Optimism and Pessimism Mix in Washington

August 27, 1862

President Lincoln struggles to get a handle on military operations in northern Virginia through telegrams to Generals Herman Haupt, Ambrose Burnside and George B. McClellan.  To the latter he writes: “What news from the front?”  To Burnside he writes: “Do you hear any thing from [General John] Pope?”

Despite limited optimism in Washington, the seeds of defeat have been sown.  General McClellan had been hanging back, waiting for military disaster to require his recall to power.  He writes his wife: “Our affairs here now much tangled up & I opine that in a day or two your old husband will be called upon to unsnarl them.  In the mean time I shall be very patient — do to the best of my ability whatever I am called upon to do & wait my time.  I hope to have my part of the work pretty well straightened out today — in that case I shall move up to Wash this evening.”  Peter Cozzens, biographer of Pope, wrote how McClellan’s prophecy was playing out in Washington: “That evening, Charles Francis Adams Jr….shared drinks with McClellan’s staff; nearly every officer in Washington eventually found his way to Willard’s.  What Adams heard was most sobering – and a good reflection of McClellan’s thinking.  “I am ashamed at what I hear of Pope,’ he told his father.  ‘[McClellan’s staff] say that he is a humbug and is sure to come to grief.  He has got himself into such a position that he will be crushed and Washington lost, unless McClellan saves him.  He may come out with colors flying, for he is a lucky man, but he does, he is a dangerous one, and I am advised not to connect my fortunes with his.’”

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Published in: on August 27, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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