Summer Comes to a Late End

November 4, 1863

The Lincoln family normally stays at the Soldiers Cottage during summer and fall nights.  Today,  James L. Thomas hauls 19 loads of furniture from Soldiers’ Home to the Executive Mansion, signalling the official end of summer.

Sometime in November, General George B. McClellan writes to request retirement.  He was relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac a year earlier: “When the present war commenced I was successfully engaged in private life.  Actuated solely by the desire to serve my country, I sacrificed all my personal interests, and accepted the Commission of Maj Genl in the Regular Army which you bestowed upon me without any solicitation from me.  I have never applied to you directly or indirectly for any particular command position or duty, but have contented myself with performing to the best of my ability whatever duties you imposed upon me.  It was in this spirit that I conducted the campaign of Western Virginia, and after its successful close I assumed control at Washington of the troops just defeated at the first battle of Manassas, organized and commanded the Army of the Potomac, received without being asked and gave up without complaining the position of Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armies, conducted the Peninsular Campaign, witnessed the transfer of my army to the command of Genl Pope, resumed it when the combined forces had been defeated and the Capital was in hourly peril, carried on the Maryland Campaign, and, thanks to my noble and tried comrades, gained the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, and it was in this spirit that, when in full advance with every probability of a successful battle impending, I again, and finally, yielded the command of that Army to which I was united by those inexpressibly close bonds which a soldier alone can appreciate.

I have been now for more than a year unemployed, and it is evident that my services are no longer desired by your Excellency.  Under these circumstances I feel that I can be of no present use to my country by retaining my Commission, and I am unwilling longer to receive pay while performing no service.

It is now my duty to consult my private interests and those of my family — which I have entirely ignored and sacrificed during my continuance in service.

As a fitting opportunity has offered, and my conscience tells me that I have faithfully performed all the service I at present can for the benefit of my country, I have determined to return to private life, and have sent to the Adjt Genl the resignation of my Commission, which I beg may be at once accepted.  Should unexpected, and I trust improbable, vicissitudes of fortune ever again, as heretofore, render my sword necessary to the nation, I shall again be ready to use it in her cause at any sacrifice to myself.

It would have been gratifying to me to have retired from the service with the knowledge that I still retained the approbation of your Excellency — as it is, I thank you for the confidence and kind feeling you once entertained for me, and which I am unconscious of having justly forfeited.  I cannot, nor ought I to restrain myself from bidding through you a last farewell to the heroic men who so long fought under my command.

Neither time nor space can divide them from my heart; whatever fate the future may have in store for me, my pulse will ever beat more quickly, and my blood war at the thought of the soldiers who were with me during the trying scenes of the Peninsula, at South Mountain & at Antietam.

I am grateful to Providence that it was permitted me that my last service should be to free the Capital a second time from danger and the loyal states from invasion.

I am content to bear as a legacy to my descendants the connection which already exists between my name and that of the proud Army of the Potomac.  It can have far abler Commanders than myself, and may win even more glorious victories than those which now grace its annals, but it can have no General who will love it so well as I did.

I invoke upon it and the other Armies of the Republic the highest blessings of the Almighty, and it severing my official connection with your Excellency I pray that God may bless you, and so direct your counsels that may succeed in restoring to this distracted land the inestimable boon of peace founded on the preservation of our Union and the mutual boon of peace founded on the preservation of our Union and the mutual respect & sympathy of the now discordant and contending sections of our once happy country.

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Published in: on November 4, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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