I learn that Company A, Engineers, has arrived at West Point, and request that it may be at once ordered to report to me here with all the serviceable tools and wagons in its possession, and that the recruits ready for it be directed to join it there. I would also request that volunteers may be transferred to this company and the three others recently authorized by Congress without the consent of their commanders. The vital importance of this class of troops renders the course I have suggested absolutely necessary.
Requesting your early attention to this letter, I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
Major-General, U. S. Army.
WASHINGTON, D. C., October 13, 1861.
Brigadier General J. G. BARNARD,
Chief Engineer Army of the Potomac, Washington:
SIR: In compliance with your request of yesterday, I proceed to state such views as strike me to be important, after one day's study, in relation to bridge and engineer trains and the organization of engineer troops.
If this army moves from here or from any other point into the territory of seceded States, the war becomes a war of invasion; and considering the numerous rivers that must be crossed, the natural and artificial obstructions of various kinds that must be overcome, the fortifications that may have to be invested and reduced before the war can be terminated successfully, to move forward without bridge equipage, without engineer troops and engineer trains, would be to invite defeat. As well might the army move without its artillery, and rely entirely on its infantry and cavalry, as to go forward without its engineers. Such a course, against such an enemy as we have to meet, we know would result in disgrace and disaster, in whatever numbers we may move.
But we have as yet no bridge equipage, no engineer trains, and no instructed engineer troops. It is true we have one untried pontoon bridge, and one organized company of engineer soldiers, but these are as a drop in a bucket when we contemplate our future wants.
What, then, are we to do? This becomes a grave question, and I could wish that it had been committed to wiser heads than mine.
The answer must be, however, we must make them. Our country is full of practical bridge-builders. We must secure their services. It is full of instructed labor of a kind so nearly akin to that which we require in engineer troops, that we must, if possible, embark it in that channel.
If time permitted, and we had authority from Congress to raise and equip a brigade of engineers, the pay being such as to command the services of the best mechanics in the country, and if we had a year in which to prepare to build our bridges, and learn how to use them under all circumstances, to organize and equip our trains, and to instruct our engineer troops, the problem would become comparatively simple. But we have not the time, nor have we the authority to do these things, as they ought to be done, unless the President shall so order it. We are here in the face of the enemy, and, as I understand the matter, something must be done speedily.
If I were the general commanding, and possessed no more light on the subject than I do at present, I would in the first place direct that