War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0081 Chapter XXIII. GENERAL REPORTS.

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will take immediate measures to effect this, covering the movement the best you can. Its real object and withdrawal be concealed even from your own officers. Your material and transportation should be removed first. You will assume control of all the means of transportation within your reach, and apply to the naval forces for all the assistance they can render you. You will consult freely with the commander of these forces for all the means of transportation within your reach, and apply to the naval forces for all the assistance they can render you. You will consult freely with the commander of these forces. The entire execution of the movement is left to your discretion and judgment.

You will leave such forces as you may deem proper at Fort Monroe, Norfolk, and other places, which we must occupy.


Major-General, Commanding U. S. Army.

Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN.

I proceeded to obey this order with all possible rapidity, firmly impressed, however, with the conviction that the withdrawal of the Army of the Potomac from Harrison's Landing, where its communications had by the co-operation of the gunboats been rendered perfectly secure, would, at that time, have the most disastrous effect upon our cause.

I did not, as the commander of that army, allow the occasion to pass without distinctly setting forth my views upon the subject to the authorities in the following telegram:


Berkeley, August 4, 1862-12 m.

Your telegram of last evening is received. I must confess that it has caused me the greatest pain I ever experienced, for I am convinced that the order to withdraw this army to Aquia Creek will prove disastrous to our cause. I fear it will be a fatal blow. Several days are necessary to complete the preparations for so important a movement as this, and while they are in progress I beg that careful consideration may be given to my statements.

This army is now in excellent discipline and condition. We hold a debouche on both banks of the James River, so that we are free to act in any direction; and with the assistance of the gunboats I consider our communications as now secure.

We are 25 miles from Richmond, and are not likely to meet the enemy in force sufficient to fight a battle until we have marched 15 to 18 miles, which brings us practically within 10 miles of Richmond. Our longest line of land transportation would be from this point 25 miles, but with the aid of the gunboats we can supply the army by water during its advance certainly to within 12 miles of Richmond. At Aquia Creek we would be 75 miles from Richmond, with land transportation all the way.

From here to Fort Monroe is a march of about 70 miles, for I regard it as impracticable to withdraw this army and its material except by land.

The result of the movement would thus be a march of 145 miles to reach a point now only 25 miles distant, and to deprive ourselves entirely of the powerful aid of the gunboats and water transportation. Add to this the certain demoralization of this army which would ensue, the terribly depressing effect upon the people of the North, and the strong probability that it would influence foreign powers to recognize our adversaries, and these appear to me sufficient reasons to make it my imperative duty to urge in the strongest terms afforded by our language that this order may be rescinded, and that far from recalling this army, it may be promptly re-enforced to enable it to resume the offensive.

It may be said that there are no re-enforcements available. I point to Burnside's force; to that of Pope, not necessary to maintain a strict defensive in front of Washington and Harper's Ferry; to those portions of the Army of the West not required for a strict defensive there. Here, directly in front of this army, is the heart of the rebellion. It is here that all our resources should be collected to strike the blow which will determine the fate of the nation. All points of secondary importance elsewhere should be abandoned, and every available man brought here; a decided victory here and the military strength of the rebellion is crushed. It matters not what partial reverses we may meet with elsewhere. Here is the true defense of Washington. It is here, on the banks of the James, that the fate of the Union should be decided.

Clear in my convictions of right, strong in the consciousness that I have ever been, and still am, actuated solely by the love of my country, knowing that no ambitious or selfish motives have influenced me from the commencement of this war, I do now what I never did in my life before, I entreat that this order may be rescinded.

If my counsel does not prevail, I will with a sad heart obey your orders to the ut-