and by a distance too great to enable the two parts to support each other, should either be attacked by the masses of the enemy while the other is held in check.
I should perhaps have dwelt more decidedly on the fact that the force left near Sangster's must be allowed to remain somewhere on that side of the Occoquan, until the decisive battle is over, so as to cover our retreat in the event of disaster, unless it should be decided to select intrench a new base somewhere near Dumfries, a proceeding involving much time.
After the passage of the Occoquan by the main army, this covering force could be drawn into a more central and less exposed position-say Briumstone Hil or nearer the Occoquan. In this latitude the weather will for a considerable period be very uncertain, and a movement commenced in force on roads in tolerably firm condition will be liable, almost certain, to be much delayed by rains and snow. It will therefore be next to impossible to surprise the enemy or take him at a disadvantage by rapid maneuvers. Our slow progres will enable him to divine our purposes and take his measures accordingly. The probability is, from the best information we possess, that the enemy has improved the roads leading to his lines of defense, while we will have to work as we advance.
Bearing in mind what has been said, and the present unprecedented and impassable condition of the roads, it will be evident that no precise period can be fixed upon for the movement on this line, nor can its duration be closely calculated; it seems certain that many weeks may elapse before it is possible to commence the march. Assuming the success of this operation, and the defeat of the enemy as certain, the question at once arises as to the importance of the results gained. I think these results would be confined to the possession of the field of battle, the evacuation of the line of the Upper Potomac by the enemy, and the moral effect of the victory-important results, it is true, but not decisive of the war, nor securing the destruction of the enemy's main army; for he could fall back upon other positions and fight us again and again, should the condition of his troops permit. If he is in no condition to fight us again out of the range of the entrenchments at Richmond, we could find it a very difficult and tedious matter to follow him up there, for he would destroy his railroad bridges and otherwise impede our progress through a region where the roads are as bad as they well can be, and we would probably find ourselves forced at last to change the whole theater of war, or to seek a shorter land route to Richmond, with a smaller available force, and at an expenditure of much more time than were we to adopt the short line at once. We would also have forced the enemy to concentrate his forces and perfect his defensive measures at the very points where it is desirable to strike him when least prepared.
II. The second base of operations available for the Army of the Potomac is that of the Lower Chesapeake Bay, which affords the shortest possible land route to Richmond, and strikes directly at the heart of the enemy's power in the east.
The roads in that region are passable at all seasons of the year. The country now alluded to is much more favorable for offensive operations than that in front of Washington (which is very unfavorable), much more level, more cleared land, the woods less dense, the soil more sandy, and the spring some two or three weeks earlier. A movement in force on that line obliges the enemy to abandon his entrenched position at Manassas, in order to hasten to cover Richmond and Norfolk. He must do this; for should he permit us to occupy Richmond; his destruction can be averted only by entirely defeating us in battle, in which he must be the assailant. This movement, if successful, gives us the capital, the communications, the supplies of the rebels. Norfolk would fall, all the waters of the Chesapeake would be ours, all Virginia would be in our power, and the enemy forced to abandon Tennessee and North Carolina. The alternative presented to the enemy would be to beat us in a position selected by ourselves, disperse, or pass beneath the Candine Forks.
Should we be beaten in battle, we have a perfectly secure retreat down the Peninsula upon Fort Monroe, with our flanks perfectly covered by the fleet. During the whole movement our left flank is covered by the water. Our right is secure, for the reason that the enemy is too distant to reach us in time. He can only oppose us in front. We bring our fleet into full play.
After a successful battle our position would be: Burnside forming our left, Norfolk held securely; our center connecting Burnside with Buell, both by Raleigh and Lynchburg; Buell in Eastern Tennessee and North Alabama; Halleck at Nashville and Memphis. The next movement would be to connect with Sherman on the left, by reducing Wilmington and Charleston; to advance our center into South Carolina and Georgia; to push Buell either towards Montgomery or to unite with the main army in Georgia; to throw Halleck southward to meet the naval expedition from New Orleans. We should then be in a condition to reduce at our leisure all the Southern sea ports; to occupy all the avenues of communication; to use the great outlet of the Mississippi; to re-establish our Government and arms in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas; to force the slaves to labor for our subsistence instead of that of the rebels; to bid defiance to all foreign interference. Such is the object I have ever had in view; this is the general plan which I hope to accomplish.