Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 22, 1862 (Wednesday): A Tale of Two Generals

Rappahannock River near Rappahannock Station (

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, October 22, [1862]-2.30 p. m.
(Received 2.55 p. m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
    Your dispatch of the 21st is received.* After full consultation, I have decided to move upon the line indicated by the President in his letter of the 13th instant, and have accordingly taken steps to execute the movement. I will inform you from time to time of the occupation of Leesburg, Hillsborough, Snickersville, &c. I shall need all the cavalry and other re-enforcements you can send me from Washington.

    Major-General, Commanding.

Richmond, Va.:
Mr. PRESIDENT: The time is approaching when it becomes necessary to consider what disposition of the troops can best be made for the winter. This must, of course, mainly depend upon the operations of the enemy. But, on the supposition that he will do little more this fall than to organize and instruct his new troops, and, as the winter advances, prepare to advance south of James River, which now seems to me his most probable plan, some position should be chosen with a view of procuring shelter and provisions for the army and forage for the horses. I have seen no indications to make me believe that General McClellan will advance up the Shenandoah Valley. When this army retires from its present position, I think it probable he will occupy Winchester with a sufficient force, and reconstruct the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Harper's Ferry and Cumberland. A portion of his force will, no doubt, be retained at Fairfax Court-House and Centreville, and my probably be advanced toward the Rappahannock. At any rate, it will be necessary for us to keep a sufficient force south of the Rappahannock and in front of Richmond, and also one in this valley. We must select points where there is sufficient wood for hutting and fuel for the troops, and within convenient distance from the railroad by which they can be provisioned. A portion of the troops may be placed south of James River, or, if circumstances require, it can operate in Georgia and South Carolina. I should be very glad if Your Excellency would consider this subject, and give me the benefit of your views, as well as such direction as you may see fit.
     We shall finish by to-morrow, I think, the destruction of as much of the Winchester and Harper's Ferry and Baltimore and Ohio Railroads within his valley as we can accomplish without bringing on a battle, which I do not desire to do so near the enemy's base of operations. I wish there was any possibility of my sending back the iron from these roads, but as there is move within my reach, I have been obliged to injure it as much as possible to prevent its being relaid. The rails have been taken up and burned, and the bridges and station-houses at Martinsburg, &c., destroyed.
    I have to-day ordered General Walker's division to cross the Blue Ridge at Ashby's Gap and take position in the vicinity of Upperville, with a view of checking the incursions of the enemy in that region and watching more closely him movements east of the mountains.
     I am, with great respect, Your Excellency's obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,

*See Part 1, Page 81.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 19, Part 2, Page 464, 675, respectively.

Having been told on the previous day the President would not modify his earlier memorandum to McClellan, which advocated a move overland to Richmond on an inside tracking (staying between Lee and Washington), and not moving would demonstrate a lack of initiative and a waste of good weather, McClellan begins to comply with the President's orders.  On the same day, Lee discusses the need to go into winter quarters based on the idea McClellan would not resume campaigning before the next spring.  In describing how he would divide and sustain his army, Lee advocates dispersing it in three parts (the Valley, the Rappahannock line, and South of the James).  Lee was probably right in assessing McClellan's disinclinations, but a change in command would soon render his calculations incorrect.


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