November 5, 1862
The day after the election, President Lincoln orders General in Chief Henry W. Halleck to replace General George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac by General Ambrose Burnside:.
‘By direction of the President, it is ordered that Major General McClellan be relieved from the command of the Army of the Potomac; and that Major General Burnside take the command of that Army.
Also, that Major General Hunter take command of the Corps in said Army, which is now commanded by General Burnside.
That Major General Fitz-John Porter be relieved from the command of the corps he now commands in said Army; and that Major General Hooker take command of said corps.’
The General-in-Chief, is authorized, in discretion, to issue an order substantially as the above, forthwith, or so soon as he may deem proper.
Historian William Marvel wrote: ‘When [General Burnside] awoke, it was to an unheralded intruder, General Catharinus Putnam Buckingham, a white-bearded Ohioan who had graduated four places behind Robert E. Lee at West Point. Buckingham was on a special assignment from the War Department, and he had a most unwelcome document for Ambrose Burnside; when the younger man was fully awake Buckingham gave it to him. Burnside unfolded a paper headed General Orders, No. 182, which announced the removal of George McClellan from command of the Army of the Potomac and the appointment of Burnside in his place.”
McClellan writes his wife: “11 ½ pm Another interruption — this time more important. It was in the shape of dear good old Burnside accompanied by Genl Buckingham, the Sec’s Adjt Genl — they brought with them the order relieving me from the command of the Army of the Potomac, & assigning Burnside to the command. No cause is given. I am ordered to turn over the command immediately & repair to Trenton N.J. & on my arrival there to report by telegraph for future orders!!
Poor Burn feels dreadfully, almost crazy — I am sorry for him, & he never showed himself a better man or truer friend than now. Of course I was much surprised — but as I rad the order int he presence of Genl Buckingham, I am sure that not a muscle quivered nor was the slightest expression of feeling visible on my face, which he watched closely. They shall not have that triumph. They have made a great mistake — alas for my poor country — I know in my innermost heart she never had a truer servant. I have informally turned over the command to Burnside — but will go tomorrow to Warrenton with him, & perhaps remain a day or two there in order to give him all the information in my power.
Do not be at all worried — I am not. I have done the best I could for my country — to the last I have done my duty as I understand it. That I must have made many mistakes I cannot deny — I do not see any great blunders — but no one can judge of himself. Our consolation must be that we have tried to what was right — if we have failed it was not our fault.
Ralph Waldo Emerson comments on the Draft Emancipation Proclamation: “The extreme moderation with which the President advanced to his design,-his long-avowed expectant policy, as if he chose to be strictly the executive of the best public sentiment of the country, waiting only till it should be unmistakably pronounced,-so fair a mind that none ever listened so patiently to such extreme variations of opinion,-so reticent that his decision has taken all parties by surprise, whilst yet it is the just sequel of his prior acts,-the firm tone in which he announced it, without inflation or surplusage,-all these have bespoken such favor to the act, that, great as the popularity of the President has been, we are beginning to think that we have underestimated the capacity and virtue which the Divine Providence has made an instrument of benefit so vast.”