Today in History:

64 Series I Volume V- Serial 5 - West Virginia

Page 64 OPERATIONS IN MD., N. VA., AND W. VA. Chapter XIV.

date, and these, of course, constituted the most trustworthy and authentic source from which such information could be obtained.

Another statement made by General Hitchcock before the Committee on the Conduct of the War in reference to this same order should be noticed. He was asked the following question:

Do you understand now that the movement made by General McClellan to Fort Monroe and up the York River was in compliance with the recommendation of the council of generals commanding corps and held at Fairfax Court-House on the 13th of March last, or in violation of it?

To which he replied as follows:

I have considered, and do now consider, that it was in violation of the recommendation of that council in two important particulars, one particular being that portion of this report which represents the council as agreeing to the expedition by way of the Peninsula, provided the rebel steamer Merrimac could first be neutralized. That important provision General McClellan disregarded.

* * * * * * *

The second particular alluded to by General Hitchcock was in reference to the troops left for the defense of Washington, which has been disposed of above.

In regard to the steamer Merricam I have also stated that so far as our operations on York River were concerned the power of his vessel was neutralized. I now proceed to give some of the evidence which influenced me in coming to that conclusion.

Previous to our departure for the Peninsula, Mr. Watson, Assistant Secretary of War, was sent by the President to Fort Monroe to consult with Flag-Officer Goldsborough upon this subject. The result of that consultation is contained in the following extract from the evidence of Admiral Goldsborough before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, viz:.

I told Mr. Watson, Assistant Secretary of War, that the President might make his mind perfectly easy about the Merrimac going up York River; that she could never get there, for I had ample means to prevent that.

Captain G. V. Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, testifies before the committee as follows:

General McClellan expected the Navy to neutralize the Merrimac, and I promised that it should be done.

General Keyes, commanding Fourth Army Corps, testifies as follows before the committee:

During the time that the subject of the change of base was discussed I had refused to consent to the Peninsula line of operations until I had sent word to the Navy Department and asked two questions: First, whether the Merrimac was certainly neutralized or not. Second, whether the Navy was in a condition to co-operate efficiently with the Army to break through between Yorktown and Gloucester Point. To both of these answers were returned in the affirmative; that is, the Merrimac was neutralized, and the Navy was in a condition to co-operate efficiently to break through between Yorktown and Gloucester Point.

Before starting for the Peninsula I instructed Lieutenant Colonel B. S. Alexander, of the U. S. Corps of Engineers, to visit Manassas Junction and its vicinity, for the purpose of determining upon the defensive works necessary to enable us to hold that place with a small force. The accompanying letters from Colonel Alexander will show what steps were taken by him to carry into effect this important order. I regret to say that those who succeeded me in command of the region in front of Washington, whatever were the fears for its safety, did not deem it necessary to carry out my plans and instructions to them. Had Manassas been placed in condition for a strong defense and it communica-

Page 64 OPERATIONS IN MD., N. VA., AND W. VA. Chapter XIV.