Today in History:

27 Series I Volume XI-I Serial 12 - Peninsular Campaign Part I


of their military officers, among whom there may be said to be no Union feeling, as there is also very little among the higher class of citizens in the seceding States.

I have found no fighting men left in this Peninsula. All are in the ranks of the opposing foe.

Even if more troops than I now have should prove unnecessary for purposes of military occupation, our greatest display of imposing force in the capital of the rebel Government will have the best effect. I most respectfully and earnestly urge upon Your Excellency that the opportunity has come for striking a fatal blow at the enemies of the Constitution, and I beg that you will cause this army to be re-enforced without delay by all the disposable troops of the Government. I ask for every man that the War Department can send me [by water*]. Any commander of the re-enforcements whom Your Excellency may designate will be acceptable to me, whatever expression I may have heretofore addressed to you on that subject.

I will fight the enemy, whatever their force may be, with whatever force I may have, and I firmly believe that we shall beat them, but our triumph should be made decisive and complete. The soldiers of this army love their Government and will fight well in its support. You may rely upon them. They have confidence in me as their general and in you as their President. Strong re-enforcements will at least save the lives of many of them. The greater our force, the more perfect will be our combinations and the less our loss.

For obvious reasons I beg you to give immediate consideration to this communication, and to inform me fully at the earliest moment of your final determination.




President of the United States.

To which, on the 18th of May, I received this reply:+

WASHINGTON, May 18 [17]-2 p.m.

GENERAL: Your dispatch to the President asking re-enforcements has been received and carefully considered.

The President is not willing to uncover the capital entirely, and it is believed that even if this were prudent, it would require more time to effect a junction between your army and that of the Rappahannock by the way of the Potomac and York Rivers than by a land march. In order, therefore, to increase the strength of the attack upon Richmond at the earliest moment General McDowell has been ordered to march upon that city by the shortest route. He is ordered-keeping himself always in position to save the capital from all possible attack-so to operate as to put his left wing in communication with your right wing, and you are instructed to co-operate, so as to establish this communication as soon as possible, by extending your right wing to the north or south of the Pamunkey River. In any event you will be able to prevent the main body of the enemy's forces from leaving Richmond and falling in overwhelming force upon General McDowell. He will move with between 35,000 and 40,000 men.

A copy of the instructions to General McDowell are with this. The specific task assigned to his command has been to provide against any danger to the capital of the nation.

At your earnest call for re-enforcements he is sent forward to co-operate in the reduction of Richmond, but charged, in attempting this, not to uncover the city of Washington; and you will give no order, either before or after your junction, which can put him out of position to cover this city. You and he will communicate with each other by telegraph or otherwise as frequently as may be necessary for sufficient co-operation. When General McDowell is in position on your right his supplies must be drawn from West Point, and you will instruct your staff officers to be prepared to supply him by that route.

The President desires that General McDowell retain the command of the Department of the Rappahannock and of the forces with which he moves forward.

By order of the President:


Secretary of War.

Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN,

Commanding Army of the Potomac, before Richmond.


*The words "by water" are in the dispatch as received at War Department.

+See also Lincoln to McClellan, May 15, in "Correspondence, etc." Part III.