|Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan (courtesy of Library of Congress)|
As the new commander, one of McClellan's first tasks was to survey the existing defenses around Washington. He told Mary Ellen in the same letter that he would "start tomorrow very early on a tour through the lines on the other side of the river -- it will occupy me all day long & a rather fatiguing ride it will be -- but I will be able to make up my mind on the state of things." Other such inspections continued into August. On the second, he informed Mary Ellen that he had "looked at some of the works" in Virginia.
McClellan's inspection of the lines around the nation's capital led him to one conclusion -- "[t]he national capital was in danger. It was necessary, besides holding the enemy in check, to build works for its defense, strong and capable of being held by a small force." (Report, p. 44.) In Virginia, he noted "the troops were stationed at and in rear of Fort Corcoran, Arlington, and Fort Albany, at Fort Runyon, Roach's Mills, Cole's Mill, and in the vicinity of Fort Ellsworth, with a detachment at the Theological Seminary." (Report, p. 50.) However, "[t]here were no troops south of Hunting Creek, and many of the regiments were encamped on the low grounds bordering the Potomac,—seldom in the best positions for defense, and entirely inadequate in numbers and condition to defend the long line from Fort Corcoran to Alexandria." (Report, p. 50.) Things were no better on the Maryland side, where "upon the heights overlooking the Chain Bridge, two regiments were stationed, whose commanders were independent of each other." (Report, p. 50.) Moreover, "[t]here were no troops on the important Tenallytown road, or on the roads entering the city from the south." (Report, p. 50.) Camps "were located without regard to purposes of defense or instruction" and "the roads were not picketed." (Report, p. 50.)
McClellan recognized the sheer vulnerability of the capital to a Confederate attack:
In no quarter were the dispositions for defense such as to offer a vigorous resistance to a respectable body of the enemy either in the positions and numbers of the troops, or the number and character of the defensive works. Earthworks in the nature of "tetes-de-pont" looked upon the approaches to the Georgetown aqueduct and ferry, the Long Bridge, and Alexandria by the Little River Turnpike, and some simple defensive arrangements were made at the Chain Bridge. With the latter exception, not a single defensive work had been commenced on the Maryland side. (Report, pp. 50-51.)The new commander worried that "[t]here was nothing to prevent the enemy shelling the city from heights within easy range, which could be occupied by a hostile column almost without resistance." (Report, p. 51.)
|Photo of John G. Barnard, after promotion to Brigadier General (courtesy of Library of Congress)|