New Military Structure Leaves Command Unclear

July 30, 1862

General George B. McClellan’s command position is  becoming questionable with the appointment of Henry W. Halleck as general-in-chief and the appointment of John Pople as commander of Army of Virginia.  McClellan sees a conspiracy in Washington to replace him. writes a friend, New York lawyer Samuel Barlow: “The command was for two days persistently pressed upon a General Officer, who happened to be a true friend of mine, & declined the offer.  I know that the rascals will get rid of me as soon as they dare — they all know my opinion of them.  They are aware that I have seen through their villainous schemes, 7 that if I succeed my foot will be on their necks.”  McClellan complains:

I get no reinforcements & no information — until Halleck came I had no word from Washington, since he left I have received nothing.  I know nothing, absolutely nothing as to the plans & intentions of the Govt — but I have strong reason to believe that they literally have no plans, but are halting in a wretched state of indecision — trembling at the storm they themselves have conjured & not knowing how to quiet it.

The command of the Union armies was becoming complicated.  Historian John Sears wrote: ”Henry Halleck was a pedant and a military bureaucrat, but he was not an easy man to fool, and when he arrived back in Washington to find [a] dispatch of McClellan’s waiting for him, he threw up his hands.  Just come from the West himself, he knew very well the whereabouts of the Confederacy’s western forces, and McClellan’s absurd (and repeated) attempts to put them by the thousands in front of him at Richmond must have amazed him.  It was now all too clear to him, Halleck told his wife, that General McClellan ‘does not understand strategy and should never plan a campaign,’ and he made up his mind to follow his first instinct and withdraw the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula.  On July 30 he telegraphed to begin evacuating the sick from Harrison’s Landing, and on August 3 he made it official: General McClellan was immediately to bring his army north to unite it with Pope’s and open a new campaign.”

The next day, General McClellan writes his wife Mary Ellen: “I commenced turning over a new leaf today — that is neither writing or telegraphing to Washn & have about determined to draw back into my shell until the oracle deigns to speak.  I have said all I well can — I have told them about all I think & know — have pointed out to them what I regard as the genl effects of the course I fear they are likely to adopt — words can no further go — by saying more & repeating what has already said I should only render myself ridiculous & a bore — so I will be silent & if they send me the order I dread (that of withdrawing this army) I will make one last desperate appeal before obeying it & then let matters take their course — confident that I have honestly endeavored to do the best I could, altho’ I may not have done as well as others could.   There is a great consolation in feeling that one has tried to do right, & not been actuated by selfish motives — of the last I know that I am free, & would say so were I even on my death bed…

I told you the result of the interview with Halleck — thus far practically nothing — not a word have I heard from Wash since his return there.  I shall not write or telegraph another word until I hear from them, unless something of great importance occurs.  I shall stand on what is left of my dignity now!!…

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Published in: on July 30, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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