Though the enemy upon his retreat was burning bridges and destroying railroads behind him, and making his possible return towards Washington a slow, difficult process, which he obviously had no mind to undertake, still this security of the capital rested as weightily as ever upon Lincoln’s mind. His reiteration and insistence concerning it made perfectly plain that he was still nervous and disquieted about it, though now certainly with much less reason than heretofore. But with or against reason, it was easy to see that he was far from resting in the tranquillity of conviction that Washington could never be so safe as when the army of Virginia was far away upon the Peninsula. Nevertheless, after the condition in its foregoing shape had been so strenuously imposed by Mr. Lincoln and tacitly accepted by McClellan, the matter was left as if definitely settled; and the President never demanded from the general any distinct statement concerning the numerical or specific allotment of the available forces between the two purposes. The neglect was disastrous in its consequences; and must also be pronounced both blameworthy and inexplicable, for the necessity of a plain understanding on the subject was obvious.
The facts seem to be briefly these: in his letter of February 3, McClellan estimated the force necessary to be taken with him for his campaign at 110,000 to 140,000 men, and said: “I hope to use the latter number by bringing fresh troops into Washington.” On April 1 he reported the forces left behind him as follows:—
At Warrenton, there is to be 7,780 men At Manassas, there is to be 10,859 men In the Valley of the Shenandoah 35,467 men On the Lower Potomac 1,350 men ------------------------------------------------- In all 55,456 men
He adds: “There will thus be left for the garrisons, and the front of Washington, under General Wadsworth, 18,000 men, exclusive of the batteries under instruction.” New levies, nearly 4,000 strong, were also expected. He considered all these men as properly available “for the defense of the national capital and its approaches.” The President, the politicians, and some military men were of opinion that only the 18,000 ought to be considered available for the capital. It was a question whether it was proper to count the corps of Banks in the Shenandoah Valley. McClellan’s theory was that the rebels, by the circumstances attendant upon their present retreating movement, had conclusively annulled any chance of their own return by way of Manassas. Banks greatly outnumbered Stonewall Jackson, who had only about 15,000 men, or less, in the Shenandoah Valley. Also Washington was now entirely surrounded by satisfactory fortifications. McClellan, therefore, was entirely confident that he left everything in good shape behind him. In fact, it was put into even better shape than he had designed; for on March