The End of the "Hundred Days"
THE first summer of the War was passing into autumn; McClellan was still drilling his Army of the Potomac, still sneering at the Administration in letters to his wife, still exaggerating the forces of the enemy; Secretary Cameron was rapidly losing the confidence of intelligent observers; and northerners looked back upon a series of defeats-- Bull Run, Ball's Bluff, Wilson's Creek, Lexington--with scarcely a victory to counterbalance them. The uneasy nation was beginning to demand that the Administration give it commanders who would move forward and win victories. To this demand, McClellan was deaf; while Frémont, with a weaker and much more poorly equipped force, was necessarily keenly aware of it. Working night and day under a sword of Damocles, he knew that within a few weeks the thread which sustained it would probably break. He had but one hope. Before those weeks expired, he must win a victory which would restore his prestige and cause the Administration to stay its hand.
Frémont had realized this fact at once when Lexington fell. Reporting the disaster to Winfield Scot, he added, in an effort to forestall criticism: "I am taking the field myself, and hope to destroy the enemy, either before or after the junction of the forces under McCulloch. Please notify the President immediately." Scott replied that the President was glad to see him hastening to the scene of action; "his words are, 'he expects you to repair the disaster at Lexington without loss of time.'"
Sterling Price, with his booty and prisoners, was retreating from Lexington to join McCulloch's army in southwestern Missouri. Frémont at once reorganized his available troops in five