McClellan Organizes Army to Defend Washington

September 3, 1862

Reorganization of the army continues.  While General George B. McClellan takes command, his predecessor, General John Pope, meets with President Lincoln at the White House.  Later, President Lincoln goes to the Soldiers Home for the night – and meets with Secretary of State William H. Seward for three hours.  Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “The getting the Army into the works, and making general arrangements, went on to-day.  Gen.  McClellan assumed the command and returned to his old Head Quarters, as if the disastrous expedition of near eight months had been only the absence of a few days, unmarked by special incident; and, with the same old Staff, except the French Princes, Mr Astor and Mr. Gantt, he went out, as of old, to visit the fortifications and the troops.–Pope came over and talked with the President, who assured him of his entire satisfaction with his conduct; assured him that McClellan’s command was only temporary; and gave him some reason to expect that another army of active operations would be organized at once, which he (Pope) would lead.”

Resentment of McClellan lingers. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “In a conversation which I had with him in May last at Cumberland on the Pamunkey [McClellan] said he desired of all things to capture Charleston; he would demolish and annihilate the city.  He detested, he said, both South Carolina and Massachusetts, and should rejoice to see both States extinguished.  Both were and always had been ultra and mischievous, and he could not tell which he hated most.”   Welles added: “Chase, who made himself as busy in the management of the army as the Treasury, said to the President one day in  my presence, when we were looking over the maps on the table in the War Department, that the whole movement upon Richmond by the York River was wrong, that we should accomplish nothing until the army was recalled and Washington was made the base of operations for an overland march.  McClellan had all the troops with him, and the Capital was exposed to any sudden blow from the Rebels.  ‘What would you do?’ said the President.  ‘Order McClellan to return and start right,’  replied Chase,’ putting his finger on the map, and pointing the course to be taken across the country.  Pope, who was present, said, ‘If Halleck were here, you would have, Mr. President, a competent adviser who would put this matter right.’

The President, without consulting any one, went about this time on a hasty visit to West Point, where he had a brief interview with General Scott and immediately returned.  A few days thereafter General Halleck was detached from the Western Department and ordered to Washington, where he was placed in position as General-in-Chief, and McClellan and the Army of the Potomac, on Halleck’s recommendation, first proposed by Chase, were recalled from in the vicinity of Richmond.

The defeat of Pope and placing McC. in command of the retreating and disorganized forces after the second disaster at Bull Run interrupted the intrigue which had been planned for the dismissal of McClellan, and was not only a triumph for him but a severe mortification and disappointment for both Stanton and Chase.

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Published in: on September 3, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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