Today in History:

50 Series I Volume V- Serial 5 - West Virginia

Page 50 OPERATIONS IN MD., N. VA., AND W. VA. Chapter XIV.

satisfaction to his excellency again produced, as I supposed, the same result. The views which I expressed to the President were re-enforced by the result of a meeting of my general officers at headquarters. At stat meeting my plans were laid before the division commanders, and were approved by a majority of those present. Nevertheless, on the same day two important orders were issued by the President, without consultation with me. The first of these was the General War Order, Numbers 2, directing the formation of army corps and assigning their commanders.*

I had always been in favor of the principle of an organization into army corps, but preferred deferring its practical execution until some little experience in campaign and on the field of battle should show what general officers were most competent to exercise these high commands; for it must be remembered that we then had no officers whose experience in war on a large scale was sufficient to prove that they possessed the necessary qualifications. An incompetent commander of an army corps might cause irreparable damage, while it is not probable that an incompetent division commander could cause any very serious mischief. These views had frequently been expressed by me to the President and members of the Cabinet. It was therefore with as much regret as surprise that I learned the existence of this order.

The first order has been given above; the second order was as follows:


Numbers 3.
Washington, March 8, 1862.

Ordered, That no change of the base of operations of the Army of the Potomac shall be made without leaving in and about Washington such a force as, in the opinion of the General-in-Chief and the commanders of army corps, shall leave said city entirely secure.

That no more than two army corps (about fifty thousand troops) of said Army of the Potomac shall be moved en route for a new base of operations until the navigation of the Potomac from Washington to the Chesapeake Bay shall be freed from enemy's batteries and other obstructions, or until the President shall hereafter give express permission.

That any movement as aforesaid, en route for a new base of operations, which may be ordered by the General-in-Chief, and which may be intended to move upon the Chesapeake Bay, shall begin to move upon the bay as early as the 18th March instant, and the General-in-Chief shall be responsible that it moves as early as that day.

Ordered, That the Army and Navy co-operate in an immediate effort to capture the enemy's batteries upon the Potomac between Washington and the Chesapeake Bay.


L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General.

After what has been said already in regard to the effect of a movement to the Lower Chesapeake, it is unnecessary for me to comment upon this document, further than to say that the time of beginning the movement depended upon the state of readiness of the transports, the entire control of which had been placed by the Secretary of War in the hands of one of Assistant Secretaries, and not under the Quartermaster-General, so that, even if the movement were not impeded by the condition imposed in regard to the batteries on the Potomac, it could not have been in my power to begin it before the 18th of March, unless the Assistant Secretary of War had completed his arrangements by that time.

Meanwhile important events were occurring which materially modified the designs for the subsequent campaign. The appearance of the Merrimac off Old Point Comfort, and the encounter with the United States squadron on the 8th of March, threatened serious derangement


*See p. 18.

Page 50 OPERATIONS IN MD., N. VA., AND W. VA. Chapter XIV.