HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC
Fairfax C. H., March 14.
Soldiers of the Army of the Potomac: For a long time I have kept you inactive, but not without a purpose. You were to be disciplined, armed and instructed. The formidable artillery you now have, had to be created. Other armies were to move and accomplish certain results. I held you back that you might give the deathblow to the rebellion which has distracted this once happy country. The patience you have shown, and your confidence in your General, are worth a dozen victories. These preliminary results are now accomplished. I feel that the patient labors of many months have produced their fruit. The army of the Potomac is now a real army; magnificent in material, admirable in discipline and instruction, and excellently armed and equipped. Your commanders are all that I could wish.
The moment for action has now arrived and I know that I can trust in you to save our country. As I ride through your ranks I see in your faces the sure prestige of victory. I feel that you will do whatever I ask of you. The period of inaction is past. I will bring you now face to face with the rebels and only say that “may God defend the right.” In whatever direction I may move, however strange my actions may appear to you, ever bear in mind that my fate is linked with yours, and that all I do is to bring you where I know you wish to be, on the battlefield.
It is my business to place you there. I am to watch over you as a parent over his children, and you know that your General loves you from the depth of his soul.
It shall be my care, as it has ever been, to gain success with the least loss; but I know that if it is necessary you will willingly follow me to our graves for our righteous cause. God smiles upon us; victory attends us. Yet I would not have you think that our aim is to be obtained without a struggle. I will not disguise it from you that you have brave foes to encounter – foemen well worthy of the steel which you will use so well. I shall demand from you great and heroic exertions, rapid and long marches, desperate conflicts and privations.
We will share all these together, and when this sad war is over we will all return to our homes and feel that we can ask no higher honor than the proud consciousness that we belonged to the Army of the Potomac.
GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
Major General Commanding.
– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Tuesday Morning, March 18, 1862, p. 1