determination to carry out the plans of the Government with all the energy and with all the ability of which I was master.
Previous to taking the field I issued the following orders, which set our very fully the policy which I considered advisable, and which at that time received the sanction of the Government, and, so far as I know, the approval of the country.
The order requiring the troops to subsist upon the country in which their operations were conducted has, with a willful disregard of its terms, been construed, greatly to my discredit, as authorizing indiscriminate robbery and plunder; yet the terms of this order are so specific as to the manner and by whom all property or subsistence needed for the use of the army should be seized, and the order is so common in the history of warfare, that I have been amazed that it could have been so misinterpreted and misunderstood. It is therefore submitted here for the calm examination of the Government and of the public.
I believed then and believe now that the policy there laid down was wise and just, and was well calculated to secure efficient and rapid operations of the army, and, in case of reverse, to leave the enemy without the means of subsisting in the country over which our army had passed, and over which any pursuit must be conducted. The long delay and embarrassment of the army under General Lee, in its subsequent movements toward Washington, occasioned largely by the want of supplies taken from the country under this order, fully justified it wisdom.
It was determined, before I left Washington to take the field in Virginia, that the union of the Armies of Virginia and of the Potomac was absolutely essential both to the safety of the national capital and to the further successful prosecution of the operations against Richmond. The mission of the army under my command, therefore, was to cover as far as possible the front of Washington and make secure the valley of the Shenandoah, and so operate upon the enemy's lines of communication to the west and northwest as to force him to make such heavy detachments from his main force at Richmond as would enable the Army of the Potomac to withdraw from its position at Harrison's Landing and to take shipping for Aquia Creek or for Alexandria. If, as was feared, the enemy should throw his whole force in the direction of Washington, it became my duty to resist his advance at all hazards, and so to delay and embarrass his movements as to gain all the time possible for the arrival of the Army of the Potomac behind the Rappahannock. Meantime, before the arrival of General Halleck, I instructed General King, at Fredericksburg, to send forward detachments of his cavalry to operate upon the line of the Virginia Central Railroad, and as far as possible to embarrass and destroy communication between Richmond and the valley of the Shenandoah. Several cavalry expeditions which that officer dispatched for the purpose were completely successful, and succeeded in breaking up the railroad at several points upon several occasions. At the same time I directed Major-General Banks to send forward an infantry brigade with all his cavalry to march rapidly upon Culpeper Court-House, and after taking possession of that place to push forward cavalry toward the Rapidan, in the direction of Gordonsville. On the 14th of July after this movement was successfully accomplished, I directed General Banks to push forward during the night of that day the whole of his cavalry force, under Brigadier-General Hatch, from Culpeper, with orders to take possession of Gordonsville, and to destroy the railroad for 10 or 15