previous next
[149] thing was to devise ways and means to carry it into execution. Secrecy and despatch were to be secured, as far as was practicable. An immense army was to be moved by water from a point or points in the neighborhood of Washington, and the plan of the campaign was to be kept from the knowledge of the enemy till the latest possible moment. Immediate measures were taken to provide a force of steamers and sailing-vessels necessary for the contemplated object.1

1 In the order of time, the following letter of the Secretary of War may be appropriately introduced here, as showing his feeling towards General McClellan and the Army of the Potomac:--

War Department, Washington, February 17, 1862.
To Brigadier-General F. W. Lander:--
The President directs me to say that he has observed with pleasure the activity and enterprise manifested by yourself and the officers and soldiers of your command. You have shown how; much may be done, in the worst weather and worst roads, by a spirited officer, at the head of a small force of brave men, unwilling to waste life in camp when the enemies of their country are in reach. Your brilliant success is a happy presage of what may be expected when the Army of the Potomac shall be led to the field by their gallant general.

Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

A few days after, the Secretary wrote another letter, addressed to the editor of the New York Tribune, which is as follows:--

Washington, February 20, 1862.
Sir:--I cannot suffer undue merit to be ascribed to my official action. The glory of our recent victories belongs to the gallant officers that fought the battles. No share of it belongs to me.

Much has been recently said of military combination and organizing victory. I hear such phrases with apprehension. They commenced in infidel France with the Italian campaign, and resulted in Waterloo. Who can organize victory? Who can combine the elements of success on the battle-field? We owe our recent victories to the Spirit of the Lord, that moved our soldiers to dash into battle, and filled the hearts of our enemies with terror and dismay. The inspiration that conquered in battle was in the hearts of the soldiers, and from on high. Patriotic spirit with resolute courage in officers and men is a military combination that never failed.

We may well rejoice at the recent victories; for they teach us that battles are to be won now and by us in the same and only manner that they were ever won by any people or in any age since the days of Joshua,--by boldly pursuing and striking the foe. What, under the blessing of Providence, I conceive to be the true organization of victory and military combination to end this war, was declared in a few words by General Grant's message to General Buckner:--“I propose to move immediately on your works.”

Yours, truly,

It is difficult to believe that this absurd letter, which no officer in the army could have read without indignation and disgust, could have been written by a Secretary of War. Besides its bad taste and false rhetoric, it involves a contemptuous disparagement of military science, most unbecoming in a man who was at the head of the War Department of a great nation engaged in a momentous war. And there breathes through it a spirit of hostility towards General McClellan, of ominous import to the success of our arms. After reading it, the President of, the United States ought at once to have removed either that officer or Mr. Stanton himself.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Edwin M. Stanton (3)
George B. McClellan (2)
F. W. Lander (1)
Grant (1)
Buckner (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
February 20th, 1862 AD (1)
February 17th, 1862 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: