War of the Rebellion: Serial 031 Page 1118 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XXXIII.

Search Civil War Official Records

our means of defense, they are nevertheless of very little use to an army when invading the country of an enterprising enemy. It appears to me that the circumstances of our army when at the White House on the Pamunkey were very similar to those of the same army now before Fredericksburg, on the Rappahannock. The destination of the army now is the same as it was before, the difficulties are the same, and the danger-that of being turned on the right flank-is the same.

The army has a railroad from Aquia Creek to Richmond. Shall it rely on this road for its supplies, or shall it build common roads and rely on its wagons?

Whether the fate of the present campaign may or may not hinge on the decision of this question cannot now be foretold, but it is a matter worthy of serious consideration.

If, after mature examination of all the reasons for and against both plans, one of them appears to offer more chances of success that the other, we are bound to decide in its favor, for the country has too much to lose to run any risks which can be avoided.

From what I have said in reference to the Peninsular campaign, you will already have perceived that I have arrived at the conclusion that we should abandon the idea of advancing on the line of the railroad, by that we should build common roads, and rely on our wagons for supplies. Let us look the question in the face.

If we advance on the line of this railroad, and rely upon it, we must rebuild the railroad bridge over the rappahannock at Fredericksburg-a difficult undertaking at this season of the year-and the army must lie idle while it is being reconstructed; and we must also expect to have to rebuild nearly the whole road to Richmond, including railroad bridges over the mattapony, the North Anna, the South Anna, and the Chickahominy, besides many smaller streams. These constructions, from their nature, will require much time.

Again, if we advance on the line of the railroad, we tie ourselves to it, and lose, therefore, all freedom of movement. We commit ourselves to a fixed line of operations, known to the enemy beforehand. We must conquer this line, we must defend it, we must stick by it, or we must starve.*

These are some of the principal disadvantages of the railroad line.

After we shall have beaten the enemy's army, and obtained possession of Richmond, the advantage of having a more speedy communication with Washington that can be afforded by the proposed common roads, or the James River, may justify the reconstruction of the road.

I come now to consider what in my opinion would be a better line of operations and a safer system of roads upon which our army might advance against Richmond. It will not be expected that I will elaborate all the details of the proposed plan, because I am not in possession of all the present circumstances of the army which might modify them, nor am I familiar with all the features of the country, or the exact nature of all the difficulties which would have to be overcome in carrying the proposed plan into execution; but in general terms my idea is this:

Let the army march down the Rappahannock River to Rappahannock, or some point in that vicinity, where there is sufficient water for our gunboats and sufficient room on the right bank for quartermaster's and

---------------

*The railroad is easily put out of order. The burning of a single bridge renders it useless for week; the displacement of a single rail courses an accident, and disarranges the whole road for a day. Besides, the cars cannot run to the various camps or depots as wagons can, and if we rely on the railroad for supplies, we by no means get rid of our wagons.

---------------