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"Your request will have immediate attention." Governor Fairbanks of Vermont: “One thousand men are ready to march.” Governor Randall : “ The call for one regiment will be promptly responded to, and further calls when made." Governor Washburne of Maine : “ The people of Maine of all parties will rally with alacrity to the maintenance of the Government and the Union.” Distinguished citizens of Cincinnati: “Men of all grades enrolling. Utmost enthusiasm prevails. There is no sympathy with treason: God bless you !”
Not all the responses of governors were to this effect, however. For instance Governor Letcher of Virginia replied on the 19th, refusing to obey, and saying: “Virginia accepts the issue of war.” On the 18th five hundred Pennsylvania troops reached the Capitol. On the 19th at nightfall there was great cheering, and the gallant Sixth Massachusetts—the first organized regiment to respond to the President's call,— bruised and bleeding from the brickbats of the Baltimore rioters, wheeled into Pennsylvania Avenue, and took its way to the Capitol. Among the spectators was Lieutenant-Colonel Butterfield of the famous New York Seventh, who had come on in advance of his regiment to secure quarters for them.
Let us visit the Massachusetts men at their bivouac in the Capitol. At midnight we set out with the second patrol of Colonel Cassius M. Clay's command. As we approach the magnificent edifice a sentinel orders us to halt, but we give the countersign and are allowed to pass.
Two ladies in
charge of a sergeant meet us near the entrancenurses going in to care for the wounded men of the Sixth. We hardly recognize the portico of peaceful days, for it is barricaded with barrels of cement placed endwise, and piled ten feet high between the marble piers and columns. Entering we meet watchful sentries in every corridor, and are directed to the Senate wing, where the Massachusetts men, thoroughly exhausted by four sleepless nights of travel, have thrown themselves to rest. It is a strange scene presented in the Senate chamber and the corridors adjacent ;
stacked in the corners, uniformed officers and soldiers stretched on the senatorial sofas, chairs, on the carpet and tiled floors—their knapsacks for a pillow, lost in deepest slumber. On the morrow, some of them will write home in strains of the purest sentiment, of their magnificent quarters, and of their emotions on ascending the grand staircases, and traversing the stately chambers, where had resounded the voices of the noblest orators and statesmen of the republic.
In other parts of the building are quartered the five hundred Pennsylvania troops and a company of United States artillery—for all through these opening weeks of the struggle, the fear is that the enemy may by a sudden dash gain possession of the Capitol, and there undertake to dictate terms to the country. The White House, too, and all the public buildings are strongly guarded by detachments of troops. The gallant Seventh Regiment of New York arrives on April 25th, and marches down Pennsylvania Avenue to the music of its splendid band, to salute the President. It reports the Massachusetts Eighth as holding Annapolis, and the Seventy-First, Twelfth, Eighth, Sixty-ninth, and Fifth New York as on the way. From this time, regiments pour in unceasingly, and the safety of the capital is assured. But the North was impatient for an advance. It also underrated the spirit and resources of its opponent. At length, on the 17th of July, General Scott ordered the army to march against the enemy, who was known to be entrenched on the banks of Bull Run and about Manassas Junction, some thirty miles southwest of Washington. General McDowell commanded, leading an army of about thirty thousand men. The march of the various regiments from their camps and through the city formed a stirring and brilliant spectacle. They were citizen soldiers from shop, farm, store, and counting-house, diverse in drill, equipment, and uniform, yet their soldierly bearing and the military ardor in their faces were remarked. Above them bright standards waved, and inspiring strains of martial music filled the air. Ladies and gentlemen in carriages accompanied the troops on their way. Behind came long files of wagons, the horses attached to them neighing and trampling under the attacks of the flies and a midsummer sun.
In the city news of its fortunes was anxiously awaited. Late in the evening of July 21st, an army correspondent arrived from the front, dusty, breathless, without his hat, but bearing important news, the battle was then being fought along the line of Bull Run. In a small room on Newspaper Row he dictated, while a brother journalist wrote, his account. Every thing was favorable to the Union arins. It told of rapid marchings of troops, attacks, retreats, firing of guns, flank movements, killed and wounded, personal experiences in the imminent deadly breach. The account was finished at 11.30 P. M., but before giving it to the wires, the two men went out in search of later news. In front of the Metropolitan Hotel, then called Brown's, a hackload of passengers from the front had just alighted, and one, in response to eager inquiries, began giving his own experience, tracing in the sand with his cane by the light of the moon the movements of the brigades. There had been reverses for the Union Army, he said, and a panic. A large portion of the troops were in disgraceful flight toward their entrenchments around the city. The news proved but too true, and instead of victory, the correspondents telegraphed a disgraceful defeat.
When too late, the leaders perceived that the army had been pushed forward too soon, before it was properly organized, and that to be effective it must be drilled, officered, and disciplined. General Scott, laboring under the infirmities of years, did not feel equal to the task, and General George B. McClellan, a young officer whose organizing and executive talents had attracted his attention, was appointed to perform the work. McClellan's first act was to make a careful survey of the field—with not very encouraging results.
An army of fifty thousand infantry, one thousand cavalry, and six hundred and fifty artillery had been gathered for the defence of the capital, but was without camp equipment or proper stores. But six earthworks had been thrown up to protect the city, all on the Virginia side of the Potomac-Fort Corcoran with its two redoubts Bennett and Haggerty, the whole mounting twenty-three guns, on the heights overlooking Georgetown; Fort Runyon, of twenty-three guns, and Fort Albany, with eighteen, at the farther end of the Long Bridge ; and Fort Ellsworth, of twenty-four guns, on Shuter's Hill, commanding Alexandria. There were no defences of importance on the Maryland side.
The camps had been placed without regard to purposes of defence or location. Many of the roads were unpicketed. There was no organization into brigades or divisions. There was no artillery establishment, no corps of engineers, no medical, quartermaster, subsistence, ordnance, or provost-marshal's departments. The crude material of an army excellent in character was there, and nothing more. For its organization in an unprecedentedly short period into one of the finest armies of the world, the nation is indebted to General McClellan and Secretary-ofWar Cameron.
From this time forward to the close of the war Washington presented much the appearance of an entrenched camp and military hospital. By October 15, 1861, over one hundred and fifty-two thousand men were encamped in and around the city. In October, 1862, the army had increased to two hundred thousand men, and there were seventy large general hospitals sheltering thirty thousand sick and wounded soldiers.