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McClellan's last advance: the crossing after Antietam This splendid landscape photograph of the pontoon bridge at Berlin, Maryland, was taken in October, 1862. On the 26th McClellan crossed the Potomac here for the last time in command of an army. Around this quiet and picturesque country the Army of the Potomac bivouacked during October, 1862, leaving two corps posted at Harper's Ferry to hold the outlet of the Shenandoah Valley. At Berlin (a little village of about four hundred inhabitants), McClellan had his headquarters during the reorganization of the army, which he considered necessary after Antietam. The many reverses to the Federal arms since the beginning of the war had weakened the popular hold of the Lincoln Administration, and there was constant political pressure for an aggressive move against Lee. McClellan, yielding at last to this demand, began advancing his army into Virginia. Late on the night of November 7th, through a heavy rainstorm, General Buckingham, riding post-haste from Washington, reached McClellan's tent at Rectortown, and handed him Stanton's order relieving him from command. Burnside was appointed his successor, and at the moment was with him in the tent. Without a change of countenance, McClellan handed him the despatch, with the words: “Well, Burnside, you are to command the army.” Whatever may have been McClellan's fault, the moment chosen for his removal was most inopportune and ungracious. His last advance upon Lee was excellently planned, and he had begun to execute it with great vigor — the van of the army having reached Warrenton on November 7th, opposed only by half of Lee's army at Culpeper, while demonstrations across the gaps of the Blue Ridge compelled the retention of Jackson with the other half in the Shenandoah Valley. Never before had the Federal military prospect been brighter than at that moment.

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George B. McClellan (7)
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