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Chapter 8:

It is a great mistake to suppose that I had the cordial support of Gen. Scott; the contrary was too much the case. While in the West I failed to obtain from him the assistance needed, and when I reached Washington I soon found that he was unnecessarily jealous of me. On the very day of my arrival he interfered, as already described, to prevent my keeping an appointment with the President, because he was not invited to be present. He directed me to ride around the streets of Washington and see that the drunken men were picked up, which I naturally did not do! He opposed the bill for increasing the number of aides, on the ground that he had only two in Mexico. Soon after assuming the command I saw the absolute necessity of giving a name to the mass of troops under my command, in order to inspire them with esprit de corps; I therefore proposed to call my command “The Army of the Potomac.” Gen. Scott objected most strenuously to this step, saying, that the routine of service could be carried on only under the “department” system, etc. I persisted, and finally had my own way in the matter in spite of the opposition. I also told him that I proposed to organize brigades at first; then, when that organization was fairly established, to form divisions; and finally, after everything was well arranged and I could be sure of selecting the right commanders-probably after having been in the field for a time — to form army corps.

The general objected to this also, insisting that no higher organization than that of brigade was necessary; that it was impossible to organize the troops under my command as an army! Consequently, when the proper time arrived, I organized the divisions without further discussion of the matter.

Gen. Scott was no longer himself when the war broke out. The weight of years and great bodily suffering pressed heavily upon him, and really rendered him incapable of performing the [137] duties of his station. For some time before he retired he was simply an obstacle, and a very serious one, in the way of active work. He did not wish me to succeed him as general-in-chief, but desired that place for Halleck, and long withheld his retirement that Halleck might arrive East and fall heir to his place.

Speaking of Halleck, a day or two before he arrived in Washington Stanton came to caution me against trusting Halleck, who was, he said, probably the greatest scoundrel and most barefaced villain in America; he said that he was totally destitute of principle, and that in the Almaden Quicksilver case he had convicted Halleck of perjury in open court. When Halleck arrived he came to caution me against Stanton, repeating almost precisely the same words that Stanton had employed.

I made a note of this fact soon after its occurrence, and lately, Dec. 4, 1883, I saw for the first time, on page 833, vol. VIII., series 1, “Official records of the War of the rebellion,” Gen. E. A. Hitchcock's letter to Halleck, in which the former transmits a message from Stanton on the very same subject. This is eminently characteristic of Stanton, who would say one thing to a man's face and just the reverse behind his back.

Of all men whom I have encountered in high position Halleck was the most hopelessly stupid. It was more difficult to get an idea through his head than can be conceived by any one who never made the attempt. I do not think he ever had a correct military idea from beginning to end.

I left Gen. Hunter in nominal command of his brigade, because he bore an excellent reputation in the old army and had been wounded; I have never met him personally. He did not assume command of the brigade, for as soon as he recovered from his wound the President appointed him major-general of volunteers, that he might go to Illinois and, in the words of Mr. Lincoln, “be a sort of father to them out there.” 1 [138]

Heintzelman also received a brigade; he, too, had been wounded at Bull Run, and bore a good reputation in the old army. He was a very brave man and an excellent officer.

W. T. Sherman was almost immediately taken from me to accompany Robert Anderson to Kentucky. I had a high opinion of him and parted from him with regret.

Philip Kearny received a brigade; but, though he stood high as a remarkably daring man and good cavalry captain in the Mexican war, I had not sufficient confidence in his brains to give him one of the first divisions. I have since sometimes thought that I would have done well had I given him command of the cavalry.

Sumner was in California when I assumed command; he returned not long before we took the field, and at once received a division. He was an old and tried officer; perfectly honest; as brave as a man could be; conscientious and laborious. In many respects he was a model soldier. He was a man for whom I had a very high regard, and for his memory I have the greatest respect. He was a very valuable man, and his soldierly example was of the highest value in a new army. A nation is fortunate that possesses many such soldiers as was Edwin V. Sumner.

Franklin was one of the best officers I had; very powerful. He was a man not only of excellent judgment, but of a remarkably high order of intellectual ability. He was often badly treated, and seldom received the credit he deserved. His moral character was of the highest, and he was in all respects an admirable corps commander; more than that, he would have commanded an army well. The only reason why I did not send him to relieve Sherman, instead of Buell, was that I could not spare such a man from the Army of the Potomac.

Blenker I found, and retained, in command of the Germans. Born in Bavaria, it was said he had served in Greece as a non-commissioned officer, and subsequently as a colonel or general officer in the revolutionary army of Baden in 1848. He was in many respects an excellent soldier; had his command in excellent drill, was very fond of display, but did not, or could not, always restrain his men from plundering. Had he remained with me I think that he and his division would have done good service, and that they would have been kept under good discipline. [139] It would be difficult to find a more soldierly-looking set of men than he had under his command. Of his subordinate officers the best was Gen. Stahl, a Hungarian, who had served with distinction under Georgei. His real name, I believe, was Count Serbiani.

Richardson was in command of a regiment of Michigan volunteers when I went to Washington; I at once gave him a brigade. He was an officer of the old army, “bull-headed,” brave, a good disciplinarian. He received his mortal wound at Antietam.

To Stone I gave a detached brigade on the upper Potomac-ground with which he was familiar. He was a most charming and amiable gentleman; honest, brave, a good soldier, though occasionally carried away by his chivalrous ideas. He was very unfortunate, and was as far as possible from meriting the sad fate and cruel treatment he met with.

I found Couch in command of a regiment, and soon gave him a brigade. He was an honest, faithful, and laborious man, a brave, modest, and valuable officer.

Fitz-John Porter was on duty with Gen. Patterson, as adjutant-general, when I assumed command. As soon as possible I had him made a brigadier-general and gave him the command vacated by W. T. Sherman. Take him for all in all, he was probably the best general officer I had under me. He had excellent ability, sound judgment, and all the instincts of a soldier. He was perfectly familiar with all the details of his duty, an excellent organizer and administrative officer, and one of the most conscientious and laborious men I ever knew. I never found it necessary to do more than give him general instructions, for it was certain that all details would be cared for and nothing neglected. I always knew that an order given to him would be fully carried out, were it morally and physically possible. He was one of the coolest and most imperturbable men in danger whom I ever knew — like all his race. I shall have occasion to revert to him hereafter, and will now only add that he was treated with the grossest injustice — chiefly, I fear, because of his devotion to me.

Buell was in California, a lieutenant-colonel of the adjutant-general's department. I had him appointed a brigadier-general and sent for him at once. He possessed a very high [140] reputation in the Mexican war, and I found him to be an admirable soldier in every regard.

To Sedgwick I gave a brigade. Not knowing him well, I did not at first appreciate his high qualities, but soon discovered them and gave him the first vacant division — that originally commanded by Stone. He was one of the best and most modest soldiers we had. Possessing excellent ability and judgment, the highest bravery, great skill in handling troops, wonderful powers in instructing and disciplining men, as well as in gaining their love, respect, and confidence, he was withal so modest and unobtrusive that it was necessary to be thrown closely in contact with him to appreciate him. He was thoroughly unselfish, honest, and true as steel. His conduct during the battle of Chancellorsville in storming the works on Marie's Heights, and afterwards holding his own against tremendous odds, was a remarkable and most brilliant feat of arms.

Hancock received a brigade early in the formation of the Army of the Potomac. He was a man of the most chivalrous courage, and of a superb presence, especially in action; he had a wonderfully quick and correct eye for ground and for handling troops; his judgment was good, and it would be difficult to find a better corps commander.

John Reynolds was commandant of the corps of cadets when the war broke out. He gained a high reputation in the Mexican war as an officer of light artillery, and was among the first whom I caused to be appointed brigadier-general. He was a splendid soldier and performed admirably every duty assigned to him. Constantly improving, he was, when killed at Gettysburg, with Meade and Sedgwick, the best officer then with the Army of the Potomac. He was remarkably brave and intelligent, an honest, true gentleman.

Meade was also one of my early appointments as brigadier-general. He was an excellent officer; cool, brave, and intelligent; he always did his duty admirably, and was an honest man. As commander of an army he was far superior to either Hooker or Burnside.

Col. Ingalls was, in my experience, unequalled as a chief-quartermaster in the field.

When first assigned to the command in the Department of the Ohio, I applied for Fitz-John Porter as my adjutant-general, [141] but he was already on duty with Gen. Patterson in the same capacity, and could not be spared. Soon afterwards I obtained Maj. Seth Williams, who had been on duty with Gen. Harney at St. Louis, and he remained with me as my adjutant-general until I was finally relieved from the command of the Army of the Potomac. I never met with a better bureau officer, perhaps never with so good a one. He thoroughly understood the working of the adjutant-general's department, was indefatigable in the performance of his duty, made many and valuable suggestions as to the system of returns, reports, etc., and thus exerted a great influence in bringing about the excellent organization of the Army of the Potomac. He was thoroughly honest and a gentleman; he was, if anything, too modest, for he would probably have accomplished more had he possessed more self-reliance. He won universal regard by his kind and considerate manner towards those with whom he was officially brought in contact. I never knew a more laborious and conscientious man.

During the autumn of 1861, as already stated, I spent my days chiefly in the saddle, rarely returning from my rides until late at night. Most of the night and the morning hours were given up to office-work.

Of course I rode everywhere and saw everything. Not an entrenchment was commenced unless I had at least approved its site; many I located myself. Not a camp that I did not examine, not a picket-line that I did not visit and cross, so that almost every man in the army saw me at one time or another, and most of them became familiar with my face. And there was no part of the ground near Washington that I did not know thoroughly.

The most entertaining of my duties were those which sometimes led me to Blenker's camp, whither Franklin was always glad to accompany me to see the “circus,” or “opera,” as he usually called the performance. As soon as we were sighted Blenker would have the “officer's call” blown to assemble his polyglot collection, with their uniform as varied and brilliant as the colors of the rainbow. Wrapped in his scarlet-lined cloak, his group of officers ranged around him, he would receive us with the most formal and polished courtesy. Being a very handsome and soldierly-looking man himself, and there [142] being many equally so among his surroundings, the tableau was always very effective, and presented a striking contrast to the matter-of-fact way in which things were managed in the other divisions.

In a few minutes he would shout, “Ordinanz numero eins!” whereupon champagne would be brought in great profusion, the bands would play, sometimes songs be sung. It was said, I know not how truly, that Blenker had been a non-commissioned officer in the German contingent serving under King Otho of Greece.

His division was very peculiar. So far as “the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war” were concerned, it certainly outshone all the others. Their drill and bearing were also excellent; for all the officers, and probably all the men, had served in Europe. I have always regretted that the division was finally taken from me and sent to Fremont. The officers and men were all strongly attached to me; I could control them as no one else could, and they would have done good service had they remained in Sumner's corps. The regiments were all foreign and mostly of Germans; but the most remarkable of all was the Garibaldi regiment. Its colonel, D'Utassy, was a Hungarian, and was said to have been a rider in Franconi's Circus, and terminated his public American career in the Albany Penitentiary. His men were from all known and unknown lands, from all possible and impossible armies: Zouaves from Algiers, men of the “Foreign legion,” Zephyrs, Cossacks, Garibaldians of the deepest dye, English deserters, Sepoys, Turcos, Croats, Swiss, beer drinkers from Bavaria, stout men from North Germany, and no doubt Chinese, Esquimaux, and detachments from the army of the Grand Duchess of Gerolstein.

Such a mixture was probably never before seen under any flag, unless, perhaps, in such bands as Holk's Jagers of the Thirty Years War or the free lances of the middle ages.

I well remember that in returning one night from beyond the picket-lines I encountered an outpost of the Garibaldians. In reply to their challenge I tried English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Indian, a little Russian and Turkish;2 all in [143] vain, for nothing at my disposal made the slightest impression upon them, and I inferred that they were perhaps gipsies or Esquimaux or Chinese.

Mr. Seward's policy of making ours “a people's war,” as he expressed it, by drumming up officers from all parts of the world, sometimes produced strange results and brought us rare specimens of the class vulgarly known as “hard cases.” Most of the officers thus obtained had left their own armies for the armies' good, although there were admirable and honorable exceptions, such as Stahl, Willich, Rosencranz, Cesnola, and some others. Few were of the slightest use to us, and I think the reason why the German regiments so seldom turned out well was that their officers were so often men without character.

Soon after Gen. Scott retired I received a letter from the Hungarian Klapka informing me that he had been approached by some of Mr. Seward's agents to get him into our army, and saying that he thought it best to come to a direct understanding with myself as to terms, etc. He said that he would require a bonus of $100,000 in cash and a salary of $25,000 per annum; that on his first arrival he would consent to serve as my chief of staff for a short time until he acquired the language, and that he would then take my place of general commanding-in-chief. He failed to state what provision he would make for me, that probably to depend upon the impression I made upon him.

I immediately took the letter to Mr. Lincoln, who was made very angry by it, and, taking possession of the letter, said that he would see that I should not be troubled in that way again.

Cluseret — afterwards Minister of War under the Commune-brought me a letter of introduction from Garibaldi, recommending him in the highest terms as a soldier, man of honor, etc. I did not like his appearance and declined his services; but without my knowledge or consent Stanton appointed him a colonel on my staff. I still declined to have anything to do with him, and he was sent to the Mountain Department, as chief of staff, I think.

On the recommendation of the Prussian minister I took upon [144] my staff, as aides-de-camp, two German officers whose subsequent histories were peculiar and suggestive. One was a member of a very noble family, whose father had held high official rank in his native land, the son having been a lieutenant in the Guard Cavalry. He was one of the handsomest young fellows I have ever seen, polished to the last degree, and a splendid soldier. He remained with me during my command, and always performed difficult and dangerous duties in the best possible manner. He remained with the army on staff-duty after I was relieved.

Being in Germany when the Austro-Prussian war broke out, I determined to call upon the War Minister and advise him to recall the officer in question, as an admirable soldier whose experience in our war would be valuable; for I had been led to believe that his original separation from his own army had been caused by some trivial breach of discipline. Within a few days I learned that he had been dismissed from our service. The last I heard of this poor fellow — for one cannot help feeling sorry for the waste of such excellent gifts — was that he made his living as croupier in a gambling-den.

The other was of an old military family; his father had been a general, and I had met his brothers and cousins as officers in the Austrian army. He also was an admirable and most useful aide in difficult times. After I left the field he became lieutenant-colonel, and probably colonel, of a regiment, and did good service. At the close of the war, failing to be retained, he enlisted in a regular cavalry regiment, hoping to be examined and promoted to a commission; but his habits were against him. At last, in carrying the mail during the winter between the posts on the plains, his feet were frozen and, I think, amputated. Finally his family sent for him, and he returned home to die.

Of a different order were the French princes who formed part of my military family from Sept. 20, 1861, to the close of the Seven Days. They served as captains, declining any higher rank, though they had fully earned promotion before the close of their connection with the army. They served precisely as the other aides, taking their full share of all duty, whether agreeable or disagreeable, dangerous or the reverse. They were fine young fellows and good soldiers, and deserved high credit in every way.

Their uncle, the Prince de Joinville, who accompanied them [145] as a Mentor, held no official position, but our relations were always confidential and most agreeable. The Duc de Chartres had received a military education at the military school at Turin; the Comte de Paris had only received instruction in military matters from his tutors. They had their separate establishment, being accompanied by a physician and a captain of chasseurs-à--pied. The latter was an immense man, who could never, under any circumstances, be persuaded to mount a horse: he always made the march on foot.

Their little establishment was usually the jolliest in camp, and it was often a great relief to me, when burdened with care, to listen to the laughter and gayety that resounded from their tents. They managed their affairs so well that they were respected and liked by all with whom they came in contact. The Prince de Joinville sketched admirably and possessed a most keen sense of the ridiculous, so that his sketch-book was an inexhaustible source of amusement, because everything ludicrous that struck his fancy on the march was sure to find a place there. He was a man of far more than ordinary ability and of excellent judgment. His deafness was, of course, a disadvantage to him, but his admirable qualities were so marked that I became warmly attached to him, as, in fact, I did to all the three, and I have good reason to know that the feeling was mutual.

Whatever may have been the peculiarities of Louis Philippe during his later life, it is very certain that in his youth, as the Duc de Chartres, he was a brave, dashing, and excellent soldier. His sons, especially the Ducs d'orleans, d'aumale, Montpensier, and the Prince de Joinville, showed the same characteristics in Algiers and elsewhere; and I may be permitted to say that my personal experience with the three members of the family who served with me was such that there could be no doubt as to their courage, energy, and military spirit. The course pursued by the Prince de Joinville and the Duc de Chartres during the fatal invasion of France by the Germans was in perfect harmony with this. Both sought service, under assumed names, in the darkest and most dangerous hours of their country's trial. The duke served for some months as Capt. Robert le Fort, and under that name, his identity being known to few if any beyond his closest personal friends, gained promotion and distinction by his gallantry and intelligence. [146]

Should the Comte de Paris ever reach the throne of Franceas is more than probable — I am sure that he will prove to be a wise, honest, and firm constitutional king, and that the honor and prosperity of France will be safer in his hands and those of his soldierly family than for many years past.

Information from various sources received in Aug. and Sept., 1861, convinced the government that there was serious danger of the secession of Maryland.

The secessionists possessed about two-thirds of each branch of the State legislature, and the general government had what it regarded as good reasons for believing that a secret, extra, and illegal session of the legislature was about to be convened at Frederick on the 17th of Sept. in order to pass an ordinance of secession. It was understood that this action was to be supported by an advance of the Southern army across the Potomac — an advance which the Army of the Potomac was not yet in a condition to desire. Even an abortive attempt to carry out this design would have involved great civil confusion and military inconvenience. It was impossible to permit the secession of Maryland, intervening, as it did, between the capital and the loyal States, and commanding all our lines of supply and reinforcement. I do not know how the government obtained the information on which they reached their conclusions. I do not know how reliable it was. I only know that at the time it seemed more than probable, and that ordinary prudence required that it should be regarded as certain. So that when I received the orders for the arrest of the most active members of the legislature, for the purpose of preventing the intended meeting and the passage of the act of secession, I gave that order a most full and hearty support as a measure of undoubted military necessity.

On the 10th of Sept. Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, instructed Gen. Banks to prevent the passage of any act of secession by the Maryland legislature, directing him to arrest all or any number of the members, if necessary, but in any event to do the work effectively.

On the same day the Secretary of War instructed Gen. Dix to arrest six conspicuous and active secessionists of Baltimore, three of whom were members of the legislature. They were to be sent to Fort Monroe, their papers seized and examined. A special agent was sent to take immediate charge of the arrests. [147]

On the 10th of Sept. Gen. Dix sent to Secretary Seward and myself marked lists of the legislature. In his letters he strongly approved of the intended arrests, and advised that those arrested should be sent to New York harbor by a special steamer.

The total number of arrests made was about sixteen, and the result was the thorough upsetting of whatever plans the secessionists of Maryland may have entertained. It is needless to say that the arrested parties were ultimately released, and were kindly treated while imprisoned. Their arrest was a military necessity, and they had no cause of complaint. In fact, they might with justice have received much more severe treatment than they did.

On the 28th of Oct. I received from the chief of the Secret Service a report in reference to the elections to be held in Maryland, on the 6th of Nov., for governor, members of the State legislature, etc. In this report he states that he had information of a general apprehension among the Union citizens of the southern part of the State of a serious interference with their rights of suffrage by the disunion citizens of that district on the occasion of the election; that it was said that several hundred persons, who had left that part of Maryland with the avowed purpose of aiding the secessionist cause by taking up arms or otherwise, had recently returned to their homes, as was supposed, for the purpose of controlling the State election; also, that it had been reported to him that a large quantity of arms were concealed in a designated locality for use in endeavoring to control the election by the disunionists.

I laid this report immediately before the President, who caused the following endorsement (also issued separately in the form of an order) to be made upon it:

Department of State, Washington Oct. 28, 1861.
Maj.-Gen. George B. McClellan, etc., etc., etc.:
The President desires that Gen. McClellan will direct such disposition of the military force as will guard effectually against invasion of the peace and order of Maryland during the election,. and for this purpose he is authorized to suspend the habeas corpus and make arrests of traitors and their confederates in his discretion.


To carry out these instructions the necessary orders were [148] issued to Gens. Banks, Stone, and Hooker. I give a copy of the order issued to Gen. Banks; the others were the same, mutatis mutandis:

headquarters, Army of the Potomac, Oct. 29, 1861.
To Maj.-Gen. N. P. Banks, Commanding Division at Muddy Branch, Md.:
general: There is an apprehension among Union citizens in many parts of Maryland of an attempt at interference with the rights of suffrage by disunion citizens on the occasion of the election to take place on the 6th of Nov. next. In order to prevent this the major-general commanding directs that you send detachments of a sufficient number of men to the different points in your vicinity where the elections are to be held, to protect the Union voters and see that no disunionists are allowed to intimidate them or in any way interfere with their rights. He also desires you to arrest and hold in confinement till after the election all disunionists who are known to have returned from Virginia recently and who show themselves at the polls, and to guard effectually against any invasion of the peace and order of the election.

For the purpose of carrying out these instructions you are authorized to suspend the habeas corpus. Gen. Stone has received similar instructions to these. You will please confer with him as to the particular points that each shall take control of.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. B. Marcy, Chief of Staff

1 The following is an extract from the letter of Gen E. A. Hitchcock to Gen. H. W. Halleck, dated Washington, March 22, 1862:

I then bid the secretary (Stanton) good-evening and left him, but he called me back, and added that if I was going to write to you he wished to convey his respects, and his future confidence in your ability and patriotism, explaining that he had been employed against you in the mine case in California. and that his partner had some difficulty or controversy with you of a somewhat personal nature, but that, for his part, he had taken no interest in it, and had never had any other than the highest respect for you, and he hoped you would not imagine that he ever had.


It is proper to say that this is doubtless a simple statement of fact. Gen. McClellan was able to converse freely in most of the languages named, including two dialects of North American Indian, and had sufficient practical knowledge of all of them (as well as others) to make him independent of an interpreter.

W. C. P.

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