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[235]

Antietam was a drawn battle. It made Lee abandon his first campaign beyond the Potomac, and saved the Federal capital and cause. But McClellan was too high-bred, too broad in his philanthrophy, too honest a gentleman to serve Lincoln and Stanton. Therefore he was retired, even after a service so signal, and in spite of the fact that he was known to the Confederate and Federal armies as the most accomplished of the Federal commanders.

After Grant came to the Army of the Potomac it never left the field. It was punished more severely under him than it had ever been under any of his predecessors. Some accounts show that it lost 100,000 men!-one hundred thousand men from the first movement in May, 1864, till the battle of Cold Harbor closed, in June, 1864! Yet Grant never suffered it to get beyond his control. After his repulse at Cold Harbor he could not get it to fight any more there, but he held it near the victorious army, and marched it in order by flank to his new base on the James, where he kept it till the end. This was what no other commander of that army had ever done, and stamps him an able general.

He has been severely criticised for fighting all those battles and losing so many men to gain a position which he might have reached without any loss at all. But, in justice, we can say he was not chargeable with want of military capacity for adopting that plan of campaign. It was a moral, and not a strategical error, on his part. From unquestionable authority we know that when Stanton first told Grant that he was to be placed in command of the armies of Virginia he was well pleased, and said: “I shall at once change the plan of campaign, and make my base of operations upon the James river south of Richmond.” Stanton said, “No, you must operate from the other direction.” “But,” said Grant, “if I do it will cost us one hundred thousand men before we can get to where we can take Richmond.” “Well,” said Stanton, “you shall have the hundred thousand men to lose rather than this administration, by abandoning its plan and route of operations in which we have so long persisted shall be convicted before the country of having persisted in error.” Said Grant: “If you furnish me the men to do it I will execute your plan.” So that, while he had military capacity to appreciate the surroundings of the Secretary's campaign, and to foresee the tremendous slaughter of his men which it would involve, he consented to be the instrument of its execution!

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