As Military Disaster Looms, Generals Seek to Protect their Personal Flanks

August 28, 1862

President Lincoln meets with military advisors – Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase in the morning and with General-in-chief Henry W. Halleck later.  Halleck was technically in charge of military operations, but he was quickly losing his grasp of the confusing situation – as was General John Pope operating near the site of the First Battle of Bull Run that had taken place 13 months earlier.

Peter Cozzens, biographer of General Pope, wrote: “That morning – probably as McClellan steamed back to Alexandria, satisfied that he and Halleck were in accord – Secretary of War handed Halleck a written query that read like a death sentence for the culpable, whomever he proved to be.  He wanted Halleck to tell him four things: On what data had he first ordered McClellan to quit the James River?  Was that order obeyed promptly?  Had Franklin been ordered to move to Pope’s relief?  If so, had such orders been obeyed?”  Cozzens continued in General John Pope: “Halleck set aside his duties to write a lengthy response and clear himself of any blame.  He assured the secretary he had done all he could both to prod McClellan from the Peninsula and to get Franklin started for the front.”

General McClellan sees less necessity to defend himself.  He writes his wife: “I have a great deal of hard work before me now will do my best to perform it.  I find Halleck well disposed, he has had much to contend against.  I shall keep as clear as possible of the Presdt & Cabinet — endeavor to do what must be done with Halleck alone — so I shall get on better.  Pope is in a bad way — his communications with Wash cut off & I have not yet the force at hand to relieve him.  He has nearly all the troops of my army that have arrived.   I hope to hear better news when I reach Alexdra.”  He telegraphs Halleck: “The great object is to collect the whole Army in Washington ready to defend the works & act upon the flank of any force crossing the upper Potomac.  If Pope makes this movement steps must be taken at once to build Pontoon Bridges over the Occoquan.”

Published in: on August 28, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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