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[311]

Discussions by officers and soldiers concerning public measures determined upon and declared by the Government, when carried once beyond temperate and respectful expressions of opinion, tend greatly to impair and destroy the discipline and efficiency of troops, by substituting the spirit of political faction for that firm, steady, and earnest support of the authority of the Government, which is the highest duty of the American soldier. The remedy for political errors, if any are committed, is to be found only in the action of the people at the polls.

In thus calling the attention of this army to the true relation between the soldier and the Government, the general commanding merely adverts to an evil against which it has been thought advisable, during our whole history, to guard the armies of the republic, and in so doing he will not be considered by any right-minded person as casting any reflection upon that loyalty and good conduct which has been so fully illustrated upon so many battle-fields.

In carrying out all measures of public policy, this army will, of course, be guided by the same rules of mercy and Christianity that have ever controlled their conduct towards the defenceless.

By order of Major-General McClellan. James A. Hardee, Lieut.-Col., Aide-de-Camp, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General. George B. Mcclellan, Major-General commanding.

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.

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