2

[From the Cincinnati Commercial]

The Campaign on the Peninsula.

There is great outery that General McClellan is responsible for the misfortunes of the army of the Potomac, because — 1st, he made the movement upon Richmond by way of the Peninsula instead of by way of Fredericksburg; 2d, his movements were so slow that he offered the enemy to concentrate an overwhelming force at the point of attack.

It will be remembered that the unreasoning and noisy politicians of Washington were immensely animated by the evacuation of Manassas. They discovered in the retreat of the enemy from that point, evidence of the incapacity of our commanding general, and the howl that went up for his removal would have overpowered a less flexible and obstinate man than the President. — The political strategists were especially rampant. Stanton, the Secretary of War, reared again, Gurly & Co., discovered anew the evidence of the inefficiency of a variety of military departments and an assortment of emulous commanding generals. McClellan was laughed at for his elaborate preparations, his multitude of batteries, his patiently disciplined divisions. Stanton sneered at the idea of the organization of victory by military men. He had written to the New York Tribune expressing his confidence in the spirit of God, and had peremptorily stopped recruiting. There were too many soldiers already. All that was necessary to crush the rebellion was to give three cheers for the old flag and go ahead. The great danger was that the enemy would disappear before he could be punished. There never had been many rebel troops at Manassas, and they had not had any guns there but wooden ones. McClellan was a fool anyhow, for he had not confidentially told the tribe of the Congressional blatherskites what his purposes were.

This was the prevailing sentiment at Washington. The President, almost overborne by the clamor, still insisted that "Mac must have a chance." When the army of the Potomac marched up the Peninsula, Gen. Wool telegraphed to Stanton, who, with his accustomed discretion, published the dispatch, that McClellan would encounter very little opposition on the way. It was the opinion of the veteran Wool, who thought that he ought to command the army, that there would be no fighting on the road to Richmond. McClellan knew better; but what could he do? There were the wooden guns of Manassas playing upon him at point blank range! He had no way of convincing the country that there was anything before him more formidable than an enormous scarecrow flanked by Quaker batteries. He found the enemy as he had expected, strong, and fortified at Yorktown. His dispatches that the enemy were there in force were esteemed ridiculous, and the political generals at Washington shook their sides with extinguishable laughter.

In the meantime Stanton had provided a "big thing." He would show the world his strategy, by sending another column to take Richmond. Hence the department of the Rappahannock, and McDowell's advance to Fredericksburg. This was a direct interference with and insult to the commanding general of the army of the Potomac, and was intended as such. McClellan demanded Franklin's division, and the President sent it to him against the emphatic protest of the Secretary of War. This division was designed to be used for the capture of Gloucester Point, simultaneously with the opening of our siege batteries before Yorktown. But the enemy evacuated both places just in time to save themselves, and the idiotic laugh of derision at the competent generalship and gallant army, which had driven the rebels from a series of fortifications positively gigantic, resounded through Washington, and was echoed over the country.

But why did the McClellan wait before Yorktown? Why did he not go at once and storm the lines? The lesson received on James for those who, without the experience of that bloody blunder, were incapable of reasoning. Here we must go back a little way, and see how it happened that McClellan was compelled to "throw up dirt" at Yorktown. His plan was to advance with his main force from Fortress Monroe up the peninsula. He expected to find the enemy at Yorktown, and calculated that they would throw their main army down to that position. Then McDowell's whole corps was, as he understood when he left Alexandria, to land at Urbanna, on the Rappahannock river, and march across to West Point, at the head of York river. — If this had been done, the enemy must have been driven into a retreat of the utmost precipitation, or they would have been bagged. This simple movement would have saved the toil in the trenches at Yorktown, and the slaughter at Williamsburg. But Washington strategy was opposed to the co-operation of McDowell with McClellan. McDowell's movement must be independent, according to the Gazette-Gurley policy of many departments. So McDowell, instead of going to Urbanna, where he could have done much, was sent to Fredericksburg, where he did nothing.

Gen. McClellan was not on the field at the battle of Williamsburg. Why? Because he was detained by one of those committees of Congressional visitors and inquisitors, who were employing government steamers to transport them to the seat of war, that they might have an opportunity of finding fault with the commanding general, and that their stories might be listened to when they returned to Washington. There were several of these Congressional committees, and their proceedings were uniformly disgraceful. — They took occasion to blab in the camp, and when they returned from camp, and it would have served some of them properly to have shot them for inciting the troops to insubordination. Twice the results of these Congressional pleasure parties of gossip gatherers, were detailed in Congress halls. Once in the shameless lie that Gen. Smith was so drunk that he fell from his horse during a skirmish before Yorktown. Again in the battle about the White House. Gen. McClellan finally snubbed a party of Congressmen, and then issued an order excluding them from his lines. The fellows were have badgered him day and night if he had not choked them off peremptorily.

After the battle of Williamsburg, General McClellan dispatched to the War Department that he was outnumbered on the peninsula, but would do the best he could. The Secretary is the judge of the matter that is communicated form generals in the field, the publication of which will not prejudice the public interests. He gave this dispatch to the press, and the majority of the people, uninformed as to the regulations, supposed McClellan responsible for the publication of the information that he was outnumbered. The fact is, Stanton still clung to his notion that we had too many soldiers in the field, that McClellan had more than he could use, and all that sort of thing; and he published the Williamsburg dispatch in order to make McClellan ridiculous, when, as he presumed, it would appear that the enemy had few soldiers at Richmond, and when a few wooden guns would be found in the rebel fortifications defending that city.

The advance up the Pamunky river and then along the York railroad, was made in good style. It was slow, that the troops might recover from their fatigues, privation and exposure on the Peninsula. In the meantime a few rays of light has pierced the gloom of ignorance, prejudice, intrigue and jealousy, at Washington. It became evident that the rebels had a few troops in the vicinity of Richmond, and intended to make a stand there. So McDowell's corps was prepared to advance from Fredericksburg to join McClellan, who made an admirable disposition of his forces to prevent the enemy from attacking them in detail. He sent Fitz John Porter to clear McDowell's front. This was done effectually by the little victory at Hanover Court House. Now, if McDowell had pushed on, the speed fall of Richmond would have been insured. What happened? Stonewall Jackson's race in the valley of the Shenandoah, which was undertaken by order of General Joseph Johnson, for the express purpose of diverting McDowell's corps from Richmond! Secretary Stanton's pusillanimous fright placed into the hands of the rebels. On the same day that he telegraphed to loyal governors of the extreme peril of Washington, and called for three months' troops, he ordered McDowell's army, then in superb condition and within an hour of setting forth for Richmond, to straggle away into the Shenandoah mountains. This was the most obvious and most fatal military mistake of the war. If Gen. Joe. Johnson had been directing the movements of our troops in the Shenandoah Valley and the department of the Rapahannock, he could not for some weeks have sent them more completely out of the way. Failing to get aid from McDowell, McClellan was compelled to contract his lines. He crossed the Chickahominy with the left wing ofhis army, and the flood one day giving the enemy the advantage, the battle of Fair Oaks took place, and revealed the strength and desperation of the enemy even to the factionists at Washington. Now another fragment of McDowell's army, McCall's division and the regiments which had been detained as ornaments of Fort Monroe and Norfolk, were sent to McClellan, and these were all the reinforcements he received before the enemy had massed his troops and fallen upon him with the full intention and a fair prospect of cutting him off entirely. While babblers at Washington talked of McClellan's two hundred and forty thousand men, he had actually with the reinforcements so penuriously doled out less than one hundred thousand effectives. And while the cry went forth from Washington that Stonewall Jackson was reinforced with twelve thousand men, and was about crushing out our entanglement of Major Generals in indefinite departments south and west of Washington, and that the rebels, of course, intended to run away from Richmond, and take Washington, old Stonewall was on his way to Richmond to take part in the final struggle.

Why did not McClellan strike quick and hard before Stonewall Jackson reached Richmond? We suppose it will be considered very absurd by politico-military strategists, to speak of unfavorable weather. It is a fact, however, that there were weeks during which McClellan was on the Chickahominy, that the soil was so saturated by daily dashing rains, that it was next to impossible to move artillery, and the artillery was the right arm of the army of the Potomac.

There can be no question that the enemy did outnumber our army during the series of desperate battles, commencing on the 25th of June. Gen. McClellan's enemies, with usual cander, admit that. But they say, why did he wait until they concentrated? The flower of the rebel force was concentrated in Virginia, and in front of Washington, before he took command of the army of the Potomac. He was disappointed after taking the field, in his first expectations of assistance form the government. First, his plans were deranged by the creation of the department of the Rappahannock, which was a nuisance and stumbling block every day of its existence. — Second, he was placed in a perilous position by the diversion of McDowell's army from do-operation with him, by the Shenandoah valley raid of Jackson. Third, the authorities at Washington were miserably beaten in management by the rebels, who threw their whole force together at Richmond without fuss, circumlocution, intrigue, or jealousy, while McClellan was only reinforced after the nation had become agitated on the subject, and weakness had been advertised by the alarm apparent throughout the land concerning him; and but a man or a gun has McClellan landed at Fortress Monroe, but the breaking down of the bitter opposition of the Secretary of War was indispensable. He opposed sending Franklin's division. — He opposed sending McCall's division. He opposed sending Shield's division. He is one of the most unscrupulous men in the world, and would sacrifice an army to gratify a personal resentment.

Why did McClellan advance upon Richmond by way of the peninsula? Because by that route he would have water transportation for troops and supplies to a point forty miles nearer Richmond than by any other route which he commanded at the time the advance was made, and because of the advantages offered by the York river railroad. The Pamunky is a deep stream, navigable by the largest vessels to White House, and from that point to the Chickahominy there were no considerable railroad bridges for the enemy to destroy. The railroad was made ready as our troops advanced, and was easily kept in order. The Fredericksburg road was forty miles longer, and full of bridges. And if McDowell had moved on from Fredericksburg, as was intended, (when the way was opened for him by the battle of Hanover, and he and his army were thrown away by Stanton in his panic) McClellan's right wing would have been perfectly secure and he could have advanced upon Richmond from the north and east at once, and would not have been crowded by the necessities of the situation into the swamps of the Chickahominy.

But if James river now furnishes a better base of operations against Richmond than York river did — if the situation is more healthy and water communication closer and more secure, why was it not understood and due advantage taken in the first place? Because, when McClellan established himself on York river, the terrible Merrimac was still in existence, and blockaded James river. It will be recollected that vessel held the river during the siege of Yorktown. Because, further, McClellan expected McClellan expected McDowell from the north, and wished to be in a position to join bands with him.

In the late operations before Richmond there is no question but good generalship was displayed. The extrication of our army from the Chickahominy, the safety of stores at White House, the safety of the wagon trains, fat cattle, siege artillery, and of all valuable stories no destroyed, the safety of the majority of the wounded and sick, and the bloody repulse of the enemy on the last day's fighting, all show admirable management. Whatever McClellan may have succeeded in or failed in, up to the commencement of the series of dreadful battles before Richmond, he has since then been tried in the fire and found not wanting.