Today in History:

35 Series I Volume V- Serial 5 - West Virginia


Question. Did you receive an order from the General-in-Chief to make the reconnaissance?

Answer. No, sir.

Making a personal examination on the 23rd, I found that the position on the Virginia side at Edwards Ferry was not a tenable one, but did not think it wise to withdraw the troops by daylight. I therefore caused more artillery to be placed in position on the Maryland side to cover the approaches to the ground held by us, and crossed the few additional troops that the high wind permitted us to get over, so as to be as secure as possible against any attack during the day. Before nightfall all the precautions were taken to secure an orderly and quiet passage of the troops and guns. The movement was commenced soon after dark, under the personal supervision of General Stone, who received the order for the withdrawal at 7.15 p. m. By 4 a. m. of the 24th everything had reached the Maryland shore in safety.

A few days afterward I received information, which seemed to be authentic, to the effect that large bodies of the enemy had been ordered from Manassas to Leesburg to cut off our troops on the Virginia side. Their timely withdrawal had probably prevented a still more serious disaster.

I refer to General Stone's report of this battle, furnished the War Department, and his published testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, for further details.*

The records of the War Department show my anxiety and efforts to assume active offensive operations in the fall and early winter. It is only just to say, however, that the unprecedented condition of the roads and Virginia soil would have delayed an advance until February, had the discipline, organization, and equipment of the Army been as complete at the close of the fall as was necessary, and as I desired and labored against every impediment to make them.

While still in command only of the Army of the Potomac-namely, in early September-I proposed the formation of a corps of New Englanders for coast service in the bays and inlets of the Chesapeake and Potomac, to co-operate with my own command, from which most of its material was drawn.

On the 1st of November, however, I was called to relieve Lieutenant-General Scott in the chief and general command of the armies of the Union. The direction and nature of this coast expedition, therefore, were somewhat changed, as will soon appear in the original plan submitted to the Secretary of War and the letter of instructions later issued to General Burnside, its commander. The whole country, indeed, had now become the theater of military operations from the Potomac to beyond the Mississippi, and to assist the Navy in perfecting and sustaining the blockade it became necessary to extend these operations to points on the sea-coast, Roanoke Island, Savannah, and New Orleans. It remained also to equip and organize the armies of the West, whose condition was little better than that of the Army of the Potomac had been. The direction of the campaigns in the West and of the operations on the seaboard enabled me to enter upon larger combinations and to accomplish results the necessity and advantage of which had not been unforeseen, but which had been beyond the ability of the single army formerly under my command to effect.

The following letters and a subsequent paper, addressed to the Sec-


*See "Operations on the Potomac," etc., October 21-24, post; and Fry to McDowell, October 24, 1861, etc., in "Correspondence, etc.," post.