sharing with him fully his anxiety for prompt action, on the 21st of October I telegraphed to the General-in-Chief as follows:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
October 21, 1862.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Since the receipt of the President's order to move on the enemy,* I have been making every exertion to get this army supplied with clothing absolutely necessary for marching.
This, I am happy to say, is now nearly accomplished. I have also, during the same time, repeatedly urged upon you the importance of supplying cavalry and artillery horses, to replace those broken down by hard service, and steps have been taken to insure a prompt delivery. Our cavalry, even when well supplied with horses, is much inferior in numbers to that of the enemy, but in efficiency has proved itself superior. So forcibly has this been impressed upon our old regiments by repeated successes, that the men are fully persuaded that they are equal to twice their number of rebel cavalry. Exclusive of the cavalry force now engaged in picketing the river, I have not at present over about 1,000 horses for service. Officers have been sent in various directions to purchase horses, and I expect them soon. Without more cavalry horses our communications from the moment we march would be at the mercy of the large cavalry force of the enemy, and it would not be possible for us to cover our flanks properly, or to obtain the necessary information of the position and movements of the enemy in such a way as to insure success. My experience has shown the necessity of a large and efficient cavalry force.
Under the foregoing circumstances, I beg leave to ask whether the President desires me to march on the enemy at once, or to await the reception of the new horses, every possible step having been taken to insure their prompt arrival.
GEO. B. MCCLELLAN,
On the same day General Halleck replied as follows:
WASHINGTON, October 21, 1862 - 3 p. m.
Major General GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN:
Your telegram of 12 m. has been submitted to the President. He directs me to say that he has no change to make in his order of the 6th instant. If you have not been and are not now in condition to obey it, you will be able to show such want of ability. The President does not expect impossibilities, but he is very anxious that all this good weather should not be wasted in inactivity. Telegraph when you will move, and on what lines you propose to march.
H. W. HALLECK,
From the tenor of this dispatch I conceived that it was left for my judgment to decide whether or not it was possible to move with safety to the army at that time, and this responsibility I exercised with the more confidence in view of the strong assurances of his trust in me as commander of that army with which the President had seen fit to honor me during his last visit.
The cavalry requirements, without which an advance would have been in the highest degree injudicious and unsafe, were still wanting. The country before un was an enemy's country, where the inhabitants furnished to the enemy every possible assistance, providing food for men and forage for animals, giving all information concerning our movements, and rendering every aid in their power to the enemy's cause. It was manifest that we should find it, as we subsequently did, a hostile district, where we could derive no aid from the inhabitants that would justify dispensing with the active co-operation of an efficient cavalry force. Accordingly, I fixed upon the 1st of November as the earliest date at which the forward movement could well be commenced.
* See Addenda to Halleck's report, p. 10.
6 R R-VOL XIX, PT I