President Lincoln Orders Washington’s Protection

March 13, 1862

President Lincoln remains worried that the “Urbanna Plan” will leave Washington exposed to Confederate attack.  Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton wrote George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac: “The President having considered the plan of operations agreed upon by yourself and the commanders of army corps, makes no objection to the same, but gives the following directions as to its execution:

1st. Leave such force at Manassas Junction as shall make it entirely certain that the enemy shall not repossess himself of that position and line of communication.
2d. Leave Washington secure.
3d. Move the remainder of the force down the Potomac, choosing a new base at Fortress Monroe, or anywhere between here and there; or, at all events, move such remainder of the army at once in pursuit of the enemy by some route.

General McClellan, as was often the case, was feeling sorry for himself.  He wrote his wife: “I regret that the rascals are after me again.  I had been foolish enough to hope that when I went into the field they would give me some rest, but it seems otherwise — perhaps I should have expected it.  If I can get out of this scrape you will never catch me in the power of such a set again — the idea of persecuting a man behind his back.  I suppose they are now relieved from the pressure of their fears by the retreat of the enemy that they will increase in virulence.”

President Lincoln attempts to mollify McClellan about his removal as the army’s commander.  “I have just seen Gov. Dennison who has detailed to me the conversation he held with you yesterday & today,” President Lincoln writes McClellan, who has been removed from command of all the Union armies the previous day.  “I beg to say to you that I cordially endorse all he has said to you in my behalf, and that I thank you most sincerely for the official confidence & kind personal feelings you entertain for me.  I believe I said to you some weeks since, in connection with some western matters, that no feeling of self interest or ambition should ever prevent me from devoting myself to your service — I am glad to have the opportunity to prove it, & you will find that under present circumstances I shall work just as cheerfully as ever before, & that no consideration of self will in any manner interfere with the discharge of my public duties.”

Attorney General Edward Bates is angry about the conduct of the war.  He writes in his diary: “Sec.y Stanton made a report (the very first thing we have had like a report) of the army, shewing great ignorance, negligence and lack of order and subordination – and reckless extravagance.

“This report gives our first appro[a]ch to a knowledge of the number of men in govt employ – amost 700.000!!
The money part of the business has been shamefully managed – Requisitions come, for his signature, from the Q M. G’s office – He signs, not doubting that the QM.G. can explain, but, on enquiry, finds that he too knows nothing about it.
The Secy. protested that he will not bear the responsibility, except his general share with the other members  of the admn.
That Genl McClellan, assuming to be ‘General in Chief’ has caused all reports to be made to him, and he reports nothing – and if he have any plans, keeps them to himself.  I think Stanton believes, as I do, that McC. Has no plans but is fumbling and plunging in confusion and darkness.
I made a short speech, assuming my share of responsibility, which I said was little, considering the nature of my office, and, as heretofore urging the Prest. To take his constitutional position, and command the commanders – to have no ‘General in Chief’ – or if he wd. Have one, not allow him to be also a genl. In detail i.e. not command any particular army.
The upshot was that McC. being in the field, commanding the army of the Potomac, is relieved from being ‘Genl. In Chief’ and all genls. Commanding armies, to report directly to the Secy of War.

Congress passes legislation which forbade the army and navy forcibly to return runaway slaves to their masters.

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Published in: on March 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

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