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Book III:—Maryland.

Chapter 1:

Cedar Mountain.

WE must return to the theatre of war in Virginia. It will be remembered that we left the army of the Potomac at Harrison's Landing, resting after the seven days battle, and Lee leading back his own forces to the neighborhood of Richmond. A month had elapsed since Mr. Lincoln, landing on the banks of the James, had come to consult with General McClellan relative to the plans of the forthcoming campaigns; it was now the 8th of August. During this period only a few skirmishes had disturbed the silence and inaction that succeeded the great marches and desperate struggles which the month of June had witnessed. Everything, however, seemed to indicate that a new crisis was at hand. A Federal army about fifty thousand strong, called the army of Virginia, was concentrated on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge, between the two branches of the Rappahannock. Jackson was preparing to attack it at the head of three divisions. Farther to the south, Lee still occupied Richmond with the remainder of his army. At Harrison's Landing the constant coming in and going out of transports, shipping war materials, cavalry and the wounded, together with the preparations for departure ostensibly going on in the camps, denoted an early movement on the part of the army of the Potomac. It was indeed about to make a start, but only to turn its back upon the enemy. Acting in obedience to superior orders, its chief would be compelled, in spite of his protest, to take it back to Fortress Monroe; he was about to abandon the position he had conquered on the James after so many sacrifices, which the victorious enemy could not [243] wrest from him. A few words will suffice to explain this strange result.

We have seen how the personal ambition, the jealousy and the unwarranted alarms, which at the time of the embarkation of the army of the Potomac had conspired to exercise a fatal influence over Mr. Lincoln's mind, had since continued to embarrass McClellan. After having kept McDowell back for the defence of Washington, the President and his Secretary of War, who was as great a novice as himself in such matters, had undertaken to direct the campaign from the recesses of their cabinet. We know the result. The three small independent armies of McDowell, Banks and Fremont, formed at the expense of the reinforcements intended for the army of the Potomac, had been beaten in detail. While Jackson was stealing away to repair to Gaines' Mill, the Union generals were only occupied in the reorganization of their troops, exhausted by forced marches and useless countermarches. McDowell returned, but too late, to his positions at Fredericksburg, on the Rappahannock; Banks concentrated his forces near Luray. Fremont remained in West Virginia, whither he had returned immediately after the unfortunate expedition of Cross Keys. Meanwhile, the President, a man of modesty and good sense, had very soon discovered the error he had committed in attempting to direct the complicated movements of several armies from Washington; but instead of securing unity of direction by restoring General McClellan to supreme authority over all the troops destined to operate against Richmond, he summoned General Pope from the West, and placed the corps of McDowell, Banks and Fremont under his command. The latter, refusing to serve under an officer who was his inferior in rank, transferred the command of his troops to Sigel. It was now the 26th of June, the day of the battle of Mechanicsville. Shortly after, Mr. Lincoln revived the rank of commander-in-chief of all the Federal armies, of which he had stripped McClellan just as he was taking the field; but not wishing to reinstate that general, he conferred the office upon Halleck. The brilliant successes of the armies of the West had won the admiration of all men; these successes were supposed to be due to the superiority of those armies over Eastern troops, and in taking their generals it was thought that they [244] would bring victory with them. But the President was extremely ill advised; from those armies, which numbered among their generals a Grant, a Sherman, a MacPherson, a Sheridan, he selected Halleck and Pope for the supreme command.

General Pope inaugurated his assumption of the command by a general order, in which he expressed his personal views regarding strategy in language which was offensive not only to his predecessors, but to the soldiers whom he addressed. ‘I desire,’ he said, ‘that you will dismiss from your minds certain phrases which I am sorry to find much in vogue among you. I constantly hear of strong positions to be captured and occupied, of lines of retreat and bases of supplies. Let us discard such ideas.’ Pope himself proclaimed that it was no longer his task to cover Washington while the army of the Potomac was making an offensive campaign against Richmond. He would adopt the plan of campaign favored by Mr. Lincoln in opposition to that of landing on the peninsula of Virginia, and by following the land route he expected to enter Richmond before General McClellan, to show the latter how much he had been mistaken in advancing by way of Yorktown and Williamsburg. The Federal troops destined to operate against the Confederate capital were, therefore, divided into two armies, one numbering ninety, the other fifty thousand men, unable to form a junction, and separated from each other by all the enemy's forces. Such a dangerous situation could not be allowed to continue. Halleck was well convinced of this; but instead of falling back upon McClellan's plan of assuming a strictly defensive attitude, and of bringing back the troops charged with the defence of Washington to the banks of the Potomac, in order to render the reinforced army of the Potomac perfectly free in its movements, he added his own persuasions to the representations of those who were already asking the President to sacrifice the conquered positions near Richmond to the plan of campaign which the new general contemplated carrying into effect. The committee appointed by Congress to report on the conduct of the war, not satisfied with exercising exclusive judgment over accomplished facts, was always interfering with the management of military affairs. Pope contrived to humor their prejudices by attacking McClellan, and to flatter their vanity by submitting for [245] their approval plans of campaign, which he took good care not to execute when the occasion presented itself.1

In this way he gained the support of the committee. Mr. Lincoln was beset by those who, in the name of public interest, were urging him to consolidate the two armies of Virginia and the Potomac by bringing the latter back to the line of the Rappahannock. The President resisted a long time. Indeed, on the occasion of his interview with McClellan at Harrison's Landing, the latter had so thoroughly demonstrated the importance of that position, that he went back fully determined to allow the chief of the army of the Potomac full freedom of action. But General Halleck had claimed for himself, as commander-in-chief, the exclusive direction of all the armies in the field, and Mr. Lincoln, conscious of his own incompetency, submitted to this new authority. All the measures taken for placing the army of the Potomac in a condition to resume the offensive were immediately altered. Burnside had brought seven thousand men to Fort Monroe from Newberne; four thousand more, taken away from Hunter, had joined him at Hampton Roads from Beaufort; this important reinforcement was temporarily detained, and landed on the sand-beach of Newport News; no assistance was even sent to the waters of the James to repair the ordinary losses which sickness entails upon all large armies; and McClellan, reduced to a subordinate command, remained as totally ignorant of the part [246] reserved for his troops as the humblest of his soldiers. It even appeared as if

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