Leadership Vacuum in Army of the Potomac

June 16, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary about the lack of military leadership for Union forces: “The President yesterday issued a proclamation calling for 100,000 volunteers to be raised in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia.  This call is made from outside pressure, and intelligence receive chiefly from Pennsylvania and not from the War Department or Headquarters.  Tom A. Scott, late Assistant Secretary of War, came on expressly from Pennsylvania, sent by Curtin, and initiated the proceeding.

Halleck sits, and smokes, and swears, and scratches his arm and [indecipherable], but exhibits little military capacity or intelligence; is obfusticated, muddy, uncertain, stupid as to what is doing or to be done.

Neither Seward nor Stanton nor Blair nor usher was at the Cabinet-meeting.  The two last are not in Washington.  At such a time all should be here and the meeting full and frequent for general consultation and general purposes.

Scarcely a word or army movements.  Chase attempted to make inquiries; asked whether a demonstration could not be made on Richmond, but the President gave it no countenance.  No suggestions ever come from Halleck.

President Lincoln sends two communications to General Joseph Hooker.  In the first, he write: “Your despatches of last night and this morning are just received. I shall have General Halleck to answer them carefully. Meanwhile, I can only say that, as I understand, Heintzelman commands here in this District; that what troops, or very nearly what number, are at Harper’s Ferry I do not know, though I do know that Tyler is in command there. Your idea to send your cavalry to this side of the river may be right—probably is; still, it pains me a little that it looks like defensive merely, and seems to abandon the fair chance now presented of breaking the enemy’s long and necessarily slim line, stretched now from the Rappahannock to Pennsylvania.”

The second letter Lincoln sends with Admiral John Dahlgren: “Your despatch of 11:30 A.M. to-day is just received. When you say I have long been aware that you do not enjoy the confidence of the major-general commanding, you state the case much too strongly.

You do not lack his confidence in any degree to do you any harm. On seeing him, after telegraphing you this morning, I found him more nearly agreeing with you than I was myself. Surely you do not mean to understand that I am withholding my confidence from you when I happen to express an opinion (certainly never discourteously) differing from one of your own.

I believe Halleck is dissatisfied with you to this extent only, that he knows that you write and telegraph (“report,” as he calls it) to me. I think he is wrong to find fault with this; but I do not think he withholds any support from you on account of it. If you and he would use the same frankness to one another, and to me, that I use to both of you, there would be no difficulty. I need and must have the professional skill of both, and yet these suspicions tend to deprive me of both.

I believe you are aware that since you took command of the army I have not believed you had any chance to effect anything till now. As it looks to me, Lee’s now returning toward Harper’s Ferry gives you back the chance that I thought McClellan lost last fall. Quite possibly I was wrong both then and now; but, in the great responsibility resting upon me, I cannot be entirely silent. Now, all I ask is that you will be in such mood that we can get into our action the best cordial judgment of yourself and General Halleck, with my poor mite added, if indeed he and you shall think it entitled to any consideration at all. Yours as ever,

President Lincoln pretends a lack of concern regarding the Confederate invasion of Maryland in a letter to his wife, who is in Philadelphia.  “It is a matter of choice with yourself whether you come home. There is no reason why you should not, that did not exist when you went away. As bearing on the question of your coming home, I do not think the raid into Pennsylvania amounts to anything at all.”

Published in: on June 16, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://abrahamlincolnandthecivilwar.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/leadership-vacuum-in-army-of-the-potomac/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: