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Just previous to the appointment of General Fremont to the command of that department, the state of affairs in Missouri had become very alarming. In every portion of the State the rebel forces had appeared and assumed the offensive; all through the State they were committing their depredations, and Jackson, the governor, had appeared with a large force of troops, furnished by the rebel authorities from Arkansas and Texas, in addition to those he had been able to collect in Missouri. Pillow and other rebel generals had collected a large force from Tennessee, Kentucky, &c., and were threatening the southwestern portion of the State, and Cairo, at the mouth of the Ohio. General Lyon, who was the highest officer in command, after the removal of General Harney, had, with his limited means, beer most active, and had taken the field for the purpose of preventing Jackson, with his superior forces, from getting possession of the northern portion of the State.
In July General Frémont was assigned to that command. He proceeded to New York city, where he spent some days, endeavoring to arrange for supplying his department with the arms, &c., which were absolutely requisite. He reached St. Louis on the 25th of July. General Pope, who had been assigned the command in northern Missouri, was calling for troops to enable him to take the field; General Lyon, in the southwestern portion of the State, had been calling for re-enforcements for some time; General Prentiss, at Cairo, was also asking for re-enforcements. General Frémont first re-enforced Cairo, as being the most important point, situated, as it was, at the junction of the Ohio and the Mississippi, and controlling the navigation of those two rivers. The number of troops that he could obtain for that purpose was small; but the enemy were led to believe, by the large number of steamboats that went down from St. Louis, that the re-enforcement was far greater than it really was; and Pillow, who had a force estimated at 12,000 men, was deterred from making the attack he had contemplated.
Cairo being re-enforced, General Frémont at once took steps to send troops to the assistance of General Lyon. The number of the enemy opposed to General Lyon was almost overwhelming. It was supposed by many that he would retire before them until he should meet supports. He himself seems to have contemplated such a movement, for after the affair of Dug Springs he retired to Springfield; and General Sturgis testifies that, at that time, General Lyon expressed his convictions that re-enforcements could not be sent to him.
Upon reaching Springfield, General Lyon halted his forces, and after waiting there some four or five days announced his intention to march out and attack the enemy. What reasons influenced him in forming that determination are not well established by the testimony. Some of the officers have expressed their conviction that he apprehended that the enemy, should he retire further from them, would fall upon his rear and cripple him, or force him to fight a battle under great disadvantages. His brave spirit, doubtless, led him to meet the enemy he had gone so far to reach, and endeavor to inflict such a blow as would lead them not to press very closely upon him. Whatever his reasons may have been, he determined upon the attack. The battle was fought at Wilson's creek, on the 10th of August, and, though the enemy outnumbered our forces four to one, our army was eminently successful.
General Lyon fell, leading on a regiment to the attack. His loss at that time was most deeply felt. Dying as a brave soldier would wish to die, fighting for the cause of his country against those who were seeking its destruction, his example has exercised its influence upon those who have since won the glorious victories which have made our armies in the west so illustrious.
After that battle our forces retired to Rolla, the enemy being so severely punished that they followed only at a distance. At Rolla they were joined by the troops that had been started to their relief, but had been delayed for want of transportation.
CONDUCT OF THE WAR.
In September, Colonel Mulligan, who had been upon an expedition in the northern part of the State, was obliged to fall back before the forces of the enemy advancing against him under General Price. Colonel Mulligan made a stand at Lexington, and prepared to resist them, sending for re-enforcements. General Frémont, upon hearing of Colonel Mulligan's situation, made arrangements to send troops to his assistance; but from various causes they were unable to reach him, and the enemy succeeding in cutting off his supply of water he was compelled to surrender.
Shortly after this, General Frémont determined to take the field in person, with all the forces he could collect together. He was deficient in transportation, so much so that the adjutant general of the army reported to the Secretary of War that General Frémont would be unable to move. He did move, however, and, by the first of November, succeeded in reaching Springfield. The enemy, some 2,000 strong, had been driven from that place by Major Zagoni, who, with barely 100 cavalry, made the most brilliant charge of the war. Preparations were made to engage the enemy, who were understood to be in force in the immediate neighborhood of Springfield. The day was fixed and the order of the attack determined upon. Just then General Frémont was removed from the command and General Hunter appointed as his successor.
General Hunter testifies that he became satisfied that the enemy were not so near as General Frémont had supposed. He determined, therefore, to withdraw to St. Louis, which was done, and active operations in the State were suspended for some time.
In relation to the administration of General Frémont much has been said about the high prices paid by him for arms and other supplies; the unnecessary fortification of St. Louis; delay in re-enforcing points threatened by the enemy; undue assumption of authority, &c. Your committee can but briefly notice those different points, on account of their inability to obtain full evidence in relation to them.
This much, at least, appears to be established: General Frémont, upon taking the command, was clothed with the most ample authority, and the exigencies of the department were such that much should be pardoned in one compelled to act so promptly, and with so little at his command. Whether that authority was exercised, in all respects, as it should have been-whether General Frémont was justified in all that he did by the circumstances under which he was called upon to act-your committee do not undertake to express a positive opinion.
In relation to the purchase of arms, &c., it appears that the department was very destitute of supplies of all kinds; the demand was most pressing, and the government was unable to supply it. Some of the arms engaged by General Frémont, for the soldiers in his department, were diverted to the army of the Potomac, the primary object of the government then being to collect and equip an army at Washington, as soon as could possibly be done. This rendered it the more important that other arms should be obtained; yet with all that General Frémont deemed it proper to do his department long felt the want of adequate supplies.
In reference to the fortifications about St. Louis, General Frémont but carried out what General Lyon, before him, had deemed necessary. In reference to the manner in which it was done as the government has had its agents to examine the contracts for that work, as well as other contracts-your committee forbear expressing an opinion.
In regard to re-enforcing promptly those points threatened by the enemy, so far as your committee have the evidence before them, they believe that General Frémont acted with energy and promptness. He was peculiarly situated. The first call-that of General Lyon-was pressed upon him so soon after he took command of the department, and he was compelled to act so hastily, without
time for fully surveying the field before him, and ascertaining the extent of the resources at his command, that even if he failed to do all that one under other circumstances might have done, still your committee can discover no cause of censure against him. But in regard to both General Lyon and Colonel Mulligan your committee have discovered no evidence of any disregard for the public interest, or want of energy or inclination upon the part of General Frémont. Troops were collected by him as soon as could be done, and they were promptly sent where the exigencies of the service demanded. Some of them were diverted to other purposes than those for which General Frémont designed them. The government called upon him for troops to be sent to the east at a time when he was nost earnestly engaged in procuring forces for the assistance of Colonel Mulligan. Those that were left were sent promptly, and only failed to render the assistance needed from causes over which General Frémont had no control. General Frémont early turned his attention to the building of gunboats for our western rivers. Whoever is entitled to the credit of originating the idea of employing such means of warfare in that section of country, it is not to be denied that General Frémont perceived the advantage to result from them. Our brilliant victories in the west will bear enduring testimony to the correctness of his judgment in that respect.
But that feature of General Frémont's administration which attracted the most attention at the time, and which will ever be most prominent among the many points of interest connected with the history of that department, is his proclamation of emancipation. Whatever opinion may be entertained in reference to the time when the policy of emancipation should have been inaugurated, or by whose authority it should have been promulgated, there can be no doubt that General Frémont at that early day rightly judged in regard to the most effective means of subduing this rebellion. In proof of that it is only necessary to refer to the fact that his successor, when transferred to another department, issued a proclamation embodying the same principle. And the President, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, has applied the same principle to all the rebellious States, and few will deny that it must be adhered to until the last vestige of treason and rebellion is destroyed.
The administration of General Frémont was eminently characterized by earnestness, ability, and the most unquestionable loyalty. In the exercise of the almost unlimited power delegated to him, there was no evidence of any tenderness towards treason, or any failure to fully assert the dignity and power of the government of which he was the representative. The manner in which that power was exercised was to be judged by the results, and the policy of continuing him in command was a matter for the authorities above him to determine. In order to pronounce a final judgment upon all the affairs in the western department, much more information is necessary than is in the possession of your committee. They have undertaken merely to state what seems to be borne out by such testimony as they have been able to obtain.
B. F. WADE, Chairman.
As the testimony which the committee submit in relation to the western department is so incomplete, the testimony of so many witnesses deemed material by the whole committee being wanting, the undersigned decline to concur in the above report, and for themselves prefer to submit the testimony without com
D. W. GOOCH.
M. F. ODELL.
Washington City, D. C, March 12, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor, in compliance with your request of the 28th ultimo, to transmit herewith copies of the following papers, viz:
Report of Adjutant General Thomas upon the Western Department, and
Hon. B. F. WADE,
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
Chairman Joint Committee on the conduct of the present war.
HARRISBURG, PA., October 19, 1861. GENERAL: When I did myself the honor to ask you to accompany me on my western tour, it was with the view of availing myself of your experience as adjutant general of the army. Finding that the result of my investigations might (as I at first apprehended) have an important effect not only upon the army of the west, but upon the interests of the whole country, I requested you to take full notes upon all points connected with the object of my visit.
As you inform me that you have carefully complied with my wish, I now respectfully request you to submit your report as early as practicable, in order that the President may be correctly advised as to the administration of affairs connected with the army of the west.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier General L. THOMAS,
SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War.
Adjutant General of the United States Army.
WASHINGTON, D. C., October 21, 1861.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the report requested in your letter of the 19th instant:
We arrived at St. Louis, as you are aware, at 2 a. m. October 11th. After breakfast, rode to Benton Barracks, above the city. On the street leading to the camp, passed a small fieldwork in course of construction. Found the camp of great extent, with extensive quarters, constructed of rough boards. Much has been said of the large sums expended in their erection; but some one mentioned that General McKinstry, principal quar
termaster, who made the disbursements, gave the cost at $15,000. If so, it was judicious. The actual cost should be ascertained. General Curtis was in command. Force present 140 officers, 3,338 men; principally detachments, except the 1st Iowa cavalry, 34 officers, 904 men, having horses, but without equipments.
General Curtis said of General Frémont that he found no difficulty in having access to him, and when he presented business connected with his command it was attended to. General Frémont never consulted him on military matters, nor informed him of his plans. General Curtis remarked that while he would go with freedom to General Scott and express his opinions, he would not dare do so to General Frémont. He deemed General Frémont unequal to the command of an army, and said that he was no more bound by law than by the winds.
After dinner, rode to the arsenal below the city, Captain Callender in charge. The garrison for its protection is under Major Granger, 3d cavalry. But very few arms in hand; a number of heavy guns, designed for gunboats and mortarboats. The captain is engaged in making ammunition. He said he heard that some person had a contract for making the carriages for these guns; that if so he knew nothing of it; and that it was entirely irregular, he being the proper officer to attend to the case. This, in my opinion, requires investigation. He expected soon to receive funds, and desired them for current purposes. Was fearful, however, that they might be diverted for other payments.
Visited a large hospital not distant from the arsenal, in charge of Assistant Surgeon Bailey, United States army. It was filled with patients, mostly doing well. In fine order and a credit to the service. The doctor had an efficient corps of assistants from the volunteer service, and in addition a number of sisters of charity as nurses. God bless these pure and disinterested women! ·
Colonel Andrews, chief paymaster, called, and represented irregularities in the pay department, and desired instructions from the Secretary for his government, stating that he was required to make payments and transfers of money contrary to law and regulations. Once, upon objecting to what he conceived an improper payment, he was threatened with confinement by a file of soldiers. He exhibited an order for the transfer of $100,000 to the quartermaster's department, which was irregular. Exhibited abstract of payments by one paymaster (Major Febiger) to 42 persons, appointed by General Frémont, viz: 1 colonel, 3 majors, 8 captains, 15 first lieutenants, 11 second lieutenants, 1 surgeon, 3 assistant surgeons; total, 42. Nineteen of these have appointments as engineers, and entitled to cavalry pay.-(See paper No. 1.) A second abstract of payments was furnished, but not vouched for as reliable, as the paymaster was sick, and is only given to show the excess of officers of rank appointed to the major general's body guard of only 300 men: the commander being a colonel, &c.-(See paper No. 2.) The whole number of irregular appointments made by General Frémont was said by Colonel Andrews to be nearly two hundred.
The following is a copy of one of these appointments :
"HEADQUARTERS WESTERN DEPARTMENT, "St. Louis, August 28, 1861. "SIR: You are hereby appointed captain of cavalry, to be employed in the land transportation department, and will report for duty at these headquarters.
"To Capt. FELIX VOGELE, Present." (See paper No. 3.)
"J. C. FREMONT, "Major General Commanding.