War of the Rebellion: Serial 027 Page 0089 Chapter XXXI. GENERAL REPORTS.

Search Civil War Official Records

spirits. I doubt whether during the whole period that I had the honor to command the Army of the Potomac it was in such excellent condition to fight a great battle. When I gave up the command to General Burnside the best information in our possession indicated that Longstreet was immediately in our front near Culpeper; Jackson, with one, perhaps both, of the Hills, near Chester and Thornton's Gaps, with the mass of their force west of the Blue Ridge.

The reports from General Pleasonton, on the advance, indicated the possibility of separating the two wings of the enemy's forces, and either beating Longstreet separately or forcing him to fall back at least upon Gordonsville, to effect his junction with the rest of the army.

The following is from the report of General Pleasonton:

At this time and from the 7th instant my advance pickets were at Hazel River, within 6 miles of Culpeper, besides having my flank pickets forward Chester and Thornton's Gaps extended to Gaines' Cross-Roads and Newby's Cross-Roads, with numerous patrols in the direction of Woodville, Little Washington, and Sperryville.

The information gained from these parties, and also from deserters, prisoners, contrabands, as well as citizens, established the fact of Longstreet with his command being at Culpeper, while Jackson with D. H. Hill, with their respective commands, were in the Shenandoah Valley, on the western side of the Blue Ridge, covering Chester and Thornton's Gaps, and expecting us to attempt to pass through and attack them.

As late as the 17th of November a contraband just from Strasburg came in my camp and reported that D. H. Hill's corps was 2 miles beyond that place, on the railroad to Mount Jackson. Hill was tearing up the road and destroying the bridges, under the impression that we intended to follow into that valley, and was en route for Staunton. Jackson's corps was between Strasburg and Winchester. Ewell and A. P. Hill were with Jackson. Provisions were scarce, and the rebels were obliger to keep moving to obtain them.

Had I remained in command, I should have made the attempt to divide the enemy as before suggested, and could he have been brought to a battle within reach of my supplies, I cannot doubt that the result would have been a brilliant victory for our army.

On the 10th of November General Pleasonton was attacked by Longstreet with one division of infantry and Stuart's cavalry, but repulsed the attack. This indicates the relative position of our army and that of the enemy at the time I was relieved from the command.

It would be impossible to participate in operations such as those described in the foregoing pages without forming fixed opinions upon subjects connected with the organization of our armies and the general conduct of military operations.

This report would be incomplete without a brief allusion to some general considerations which have been firmly impressed upon me by the events which have occurred. To my mind the most glaring defect in our armies is the absence of system in the appointment and promotion of general and other officers and the want of means for the theoretical instruction of the mass of officers. The expansion of the army was so great and so rapid at the commencement of the existing was that it was perhaps impossible, in the great scarcity of instructed officers, to have adopted any other course than that which was pursued; but the time has arrived when measures may be initiated to remedy existing defects and provide against their recurrence.

I think that the army should be regarded as a permanent one; that is to say, its affairs should be administered precisely as if all who belonged to it had made it their profession for life, and those rules for promotion, & c., which have been found necessary in the best foreign armies to excite honorable emulation, produce an esprit de corps, and secure efficiency, should be followed by us. All officers and soldiers