By special assignment of the President of the United States I have assumed command of the army. I have spent two weeks in learning your whereabouts, your condition, and your wants, in preparing you for active operations, and in placing you in positions from which you can act promptly and to the purpose. These labors are nearly completed and I am about to join you in the field.
Let us understand each other. I have come from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies; from an Army whose business it has been to seek the adversary and to beat him when he was found; whose policy has been attack and not defense. In but one instance has the enemy been able to place our western armies in defensive attitude. I presume that I have been called here to pursue the same system, and to lead you against the enemy. It is my purpose to do so, and that speedily. I am sure you long for an opportunity to win the distinction you are capable of achieving. That opportunity I shall endeavor to give you. Meantime I desire you to dismiss from your minds certain phrases which I am sorry to find much in vogue amongst you. I hear constantly of taking “strong position and holding them,” of “lines of retreat,” and of “bases of supplies.” Let us discard such ideas. The strongest position a soldier should desire to occupy is one from which he can most easily advance against the enemy. Let us study the probable lines of retreat of our opponents, and leave our own to take care of themselves. Let us look before us, and not behind. Success and glory are in the advance; disaster and shame lurk in the rear. Let us act on this understanding and it is safe to predict that your banners shall be inscribed with many a glorious deed, and that your names will be dear to your countrymen forever.Jno. Pope, Maj. Gen., Commanding The Union troops did not take this kindly. The soldiers who had been beaten in the valley by Stonewall Jackson were offended by his rash statements. Pope frequently addressed his dispatches, Headquarters in the Saddle, and the soldiers repeated the old army joke, that his headquarters were where his hindquarters should have been. Pope was also hated by the Confederates, for he issued another proclamation which ordered that all male civilians who would not take a loyalty oath were to be sent across the lines. It was also forbidden for any civilian to communicate with a Confederate soldier, even if they were their family member. Lee called him, “the miscreant Pope,” very strong words for Lee. He would soon turn his attention to putting him down.