James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
Christmas the roads were in suitable condition for military operations. On the other hand, the Confederates had an immense advantage in the moral effect of their victories at Bull Run and Balls Bluff.1 Nevertheless, the officers and men of the Army of the Potomac were devoted to McClellan and eager to fight. They would have been glad to follow if he would lead; it only remained for him to give the word.
The Confederate were little, if any, better disciplined than the Union soldiers; but their cautions general was willing to take the offensive. Give me 19,000 more men as good as the 41,000 that I have with the necessary transportation and munitions of war, said Johnston to President Davis on October 1, and I will cross the Potomac and carry the war into the enemys country:2 at that time he knew that the Union force was superior in number.
When McClellan wrote as military critic he condemned by implication his own inactivity as commander. I am induced to believe, he wrote to General Scott from Washington on August 8, that the enemy has at least 100,000 men in front of us. Were I in Beauregards place,3 with that force at my disposal, I would attack the positions on the other side of the Potomac and at the same time cross the river above this city in force.4 Yet McClellan himself,
Note 1. On Oct. 21, occurred on the Potomac above Washington the affair of Balls Bluff in which, owing to mismanagement, the Union forces were defeated. Measured by subsequent battles, the casualties were not large; but the death of Colonel Baker, a dear friend of Lincolns and a popular senator and officer, and the loss to New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania of some of the very pride and flower of their young men caused a profound feeling of discouragement all over the North; still there was little tendency to impute this disaster to McClellan, although it occurred in his department. III, 496. The victory greatly elated the Confederate soldiers. [back]