President Lincoln Tells Stories of General McClellan

September 25, 1864

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary of a conversation with the President about his prodding of General George B. McClellan in October 1862 : “The President replied, “After the battle of Antietam, I went up to the field to try to get him to move & came back thinking he would move at once. But when I got home he began to argue why he ought not to move. I peremptorily ordered him to advance. It was 19 days before he put a man over the river. It was 9 days longer before he got his army across and then he stopped again, delaying on little pretexts of wanting this and that. I began to fear he was playing false – that he did not want to hurt the enemy. I saw how he could intercept the enemy on the way to Richmond. I determined to make that the test. If he let them get away I would remove him. He did so & I relieved him.

“I dismissed Major Key for his silly treasonable talk because I feared it was staff talk & I wanted an example.”

“The letter of Buell furnishes another evidence in support of that theory. And the story you have heard Neill tell about Seymour’s first visit to McClellan all tallies with this story.”

President Lincoln writes General William Rosecrans in Missouri: “One can not always safely disregard a report, even which one may not believe. I have a report that you incline to deny the soldiers the right of attending the election in Missouri, on the assumed ground that they will get drunk and make disturbance. Last year I sent Gen. Schofield a letter of instruction, dated October 1st, 1863, which I suppose you will find on the files the Department, and which contains, among other things, the following:

At election see that those and only those, are allowed to vote, who are entitled to do so by the laws of Missouri, including as of those laws, the restrictions laid by the Missouri Convention upon those who may participated in the rebellion.’

This I thought right then, and think right now; and I may add I do not remember than either party complained after the election, of Gen. Schofield’s action under it. Wherever the law allows soldiers to vote, their officers must also allow it. Please write me on this subject.

Ward Hill Lamon, who was then U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia, later recalled: “There was at no time during the campaign a reasonable doubt of the election of Mr. Lincoln over General McClellan. Early in this campaign, on going into Mr. Lincoln’s office one night, I found him in a more gleeful humor than usual. He was alone, and said, ‘I am glad you have come in. Lamon, do you know that ‘we met the enemy, and they are ourn?’ I think the cabal of obstructionists ‘am busted!’ I feel certain that if I live, I am going to be re-elected. Whether I deserve to be or not, it is not for me to say; but on the score even of remunerative chances for speculative service, I now am inspired with the hope that our disturbed country further requires the valuable services of your humble servant. ‘Jordan has been a hard road to travel,’ but I feel now that, notwithstanding the enemies I have made and the faults I have committed, I’ll be dumped on the right side of that stream. I hope, however, that I may never have another four years of such anxiety, tribulation, and abuse. My only ambition is and has been to put down the rebellion and restore peace; after which I want to resign my office, go abroad, take some rest, study foreign governments, see something of foreign life, and in my own age die in peace with the good will of all of God’s creatures.’”

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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