James Ford Rhodes (1848–1927). History of the Civil War, 1861–1865. 1917.

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  Washington and the enemy concentrated on you. Had we stripped Washington he would have been upon us before the troops could have gotten to you.… It is the nature of the case and neither you nor the government are to blame.” 1  89   As the battle of Gaines’s Mill ended the offensive attitude of the Army of the Potomac, some general considerations will here be in place. Nearly all writers agree that McClellan should have strongly reënforced Porter, who in that event could have held his own until night when he could have made an orderly retreat; he might even have won the battle. If McClellan had known of Lee’s division of the Confederate force, he would of course have followed the plan of the military critics. Nevertheless there is no doubt that his judgment was bad on the basis of such information as he possessed; this may be affirmed after conceding that by no possible means could he have gained the correct knowledge of the enemy which Lee had of the Union forces. “If I were mindful only of my own glory,” wrote Frederick the Great, “I would choose always to make war in my own country, for there every man is a spy and the enemy can make no movement of which I am not informed.” 2 This advantage was Lee’s; but in addition he understood McClellan. Only in dealing with a timed commander would he have so divided his force. When Lee was planning the campaign Davis said, “If McClellan is the man I take him for … as soon as he finds that the bulk of our army is on the north side of the Chickahominy, he will not stop to try conclusions with it there but will immediately move upon his objective point, the city of Richmond.” Lee replied, “If you will hold him as long as you can at the intrenchment and then fall back on the detached works around the city I will be upon the enemy’s heels before he gets
Note 1. IV, 43, 44 with authorities cited. [back]
Note 2. Lieut.-Col. Henderson, I, 497. [back]