the Peninsula, nor until the order was given for my return from Harrison's Landing was Washington again threatened.
Surrounded at Washington was with numerous and strong fortifications, well garrisoned, it was manifest that the enemy could not afford to detach from his main army a force sufficient to assail them.
It is proper to remark, that just previous to my departure for Fort Monroe I sent my chief of staff to General Hitchcock, who at that time held staff relations with his excellency the President and the Secretary of War, to submit to him a list of the troops I proposed to leave for the defense of Washington, and the positions in which I designed posting them. General Hitchcock, after glancing his eye over the list, observed that he was not the judge of what was required for defending the capital; that General McClellan's position was such as to enable him to understand the subject much better than he did, and he presumed that if the force designated was in his judgment sufficient, nothing more would be required. He was then told by the chief of staff that I would be glad to have his opinion, as an old and experienced officer. To this he replied, that as I had had the entire control of the defenses for a long time, I was the best judge of what was needed, and he declined to give any other expression of opinion at that time.
On the 2nd of April, the day following my departure for Fort Monroe, Generals Hitchcock and Thomas were directed by the Secretary of War to examine and report whether the President's instructions to me of March 8 and 13 had been complied with. On the same day their report was submitted, and their decision was -
That the requirement of the President that this city (Washington) shall be left entirely secure has not been fully complied with.
The President, in his letter to me on the 9th of April, says:
And now allow me to ask, do you really think I should permit the line from Richmond via Manassas Junction to this city to be entirely open except what resistance could be presented by less than 20,000 unorganized troops?
In the report of Generals Hitchcock and Thomas, alluded to, it is acknowledged that there was no danger of an attack from the direction of Manassas, in these words:
In regard to occupying Manassas Junction, as the enemy have destroyed the railroads leading to it, it may be fair to assume that they have no intention of returning for the reoccupation of their late position, and therefore no large force would be necessary to hold that position.
That, as remarked before, was precisely the view I took of it, and this was enforced by the subsequent movements of the enemy.
In another paragraph of the report it is stated that 55,000 men was the number considered adequate for the defense of the capital. That General McClellan, in his enumeration of the forces left, had included Banks' army corps, operating in the Shenandoah Valley, but whether this corps should be regarded as available for the protection of Washington they decline to express an opinion. At the time this report was made the only enemy on any approach to Washington was Jackson's force, in front of Banks, in the Shenandoah Valley, with the Manassas Gap Railroad leading form this valley to Washington; and it will be admitted, I presume, that Banks, occupying the Shenandoah Valley, was in the best position to defend, not only that approach to Washington, but the road to Harper's Ferry and above. The number of troops left by me for the defense of Washington, as given in my letter to the Adjutant-General, were taken from the latest official returns of that.