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Chapter 32:

  • Recalled to save the capital
  • -- Pope defeated -- the President appeals to McClellan -- he accepts command -- alarm in Washington -- enthusiasm of the army -- the capital safe -- the order of Sept. 2 -- Halleck's testimony -- Stormy cabinet meeting.

Late at night of Aug. 31, I think, Maj. Hammerstein

One of my aides, whom I had sent to the front to bring me news as to the real state of affairs — returned, bringing a despatch from Pope, which was to be sent to Halleck by telegraph. The information Hammerstein brought proved that Pope's despatch was false throughout.

On the 1st of Sept. I met Gen. Halleck at his office in Washington, who by verbal order directed me to take charge of Washington and its defences, but expressly prohibited me from exercising any control over the active troops under Gen. Pope.

At this interview I told him what I had every reason to know to be the true state of affairs. He doubted the accuracy of my information and believed the statements of Pope. I then told him that he ought to go to the front in person and see what the true condition of affairs was. He said that he was so much occupied with office-duty that it was impossible for him to leave. I told him that there could be no duty so important for the general-in-chief of the armies as to know the condition of the chief army of the country, then actually fighting for the defence of the capital, and that his first duty was to go out and see for himself how matters stood, and, if need be, assume command in person. He merely repeated his reply, and I urged him as strongly as possible to follow my advice. He still refused, and I then urged him to send out his chief of staff, Gen. Cullum, who just then entered the room, but Cullum said that he could not go. Then I asked that Kelton, his adjutant-general, might be sent. Kelton cheerfully offered to go, and it was determined that he should start immediately. I took Kelton to one side and [535] advised him not to content himself with merely seeing Pope, but also to make it a point to converse freely with the general officers and learn their individual opinions. Next morning while I was at breakfast, about 7 or 7.30 o'clock, the President and Gen. Halleck came to my house.

The President informed me that Col. Kelton had returned and represented the condition of affairs as much worse than I had stated to Halleck on the previous day; that there were 30,000 stragglers on the roads; that the army was entirely defeated and falling back to Washington in confusion. He then said that he regarded Washington as lost, and asked me if 1 would, under the circumstances, as a favor to him, resume command and do the best that could be done.

Without one moment's hesitation, and without making any conditions whatever, I at once said that I would accept the command and would stake my life that I would save the city. Both the President and Halleck again asserted that it was impossible to save the city, and I repeated my firm conviction that I could and would save it. They then left, the President verbally placing me in entire command of the city and of the troops falling back upon it from the front.

He instructed me to take steps at once to stop and collect the stragglers, to place the works in a proper state of defence, and to go out to meet and take command of the army when it approached the vicinity of the works; then to put the troops in the best position for defence-committing everything to my hands. The President left me with many thanks and showing much feeling.

I immediately went to work, collected my staff, and started them in all directions with the necessary orders to the different fortifications; some to the front with orders for the disposition of such corps as they met, others to see to the prompt forwarding of ammunition and supplies to meet the retreating troops.

In the course of the morning I signed a requisition for small arms and ammunition upon the commandant of the arsenal. After a time it was brought back to me with the statement that it could not be filled for the reason that the contents of the arsenal were all being put, or about being put, on board ship for transportation to New York, or some safe place, in accordance with the orders of the Secretary of War and general-in-chief, in [536] order to save the stores from the enemy. I at once started out and succeeded in having the order countermanded. At the same time there was a war-steamer anchored off the White House, with steam up, ready to take off the President, cabinet, etc., at a moment's notice.

The only published order ever issued in regard to the extent of my command after my interview with the President on the morning of the 2d was the following:1

War Department, adjutant-general's office, Washington, Sept. 2, 1862.
Maj.-Gen. McClellan will have command of the fortifications, of Washington and of all the troops for the defence of the capital.

By order of Maj.-Gen. Halleck.

E. D. Townsend, Assist. Adj.-Gen.

I sent an aide to Gen. Pope with the following letter:

headquarters, Washington, Sept. 2, 1862.
Maj.-Gen. John Pope, Commanding Army of Virginia:
general: Gen. Halleck instructed me to repeat to you the order he sent this morning to withdraw your army to Washington without unnecessary delay. He feared that his messenger might miss you, and desired to take this double precaution.

In order to bring troops upon ground with which they are already familiar, it would be best to move Porter's corps upon Upton's Hill, that it may occupy Hall's Hill, etc.; McDowell's to Upton's Hill; Franklin's to the works in front of Alexandria; Heintzelman's to the same vicinity; Couch to Fort Corcoran, or, if practicable, to the Chain bridge; Sumner either to Fort Albany or to Alexandria, as may be most convenient.

In haste, general, very truly yours,

In a very short time I had made all the requisite preparations and was about to start to the front in person to assume command as far out as possible, when a message came to me from Gen. Halleck informing me that it was the President's order that I should not assume command until the troops had reached the immediate vicinity of the fortifications. [537]

I therefore waited until the afternoon, when I rode out to the most advanced of the detached works covering the capital.

I had with me Colburn, Key, and some other aides, with a small cavalry escort, and rode at once to Munson's Hill. About the time I reached there the infantry of King's division of McDowell's corps commenced arriving, and I halted them and ordered them into position. Very soon — within twenty minutes--a regiment of cavalry appeared, marching by twos, and sandwiched in the midst were Pope and McDowell with their staff officers. I never saw a more helpless-looking headquarters. About this time rather heavy artillery-firing was heard in the distance. When these generals rode up to me and the ordinary salutations had passed, I inquired what that artillery-firing was. Pope replied that it was no doubt that of the enemy against Sumner, who formed the rear-guard and was to march by the Vienna and Langley road. He also intimated that Sumner was probably in a dilemma. He could give me no information of any importance in relation to the whereabouts of the different corps, except in a most indefinite way; had evidently not troubled his head in the slightest about the movements of his army in retreat, and had coolly preceded the troops, leaving them to get out of the scrape as best they could. He and McDowell both asked my permission to go on to Washington, to which I assented, remarking at the same time that I was going to that artillery-firing. They then took leave and started for Washington. I have never since seen Pope.

Immediately I despatched all my aides and orderlies with instructions to the troops coming in by the Alexandria and Central roads, retaining only Colburn with me. I borrowed three orderlies from some cavalry at hand, and, accompanied by them and Colburn, started across country as rapidly as possible to reach the Langley road. By the time I reached that road the firing had ceased, with the exception of perhaps a dropping shot occasionally. It was after dark — I think there was moonlight — by the time I met the first troops, which were, I think, of Morell's division, 5th corps; Porter had gone on a little while before to make arrangements for the bivouac of his troops. I was at once recognized by the men, upon which there was great cheering and excitement; but when I came to the regular division (Sykes's) the scene was the most touching I had [538] up to that time experienced. The cheers in front had attracted their attention, and I have been told since by many that the men at once pricked up their ears and said that it could only be for “Little Mac.” As soon as I came to them the poor fellows broke through all restraints, rushed from the ranks and crowded around me, shouting, yelling, shedding tears, thanking God that they were with me again, and begging me to lead them back to battle. It was a wonderful scene, and proved that I had the hearts of these men.

I next met Sigel's corps, and soon satisfied myself that Sumner was pursuing his march unmolested, so I sent on to inform him that I was in command, and gave him instructions as to his march. I then returned by the Chain bridge road, having first given Sigel his orders; and at a little house beyond Langley I found Porter, with whom I spent some time, and at length reached Washington at an early hour in the morning. Before the day broke the troops were all in position to repulse attack, and Washington was safe. 2

1 See note A at end of this chapter.

2 See note B.

A. Note by the Editor.--This order of Sept. 2, 1862, was the last order ever issued to Gen. McClellan giving him any command. He seems never to have known that it actually appeared in two forms within twenty-four hours, first as an order from the President by direction of the Secretary of War, second as a simple order of Gen. Halleck. The history of its origin and modification is obscure. The purposes of Secretary Stanton and Gen. Halleck in its issue and the change of its form must be left to conjecture, with what light can be thrown on it from the events of the time. When these events are seen in close relation every honest mind must be filled with amazement at the duplicity with which McClellan was surrounded.

The War Department had occupied itself in giving out what Secretary Welles called “exaggerated rumors,” but which were pure fabrications, designed to convince the public that McClellan had been the cause of Pope's defeat by delay in forwarding reinforcements. Mr. Stanton and Gen. Halleck had assumed the responsibility of recalling the Army of the Potomac from before Richmond, thus releasing the enemy to fall on Pope. Every military and common-sense consideration had been violated. The paramount purpose was to take the army away from McClellan, since they had been unable to persuade Mr. Lincoln to take McClellan from the army. McClellan had been ordered to return, for the purpose, as he was told, of taking the command of all the forces of Pope and his own troops combined.

Having ordered the withdrawal of the Army of the Potomac, Halleck [539] and Stanton had made the fearful error of not providing transportation for it, and, when aware of their blunder, threw the blame on McClellan. He arrived at Alexandria on the 26th Aug., under Halleck's direct command, who assumed the responsibility of everything, and declined to give McClellan any specific position. From day to day the country was informed, by telegrams inspired at the War Department, that McClellan was delaying the advance of troops to Pope. Meantime McClellan, doing his own work, was also doing Halleck's work for him as a pure volunteer, while the latter was in a hopeless condition of mind, semi-paralyzed. The work done by McClellan was herculean, in sending forward his own troops, in volunteer inspection and adjustment of the defences of Washington, in aiding and advising Halleck, who was powerless. The despatches in chapter XXX., which indicate all this, are but a small portion of McClellan's orders and despatches, during the five days after his arrival at Alexandria, which he left as part of his memoirs. I have exercised the discretion given me and reserved the remainder of these for future publication, leaving here only such and so many as will outline what the general did from Aug. 26 to Aug. 31. If no one else saw, it is clear from Mr. Lincoln's despatches to McClellan, and his acts on Sept. 2, that he saw and knew what Halleck did not do, and what McClellan was doing, in those eventful days.

Gen. Halleck had written to McClellan on the Peninsula, asking frank co-operation. McClellan had promised it heartily, and now gave it gallantly. Ignoring this, and seeking with others to throw on McClellan all the responsibilities of the five days, Gen. Halleck, testifying before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, stated that McClellan was placed in command of the fortifications of Washington and all the troops for its defence on the day he arrived at Alexandria, and that the order of Sept. 2 was only the reduction to writing of that command. The following is Halleck's testimony:

On his [Gen. McClellan's] arrival at Alexandria he was told to take immediate command of all the troops in and about Washington, in addition to those which properly belonged to the Army of the Potomac. Some days after he had been verbally directed to take such command he asked for a formal order, which was issued from the adjutant-general's office. The order issued from the adjutant-general's office was after Gen. Pope's army commenced falling back, and was dated Sept. 2, but Gen. McClellan had been in command ever since his arrival in Alexandria. He arrived at Alexandria on the 26th of Aug. The formal order was issued that he might have no difficulty with Gen. Pope's forces; that they might not question his authority.

That this testimony of Gen. Halleck was distinctly false is now demonstrated beyond any dispute by the publication of his own correspondence with McClellan during the period Aug. 26 to Aug. 31, and by other proofs. It is charity to Gen. Halleck to suppose that his mind and memory were muddled by the fearful catastrophe he and Secretary Stanton had brought on the army and country, so that, when before the committee, he had forgotten the countless facts which prove his statement untrue. [540] From the 26th to the 30th Aug. his despatches to McClellan recognized that officer as in command of his own Army of the Potomac. On the 24th McClellan, arrived at Acquia, had telegraphed him: “Until I know what my command and position are to be, and whether you still intend to place me in the command indicated in your first letter to me, and orally through Gen. Burnside at the Chickahominy, I cannot decide where I can be of most use. If your determination is unchanged I ought to go to Alexandria at once. Please define my position and duties.” Halleck made no reply to this; and from what followed it is evident that he had no intention of giving McClellan any command, it being his and Mr. Stanton's plan to order all of the Army of the Potomac, piece by piece, away from McClellan's command, and discharge him.

On the 27th Halleck telegraphed McClellan: “Take entire direction of the sending out troops from Alexandria.”

On the same day McClellan telegraphed Halleck: “Please inform me at once what my position is. I do not wish to act in the dark.” To this Halleck made no reply.

On the 29th McClellan telegraphed both the President and Gen. Halleck: “Tell me what you wish me to do, and I will do all in my power to accomplish it. I wish to know what my orders and authority are. I ask for nothing, but will obey whatever orders you give. I only ask a prompt decision.” To this he received no reply, except that the President, replying to another part of the same despatch, said: “I wish not to control. That I leave to Gen. Halleck, aided by your counsels.”

The unexplained and embarrassing position in which Halleck kept McClellan at this time is illustrated by many despatches which are omitted from the present volume. Thus, on the 29th of Aug. Gen. S. Williams, A. A. G. at McClellan's camp near Alexandria, telegraphed Brig.-Gen. James S. Wadsworth, military governor of Washington: “It is important that these headquarters should receive the countersign issued to the guards at the Long bridge. I was stopped late night before last, returning to camp, and compelled to go to your office for the countersign. Lieut.-Col. Colburn, going to the city last night on important business requiring despatch, was stopped at this end of the bridge and had to go back to Fort Albany. On both occasions the officers of the guards, though aware of our positions, said they had no discretion.”

On the 30th, Assist. Adj.-Gen. Williams telegraphs Gen. Wadsworth: “In the absence of orders defining the limits of his command Gen. McClellan issues a countersign to-day to the troops of the Army of the Potomac in this vicinity. It is ‘Malvern.’ If yours is different he will be obliged to you to communicate it, and also to instruct the guards at the Long bridge to recognize ours. Do you know what command furnishes the guard for the Virginia end of the Long bridge?”

A duplicate of the first part of this same despatch was sent the same day to Gen. John P. Slough, military governor of Alexandria, where Gen. McClellan's own headquarters then were. Obviously McClellan was not [541] at this time “in command of all the troops in and about Washington,” Gen. Halleck's testimony that he was notwithstanding.

On the 30th Gen. McClellan telegraphed Gen. Barnard, who was in command of the military defences of Washington: “I have no more troops to give you, and, as I have no command nor any position, I shall not regard it as my duty to take any further steps in regard to the works.”

On the same day McClellan telegraphed Halleck: “You now have every man of the Army of the Potomac who is within my reach.” This despatch announced to Gen. Halleck and Mr. Stanton the completion of their purpose in recalling the Army of the Potomac--namely, to remove it from McClellan's command. Their response was now prompt; and McClellan received the first reply to his repeated requests to know what his position was, in these words: “Gen. McClellan commands that portion of the Army of the Potomac that has not been sent forward to Gen. Pope's command.” McClellan's command was thus reduced to less than a hundred men, many of whom were maimed or sick soldiers, around his tent at Alexandria. Secretary Stanton himself issued this order, which was, of course, intended to be insulting to McClellan, and which was received with much exultation in Washington by those who had desired McClellan's dismissal. At this moment it was believed in Washington that Pope was victorious and McClellan finally crushed. Of course, when McClellan's command was thus defined by this order, in terms whose exactness was intended to be contemptuous, he was not in command of any fortifications or any troops for the defence of anything.

On the night of the 30th McClellan made a vain appeal to Halleck to be allowed to go to the front and be with his troops in battle.

On the afternoon of the 31st, in reply to an order from Halleck, McClellan telegraphed him: “Under the War Department order of yesterday I have no control over anything except my staff, some one hundred men in my camp here, and the few remaining near Fort Monroe. I have no control over the new regiments. . . . Their commanding officers, and those of the works, are not under me.”

At ten P. M. of the 31st Halleck replied to this: “I have not seen the order as published” (implying that he had seen it in Stanton's draft form), and adds: “You will retain command of everything in this vicinity not temporarily to be Pope's army in the field. I beg of you to assist me in this crisis with your ability and experience. I am entirely tired out.”

This indefinite despatch was the first hint of any order placing McClellan in command of the fortifications. On the same day McClellan had telegraphed to Gens. Wadsworth, Barnard, and Slough: “Gen. McClellan commands so few troops that he declines issuing a countersign, but he will be obliged if you will furnish him daily with yours, as he may have occasion to send to Washington during the night.”

At 10.25 P. M., on receipt of Halleck's despairing telegram, McClellan replied: “I am ready to afford you any assistance in my power, but you will readily perceive how difficult an undefined position such as I now hold must be. At what hour in the morning can I see you alone?” [542]

On the morning of Sept. 1 McClellan went up from Alexandria to Washington, and now Halleck verbally placed him in charge of the defences of Washington, but expressly forbade him to exercise any control over the troops of the Army of the Potomac or the Army of Virginia.

The untruthfulness of Gen. Halleck's testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War is thus demonstrated. He, and he alone, was in command and responsible from Aug. 26 to Sept. 1.

Gen. Halleck's verbal orders to Gen. McClellan on Sept. 1 gave the latter no control over the active army. Halleck was now encouraged about Pope, and discredited McClellan's bad news from the front.

Pope had telegraphed that he had fought a terrific battle, which lasted from daylight to dark, by which time the enemy was driven from the field, which we now occupy. “The enemy is still in our front, but badly used up.” “We have made great captures, but I am not able yet to form an idea of their extent.” The urgency of McClellan, who discredited Pope's statements, alone induced Halleck to send Col. Kelton to the front for information. The return of that officer in the night of Sept. 1--2 revealed the truth, which brought terror to Washington.

Without dwelling on the condition of alarm into which the War Department was now plunged, it is important to note that it continued certainly till Sept. 8, when Mr. Hiram Barney, Collector of the Port of New York, told Mr. Chase “that Stanton and Wadsworth had advised him to leave for New York this evening, as communication with Baltimore might be cut off before to-morrow” (Warden, p. 415). Secretary Welles says Stanton and Halleck were “filled with apprehensions beyond others.” They gave up the capital as lost, and issued orders to empty the arsenal preparatory to the occupation of Washington by the enemy.

Early in the morning of Sept. 2 the President, accompanied by Gen. Halleck, went to Gen. McClellan's house, and found him alone. They told him the capital was lost. The President asked him if “under the circumstances” (to wit, the recent treatment of Stanton and Halleck, and the insulting general order of Aug. 30) he would “resume command and do the best that could be done.” The instant acceptance of this vast responsibility by McClellan puts at rest a falsehood published on the authority of Gen. Burnside, that McClellan proposed to make conditions, took time to consider, and finally only yielded to the persuasions of others in accepting the command. This story was a pure fabrication--one of thousands which were directed against McClellan, and which a deluded public widely accepted as true.

Gen. McClellan has contented himself with a brief account of this remarkable interview, in which Mr. Lincoln, with deep emotion, threw himself and the salvation of the capital and the Union on the general whom his subordinates had cajoled, slandered, deceived, and represented to the people as disgraced. The terms of the trust reposed in him were unlimited. The simple words “resume command” were ample. Two honest minds were in contact, and each trusted the other. Mr. Lincoln [543] then intended to give to McClellan discretionary powers over military matters, and neither of them stopped to choose words.

Gen. McClellan went swiftly to work. Gen. Halleck went to inform Secretary Stanton of the overthrow of their plans by the recall of McClellan to command.

It may here be noted that Mr. Chase was in error when, on Sept. 19, he said (Warden, p. 480) that Halleck's telegram of Aug. 31, asking McClellan to help him, “announced Halleck's surrender to McClellan.” While Mr. Chase was right enough in thus confessing the existence of a war against McClellan, he might well have spared his criticisms, since it will appear in the progress of McClellan's narrative that Halleck maintained the war with much vigorous disregard of truth, to the end which was sought. The events of Sept. 2, which must be pursued, amply attest his position in the conflict. which now became more serious when the President appeared to stand firmly for McClellan.

Hitherto no one has appreciated the state of mind of Mr. Lincoln at this appalling moment, when he realized the condition into which he and the country had been brought by the conspiracy of Mr. Stanton and his associate politicians against the army and its commander. Mr. Lincoln was a sagacious man. He knew thoroughly the character of the men who were around him; had always known it. He had felt the importance of avoiding an open rupture with Congress, which was under the control of the extreme radical wing of the party. He had yielded much to this consideration.

Now, when he heard from Mr. Stanton and Gen. Halleck that the capital was lost, and that they had issued orders for the abandonment of the arsenal and flight of the administration, he scouted their attempts to transfer their responsibility for the catastrophe to McClellan, and went at once to the general, with unbounded confidence in him. The quiet assurances he received from the man who had never deceived him relieved his apprehensions of the loss of the capital, and he went away better prepared to meet his cabinet, who were expecting the enemy around and in the city. He still shrank from an open rupture with Mr. Chase, Mr. Stanton, the majority of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, and Congress which had become subservient to their leadership. He had hither — to prevented a division of the party, which was always imminent. Doubtless his avowed principle of “not swapping horses while crossing a stream” influenced him to his present determination to go on with the same cabinet officers in council and the same general in command.

But when he left McClellan, the simple, loyal soldier and servant of the people, he had to face men of a very different character. The cabinet meeting which now followed was in many respects the most remarkable ever held in Washington. Mr. Lincoln entered it knowing his men. He knew that Mr. Chase and Mr. Stanton were Presidential candidates, guiding, each in his own peculiar way, their official conduct and acts as his rivals for the next nomination. He was perfectly aware that in this critical time they were ready to throw on him all the responsibility of the [544] impending ruin, the loss of the capital, if that were to be, the end of the Union itself which might possibly follow. That they would seek to save their own reputations at any cost to his was a matter of course with such men. He had this advantage in meeting them, that McClellan's confidence had reassured him, while they were still in a state of wild alarm.

Believing the loss of Washington and Maryland inevitable, and anticipating the judgment of the people of the North, they forgot all respect for their chief and became insolent in their treatment of him. Stanton reproached him with giving personal orders to McClellan, creating confusion, making neither Halleck nor McClellan responsible, and then disavowed any responsibility of the War Department for the position. Chase told him that any engineer officer would have done as well as the general he had selected, and boldly added that by placing McClellan in command he had given the capital to the enemy.

It was plain that the two Presidential candidates in the cabinet had determined on their course — to assure the country that Mr. Lincoln was alone responsible for the ruin they believed inevitable.

The President retained his dignity and maintained at first a calm attitude. He had been accustomed for months to the nagging policy of the secretaries; but it now became so personal and bitter that he was at last driven to the exclamation, never before or since uttered by a President of the United States, that he would gladly resign his high office.

The history of this tempestuous cabinet meeting forms an important part of the history of the war, and throws strong light on the story of McClellan and the Army of the Potomac.

In his private diary (Warden, p. 459) Mr. Chase thus describes it:

The Secretary of War came in. In answer to some inquiry the fact was stated by the President or the secretary that McClellan had been placed in command of the forces to defend the capital — or rather, to use the President's own words, “he had set him to putting these troops into the fortifications about Washington,” believing that he could do that thing better than any other man.

I remarked that this could be done equally well by the engineer who constructed the forts. . . .

The Secretary of War said that no one was now responsible for the defence of the capital: that the order to McClellan was given by the President direct to McClellan, and that Gen. Halleck considered himself relieved from responsibility, although he acquiesced and approved the order; that McClellan could now shield himself, should anything go wrong, under Halleck, while Halleck could and would disclaim all responsibility for the order given.

The President thought Gen. Halleck as much responsible as before, and repeated that the whole scope of the order was simply to direct McClellan to put the troops into the fortifications and command them for the defence of Washington.

I remarked . . . that I could not but feel that giving command to him was equivalent to giving Washington to the rebels. This and more I said. . . .

The President said it distressed him exceedingly to find himself differing on such a point from the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Treasury; that he would gladly resign his place; but that he could not [545] see who could do the work wanted as well as McClellan. I named Hooker, or Sumner, or Burnside, either of whom would do the work better.

Mr. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, in his book, “Lincoln and Seward,” New York, 1874, page 194, says:

At the stated cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the 2d of Sept, while the whole community was stirred up and in confusion, and affairs were growing beyond anything that had previously occurred, Stanton entered the council-room a few moments in advance of Mr. Lincoln, and said, with great excitement, he had just learned from Gen. Halleck that the President had placed McClellan in command of the forces in Washington. The information was surprising, and, in view of the prevailing excitement against that officer, alarming. The President soon came in, and, in answer to an inquiry from Mr. Chase, confirmed what Stanton had stated. General regret was expressed, and Stanton, with some feeling, remarked that no order to that effect had issued from the War Department. The President, calmly but with some emphasis, said the order was his, and he would be responsible for it to the country. . . . Before separating the Secretary of the Treasury expressed his apprehension that the reinstatement of McClellan would prove a national calamity.

Mr. Montgomery Blair, Postmaster-General, in private letters, from which, now in the hands of the editor, the following extracts are taken, says:

Under date April 22. 1870:

The bitterness of Stanton on the reinstatement of McClellan you can scarcely conceive. He preferred to see the capital fall. . . . McClellan was bound to go when the emergency was past, and Halleck and Stanton furnished a pretence.

Under date April 3, 1879:

The folly and disregard of public interests thus exhibited would be incredible but that the authors of this intrigue, Messrs. Stanton and Chase, when the result of it came, and I proposed the restoration of McClellan to command, and to prevent the completion of ruin by the fall of this capital, actually declared that they would prefer the loss of the capital to the restoration of McClellan to command. Yet these are the men who have been accounted by a large portion of our countrymen as the civil heroes of the war, whilst McClellan, who saved the capital, was dismissed. . . .

Whatever changes of mind Mr. Lincoln, subsequently underwent may with probability be attributed to the causes already indicated — his personal confidence in McClellan on one hand, and his desire to avoid a rupture with the radical wing of his party on the other hand. His adherence at this moment to his adopted plan, in face of the violence of the secretaries, was a notable exhibition of firmness.

Meantime McClellan, heedless of the renewed war in his rear, devoted his attention to the enemy in front. But when, acting on the trust imposed by the President, he was about to go out to meet the retreating army, Halleck stopped him with the information that the President had limited his command to the fortifications. Under all the circumstances we may take leave to doubt whether any such order came from the President. It was [546] contradictory to the spirit of the morning interview, and merciless to an army pursued by a victorious enemy.

At some time during the early part of the day the order of Sept. 2 was prepared by Gen. Halleck and telegraphed throughout the country in the following form:

headquarters of the Army, adjutant--general's office, Washington, Sept. 2, 1862.
By direction of the President, Maj.-Gen. McClellan will have command of the fortifications of Washington and of all the troops for the defence of the capital.

By order of the Secretary of War.

E. D. Townsend, A. A. Gen.

It will be remembered that Mr. Stanton had declared with “some feeling,” as Mr. Welles puts it, that no such order had issued from the War Department. But this order had issued, as from the Secretary of War.

Later in the day, and of course after Gen. Halleck's interview with Secretary Stanton, it reappeared in the form following:

War Department, adjutant--general's office, Washington, Sept. 2, 1862.
Maj.-Gen. McClellan will have command of the fortifications of Washington and of all the troops for the defence of the capital.

By order of Maj.-Gen. Halleck.

E. D. Townsend, A. A. Gen.

The history of its origin and modification is certainly obscure. Little light is thrown on it by the following, which is an extract from an official letter from the adjutant-general's office, dated March 1, 1886, and signed J. C. Kelton, Assist. Adj.-Gen. Col. Kelton was the officer on Gen. Halleck's staff who had brought the intelligence of the condition of Gen. Pope's command on the morning of Sept. 2. It is therefore clear that the first draft of the order was made that morning; but whether before or after Gen. Halleck had consulted with Mr. Stanton does not appear. Col. Kelton says:

It appears from the records that a draft of General Order No. 122 was written by Col. J. C. Kelton, then assistant adjutant-general, headquarters of the army, Sept. 2, 1862, with request that Col. E. D. Townsend number and issue the same. and have it published in the Star. The general order was prepared accordingly by Col. E. D. Townsend, Assist. Adj.-Gen., and, having been submitted to Gen. Halleck, was the same day returned by Col. Kelton to Col. Townsend, amended as it now stands.

Whether McClellan, when he received Halleck's message forbidding [547] him to go beyond the fortifications, recognized an intent to interfere between him and the President's unlimited trust we cannot know. He obeyed the instruction. But when in the afternoon, at Upton's Hill, the farthest — out fortification, he met Pope and McDowell leading the retreat into Washington, and heard the sound of artillery-firing on the Army of the Potomac, abandoned to their fate without a commander, he left the fortifications and the orders of Gen. Halleck behind him, and crossed country to the sound of the enemy's cannon.

From that time he acted on his own judgment, as seemed to him best for the country, and, “with the halter around his neck,” led the army on the swiftest and most brilliant campaign in its history, to the victories of South Mountain and Antietam.

The order of Sept. 2 remained in force thereafter. It perhaps explains some differences between the reports of officers in the field and those in Washington in regard to supplies, as all horses, ammunition, and supplies furnished to troops in and around Washington could properly be charged and reported as furnished to McClellan's command.

It is not probable that Mr. Lincoln's attention was ever called to the existence of this order. For it is a remarkable fact than, when he finally consented to displace McClellan, he gave the order that he “be relieved from the command of the Army of the Potomac” --a command which Gen. McClellan had not held by any authority since Aug. 30.

B.--Capt. William H. Powell, of the 4th Regular Infantry, in a letter to the Century, dated Fort Omaha, Neb., March 12, 1885, thus describes this scene [Century, January, 1886, p. 473]:

About four o'clock on the next afternoon, from a prominent point, we descried in the distance the dome of the Capitol. We would be there at least in time to defend it. Darkness came upon us, and still we marched. As the night wore on we found at each halt that it was more and more difficult to arouse the men from the sleep they would fall into apparently as soon as they touched the ground. During one of these halts, while Col. Buchanan, the brigade commander, was resting a little off the road, some distance in advance of the head of the column, it being starlight, two horsemen came down the road towards us. I thought I observed a familiar form, and, turning to Col. Buchanan, said:

Colonel, if I did not know that Gen. McClellan had been relieved of all command, I should say that he was one of that party,” adding immediately, “I do really believe it is he!”

“Nonsense!” said the colonel; “what would Gen. McClellan be doing out in this lonely place, at this time of night, without an escort?”

The two horsemen passed on to where the column of troops was lying, standing, or sitting, as pleased each individual, and were lost in the shadowy gloom. But a few moments had elapsed, however, when Capt. John D. Wilkins, of the 3d Infantry (now colonel of the 5th), came running towards Col. Buchanan, crying out:

Colonel! Colonel! Gen. McClellan is here!”

The enlisted men caught the sound Whoever was awake aroused his neighbor. Eyes were rubbed, and those tired fellows, as the news passed down the column, jumped to their feet and sent up such a hurrah as the Army of the Potomac had never heard before. Shout upon shout [548] went out into the stillness of the night; and, as it was taken up along the road and repeated by regiment, brigade, division, and corps, we could hear the roar dying away in the distance. The effect of this man's presence upon the Army of the Potomac--in sunshine or rain, in darkness or in daylight, in victory or defeat — was ever electrical, and too wonderful to make it worth while attempting to give a reason for it. Just two weeks from this time this defeated army, under the leadership of McClellan, won the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, and had to march ten days out of the two weeks in order to do it.

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