- Differences with the Administration -- removal from the command of the army
It now became a grave question with General McClellan whether or not he should pursue the retreating enemy into Virginia. Our losses had been heavy; the army was greatly exhausted by hard work, fatiguing marches, hunger, and want of sleep. Many of the troops were new levies; and, though they had fought well, they had not the steadiness and discipline that were needed for an expedition so formidable. The means of transportation at our disposal, on the 19th of September, were not enough to furnish a single day's subsistence in advance. Under these circumstances, General McClellan did not deem it wise to cross the river with his army, over a deep and difficult ford, in pursuit of a retreating enemy, and thus place between himself and his base of supplies a stream liable at any time to rise above a fording stage. This decision was made known to the authorities at Washington, and they were duly informed of the movements of our own troops, and of those of the enemy, as far as the latter could be ascertained. The commander-in-chief, to whom, in general, the communications were addressed, was urged to push forward all the old troops that could be dispensed with around Washington and other places, so that the old skeleton regiments might be filled up at once, and officers appointed to supply the numerous existing  vacancies. The work of reorganizing, drilling, and supplying the army was begun at the earliest moment. The different corps were stationed along the river in the best position to cover and guard the fords, Reconnoissances upon the Virginia side of the Potomac, for the purpose of learning the enemy's positions and movements, were frequently made. This was a trying and exhausting service for our cavalry, with which the army was inadequately supplied. On the first day of October the President of the United States paid a visit to the Army of the Potomac, and remained several days, during which time he passed through the different encampments, reviewed the troops, and went over the battle-fields of South Mountain and Antietam. During this visit, General McClellan explained to him fully, in conversation, the movements of the army since it had left Washington, and gave the reasons why the enemy was not pursued after he had crossed the Potomac. The twenty-second day of September, 1862, was a memorable day in the history of the war and the history of the country; for on that day the President issued his proclamation in which he announced that on the first day of January, 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State, or any designated part of a State, the people whereof should then be in rebellion against the United States, should be thenceforth and forever free. All discussion of the expediency of this proclamation, or of its legal effect, would be inopportune; but  it will be admitted, alike by those who approve and those who disapprove it, that it gave a new character to the war and changed its objects. It is hardly necessary to add that this proclamation became at once, throughout the country, a subject of earnest debate and vehement controversy, which have, indeed, continued to the present time. From the character of the men composing the Army of the Potomac, who were voters and citizens as well as soldiers, accustomed to read the newspapers and talk politics, it was obvious that the same division of opinion upon the President's proclamation would be found among them as was found in the public at large; and there was danger that this conflict of views might impair that unity of action and patriotic zeal which are so essential to the success of all military movements. General McClellan felt himself called upon to remind the officers and soldiers under his command of the relations between the civil authorities and the military forces of the country, and of the duties of the latter in regard to the political questions of the day and the path of civil policy marked out by the Government; and he may have done this with the more promptness and emphasis from the fact that he was known not to belong to that party by whose influence the proclamation had been extorted from a too-yielding President. With these views, the following general order was issued, which may unhesitatingly be pronounced admirable alike in substance and in form, animated by a high-toned patriotism, defining with precision the line where the duty of the citizen  ends and the duty of the soldier begins, and giving to every candid mind an assurance that General McClellan himself would serve his country as faithfully and zealously in the future as he had done in the past:--
The seeming inactivity of the Army of the Potomac after the battle of Antietam was a disappointment to the public, and an annoyance to the Administration. It was expected that Lee's retreating forces would be instantly and vigorously pursued, and a new path to Richmond opened through his broken columns.  The earnest desire of the Administration for a forward movement at length took the form of a positive and peremptory order, which was received on the 7th of October, and is as follows:--
This order was not immediately carried out, for a forward movement at that moment was an impossibility, and, had it been insisted upon, General McClellan must at once have resigned his command; but, on the other hand, it cannot be said that it was disobeyed, for every possible effort was  made to comply with its directions, and the general-in-chief was day by day informed of the progress that was making, and of the reasons why the desired advance was delayed. These reasons are set forth in full in General McClellan's Report, and are substantiated by the testimony of the chief quartermasters Colonel Ingalls, and of other officers. The army was wholly deficient in cavalry, and a large part of our troops Were in want of shoes, clothing, blankets, knapsacks, and shelter-tents. It should be borne in mind that the presence of the Confederates in Maryland, and the imperative necessity of driving them out, had made excessive demands upon the strength and endurance of the Army of the Potomac. It was one of those cases in which nervous energy is called upon to do the work of muscular strength: for a while the claim is answered, but sooner or later the time of reaction must come. After the battle of Antietam a natural exhaustion followed the unnatural excitement which had been kept up for a fortnight previous. Had the army been furnished with clothing and supplies, a rest of some days would still have been required before a forward movement would have been expedient or even safe; but, in consequence of the deficiencies above mentioned, a yet further delay was compelled. The order to cross the Potomac was dated on the 6th of October, as has been seen, but the movement did not begin till the 26th; and during the intermediate period the Administration and General McClellan were fairly at issue. The case on  behalf of the latter may be found stated in his Report; that on behalf of the Administration, in the report of the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, and in the appendix to the testimony of General Halleck, and is summed up in a letter of his, addressed to the Secretary of War, dated October 28, 1862, which was published in the newspapers of the day at the same time with the order for removing General McClellan. Without going into minute detail, without spreading the whole evidence upon the record, the points of difference were these:-- General McClellan says that the army is deficient in clothing and supplies of all kinds, and especially in horses, that requisitions for the needed articles had been duly made upon the War Department at Washington, but that in point of fact they had not been received, and that until they were received it was not possible for the army to advance. On the other hand, the Administration, represented by the general-in-chief, says that all General McClellan's requisitions had been promptly referred to the proper functionaries, that all the supplies asked for, horses included, had been procured and forwarded without delay, and that it was not possible that the army could have been in the destitute condition alleged. A long letter from General Meigs, the Quartermaster-General, is given in support of these positions. It is easy to see that the statements of the Administration are not inconsistent with the statements of General McClellan. The former say,  substantially, that certain supplies were put on board freight-trains at Washington to be forwarded to an army stationed at different points in the neighborhood of Harper's Ferry, forty or fifty miles off. General McClellan says that these articles were not received; and if credible and unimpeached witnesses, speaking upon matters within their knowledge, are to be believed, he proves it. It is obvious that proof that articles have been received is not made when it is shown that they have been despatched to their point of destination. General McClellan, be it remembered, is only defending or justifying himself for not advancing, and is not making any complaint against the Administration, or against any officer, civil or military, at Washington. This distinctly appears by the following despatch, which was published in connection with General Halleck's letter to the Secretary of War, before referred to, as a document in justification of General McClellan's removal:--
 That supplies sent from Washington in season were not seasonably received by General McClellan is further shown by the letter of General Meigs before referred to, which is one of the documents in the ease on the side of the Administration. At the commencement of this letter he says that “all the articles of clothing called for by requisition from General McClellan's Headquarters were not only ordered, but had been shipped, on the 14th of October,” --a date, it will be observed, eight days later than the day on which the army had been ordered to cross the Potomac; but in subsequent portions of the letter statements and admissions are made which show that further delays may have taken place in the transportation, and that indeed they did. Some of these are transcribed without further comment:--
This department cannot control the trains upon railroads of which the War Department has not taken the management into its own hands.
The railroad companies complain that cars are not unloaded at their destinations, and that their sidings are occupied with cars which are needed for forwarding supplies. I presume that the missing articles are in some of these cars, or that they have been unloaded and have not yet reached the particular corps or detachment for which they are intended.
The fact is that no railroad can provide facilities for unloading cars and transacting the business attending the supply of an army of the size of General McClellan's in a short time or in a contracted space. Sidings, switches, depots, and turn-outs do not exist, and cannot be laid down at once, for such a traffic.
The railroads are heavily taxed, and transportation has been delayed. A case is reported in which horses remained fifty hours on the cars without food or water.There is yet another piece of evidence showing that there had been delays in the transportation of supplies to the army of General McClellan. In August, 1862, the superintendence and management of all the railways used by the Government for military purposes were intrusted to Brigadier-General Haupt, a competent and energetic officer. On the 10th of November, five days after the date of the order removing General McClellan, he addressed, from Washington, a circular letter to post-quartermasters, commissaries, officers and agents of military railroads, from which we make a few extracts:--
gentlemen:--The exceedingly critical condition of affairs compels me to address to you this circular, and to endeavor, with all the earnestness and force of language I can command, to explain some of the difficulties connected with military railroad transportation, and ask your co-operation and assistance in forwarding supplies. The army is dependent for its supplies upon a single-track railroad, in bad condition, without sidings of sufficient length, without wood, with a short supply of water, and with insufficient equipments. This road is taxed with an amount of business equal to the ordinary freights of a large city,--an amount four times as large as it has ever before been called on to accommodate, and twice as large as I reported to General McClellan its capacity for transportation. There cannot be the most distant prospect of keeping the army supplied without constant, uninterrupted movement  of trains day and night. The delicate machinery of the road must not be deranged by any detention or interference. It must be directed by one mind, and one only. * * * * * * * * Again I say that, if the army is to be supplied, the condition which, in its importance, transcends all others, is that no delay — not even a minute — should be allowed to occur in unloading cars, if it can be avoided. Movement, unceasing movement, in the trains, is our only salvation. Without it, the army must either retreat or starve.The above extracts alone are enough to make out General McClellan's case; for they show that the road upon which the army was exclusively dependent for supplies was taxed beyond its capacity, and that there was a want of system in its management by which unnecessary delays were incurred; and this was all General McClellan ever asked the Administration to believe. In the opinion of General McClellan, the most important want in the army was the want of horses,--not merely for cavalry and artillery, but for transportation. From the commencement the army had been deficient in cavalry; and after the battle of Antietam constant reconnoissances upon the Virginia side of the river, to learn the enemy's position and movements, had broken down the greater part of the cavalry-horses. A violent disease, attacking the hoof and tongue, soon after broke out among the animals, and at one time put nearly four thousand of them out of condition for service. To such  an extent had the cavalry arm become reduced, that when the Confederate general Stuart made his raid into Pennsylvania, on the 11th of October, with two thousand men, penetrating as far as Chambersburg, General McClellan could only mount eight hundred men to follow him. Few civilians have any notion of the number of horses which are required by an army of a hundred thousand men. Indeed, we may go further, and say that few civilians have any distinct notion of what an army of a hundred thousand men is. We repeat the words mechanically, as we repeat the distances of the solar system, without any very definite impressions of numbers and mass in one case, or of space in the other. The following extract from General McClellan's Report will, we presume, be read with some surprise by most of our readers, as well as with interest.
In a letter dated October 14, 1862, the general-in-chief says,--In regard to the supply of horses, and the conflicting views of General McClellan and the Administration thereupon, one or two points are worthy of notice. General Meigs, in a letter written on the 14th of October and addressed to the general-in-chief,  states, “There have been issued, therefore, to the Army of the Potomac, since the battles in front of Washington, to replace losses, (9254) nine thousand two hundred and fifty-four horses.” From this statement a reader would naturally infer that this number had been sent to the army under General McClellan; but it appears from a report of Colonel Myers, the chief quartermaster with that army, that only (3813) three thousand eight. hundred and thirteen came to the forces with which General McClellan was ordered to follow and attack the enemy, and that these were not enough to supply the places of the animals disabled by sickness and overwork; and General McClellan distinctly states that on the 21st of October, after deducting the force engaged in picketing the river, he had but about a thousand serviceable cavalry-horses. General Halleck, in a letter to General McClellan dated October 14, 1862, in reply to a despatch of the 12th, says,--It is also reported to me that the number of animals with your army in the field is about thirty-one thousand. It is believed that your present proportion of cavalry and of animals is much larger than that of any other of our armies.What number of animals our other armies had, “says General McClellan,” I am not prepared to say; but military men in European armies have been of the opinion that an army, to be efficient, while carrying on active operations in the field, should have a cavalry force equal in numbers to from one-sixth to one-fourth of the infantry force. My cavalry did not amount to one-twentieth part of the army, and hence the necessity of giving every one of my cavalry-soldiers a serviceable horse.  Cavalry may be said to constitute the antennoe of an army. It scouts all the roads in front, on the flanks, and in the rear of the advancing columns, and constantly feels the enemy. The amount of labor falling upon this arm during the Maryland campaign was excessive. To persons not familiar with the movements of troops, and the amount of transportation required for a large army marching away from water or railroad communications, the number of animals mentioned by the general-in-chief may have appeared unnecessarily large; but to a military man, who takes the trouble to enter into an accurate and detailed computation of the number of pounds of subsistence and forage required for such an army as that of the Potomac, it will be seen that the thirty-one thousand animals were considerably less than was absolutely necessary to an advance. As we were required to move through a country which could not be depended upon for any of our supplies, it became necessary to transport every thing in wagons, and to be prepared for all emergencies. I did not consider it safe to leave the river without subsistence and forage for ten days. The official returns of that date show the aggregate strength of the army for duty to have been about one hundred and ten thousand men of all arms. This did not include teamsters, citizen-employees, officers' servants, &c., amounting to some twelve thousand men, which gives a total of one hundred and twenty-two thousand men. The subsistence alone of this army for ten days required for its transportation eighteen hundred and thirty wagons, at two thousand pounds to the wagon, and ten thousand nine hundred and eighty animals. Our cavalry-horses at that time amounted to five thousand and forty-six, and our artillery-horses to six thousand eight hundred and thirty-six. To transport full forage for these twenty-two thousand  eight hundred and sixty-two animals for ten days required seventeen thousand eight hundred and thirty-two additional animals; and this forage would only supply the entire number (forty thousand six hundred and ninety-four) of animals with a small fraction over half-allowance for the time specified. It will be observed that this estimate does not embrace the animals necessary to transport quartermasters' supplies, baggage, camp-equipage, ambulances, reserve ammunition, forage for officers' horses,&c., which would greatly augment the necessary transportation. It may very truly be said that we did make the march with the means at our disposal; but it will be remembered that we met with no serious opposition from the enemy, neither did we encounter delays from any other cause. The roads were in excellent condition, and the troops marched with the most commendable order and celerity. If we had met with a determined resistance from the enemy, and our progress had been very much retarded thereby, we would have consumed our supplies before they could have been renewed. A proper estimate of my responsibilities as the commander of that army did not justify me in basing my preparations for the expedition upon the supposition that I was to have an uninterrupted march. On the contrary, it was my duty to be prepared for all emergencies; and not the least important of my responsibilities was the duty of making ample provision for supplying my men and animals with rations and forage.
In regard to horses, you say that the present rate of supply is only one hundred and fifty per week for the entire army here and in front of Washington. I find from the records that the issues for the last six weeks have been eight thousand seven hundred and fifty-four, making an average per week of one thousand four hundred and fifty-nine.The same charge is repeated in his letter to the Secretary of War of October 28, and is also found in Genera] Meigs's letter of October 14. In the  original despatch to which General Halleck's letter is a reply, one thousand and fifty (1050), and not one hundred and fifty, is the number stated; and, as it was written out in letters in full, it is difficult to see how the telegraphic operator could have made a mistake in transmitting the message. The gross injustice done to General McClellan in thus holding him up to the public as guilty either of deliberate untruth or of enormous carelessness, need not be commented upon. The question between the authorities at Washington and General McClellan was a question of fact. Neither the President nor the general-in-chief nor the Secretary of War would have insisted upon the army's advancing without shoes, clothing, and horses; but it was charged, or at least intimated, that the army, in point of fact, was sufficiently supplied with them all, and that the alleged want of them was a mere pretext put forward by the general in command to excuse his slowness, indolence, or lack of zeal in the cause. Upon this issue we may repeat, what was said before as to the charge of needless delay in forwarding the troops from Harrison's Bar, that General McClellan stands upon the ground of knowledge and the Administration upon the ground of inference. The testimony of one credible witness swearing affirmatively to what he knows outweighs that of twenty who can only contradict him by a process of deductive reasoning. The ease cannot be put more simply or more forcibly than has been done by General McClellan himself in his Report:-- 
The general-in-chief, in a letter to the Secretary of War on the 28th of October, says, “In my opinion, there has been no such want of supplies in the army under General McClellan as to prevent his compliance with the orders to advance against the enemy.” Notwithstanding this opinion expressed by such high authority, I am compelled to say again that the delay in the reception of necessary supplies up to that date had left the army in a condition totally unfit to advance against the enemy; that an advance under the existing circumstances would, in my judgment, have been attended with the highest degree of peril, with great suffering and sickness among the men, and with imminent danger of being cut off from our supplies by the superior cavalry force of the enemy, and with no reasonable prospect of gaining any advantage over him. I dismiss this subject with the remark that I have found it impossible to resist the force of my own convictions, that the commander of an army, who from the time of its organization has for eighteen months been in constant communication with its officers and men, the greater part of the time engaged in active service in the field, and who has exercised this command in many battles, must certainly be considered competent to determine whether his army is in proper condition to advance on the enemy or not; and he must necessarily possess greater facilities for forming a correct judgment in regard to the wants of his men and the condition of his supplies than the general-in-chief in his office at Washington City.In justice to General McClellan, and that it may be understood that he was not at all open to the charge of disobedience of orders, it should be stated that the President's peremptory instructions of October 6, to cross the Potomac and give battle to the  enemy or drive him south, were never distinctly repeated. From the moment of receiving them, General McClellan set himself diligently at work to get his army in condition to obey them; and from day to day, almost from hour to hour, he sent to Washington reports of his condition and progress. His telegraphic despatches between September 6 and November 7, mostly addressed to the general-in-chief, were one hundred and fifty-eight in number; and no stronger proof can be adduced of his attention to his duties, and of his earnest desire that the Government should be fully informed alike of the state of his own army, and of the movements of the enemy as far as he could learn them. As the orders to cross the river were not renewed, General McClellan had a right to suppose that the Administration were satisfied that he was straining every nerve to get the army in order for a forward movement, and on that account forbore to repeat the command. But the evidence on this point is not merely negative, but positive, as appears from the following extract from his Report:--
Knowing the solicitude of the President for an early movement, and sharing with him fully his anxiety for prompt action, on the 21st of October I telegraphed to the general-in-chief as follows:--General Halleck's reply is ambiguous, wary, cold; but General McClellan had a right to draw from it the inference which he says he did, as follows:--On the same day General Halleck replied as follows:--
From the tenor of this despatch I conceived that it was left for my judgment to decide whether or not it was possible to move with safety to the army at that time; and this responsibility I exercised with the more confidence in view of the strong assurances of his trust in me, as commander of that army, with which the President had seen fit to honor me during his last visit. The cavalry requirements, without which an advance would have been in the highest degree injudicious and unsafe, were still wanting. The country before us was an enemy's country, where the inhabitants furnished to the enemy every possible assistance; providing food for men and forage for animals, giving all information concerning our movements, and rendering every aid in their power to the enemy's cause. It was manifest that we should find it, as we subsequently did, a hostile district, where we could derive no aid from the inhabitants that would justify dispensing with the active co-operation of an efficient cavalry force. Accordingly, I fixed upon the 1st of November as the  earliest date at which the forward movement could well be commenced.The above inference is strengthened by a subsequent despatch from General Halleck, dated October 26, in which he says,--
Since you left Washington, I have advised and suggested in relation to your movements; but I have given you no orders. I do not give you any now. The Government has intrusted you with defeating and driving back the rebel army in your front. I shall not attempt to control you in the measures you may adopt for that purpose. You are informed of my views; but the President has left you at liberty to adopt them or not, as you may deem best.On the 26th of October the army began to cross the Potomac, and by the 2d of November all the corps were on the right bank, marching to the South, on a line east of the Blue Ridge, which had been selected by General McClellan partly because it would secure him the largest accession of force and partly because the President had always been in favor of it. His purpose was to march his army to a point where it could derive its supplies from the Manassas Gap Railway, and where it could be held in hand ready for action or movement in any direction. On the 7th of November the several corps of the army were at or near Warrenton, and, as General McClellan says, “in admirable condition and spirits. I doubt whether during the whole period — that I had the honor to command the Army of the Potomac,  it was in such excellent condition to light a great battle.” Of the Confederate army, Longstreet's corps was in front at Culpepper, and the remaining portion was west of the Blue Ridge, near Chester's and Thornton's Gaps. General McClellan's plan was to separate the two wings of the enemy's forces, and either beat Longstreet separately, or force him to fall back at least upon Gordonsville so as to effect his junction with the rest of the army. In the event of a battle he felt confident of a brilliant victory. Late on the evening of. the 7th, the following orders were delivered to him by General Buckingham:--