The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 6 by Abraham Lincoln
To General G. B. McClellan. July 4, 1862.
WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON CITY, D.C., July 4, 1862.
I understand your position as stated in your letter and by General Marcy. To reinforce you so as to enable you to resume the offensive within a month, or even six weeks, is impossible. In addition to that arrived and now arriving from the Potomac (about 10,000 men, I suppose), and about 10,000 I hope you will have from Burnside very soon, and about 5000 from Hunter a little later, I do not see how I can send you another man within a month. Under these circumstances the defensive for the present must be your only care. Save the army first, where you are, if you can; secondly, by removal, if you must. You, on the ground, must be the judge as to which you will attempt, and of the means for effecting it. I but give it as my opinion that with the aid of the gunboats and the reinforcements mentioned above you can hold your present position--provided, and so long as, you can keep the James River open below you. If you are not tolerably confident you can keep the James River open, you had better remove as soon as possible. I do not remember that you have expressed any apprehension as to the danger of having your communication cut on the river below you, yet I do not suppose it can have escaped your attention.
Yours very truly,
P.S.--If at any time you feel able to take the offensive, you are not restrained from doing so. A.L.