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[81] nor despises details, and yet is not so hampered by them as to be incapable of wide views and sound generalizations. No man can be a great officer who is not infinitely patient of details; for an army is an aggregation of details, a defect in any one of which may destroy or impair the whole. It is a chain of innumerable links; but the whole chain is no stronger than its weakest link.

In January, 1857, Captain McClellan resigned his commission and retired from the army. He had then been fifteen years in the service,--years of busy activity and energetic discharge of professional duty. We may suppose him to have been moved to this step by the consideration that the future held out no promise of congenial employment and seemed to open no adequate sphere to honorable ambition. A dreary life upon some distant frontier, the monotonous discharge of routine duty, a renunciation of all the attractions of civilized life without the excitement of ennobling adventure or heroic struggle, presented an uninviting prospect to man like him, in the prime of early manhood, and with unworn energies alike physical and intellectual. lie thought, too, that in case of war his chances of occupation and promotion would be quite as good in civil life as if he had remained in the army. The rapid growth and material development of the country created a demand for capacities and accomplishments like his; and immediately upon his resignation he was appointed chief engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad, then just opened, and went to Chicago to reside.

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