14: fall of 1862

  • Political situation.
  • -- Lincoln orders advance. -- a Confederate raid. -- Lincoln dissatisfied. -- condition of Confederates. -- reorganization. -- Lee moves to Culpeper. -- McClellan succeeded by Burnside. -- plan of campaign changed. -- Burnside's strength. -- Lee's strength. -- Sumner at Falmouth. -- non-arrival of pontoons. -- surrender demanded. -- earthworks erected. -- Jackson Arrives. -- Burnside's plan. -- Marye's Hill. -- building the bridges. -- the bombardment. -- the crossing made. -- Dec. 12. -- the plan changed. -- Jackson's line. -- Franklin advances. -- Gibbon supports Meade. -- Meade strikes Gregg. -- the counter-stroke. -- Jackson's proposed attack. -- casualties. -- on the Federal right. -- the Formations. -- French and Hancock charge. -- Howard charges. -- Sturgis charges. -- sunken road Reenforced. -- Griffin's charge. -- Humphreys's first charge. -- Humphreys's second charge. -- Humphreys's report. -- Tyler's report. -- Getty's charge. -- Hawkins's account. -- a Federal conference. -- Dec. 14, sharp-shooting. -- Dec. 15, Burnside Retreats. -- flag of truce. -- casualties. -- New plans. -- the mud march. -- Burnside relieved.

After the battle of Sharpsburg, rest, reorganization, and supplies were badly needed by both armies, and, as the initiative was now McClellan's, he determined not to move until he was thoroughly prepared. Lincoln had two months before drawn up his Emancipation Proclamation and was waiting for a victory to produce a favorable state of feeling for its issuance. Sharpsburg was now claimed as a victory, and, on Sept. 22, the Proclamation was issued, freeing all slaves in any State which should be in rebellion on the coming Jan. 1. This was supposed to be a war measure, though nothing could have been more void of effect than it proved. McClellan did not approve of the Proclamation, and he let his sentiments on the subject be known, although he issued a very proper order to the army, deprecating political discussion. His attitude, however, alienated him from the administration, and the party in power in Washington.

A few days after the battle, Lincoln had visited the army, and, [277] on parting from McClellan, had expressed himself as entirely satisfied, and had told McClellan that he should not be forced to advance until he was ready. But when two weeks had passed, during which great quantities of supplies of all kinds were rushed to the army by every channel, McClellan on Oct. 7 received instructions to ‘cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy, or drive him south. The army must move now while the roads are good.’

On receipt of this, McClellan conferred with his chief quartermaster, who thought that sufficient supplies would be on hand within three days. Meanwhile, on Oct. 10 a fresh trouble arose. Stuart with 1800 cavalry and Pelham's battery had been sent by Lee upon a raid. Fording the Potomac, some 15 miles above Williamsport, at dawn on the 10th, by dark Stuart reached Chambersburg, where he burned a machine-shop, many loaded cars, and a supply depot, paroled 285 sick and wounded Federals, and gathered about 500 horses. Next morning he moved to Emmitsburg, and thence below the mouth of the Monocacy, where he recrossed the Potomac, on the forenoon of the 12th. The distance travelled had been 126 miles, of which the last 80 from Chambersburg were accomplished without a halt.

An epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease was prevailing at this time among the enemy's cavalry,1 and the desperate efforts to intercept Stuart, made with reduced forces, put much of it out of condition for active service until they could get some rest and several thousand fresh horses. Pleasanton had made a march of 55 miles in 24 hours, part of the distance across the mountains by very bad roads, and Averill's brigade had travelled 200 miles in four days. Stuart's loss was but one man wounded, and his conduct of the expedition was excellent. Yet the raid risked a great deal in proportion to the results accomplished. It might easily have happened that the whole command should be captured. But the incident contributed largely to McClellan's delay, and to the growing dissatisfaction of the government with his conduct.2 [278]

Mr. Lincoln had allowed McClellan to decide whether his advance should be up the Shenandoah Valley, or east of the Blue Ridge, but expressed a preference for the latter route.

McClellan, however, had decided to take the Valley route, for fear of Lee's advancing into Md. and Pa. if it was left uncovered. Both Lincoln and Halleck thought his fears groundless and his caution excessive. Neither of them believed the Confederate army to be as immense as McClellan reported, and both knew that if the Federals needed supplies the Confederates needed them much more. In Lincoln's practical style, he often made pertinent suggestions to McClellan and would sometimes mingle with them a touch of sarcasm. He wrote that if Lee ‘should cut in between the Army of the Potomac and Washington, McClellan would have nothing to do but to attack him in the rear.’ Soon after Stuart's raid, he suggested that ‘if the enemy had more occupation south of the river, his cavalry would not be so likely to make raids north of it.’ And on Oct. 25, he telegraphed McClellan in reply to a despatch about sore-tongued and fatigued horses, ‘Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done, since the battle of Antietam, that fatigues anything?’

On Oct. 26, McClellan put his army in motion, 19 days after his receipt of the President's order. By this time he was willing to adopt the line of advance east of the Blue Ridge, as the stage of water in the Potomac River now made all fords impracticable. The crossing was made at Berlin, about 10 miles below Harper's Ferry. Pontoon bridges were laid, and the army crossed over rather leisurely, the last of it, Franklin's corps, on Nov. 1 and 2.

We will now return to the Confederates, who, since Sharpsburg, have been resting and recuperating between Winchester and Bunker Hill. [279]

Our base of supplies was now Staunton, more than 100 miles distant, but over fairly good roads. Our trains were actively at work, bringing ammunition, food, and clothing, and gradually our condition approached the normal. But the supply, even of wagons, was limited, and, as late as Oct. 20, 55 were wanted for the reserve ordnance train of

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