Official Records of the Rebellion

Official Records of the Rebellion

[p.36]

On the night of the 27th and 28th I sent the following dispatch to the Secretary of War:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Camp near New Bridge, May 28, 1862—12.30 a. m.

Porter has gained two complete victories over superior forces, yet I feel obliged to move in the morning with re-enforcements to secure the complete destruction of the rebels in that quarter. In doing so I run some risk here, but I cannot help it. The enemy are even in greater force than I had supposed. I will do all that quick movements can accomplish, but you must send me all the troops you can, and leave to me full latitude as to choice of commanders. It is absolutely necessary to destroy the rebels near Hanover Court-House before I can advance.

GEO. B. MCCLELLAN,
Major- General.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

In reply to which I received the following from the President:

WASHINGTON, May 28, 1862.

I am very glad of General F. J. Porter’s victory. Still, if it was a total rout of the enemy, I am puzzled to know why the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad was not seized again, as you say you have all the railroads but the Richmond and Fredericksburg. I am puzzled to see how, lacking that, you can have any, except the scrap from Richmond to West Point. The scrap of the Virginia Central from Richmond to Hanover Junction without more is simply nothing. That the whole of the enemy is concentrating on Richmond I think cannot be certainly known to you or me. Saxton, at Harper’s Ferry, informs us that large forces, supposed to be Jackson’s and Ewell’s, forced his advance from Charlestown to-day. General King telegraphs us from Fredericksburg that contrabands give certain information that 15,000 left Hanover Junction Monday morning to re-enforce Jackson. I am painfully impressed with the importance of the struggle before you, and shall aid you all I can consistently with my view of due regard to all points.

A. LINCOLN.

Major-General MCCLELLAN.

At 6 p. m. of the 29th I sent the Secretary of War the following dispatch:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
May 29, 1862—6 p. m.

General Porter has gained information that General Anderson left his position in vicinity of Fredericksburg at 4 a. Sunday with the following troops: First South Carolina, Colonel Hamilton; one battalion South Carolina Rifles; Thirty-fourth and Thirty-eighth North Carolina; Forty-fifth Georgia; Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth South Carolina; Third Louisiana; two batteries, of four guns each—namely, Letcher’s Virginia and McIntosh’s South Carolina batteries. General Anderson and his command passed Ashland yesterday evening en route for Richmond, leaving men behind to destroy bridges over the Telegraph road, which they traveled. This information is reliable. It is also positively certain that Branch’s command was from Gordonsville, bound for Richmond, whither they have now gone.

It may be regarded as positive, I think, that there is no rebel force between Fredericksburg and Junction.

GEO. McCLELLAN,
Major-General.

Hon. STANTON, Secretary of War.

The following was also sent on the same day:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
May 29, 1862.

A detachment from General F. Porter’s command, under Major Williams, Sixth [p.37] Cavalry, destroyed the South Anna Railroad Bridge at about 9 a. to-day. A large quantity of Confederate public property was also destroyed at Ashland this morning.

R. MARCY,
Chief of Staff.

Hon. STANTON, Secretary of War.

In reply to which the following was received:

WASHINGTON, May 29, 1862.

Your dispatch as to the South Anna and Ashland being seized by our forces this morning is received. Understanding these points to be on the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad, I heartily congratulate the country, and thank General McClellan and his army for their seizure.

A. LINCOLN.

General R. MARCY.

On the 30th I sent the following:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
May 30, 1862.

From the tone of your dispatches and the President’s I do not think that you at all appreciate the value and magnitude of Porter’s victory. It has entirely relieved my right flank, which was seriously threatened; routed and demoralized a considerable portion of the rebel forces; taken over 750 prisoners; killed and wounded large numbers; one gun, many small-arms, and much baggage taken. It was one of the handsomest things in the war, both in itself and in its results. Porter has returned, and my army is again well in hand. Another day will make the probable field of battle passable for artillery. It. is quite certain that there is nothing in front of McDowell at Fredericksburg. I regard the burning of South Anna bridges as the least important result of Porter’s movement.

GEO. McCLELLAN,
Major- General.

Hon. STANTON, Secretary of War.

The results of this brilliant operation of General Porter were the dispersal of General Branch’s division and the clearing of our right flank and rear. It was rendered impossible for the enemy to communicate by rail with Fredericksburg or with Jackson via Gordonsville except by the very circuitous route of Lynchburg, and the road was left entirely open for the advance of McDowell, had he been permitted to join the Army of the Potomac. His withdrawal toward Front Royal was, in my judgment, a serious and fatal error. He could do no good in that direction, while, had he been permitted to carry out the orders of May 17, the united forces would have driven the enemy within the immediate intrenchments of Richmond before Jackson could have returned to its succor, and probably would have gained possession promptly of that place. I respectfully refer to the reports of General Porter and his subordinate commanders for the names of the officers who deserve especial mention for the parts they took in these affairs, but I cannot omit here my testimony to the energy and ability displayed by General Porter on this occasion, since to him is mainly due the successes there gained.

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.36-37

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