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Only days after the disastrous Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, General George B. McClellan was returned to command of the Army of the Potomac. There was cheering in the camps around Falmouth, Virginia, and soldiers eagerly reported sighting a familiar figure on horseback. Of course, they were mistaken and the reports of McClellan’s restoration to command proved false, but in this case surely the wish was father to the rumor.[1]

Ironically, ever since President Abraham Lincoln removed McClellan in early November 1862, the general’s political and military critics had worried about reports of his imminent return. Although the Chicago Tribune had once trumpeted McClellan as the savior of the Union, that sentiment became, as the soldiers would have said, “all played out.” Or at least the editor hoped so, for the fear remained that the general’s still loyal and sizable following might be hell-­bent on overturning the president’s decision, giving aid and comfort to the Confederates, or even sparking an army mutiny. Republican losses in the fall elections had only compounded these worries, as did reports of New York Democrats assiduously courting McClellan. For sure, with General Ambrose Burnside commanding the Army of the Potomac, by early December such fears had subsided. Senator Zachariah Chandler of Michigan crowed that a recent report from General-­in-­Chief Henry W. Halleck “has put the last clod of earth upon McClellan’s coffin.” Flattered by being styled the “McClellan killer,” Chandler sarcastically remarked, “Now I am only sorry the game is so small.”[2]

Yet even as Chandler was exulting in his supposed triumph, the Fredericksburg debacle rekindled talk of McClellan’s return. “I think I can see through the policy of some of the press who . . . are constantly speaking in such unqualified praise of McClellan,” one of Burnside’s staff officers had presciently remarked just as the Fredericksburg campaign was being launched. “Should any mishap take place in the Army of the Potomac, Burnside will get it right & left, let the reasons be what they may.” Indeed many soldiers, not to mention people back home, had not yet reconciled themselves to McClellan’s departure. Even before the Army of the Potomac had been withdrawn from Fredericksburg, newspapers railed against Lincoln’s great “blunder” in removing Little Mac. “Jeff Davis still laughs at the follies of our military directors,” the New York Herald insisted. A volunteer in the Army of the Potomac shifted the blame to the politicians: “I do wish our statesmen . . . would stop this infernal meddling with the war and leave everything to our beloved McClellan.” Little Mac got closer to Richmond than any of the other generals, a New York private commented sharply, adding, “Our greatest disasters occur when we try somebody else.”[3]

Deriding civilian authorities for hamstringing generals was hardly unusual; in both the North and the South, and regardless of party, ordinary citizens, newspaper editors, and of course politicians regularly complained about the president or the War Department interfering with or not properly supporting the supposedly brilliant operations of their favorite commanders. “The politicians have ruined the country,” a New York cavalryman wrote home, but “if Gen. McClellan could appear here today, with unrestricted authority—the air would be rent with shouting, the army doubled in strength.” Whether they were scheming politicians or ignorant civilians, the general’s enemies were clearly ruining the country. The word “blunder,” it seemed to many, best summed up Lincoln’s decision to shelve McClellan. Soldiers still talked of McClellan’s genius and his ability to match wits with Robert E. Lee, and even before news of the Fredericksburg defeat, speculation grew that just as in the aftermath of Second Bull Run, Lincoln would be forced once again to call on Little Mac to save the country.[4]

Put simply, there remained a deep well of affection for McClellan. As one Hoosier volunteer who had seen some of the worst of the fighting put it only days after the battle, the camp now rang with the cry, “McClellan is the man,” and soon the troops were reportedly singing, “McClellan is our leader, so march along.” Had he been in command, the army would have been on its way to Richmond or already seized the Rebel capital, other soldiers claimed. Some speculated that McClellan could have taken Mayre’s Heights without launching disastrous frontal assaults. Perhaps the Army of the Potomac was really just “Mac’s old army” in the words of a Massachusetts soldier. Critics who had scoffed at McClellan’s slow movements would now have to reckon with the Fredericksburg carnage.[5]

Unlike the hapless Burnside, McClellan had known when to fight and when not to fight. Significantly, given the general’s well-­deserved reputation for caution, the emphasis was all too often on what McClellan would not have done. Commenting on the slaughter in front of the famous stone wall, some of the Fredericksburg wounded came right to the point: “McClellan would not have led us there—he knew better.” Survivors let their families know that their former commander would never have attacked such strong positions. Cursing Burnside and calling for McClellan’s return enlivened many a campfire conversation. Even soldiers who did not entirely share such sentiments recognized that McClellan and his allies were riding high on a wave of despondency in the army and at home.[6]

Surely, there must be some place for a man of McClellan’s talents. Herman Haupt, who supervised the military railroads, advised Lincoln to appoint a military council—including McClellan—to plan campaigns. That veteran adviser to presidents, Francis Preston Blair, whose son Montgomery served as Lincoln’s postmaster general, simply recommended bringing McClellan back to the Army of the Potomac. The general’s strongest supporters apparently expected his imminent summons to Washington, perhaps to replace Henry Halleck as general-­in-­chief. Blair agreed with that suggestion while recommending that both Halleck and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton be sacked.[7]

Few soldiers speculated about McClellan displacing Halleck; instead from many a campfire discussion came cries for their beloved general’s return to command the Army of the Potomac. Everyone from privates to corps commanders expressed opinions, and the enlisted men and junior officers seemed to believe that the army wanting McClellan back should settle the matter. In defending what amounted to citizen-­soldier democracy, they fondly recalled how McClellan had cared for his men, and their affection appeared both genuine and deep. Many soldiers not only wished to see their beloved commander again but even claimed that the sentiment was nearly unanimous. Such conviction readily produced a strong expectation that McClellan would soon be with them.[8]

And why not? According to this line of reasoning McClellan was the only man who could do the job; no one else could come close to restoring the army’s confidence. Such sentiments obviously reflected conservative views in the army, the opinions of many Democrats and some Republicans back home; they accompanied some sharp criticism of Lincoln, Stanton, Halleck, and Burnside. Let McClellan have a free hand and the military situation would surely improve, his most ardent supporters maintained. In this view, he was the general who could lead the army to victory.[9]

That the demoralized troops would quickly rally around McClellan became an article of faith for the general’s most fervent defenders inside and outside the army. Upon his return to command, McClellan would instantly revive spirits and reestablish discipline. “When George was commander-­in-­chief,” an enthusiastic Massachusetts volunteer declared, “everything went as merry as we could wish to have it.” For those who might still point to Little Mac’s lack of aggressiveness, a plain-­spoken soldier in faraway Arkansas noted, “It is now nearly four months since McClellan was laid on the shelf. Richmond aint taken.”[10]

Yet the renewed calls for McClellan also reflected continuing divisions in the Army of the Potomac. Skeptics complained of a “McClellan clique” that trumpeted their hero’s supposed virtues and conspired against any potential rivals; in the aftermath of Fredericksburg they were assiduously working to undermine Burnside. “Rule or ruin has been the motto of many of his [McClellan’s] friends,” a Wisconsin surgeon grumbled. Naïve folks at home (especially those who freely criticized but refused to enter the ranks themselves) appeared blind to the general’s record of failure. Increasingly open Democratic support for McClellan in turn made some soldiers wary, and one veteran of the regular army (echoing the views of the more radical Republicans) thought that there was about the general “too much of the traitor.”[11]

There were many claims for McClellan’s popularity with the Army of the Potomac, but critics pointed to a coterie of the general’s friends ensconced in the brigade, division, and corps commands who continued to exert a malign influence. The always loyal General William B. Franklin—whose own performance at Fredericksburg could be generously described as lackluster—thought McClellan’s stock was rising and sarcastically remarked that Burnside taking responsibility for the defeat let Lincoln and the cabinet off the hook. From Memphis, William T. Sherman—who took a back seat to no one in detesting politicians—predicted that “McClellan will be recalled sooner or later.” Admiral Andrew Foote claimed that McClellan was the only general capable of commanding a large army. Perhaps if he were given a free hand, the war could be brought to a speedy conclusion. “We must have McClellan back with unlimited and unfettered powers,” General Gouverneur Kemble Warren wrote from the army in Falmouth, Virginia; “his name is a tower to strength to every one here.”[12]

Other reactions to the idea of bringing back McClellan ranged from mildly skeptical to nearly apoplectic. Stationed in western Virginia, Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes coolly assessed McClellan as a general with considerable weaknesses but acknowledged that he would not have made the same mistakes as Burnside. With considerable exaggeration and animus, James G. Barnard, who had once been the chief engineer in the Army of the Potomac, claimed that most officers whose opinion might be worth hearing viewed their former commander as a “stupendous failure.” Political intrigue in the army, however, along with the maneuvers of leading Democrats would mean that dedicated partisans and naïve civilians would continue to puff McClellan’s military prowess.[13]

McClellan followed the reports from Fredericksburg closely, expressed sympathy for his old friend Burnside, deplored the “useless” sacrifice, and somewhat cryptically remarked that “a change must come ere long—the present state of affairs cannot last.” Whether he expected a new command or not, McClellan continued to rail against Lincoln and the cabinet. His move to New York City—with the encouragement and warm support of influential politicians—further aligned him with the Democratic opposition. Partisan defenses of McClellan’s record along with the usual complaints about Radical Republicans hampering his operations grew ever louder and dovetailed with conservative critiques of the Emancipation Proclamation. According to Congressman Samuel S. Cox of Ohio, McClellan had been sacrificed to the Republicans’ “ebony fetish.”[14]

Besides Democratic politicians with their eyes on the 1864 presidential election, conservative northerners also gave McClellan considerable support. Persistent claims that his removal from command had been a capital error along with more general disillusionment with Lincoln’s war policies echoed from not only the Brahmin business ranks of New England but also influential clergymen. Some conservative Republicans favored a rapprochement with McClellan. The army was a “great political, as well as war machine,” Francis Preston Blair bluntly told Lincoln, and McClellan “will bring them to the Support of the Country and to you.” During his mid-­December trip to Washington to testify before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, McClellan met with Postmaster General Montgomery Blair and several conservative Republican officials who expressed warm support for him privately if not publicly. The inauguration of Democrat Horatio Seymour as governor of New York caused great consternation in Republican circles and perhaps made some party leaders more amenable to working with McClellan.[15]

The New York Herald even suggested that the return of McClellan—“with the exception of the President, the only honest man in and around Washington”—would help the Lincoln administration. Conservative editors continued to tout McClellan as a superior strategist and to blame the war’s mismanagement on Halleck, Stanton, and Radical Republican interference with the army. The gallant volunteers deserved a steady hand who would lead them to victory. Letters supposedly from officers and enlisted men published in Democratic newspapers echoed these sentiments.[16] In some quarters, no praise for McClellan could be too lavish, especially in the aftermath of Fredericksburg. Comparisons to George Washington now complemented previous tributes to the “Young Napoleon.” Even the great commanders of history had never organized and fought such large armies. After Sherman’s failed assault on Vicksburg there was even a call for McClellan to displace Stanton (with Halleck’s position as general in chief abolished). The idol of the people—another encomium tossed the general’s way—would yet be restored to command; the pubic would demand it.[17]

With Union morale sagging in late 1862 and early 1863, Republicans talked wildly of a Democratic plot to bring back McClellan, perhaps as the first stage of a military coup. The general’s friends “chuckled & secretly rejoice” over the Fredericksburg disaster, an Ohio Republican congressman groused. For their part defenders of the administration countered by disparaging McClellan’s military record. One of Lincoln’s private secretaries wrote an anonymous newspaper piece reminding people that Fredericksburg had been far less costly than the Peninsula Campaign. Republicans worried that McClellan’s continuing influence had caused much disaffection in the Army of the Potomac. The always blunt Thaddeus Stevens summed up the thinking of the radical faction: McClellan “must be broken down before he breaks us down.”[18]

Fredericksburg had established a pattern and each major battle or change in commanders led to new calls for McClellan. In essence, McClellan became a cat’s paw for critics of the Lincoln administration, Democratic partisans, and disheartened northerners more generally. His name still evoked warm support and righteous anger and it was often impossible to separate army politics from civilian politics.

The replacement of Burnside with Joseph Hooker only intensified the discussion and created a fresh round of rumors. Whatever their opinion of Hooker, who had long schemed to take command, many soldiers persistently expressed respect if not deep longing for McClellan. A Pennsylvania captain noted how the troops still sang “McClellan’s our leader, he is gallant and strong.” Bring him back and Richmond would be taken, declared a Vermont lieutenant who added “if the politicians would let us alone.”[19] McClellan’s removal had unleashed dangerous rivalries among the generals, and his return would presumably unify the army, restore discipline, and stop the recent wave of desertions. It was high time for the “chuckle heads” in Washington (including President Lincoln), a New York private advised, to realize that “the recall of McClellan will be an indispensable necessity.”[20]

And “indispensable” was exactly the right word, the general’s most ardent friends avowed. Nobody but McClellan could reinvigorate the Army of the Potomac and lead it to victory. In fact, no one else could effectively command the Army of the Potomac, much less get it to fight effectively. Such dogmatic assertions regularly cropped up in comments made to camp visitors and in letters home. For sure, the men would fight under Hooker or any other commander but not with as much élan or confidence. The army would remain loyal to Lincoln, a Massachusetts officer informed his mother, but the army’s affection for McClellan might eventually make him president. Indeed remove all the McClellan supporters and “croakers,” a Michigan enlisted man warned his skeptical father, and “they will send the whole army home.” Even the reviews of troops proved disappointing and unenthusiastic affairs, because the soldiers might respect Hooker but they still loved Little Mac.[21]

Widespread press coverage of McClellan’s activities in New York along with reports of an enthusiastic reception for the general in Boston further added to the impression of his popularity inside and outside the army. “Lionized” was how one observer commented on McClellan’s treatment by New Yorkers. With some sense of alarm, Republicans downplayed the size of crowds who gathered around the general, noted his approval by Copperheads, and accused him of unseemly political ambition.[22]

Perhaps just as disturbing to many Republicans were fresh rumors that began circulating not long after Hooker assumed command of the Army of the Potomac. Rumor had it that Lincoln considered bringing back McClellan but the cabinet had been opposed. Horace Greeley’s Tribune ridiculed such reports, but the rival New York Times suggested that some command should be found for McClellan, albeit not one that required “dash and vigor.” Enemies of Secretary of State William H. Seward tried to link his name with that of McClellan and other failed generals. Continuing support for McClellan especially mystified the radical faction, but Republicans had good reason to worry about the military situation in the eastern theater and the possible political fallout from continued stalemate.[23]

Radical Republicans took to the floor of Congress, denouncing McClellan and decrying reports of his reinstatement. In the House, George W. Julian of Indiana offered a detailed review of the general’s failures and concluded that McClellan’s “unflinching champions . . . would sooner see the Republic in ruin than the slaves set free.” Such statements reflected fears that Lincoln might succumb to political pressure and appoint McClellan to some command, even in the Army of the Potomac. Yet would this not be a way, more conservative Republicans countered, to win the support of the so-­called War Democrats for the administration? Lincoln’s friend Orville Hickman Browning bluntly informed the president that some officers said they would never fight under Hooker, and he believed that McClellan “possessed their confidence to a greater extent than any other man.” But Lincoln told Browning that McClellan would not fight, though he conceded the general’s high standing with “all educated military men.”[24]

To Republican critics, it became all that more imperative to destroy McClellan’s public reputation and paint his most vocal supporters as Copperheads or even traitors. This made McClellan’s March 1863 appearance before Congress’s Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War of great importance politically if not militarily. McClellan reported being treated politely, though he thought his enemies were using the hearings to mount a “last grand attack.” Some observers described McClellan as nervously evasive, and rumors about the content of testimony by both the general and his critics appeared in the newspapers. A jubilant Zachariah Chandler predicted that the committee’s report would kill McClellan “deader than the prophets.” Charges that the general had never intended to seriously fight the Rebels and that he sympathized with the Copperheads followed closely the early April publication of the committee’s report.[25] This document may have damaged McClellan’s reputation in the army and more broadly in the country but not nearly as much as Chandler, Benjamin F. Wade, or the other radicals had hoped. Democrats readily dismissed the document as a partisan attempt to malign certain generals and protect others.[26]

The true test, however, would come not in congressional committee reports but on the battlefield, and so the defeat of Hooker at Chancellorsville loomed especially large for McClellan supporters and detractors alike. Here was a new low in Union morale, but Little Mac’s stock rose accordingly. Criticism of Hooker became strongly linked to calls for McClellan; the loss in faith in the former helped rekindle confidence in the latter. “The universal cry” arose once again: “Give us McClellan,” wrote George Armstrong Custer, who assumed that the Lincoln administration would have to agree. “I think the whole nation would cry out for McClellan,” one Massachusetts officer anticipated. Claims that the Army of the Potomac was virtually unanimous in such sentiments were obviously overblown, but just as after Fredericksburg so too after Chancellorsville, angry soldiers declared that McClellan would never have led them into such a disaster, and indeed could still save the country and crush the rebellion.[27]

Calls for McClellan’s return to the Army of the Potomac or even an appointment as general-­in-­chief echoed from the ranks, but general officers certainly lent their support and in some cases their voices. General John Gibbon explained to McClellan at some length how Hooker had bungled, and Gibbon even recounted how one general at Chancellorsville had been mistaken for McClellan. Supposing that Little Mac was with the army again, “every man sprang to his feet to look but dejectedly sat down again when they discovered their mistake.” At various headquarters, generals openly talked about the need to bring back McClellan. Should their wish be granted, perhaps this time he would receive the necessary support from the administration and from the people.[28]

And so the now familiar cycle recurred. Reports about continued support in the army along with added comments and speculation in the Democratic press provoked the expected reaction. Indeed the seriousness of the calls for McClellan’s return appeared ironically in the very vehemence of Republican objections. “The government has not lost its memory, nor the people their senses,” a New York Times editorial asserted with perhaps more hope than conviction. To replace Hooker—despite Chancellorsville—with McClellan, given the latter’s record of failure, would be the height of folly. To many Republicans, it seemed there were diabolical plots afoot. The general’s supporters would attempt to dragoon the Lincoln administration into giving in and returning McClellan to the army, and so the Democrats (and the Confederates) could then hold out until the end of Lincoln’s term and make their champion president. Perhaps the taint of Copperhead support would prevent such a scheme from ever coming to fruition, but radicals fumed over the possibility that their bête noire Seward might be among the conspirators. Whether or not the secretary of state was involved, once again the Blairs appeared in the thick of things. After presenting Lincoln with a detailed critique of Hooker’s performance at Chancellorsville, Francis Preston Blair delicately raised the McClellan question. He blamed Stanton for having misled Lincoln about opposition to McClellan in the army, adding ominously that the secretary of war had become a tool of the radical faction and no true friend of the administration. The clear implication was that McClellan should supplant Stanton or Halleck. A rumor soon circulated that McClellan had left New York on a train bound for Washington.[29]

At the same time there circulated—largely in Republican newspapers—reports that McClellan would resign his commission since he was no longer in active service. McClellan denied the claim, but diverse and contradictory rumors about his future kept cropping up. It was neither the defeat at Chancellorsville nor the continued support for McClellan in the army that fueled all this speculation. Once he had settled in New York with apparent financial assistance from local Democrats, the general inevitably became even more of a political lightning rod. Democrats (and some reporters) apparently with encouragement from the Blair clan courted him and sought to elicit his views on the war. Seward’s longtime ally Thurlow Weed offered similar advice, recommending that McClellan call for a vigorous prosecution of the war and disavow the Copperheads. McClellan remained wary of publicly addressing political issues and rebuffed overtures from Ohio to run for governor on the Democratic ticket in that state. Once Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was heading north once again, word leaked out of McClellan meeting with Governor Horatio Seymour of New York—in the minds of many Republicans a worrisome political foe whose own stock appeared to be rising. So it appeared that regardless of his public reticence the general was becoming increasingly entangled in politics.[30]

By mid-­June, Lee’s army was crossing the Potomac, and what the New York Herald termed the “Rebel Raid” only intensified both public and private discussion of the McClellan question. Restoring him to command became the surest way to stop the invasion, the general’s stronger advocates predictably argued. Not only would the soldiers show a renewed fighting spirit, but also communities would offer more bounties for enlisting fresh troops and civilian morale would soar. Even many Republicans, it was claimed, and no few officials in Washington would rejoice to have the general leading his beloved troops in the field once more. And of course there was precedent: had not the administration called on McClellan to save the army (if not the country) shortly before the Battle of Antietam? Even some local officials and especially the Democratic press all kept up a drumbeat for McClellan aimed at putting added pressure on Lincoln and his advisers.[31]

Petitions and letters reached the White House from a variety of sources, including some conservative Republicans. Pennsylvania senator Edgar Cowan reported general despondency and bitter opposition to abolitionists in his state, adding that the “better sort of Republicans” favored bringing McClellan back to the Army of the Potomac. The general’s enemies supposedly acted largely out of political motives, and after both the Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville debacles, surely the general’s well-­known prudence and caution appeared in a much more favorable light. Longtime Whig and future Gettysburg orator Edward Everett claimed that McClellan’s return would be worth fifty thousand additional troops; he added that the public still had great confidence in “our ablest commander” and that all Democrats along with a good many Republicans retained faith in McClellan. Some correspondents suggested that McClellan raise troops in Pennsylvania to counter the invading Confederates. Recommendations ran the gamut: the general might recruit in his home state; he might again command the Army of the Potomac; he might again become general-­in-­chief.[32]

At the end of June as the two armies were about to clash at that soon-­to-­be-­famous crossroads town of Gettysburg, importunate pleas arose to at least send McClellan to Pennsylvania. Even the moderate Republican and former governor of New York Edwin D. Morgan hoped the president could find some post for McClellan. On the eve of the fight at Gettysburg, Lincoln ally and influential Pennsylvania journalist Alexander K. McClure downplayed McClellan as a political threat to the administration and agreed with many Democrats that the general was just the man to rally the troops as the Confederates were moving ever deeper into the Keystone State.[33]

The president’s reply to McClure was truly Lincolnian: “Do we gain anything by opening one leak to stop another?” In an equally terse response to a similar plea from New Jersey’s Democratic governor, Joel Parker, Lincoln stated that only he understood the difficulties and complexities that had been involved in removing McClellan. Lincoln’s own cabinet remained largely opposed to bringing the general back, but there was also division and intrigue. Did former secretary of war and notorious spoilsman Simon Cameron now favor McClellan’s return, as rumor had it? Were Rebel sympathizers plotting to use McClellan in some sort of coup? And indeed Lincoln himself must have felt besieged and perhaps a little bemused by all the conflicting advice that poured in from prominent Pennsylvanians.[34]

Many officers and no few enlisted men followed the rumors and crosscurrents of news with more than passing interest. Familiar arguments echoed in letters home and in camp discussions: Richmond would have been liberated by this time had Lincoln not removed McClellan; the general’s wide popularity and singular ability meant that he must again save the army and the nation. Out west, Sherman reportedly stated that only McClellan could cope with Lee. Doubts about McClellan’s loyalty to the Union cause were dismissed out of hand.[35]

Talk of McClellan’s return to command that had swirled about ever since his removal and had definitely spiked after Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville grew even more intense right before and even during the Battle of Gettysburg. When Hooker was replaced by General George Gordon Meade, there was some speculation that this was but a temporary move before McClellan was called back. The Washington rumor mill again had McClellan replacing Halleck, but the more common report, especially among troops in the Army of the Potomac, was that McClellan was about to become their commander once again.[36]

And indeed he had—at least according to reports that began circulating on the last two days of June and continued even as the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia headed for a confrontation in the Pennsylvania countryside. As Union forces moved toward Gettysburg, word came that McClellan was arriving with sixty thousand men or that he was already back in charge; news spread through the marching columns and cheers erupted. Should Meade be whipped by Lee, claimed the secretary of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Frederick Law Olmstead, Lincoln would have to swallow his pride and turn to McClellan. For the time being, the performance of Meade and his army during the first three days of July put a quietus on most of this speculation. McClellan himself conceded that Gettysburg would enable the administration to “keep me in retirement.”[37]

Perhaps the result at Gettysburg would also stifle noisy Democrats who had taken advantage of military defeats to hail McClellan and keep the Lincoln administration on the defensive. Of course a few people would continue to hope or even expect that McClellan would yet take Halleck’s place or even assume some active command. In New York, McClellan remained the toast of local Democrats, but the New York draft riots and his consultations with Governor Seymour brought renewed charges of disloyalty. There had even been rumors, Edward Everett noted, that McClellan intended to raise an army, march on Washington, and “expel the present administration.” McClellan denied ever hearing about much less countenancing such a scheme, but the general’s Democratic friends often hurt him nearly as much as his Radical Republican enemies did.[38]

In the fall of 1863 an effort by General John Sedgwick and others in the Army of the Potomac to raise money for a testimonial to McClellan greatly alarmed Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase as well as Stanton, who claimed the purpose was to insult the president. Lincoln allowed Stanton to handle the matter, and so a regulation forbidding anyone in the army from “conveying praise, or censure, or any mark of approbation toward their superiors or others in the military service” was invoked to quash the project. In the aftermath of this contretemps, Provost Marshal General Marsena Patrick wondered whether the Army of the Potomac might even be broken up to get rid of the McClellan influence.[39] The general’s unexpected endorsement of the Democratic candidate in the 1863 Pennsylvania governor’s election set off further alarms among Republicans and administration supporters but also distressed some of his friends in the Army of the Potomac. And as historian Stephen Sears has argued, McClellan recognized that this partisan action killed any chances of receiving another command.[40]

Public discussion now centered more on McClellan’s political outlook than on his military future. In the fall of 1863, McClellan drafted a letter resigning his commission and pointedly thanked Lincoln “for the confidence and kind feeling you once entertained for me, and which I am unconscious of having justly forfeited.” But McClellan did not resign and in fact had been busily working on a report to vindicate his military record and respond to his critics. Not surprisingly this lengthy work of self-­justification, which was printed early in 1864, changed few minds but became an important document in the approaching presidential election campaign. The skeptics remained unconvinced and even charged that McClellan had suppressed embarrassing documents; the general’s friends of course praised their hero’s effort, adding that his report cast Halleck, Stanton, and even the president in their true and unfavorable light. The most sanguine of McClellan allies further believed that opinion in the country was shifting in the general’s direction.[41]

And that conviction had remarkable staying power. After Ulysses S. Grant became general-­in-­chief in March 1864, there was again newspaper conjecture about a new appointment for McClellan. Perhaps he would command the Washington defenses or even the Army of the Potomac. Former New York governor Edwin D. Morgan suggested that McClellan be authorized—on the basis of his popularity in the army—to raise fifty thousand troops to be stationed at Elmira, New York, as a reserve force.[42] Or more likely, some administration supporters feared, McClellan might simply become the Democratic presidential nominee. To head off this possibility Francis Preston Blair and his son Montgomery attempted to persuade McClellan to disavow a presidential candidacy in exchange for a new military command—presumably of the Washington defenses. Neither McClellan nor Lincoln showed any interest in this arrangement, and it died aborning.[43]

With the Overland Campaign grinding on and casualties mounting during the summer of 1864, the New York Herald recommended that Grant bring McClellan to Washington. His name alone would supposedly be enough to raise an army of one hundred thousand to operate in conjunction with the Army of the Potomac. When General Jubal Early’s troops threatened Washington, the Herald suggested that McClellan take over the capital’s defenses. Public confidence would soar and gold prices would fall back to a more reasonable level. A flurry of discussion in the army duly weighed both military and political considerations. Rumors flew once again, and Lincoln as usual heard from both sides and perhaps even considered finding a place for McClellan.[44]

McClellan’s friends and admirers might well have bemoaned the administration’s refusal to act, but in their view the course of the Overland Campaign proved they had been right all along. “They [McClellan’s 1862 campaign and Grant’s recent campaign] both had the same objective—Richmond,” artillerist Charles Wainwright wrote at the beginning of a long diary passage comparing the two campaigns. “Both ended in the same way, failure and the James River.” But Wainwright and others also noted the costs of each general’s strategy. Republicans grew sensitive to charges that Grant’s offensive had generated unprecedented casualties. For McClellan’s most ardent supporters, a series of bloody but futile engagements showed a distinct lack of generalship from Grant. “What would be the cry against our old commander, Little Mac, if he had lost so many men in such a short time,” a Michigan sergeant grumbled. A Pennsylvania editor drew an equally sharp and partisan contrast: “Grant is to-­day, after a loss of not less than 50,000 since the beginning of the campaign, where McClellan was, with comparatively no loss, when he began the first siege of Richmond.” As the Army of the Potomac advanced toward Petersburg, a Massachusetts artilleryman laid out the case in especially forceful language: “I fail to see what damn great things Grant has done more than George B. done before and he was cursed and reviled by the very men that now pretend to say that Grant is working wonders.” Grant’s movements had in fact been no more rapid than those of the oft-­criticized McClellan; if the government had properly supplied McClellan with troops two years ago, the war would have long been over. [45]In many ways, the argument had come full circle. Lincoln’s removal of McClellan had been a great blunder, the administration had ignored numerous suggestions and pleas for his return to command, and the nation was now reaping the fruit of all this folly. But soon enough the military campaigns of William T. Sherman and Philip H. Sheridan along with the presidential campaign would make much of this talk and speculation irrelevant. And since then, students of the Civil War have been quick to usher McClellan off the military stage much earlier, in November 1862, forgetting that many soldiers and civilians had not been in such a hurry.


    1. Zerah Coston Monks to Hannah T. Rohrer, December 21, 1862, Monks-­Rohrer Letters, Special Collections, Emory University; William Wirt Henry to Mary Jane Henry, December 19, 1862, William Wirt Henry Family Papers, Vermont Historical Society; James Jenkins Gillette to his mother, December 17, 1862, Gillette Papers, Library of Congress (hereinafter, LC); Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser, December 19, 1862; Marsena Rudolph Patrick, Inside Lincoln’s Army: The Diary of Marsena Rudolph Patrick, Provost Marshal General, Army of the Potomac, edited by David S. Sparks (New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1964), 193; Henry Welch to his father, December 21, 1862, Welch Letters, Special Collections, Hamilton College Library. The mere rumor of McClellan’s return seemed to inspire troops that had become despondent after Fredericksburg. Henry P. Goddard, The Good Fight That Didn’t End: Henry P. Goddard’s Accounts of Civil War and Peace, edited by Calvin Goddard Zion (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2008), 120.return to text

    2. Louisville Daily Journal, November 15, 1862; Chicago Tribune, November 19, 20, December 16, 1862; Boston Herald, December 18, 1862; Willet Raynor to Zachariah Chandler, December 4, 1862, Chandler to his wife, December 15, 1862, Chandler Papers, LC. One skeptic, however, doubted that reports, published correspondence, or any other kind of evidence could change the mind of McClellan’s most ardent admirers. John Chipman Gray and John Codman Ropes, War Letters, 1862–1865 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1927), 42–43.return to text

    3. Daniel Read Larned to “My Dear Henry,” Larned Papers, LC; New York Herald, December 17, 21, 1862; Albert B. Williams to his father, December 29, 1862, Williams Letters, Rhees Library, University of Rochester; Charles Brandegee, Charlie’s Civil War: A Private’s Trial by Fire in the 5th New York Volunteers—Duryée Zoaves and 146th New York Infantry, edited by Charles Brandegee Livingstone and Brian Pohanka (Gettysburg, Pa.: Thomas Publications, 1997), 130.return to text

    4. John H. Van Ingen to “My own dear Goodie,” December 15, 1862, Museum Quality Americana website, www.mqamericana.com; accessed 1/18/2009; R. S. Robertson to his parents, December 15, 1862, Robertson Papers, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (hereinafter FSNMP); New York Herald, December 17, 1862; W. C. Barry to James Gordon Bennett, December 28, 1862, Bennett Papers, LC; Thomas H. Mann to “Friends of the Lyceum,” January 20 (?), 1863, Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Special Collections, John Hay Library, Brown University; Bell Irvin Wiley, The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldiers of the Union (Indianapolis: Bobbs-­Merrill, 1952), 281; Edward Hastings Ripley, Vermont General: The Unusual War Experiences of Edward Hastings Ripley, edited by Otto Eisenschiml (New York: Devin-­Adair, 1960), 67. One thoughtful volunteer believed authorities in Washington were just too proud to admit that McClellan’s removal had been a mistake. Gray and Ropes, War Letters, 57.return to text

    5. William Withington to his sister Lucy, December 23, 1862, Withington Papers, Michigan Historical Collection, Bentley Library, University of Michigan; December 15, 1862, George Washington Lambert Diary, Indiana Historical Society; Frank A. Moore, ed., The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, 12 vols. (New York: Arno Press, 1977), 6 (Documents): 96; Henry W. Beecham to his mother, December 19, 1862, Beecham Letters, Wisconsin Historical Society; Walter Phelps to his wife, December 27, 1862, Phelps Letters, FSNMP; Cyrus J. Hardaway to his mother, December 17, 1862, Hardaway Letters, FSNMP; Roland E. Bowen, From Ball’s Bluff to Gettysburg . . . and Beyond: The Civil War Letters of Private Roland E. Bowen, 15th Massachusetts Infantry, 1861–1864, edited by Gregory A. Coco (Gettysburg, Pa.: Thomas Publications, 1994), 142; Caleb H. Beal to his parents, December 23, 1862, Beal Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society; Gray and Ropes, War Letters, 61–62; James E. Decker to his sister, December 17, 1862, Decker Letters, FSNMP.return to text

    6. James Gassner to his mother, December 22, 1862, Civil War Papers, American Antiquarian Society; John W. Chase, Yours for the Union: The Civil War Letters of John W. Chase, First Massachusetts Light Artillery, edited by John S. Collier and Bonnie B. Collier (New York: Fordham University Press, 2004), 184–85; Theodore Ayrault Dodge, On Campaign with the Army of the Potomac: The Civil War Journal of Theodore Ayrault Dodge, edited by Stephen W. Sears (New York: Cooper Square Press, 2001), 120; Henry H. Young to his mother, December 29, 1862, Young Papers, Civil War Miscellaneous Collection, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (hereinafter USAHEC); Samuel V. Dean to his wife, December 22, 1862, Dean Letters, FSNMP; William Hamilton to his mother, December 24, 1862, Hamilton Papers, LC; December 16, 1862, George A. Marden Diary, Special Collections, Dartmouth College Library; William H. Brown to his brother, December 27, 1862, Special Collections, John Hay Library, Brown University; Fifth Annual Report of the Chief of the Bureau of Military Statistics (Albany, N.Y.: C. Van Benthugen, 1868), 725–26; Zenas R. Bliss, The Reminiscences of Major General Zenas R. Bliss, 1854–1876, edited by Thomas T. Smith, Jerry D. Thompson, Robert Wooster, and Ben E. Pingernot (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 2007), 332; Samuel W. Easton to Eddie Eaton, December 15, 1862, Edward Dwight Easton Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society. A Richmond newspaper reported Yankee prisoners expressing these same sentiments. Richmond Daily Examiner, December 19, 1862. For an enlisted man’s pointed comparison of Burnside and McClellan that much favored the latter, see Charles T. Bowen, Dear Friends at Home: The Civil War Letters and Diaries of Sergeant Charles T. Bowen, Twelfth United States Infantry, 1861–1864, edited by Edward K. Cassedy (Baltimore: Butternut and Blue, 2001), 209–10.return to text

    7. Herman Haupt to Abraham Lincoln, December 22, 1862, Edwin M. Stanton Papers, LC; Francis Preston Blair to Abraham Lincoln, December 18, 1862, Lincoln Papers, LC; Edward Bates, Diary of Edward Bates, 1859–1866, edited by Howard K. Beale (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1933), 270; Chicago Tribune, December 18, 1862; Alexander Hays, Life and Letters of Alexander Hays, Brevet Colonel United States Army, Brigadier General and Brevet Major General United States Volunteers, edited by George Thornton Fleming (Pittsburgh: n.p., 1919), 285; Orville Hickman Browning, Diary of Orville Hickman Browning, edited by Theodore Calvin Pease and James G. Randall, 2 vols. (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1925–33), 1:601; Francis Preston Blair to Montgomery Blair, January 30, 1863, Blair Family Papers, LC; New York Herald, December 22, 1862. For an enlisted man’s pointed comparison of Burnside and McClellan that much favored the latter, see Bowen, Dear Friends at Home, 209–10.return to text

    8. William Watson, Letters of a Civil War Surgeon, edited by Paul Fatout (West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1996), 76; James A. Peifer, Bethlehem Boy: The Civil War Letters and Diary of James A. Peifer, edited by Carolyn W. Abel and Patricia N. McAndrew (Bethlehem, Pa.: Moon Trail Books, 2007), 129; Edmund Halsey, Brother against Brother: The Lost Civil War Diary of Lt. Edmund Halsey, edited by Bruce Chadwick (Secaucus, N.J.: Birch Lane Press, 1997), 97–98; Samuel B. Fischer to his sister, December 28, 1862, Fischer Letters, Lewis Leigh Collection, USAHEC; Isaac Lyman Taylor, “Campaigning with the First Minnesota, a Civil War Diary,” edited by Hazel C. Wolf, Minnesota History 25 (September 1944): 238; Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot and Union, January 12, 1863; “Civil War Letters of Francis Edwin Pierce of the 108th New York Volunteer Infantry,” in Rochester in the Civil War, edited by Blake McKelvey (Rochester, N.Y.: Rochester Historical Society, 1944), 166; Charles H. Eagor to his wife, December 16, 1862, Eagor Letters, Lewis Leigh Collection, USAHEC; Moore, Rebellion Record 6 (Documents): 95–96.return to text

    9. December 19, 1862, George A. Marden Diary, Special Collections, Dartmouth College Library; Reuben W. Schell to his father, December 31, 1862, Schell Letters, FSNMP; Winthrop S. G. Allen, “Civil War Letters of Winthrop S. G. Allen,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 24 (October 1931): 571; R. S. Robertson to his mother, December 24, 1862, Robertson Papers, FSNMP; Henry C. Ropes to “Dear John,” December 20, 1862, Ropes Letters, Boston Public Library; Thomas H. Mann to “Friends at Home,” January 4, 1863, Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Special Collections, Brown University.return to text

    10. George Barnard to his father, December 18, 1862, Barnard Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society; New York Irish-­American, December 27, 1862; Henry Livermore Abbot, Fallen Leaves: The Civil War Letters of Major Henry Livermore Abbott, edited by Robert Garth Scott (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1991), 149, 158, 162–63; Robert Goldthwaite Carter, Four Brothers in Blue, or Sunshine and Shows of the War of the Rebellion: A Story of the Great Civil War from Bull Run to Appomattox (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1978), 210–11; William A. Russ Jr., ed., “Civil War Letters Concerning Members of Co. G, 174th Reg., P.V.I.,” Susquehanna University Studies 5 (May 1955): 189; Ira Russell, “The Aftermath of Prairie Grove: Union Letters from Fayetteville,” edited by William L. Shea, Arkansas Historical Quarterly 47 (Winter 1988): 355.return to text

    11. L. B. Halvern to Simeon Whitely, December 16, 1862, Whitely Papers, Illinois State Historical Society Library; Gray and Ropes, War Letters, 49–54, 67–68; Alfred L. Castleman, The Army of the Potomac: Behind the Scenes; A Diary of Unwritten History (Milwaukee: Strickland, 1863), 274; William R. Williams to his wife, December 26, 1862, Williams Letters, Civil War Miscellaneous Collection, USAHEC; Levi Burd Duff, To Petersburg with the Army of the Potomac: The Civil War Letters of Levi Bird Duff, 105th Pennsylvania Volunteers, edited by Jonathan E. Helmreich (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2009), 106; John W. Ames to his mother, December 29, 1862, Ames Papers, USAHEC. A perceptive New York diarist thought McClellan was hurting himself by too close an association with “ultra-­Democrats.” Mary Lydig Daly, Diary of a Union Lady, 1861–1865, edited by Harold Earl Hammond (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1962), 212.return to text

    12. Mark A. Snell, From First to Last: The Life of Major General William B. Franklin (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), 228; William B. Franklin to George B. McClellan, December 23. 1862, McClellan Papers, LC; William T. Sherman, Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860–1865, edited by Brooks D. Simpson and Jean V. Berlin (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 348; Wayne Wei-­siang Hsieh, West Pointers and the Civil War: The Old Army in War and Peace (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), 170; Browning, Diary of Orville Hickman Browning, 1:611; Gouverneur K. Warren to unknown, December 18, 1862, Warren Papers, New York State Library.return to text

    13. Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, 5 vols. (Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1922–26), 2:378; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 2 vols. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:431; Adam Gurowski, Diary, 3 vols. (New York: Burt Franklin, 1968), 2:42; Pittsburgh (Pa.) Daily Dispatch, January 22, 1863.return to text

    14. George B. McClellan, The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan: Selected Correspondence, 1860–1865, edited by Stephen W. Sears (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1989), 531, 533–34; New York Daily Tribune, January 8, 1863; The Carrier’s Address of the New York World, January 1st, 1863 (New York: Isaac J. Oliver, 1863); Frederick A. Peterson, Military Review of the Campaign in Virginia and Maryland in 1862 (New York: S. Tousey, H. Dexter [1863]); Samuel Sullivan Cox, Meaning of the Elections of 1862: Speech of Hon. S. S. Cox of Ohio, Delivered in the House of Representatives, December 15, 1862 (Washington, D.C.: L. Towers, [1862]), 7–8.return to text

    15. Bliss Perry, Life and Letters of Henry Lee Higginson (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1921), 175; Robert Edwards, Of Singular Genius, of Singular Grace: A Biography of Horace Bushnell (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1992), 230; Alexander A. Hodge, The Life of Charles Hodge, D.D. (London: T. Nelson, 1881), 475; Francis Preston Blair to Abraham Lincoln, December 18, 1862, Lincoln Papers, LC; Aldace Freeman Walker, Quite Ready to be Sent Somewhere: The Civil War Letters of Aldace Freeman Walker, edited by Tom Ledoux (Victoria, B.C.: Trafford Publishing, 2002), 79; McClellan, Civil War Papers, 530; Browning, Diary of Orville Hickman Browning, 1:612–13. McClellan’s appearance in Washington attracted crowds of sightseers and created much speculation about his immediate future. Noah Brooks, Washington in Lincoln’s Time (New York: Century Company, 1895), 14–15.return to text

    16. New York Herald, December 19, 1862, January 10, 19, 1863; New York World, December 19, 1862; Columbus (Ohio) Gazette, January 23, 1863; T. Harry Williams, Lincoln and the Radicals (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1941), 239–40.return to text

    17. New York Herald, December 26, 1862, January 16, 19, February 2, 1863; January 2, 1863, Horatio Nelson Taft Diary, LC; Louisville Daily Journal, December 24, 1862.return to text

    18. James A. Garfield, Wild Life of the Army: The Civil War Letters of James A. Garfield, edited by Frederick D. Williams (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1964), 201–2; Pittsburgh (Pa.) Daily Dispatch, December 19, 1862; Julia P. Cutler, Life and Times of Ephraim Cutler (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke and Company, 1890), 296–97; William O. Stoddard, Dispatches from Lincoln’s White House: The Anonymous Civil War Journalism of Presidential Secretary William O. Stoddard, edited by Michael Burlingame (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002), 127; Chicago Tribune, December 19, 1862, January 22, 1863; Gurowski, Diary, 2:42; Zachariah Chandler to his wife, January 22, 1863, Chandler Papers, LC; Thaddeus Stevens, The Selected Papers of Thaddeus Stevens, edited by Beverly Wilson Palmer, 2 vols. (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997). 1:367.return to text

    19. Bowen, Dear Friends at Home, 228; Walker, Quite Ready to be Sent Somewhere, 84; John W. Patterson to his wife, January 28, 1863, Patterson Papers, FSNMP; Charles Kinsman to Emeline Quimby, February 8, 1863, George W. Quimby Papers, Special Collections, University of Vermont.return to text

    20. 20. New York Herald, January 27, 29, 1863; Charles H. Eagor to his wife, January 27, 1863, Eagor Letters, Lewis Leigh Collection, USAHEC; Watson, Letters of a Civil War Surgeon, 78; Ambrose F. Cole to his wife, February 21, 1863, Cole Letters, FSNMP; Edward King Wightman, From Antietam to Fort Fisher: The Civil War Letters of Edward King Wightman, 1862–1865, edited by Edward G. Longacre (Rutherford, N.J.: Associated University Press, 1985), 106.return to text

    21. Moore, Rebellion Record, 6 (Diary of Events): 51; Browning, Diary, 1:620–21; John Fay to “Dear Aunt Martha,” February 2, 1863, Fay Letter, FSNMP; A. D. Slade, A. T. A. Torbert: Southern Gentleman in Union Blue (Dayton, Ohio: Morningside, 1992), 57; John W. Patterson to his father, February 9, 1863, Patterson Papers, FSNMP; James A. Carman to his uncle, February 18, 1863, Carman Family Collection, USAHEC; Henry J. Brown to his mother, March 20, 1863, Brown Letters, http://www.espdesigns.com/letters/1863intro.htm [accessed 1/10/2009]; Thomas H. Mann to his mother, March 4, 1863, Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Special Collections, John Hay Library, Brown University; Perry Mayo, The Civil War Letters of Perry Mayo, edited by Robert W. Hodge (East Lansing: [Museum, Michigan State University], 1967), 227; Spencer Bonsall, Well Satisfied with My Position: The Civil War Journal of Spender Bonsall, edited by Michael A. Flannery and Katherine H. Oomens (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007), 98. For contrary reports claiming waning enthusiasm for Little Mac and speculating on a possible court martial for the general, see Thomas Ward Osborn, No Middle Ground: Thomas Ward Osborn’s Letters from the Field (1862–1864), edited by Herb S. Crumb and Katherine Dhalle (Hamilton, N.Y.: Edmonston Publishing, 1983), 106; Chicago Tribune, January 27, 1863.return to text

    22. New York Daily Tribune, January 8, 1863; Boston Herald, January 29, February 3–4, 1863; New York Herald, February 3, 1863; Horatio Seymour to George B. McClellan, February 15, 1863, McClellan Papers, LC; McClellan, Civil War Papers, 537; Moses Coit Tyler, Moses Coit Tyler, 1835–1900: Selections from His Letters and Diaries, edited by Jessica Austen (New York: Doubleday, 1911), 22; Chicago Tribune, February 4, 11, March 7, 9, 1863.return to text

    23. New York Herald, February 8, 19, 1863; Louisville Daily Journal, February 9, 1863; New York Daily Tribune, February 9, 12, 1863; New York Times, February 5, 1863; Chicago Tribune, February 10, 20, 1863; Zachariah Chandler to his wife, February 10, 1863, Chandler Papers, LC; George Wilkes, McClellan: From Ball’s Bluff to Antietam (New York: Sinclair Tousey, 1863), 31–35; George Templeton Strong, The Diary of George Templeton Strong, edited by Allan Nevins and Milton Halsey Thomas, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 3:297; Garfield, Wild Life of the Army, 235.return to text

    24. Stevens, Selected Papers of Thaddeus Stevens, 1:378–39; George W. Julian, Speeches on Political Questions (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1872), 198–201; Albert D. Richardson, The Secret Service, the Field, the Dungeon, and the Escape (Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Company, 1865), 323–24; Samuel M. Shaw to Thurlow Weed, February 15, 1863, Abraham Lincoln Papers, LC; Browning, Diary of Orville Hickman Browning, 1:619.return to text

    25. Springfield (Ill.) Journal, n.d., in Chicago Tribune, March 26, 1863; McClellan, Civil War Papers, 540; George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), 1:355–56; Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 100 vols. (Wilmington, N.C.: Broadfoot, 1994–2001), pt. 1, vol. 4: 452; Wilkes, McClellan: From Ball’s Bluff to Antietam, 35–39; Williams, Lincoln and the Radicals, 246–47; Zachariah Chandler to his wife, March 31, 1863, Chandler Papers, LC; Chicago Tribune, April 2, 7, 1863; New York Daily Tribune, April 6–7, 1863; New York Times, April 6–7, 1863; Jane Grey Swisshelm, Crusader and Feminist: Letters of Jane Grey Swisshelm, 1858–1865, edited by Arthur J. Larsen (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1934), 212–16; Boston Herald, April 20, 1863.return to text

    26. William Marvel, The Great Task Remaining: The Third Year of Lincoln’s War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010), 26–29; John Mead Gould, The Civil War Journals of John Mead Gould, 1861–1866, edited by William B. Jordan (Baltimore: Butternut and Blue, 1997), 264; J. Franklin Dyer, The Journal of a Civil War Surgeon, edited by Michael B. Chesson (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003), 49; April 6, 1863, William Watts Folwell Diary, University of Minnesota Archives; Williams, Lincoln and the Radicals, 250; Bruce Tap, Over Lincoln’s Shoulder: The Committee on the Conduct of the War (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998), 163; New York Daily Tribune, April 4, 1863; Walker, Quite Ready to Be Sent Somewhere, 114; Leverett Bradley, Leverett Bradley: A Soldier Boy’s Letters, 1862–1865 (Boston: [Everett Press,] 1905), 23. For a Democratic defense of McClellan and attack on the committee, see William J. Flagg, Speech of Hon. William J. Flagg of Hamilton County, Delivered in the Ohio House of Representatives, March 25, 1863 (N.p.: n.p., 1863), 6–15. Old-­line Whig and conservative Edward Everett recommended that McClellan have a “first-­rate lawyer” go over the committee report to “cover” his critics with “confusion.” Everett expected the general to be recalled as general-­in-­chief. Edward Everett to McClellan, May 8, 1863, McClellan Papers, LC.return to text

    27. Thomas W. Hyde, Civil War Letters (N.p.: John H. Hyde, 1933), 77; Robert Grandchamp, The Boys of Adams’ Battery G: The Civil War through the Eyes of a Union Light Artillery Unit (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, 2009), 125; Abbott, Fallen Leaves, 178; George Armstrong Custer to George B. McClellan, May 6, 1863, McClellan Papers, LC; Marshall Phillips to his wife, May 11, 1863, Phillips Correspondence, Maine Historical Society; Marvel, Great Task Remaining, 66; Henry C. Ropes to his mother, May 9, 1863, Ropes Letters, Boston Public Library. One explanation was that McClellan was morally upright compared to the debauched Hooker. John Vance Lauderdale, The Wounded River: The Civil War Letters of John Vance Lauderdale, M.D, edited by Peter Josyph (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1993), 158–59.return to text

    28. John Gibbon to George B. McClellan, May 6, 18, 1863, Jacob D. Cox to McClellan, March 14, 1863, McClellan Papers, LC; Abbott, Fallen Leaves, 181; Snell, From First to Last, 270; William Starr Myers, A Study in Personality: General George Brinton McClellan (New York: D. Appleton–Century, 1954), 412–13.return to text

    29. New York Times, May 9, 1863; Boston Herald, May 12, 1863; James A. Hamilton to Abraham Lincoln, May 11, 1863, Francis Preston Blair to Abraham Lincoln, May 17, 1863, Lincoln Papers, LC; E. W. H. Beck, “Letters of a Civil War Surgeon,” Indiana Magazine of History 27 (June 1931): 153; Hays, Life and Letters of Alexander Hays, 392; Noah Brooks, Lincoln Observed: Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks, edited by Michael Burlingame (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), 46; Zachariah Chandler to his wife, May 20, 1863, Chandler Papers, LC; Brooks, Washington in Lincoln’s Time, 16, 58–59.return to text

    30. Chicago Tribune, May 16, June 6, 17, 1863; Boston Herald, May 15, June 17, 1863; New York Herald, May 15, 1863; Charles C. Fulton to McClellan, May 29, 1863, Thurlow Weed to McClellan, June 12, 1863, Horatio Seymour to McClellan, June 15, 1863, McClellan Papers, LC; McClellan, Civil War Papers, 548–50; Darius Starr to “Brother Daniel,” June 18, 1863, Starr Papers, Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.return to text

    31. New York Herald, June 17–19, 1863; Gurowski, Diary, 2:248; Boston Herald, June 19, 1863; Chicago Tribune, June 19, 1863; New York Tablet, June 27, 1863; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, June 18, 1863.return to text

    32. Edgar Cowan to Abraham Lincoln, June 17, 1863, James Dixon to Abraham Lincoln, June 28, 1863, Edward Everett to Lincoln, June 16, 1863, Thomas S. McIncron to Lincoln, June 22, 1863, S. F. Miller to Abraham Lincoln, June 29, 1863, Lincoln Papers, LC; Edward Everett to George B. McClellan, June 18, 1863, McClellan Papers, LC; War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880–1901), ser. 1, vol. 27, pt. 3: 168, 391, 409, 435 (hereinafter OR); T. J. Barnett to Samuel L. M. Barlow, July 2, 1863, Barlow Papers, Henry E. Huntington Library.return to text

    33. John E. Thompson to Abraham Lincoln, June 30, 1863, Edwin D. Morgan to Lincoln, July 1, 1863, Philadelphia Common Council to Lincoln, July 2, 1863, Joseph P. Bradley and Marcus L. Ward to Lincoln, July 2, 1862, Edwin D. Morgan to Lincoln, July 1, 1863, Alexander K. McClure to Lincoln, June 30, 1863, Lincoln Papers, LC. Yet McClure also worried that Lincoln had waited too long to bring back McClellan and thought it might be a political gift to the Democrats should the newly appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac, General George Gordon Meade, fail to defeat Robert E. Lee. McClure to Lincoln, July 1, 1863, Lincoln Papers, LC.return to text

    34. Abraham Lincoln to Joel Parker, June 30, 1863, Roy P. Basler, et al, eds., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 9 vols. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 6:311–12; Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles: Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln and Johnson, edited by Howard K. Beale, 3 vols. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1960), 1:345; New York Daily Tribune, June 23, 1863; Boston Herald, July 1, 1863; Cornelius A. Walborn to Edwin M. Stanton, June 28, 1863, William D. Kelley to Abraham Lincoln, June 30, 1863, Lincoln Papers, LC; Gurowski, Diary, 2:258; Stevens, Selected Papers of Thaddeus Stevens, 1:398–99.return to text

    35. Charles S. Wainwright, A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861–1865, edited by Allan Nevins (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1962), 123; Patrick, Inside Lincoln’s Army, 263; Chase, Yours for the Union, 345; Marcus M. Spiegel, Your True Marcus: The Civil War Letters of a Jewish Colonel, edited by Frank L. Byrne and Jean Powers Soman (Kent, Ohio: Kent University Press, 1985), 294, 297; Bernard Olsen, ed., Upon the Tented Field (Red Bank, N.J.: Historic Projects, 1993), 129; Stephen Minot Weld, War Diary and Letters of Stephen Minot Weld, 1861–1865 (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1979), 227–28.return to text

    36. Wainwright, Diary of Battle, 229; Louisville Daily Journal, June 30, 1863; A. Boyd Hamilton to his mother, June 30, 1863, William Hamilton Papers, LC; New York Herald, July 1, 1863; Chicago Tribune, July 1, 1863; William L. Heermance to his wife, June 28, 1863, Heermance Letters, FSNMP; William Wirt Henry to Mary Jane Henry, July 1, 1863, William Wirt Henry Family Papers, Vermont Historical Society; Ambrose Henry Hayward, Last to Leave the Field: The Life and Letters of First Sergeant Ambrose Henry Hayward, 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, edited by Timothy J. Orr (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2010), 157–58.return to text

    37. John Lord Parker, Henry Wilson’s Regiment: History of the Twenty-­Second Massachusetts Infantry, the Second Company Sharpshooters, and the Third Light Battery in the War of the Rebellion (Boston: Press of Rand Avery, 1887), 331; Daniel George Macmara, History of the Ninth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Boston: E. B. Stillings, 1899), 315; Philip Cheek and Mair Pointon, History of the Sauk County Riflemen Known as Company “A,” Sixth Wisconsin Veteran Volunteer Infantry, 1861–1865 (Madison, Wisc.: Democrat Print, 1909), 70; Ziba B. Graham, “On to Gettysburg: Ten Days from My Diary of 1863; A Paper Read before the Commandery of the State of Michigan . . . March 2, 1889” in War Papers Read before the Commandery of the State of Michigan, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 2 vols. (Wilmington, N.C.: Broadfoot, 1993), 1:473–74; Ellis Spear, The Civil War Recollections of General Ellis Spear, edited by Abbot Spear, Andrea C. Hawkes, Marie H. McCosh, Craig L. Symonds, and Michael H. Alpert (Orono: University of Maine Press, 1997), 215; Theodore Gerrish, Army Life: A Private’s Reminiscences of the Civil War (Portland, Me.: Hoyt, Fogg, and Donham, 1882), 101; Wainwright, Diary of Battle, 242; Supplement to the Official Records, pt. 1, vol. 5, 190; Frederick Law Olmsted, The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, 7 vols. to date (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977–), 4:638–40; OR, ser. 1, vol. 27, pt. 3: 552–53; McClellan, Civil War Papers, 550.return to text

    38. Strong, Diary of George Templeton Strong, 3:330; Edward Waldo Emerson, Life and Letters of Charles Russell Lowell (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2005), 274, 278; Wainwright, Diary of Battle, 266; Buffalo Common Council to Abraham Lincoln, July 16, 1863, Lincoln Papers; Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1863; James Lawrence to George B. McClellan, July 24, 1863, Edward Everett to McClellan, July 25, 1863, William Dennison to George B. McClellan, August 4, 1863, McClellan Papers, LC; McClellan, Civil War Papers, 555.return to text

    39. John Sedgwick, The Correspondence of John Sedgwick, 2 vols. (New York: Printed for Carl and Ellen Battelle Stoeckel, 1902), 2:155; Salmon P. Chase, The Salmon P. Chase Papers, edited by John Niven, 5 vols. (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1993–1998), 1:449; OR, ser. 1, vol. 29, pt. 2: 227, 261–62; Wainwright, Diary of Battle, 282–84, 286; Patrick, Inside Lincoln’s Army, 291; Chicago Tribune, October 1, 1863. For diverse soldier comments on the memorial, see George Perkins, Three Years a Soldier: The Diary and Newspaper Correspondence of Private George Perkins, Sixth New York Independent Battery, 1861–1864, edited by Richard N. Griffin (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006), 129; Chase, Yours for the Union, 291–92; Abbott, Fallen Leaves, 213.return to text

    40. McClellan, Civil War Papers, 558–59; Chicago Tribune, October 21, November 3, 1863; Wainwright, Diary of Battle, 294; Stephen W. Sears, George B. McClellan, the Young Napoleon (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1988), 358.return to text

    41. McClellan, Civil War Papers, 560–62; Sears, McClellan, 352–53; Gurowski, Diary, 3:102–10; Strong, Diary of George Templeton Strong, 3:409–10; Wainwright, Diary of Battle, 330–31; Patrick, Inside Lincoln’s Army, 336; Abbott, Fallen Leaves, 239.return to text

    42. New York Herald, April 1, 19, 1864; Boston Herald, April 20, 1864; Samuel L. M. Barlow to Montgomery Blair, April 26, 1864, Barlow Papers, Huntington Library; Edwin D. Morgan to Abraham Lincoln July 27, 1864, Lincoln Papers, LC.return to text

    43. Montgomery Blair to S. L. M. Barlow, April 28, May 1, 11, 1864, Barlow Papers, Henry E. Huntington Library; Francis Preston Blair to Abraham Lincoln, July n.d., 1864, Lincoln Papers, LC; Sears, McClellan, 364–66; McClellan, Civil War Papers, 574–75, 583–85.return to text

    44. New York Herald, July 16, 23, 27, August 2, 9, 1864; Patrick, Inside Lincoln’s Army, 410; Amos Myers to Abraham Lincoln, August 4, 1864, John L. Scott to Lincoln, August 4, 1864, Lincoln Papers, LC; Lincoln to Ulysses S. Grant, July 29, 1864, Basler, Collected Works , 7:470. For a useful discussion of the thin evidence on Lincoln’s thinking about this question, see John Y. Simon, “Grant, Lincoln, and the Unconditional Surrender,” in Lincoln’s Generals, edited by Gabor S. Boritt (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 178–81.return to text

    45. New York Daily Tribune, July 25, 1864; Hyde, Civil War Letters, 133, 136; D. G. Crotty, Four Years Campaigning in the Army of the Potomac (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Dygert Brothers, 1874), 134; Bloomsburg (Pa.) Star of the North, June 6, 1864; Chase, Yours for the Union, 354–55; Wainwright, Diary of Battle, 419; James Rush Holmes, “The Civil War Letters of James Rush Holmes,” edited by Ida Bright Adams, Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine 44 (June 1961): 126.return to text