Saturday, August 6, 2011

August 6, 1861 (Tuesday): McClellan Fears An Attack

Modern view of the Cabin John Bridge (built in 1864)
Washington, D. C., August 6, 1861.

Brigadier General I. MCDOWELL,
Commanding Department of Northeastern Virginia, Arlington, Va.:

Information I have received induces me to caution you to be carefully on your guard to-night and to-morrow morning against an attack by the enemy. Let Hunt hold at least two batteries ready to move to this side, if necessary, at the shortest notice. Communicate this to Franklin, Kearny, Blenker, and Sherman.

Major-General, Commanding.

Series I., Vol. 5, Page 553

McClellan was cautious throughout the war and sometimes not without reason.  Given charge of the forces in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia his paramount mission was defense of the capital.  The specific reason for this particular concern is not stated, but a report from General McCall reports drum beats heard on the opposite side of the Potomac near Cabin John Creek.  Reconnaissance parties sent out by McCall disclosed that what were supposed to be rebel encampments were actually only clusters of whitewashed houses, cabins of local African-Americans, and fences.

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