Council of War held to Implement McClellan’s Plans

March 8, 1862

There is an ugly confrontation between President Lincoln and General McClellan  at which Lincoln reveals to McClellan that there is talk in Washington of his supposed treason.  Later, McClellan, McClellan and 12 army generals hold a council of war at which the generals endorse dby an 8-4 vote McClellan’s plan for the so-called Urbanna plan, later called the Peninsular Campaign, to attack Richmond.  Lincoln “urged us all to go in heartily for this plan,” reported one general.  In his memoirs, General McClellan reported that “ the President sent for me at an early hour in the morning, about half-past seven, and I found him in his office. He appeared much concerned about something, and soon said that he wished to talk with me about “a very ugly matter.” I asked what it was; and, as he still hesitated, I said that the sooner and more directly such things were approached the better.

He then referred to the Harper’s Ferry affair (the boats being too wide for the lift-locks, etc.), upon which I found that the secretary had deceived me when he said that the President was satisfied. I told him what had passed between the secretary and myself (as related above), at which he was much surprised. He told me that he had never heard of my memorandum or of any explanation on my part. I then gave him my statement of the matter, with which he expressed himself entirely satisfied.
He then adverted to the more serious—or ugly—matter, and now the effects of the intrigues by which he had been surrounded became apparent. He said that it had been represented to him (and he certainly conveyed to me the distinct impression that he regarded these representations as well found. ed) that my plan of campaign (which was to leave Washington under the protection of a sufficient garrison, its numerous well-built and well-armed fortifications, and the command of Banks, then in the Shenandoah Valley, and to throw the whole active army suddenly by water from Annapolis and Alexandria to the forts on James river, and thence by the shortest route upon Richmond) was conceived with the traitorous intent of removing its defenders from Washington, and thus giving over to the enemy the capital and the government, thus left defenceless.
It is difficult to understand that a man of Mr. Lincoln’s intelligence could give ear to such abominable nonsense. I was seated when he said this, concluding with the remark that it did look to him much like treason. Upon this I arose, and, in a manner perhaps not altogether decorous towards the chief magistrate, desired that he should retract the expression, telling him that I could permit no one to couple the word treason with my name. He was much agitated, and at once disclaimed any idea of considering me a traitor, and said that he merely repeated what others had said, and that he did not believe a word of it . t suggested caution in the use of language, and again said that I would permit no doubt to be thrown upon my intentions; whereupon he again apologized and disclaimed any purpose of impugning my motives.
I then informed him that I had called a meeting of the generals of division for that day with reference to the proposed attack upon the enemy’s Potomac batteries, and suggested that my plan should be laid before them in order that he might be satisfied. This was done, and I heard no more of treason in that connection.

President Lincoln also announced his decision to appoint four corps commanders for the Army of the Potomac.  In War Order No. 2, Lincoln wrote: “1st. That the Major General commanding the Army of the Potomac proceed forthwith to organize that part of said Army destined to enter upon active operations (including the reserve, but excluding the troops to be left in the fortifications about Washington) into four Army corps to be commanded according to seniority of rank as follows:

1st Corps, to consist of four Divisions & to be commanded by Major General McDowell.
2nd. Corps, to consist of three Divisions, & to be commanded by Commanded by Brigadier General Heintzelman
4th. Corps, to consist of three Divisions, & to be commanded by Brigadier General E. D. Keyes.
2. That the Divisions now commanded by the officers above assigned to the command of corps, shall be embraced in, and form parts of their respective corps.
3 The forces left for the defence of Washington will be placed in command of Brigadier General James Wadsworth, who shall also be Military Governor of the District of Columbia.
4. That this order be executed with such promptness and despatch as not to delay the commencement of the operations already directed to be undertaken by the Army of the Potomac.
5. A fifth Army Corps, to be commanded by Major General Banks will be formed from his own, and Gen. Shields, late Gen. Lander’s Division.

President Lincoln remained concern about protecting Washington from Confederate attack or invasion and thus issued War Order No. 3 to protect the nation’s capital as the bulk of the army was being moved by ship to begin the Peninsular Campaign:

Ordered, that no change of the base of operations of the Army of the Potomac shall be made without leaving in, and about Washington, such a force as, in the opinion of the General-in-chief, and the commanders of all the Army corps, shall leave said City entirely secure.
That not more than two Army corps, (about fifty thousand troops) of said Army of the Potomac, shall be moved en route for a new base of operations until the navigation of the Potomac, from Washington to the Chesapeake bay shall be freed from enemies batteries and other obstructions, or, until the President shall hereafter give express permission.
That any movement, as aforesaid, en route for a new base of operations, which may be ordered by the General-in-chief, & which may be intended to move upon the Chesapeake bay shall begin to move upon the bay as early as the 18th. day of March Inst.; and the General-in-chief shall be responsible that it so move as early as that day.
Ordered that the Army and Navy co-operate in an immediate effort to capture the enemies batteries upon the Potomac between Washington and the Chesapeake-bay.

Published in: on March 8, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

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