To George B. McClellan

(Send in Cypher). War Department                  Washington City, D.C.
Major Gen. McClellan                                           May 25. 1862 8 1/2 P.M.

Your despatch received. Banks was at Strausburg with about six-thousand men, Shields having been taken from him to swell a column for McDowell to aid you at Richmond, and the rest of his force scattered at various places. On the 23rd. a rebel force of seven to ten thousand fell upon one regiment and two companies guarding the bridge at Front-Royal, destroying it entirely, crossed the Shenandoah, and on the 24th. (yesterday) pushed to get North of Banks on the Road to Winchester. Banks ran a race with them, beating them into Winchester yesterday evening. This morning a battle ensued between the two forces in which Banks was beaten back into full retreat towards Martinsburg, and probably is broken up into a total route. Geary, on the Manassas Gap R.R. just now reports that Jackson is now near Front-Royal with ten thousand following up & supporting as I understand, the force now pursuing Banks. Also that another force of ten thousand is near Orleans following on in the same direction. Stripped bare, as we are here, it will be all we can do to prevent them crossing the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry, or above. We have about twenty thousand of McDowell’s force moving back to the vicinity of Front Royal; and Gen. Fremont, who was at Franklin, is moving to Harrisonburg, both these movements intended to get in the enemies near. One more of McDowells Brigades is ordered through here to Harper’s Ferry. The rest of his force remains, for the present, at Fredericksburg.  We are sending such regiments and dribs from here and Baltimore, as we can spare, to Harper’s Ferry, supplying their places, in some sort, by calling in Militia from the adjacent States. We also have eighteen cannon on the road to Harper’s Ferry of which arm, there is not a single one yet at that point. This is now our situation. If McDowell’s force was now beyond our reach, we should be utterly helpless. Apprehension of something like this, and no unwillingness to sustain you, has always been my reason for withholding McDowells force from you. Please understand this, and do the best you can with the force you have.

A. LINCOLN

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