General Chase [MAY 7-JUNE 26, 1886]
NEITHER Lincoln nor Chase enthusiastically approved McClellan's plan to attack Richmond from the Peninsula. Intent on his own campaign, the general seemed to ignore the defenses of Washington, and at the last moment the worried President held back McDowell's corps of the Army of the Potomac to protect the capital. Lincoln's faith in McClellan's strategy was further weakened when he learned how the Confederate ironclad, the Virginia (formerly the Merrimac), on March 8th had decimated the Federal fleet at Hampton Roads. Though checked by the timely appearance of the armored Union vessel, the Monitor, the Merrimac still lurked in Norfolk Harbor, protected by the batteries of Sewell's Point, and she might emerge at any time to cut Federal communications. McClellan's month-long delay before Yorktown and his clamorous appeals for reinforcements did little to reassure the President.
Desiring "to ascertain by personal observation whether some further vigilance and vigor might not be infused into the operations of the army and navy," Lincoln decided to visit Fort Monroe, where the veteran General John E.