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and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number. The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible manœuvring you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.
As an additional reason for not following up the advantage gained on the 17th, General McClellan says that
The troops were greatly overcome by the fatigue and exhaustion attendant upon the long-continued and severely contested battle of the 17th, together with the long day-and-night marches to which they had been subjected during the previous three days.
To us of the Thirteenth it seemed just possible that the enemy might be equally tired and a good deal more discomfited, and that the time had come when we might efface the disagreeable recollection of Manassas; and the wonder was why we were not allowed to follow up our advantage. When men are stimulated by success in battle they forget everything but pushing their good fortune to a complete triumph. As it was, we remained in idleness until the 25th of October, allowing the enemy to find their way back across the river at their leisure. There was one man, however, who appreciated that instinct in human nature which prompts us all to "sail in" when the other fellow weakens, and that was "Old Abe." Day after day telegrams from Washington were sent to McClellan asking him to explain his delay, and urging the importance of his present advantage, until he (General McClellan) was prompted to return to General Halleck an answer, in which is the following paragraph:
I regret that you find it necessary to couch every despatch I have the honor to receive from you in a spirit of fault-finding, and that you have not yet found leisure to say one word in commendation of recent achievements of the army, or even to allude to them.
The following interesting order explains itself:
HEADQUARTERS, DEFENCES OF WASHINGTON,
BRIG.-GEN. S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Army of the Potomac :
Telegram of last night received this morning. It occurs to me that at least a part of the confusion caused by the new numbers of the corps arises from the fact that you have got them wrong. Siegel's corps is the Eleventh, Banks' is the Twelfth, and Hooker's (late McDowell's) is the First Corps. This is warranted correct, the newspapers to the contrary notwithstanding. Consequently, after some puzzling, I infer from your telegram that Meade commands the First Corps, vice Hooker, wounded, and A. S. Williams commands the Twelfth Corps, vice Mansfield, killed. Is this right? To whom was Webber's brigade assigned? Is Couch's division independent? Does Sturgis command Reno's division, and Wilcox, Stevens'? Piatt's brigade is here, in Whipple's division.
RICHARD B. IRWIN, Captain, Aide-de-Camp, and Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
Whatever confusion may have existed in the minds of others, it is certain that we were in the second division of the First Corps. General Ricketts commanded the division and General Meade the corps.
By an order dated Sept. 29, 1862, General Reynolds assumed temporary command of the First Corps, and in the same communication General Meade was ordered to reassume the command of the third division of the same corps. General Reynolds remained in command of the First Corps, however, until he lost his life at Gettysburg.
On the 6th of October General Halleck was instructed by the President to telegraph General McClellan as follows: "The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south." This, however, did not move McClellan.
On the 10th of October the rebel general, Stuart, crossed the Potomac at McCoy's ford, between Williamsport and Hancock, penetrated as far as Chambersburg, which he occupied for a time, destroyed public property, made the entire circuit of the Federal army, and recrossed the Potomac near the mouth of the Monocacy, without any loss worth mentioning, and to the mortification of the Union army, which was doing nothing. Both of these fords were
within the sphere of our duty during the year 1861 and the first two months of 1862. The following extracts are taken from his report of the affair to General Lee :
Unoffending persons were treated with civility, and the inhabitants were generous in proffers of provisions on the march. We seized and brought over a large number of horses, the property of citizens of the United States. The valuable information obtained in this reconnoissance, as to the distribution of the enemy's force, was communicated orally to the commanding general, and need not be here repeated. A number of the public functionaries and prominent citizens were taken captives, and brought over as hostages for our own unoffending citizens, whom the enemy has torn from their homes and confined in dungeons in the North. One or two of my men lost their way, and are probably in the hands of the enemy.
Believing that the hand of God was clearly manifested in the signal deliverance of my command from danger, and the crowning success attending it, I ascribe to Him the praise, the honor, and the glory.
If it was true, as General Stuart asserted, that he was under Divine protection and guidance, perhaps it was just as well for us that we didn't interfere with his progress.
We notice in the War Records that the hand of God was not recognized when armies met with defeat.
On the 13th of October the President sent the following letter to General McClellan, which shows how clearly Mr. Lincoln comprehended the possibilities of the situation:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 13, 1862.
MAJOR-GENERAL MCCLELLAN :
MY DEAR SIR: You remember my speaking to you of what I called your overcautiousness. Are you not overcautious when you assume that you cannot do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess, and act upon the claim? As I understand, you telegraphed General Halleck that you cannot subsist your army at Winchester, unless the railroad from Harper's Ferry to that point be put in working order. But the enemy does now subsist his army at Winchester, at a distance nearly twice as great from railroad transportation as you would have to do, without the railroad last named. He now wagons from Culpeper Court-House, which is just about twice as far as you would have to do from Harper's Ferry. He is certainly not more than half as well provided with wagons as you are. I certainly should be pleased for you
to have the advantage of the railroad from Harper's Ferry to Winchester, but it wastes all the remainder of autumn to give it to you, and, in fact, ignores the question of time, which cannot and must not be ignored. Again, one of the standard maxims of war, as you know, is to "operate upon the enemy's communications as much as possible without exposing your own." You seem to act as if this applies against you, but cannot apply in your favor. Change positions with the enemy, and think you not he would break your communication with Richmond within the next twenty-four hours? You dread his going into Pennsylvania; but if he does so in full force, he gives up his communications to you absolutely; and you have nothing to do but to follow and ruin him. If he does so with less than full force, fall upon and beat what is left behind all the easier. Exclusive of the water-line, you are now nearer Richmond than the enemy is by the route that you can and he must take. Why can you not reach there before him, unless you admit that he is more than your equal on the march? His route is the arc of a circle, while yours is the chord. The roads are as good on yours as on his. You know I desired, but did not order, you to cross the Potomac below, instead of above, the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge. My idea was that this would at once menace the enemy's communications, which I would seize if he would permit.
If he should move forward I would follow him closely, holding his communications. If he should prevent our seizing his communications and move toward Richmond, I would press closely to him, fight him if a favorable opportunity should present, and at least try to beat him to Richmond on the inside track. I say "try;" if we never try we shall never succeed. If he makes a stand at Winchester, moving neither north nor south, I would fight him there, on the idea that if we cannot beat him when he bears the wastage of coming to us, we never can when we bear the wastage of going to him. This proposition is a simple truth, and is too important to be lost sight of for a moment. In coming to us he tenders us an advantage which we should not waive. We should not so operate as to merely drive him away. As we must beat him somewhere or fail finally, we can do it, if at all, easier near to us than far away. If we cannot beat the enemy where he now is, we never can, he again being within the intrenchments of Richmond.
Recurring to the idea of going to Richmond on the inside track, the facility of supplying from the side away from the enemy is remarkable, as it were, by the different spokes of a wheel extending from the hub toward the rim, and this, whether you move directly by the chord or on the inside arc, hugging the Blue Ridge more closely. The chord-line, as you see, carries you by Aldie, Hay Market, and Fredericksburg; and you see how turnpikes, railroads, and finally the Potomac, by Aquia Creek, meet you at all points from Washington; the same, only the lines lengthened a little, if you press closer to the Blue Ridge part of the way.
The gaps through the Blue Ridge I understand to be about the following dis
tances from Harper's Ferry, to wit: Vestal's, 5 miles; Gregory's, 13; Snicker's, 18; Ashby's, 28; Manassas, 38; Chester, 45; and Thornton's, 53. I should think it preferable to take the route nearest the enemy, disabling him to make an important move without your knowledge, and compelling him to keep his forces together for dread of you. The gaps would enable you to attack if you should wish. For a great part of the way you would be practicably between the enemy and both Washington and Richmond, enabling us to spare you the greatest number of troops from here. When at length running for Richmond ahead of him enables him to move this way, if he does so, turn and attack him in the rear. But I think he should be engaged long before such point is reached. It is all easy if our troops march as well as the enemy, and it is unmanly to say we cannot do it. This letter is in no sense an order. Yours truly,
A prominent public man who knew McClellan as an engineer, before the war, once remarked that if he had a million of men it would take a million of years for him voluntarily to move, which number is probably an exaggeration by several years.
The following communications of General Lee, giving his interpretation of the battle of Antietam, are interesting reading:
HEADQUARTERS, SHARPSBURG, Md.,
MR. PRESIDENT: On the afternoon of the 16th instant the enemy, were informed that day was in our front, opened a light fire of artillery upon our line. Early the next morning it was renewed in earnest, and large masses of the Federal troops that had crossed the Antietam above our position assembled on our left and threatened to overwhelm us.
In the afternoon the enemy advanced on our right, where General Jones' division was posted, who handsomely maintained his position. General Toombs' brigade, guarding the bridge over Antietam Creek, gallantly resisted the approach of the enemy; but his superior numbers enabling him to extend his left, he crossed below the bridge, and assumed a threatening attitude on our right, which fell back in confusion. By this time, between 3 and 4 P.M., General Hill, with five of his brigades, reached the scene of action, drove the enemy immediately from the position they had taken, and continued the contest until dark, restoring our right and maintaining our ground..
His Excellency PRESIDENT DAVIS, Richmond, Va.
R. E. LEE,