May 26, 1862-[1 p. m.]
Major-General McDOWELL, Falmouth, Va.:
Dispatches from Geary just received have been sent you. Should not the remainder of your forces, except sufficient to hold the point at Fredericksburg, move this way-to Manassas junction or Alexandria? As commander of this department should you not be here? I ask these questions.
FALMOUTH, May 26, 1862.
His Excellency the PRESIDENT:
On my way in from Massaponax, where I had been to see to the advanced brigades, I received your telegram asking if the remainder of my forces here, except sufficient to hold this point, should not move toward Manassas or Alexandria, and if, as commander of the department, I should not be at Washington.
I have received notice that the advance of Major-General Shields' division reached Catlett's this forenoon. It will all have arrived there by to-morrow morning and advanced beyond in the direction of the enemy. Brigadier-General Duryea's brigade is near Manassas Junction. Brigadier-General Ricketts' brigade must now be at Alexandria. Brigadier-General Hartsuff, with Major-General Ord, commanding division, will arrive there to-night. The batteries and cavalry will reach there to-morrow. This, added to that under General Geary, makes an effective force of 21,000 men, outside of the command of Brigadier-General Wadsworth, in the forts around Washington, and I think an adequate force to meet that of enemy.
I have not thought my presence needed elsewhere as much as here, but since there is a sufficient doubt to cause you to ask the question I will immediately leave here to go to Washington and will arrive early to-morrow morning, but will not move my headquarters till I have seen you.
There seems to be an impression that the forces of the enemy who left here Saturday night and Sunday have gone to re-enforce Jackson, and are actually part of the many thousands now reported by General Geary. There is not a doubt here as to the direction taken by that force nor of its destination unless going to Richmond. I am confident in this to-day by news gathered from the front. Every one who has been in contact with their troops says but one thing: Richmond! Richmond! Richmond! to take part in the big battle that is about to come off. The enemy left this front by stealth in the night. They have been met since they left moving down to Richmond. They left so hurriedly and so fearful of pursuit as to leave a corpse unburied.
The forces in the upper part of the valley are those under Jackson, Ewell, and perhaps Ed. Johnson. Major-General Shields, who has had to do with them, estimates them at 16,000. Were I to draw more from here, I think the moral effect would be very great on the enemy and be most disadvantageous to us, and I would prefer not to move them without there is a greater necessity than I now see. If you will cause all available water transportation to be assembled at Aquia, it will, it seems to me, answer for all present purposes.
Major-General, Commanding Department.