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10 Series I Volume XII-II Serial 16 - Second Manassas Part II

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Page 10 OPERATIONS IN . VA., W. VA., AND MD. Chapter XXIV.

more fully by mail. You, general, certainly could not have been more pained at receiving my order than I was at the necessity of issuing it. I was advised by high officers, in whose judgment I had great confidence, to make the order immediately on my arrival here, but I determined not to do so until I could learn your wishes from a personal interview, and even after that interview I tried every means in my power to avoid withdrawing your army, and delayed my decision as long as I dared to delay it. I assure you, general, it was not a hasty and inconsiderate act, but one that caused me more anxious thought than any other of my life. But after full and mature consideration of all the pros and cons, I was reluctantly forced to the conclusion that the order must be issued. There was to my mind no alternative.

Allow me to allude to a few facts in the case. You and your officers at our interview estimated the enemy's forces in and around Richmond at 200,000 men. Since then you and others report that they have received and are receiving large re-enforcements from the South. General Pope's army now covering Washington is only 40,000. Your effective force is only about 90,000. You are 30 miles from Richmond and General Pope 80 or 90, with the enemy directly between you, ready to fall with his superior numbers upon one or the other, as he may elect. Neither can re-enforce the other in case of such an attack. If General Pope's army be diminished to re-enforce you, Washington, Maryland, and Pennsylvania would be left uncovered and exposed. If your force be reduced to strengthen Pope, you would be too weak to even hold the position you now occupy should the enemy turn around and attack you in full force. In other words, the Army of the Potomac is split into two parts, with the entire force of the enemy directly between them. They cannot be united by land without exposing both to destruction, and yet they must be united. To send Pope's forces by water to the Peninsula is, under present circumstances, a military impossibility. The only alternative is to send the forces on the Peninsula to some point by water, say Fredericksburg, where the two armies can be united.

Let me now allude to some of the objections which you have urged. You say that to withdraw from the present position will cause the certain demoralization of the army, "which is now i excellent discipline and condition." I cannot understand why a simple change of position to a new, and by no means distant, base will demoralize an army in excellent discipline, unless the officers themselves assist in that demoralization, which I am satisfied they will not. Your change of front from your extreme right at Hanover Court-House to your present position was over 30 miles, but I have not heard that it demoralized your troops, notwithstanding the severe losses they sustained in effecting it.

A new base on the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg brings you within about 60 miles of Richmond, and secures a re-enforcement of 40,000 or 50,000 fresh and disciplined troops. The change with such advantages will, I think, if properly represented to your army, encourage rather than demoralize your troops. Moreover, you yourself suggested that a junction might be effected at Yorktown, but that a flank march across the Peninsula would be more hazardous than to retire to Fort Monroe. You will remember that Yorktown is 2 or 3 miles farther from Richmond than Fredericksburg is. Besides, the latter is between Richmond and Washington, and covers Washington from any attack by the enemy.

The political effect of the withdrawal may at first be unfavorable, but I think the public are beginning to understand its necessity, and


Page 10 OPERATIONS IN . VA., W. VA., AND MD. Chapter XXIV.

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