|Chantilly Battlefield 1907 (Brettshulte.net)|
Numbers 95. CENTREVILLE, September 1-8.50 a. m.
All was quiet yesterday and so far this morning. My men are resting; they need it much. Forage for our horses is being brought up. Our cavalry is completely broken down, so that there are not five horses to a company that can raise a trot. The consequence is that I am forced to keep considerable infantry along the roads in my rear to make them secure, and even then it is difficult to keep the enemy's cavalry off the roads. I shall attack again to-morrow if I can; the next day certainly. I think, it my duty to call your attention to the unsoldierly and dangerous conduct of many brigade and some division commanders of the forces sent here from the Peninsula. Every word and act and intention is discouraging, and calculated to break down the spirits of the men and produce disaster. One commander of a corps, who was ordered to march from Manassas Junction to join me near Groveton, although he was only 5 miles distant, failed to get up at all, and, worse still, fell back to Manassas without a fight, and in plain hearing, at less than 3 miles' distance, of a furious battle, which raged all day. It was only in consequence of peremptory orders that he joined me next day. One of his brigades, the brigadier-general of which professed to be looking for his division, absolutely remained all day at Centreville, in plain view of the battle, and made no attempt to join. What renders the whole matter worse, these are both officers of the Regular Army, who do not hold back from ignorance or fear. Their constant talk, indulged in publicly and in promiscuous company, is that the Army of the Potomac will not fight; that they are demoralized by withdrawal from the Peninsula, &c. When such example is set by officers of high rand the influence is very bad amongst those in subordinate stations.
You have hardly an idea of the demoralization among officers of high rank in the Potomac Army, arising in all instances from personal feeling in relation to changes of commander-in-chief and others. These men are mere tools or parasites, but their example is producing, and must necessarily produce, very disastrous results. You should know these things, as you alone can stop to. Its source is beyond my reach, though its effects are very perceptible and very dangerous. I am endeavoring to do all I can, and will most assuredly put them where they shall fight or run away. My advice to you-I give it with freedom, as I know you will not misunderstand it-is that, in view of any satisfactory results, you draw back this army to the entrenchments in front of Washington, and set to work in that secure place to reorganize and rearrange it. You may avoid great disaster by doing so. I do not consider the matter except in a purely military light, and it is bad enough and grave enough to make some action very necessary. When there is no heart in their leaders, and every disposition to hang back, much cannot be expected from the men.
Please hurry forward cavalry horses to me under strong escort. I need them badly-worse than I can tell you.
WASHINGTON, September 1, 1862.
General Pope was ordered this morning to fall back to line of fortifications and has been moving all day in this direction.
H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C., September 1, 1862-10.20 a.m.
General McCLELLAN'S HEADQUARTERS, Alexandria:
Is the general coming up to Washington; and, if so, at what hour will he be here? I am very anxious to see him.
H. W. HALLECK,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
September 1, 1862.
Major General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief:
I shall start for Washington in a few minutes. I am now getting important information from a staff officer, who has just come in from the front. As soon as I can gather all the information he has I shall start at once for Washington.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
WAR DEPARTMENT, September 1, 1862-5.30 p.m.
Centreville, Commanding Fifth Corps:
I ask of you for my sake, that of the country, and of the old Army of the Potomac, that you and all my friends will lend the fullest and most cordial co-operation to General Pope in all the operations now going on. The destinies of our country, the honor of our arms, are at stake, and all depends now upon the cheerful co-operation of all in the field. This week is the crisis of our fate. Say the same thing to my friends in the Army of the Potomac, and that the last request I have to make of them is that, for their country's sake, they will extend to General Pope the same support they ever have to me.
I am in charge of the defenses of Washington, and am going all I can to render your retreat safe, should that become necessary.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
[Received September 1, 8.30 p.m.]
General McCLELLAN, near Alexandria, Va.:
Bayard reports the enemy forming in on the Chantilly road, and my pickets that they are coming down the Little River turnpike. Twelve brass guns were seen, and infantry and cavalry. I can see the dust and flags; columns evidently moving directly north; evidently toward Leesburg. If you can, I hope you will protect the fords into Maryland and guard the railroad to Baltimore. I think we will have a fight before night. The enemy are between us and Faifax Court-House, and shelled our trains last night. We will fight, or they will avoid us and strike our rear first. We have been held on thirty-six hours too long, and we are bound to work our way to Alexandria. I only regret that we have not been distributed to forts and to the fords over the Potomac into Maryland. God speed your operations, and enable you and others in authority to save our country.
F. J. PORTER,
Series I., Vol. 12, Part 3, Various
The focus should have been on the defense of the capital and the position of Lee's army in relation to the Union forces. Yet so profound was the disunity of the commanders in the Army of the Potomac that Pope felt compelled to notify Halleck of a state of affairs just shy of mutiny. Halleck, in turn, summoned McClellan (who only the day before sought an audience for likely very different reasons), and the result of their meeting appears in the extraordinary form of a plea by McClelan to his allies in the Army to cooperate with Pope. At day's end, in falling darkness and a severe electrical storm, Jackson struck at the forces of Kearny and Stevens near Chantilly. Stevens and Kearny were killed in action and the Confederates took 800 casualties, the Union 300. At this point Pope abandoned all plants to attack and withdrew to the defenses of Washington. For now, the Union threat to Northern Virginia was removed, just as that to Richmond before it. It was a remarkable start to General Robert E. Lee's command of the Army of Northern Virginia.