In the first place, no one has ever pretended, no one can pretend, that he is a military commander who acts without previously-formed plans, without having determined beforehand what he shall do and how he shall do it. On the contrary, he is peculiarly and singularly thoughtful of the future, carefully meditating every step of his progress, and vigilant in providing against all possible contingencies.
Upon this point the evidence is irresistible and overwhelming.
But, say General McClellan
's assailants and detractors, though his plans are judicious and carefully formed, he lacks quickness and vigor in carrying them out; he is slow in the saddle; he does not take time by the forelock; he lets opportunities slip by which never come a second time.
But what is the evidence to support these charges?
Look at his campaign in Western Virginia
in 1861,--a part of his military career conveniently ignored by his enemies.
Here he had a separate command, a defined field of action, and was not hampered and trammelled by interference from Washington
; and do we see any signs of indecision and want of promptness here?
On the contrary, we observe the happiest combination of judgment in design and vigor in execution: one skilful and powerful blow was instantly followed by another, and the result was absolute and permanent military success.
Then look at the brilliant and crowded period between the second and seventeenth days of September, 1862.
On the former of these dates, the forces in and around Washington
were little better