[Special Washington Correspondence of the N. Y. Tribune, March 13th.]
Why George B. McClellan
was called to the onerous and responsible position he has held for the past seven months, will never be fully explained.
When appointed Major-General
of Volunteers by Governor Dennison
, of Ohio
, he was Superintendent
of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, a dilapidated concern, which had long been on its last legs:--It is putting it in very soft language to say that his standing among railroad managers was not high.
In used, the truth would bear me out in asserting that it was rather middling, if not decidedly low. He had put his name to a large volume five years before, as one of the American
Military Commission to the Crimes.
Of this respectable, though somewhat jejune work the public supported him to be the author.
It was known only to a few that it was merely a compilation and translation from European
publications — that an enterprising bookseller (unaware of this fact) had seat a good many copies across the Atlantic
for sale which ware returned upon his hands because foreign traders dare not sell them, lest they be sued for infringing copyrights — and that in reality he was no more the author of the substantial parts of this book than he was of the Even in pretty wall informed circles, it is still asserted that Captain McClellan
was selected by the other two members of the mean Commission (Majors Mordecai
) to draw up the report to the Secretary of War
This is an error.
Each member published a book, and that of McClellan
is the smallest and most inconsiderable of the three.
The country was appalled at the disaster of Bull Run
it could not be denied that Gen. McDowell
War is inexorable.--It sacrifices lives and reputations with remorseless hand.
Public opinion demanded that McDowell
be instantly displaced from the command of the army of the Potomac.--Neither the President
nor Gen. Scott
dared to resist the execution of the decree.
It is now felt that great injustice was done to McDowell
But a victim was demanded to appease popular clamor, and he was offered up in looking around for his successor, it was found that the selection was confined to a very narrow range.
The oldest and most experienced Generals
in the army, excepting Gen. Wool
, who was then under some mysterious ban, had joined the rebels.
The campaign in Western Virginia
, by virtue of his Major
-Generalship, was senior officer, had been successful.
He had sent shrilling telegrams, and written imposing dispatches to Washington
, describing the successes in his Department.
The public, not then knowing that he had neither planned nor fought a single one of the battles he described, and had not even been under fire in Western Virginia
, and that he was entitled to no more credit for any of those victories than the writer of this paragraph — the bewildered and appalled public, and the horribly frightened officials at Washington
, who, in their nightly dreams, saw visions of Beauregard
and the Black-Horse
cavalry crossing the Long Bridge
, instantly indicated McClellan
as the man to supplant Mcllowell.
Precisely why they called him
they did not know, and I fancy they have not yet found out. But the war had hardly begun, and his department was the only one in which anything had been done; and, forgetting how cheap pen and ink are, they took it for granted that the author of such glowing dispatched must, in fighting qualities, be the ante-type of Frederick
, of Bincher, of Wellington
, and of Napoleon
So, ‘"click"’ went the telegraph, and, quick estan express railway train can run, George B. McClellan
appeared in Washington
, and assumed the command of the army of the Potomac.
Having set up an idol, all patriotic men, of high and low degree, instantly commenced offering incense at its shrine — though nobody could tell exactly why, nor has anybody yet found out. Everybody reposed implicit confidence in him; all waited for his nod with reverential aspect; his slightest word was treasured up and repeated in whispers; his most casual look was scanned as if big with meaning; and then be was so silent, so reticent, so uncommunicative!
There was a mystery about him. He did not confer with his subordinate Generals
, and they recollected that the great Napoleon
did just so by his Marshals.
The newspapers abounded with sketches of his personal appearance, and the show-windows ran over with photographs of ‘"the Major-General
Commanding"’ in all conceivable and inconceivable attitudes, the most frequent and popular of which in that therein he is mounted on a furious charger, at the head of his serried columns, leading his impetuous men, amid a tempest of fire, straight up to the enemy's entrenchments.
Time rolled on; the pictures increased; but the army stood still!
Let the Bull Run
panic subside, said everybody.
Well, it subsided.
But the army did not move.
Wait, wait, said discreet men, (your genuine conservatives) till the hot weather away.
And the hot weather parsed away.
But the army stood still.
Let the autumnal rains fall, and the mud dried away.
It was the we mean — when they fall, then!
So the over the P their foliage, till they looked us bare as a flock of packed tourneys.
But the army remained in full feather, and didn't go. Let the enemy begin the attack — and they began it at Baif's Bluff.
Then was exhibited a fearful amount of incompetency, of slaughter, of treachery.--but the Major- General
Commanding, after Banks
had crossed the Potomac
, ordered his return, and refused to accept the battle tendered by the foe. A long, geting Indian summer, with roads more hard and skies more beautiful than Virginia
had seen for many a year, followed, carrying October, with its dry soil and hammy sun, onward, till December melted into January.
This seemingly special invitation of Providence
for an onward movement, instead of being accepted, was whiled away in ostentations parades and gala-day sham fights, where the common soldiery mounted their white gloves, and the Major General
Commanding bestrode his favorite charger, the unthinking crowd gaping with wonder, while belies from the Northern
cities showered their an esteem smiles all over the scene.
As the new year approached, ‘"Why don't be moved"’ said some impatient observer, infatuated with the delusion that war means fighting.
‘"He is waiting for something to turn up!"’ responded grave believers in strategy.
Well, it did turn up at Hill Spring
. --Why don't be move now ? He is waiting for Burnside
His plan contemplates a general once upon the foe all along the lines from Hatteras
When they are ready at the extremities, the centre will fall with crushing weight upon Manassas
, and the rebellion will be ended.
By and-by the gallant Burnside
, after encountering and mangling obstacles immeasurably worse than all the mud that can be piled between the Potomac
and the Rappahannock
, opens fire at Roanoke
in the East
, while Fort Henry
, on the Tennessee
, and Donelson
, on the Cumberland
, their brave assailants wallowing to their armpits in the mire, send the echo back to Albemarle
, catching the inspiration, buffets sleet and storm, and by forced marches seizes Bowling Green
, while Siegel falls suddenly upon Springfield
quite down into Arkansas
, our gunboats penetrate beyond Pulaski
and threaten Savannah
, and Gen. Buller
hurries off his regiments and transports to the Gulf
for an attack, via Ship Island
, upon New Orleans!
Does this mounting in hot hastes, this gleaming of bayonets and bursting of shells all around from Pickens
, disturb the equanimity or jostle the self-control of the Major-General
Not a bit of it. Like Message, of whom Napoleon
said, ‘"His head is never so cool as when a thousand cannon are thundering in his ears,"’ our Field
possesses his soul in peace, and directs the telegraphic censer to reiterate the chronic fact, ‘"All is quiet along the lines of the Potomac
And so the army has stood through the winter, but without being permitted to go into winter quarters.
Commanding"’ has enjoyed his luxurious apartments at ‘"these headquarters."’ and has retired nightly to his downy pillow; while the leaders of divisions and brigades have dwelt under breezy canvas, and the common soldiers have slept on their pallets of straw, often spread on the bare ground.
A noble-hearted General said to me, ‘"My camp has been full of agues, intermittent, and typhoids all winter.
I have done nothing but issue orders for coffins.
And now, just as the malaria season approaches, we are to move southward."’ Believing in the full intent of ‘"the Major-General
Commanding"’ not to move one rod this winter, it has been infamously crust to forbid the army going into huts, and putting up other suitable protection incident to winter quartering.
But all attempts at this have been promptly arrested and frowned down.
Facts are freshly circulated on this point which should make, the blood of humanity boil with indignation.
But, at last, the army is going to move.--Why?
When the people began to learn that this gorgeous pageant on the Potomac
had already cost them about $300,000,00, and was involving them in an annual tax of $20,000,000, and was running up a debt that their great-grandchildren would not see the end of, they commenced to inquire whether this attempt to make a colossal military chieftain out of a second-rate railroad superintendent was not too costly an experiment; and they began to hint at a change.
Acting upon this hint, a robust official opened his mouth and spoke.
He presented to ‘"the Major General
Commanding"’ the alternative, either to move his army or move himself; either to take his columns away from the Potomac
, or to yield up their lead to other hands.
Will he move?
I think he will, and at an early day. Where?
If I know, I would not tell.
Will he find the foe?
I am not sure that he will soon find him in large numbers.
If he meats him, will he conquer him?--There is not doubt of it with such troops, so well armed, and with such ponderous masses of artillery, and led by such experienced officers as Heintzelman
, Cassy, Doubleday
, and their associates, who have seen service, and such recruits from civil life as Backs, Wadsworth
, and others who are eager to distinguish themselves, the grand army of the Potomac, whether its nominal board be McClellan
, or Hallack
, or Fremont
, or the President
of the United States
, (Its Constitutional Commander-In-Chief
,) or with concert of action, even if it have no nominal head, will know no such word as fail ! Its weight is so great that if it be but let loose and precipitated upon the foe, it will grind him to powder.
In a word, the army will move, and will win. But no thanks to the ‘"Major-General
Commanding."’ He will go forward, because he could not help it if he were to try.
I assert upon the most trustworthy authority, that, in the opinion of the best informed army officers, Gen. McClellan
is not entitled to the slightest credit for any of our recent victories at the East
and the West
--not the slightest.
I assert, and defy contradiction and consequences, that all the real and acting Major
under his command in the army of the Potomac, with two or three exceptions at the most, have not the slightest confidence in his capacity as a strategic or a military leader, and that they scout his pretensions to superiority with scorn and contempt.
What would the people say if they were to know that, on the eve of events surpassing in magnitude any that have occurred during this war, the Commander
of the Army of the Potomac should call a special council of war, to be composed of his principal Generals
; that, at the time appointed, ten chiefs of divisions from all parts of the army attended at his headquarters to confer upon matters of the weightiest concernment; that, after a simple shake of the hand all round, he retired, leaving his father-in-law a member of his staff, and recently a more paymaster in the army, to represent him in the council; he, the Major General
Commanding, never appearing for one moment among them during this protracted sitting?
Would they not think he was either one of the greatest or one of the smallest men that ever commanded a vast army on the eve of a grand onward movement?
And, remembering that war has produced an Alexander, a Hannibal, a a Eugene, a Marlborough, a Frederick, a Wellington, and a Napoleon, would they not promptly assign him to the latter category?
And would they hesitate to believe that some of these commanders of divisions left the council with undisguised contempt for their Prentice
I wish it understood that I make these statement upon my responsibility, and upon ample evidence.
And yet, for the reasons already given.
will move forward, and, if he finds the foe, his columns will conquer him. This historian of this rebellion will do him and his army full justice, awarding laurels to those who win them, and censure to those who deserve it.