James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
I think you better break the enemys line at once,1 a suggestion which the General received with contempt, writing to his wife, I was much tempted to reply that he had better come and do it himself.2 Three days later the President wrote to him in great kindness: Once more let me tell you it is indispensable to you that you strike a blow. I am powerless to help this.3 Suggestion and entreaty were of no avail. Glorious news comes borne on every wind but the South Wind, wrote Hay to Nicolay [April 9]. The little Napoleon [McClellan] sits trembling before the handful of men at Yorktown, afraid either to fight or run. Stanton feels devilish about it. He would like to remove him if he thought it would do.4 No one but McClellan, wrote Joseph E. Johnston to Lee, would have hesitated to attack.5 It is the mature judgment of almost all military authorities that, outnumbering the Confederates as he did three to one, he could at this time have broken their line from the York river to the James and have reached his position on the Chickahominy a month earlier than he did. He missed his opportunity. By April 17, the Confederates at Yorktown numbered 53,000, and Johnston himself was in command. From this time on, nothing but scientific siege operations was feasible and, as McClellan was a capable engineer, these were undoubtedly as good as could have been devised. On May 3, Johnston evacuated Yorktown; he was followed on the retreat by the Union forces who brought on a battle at Williamsburg resulting in their defeat. On May 21, McClellan was in camp on the Chickahominy, seven to twelve miles from Richmond; he had in the meantime received a reënforcement by water of Franklins division of McDowells
Note 1. O. R., XI, Pt. I, 14, the line between the York and James rivers. [back]