Official Records of the Rebellion

Official Records of the Rebellion

No 1: Report of Maj. McClellan, U. S. Army, commanding Army of the Potomac, dated August 4 1863


To which, on the following day, I received this answer:

WASHINGTON, August 31, 1862—9.18 a. m.

I have just seen your telegram of 11.5 last night. The substance was stated to me when received, but I did not know that you asked for a reply immediately. I cannot answer without seeing the President, as General Pope is in command, by his orders, of the department.

I think Couch’s division should go forward as rapidly as possible and find the battlefield.


Major-General MCCLELLAN.

On the same day the following was received:

WASHINGTON, August 31, 1862—12.45 p. m.

The Subsistence Department are making Fairfax Station their principal depot. It should be well guarded. The officer in charge should be directed to secure the depot by abatis against cavalry. As many as possible of the new regiments should be prepared to take the field. Perhaps some more should be sent to the vicinity of Chain Bridge.


Major-General MCCLELLAN.

At 2.30 p. m. the following dispatch was telegraphed:

August 31, 15—2.30 p. m.

Major Hailer is at Fairfax Station with my provost and headquarters guard and other troops. I have requested four more companies to be sent at once and the precautions you direct to be taken.

Under the War Department order of yesterday I have no control over anything except my staff, some 100 men in my camp here, and the few remaining near Fort Monroe. I have no control over the new regiments—do not know where they are, on anything about them, except those near here. Their commanding officers and those of the works are not under me.

Where I have seen evils existing under my eye, I have corrected them. I think it is the business of General Casey to prepare the new regiments for the field, and a matter between him and General Barnard to order others to the vicinity of Chain Bridge. Neither of them is under my command, and by the War Department order I have no right to give them orders.


General HALLECK, Washington.

To which the following is an answer:

WASHINGTON, August 31, 1862—10.7 p. m.

Since receiving your dispatch, relating to command, I have not been able to answer any not of absolute necessity. I have not seen the order as published, but will write [p.103] to you in the morning. You will retain the command of everything in this vicinity not temporarily belonging to Pope’s army in the field.

I beg of you to assist me in this crisis with your ability and experience. I am utterly tired out.



The order referred to in the preceding dispatch was as follows:

WAR DEPARTMENT, August 30, 1862.

The following are the commanders of the armies operating in Virginia:

General Burnside commands his own corps, except those that have been temporarily detached and assigned to General Pope.

General McClellan commands that portion of the Army of the Potomac that has not been sent forward to General Pope’s command.

General Pope commands the Army of Virginia and all the forces temporarily attached to it.

All the forces are under the command of Major-General Halleck, General-in-Chief.

Assistant Adjutant-General.

I was informed by Colonel Townsend that the above was published by order of the Secretary of War.

At 11.30 p. I telegraphed the following:

August 31, 1862—11.30 p. m.

The squadron of Second Regular Cavalry that I sent with General Sumner was captured to-day about 2 p. m., some 3 miles from Fairfax Court-House, beyond it on the Little River pike, by Fitzhugh Lee, with 3,000 cavalry and three light batteries. I have conversed with the first sergeant, who says that when he last saw them they were within a mile of Fairfax. Pope had no troops on that road, this squadron getting there by mistake. There is nothing of ours on the right of Centerville but Sumner’s corps. There was much artillery firing during the day. A rebel major told the sergeant that the rebels had driven in our entire left to-day. He says the road is filled with wagons and stragglers coming toward Alexandria. It is clear from the sergeant’s account that we were badly beaten yesterday, and that Pope’s right is entirely exposed.

I recommend that no more of Couch’s division be sent to the front, that Burnside be brought here as soon as practicable, and that everything available this side of Fairfax be drawn in at once, including the mass of the troops on the railroad. I apprehend that the enemy will or have by this time occupied Fairfax Court-House and cut off Pope entirely unless he falls back to-night via Sangster’s and Fairfax Station.

I think these orders should be sent at once. I have no confidence in the dispositions made as I gather them. To speak frankly—and the occasion requires it—there appears to be a total absence of brains, and I fear the total destruction of the army. I have some cavalry here that can carry out any orders you may have to send. The occasion is grave and demands grave measures. The question is the salvation of the country. I learn that our loss yesterday amounted to 15,000. We cannot afford such losses without an object.

It is my deliberate opinion that the interests of the nation demand that Pope should fall back to-night if possible, and not one moment is to be lost. I will use all the cavalry I have to watch our right.

Please answer at once. I feel confident that you can rely upon the information I give you. I shall be up all night, and ready to obey any orders you give me.


To which this reply was received:

WASHINGTON, September 1, 1862—1.30. a. m.

Burnside was ordered up very early yesterday morning. Retain remainder of Couch’s forces, and make arrangements to stop all retreating troops in line of works or where you can best establish an outer line of defense. My news from Pope was up to 4 p. He was then all right. I must wait for more definite information before I can order a retreat, as the falling back on the line of works must necessarily be directed in case of [p.104] a serious disaster. Give me all additional news that is reliable. I shall be up all night, and ready to act as circumstances may require. I am fully aware of the gravity of the crisis, and have been for weeks.

General-in- Chief.

Major-General MCCLELLAN.

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.102-104

web page Rickard, J (20 June 2006)