Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 5.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

To George B. McClellan [1]

War Department Washington City, D.C.
Major Gen. McClellan: July 4. 1862

I understand your position as stated in your letter, and by Gen. Marcy. To reinforce you so as to enable you to resume the offensive within a month, or even six weeks, is impossible. In addition to that arrived, and now arriving from the Potomac, (about ten thousand, I suppose) and about ten thousand I hope you will have from Burnside very soon, and about five thousand from Hunter a little later, I do not see how I can send you another man within a month. Under these circumstances the defensive, for the present, must be your only care. Save the Army---first, where you are, ifPage  306 you can; and secondly, by removal, if you must. You, on the ground, must be the judge as to which you will attempt, and of the means for effecting it. I but give it as opinion, that with the aid of the Gun-Boats, and the re-inforcements mentioned above, you can hold your present position, provided, and so long as, you can keep the James River open below you. If you are not tolerably confident you can keep the James River open, you had better remove as soon as possible. I do not remember that you have expressed any apprehension as to the danger of having your communication cut on the river below you; yet I do not suppose it can have escaped your attention. Yours very truly A. LINCOLN

P.S. If, at any time, you feel able to take the offensive, you are not restrained from doing so. A. L.


[1]   ADfS, DLC-RTL. McClellan sent his chief of staff Randolph B. Marcy to Washington in order to press his plea for reinforcements. Marcy reported to McClellan on July 4, ``I have seen the President and Secretary of War. Ten thousand men from Hunter, 10,000 from Burnside, and 11,000 from here have been ordered to re-enforce you as soon as possible. . . . The President and Secretary speak very kindly of you and find no fault. I will remain here until I hear from you. . . .'' (OR, I, XI, III, 294).