I made on the 6th and 7th close personal reconnaissances of the right and left of the enemy’s positions, which, with information acquired already, convinced me that it was best to prepare for an assault by the preliminary employment of heavy guns and some siege operations. Instant assault would have been simple folly. On the 7th I telegraphed to the President as follows:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
April 7, 1862.
Your telegram of yesterday is received. In reply I have the honor to state that my entire force for duty amounts to only about 85,000 men. General Wool’s command, as you will observe from the accompanying order has been taken out of my control, although he has most cheerfully co-operated with me. The only use that can be made of his command is to protect my communications in rear of this point. At this time only 53,000 men have joined me, but they are coming up as rapidly as my means of transportation will permit.
Please refer to my dispatch to the Secretary of War to-night for the details of our present situation.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
To the PRESIDENT, Washington, D. C.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
In Front of Yorktown, April 7, 1862—7 p. m.
Your telegram of yesterday arrived here while I was absent examining the enemy’s right, which I did pretty closely.
The whole line of the Warwick, which really heads within a mile of Yorktown, is strongly defended by detached redoubts and other fortifications, armed with heavy and light guns. The approaches, except at Yorktown, are covered by the Warwick, over which there is but one, or, at most, two passages, both of which are covered by strong batteries. It will be necessary to resort to the use of heavy gnus and some siege operations before we assault. All the prisoners state that General J. E. Johnston arrived at Yorktown yesterday with strong re-enforcements. It seems clear that I shall have the whole force of the enemy on my hands—probably not less than 100,000 men, and probably more. In consequence of the loss of Blenker’s division and the First Corps my force is possibly less than that of the enemy, while they have all the advantage of position.
I am under great obligations to you for the offer that the whole force and material of the Government will be as fully and as speedily under my command as heretofore or as if the new departments had not been created.
Since my arrangements were made for this campaign at least 50,000 men have been taken from my command. Since my dispatch of the 5th instant five divisions have been in close observation of the enemy, and frequently exchanging shots. When my present Command all join I shall have about 85,000 men for duty, from which a large [p.12] force must be taken for guards, scouts, &c. With this army I could assault the enemy’s works, and perhaps carry them, but were I in possession of their intrenchments and assailed by double my numbers I should have no fears as to the result.
Under the circumstances that have been developed since we arrived here I feel fully impressed with the conviction that here is to be fought the great battle that is to decide the existing contest. I shall of course commence the attack as soon as I can get up my siege train, and shall do all in my power to carry the enemy’s works; but to do this with a reasonable degree of certainty requires, in my judgment, that I should, if possible, have at least the whole of the First Corps to land upon the Severn River, and attack Gloucester in the rear. My present strength will not admit of a detachment sufficient for this purpose without materially impairing the efficiency of this column. Flag-Officer Goldsborough thinks the works too strong for his available vessels unless I can turn Gloucester.
I send by mail copies of his letter and one of the commander of the gunboats here.
Hon. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.