War of the Rebellion: Serial 005 Page 0055 Chapter XIV. GENERAL REPORTS.

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saw fit to make of my services, and so informed him in a note on the 12th of March, in which occur these words:

I believe I said to you some weeks since, in connection with some Western matters, that no feeling of self-interest or ambition should ever prevent me from devoting myself to the service. I am glad to have the opportunity to prove it, and you will find that, under present circumstances, I shall work just as cheerfully as before, and that no consideration of self will in any manner interfere with the discharge of my public duties. Again thanking you for the official and personal kindness you have so often evinced towards me, I am, & c.

On the 14th of March a reconnaissance of a large body of cavalry, with some infantry, under command of General Stoneman, was sent along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad to determine the position of the enemy, and, if possible, force his rear across the Rappahannock, but the roads were in such condition that, finding it impossible to subsist his men, General Stoneman was forced to return after reaching Cedar Run.

The following dispatch from him recites the result of this expedition:*

* * * * * * *

The main body of the army was on the 15th of March moved back to the vicinity of Alexandria, to be embarked, leaving a part of General Sumner's corps at Manassas until other troops could be sent to relieve it. Before it was withdrawn a strong reconnaissance, under General Howard, was sent towards the Rappahannock, the result of which appears in the following dispatch:


General S. WILLIAMS:

Express just received from General Howard. He drove the enemy across the Rappahannock Bridge, and is now in camp on this bank of and near the Rappahannock River. The enemy blew up the bridge in his retreat. There was skirmishing during the march, and a few shots exchanged by the artillery, without any loss on our part. Their loss, if any, is not known. General Howard will return to this camp to-morrow morning.



The line of the Rappahannock and the Manassas Gap Railroad was thus left reasonably secure from menace by any considerable body of the enemy.

On the 13th of March a council of war was assembled at Fairfax Court-House to discuss the military status. The President's Order, Numbers 3, of March 8, was considered. The following is a memorandum of the proceedings of the council:


Fairfax Court-House, March 13, 1862.

A council of the generals commanding army corps at the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac were of the opinion:

I. That the enemy having retreated from Manassas to Gordonsville, behind the Rappahannock and Rapidan, it is the opinion of the generals commanding army corps that the operations to be carried on will be best undertaken from Old Point Comfort, between the York and James Rivers, provided -

1st. That the enemy's vessel, Merrimac, can be neutralized;

2nd. That the means of transportation sufficient for an immediate transfer of the force to its new base can be ready at Washington and Alexandria to move down the Potomac; and

3rd. That a naval auxiliary force can be had to silence; or aid in silencing, the enemy's batteries on the York River.


* For report here omitted see "Reconnaissance to Cedar Run," March 14-16, in Reports, post.