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enter upon a line of discussion which, if not directly forbidden by the Army Regulations,* was unfavorable to discipline and tended to injure the relations between the commander-in-chief and his subordinates.
* The following is the 26th Article of the Revised Regulations for the Army:
“Deliberations or discussions among any class of military men, having the object of conveying praise or censure or any mark of approbation toward their superiors or others in the military service, . . are strictly prohibited.”
Some of the officers examined seemed conscious of the difficult position in which they stood between their duty as subjects and their duty as officers. General Lander, for instance, was asked this question:
“ • If you will give us your opinion as a military man on that subject [the plan of the campaign), I will be obliged to you.'
“Ans.— It is against the Army Regulations and laws of Congress to discuss the views and plans of your superior offi
In answering this question,'” &c.- Report on the Conduct of the War, Part I. p. 160.
General Fitz-John Porter was asked,
“Should' the army “retire into winter quarters, or should it attempt an enterprise to dislodge the enemy?
“ Ans.—“That is a question I cannot answer.'
Ques.—'I merely ask your military opinion.' “Ans.—'I decline to give a military opinion on that point. I am in possession of information in regard to intended movements,-rather, a portion of General McClellan's plans, a small portion only; and I decline giving any information whatever in regard to future movements, or what they ought to be. I do not think it my business to do so, and we are forbidden by our regulations to discuss or express opinions on these matters.'"--Report on the Conduct of the War, Part I.
It is fair to state that at the very first meeting of the committee "it was agreed that, as a matter of honor, none of its members should reveal any thing that transpired in committee until such time as the injunction of secrecy should be removed;" but such a determination, by the cloud of mystery it threw around their proceedings, could only give rise to conjectures probably more injurious in their influence than the truth would have been if fully revealed. Besides, Congressional committees are human, and not hermetically scaled against the transmission of that kind of knowledge which has the charm of being forbidden.
Nor did the committee confine themselves to the task of taking and recording testimony, and the free discussion in their own room of military plans and movements, but, as they say in their Report, "they were in constant communication with the President and his Cabinet, and neglected no opportunity of at once laying before them the information acquired by them in the course of their investigations.” It is fair to presume that they gave advice as well as information; and, indeed, the journal of their proceedings shows that they did; and their advice was probably of weight in the conduct of the campaign. The following is an extract from the journal of the committee:
“February 26, 1862. “Pursuant to previous arrangement, the committee waited upon the President at eight o'clock on Tuesday evening, February 25. They made known to the President that, having examined many of the highest military
officers of the army, their statements of the necessity of dividing the great Army of the Potomac into
d'armée had impressed the committee with the belief that it was essential that such a division of that army should be made,– that it would be dangerous to move upon a formidable enemy with the present organization of the army. The application was enforced by many arguments drawn from the usages in France, and every other military nation in Europe, and the fact that, so far as the committee could learn, all our military officers agreed that our army would not be efficient unless such an organization was had. The President observed that he had never considered the organization of the army into army corps so essential as the committee seemed to represent it to be: still, he had long been in favor of such an organization. General McClellan, however, did not seem to think it so essential, though he had at times expressed himself as favorable to it. The committee informed the President that the Secretary of War had authorized them to say to him that he deemed such an organization necessary.
“ General McClellan was in favor of an organization into corps, but only proposed deferring it till time should show what officers were best fitted for corps commanders, —which seems reasonable enough. It was a measure which surely might have been postponed till the army had taken the field, at least.”
Whatever may have been the motives of the committee, or however earnest may have been their desire to sce the war brought to a speedy and successful termination, it is certain that, in point of fact, they were only aiding the enemy; for the interference of such a body, direct or indirect, with the conduct of the campaign, could
have no other effect than to impair the unity of action and concentration of purpose which are so essential to the success of an army.
We are now brought to the close of the year 1861 and the opening of 1862. The positions and numbers of the Confederate army in Eastern Virginia were as follows. At Norfolk and Yorktown there was a considerable force,-probably over thirty thousand men. The army before Washington occupied an extended line running from the southeast to the northwest. The left wing was at Leesburg and its vicinity, in force about forty-five hundred; and there were about thirteen thousand in the valley of the Shenandoah. The main body, comprising about eighty thousand men, was at Manassas and Centreville. At these points the positions were naturally very strong, with impassable streams and broken ground, affording ample protection to their flanks, and with lines of intrenchment sweeping all the available approaches. The right was at Brooks's Station, Dumfries, Lower Occoquan and vicinity, numbering about eighteen thousand. This wing of the army formed a support to several batteries on the Lower Potomac, extending from High Point and Cockpit Point to the Chopawampsic Creek. These batteries, greatly obstructing the navigation of the river, and to this extent practically block
ading Washington, were a source of great annoyance to thő Administration and of mortification to the people, and a strong desire was felt that a movement should be made to destroy them; but General McClellan was of the opinion that such an attempt would be attended with danger, and that the destruction of these batteries by our army would afford but temporary relief unless we were strong enough to hold the entire line of the Poto
The desired end could be secured either by driving the enemy from Manassas and Acquia Creek by superior force, or by maneuvring to compel him to vacate the position. The latter course was finally adopted, with success.
That an onward movement should be made to Richmond, and the rebellion be there attacked in its heart, was a point on which the public, the Administration, and the commander-in-chief were agreed; but by what route to make the approachwhether by the Lower Potomac and the Peninsula, or by a direct attack upon the positions at Manassas and Centreville—formed a fruitful subject of debate in the newspapers and among military men; and the discussion was all the more animated from the fact that whatever plans General McClellan had formed, or was forming, he did not make them known to others.
Thus far nothing had, apparently, disturbed the relations between General McClellan and the Administration, or changed the friendly feeling which had inspired the paragraph which has been quoted from the President's message. On the 14th day of