To which this reply was sent:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Berkeley, August 3-11 p.m.
Your telegram of 2nd is received. The answer to dispatch of July 30 sent was sent this morning. We have about 12, 500 sick, of whom perhaps 4,000 might make easy marches. We have here the means to transports 1,200 and will embark to-morrow that number of the worst cases. With all the means at the disposal of the medical
director the remained could be shipped in from seven to ten days. It is impossible for me to decide what cases to send off, unless I know what is to be done with this army. Were the disastrous measures of a retreat adopted, all the sick who cannot march and fight should be dispatched by water. Should the army advance, many of the sick could be of service at the depots. If it is to remain here any length of time, the question assumes still a different phase.
Until I am informed what is to be done I cannot act understanding or for the good of the service. If I am kept longer in ignorance of what is to be effected, I cannot be expected to accomplish the object in view. In the mean time I will do all in my power to carry out what I conceive to be your wishes.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN.
Major General H. W. HALLECK.
Commanding U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.
The moment I received the instructions for removing the sick I at once gave the necessary directions for carrying them out. With the small amount of transportation at hand the removal of the severe cases alone would necessarily take several days, and in the mean time I desired information to determine what I should do with the others. The order required me to send them away as quickly as possible, and to notify the General-in-Chief when they were removed.
Previous to the receipt of the dispatch of the 2nd of August, not having been advised of what the army under my command was expected to do, or which way it was to move, if it moved at all, I sent the following dispatch:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
Berkeley, August 3, 1862.
I hear of sea steamers at Fort Monroe. Are they for removing my sick? If so, to what extent am I required to go in sending them off? There are not many who need go. As I am not in any way informed of the intentions of the Government in regard to this army, I am unable to judge what proportion of the sick should leave here, and must ask for specific orders.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN.
Major General H. W. HALLECK, Commanding U. S. Army, Washington
If the army was to retreat to Fort Monroe it was important that it should be unencumbered with any sick, wounded, or other men who might at all interfere with its mobility; but if the object was to operate directly on Richmond, from the position we then occupied, there were many cases of slight sickness which would speedily be cured and the patients returned to duty.
As the service of every man would be important in the event of a forward offensive movement, I considered it to be of the utmost consequence that I should know what was to be done. It was to ascertain this that I sent the dispatch of 11 p.m. on the 3rd, before receiving the following telegram:
WASHINGTON, August 3, 1862-7.45 p.m.
I have waited most anxiously to learn the result of your forced reconnaissance toward Richmond,and also whether all your sick have been sent away, and I can get no answer to my telegram.
It is determined to withdraw your army from the Peninsula to Aquia Creek. You