weakened forces. Our train was immense, and about 4 a.m. on the 2nd a heavy storm of rain began, which continued during the entire day and until the forenoon of yesterday. The roads became horrible. Troops, artillery, and wagons moved on steadily, and our whole army, men and material, was finally brought safe into this camp. The last of the wagons reached here at noon yesterday. The exhaustion was very great, but the army preserved its morale, and would have repelled any attack which the enemy was in condition to make.
We now occupy a line of heights about 2 miles from the James, a plain extending from there to the river. Our front is about 3 miles long. These heights command our whole position, and must be maintained. The gunboats can render valuable support upon both flanks. If the enemy attack us in front we must hold our ground as we best may and at whatever cost. Our positions can be carried only by overwhelming numbers. The spirit of the army is excellent. Stragglers are finding their regiments, and the soldiers exhibit the best results of discipline. Our position is by no means impregnable, especially as a morass extends on this side of the high ground from our center to the James on our right. The enemy may attack in vast numbers, and if so, our front will be the scene of a desperate battle, which, if lost, will be decisive. Our army is fearfully weakened by killed, wounded, and prisoners. I cannot now approximate to any statement of our losses, but we were not beaten in any conflict. The enemy were unable by their utmost efforts to drive us from any field.
Never did such a change of base, involving a retrograde movement, and under incessant attacks from a most determined and vastly more numerous foe, partake so little of disorder. We have lost no guns except twenty-five on the field of battle, twenty-one of which were lost by the giving way of McCall's division under the onset of superior numbers.
Our communications by the James River are not secure. There are points where the enemy can establish themselves with cannon or musketry and command the river, and where it is not certain that our gunboats can drive them out. In case of this, or in case our front is broken, I will still make every effort to preserve at least the personnel of the army, and the events of the last few days leave no question that the troops will do all that their country can ask. Send such re-enforcements as you can. I will do what I can. We are shipping our wounded and sick and landing supplies. The Navy Department should co-operate with us to the extent of its resources. Captain Rodgers is doing all in his power in the kindest and most efficient manner.
When all the circumstances of the case are known it will be acknowledged by all competent judges that the movement just completed by this army is unparalleled in the annals of war. Under the most difficult circumstances we have preserved our trains, our guns, our material, and, above all, our honor.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN.
To which I received the following reply:
WASHINGTON, July 5, 1862-9 a.m.
A thousand thanks for the relief your two dispatches, of 12 and 1 p.m. yesterday,* gave me. Be assured the heroism and skill of yourself and officers and men is, and forever will be, appreciated.
If you can hold your present position we shall hive the enemy yet.
Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN.
Commanding Army of the Potomac.
The following letters# were received from His Excellency the President:
Washington City, D. C. July 4, 1862
I understand your position as stated in your letter and by General Marcy. To re-enforce you so as to enable you to resume the offensive within a month, or even six weeks, is impossible. In addition to that arrived and now arriving from the Potomac, about 10,000 men, I suppose, and about 10,000 I hope you will have from Burnside very soon, and about 5,000 from Hunter a little later, I do not see how I can send you another man within a month. Under these circumstances the defensive for the present must be your only care. Save the army, first, where you are, if you can; secondly, by removal, if you must. You, on the ground, must be the judge as to which you will attempt and of the means for effecting it. I but give it as my opinion that with the
*For that of 1 p.m. see "Correspondence, etc.", Part III.
#Only one dispatch follows.