Typhoid and Tumult: Lincoln's Response to General McClellan's Bout with Typhoid Fever during the Winter of 1861–62Skip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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It is a photograph almost as famous as its subjects. The man on the left sits stiffly, almost formally, with an air of dignity befitting his position as president of the United States. The nation's senior major general sits facing him. The general, his face tanned from active service in the Maryland sun, leans toward the president. A few weeks earlier, over the reluctance of many, he had retaken command of the most important Union army to meet a Rebel invasion of northern soil. He met the enemy on the field of battle near the town of Sharpsburg, Maryland, and, after a battle of ferocity and bloodshed not to be equaled in the Civil War, watched the Rebels retreat to Virginia. His failure to do more infuriated the president. Soon after the meeting immortalized by Alexander Gardner's camera, the general would be removed from command. New men would take his place, but none played as great a role in shaping Abraham Lincoln's management of the Union war effort as George Brinton McClellan.Page [End Page 1]
Initially, their relationship went extremely well. The two established a fine working relationship, united in purpose and approach to saving the Union. Yet, as the months went by, they found themselves increasingly in conflict, and their relations deteriorated dramatically. No event had such long-reaching consequences for the relationship as did the three-week period during the winter of 1861–62 when McClellan was ill with typhoid fever. Although a number of historians have recognized the importance of this episode,  no real effort has been undertaken to examine the course of McClellan's illness, its impact on the general's day-to-day management of the war effort, or how Lincoln's response correlated with the course of the illness. That is the purpose of this study.
On July 27, 1861, Lincoln called thirty-four-year-old Major General George B. McClellan to the White House and placed him in command of the Military Division (later Army) of the Potomac. McClellan's record of military success, magnetic personality, and success in organizing the forces around Washington, manifest in the numerous well-attended reviews of troops that punctuated the Washington social calendar, reinvigorated northern morale. Consequently, as memories of Bull Run faded in the late summer and early fall of 1861, hopes were raised for a forward movement against the Confederate army at Manassas—particularly among the Radical Republicans in Congress. In October, they began pressing for an immediate offensive into Virginia. Lincoln resisted, assuring McClellan that he would have the time he needed to prepare the army. At the same time, Lincoln warned the general that popular sentiment and impatience were factors that could not be ignored. 
On November 1, 1861, Lincoln chose McClellan to replace Winfield Scott as general in chief. Recognizing the increased burden this placed on the general, Lincoln assured him that he would be able to "draw on me for all the sense I have, and all the information."  McClellan took the president at his word, and as he Page [End Page 2] moved into his new position their professional relationship made a smooth transition.
There was much to do. McClellan found that no overall plan of operations had yet been developed by either Scott or Lincoln. He also learned that none of the western armies were anywhere near ready to carry out offensive operations. In consultation with Lincoln, with whom he was in daily contact, McClellan organized the western theater into two departments, one under Don C. Buell in Kentucky and the other under Henry W. Halleck in Missouri. To give these men time to prepare their forces for the concerted offensive his strategic plan called for, McClellan decided to postpone operations in Virginia until the spring of 1862.
By the end of November, however, McClellan had grown increasingly distrustful of administration officials and other civilians and began keeping his plans for the army close to his vest. Most importantly, he did not inform Lincoln of his decision—or the reasons behind it—to postpone operations until the spring. Although willing to grant McClellan great leeway, Lincoln nonetheless grew understandably anxious over the state of military affairs. On December 1, in an attempt to gain some information, he asked McClellan: "Without awaiting further increase of numbers, or better drill & discipline, how long would it require to actually get in motion?" McClellan replied that the army could be in motion as early as December 15. Without revealing any details, he also indicated that his military planning was not directed toward another overland advance against Manassas. Page [End Page 3]
If McClellan was having reservations about his commander in chief, which would no doubt have received reinforcement from the premature leakage of the president's annual message to the New York Herald in early December, those concerns were not reciprocated. Whether or not McClellan's response to the December 1 memorandum satisfied Lincoln, the president remained committed to the general. During a meeting with three members of Congress on December 18, Lincoln, in no uncertain terms, reiterated his support for McClellan and determination to defer to him on military matters.
During December, however, the Trent affair, a financial crisis on Wall Street, and growing agitation for a more vigorous policy against slavery dramatically increased the pressure for military action. On December 3, Congress voted to establish the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. Dominated by antislavery Radical Republicans who distrusted conservative West Pointers such as McClellan, the committee became the Radicals' leading weapon for challenging the administration's conduct of the war. As the committee conducted its investigations during the last two weeks of December, the critical tone of its operations reflected and reinforced growing public dissatisfaction. Only two days after the committee began operations, one observer noted a "tremendous pressure being brought to bear on McClellan in Washington and there is no telling how long he can or will stand it."Page [End Page 4]
While he waited for spring, McClellan kept the Army of the Potomac active by conducting frequent reviews, parades, and "sham battles." On Saturday, December 21, he attended a review of Fitz John Porter's division at Hall's Hill, Virginia. During his two-day stay at Porter's camp, McClellan contracted typhoid fever, which left him unable to go to his office to conduct business the following Monday. Initial reports indicated, however, that the general's condition was not serious and that he would soon be back at work.
Although his later claim that the illness did not impair his ability to run the war effort is not entirely accurate, McClellan was able to conduct business throughout his illness, mostly through adjutants, and during the first week he remained quite active. On December 23, he approved a request from one of his division commanders for additional artillery and arranged for arms to be sent to a regiment being organized in Pennsylvania. He also issued general orders pertaining to a court martial and special orders concerning the forces being organized in New England under Benjamin F. Butler. The next day McClellan approved general orders publishing two acts passed by Congress related to the army. On December 26, Porter's division received general orders offering the general in chief's compliments for their conduct in the recent review. On the 28th, three general orders were issued, including one complimenting General E. O. C. Ord and his brigade for their conduct in the December 20 skirmish at Dranesville, Virginia. McClellan also met with the pres- Page [End Page 5] ident at least once that week to discuss Ambrose Burnside's upcoming campaign in North Carolina and was continually involved in routine matters related to the Army of the Potomac.
During the first week of McClellan's illness, two homeopathic doctors arrived from New York to tend the ill general and his father-in-law and chief-of-staff, Randolph B. Marcy, who was also ill. McClellan's employment of homeopathic treatments is one of the more interesting sidelights of this episode, particularly in light of the fact that the general came from a family of prominent physicians. Homeopathy was generally viewed with suspicion by people both outside and within the regular medical profession. In January 1862, the Army Medical Board rejected requests by homeopathic doctors to serve in military hospitals, arguing that to grant this request would invite applications from all types of "quacks" and "charlatans" claiming medical expertise. George Meade's statement that McClellan's use of a homeopathic doctor "has astonished all his Page [End Page 6] friends, and very much shaken the opinion of many in his claimed extraordinary judgement," indicates that this may have contributed to growing public skepticism toward the general in chief.
During the last week of December, however, there is no indication that McClellan's illness or his employment of homeopathic doctors had any impact on President Lincoln. Lincoln's only involvement in military affairs that week was a message urging Burnside to "move as soon as possible." This can be attributed to two factors: the president's preoccupation with the Trent affair, which was finally settled that week, and the fact that there was no indication that the illness was hampering the general's ability to run the war effort, as reports on his condition continued to be optimistic.
The situation changed on December 31, 1861, when the New York Tribune's correspondent reported: "Gen. McClellan is worse today, much worse. The danger of a typhoid fever is unconcealed. His case excites a very general interest ... so thorough as to provide speculatively, even for his successor." That evening guards were placed in the streets leading to McClellan's residence to prevent serenading bands from disturbing the ill general. On January 4, a correspondent for the New York Times, while assuring readers that the general was at that time improving, acknowledged: "The disease of Gen. McClellan has been more threatening than the newspapers have generally stated." 
The decline in McClellan's condition on the 31st can be attributed to a number of factors. One was the end of the virus's incubation period, the physical consequences of which were exacerbated by McClellan's heavy workload that day (he issued four general orders and a circular to his division commanders) and being kept up the night before by serenading bands. On January Page [End Page 7] 1, 1862, McClellan sent out only two messages, both through an adjutant.
On December 31, Lincoln held a cabinet meeting to discuss the situation. In response to other cabinet members' suggestions that he call a council of war composed of the ranking officers in the army, so that someone other than McClellan would know the condition of the army and be able to take command in the field, Attorney General Edward Bates (as he had been doing for some time) urged the president to assume personally the active command of military affairs. Lincoln also spent an hour and a half that evening with members of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. Judging from the letter Lincoln wrote to McClellan the next day in an attempt to settle what he had heard to be the general's "uneasiness" about the committee's activities and intentions, it appears that the meeting went well. However, the members of the committee must have made the president aware of their inability to find anyone who would or could tell them anything about McClellan's plans for the army. 
With the Trent affair, the northern financial crisis, and an increasingly restless Congress illustrating the costs of further delay, the suddenly serious illness of the general in chief was a grave matter indeed. Lincoln did not feel he could hold back anymore. The war effort could no longer remain in gridlock waiting for the general in chief to regain his health, nor could the Union afford the total collapse that would occur if he did not recover. On the night of the 31st, Lincoln took matters into his own hands, sending a telegram to General Halleck in Missouri, asking: "Are General Buell and yourself in concert? When he moves on Bowling Green, what hinders it from being re-enforced from Columbus? A simultaneous movement by you on Columbus might prevent it." Lincoln then sent a similar telegram to Buell in Kentucky.
The next day Buell and Halleck replied that no arrangement had been made for a simultaneous movement. Buell told the president Page [End Page 8] it had been his understanding that the general in chief would "make suitable disposition for concerted action." Writing that McClellan "should not yet be disturbed with business," Lincoln asked them to immediately establish communication with each other to make arrangements for a concerted movement. 
By January 2, however, McClellan's condition had noticeably improved. He issued three general orders, and all reports indicated he was doing well, was actively transacting business, and would resume outdoor activities as soon as the recent cold weather relented. McClellan also met with the president, who reported that the general was "very much better." The next day, for the first time since December 23, McClellan made efforts at writing. He turned down General Charles P. Stone's request for a meeting that day but asked Williams to arrange a meeting for the next morning. McClellan also, probably at the request of the president, wrote a letter to Halleck emphasizing the importance of simultaneous action by his and Buell's forces. On January 4, McClellan sent a short message to Butler in Boston. 
Although McClellan's condition had improved, Lincoln remained actively engaged in military affairs. On the fourth he asked Buell if a move had yet been made toward East Tennessee. The next day Buell wrote back that "transportation and other preparations have been delayed far beyond my expectations and are still incomplete." Buell also, to the president's consternation, confessed a preference for making Nashville, rather than East Tennessee, the objective of a forward movement. 
Lincoln wrote back the next day to press the need for a movement into East Tennessee, expressing concern for the beleaguered Unionists in that area. The president dropped by McClellan's house to show him Buell's letter. McClellan then also wrote to Buell. Re- Page [End Page 9] gretting he had "not strength enough to write a fuller and more intelligible letter," McClellan warned that "the political consequences of the delay of this movement will be much more serious than you seem to anticipate," and he emphasized that the occupation of East Tennessee was "of absolute necessity" to the overall war effort. On January 6, McClellan was well enough to venture outside, issue general orders setting policy on the use of express agency transportation, and begin taking an active interest in Stonewall Jackson's movements in the Shenandoah Valley. The next day he ventured outside again, and he wrote Burnside a lengthy letter instructing him on his upcoming campaign in North Carolina. McClellan also sent out six dispatches, four directly and two through Williams, calling up reinforcements to defend Romney, Virginia, and directing troop movements. 
If Lincoln at this point might have been prepared to back away and return control over military affairs to McClellan, his meeting that night with members of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War did little to encourage his doing so. The members of the committee vehemently attacked McClellan and urged the president to adopt a more vigorous military policy. Lincoln resisted their arguments and let his visitors know of his intention to defer to General McClellan on military matters. He did, however, offer to find out McClellan's views on the committee's proposal to divide the duties of general in chief and commander of the Army of the Potomac.
The impact of this meeting came out in telegrams Lincoln sent to Halleck and Buell the next day. The president insisted that they name "as early a day as you safely can, on, or before which you can be ready to move Southward in concert.... Delay is ruining us.... It is indispensable for me to have something definite." On a more positive note, he received word that Burnside's expedition Page [End Page 10] would be ready to sail the next day. That day Lincoln also sent a request to the Library of Congress for a copy of General Halleck's book Elements of Military Art and Science.
On January 9, Lincoln sent McClellan a letter urging him to "go before the Congressional Committee the earliest moment your health will permit—to-day, if possible," and a message complaining that neither Buell "nor Halleck meets my request to name the DAY when they can be ready to move."  Why Lincoln waited three days, particularly in light of his pledge to the committee, to inform the general of these problems is an important question. Certainly, one would have expected Lincoln to meet with the general as soon as possible to express his concerns personally.
The explanation for why he did not is suggested by McClellan in his memoirs. McClellan explained that due to his illness he "sometimes spent days and nights without sleeping," and once he did get to sleep, often did so at times when the president may have called. On January 8, McClellan probably suffered a relapse of fever and other symptoms—he issued only a single special order on that day and one short message through an adjutant on the next day (such relapses are not uncommon for typhoid patients to suffer during the two weeks after the initial attack subsides). Apparently, the general overexerted himself on the 6th and 7th, suffered a relapse, and spent the next two days recuperating. Lincoln probably stopped by at this time but was turned away because the general was resting.
On January 10, Halleck informed Lincoln that an offensive from St. Louis in support of Buell's advance into East Tennessee was impracticable. "It is exceedingly discouraging," Lincoln complained. "As everywhere else, nothing can be done." He went to McClellan's house to discuss the situation but was unable to see the general. Lincoln then went to Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs's office. "The people are impatient," he told Meigs. "Chase has no money and he tells me he can raise no more; the General of the Army has typhoid fever. The bottom is out of Page [End Page 11] the tub." Meigs replied that if McClellan's illness was indeed typhoid fever, then it would be at least six weeks before he could resume active command of the army. He suggested that Lincoln "see some of those upon whom ... in case any forward movement becomes necessary, the control must fall.... consult with them." 
Lincoln decided to take Meigs's advice and that night called Secretary of State William H. Seward, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, Assistant Secretary of War Thomas Scott, and two division commanders from the Army of the Potomac, Irvin McDowell and William B. Franklin, to the White House. The president opened the meeting by giving the bad news: public credit was dwindling, agitation in Congress was becoming unbearable, foreign relations were growing delicate, and the western armies were not ready to move. He expressed particular concern over the illness of the general in chief. He then asked the generals present for their opinions on commencing active operations with the Army of the Potomac. McDowell advocated another movement on Manassas, while Franklin suggested that the army operate on Richmond from the York River. Lincoln closed the meeting by asking the generals to further develop their plans and report back the next day. 
By January 10, however, McClellan was in better condition than Lincoln or Meigs had supposed. After pledging to Virginia Governor Francis Pierpont to "do the best I can for Romney," McClellan ordered, through an adjutant, that six regiments of reinforcements be sent to that place. He then informed the commander there that reinforcements were being sent and warned him to avoid being surprised by the enemy. He also ordered General Banks to "expedite the reinforcements ordered to Romney & increase them if possible." McClellan also wrote a letter protesting Congress's decision to suspend work on the Coast Survey, issued two general orders, and met with one of his division commanders.Page [End Page 12]
After spending the afternoon working on their respective plans, Franklin and McDowell informed the reassembled council of war on January 11 that immediate operations could best be undertaken against Manassas. When the council divided over the generals' plan, Lincoln suggested that Quartermaster General Meigs be consulted and told the council to reconvene the following day. The next day the president told a friend that he was thinking of taking the field himself.
On January 11 and 12, McClellan appears to have suffered another relapse, as he issued only two general orders and a short message to Buell inquiring into the state of preparations for an offensive into East Tennessee.  On the twelfth, however, McClellan also found out about the meetings being conducted at the White House. Enraged over what was described to him as a movement to "dispose of the military goods and chattels of the sick man," McClellan left his sickbed and went to the White House. The general's sudden appearance, he later recalled, "caused very much the effect of a shell in a powder magazine." He met with the president, who told him about the meetings and invited him to attend the next day's council. 
That night Lincoln informed the council of his meeting with McClellan and that the general's health was much improved. The president also stated that since McClellan was able to resume charge of the army the council would meet for the last time on the thirteenth. This time, Lincoln told the group, the general in chief would be in attendance. 
On January 13, Lincoln began the meeting by asking McDowell and Franklin to present their plan. McDowell did so and apologetically attempted to explain his position. This brought a curt reply from General McClellan. Lincoln then asked when something might be done. General Meigs, who along with Postmaster General Montgomery Blair had joined the meetings on the twelfth, urged McClellan to speak. Still pale and weak, McClellan refused, com- Page [End Page 13] plaining that if he were to disclose his plans "they will be in the New York Herald tomorrow" (it was to the Herald that Lincoln's annual message had been prematurely leaked in December). Chase then directly asked McClellan what he was planning to do with the army and when he planned on doing it. McClellan again refused to disclose his plans unless ordered to do so by the president. He did say, however, that a move into Kentucky by Buell's forces could be pressed. Satisfied by this suggestion of action, the president adjourned the meeting.
That same day McClellan and Lincoln both sent telegrams to Buell and Halleck. Lincoln's letters reflected his increasing comfort dealing with military affairs, as he sought to provide strategic advice to the generals on how to counter Rebel exploitation of interior lines. McClellan's letter to Buell, however, reflected the impact of recent events. With a greater sense of urgency than before, he insisted that Buell move soon. "You have no idea," McClellan wrote, "of the pressure brought to bear here.... It seems absolutely necessary to make the advance on East Tennessee at once.... It is no time to stand on trifles." 
McClellan also responded to a telegram from Halleck asking whether the general in chief's message of January 3 implied a willingness to give up the Union cause in Missouri to support Buell. McClellan assured Halleck that this was not what he had meant and then stated his willingness to look elsewhere to find troops to support Buell's advance. The next day McClellan made sure to report to Lincoln that he was "rapidly getting matters in hand again" and would soon carry out his promise of an advance into Kentucky.
On the thirteenth, Lincoln also made a change at the War Department, ousting Secretary of War Simon Cameron and appointing Edwin M. Stanton as his replacement. The corruption and in-efficiency at the War Department and the need for Cameron's removal had been apparent since at least November 1861, when many had expected him to leave with General Scott. Lincoln kept Cameron on, however, indicating he was satisfied enough with the direction of the war effort to resist the pressures for his removal. Page [End Page 14] By January 13, however, McClellan's illness and the "bottom being out of the tub" convinced Lincoln that a stronger hand was needed at the War Department. Stanton, as Attorney General during the last days of the Buchanan administration, had established a reputation as a strong-willed, honest, energetic administrator. 
The president also expected that Stanton would cooperate effectively with McClellan. Stanton had sought McClellan out upon the latter's arrival in Washington and quickly established himself as an unofficial adviser to the young general. It had been Stanton, in fact, who warned the general about the secret councils at the White House during his illness. Lincoln did not consult McClellan about the appointment, assuming that the selection of Stanton would "naturally be satisfactory" to the general. It was. "Stanton's appointment," McClellan wrote to a friend on January 18, "was a most unexpected piece of good fortune."
Stanton's appointment did not have the effect either Lincoln or McClellan anticipated. Unlike Cameron, whom McClellan had sidestepped in his relations with the president, Stanton was determined to be an active intermediary between the president and the general in chief and to play a major role in shaping the Union war effort. Stanton's views as to how the war effort should be conducted were shaped to no small degree by his alliance with McClellan's enemies in Congress. Stanton shared their frustration over the inactivity of the Army of the Potomac and came into office determined to make the army "fight or run away.... the champagne and oysters on the Potomac must be stopped." He and the general in chief soon came into conflict as McClellan resisted—and Stanton encouraged—the president's "anxiety for an immediate movement by the Army of the Potomac" and involvement in aspects of military planning and organization that had heretofore been the exclusive responsibility of the general in chief.Page [End Page 15]
There is no indication that Lincoln's confidence in McClellan declined as a result of the illness itself. Indeed, the president's words and actions upon McClellan's recovery indicate that Lincoln was willing at that point to step back and return control over military affairs to the general in chief. The council of war on the thirteenth was the last meeting of its kind; Lincoln ceased writing directly to Buell and Halleck; and a few days later, in a conversation with a friend, he expressed great confidence in McClellan.
Nonetheless, in response to the general's illness, Lincoln had, for the first time since McClellan's arrival in Washington, assumed an active role in military affairs. Although it appears that Lincoln intended his active involvement in military planning to be no more than a temporary expedient while McClellan was ill, the president never stepped back completely. McClellan subsequently attempted to exercise what he perceived from previous experience to be his responsibilities as general in chief. However, he found the autonomy he had previously enjoyed severely diminished, as Lincoln began directly challenging his conduct of military affairs through such actions as the issuance of President's War Order No. 1 on January 27, setting a date for a general advance, and a special order on January 31 establishing the Army of the Potomac's line of operations. 
Although both orders were ultimately rescinded, the tension and conflict produced by Lincoln's new assertiveness, along with Stanton's radical influence on the War Department, poisoned relations between the president and the general in chief. Their relationship deteriorated dramatically over the next few months and, by the time he began his grand campaign to crush the rebellion in March 1862, McClellan no longer possessed the trust and support he needed to achieve success on the battlefield. Page [End Page 16]
- The Lincoln-McClellan relationship figures prominently in all significant studies of the Civil War. For a recent example of the school that emphasizes flaws in McClellan's personality in discussion of the relationship's deterioration, see Joseph T. Glatthaar, Partners in Command: The Relationships between Leaders in the Civil War (New York: Free Press, 1994), 51–93, 237–42. This theme runs through the writings of the most recent scholar of McClellan, Stephen W. Sears. For a good synopsis of his views, see Sears, "Lincoln and McClellan," in Lincoln's Generals, ed. Gabor S. Boritt (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 1–50. Warren W. Hassler's George B. McClellan: Shield of the Union (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1957) emphasizes the success of McClellan's enemies, particularly Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, in influencing the president against the general. For a study that steers a less polemic course, see Phillip Shaw Paludan, The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1994), 100–108, 137–60. The best survey of historiographic opinion on McClellan is Joseph L. Harsh, "On the McClellan-Go-Round," Civil War History 19 (June 1973): 101–18.
- Stephen W. Sears, George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1988), 136–37; T. Harry Williams, Lincoln and the Radicals (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1941), 77–87; Glatthaar, Partners in Command, 66–68.
- John Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from His Diary, 3 vols. (Washington, D.C.: [n.p.], 1908), 1:42, 48–49.
- Ibid., 1:50; McClellan to his wife, Aug. 8, 9, and 16, Sept. 27, Oct. 6, 26, and 31, 1861, in The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan: Selected Correspondence, 1860–1865, ed. Stephen W. Sears (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1989), 81–82, 85–86, 103–5, 112–14.
- George B. McClellan, McClellan's Own Story: The War for the Union, the Soldiers Who Fought It, the Civilians Who Directed It, and His Relations to Them, ed. William C. Prime (New York: Charles L. Webster, 1887), 207–10; McClellan to his wife, Nov. 2, 1861, in Civil War Papers, ed. Sears, 123; George B. McClellan, "The Peninsular Campaign," in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, 4 vols., ed. Robert U. Johnson and Clarence C. Buel (New York: Century, 1887–88), 2:162; T. Harry Williams, Lincoln and His Generals (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952), 44–47. For an excellent discussion of McClellan's operational strategy, see Joseph L. Harsh, "Lincoln's Tarnished Brass: Conservative Strategies and the Attempt to Fight the Civil War as a Limited War," in The Confederate High Command and Related Topics: The 1988 Deep Delta Symposium: Themes in Honor of T. Harry Williams, ed. Lawrence L. Hewitt and Roman J. Heleniak (Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane Publishing, 1990), 124–41.
- Lincoln to McClellan, Dec. 1, 1861, in The Collected Works of Lincoln, 9 vols., ed. Roy P. Basler (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953–55), 5:34 (hereinafter cited as Collected Works); McClellan endorsement on Lincoln's letter, Dec. 10, 1861, in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880–1901), ser. 1, vol. 11, pt. 3:6 (hereinafter cited as Official Records).
- David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), 324–25. The leakage of Lincoln's annual message was not the only incident at this time encouraging McClellan to keep his plans for the army close to his vest. On December 6, the New York Times published a map of Union works in Virginia, which McClellan described to Cameron as "evidently a case of treasonable action [as] any that can be found." The premature leakage of Cameron's annual report around this time, in which he advocated emancipating and arming blacks, further fostered the image of an administration unable to control the flow of sensitive information. New York Times, Dec. 6, 1861; McClellan to Cameron, Dec. 9, 1861, in Civil War Papers, ed. Sears, 142; Williams, Lincoln and the Radicals, 59; Allen Thorndike Rice, ed., Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time (New York: North American Review, 1888), 74–75.
- James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 389–91; Bray Hammond, Sovereignty and an Empty Purse: Banks and Politics in the Civil War Era (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1970), 131–61; New York Times, Dec. 4, 1861; New York Tribune, Dec. 4, 1861; Williams, Lincoln and the Radicals, 55–61, 71–75.
- Williams, Lincoln and the Radicals, 55–61, 71–75. For a study of how historians have treated the committee and its work, see Brian Holden Reid, "Historians and the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War," Civil War History 38 (Dec. 1992): 319–41; George G. Meade to his wife, Dec. 22, 1861, in Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, 2 vols., ed. George Gordon Meade (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1913), 1:238–39.
- Although there is no correspondence of a personal nature from which it would be possible to learn the exact symptoms of the general's illness, McClellan later recalled it had been typhoid, and the course of his illness was consistent with that disease. McClellan, Own Story, 155; Paul Bruce Beeson, "Typhoid Fever," Encyclopedia Americana (1989 ed.). The number of typhoid cases experienced by the Army of the Potomac during the winter of 1861–62 was so low that Charles S. Tripler, medical director of the army, suggested that "we might disregard it altogether." There were exceptions, however, most notably the Berdan (1st U.S.) Sharpshooters, who were attached to Porter's division. McClellan probably contracted his illness at their camp during his stay at Hall's Hill. Tripler's report, Official Records, ser. 1, 5:92; Appendix K, Tripler's report, ibid., 108; McClellan's report, ibid., 459; Samuel P. Heintzelman, diary, Dec. 24, 1861, Samuel P. Heintzelman Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., reel 7:122; New York Herald, Dec. 24, 1861; New York Times, Dec. 24 and 26, 1861; Evening Star, Dec. 23 and 24, 1861; New York Herald, Dec. 22 and 24, 1861.
- McClellan, Own Story, 155; Stone to McClellan, Dec. 23, 1861, George B. McClellan Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., reel 14:7254; endorsement on Stone correspondence, Dec. 23, 1861, ibid., 7245; Simon Cameron to Andrew Curtin, Dec. 23, 1861, Official Records, ser. 3, 1:757; Headquarters of the Army, Special Order No. 336, Dec. 23, 1861, ibid., 756.
- Headquarters Army of the Potomac, General Order No. 60, Dec. 23, 1861, McClellan Papers, reel 74:230–33; Headquarters of the Army, General Order No. 111, Dec. 30, 1861; Evening Star, Dec. 27, 1861; Headquarters Army of the Potomac, General Orders Nos. 61–63, Dec. 28, 1861, McClellan Papers, reel 74:234–38; Lincoln to Burnside, Dec. 26, 1861, in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 2d supp., ed. Roy P. Basler and Christopher O. Basler (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1990), 39; Gustavus V. Fox to Louis M. Goldsborough, Dec. 27, 1861, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, 30 vols., ed. Richard Rush et al. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1894–1922), 6:489; W. S. Irwin to J. G. Cooley, Dec. 24, 1861, McClellan Papers, reel 62:360; Seth Williams to E. S. Keyes, Dec. 28, 1861, ibid., 361; J. A. S. Hardie to T. B. W. Stockton, Dec. 30, 1861, ibid., 364; Hardie to Sarah C. Tracy, Dec. 31, 1861, ibid., 371; Hardie to Major (name not given), Dec. 31, 1861, ibid., 372.
- New York Tribune, Dec. 27, 1861. Homeopathic treatments involve the administration of highly diluted doses of drugs that, if administered in large amounts to a healthy person, produce the same symptoms as the disease being treated. Martin Kaufman, Homeopathy in America: The Rise and Fall of a Medical Heresy (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971), 24–25; McClellan's father had been a prominent surgeon, author, and educator. McClellan's uncle and older brother were also highly regarded members of the regular medical profession. McClellan's employment of homeopathic treatments can be attributed to his wife, Ellen Marcy McClellan. One of the doctors who treated the general was her uncle, Erastus E. Marcy. E. E. Marcy was one of the most prominent homeopathic physicians in the nation and, as founder and editor of the North American Homeopathic Journal, had been one of homeopathy's leading defenders during the 1840s and 1850s. Paul Steiner, Medical-Military Portraits of Union and Confederate Generals (Philadelphia, Pa.: Whitmore Publishing, 1968), 11, 14; Sears, George B. McClellan, 136–37; W. Eugene Hollon, Beyond the Cross Timbers: Travels of Randolph B. Marcy, 1812–1887 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1955), 119nn. 5–6; Kaufman, Homeopathy in America, 34–35.
- Kaufman, Homeopathy in America, 29–42; New York Times, Jan. 11, 1862. Despite the board's decision in 1862, the controversy over homeopathic doctors serving in army hospitals continued throughout the war. Kaufman, Homeopathy in America, 68–72; George G. Meade to his wife, Jan. 5, 1862, in Life and Letters, ed. George Gordon Meade, 1:242.
- Lincoln to Burnside, Dec. 26, 1861, Collected Works, 2d supp., 39; New York Tribune, Dec. 27, 1861; New York Times, Dec. 27, 1861; New York Herald, Dec. 27, 1861.
- New York Tribune, Jan. 1, 1862; Evening Star, Jan. 1, 1862; New York Times, Jan. 6, 1862.
- The virus that causes typhoid fever has an incubation period of approximately ten days after initial infection, during which time the symptoms gradually appear and increase in severity. It would not be until December 31, ten days after his visit to Hall's Hill, that McClellan's illness became serious. Beeson, "Typhoid Fever."
- J. A. S. Hardie to Heintzelman, Dec. 31, 1861, Heintzelman Papers, reel 10:512; Headquarters Army of the Potomac, General Orders Nos. 65–68, Dec. 31, 1862, McClellan Papers, reel 74:240–48; Williams to Heintzelman (circular), Jan. 1, 1862, Heintzelman Papers, reel 10:526; Williams to Burnside, Jan. 1, 1862, Official Records, ser. 1, 51:515.
- Edward Bates, The Diary of Edward Bates, 1859–1866, ed. Howard K. Beale (New York: Da Capo Press, 1971), 219.
- Williams, Lincoln and the Radicals, 79–83; Sears, George B. McClellan, 137–38; Lincoln to McClellan, Jan. 2, 1862, Collected Works, 5:88.
- Lincoln to Halleck, Dec. 31, 1861, Official Records, ser. 1, 7:524.
- Halleck to Lincoln, Jan. 1, 1862; Buell to Lincoln, Jan. 1, 1862; Lincoln to Buell, Jan. 1, 1862; Lincoln to Halleck, Jan. 1, 1862, all in Official Records, ser. 1, 7:526; Lincoln to Halleck, Jan. 1, 1862, Collected Works, 5:87.
- Headquarters Army of the Potomac, General Orders Nos. 1–3, Jan. 2, 1862, McClellan Papers, reel 74:270–75; New York Tribune, Jan. 3, 1862; Evening Star, Jan. 3, 1862.
- Lincoln to Salmon P. Chase, Jan. 2, 1862, Collected Works, 5:88; Stone to McClellan, with McClellan's endorsement on back, Jan. 2, 1862, McClellan Papers, reel 15:7507 (no evidence exists indicating whether or not this meeting took place); McClellan to Halleck, Jan. 3, 1862, Official Records, ser. 1, 7:527–28; Thomas to Butler, Jan. 4, 1862, ibid., ser. 3, 1:777.
- New York Herald, Jan. 4, 5, and 6, 1862; New York Times, Jan. 4 and 6, 1862; Evening Star, Jan. 3, 1862; Lincoln to Buell, Jan. 4, 1862; Buell to Lincoln, Jan. 5, 1862, both in Official Records, ser. 1, 7:530–31.
- Lincoln to Buell, Jan. 6, 1862, Collected Works, 5:91; McClellan to Buell, Jan. 6, 1862, Official Records, ser. 1, 7:531.
- Evening Star, Jan. 7, 1862; New York Herald, Jan. 7, 1862; Headquarters of the Army, General Order No. 1, Jan. 6, 1862, Official Records, ser. 3, 1:783; McClellan to Banks, Jan. 6, 1862, McClellan Papers, reel 15:7561; New York Tribune, Jan. 8, 1862; New York Herald, Jan. 8, 1862; McClellan to Burnside, Jan. 7, 1862, Official Records, ser. 1, 5:36–37; McClellan to Banks, Jan. 7, 1862, McClellan Papers, reel 15:7608; McClellan to Banks, Jan. 7, 1862, ibid., 7611; McClellan to Commanding Officer at Romney, Jan. 7, 1862, ibid., 7612; McClellan to Banks, Jan. 7, 1862, ibid., 7615; Williams to Commanding General at Romney, Jan. 7, 1862, ibid., 7616; Williams to Banks, Jan. 7, 1862, ibid., 7625.
- George W. Julian, Political Recollections: 1848 to 1872 (New York: Jansen, McClury, 1884), 201–2; Salmon P. Chase, Inside Lincoln's Cabinet: The Civil War Diaries of Salmon P. Chase, ed. David Donald (New York: Longmans, Green, 1954), 57–58.
- Lincoln to Buell, Jan. 7, 1862, Official Records, ser. 1, 7:535; Lincoln to Halleck, Jan. 7, 1862, Collected Works, 5:92; William Wilson to Lincoln, Jan. 7, 1862, Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., reel 31:13880; John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History, 10 vols. (New York: Century, 1886), 4:155–56; C. Percy Powell, Lincoln Day by Day: A Chronology, 1809–1865, 3 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Lincoln Sesquicentennial, 1960), 3:88.
- Lincoln to McClellan, Jan. 9, 1862, Collected Works, 5:94; Lincoln endorsement on back of message from Buell to Cameron, Jan. 7, 1862, ibid., 95.
- McClellan, Own Story, 155; Headquarters Army of the Potomac, Special Order No. 8, Jan. 8, 1862, Official Records, ser. 1, 51:516; Strong to Butler, Jan. 9, , ibid., ser. 3, 1:786; Beeson, "Typhoid Fever."
- Lincoln to Cameron, on back of dispatch from Halleck, Jan. 10, 1862, Collected Works, 5:95; Montgomery C. Meigs, "General M. C. Meigs on the Conduct of the Civil War," American Historical Review 26 (Jan. 1921): 292.
- McDowell memorandum, in Life and Public Services of Abraham Lincoln, by Henry J. Raymond (New York: Derby and Miller, 1865), 774–76.
- McClellan to Peirpoint [sic], Jan. 10, 1862, Official Records, ser. 1, 51:517; A. V. Colburn to Captain Hartsuff, Jan. 10, 1862, McClellan Papers, reel 15:7689; Colburn to Lander, Jan. 10, 1862, ibid., 7691; McClellan to Lander, Jan. 10, 1862, ibid., 7691; McClellan to Banks, Jan. 10, 1862, ibid., 7695.
- McClellan to A. D. Bache, Jan. 10, 1862, in Civil War Papers, ed. Sears, 151; Headquarters Army of the Potomac, General Orders Nos. 4–5, Jan. 10, 1862, McClellan Papers, reel 74:276–93; Hooker to Williams, Jan. 10, 1862, Official Records, ser. 1, 5:697.
- McDowell memorandum, in Life and Public Services, by Raymond, 772–76; Orville H. Browning, The Diary of Orville Hickman Browning, 2 vols., ed. Theodore C. Pease and James G. Randall (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1927), 1:523.
- Headquarters of the Army, General Order No. 3, Jan. 11, 1862, Official Records, ser. 1, 6:217–18, and Official Records, ser. 3, 1:788 (sections one and two of General Order No. 3 were published in separate sections of the Official Records); McClellan to Buell, Jan. 12, 1862, ibid., ser. 3, 7:546.
- McClellan, Own Story, 156.
- McDowell memorandum, in Life and Public Services, by Raymond, 776; Chase, Civil War Diaries, 60; Meigs, "General M. C. Meigs," 292.
- McClellan, Own Story, 156–59; McDowell memorandum, in Life and Public Services, by Raymond, 776–77; Meigs, "General M. C. Meigs," 292–93.
- Lincoln to Buell, Jan. 13, 1862, Collected Works, 5:98–99 (letter also sent to Halleck).
- McClellan to Buell, Jan. 13, 1862, Official Records, ser. 1, 7:547.
- Halleck to McClellan, Jan. 10, 1862, ibid., 7:543; McClellan to Halleck, Jan. 13, 1862, ibid., 547–48; McClellan to Lincoln, Jan. 14, 1862, in Civil War Papers, ed. Sears, 152.
- Benjamin P. Thomas and Harold M. Hyman, Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962), 131. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles recalled that Lincoln had been very reluctant to remove Cameron and that "only a conviction of its absolute necessity ... would have led the President to take the step." Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles: Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln and Johnson, 3 vols., ed. Howard K. Beale (New York: W. W. Norton, 1960), 1:58.
- McClellan to his wife, Oct. 31 and Nov. 17, 1861, in Own Story, 172, 175; McClellan, "Peninsular Campaign," 2:163; McClellan, Own Story, 156; McClellan to S. L. M. Barlow, Jan. 18, 1862, in Civil War Papers, ed. Sears, 155.
- McClellan, Own Story, 153; Francis Fessenden, Life and Public Services of William Pitt Fessenden, 2 vols. (New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1907), 1:230–31; Julian, Political Recollections, 203–4; Thomas and Hyman, Stanton, 145–49, 169–70; McClellan's report, Official Records, ser. 1, 5:41.
- Browning, Diary, 1:525.
- Lincoln, President's General War Order No. 1, Jan. 27, 1862, Collected Works, 5:111–12; President's Special Order No. 1, Jan. 31, 1862, ibid., 115.