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

To George B. McClellan [1]

Major General McClellan Executive Mansion,
My dear Sir--- Washington, July 13 1862.

I am told that over 160-000 men have gone into your Army on the Peninsula. When I was with you the other day we made out 86,500 remaining, leaving 73,500 to be accounted for. I believe 23,500, will cover all the killed, wounded and missing in all your battles and skirmishes, leaving 50-000 who have left otherwise. Not more than 5000 of these have died, leaving 45,000 of your Army still alive, and not with it. I believe half, or two thirds of them are fit for duty to-day. Have you any more perfect knowledge of this than I have? If I am right, and you had these men with you, you could go into Richmond in the next three days. How can they be got to you? and how can they be prevented from getting away in such numbers for the future? A. LINCOLN

Annotation

[1]   ALS, IHi. McClellan's telegram received at 8 P.M. on July 15, reads in part as follows: ``. . . The difference between the effective force of troops and that expressed in returns is considerable in every Army. All commanders find the actual strength less than the strength represented on paper. I have not my own returns for the tri-monthly period since arriving at Fort Monroe at hand at this moment but even on paper I will not . . . be found to have received one hundred and sixty thousand officers and men present although present and absent my returns will be accountable for that number. . . . I find from official reports that I have present for duty---Officers three thousand two hundred fifteen. Enlisted men Eighty Eight thousand four hundred fifty. In all present for duty Eighty Eight thousand six hundred sixty-five. Absent by authority thirty four thousand four hundred seventy two---without authority three thousand seven hundred seventy eight. Present and absent, One hundred forty four thousand four hundred and seven. The number . . . present sick is sixteen thousand six hundred nineteen. . . . Thus the number . . . really absent is thirty eight thousand two hundred fifty. Unquestionably of the number present some one absent, say forty thousand will cover the absentees. I quite agree with you that more than one half these men are probably fit for duty to-day. I have frequently called the attention lately of the War Dept to the evil of absenteeism. . . . It is to be remembered that many of those absent by authority are those who have got off either sick or wounded . . . andPage  323

. . . are still reported absent by authority. If I could receive back the absentees and could get my sick men up I would need but small reinforcements to enable me to take Richmond. . . . I can now control people getting away better for the natural opportunities are better. Leakages by desertion occur in every Army and will occur here of course, but I do not at all . . . anticipate anything like a recurrence of what has taken place.'' (DLC-RTL).