Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
THE REMOVAL OF McCLELLAN.
NEWSPAPERS IN CAMP FROM A WAR-TIME SKETCH.
IN some former notes** I tried to trace with an impartial hand, and without intruding any prejudice or opinion of my own, the course of the unfortunate differences that had arisen between the Government and the commander of the Army of the Potomac. The acute stage was reached on the Peninsula; Pope's campaign marked the first crisis. On the 1st of September McClellan found himself a general without an army. On the 2d the Government gave him what was left of two armies, and only asked him to defend the capital. On the 5th the troops were in motion; on the 7th, without another word, and thus, as appears probable, overstepping the intentions of the Government,# he set out to meet Lee in Maryland; and, moving deliberately under repeated cautions, ten days later he once more grappled fiercely with his antagonist, who stood waiting on the banks of the Antietam. Antietam strained the back of the Confederacy.
Hardly had the echo of the guns died away than again the angry ink began to flow. To follow its track would here be as tedious and unnecessary as it must always be painful. The sullen stage of the disorder had been reached; collapse was soon to follow. As one turns the pages of the history of the seven weeks after Antietam, or the scattered leaves that are some time to be gathered into history, it is impossible not to realize that we are reading of the last days of the first and best-loved commander of the Army of the Potomac; that the last hour is not far off.
Without going into the details, and without attempting to pass judgment, it must be said that no candid person, knowing anything of war and armies, can doubt that the Army of the Potomac, in the last days of September and early October, 1862, needed nearly everything before beginning a fresh campaign of its own choice. For some things, such as shoes, the troops were really suffering. It is
#See Vol. II, p. 542, and note. This is strongly confirmed by Chase's diary, September 2 (Warden's "Life of Chase," p. 549): "The President repeated that the whole scope of the order was simply to direct McClellan to put the troops into the fortifications and command them for the defense of Washington." September 3d (Ibid., p. 460), the diary says: " . . . the President . . . assured him [Pope] . . . that McClellan's command was only temporary, and gave him reason to expect that another army of active operations would be organized at once which he [Pope] would lead." The same evening (September 3d) the President gave General Halleck an order, which never became known to General McClellan, "to organize an army for active operations . . . independent of the forces he may deem necessary for the defense of Washington, when such active army shall take the field." ("Official Records," Vol. XIX, Part II., p. 169.)
The published extracts from Chase's diary, though voluminous in the earlier stages, are silent on the subject of McClellan's final removal. In Warden's "Life of Chase" (p. 506) we read: "Another chapter2 offers a few words relating to our hero's responsibility for that fall," and the foot-note refers us to "2 Post Chapter LVII.," but not another word is said, and "Chapter LVI., Conclusion," ends the book. This is at least curious, if not significant.--R. B. I.