It will be observed that this order rendered it impossible for me to use the James River as a line of operations, and forces me to establish our depots on the Pamunkey and to approach Richmond from the north.
I had advised and preferred that re-enforcements should be sent by water, for the reasons that their arrival would be more safe and certain, and that I would be left free to rest the army on the James River whenever the navigation of that stream should be opened.
The land movement obliged me to expose my right in order to secure the junction, and as the order for General McDowell's march was soon countermanded, I incurred great risk, on which the enemy finally took advantage, and frustrated the plan of campaign. Had General McDowell joined me by water I could have approached Richmond by the James, and thus avoided the delays and losses incurred in bridging the Chickahominy, and would have had the army massed in one body, instead of being necessarily divided by that stream.
The following is a copy of the instructions to General McDowell:*
Washington, May 17, 1862.
GENERAL: Upon being joined by General Shields' division, you will move upon Richmond by the general route of the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad, co-operating with the forces under General McClellan now threatening Richmond from the line of the Pamunkey and York Rivers.
While seeking to establish as soon as possible a communication between your left wing and the right wing of General McClellan, you will hold yourself always in such position as to cover the capital of the nation against a sudden dash of any large body of the rebel forces.
General McClellan will be furnished with a copy of these instructions, and will be directed to hold himself in readiness to establish communication with your left wing and to prevent the main body of the enemy's army from leaving Richmond and throwing itself upon your column before a junction of the two armies is effected.
A copy of his instructions in regard to the employment of your force is annexed.
By order of the President:
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
Commanding Department of the Rappahannock.
Having some doubts, from the wording of the foregoing orders, as to the extent of my authority over the troops of General McDowell, and as to the time when I might anticipate his arrival, on the 21st of May I sent this dispatch:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Camp near Tunstall's Station, Va., May 21, 1862-11 p.m.
Your dispatch of yesterday, respecting our situation and the batteries of Fort Darling, was received while I was absent with the advance, where I have been all this day. I have communicated personally with Captain Goldsborough and by letter with Captain Smith. The vessels can do nothing without co-operation on land, which I will not be in condition to afford for several days. Circumstances must determine the propriety of a land attack.
It rained again last night, and rain on this soil soon makes the roads incredibly bad for amy transportation. I personally crossed the Chickahominy to-day at Bottom's Bridge Ford and went a mile beyond, the enemy being about half a mile in front. I have three regiments on the other bank, guarding the rebuilding of the bridge. Keyes' corps in on the New Kent road, near Bottom's Bridge. Heintzelman is on the same road, within supporting distance. Sumner is on the railroad, connecting right with
*An indorsement, in Secretary Stanton's handwriting, on the original draught of these instructions, states that they were prepared by General Meigs, on consultation of the President, Generals Totten, Meigs and Ripley, and Colonel Taylor. See also memorandum of May 17, in "Correspondence, etc.", Part III, p.176.