bring about a permanent restoration of the Union - a reunion by which the rights of both sections shall be preserved, and by which both parties shall preserve their self - respect while they respect each other.
In this report I have confined myself to a plain narrative of such facts as are necessary for the purposes of history. Where it was possible I have preferred to give these facts in the language of dispatches written at the time of their occurrence, rather than to attempt a new relation.
The reports of the subordinate commanders, hereto annexed, recite what time and space would fail me to mention here-those individual instances of conspicuous bravery and skill by which every battle was marked. To them I must especially refer, for without them this narrative would be incomplete and justice fail to be done. But I cannot omit to tender to my corps commanders, and to other general officers under them, such ample recognition of their cordial co-operation and their devoted services as those reports abundantly avouch. I have not sought to defend the army which I had the honor to command, nor myself, against the hostile criticisms once so rife. It has seemed to me that nothing more was required than such a plain and truthful narrative to enable those whose right it is to form a correct judgment on the important matters involved.
This report is, in fact, the history of the Army of the Potomac.
During the period occupied in the organization of that army, it served as a barrier against the advance of a lately victorious enemy while the fortification of the capital was in progress, and under the discipline which it then received it acquired strength, education, and some of that experience which is necessary to success in active operations, and which enabled it afterward to sustain itself under circumstances trying to the most heroic men. Frequent skirmishes occurred along the lines, conducted with great gallantry, which inured our troops to the realities of war.
The army grew into shape but slowly, and the delays which attended on the obtaining of arms, continuing late into the winter of 1862-'62,were no less trying to the soldiers than to the people of the country. Even at the time of the organization of the Peninsular campaign some of the finest regiments were without rifles; nor were the utmost exertions on the part of the military authorities adequate to overcome the obstacles to active service.
When at length the army was in condition to take the field, the Peninsular campaign was planned, and entered upon with enthusiasm by officers and men. Had this campaign been followed up as it was designed, I cannot doubt that it would have resulted in a glorious triumph to our arms and the permanent restoration of the power of the Government in Virginia and North Carolina, if not throughout the revolting States. It was, however, otherwise ordered, and, instead of reporting a victorious campaign, it has been my duty to relate the heroism of a reduced army, sent upon an expedition into an enemy's country, there to abandon one and originate another and new plan of campaign, which might and would have been successful if supported with appreciation of its necessities, but which failed because of the repeated failure of promised support at the most critical and, as it proved, the most fatal moments. That heroism surpasses ordinary description. Its illustration must be left for the pen of the historian in times of calm reflection, when the nation shall be looking back to the past from the midst of peaceful days. For me, now, it is sufficient to say that my comrades were victors on every field save one, and there the endurance of but little more than a single corps accomplished the object of the fighting,