War of the Rebellion: Serial 015 Page 0325 Chapter XXIV. GENERAL REPORTS.

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corps, was a capricious and unnecessary act; when that officer was beheld invested by it with increased rank and command, it required but another step in this presumptive process of argument to hold him virtually responsible for the disasters of the Peninsular Campaign. To this separation primarily and chiefly associated with the memory of the first battle of Bull Run, the court ascribe the wide-spread discontent with General McDowell throughout the country, his own army, and that of the Potomac.

The court could not perform the duty devolved upon it, in this branch of the case, without a searching investigation into the causes of that separation and the influences through which it was accomplished.

This investigation has revealed, and the court find the fact to be, that the detention of two divisions of General McDowell's corps, amounting in the aggregate to about 20,000 men, and which was the whole force so detained, was not the result of caprice or any unworthy motive whatever, but was in execution of an order of the President, which preceded the departure of the Army of the Potomac to the Peninsula, which order had the substantial concurrence of all the corps commanders, which, under the circumstances at length disclosed before this court, the safety of the capital and common prudence enjoined, and which the President has reason to believe, from a report made to him by three general officers, viz, Generals Hitchcock, Thomas, and Wadsworth, who were on the spot and were specially instructed to investigate the facts, had not been complied with.

In this investigation and report of those generals and the communications which led to it General McDowell had no share whatever. He was not consulted. He expected and desired to proceed to the Peninsula, following the other portions of the Army of the Potomac.


Following the natural order of events, and the subjects which have been the occasion of the strongest dissatisfaction manifested toward General McDowell, the court has carefully and thoroughly investigated his operations as commander in the Department of the Rappahannock.

His army was not designed to operate beyond the limits of his own department, while the enemy continued in a position to menace and re-occupy it, including, as it did, the city of Washington.

Still, this attitude of defense was not agreeable to General McDowell; his mind was continually occupied with the idea of participating in the operations of the Army of the Potomac which were then progressing by the route of the Peninsula against Richmond.

With the concurrence of the President, which he yielded only when it appeared that the Army of the Rappahannock could be safely sent forward, it was ready to move from Fredericksburg against Richmond, by the way of Hanover Court-House, on the morning of the 26th of May.

The ambition of General McDowell was deeply interested in this movement. He had for a long time been devoting the most unremitted and energetic efforts to be adequately prepared for it.

So far from manifesting any reluctance to co-operate with the Army of the Potomac the desire to render such co-operation engrossed his mind and heart. Public opinion and censure were never more at fault than in imputing to General McDowell a want of earnest zeal and desire