CAMP OPPOSITE FREDERICKSBURG, May 5, 1862.
I am very glad you saw Mrs. McClellan and were pleased with her. Although I don't think General McClellan thought much of me after I was appointed, yet I am quite sure my appointment was due to him, and almost entirely to him. At that time his will was omnipotent and he had only to ask and it was given. He told me himself that he had simply presented my name to the President, to which I replied that I considered that the same as appointing me; which I do, and for which I am not only grateful but proud, being prouder of such an appointment than if all the politicians in the country had backed me.
Since writing you, great events have taken place. Fort Macon fallen, New Orleans taken, and now we hear Yorktown and the Peninsula are evacuated.
I believe our movement to this place has been magnified, and they saw the danger to their rear and got away before it was too late. I think I wrote you, when in Alexandria, that this was the place for us to come to, and never could understand what we were sent to Manassas for, except because the enemy had been there before us. Great efforts are being made to repair the railroad, so as to bring up supplies, and I think we will be pushed on as fast as the road is completed.
McClellan will push on from West Point, at the head of York River, from whence there is also a railroad. He has a shorter distance, only forty miles, and we have sixty, but he will have one hundred thousand men to move and we only forty thousand, so that we will progress about evenly. We don't know whether they intend to abandon Virginia entirely, or whether they have only withdrawn from the Peninsula, between the York and James Rivers, and have taken up a position nearer Richmond.
Day before yesterday General McDowell invited me to meet at his quarters the Secretaries of State, Treasury and War, all of whom had come on a trip from Washington, and whom he very judiciously put into a wagon and drove them over the fifteen miles of road from Acquia Creek to this place, during which ride they were almost jolted to death and their lives endangered, owing to the dreadful condition of the road. He said to them: “Gentlemen, you can see for yourselves the character of the roads we have to draw our artillery and supplies over, and I assure you they are infinitely better now than they have been at any previous period of our operations since the frost began to leave the ground.” I was introduced to all of them and they were quite civil. I did not recall to Mr. Chase's1 recollection that I was a ci-devant pupil of his, not knowing how such reminiscences might be taken. After lunch we all crossed the river on a boat-bridge we have built, and took a turn through Fredericksburg. The place seemed deserted by all who could get away, there being but few white people, and they mostly old women and children. There are some very pretty residences in the town, though we only saw the outside of them. The papers will have informed you that Ord has been made a major general. They also state he is to have this division, but I think that is a mistake. The idea that McCall will voluntarily retire is absurd, and I don't see how with any show of justice they can put him aside.
1 Secretary of the treasury.
SOURCE: George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 1, p. 263-5