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Chapter 28:

Burnside to McClellan.

Old Point, July 15, 1862.
my dear Mac: I've just arrived from Washington and have not time to get ready to go up this morning, but will to-morrow. I've much to say to you and am very anxious to see you. . . . The President has ordered me to remain here for the present, and when I asked him how long he said five or six days. I don't know what it means; but I do know, my dear Mac, that you have lots of enemies. But you must keep cool; don't allow them to provoke you into a quarrel. You must come out all right; I'll tell you all to-morrow.

Your old friend,


Burnside to McClellan.

Fort Monroe, Aug. 2, 1862.
my dear Mac: I'm laid up with a lame leg, and besides am much worried at the decision they have chosen to make in regard to your army. From the moment I reached Washington I feared it would be so, and I am of the opinion that your engineers had much to do with bringing about the determination. When the conclusion was arrived at I was the only one who advocated your forward movement. I speak now as if a positive decision had been arrived at, which I do not know, and you, of course, do; my present orders indicate it. But you know what they are, and all about it, so I will accept it as something that is ordered for the best. Let us continue to give our undivided support to the cause, and all will be well. It looks dark sometimes, but a just God will order everything for the best. We can't expect to have it all as we wish. I'm off for my destination [473] and will write you a long letter from there. The troops are nearly all embarked. Good-by. God bless you!

Your old friend,

Halleck to McClellan. Unofficial.

Washington, July 30, 1862.
Maj.-Gen. G. B. McClellan, Commanding, etc., Army of the Potomac:
my dear general: You are probably aware that I hold my present position contrary to my own wishes, and that I did everything in my power to avoid coming to Washington, But after declining several invitations from the President I received the order of the 11th instant, which left me no option.

I have always had strong personal objections to mingling in the politico-military affairs of Washington. I never liked the place, and I like it still less at the present time. But, aside from personal feelings, I really believed that I could be much more useful in the West than here. I had acquired some reputation there, but here I could hope for none, and I greatly feared that, whatever I might do, I should receive more abuse than thanks. There seemed to be a disposition in the public press here to cry down any one who attempted to serve the country instead of party. This was particularly the case with you, as I understand, and I could not doubt that it would be in a few weeks the case with me. Under these circumstances I could not see how I could be of much use here. Nevertheless, being ordered, I was obliged to come.

In whatever has occurred heretofore you have had my full approbation and cordial support. There was no one in the army under whom I could serve with greater pleasure. And I now ask of you that same support and co-operation, and that same free interchange of opinion, as in former days. If we should disagree in opinion I know that we will do so honestly and without unkind feelings. The country demands of us that we act together and with cordiality. I believe that we can and will do so. Indeed, we must do so if we expect to put down this rebellion. If we permit personal jealousies to interfere for a [474] single moment with our operations we shall not only injure the cause but ruin ourselves. But I am satisfied that neither of us will do this, that we will work together with all our might to bring the war to an early termination.

I have written to you frankly, assuring you of my friendship and confidence, believing that my letter would be received with the same kind feelings in which it is written,

Yours truly,

Halleck to McClellan.

headquarters of the Army, Washington, Aug. 7, 1862.
Maj.-Gen. McClellan, Berkley:
my dear general: Your private letter of the 1st instant was received a day or two ago, but I have been too busy to answer it sooner.

If you still wish it I will order Barnard here; but I cannot give you another engineer officer (unless you will take Benham), for you already have a larger proportion than any one else. I had most of the time in the West only two, and you, with no larger force, have a dozen engineer officers.

I fully agree with you in regard to the manner in which the war should be conducted, and I believe the present policy of the President to be conservative. I think some of Gen. Pope's orders very injudicious, and have so advised him; but as I understand they were shown to the President before they were issued, I felt unwilling to ask him to countermand them. An oath of allegiance taken through force is not binding, and to put over the lines those who do not take it is only adding numbers to the rebel army. What he has made the general rule should only be the exceptions, and I have so advised him.

I deeply regret that you cannot agree with me as to the necessity of reuniting the old Army of the Potomac. I, however, have taken the responsibility of doing so, and am willing to risk my reputation on it. As I told you when at your camp, it is my intention that you shall command all the troops in Virginia as soon as we can get them together, and with the army thus concentrated I am certain that you can take Richmond. [475]

I must beg of you, general, to hurry along this movement; your reputation as well as mine may be involved in its rapid execution. I cannot regard Pope and Burnside as safe until you reinforce them. Moreover, I wish them to be under your immediate command, for reasons which it is not necessary to specify. As things now are, with separate commands, there will be no concert of action, and we daily risk being attacked and defeated in detail.

I would write you more fully, but nearly all my time is occupied with the new drafts and enlistments. They are doing well, but several weeks must elapse before we can get the troops into the field.

Bragg seems to be concentrating a large force against Buell, and the latter is asking for reinforcements. When he will reach Chattanooga is a problem I am unable to solve.1

Yours truly,

Secretary Stanton to Gen. McClellan. Telegram; cipher.

headquarters, Department of War, Washington, July 5, 1862, 2.20 P. M.
Maj.-Gen. G. B. McClellan, Commanding, etc., Army of the Potomac:
I have nominated for promotion Gen. E. V. Sumner as brevet major-general of the regular service and major-general of volunteers; Gens. Heintzelman, Keyes, and Porter as brevet brigadiers in the regular service and major-generals of volunteers. [476] The gallantry of every officer and man in your noble army shall be suitably acknowledged.

Gen. Marcy is here and will take you cheering news.

Be assured you shall have the support of this department and the government as cordially and faithfully as was ever rendered by man to man, and if we should ever live to see each other face to face you will be satisfied that you have never had from me anything but the most confiding integrity.

Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

Secretary Stanton to Gen. Marcy.

War Department, Washington City, D. C., July 5, 1862.
dear general : I have to hasten to the country on account of the illness of one of my children, and must therefore forego the pleasure of your company.

I leave a brief note for the general, having intended to write him at large. But you can explain to him much that I would say.

Yours truly,

The following is the “brief note” referred to in the foregoing:

Secretary Stanton to Gen. McClellan.

War Department, Washington City, D. C., July 5, 1862.
dear general: I have had a talk with Gen. Marcy, and meant to have written you by him, but am called to the country, where Mrs. Stanton is with her children, to see one of them die.

I can therefore only say, my dear general, in this brief moment, that there is no cause in my heart or conduct for the cloud that wicked men have raised between us for their own base and selfish purposes. No man had ever a truer friend than I have been to you and shall continue to be. You are seldom absent from my thoughts, and I am ready to make any sacrifice [477] to aid you. Time allows me to say no more than that I pray Almighty God to deliver you and your army from all peril and lead you on to victory.2

Yours truly,

Gen. McClellan to Secretary Stanton.

headquarters, Army of the Potomac, camp near Harrison's Landing, Va., July 8, 1862.
dear Sir: Your letter of the 5th instant by Gen. Marcy has made a deep impression on my mind. Let me, in the first place, express my sympathy with you in the sickness of your child, which I trust may not prove fatal.

I shall be better understood by you, and our friendly relations will become more fixed, if I am permitted to recur briefly to the past.

When you were appointed Secretary of War I considered you my intimate friend and confidential adviser. Of all men in the nation you were my choice for that position.

It was the unquestionable prerogative of the President to determine the military policy of the administration and to select the commanders who should carry out the measures of the government. To any action of this nature I could, of course, take no personal exception.

But from the time you took office your official conduct towards me as commander-in-chief of the army of the United States, and afterwards as commander of the Army of the Potomac, was marked by repeated acts done in such manner as to be deeply offensive to my feelings and calculated to affect me injuriously in public estimation.

After commencing the present campaign your concurrence in the withholding of a large portion of my force, so essential to the success of my plans, led me to believe that your mind was warped by a bitter personal prejudice against me.

Your letter compels me to believe that I have been mistaken in regard to your real feelings and opinions, and that your conduct, so unaccountable to my own fallible judgment, must have [478] proceeded from views and motives which I did not understand. I have made this frank statement because I thought that it would best accord with the spirit of your communication.

It is with a feeling of great relief that I now say to you that I shall at once resume on my part the same cordial confidence which once characterized our intercourse.

You have more than once told me that together we could save this country. It is yet not too late to do so.

To accomplish this there must be between us the most entire harmony of thought and action, and such I offer you.

The crisis through which we are passing is a terrible one.

I have briefly given in a confidential letter to the President my views (please ask to see it) as to the policy which ought to govern this contest on our part.

You and I during last summer so often talked over the whole subject that I have only expressed the opinions then agreed upon between us.

The nation will support no other policy. None other will call forth its energies in time to save our cause. For none other will our armies continue to fight.

I have been perfectly frank with you. Let no cloud hereafter arise between us.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

George B. Mcclellan, Maj.-Gen. Commanding. Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

Note by the Editor.--There is no more sorrowful page in the story of men and of peoples than this, in which it becomes necessary, for the truth of history, to bring together the evidence of a war secretary's private treason to the general in the field, fighting his country's battles. It is unnecessary to draw on the countless sources of private evidence which exist, since the testimony of Secretaries Chase and Welles, and Postmaster-General Blair, his associates in Mr. Lincoln's cabinet, suffice, without extending the miserable record of Mr. Stanton's falsehood and shame, to show his continuous personal hostility to Gen. McClellan from the time of his entering the cabinet in January, at the precise date of writing the above telegram and letter of July 5, and during the rest of McClellan's campaigns.

Mr. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy in the cabinet with Mr. Stanton, in his work, “Lincoln and Seward,” New York, 1874, says: [479]

(P. 190) “With the change in the War Department in Jan., 1862, came the hostility of Secretary Stanton to McClellan, then general-in-chief.”

(P. 191) “This unwise letter [the Harrison's Bar letter] and the reverses of the army, with the active hostility of Stanton, brought Halleck, a vastly inferior man, to Washington. . . . On coming to Washington, Pope, who was ardent and, I think, courageous, though not always discreet, very naturally fell into the views of Secretary Stanton, who improved every opportunity to denounce McClellan and his hesitating policy. Pope also reciprocated the commendations bestowed on him by Halleck, by uniting with Stanton and Gen. Scott in advising that McClellan should be superseded and Halleck placed in charge of military affairs at Washington. This, combined with the movements and the disasters before Richmond, and his own imprudent letter, enabled Stanton to get rid of McClellan at headquarters.”

(P. 193) “But Pope was defeated, and the army, sadly demoralized, came retreating to the Potomac. The War Department, and especially Stanton and Halleck, became greatly alarmed. On the 30th August, in the midst of these disasters, and before the result had reached us, though most damaging information in regard to McClellan, who lingered at Alexandria, was current, the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Chase, called upon me with a protest, signed by himself and Stanton, denouncing the conduct of McClellan and demanding his immediate dismissal. Two other members were ready to append their names after mine. I declined to sign the paper, which was in the handwriting of Stanton; not that I did not disapprove of the course of the general, but because the combination was improper and disrespectful to the President. . . . I had doubted the wisdom of recalling the Army of the Potomac from Richmond, therein differing from Chase and Stanton. The object in bringing that army back to Washington, in order to start a new march overland and regain the abandoned position, I did not understand unless it was to get rid of McClellan . . . . The President never knew of this paper, but was not unaware of the popular feeling against that officer, in which he sympathized, and of the sentiments of the members of the cabinet, aggravated by the hostility and strong if not exaggerated rumors sent out by the Secretary of War. Both Stanton and Halleck were, however, filled with apprehensions beyond others, as the army of stragglers and broken battalions, on the last of August and first of September, came rushing toward Washington.”

Mr. S. P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury in the same cabinet, writing shortly after Sept. 2, 1862, says:

From the day the President told me McClellan was beaten, and I saw his despatches announcing his retreat towards the James river, I never entertained a doubt of the necessity of withdrawing the army altogether, if it was to remain under his command, and I expressed this opinion at once to the President. The military men said that to attempt to withdraw the army would involve the loss of all its material, ammunition, guns, provisions, and stores.

Mr. Chase then refers to the visit of Gen. Marcy at Washington (on which occasion Mr. Stanton's letter of July 5 was written), and what Gen. Marcy had said, and continues:

The danger of withdrawal; the impossibility of strengthening the army for an advance on Richmond from the position to which it had retreated; the certainty that no vigorous effort would be made by [480] McClellan, by unexpected blows south of the James, to retrieve the disasters north of it; the possibility of the loss of the entire army-convinced me, and convinced the Secretary of War, that the command of the Army of the Potomac should be given to some more active officer. We proposed to the President to send Pope to the James, and give Mitchell the command of the army in front of Washington, which . . . had been placed under Pope. The President was not prepared for anything so decisive, and sent for Halleck and made him commander-in-chief

(Schuckers's “Life, etc., of S. P. Chase,” p. 447).

After Pope's defeat Mr. Chase says:

The President . . . himself gave the command of the fortifications and the troops for the defence of Washington to McClellan. It was against my protest and that of the Secretary of War “(ibid. p. 450).”

Aug. 29 Mr. Chase writes:

The Secretary of War called on me in reference to Gen. McClellan. He has long believed, and so have I, that Gen. McClellan ought not to be trusted with the command of any army of the Union, and the events of the last few days have greatly strengthened our judgment. We called on . . . Gen. Halleck and remonstrated against Gen. McClellan commanding. Secretary wrote and presented to Gen. H. a call for a report touching McC.'s disobedience of orders and consequent delay of support to Army of Virginia; Gen. H. promised answer to-morrow morning

(Warden's “Account, etc., of S. P. Chase,” p. 456).

On Aug. 30 Mr. Chase states that he and Mr. Stanton prepared and signed a paper expressing their judgment of McClellan (ibid. p. 456).

Sept. 1 Mr. Chase states: “On suggestion of Judge Bates, the remonstrance against McClellan, which had been previously signed by Smith, was modified; and, having been further slightly altered on my suggestion, was signed by Stanton, Bates, and myself, and afterward by Smith. Welles declined to sign it, on the ground that it might seem unfriendly to the President, though this was the exact reverse of its intent. He said he agreed in opinion, and was willing to express it personally. This determined us to await the cabinet meeting to morrow” (ibid. p, 458).

The testimony of Postmaster-General Blair will be found further on in connection with accounts of the cabinet meeting on Sept. 2, as given by Secretaries Chase and Welles. When Mr. Stanton had succeeded, as he supposed, in depriving McClellan of command by his ironical order of Aug. 30, and when the peril of the capital and country led Mr. Lincoln on Sept. 2 to appeal to McClellan to save them, Mr. Stanton openly declared, says Mr. Blair, that he would rather see the capital lost than McClellan restored to command.

1 Note by the Editor.-In his private diary, Aug. 15 (Warden, p. 452), Mr. Secretary Chase writes: “Went to War Department. Stanton said Halleck had sent Burnside to James river to act as second in command, or as adviser of McClellan — in reality to control him.”

Writing Sept. 2, Mr. Chase (Schuckers, p. 448) says that he saw Gen. Halleck on his return from visiting McClellan, and proceeds: “I cannot fix the date. It was late in July. He unreservedly condemned McClellan's whole military operations, and especially the conduct of the engagement before Richmond and the subsequent retreat to the James.” “About this time I saw a good deal of Gen. Pope. . . . He condemned Gen. McClellan's conduct more and in stronger terms than Gen. Halleck. and said that in conversation he found Halleck quite agreed with him, but averse to precipitate action.”

2 See note at end of the chapter.

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