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involved the transfer of a hundred and fifty thousand Federals by sea from Washington to Fortress Monroe, on the historic peninsula between the York and James rivers. Then, using these rivers as lines of communication, his army would take Richmond in flank. Lincoln's objection to this plan was based on the very significant argument that while the Federal army was being transported piecemeal to Fortress Monroe the Confederates might take Washington by a sudden dash from their base at Centreville, only thirty miles off. This was a valid objection; for Washington was not only the Federal Headquarters but the very emblem of the Union cause — a sort of living Stars and Stripes — and Washington lost might well be understood to mean almost the same as if the Ship of State had struck her colors.
On the ninth of March the immediate anxiety about Washington was relieved. That day came news that the Monitor had checkmated the Merrimac in Hampton Roads and that “Joe” Johnston had withdrawn his forces from the Bull Run position and had retired behind the Rappahannock to Culpeper. On the tenth McClellan began a reconnoitering pursuit of Johnston from Washington. Having found burnt bridges and other signs of
decisive retirement, he at last persuaded the reluctant Lincoln to sanction the Peninsula Campaign. On the seventeenth his army began embarking for Fortress Monroe, ten thousand men at a time, that being all the transports could carry. For a week the movement of troops went on successfully; while the Confederates could not make out what was happening along the coast. Everything also seemed quite safe, from the Federal point of view, in the Shenandoah Valley, where General Banks commanded. And both there and along the Potomac the Federals were in apparently overwhelming strength; even though the detectives doing duty as staff officers still kept on doubling the numbers of all the Confederates under arms.
Suddenly, on the twenty-third, a fight at Kernstown in the Shenandoah Valley gave a serious shock to the victorious Federals, not only there but all over the semicircle of invasion, from West Virginia round by the Potomac and down to Fortress Monroe. The fighting on both sides was magnificent. Yet Kernstown itself was a very small affair. Little more than ten thousand men had been in action: seven thousand Federals under Shields against half as many Confederates under Stonewall Jackson. The point is that Jackson's attack, though unsuccessful, was very disconcerting elsewhere. From Kernstown the area of disturbance spread like wildfire till the tactical victory of seven thousand Federals had spoilt the strategy of thirty times aš many. Shields reported: “I set to work during the night to bring together all the troops within my reach. I sent an express after Williams's division, requesting the rear brigade, about twenty miles distant, to march all night and join me in the morning. I swept the posts in rear of almost all their guards, hurrying them forward by forced marches, to be with me at daylight.” Banks, now on his way to Washington, halted in alarm at Harper's Ferry. McClellan, perceiving that Jackson's little force was more than a mere corps of observation, approved Banks and added: “As soon as you are strong enough push Jackson hard and drive him well beyond Strasburg," that is, west of the Massanuttons, where Frémont could close in and finish him. Lincoln had already been thinking of transferring nine thousand men from McClellan to Frémont. Kernstown decided it; so off they went to West Virginia. Still fearing an attack on Washington, Lincoln halted McDowell's army corps, thirty-seven thousand strong, on the march overland to join McClellan on the Peninsula, and kept
them stuck fast round Centreville, near Bull Run. And so McClellan's Peninsular force was suddenly reduced by forty-six thousand men.
April was a month of maneuvers and suspense. By the end of it McClellan, based on Fortress Monroe, had accumulated a hundred and ten thousand men. The Confederates on the Peninsula, holding Yorktown, numbered fifty thousand. McClellan sadly missed McDowell, whose corps was to have taken the fort at Gloucester Point that prevented the Federal gunboats from turning the enemy's lines at Yorktown. McDowell moved south to Fredericksburg, leaving a small force near Manassas Junction to connect him with the garrison of Washington. The Confederates could spare only twelve thousand men to watch him. Meanwhile Banks occupied the Shenandoah Valley, having twenty thousand men at Harrisonburg and smaller forces at several points all round, from southwest to northeast, each designed to form part of the net that was soon to catch Jackson. Beyond Banks stood Frémont's force in West Virginia, also ready to close in. Jackson's complete grand total was less than that of Banks's own main body. Yet, with one eye on Richmond, he lay in wait at Swift Run Gap, crouching for a tiger-spring at Banks. Virginia was semicircled by superior forces. But everywhere inside the semicircle the Confederate parts all formed one strategic whole; while the Federal parts outside did not. Moreover, the South had already decided to call up every available man; thus forestalling the North by more than ten months on the vital issue of conscription.
In May the preliminary clash of arms began on the Peninsula. The Confederates evacuated the Yorktown lines on the third. On the fifth McClellan's advanced guard fought its way past Williamsburg. On the seventh he began changing his base from Fortress Monroe to White House on the Pamunkey. Here on the sixteenth he was within twenty miles of Richmond, while all the seaways behind him were safe in Union hands. The fate not only of Richmond but of the whole South seemed trembling in the scales. The Northern armies had cleared the Mississippi down to Memphis. The Northern navy had taken New Orleans, the greatest Southern port. And now the Northern hosts were striking at the Southern capital. McClellan with double numbers from the east, McDowell with treble numbers from the north, and the Union navy, with more than fourfold