James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
despatch from a lieutenant of engineers at Centreville saying that McDowell had driven the enemy before him, ordered the reserve forward and desired reënforcements without delay. As Scott deemed the report credible, the President, thinking all doubt at an end, ordered his carriage for his usual evening drive. At six oclock Secretary Seward appeared at the White House pale and haggard. Where is the President? he asked hoarsely of Lincolns private secretaries. Gone to drive, they answered. Have you any late news? he continued. They read him the telegrams announcing victory. Tell no one, said he. That is not true. The battle is lost. McDowell is in full retreat and calls on General Scott to save the capital.1 Returning from his drive a half hour later, the President heard Sewards message, walked over to army headquarters and there read the despatch from a captain of engineers: General McDowells army in full retreat through Centreville. The day is lost. Save Washington and the remnants of this army. The routed troops will not reform. The President did not go to his bed that night; morning found him still on his lounge in the executive office,2 listening to the recitals of newspaper correspondents and other civilians, who had followed McDowell to Centreville and, after the repulse, fearing for their own safety, had rushed back to Washington, beginning to arrive at midnight. Monday broke dismally in the capital, a drizzling rain adding to the gloom. But by noon it was known that the Confederates had not pursued the retreating troops in the aim of taking Washington.
The disaster caused some prominent men to lose their nerve; not so, the President. Bitterly disappointed as he was at the result, he from the first showed no discouragement or loss of control. During the week he paid visits to the