cannot advance until we get command of either York River or James River. The efficient co-operation of the Navy is therefore absolutely essential,a nd so I considered it when I voted to charge our base from the Potomac to Fort Monroe.
An iron-clad boat must attack Yorktown, and if several strong gunboats could be sent up James River also our success will be certain and complete and the rebellion will soon be put down.
On the other hand, we must against the enemy's works with heavy artillery, and a great waste of time, life, and material.
If we break through and advance, both our flanks will be assailed from two great water-courses in the hands of the enemy; our supplies would give out; and the enemy, equal, if not superior, in numbers, would, with the other advantages, beat and destroy this army.
The greatest master of the art of war has said "that if you would invade a country, successfully, you must have one line of operations and one army under one general." But what is our condition? The State of Virginia is made to constitute the command, in part or wholly, of some six generals, viz: Fremont, Banks, McDowell, Wool, Burnside, and McClellan, besides the scrap over the Chesapeake in the care of Dix.
The great battle of the war is to come off here. If we win it, the rebellion will be crushed; if we lose it, the consequence will be more horrible than I care to tell. The plan of campaign I voted for, if carried out with the means proposed, will certainly succeed. If any of the means proposed are withheld or diverted, I deem it due to myself to say that our success will be uncertain.
It is no doubt agreeable to the commander of the First Corps t have a separate department, and as this letter advocates his return to General McClellan's command, it is proper to state that I am not at all influenced by personal regard or dislike to any of my senior in rank. If I were to credit all the opinions which have been poured into my ears, I must believe that in regard to my present fine command I owe much to General McDowell and nothing to General McClellan. But I have disregarded all such officiousness, and I have from last July to the present day supported General McClellan and obeyed all his orders with as hearty a good-will as though he had been my brother or the friend to whom I owed most. I shall continue to do so to the last, and so long as he is my commander; and I am not desirous to displace him, and would not if I could. He left Washington with the understanding that he was to execute a definite plan of campaign with certain prescribed means. The plan was good and the means sufficient, and without modification the enterprise was certain of success. But with the reduction of force and means the plan is entirely changed, and is now a bad plan, with means insufficient for certain success.
Do not look upon this communication as the offspring of despondency. I never despond, and when you see me working the hardest you may be sure that fortune is frowning upon me. I am working now to my utmost.
Please show this letter to the President, and I should like also that Mr. Stanton should know its contents.
Do me the honor to write to me as soon as you can, and believe me, with perfect respect, your most obedient servant,
E. D. KEYES,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Fourth Army Corps.
Hon. IRA HARRIS, United States Senate.
On the 7th of April, and before the arrival of the divisions of Generals Hooker, Richardson, and Casey, I received the following dispatches from the President and Secretary of War:
WASHINGTON, April 6, 1862-8 p.m.
General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN:
Yours of 11 a.m. to-day received.* Secretary of War informs me that the forwarding of transportation, ammunition, and Woodbury's brigade, under your orders, is not, and will not, be interfered with. You now over 100,000 troops with you, independent of General Wool's command. I think you better break the enemy's line from Yorktown to Warwick River at once. This will probably use time as advantageously as you can.+
WASHINGTON, April 6, 1862-2 p.m.
General GEORGE B. McCLELAN:
The president directs me to say that your dispatch to him has been received. General Summer's corps is on the road to join you and will go forward as fast as possible.
*See "Correspondence,etc.," Part III.
+Reply on p.11.