Francis P. Blair Pleads McClellan’s Case

November 6, 1862

Francis P. Blair, Sr., a longtime Washington advisor,  goes to the White House to argue for retention of General George B. McClellan as commander of Army of Potomac.”  Historian William Earnest Smith wrote: “The interview was a long one.  Lincoln listened attentively, for he trusted Blair more than any other man with as much political experience.  Finally he rose, stretched his legs and arms, and closed the conference by saying: ‘I said I would remove him if he let Lee’s army get away from him, and I must do so. He has got the ‘slows,’ Mr. Blair.’”

Smith wrote: “The Blairs realized that ‘success in battle may not be the best of tests of a general’s capacity,’ but it was the one the public knew most about and had the power to apply.  The press, the public, Congress, and a portion of the Cabinet forced the hand of President.  On November 5, he signed the order for the release of McClellan.  The elder Blair rode into the city and had a long talk with the President ‘in his solitude’ on the night of the sixth.  The following day he wrote from Silver Spring to his son Montgomery as follows:

The torpidity of McClellan, will I fear prove fatal to him & our cause – I urged on the Prest.  Mc’s late success and the armys devotion to him.  The difficulty of finding any other capable of wielding so great a force & to be trusted with working so complicated a machine under increased difficulties impending.  His answer was that ‘he had tried long enough to bore with an auger too dull to take hold.’—

I represented to him, the probable effect of superseding Mc & yielding to the pressure which it is known looked to succeed through the fasts process of Pope, McDowell &c.  Their catastrophe ought to be a warning.   Yielding again to the ultras who seek to accomplish our purposes by unusual & extravagant means would give countenance to the charges of late triumph & consequently hold on the public mind – If on the contrary, Mc could be pushed on in the line he has taken & compelled to make a winter campaign, if successful the Democrats in Congress who are in heart on the side of Oligarchy & the South, – would be compelled to make war on him, & he would be compelled to take sides with the President bringing to his support in Congress the real war Democrats, while those who would resuscitate that party to carry the next Presidency, would necessarily take an antiMcClellan man for their candidate – whereas if Mc should fail as a general, he would fail on their conclusive policy and as the chief of that party they would fail with him –

In every aspect in which I can view it, the cause I think would be best served by retaining Mc at least until he makes a failure if that cannot be averted & not change him for an untried man while the Laurels of South Mountain & Antietam are fresh.

I entreated the President to send some common friend to Mc to have an explicit understanding with him – telling him what the President expected him to do & when & telling him that absolute & prompt obedience was the tenure by which alone he held his command.  If it be given to Hooker or some others, mere fighting men, who want Brains tell the President I would be glad Frank were appointed Chief of Staff – he could supply strength at least.

President Lincoln wrote General Benjamin F. Butler, commander of Louisiana, regarding a new labor system being devised involving former slaves: “This morning the Secretary of the Treasury read to me a letter of yours to him.  He read to me at the same time one from Mr. Denison (I think), at New Orleans.  I was much interested by the information in one of them that some of the planters were making arrangements with their negroes to pay them wages.  Please write to me to what extent, so far as you know, this being done.  Also what, if anything, is being done by Mr. Bouligny, or others, about electing members of Congress. I am anxious to hear on both these points.”

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Published in: on November 6, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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