After-Battle Letter From Major General John Pope to
Major General Henry W. Halleck, General-in-chief
The first page of an after-battle letter from US Maj. Gen.
John Pope to Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, General-in-chief.
[Note 1 The following dispatch was sent following the Union defeat at Second Bull Run.]
(Cipher No 67.)
Rec'd 2. PM
Sept. 1. 1862.
Hd Qrs Army of Va
Centreville 1. 850 AM
All was quiet yesterday & so far this morning My men are resting They need it much.
Forage for our Horses is being brought up.
Our cavalry is completely broken down so that there are not 5 Horses to a company that can raise a trot. The consequence is that I am forced to keep considerable Infantry along the roads in my rear to make them secure & even then it is difficult to keep the enemy's Cavalry off the roads I shall attack again tomorrow if I can, the next day certainly.
I think it my duty to call your attention to the unsoldierly & dangerous conduct of many Brigade & some Division commanders of the forces sent here from the Peninsula. Every word & act & intention is discouraging & calculated to break down the spirits of the men & produce disaster
One commander of a Corps2 who was ordered to march from Manassas Junction to join me, when I reached the enemy near Groveton by way of Centreville although he was only five miles distant, failed to get up at all & worse still fell back to Manassas without a fight & in plain hearing at less than three miles distance, of a furious battle which raged all day. It was only in consequence of peremptory orders, that he joined me next day. One of his Brigades, the Brigadier General3 of which professed to be looking for his Division absolutely remained all day at Manassas -- in plain view of the Battle & made no attempt to join.
[Note 2 A reference to Fitz John Porter. For Pope's report on Second Bull Run, see Official Records, Series I, Volume 12, Part II, 12-20.]
[Note 3 A reference to General Charles Griffin. Though Griffin defended Fitz John Porter's conduct at Second Bull Run, his career was not harmed by his association with Porter. Griffin held a command in the 5th Corps until the end of the war.]
What renders the matter worse these are both officers of the Regular Army who do not hold back from ignorance or fear. Their constant talk indulged in publicly & in promiscuous company is that the "Army of the Potomac" will not fight, that they are demoralized by withdrawing from the peninsula. Etc, Etc,
Where such example is set by officers of high rank the influence is very bad amongst those in subordinate Stations. You have hardly an idea of the demoralization among officers of high rank in the Potomac Army arising in all instances from personal feeling in relation to change of Commander-in-Chief & others. These men are mere tools or parasites but their example is producing & must necessarily produce very disastrous results.
You should know these things, as you alone can stop it. Its source is beyond my reach though its effects are very perceptible & very dangerous. I am endeavoring to do all I can & will most assuredly put them where they shall fight or run away. My advice to you I give with freedom as I know you will not misunderstand. It is, that in view of any satisfactory results you draw back this army to the entrenchments in front of Washington & set to work in that secure place to re-organize & re-arrange it you may avoid great disaster by doing so. I do not consider the matter except in a purely military light & it is bad enough & grave enough to make some action very necessary
Where there is no heart in their leaders & every disposition to hang back much cannot be expected from men. Please hurry forward cavalry horses to me under strong escort I need them badly, worse than I can tell you.
[Note 4 Pope was removed from command the next day.]
John Pope to Henry W. Halleck, September 1, 1862 (Telegram concerning military affairs). Transcribed and annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois. Available at Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division (Washington, D.C.: American Memory Project, [2000-02]), http:/memory.loc.gov/ammem/alhtml/alhome.shtml, accessed [March 20, 2003].