McClellan on Hooker at Antietam

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
No, I am going with what actually happened.

Nothing in GWO3 relieved McClellan from being General-in-Chief. It redefined his responsibilities, but because it did not relieve him, he remained in that post. It was the post that was redefined, not McClellan's occupation of it.

If you don't see the distinction, well...

It may have been that Stanton intended to have McClellan removed from the position when he drafted the order, but like a bad lawyer he made a mistake in his drafting. I'm sure you've experienced badly negotiated contracts etc., and that "I meant to write this instead" doesn't work in a court.

What was written was:

"Major General McClellan having personally taken the field at the head of the Army of the Potomac, until otherwise ordered, he is relieved from the command of the other Military departments, he retaining command of the Department of the Potomac."

Note, whilst he was relieved of command of other departments, he was not relieved from the position of general-in-chief. If he was, it would say "relieved from the position of General-in-Chief".

If you wanted to make a comparison to a king, then Charles I of England would be better. As he was led to the block, he was still nominally the King of England, it's just England had redefined itself to be a Republic.



Which shows how out of touch Stanton was. Wool's department was excluded from the command of the General-in-Chief in the same November 1861 order appoint McClellan to the position. It had never been under McClellan's command, and would not by under McClellan's command until Wool was assigned out of the department in June 1862, at which point McClellan assumed command of it.

Wool refused to recognise the authority of McClellan, citing that he had the brevet rank of major-general in the regular army with seniority predating McClellan.

The fact that Lincoln was able to remove Wool from McClellan's command whilst it is undisputed that he was General-in-Chief shows that authority over all departments and the position of GINC were not indivisible. Lincoln could redefine the limits of the general-in-chief as much as he wanted, but it did not change who the general-in-chief was.

In reality, whilst it was Stanton's intent to remove him, no doubt, that is not the order he actually wrote for Lincoln.
So McClellan was general-in-chief to you, but no one else, after March 11.
  • He had none of l the power of the general-in-chief -- but you say he was the general-in-chief.
  • The US Army thinks the position was vacant from the March removal of McClellan to the July appointment of Halleck -- but you say McClellan was the general-in-chief. There is a JAG paper back in the 1940s that says the position was vacant from March to July, but you say McClellan was the general-in-chief.
  • After the documents I posted above, Stanton and Lincoln request Wool to refrain from exercising his authority in his own department and do everything he can to assist McClellan, Wool willingly agrees to do so without orders -- but you say McClellan was the general-in-chief.
  • Army Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas also says McClellan is no longer General-in-Chief:
    • WAR DEPARTMENT, ADJUTANT-GENERAL'S OFFICE,
      Washington, March 15, 1862.
      Brig. Gen. AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE:
      U. S. Volunteers, Comdg., &c., Roanoke Island, N. C.:
      SIR: On Sunday last the iron-clad steamer Merrimac, called by the rebels the Virginia, ran out from Norfolk, attacked our blockading squadron, destroyed two frigates and two gunboats. She was subsequently beaten back in a severe battle with our steamer Monitor, and has not since attempted to come out.
      The rebel army has retreated from Winchester and Manassas, and retired, without fighting a battle, beyond the Rappahannock. The batteries on the Potomac have also been abandoned. These movements were made evidently in great haste, as they left behind pieces of artillery and other stores which they had not time to destroy.
      The President's Order, No. 3, herewith inclosed,(*) relieves Major-General McClellan from the command of the Army, and confines him to the Army of the Potomac. The Secretary of War directs that you make your reports and returns to him. He also directs that you forward dispatches to him on the return of the dispatch vessel, and permit no officer to detain her on any pretext whatever.
      I inclose herewith a copy of a dispatch from Major-General McClellan, dated the 13th instant.(+)
      I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
      L. THOMAS,
      Adjutant-General.
Heck, McClellan himself changed the title with his signature to simply "Major-General" after receiving Lincoln's order, dropping all reference to commanding the US Army -- but you insist McClellan was the general-in-chief. Even McClellan does not seem to agree with you.

You remain completely wrong on this.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
So McClellan was general-in-chief to you, but no one else, after March 11.
Heck, McClellan himself changed the title with his signature to simply "Major-General" after receiving Lincoln's order, dropping all reference to commanding the US Army -- but you insist McClellan was the general-in-chief. Even McClellan does not seem to agree with you.

You remain completely wrong on this.
McClellan continued to wear the three star rank insignia of General-in-Chief and did so in the presence of Lincoln, Stanton etc. Why did no-one correct him? Because he was still General-in-Chief.

GWO3 had only relieved the General-in-Chief of command of parts of the army. It did not change who the General-in-Chief was. That happened in July, and McClellan removed his third star from his uniform after he'd been properly relieved.

A company commander who has 2 of his 3 platoons removed and attached to other companies is still that company commander. You might argue that the company doesn't exist, but it does until ordered out of existence. Said company commander might only have one of his platoons under his command, but he is still the company commander. Same thing. McClellan might not be able to exercise control of all of the army, but his status as the general-in-chief has not been changed by the order, only the responsibilities of the general-in-chief have been changed.

If Stanton/ Lincoln had wanted to relieve him of the position, then they should have gave an order to that effect. They did not.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
McClellan continued to wear the three star rank insignia of General-in-Chief and did so in the presence of Lincoln, Stanton etc. Why did no-one correct him? Because he was still General-in-Chief.

GWO3 had only relieved the General-in-Chief of command of parts of the army. It did not change who the General-in-Chief was. That happened in July, and McClellan removed his third star from his uniform after he'd been properly relieved.

A company commander who has 2 of his 3 platoons removed and attached to other companies is still that company commander. You might argue that the company doesn't exist, but it does until ordered out of existence. Said company commander might only have one of his platoons under his command, but he is still the company commander. Same thing. McClellan might not be able to exercise control of all of the army, but his status as the general-in-chief has not been changed by the order, only the responsibilities of the general-in-chief have been changed.

If Stanton/ Lincoln had wanted to relieve him of the position, then they should have gave an order to that effect. They did not.
Yet other senior Army officers, such as the Adjutant-General of the Army, thought and acted as if he had been removed. Apparently his choice of dress is more relevant to you.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
… It did not change who the General-in-Chief was. That happened in July, and McClellan removed his third star from his uniform after he'd been properly relieved.



If Stanton/ Lincoln had wanted to relieve him of the position, then they should have gave an order to that effect. They did not.
Note that the order appointing Halleck made no mention of McCellan being relieved. So are you arguing that was not done properly either?
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Note that the order appointing Halleck made no mention of McCellan being relieved. So are you arguing that was not done properly either?
From Inside Lincoln's White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay:
1632100463436.png

So apparently Lincoln, Seward, Stanton and Chase thought McClellan was being relieved on March 11, when the order was sent out.
 

Lubliner

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Chattanooga, Tennessee
It sounds to me like even at that time the order was issued, there was some misunderstanding to its full meaning. Both Lomax and Wool contend that McClellan was relieved of the GINC position, for he no longer had the legal status to fulfil it. And both make direct statements of the relief of that command, but how were the received dispatched worded when notifying the two about McClellan. It almost appears to me as though the formalities of explicit detail were set aside for a time, just so McClellan would have the opportunity to prove his own meddle, and thus making so much less confusion by some form of reinstatement. The only reason this is legal is because it was done by the President's will, and by July there was enough dissatisfaction to remove the third star from his shoulders. It is a nitpicking scenario that ought not be confused with legalese that gives no depth of attributable forethought, IMO.
Lubliner.
 

67th Tigers

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Note that the order appointing Halleck made no mention of McCellan being relieved. So are you arguing that was not done properly either?

It is done by implication. There is only one GINC, and on 26th June Halleck accepts Lincoln's 11th June offer. When this is confirmed, McClellan removed the third star from his uniform.
Yet other senior Army officers, such as the Adjutant-General of the Army, thought and acted as if he had been removed. Apparently his choice of dress is more relevant to you.
This relates to whether he could have relieved Hamilton or not.

1. If McClellan was not GINC, then there would have been no mechanism for him to remove Hamilton without a charge.
2. If this were true, his relief of Hamilton would be an illegal act, and Stanton could have McClellan arrested.
3. McClellan was not arrested.

I know you've committed to this because you want to establish the idea that department commanders could fire and fire. Unfortunately, with McClellan this is confused by his GINC status.
 

67th Tigers

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Joined
Nov 10, 2006
It sounds to me like even at that time the order was issued, there was some misunderstanding to its full meaning. Both Lomax and Wool contend that McClellan was relieved of the GINC position, for he no longer had the legal status to fulfil it. And both make direct statements of the relief of that command, but how were the received dispatched worded when notifying the two about McClellan. It almost appears to me as though the formalities of explicit detail were set aside for a time, just so McClellan would have the opportunity to prove his own meddle, and thus making so much less confusion by some form of reinstatement. The only reason this is legal is because it was done by the President's will, and by July there was enough dissatisfaction to remove the third star from his shoulders. It is a nitpicking scenario that ought not be confused with legalese that gives no depth of attributable forethought, IMO.
Lubliner.

There are a few powers and privileges beyond those mentioned. McClellan continued to wear the rank, and draw the pay of the General-in-Chief.

The nitpicking is due to one of his residual rights. The GINC has the right to remove general officers not assigned "by order of the President" by simple reassignment. This is a right normal department commanders did not have. He exercised this right to fire Hamilton.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
It is done by implication. There is only one GINC, and on 26th June Halleck accepts Lincoln's 11th June offer. When this is confirmed, McClellan removed the third star from his uniform.
Here is how the US Army sees it:
  1. McClellan was General-in-Chief until March 11, 1862
  2. The position of General-in-Chief was vacant from then until Halleck assumes it
  3. Halleck arrives in Washington and becomes General-in-Chief on July 23, 1862
McClellan wearing the third star is a matter of personal conceit, not official government policy or decision. He was probably in the wrong doing it, but no one made a fuss about it.

This relates to whether he could have relieved Hamilton or not.

1. If McClellan was not GINC, then there would have been no mechanism for him to remove Hamilton without a charge.
2. If this were true, his relief of Hamilton would be an illegal act, and Stanton could have McClellan arrested.
3. McClellan was not arrested.

I know you've committed to this because you want to establish the idea that department commanders could fire and fire. Unfortunately, with McClellan this is confused by his GINC status.

Again, you are wrong on this. You are contradicting other things you, yourself, have said in recent posts.

McClellan was removed as General-in-Chief on March 11, 1862
McClellan was acting as commander of the Army of the Potomac from that point on.
McClellan appointed General Hamilton to a division command in that army on March 13, 1862.
McClellan relieved General Hamilton as division commander in that army on April 30, 1862.

Since you have reminded me of Hamilton, I would still like to see your answer to this:
Indeed, and McClellan invited Lincoln to give the order restoring Hamilton. Lincoln declined to do so.
I ask again:

Do you actually believe this? What makes you think so? Do you have a source you can show us to back up what you say here -- because it sure looks like McClellan did exactly the opposite of what you are claiming.
 

Belfoured

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Aug 3, 2019
Here is how the US Army sees it:
  1. McClellan was General-in-Chief until March 11, 1862
  2. The position of General-in-Chief was vacant from then until Halleck assumes it
  3. Halleck arrives in Washington and becomes General-in-Chief on July 23, 1862
McClellan wearing the third star is a matter of personal conceit, not official government policy or decision. He was probably in the wrong doing it, but no one made a fuss about it.



Again, you are wrong on this. You are contradicting other things you, yourself, have said in recent posts.

McClellan was removed as General-in-Chief on March 11, 1862
McClellan was acting as commander of the Army of the Potomac from that point on.
McClellan appointed General Hamilton to a division command in that army on March 13, 1862.
McClellan relieved General Hamilton as division commander in that army on April 30, 1862.

Since you have reminded me of Hamilton, I would still like to see your answer to this:

I ask again:

Do you actually believe this? What makes you think so? Do you have a source you can show us to back up what you say here -- because it sure looks like McClellan did exactly the opposite of what you are claiming.
The job was not specifically defined at the time, but had one role, which McClellan himself stated in one sentence in Own Story - "my own sphere of command and responsibility was extended from the Army of the Potomac to all the armies." After March 11 he no longer had that "sphere of command". He never issued another order to any other department heads, such as Halleck, and lacked any authority to issue orders to departments created after that date. As stated in Own Story, he never even re-entered the office of the G in C and had no access to the papers of that office. He literally exercised no authority as G in C after March 11.

Every reputable historian who has addressed the subject has stated that he was removed as G in C, and was replaced by the team of Stanton and Lincoln until Halleck was appointed on July 23. As you note, Hamilton was relieved by the CO of the Army of the Potomac, and nobody at the time thought otherwise. McClellan's own correspondence on the Hamilton removal is clear that the issue involved McClellan acting as the army's commanding general relieving a division commander in his army. What on earth do we think would have been the response if he had told Lincoln that he was exercising his powers as G in C?

As I pointed out, Lincoln did not have to hold a defrocking ceremony in the White House and pry a star off each shoulder bar. McClellan knew that he could no longer act as G in C after March 11, and he never did.
 

Belfoured

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
It is done by implication. There is only one GINC, and on 26th June Halleck accepts Lincoln's 11th June offer. When this is confirmed, McClellan removed the third star from his uniform.

This relates to whether he could have relieved Hamilton or not.

1. If McClellan was not GINC, then there would have been no mechanism for him to remove Hamilton without a charge.
2. If this were true, his relief of Hamilton would be an illegal act, and Stanton could have McClellan arrested.
3. McClellan was not arrested.

I know you've committed to this because you want to establish the idea that department commanders could fire and fire. Unfortunately, with McClellan this is confused by his GINC status.

"Done by implication". For somebody who insists on "de jure", operating by the letter, etc you become extremely flexible when the letter doesn't support your argument.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Here is how the US Army sees it:
McClellan was still General-in-Chief. He had not been relieved.

Consider the case of General Scott, who from late 1857 to 12th December 1860 had command of about half-a-dozen men - his personal staff headed by Lorenzo Thomas. Whilst throughout this whole period he was general-in-chief, command of the forces had been assigned elsewhere. The President can do what he wants with the army.

The position of general-in-chief and the actual command of the army were different. No-one would suggest Scott wasn't general-in-chief in 1859, would they? Yet he had less command in the army than McClellan in April 1862.

That many people make this mistake is because the subtleties of the legal statuses aren't understood.
 

67th Tigers

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McClellan wearing the third star is a matter of personal conceit, not official government policy or decision. He was probably in the wrong doing it, but no one made a fuss about it.

Hilarious. You really think that Stanton isn't going to have him arrested for wearing the incorrect rank?

No-one mentioned it because he was still legally the General-in-Chief. The GinC had no legal right to command anyone except the proscribed staff set out in regulations. All other command was by assignment by the President. The President could assign the whole of the army, or none of it to the general-in-chief without changing his status as general-in-chief.

Thank Jeff Davis for that confused mess!
 

Belfoured

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Aug 3, 2019
Hilarious. You really think that Stanton isn't going to have him arrested for wearing the incorrect rank?

No-one mentioned it because he was still legally the General-in-Chief. The GinC had no legal right to command anyone except the proscribed staff set out in regulations. All other command was by assignment by the President. The President could assign the whole of the army, or none of it to the general-in-chief without changing his status as general-in-chief.

Thank Jeff Davis for that confused mess!
Stanton didn't "mention it" because there was no need. Lincoln and Stanton knew - and McClellan knew - that he could no longer direct any of the other departments to do anything. That was the only remotely material function of the position, and it's how McClellan summarized the duties of the position in one clear, unambiguous sentence. You really think that Stanton isn't going to have him arrested the minute he purports to take one action - any action - as G in C? As McClellan later said, he never even went to the G in C's office and sat at the desk with the name plate.

As for "staff", how many orders did McClellan issue to the Adjutant General (Thomas) after March 11 and how many of his orders to others were issued through Thomas after that date? Be careful - I don't mean McClellan's pleas or reports to Thomas or through Thomas to Stanton. There were plenty of those, as there were from other generals. I mean orders.
 

trice

Colonel
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May 2, 2006
Hilarious. You really think that Stanton isn't going to have him arrested for wearing the incorrect rank?

No-one mentioned it because he was still legally the General-in-Chief. The GinC had no legal right to command anyone except the proscribed staff set out in regulations. All other command was by assignment by the President. The President could assign the whole of the army, or none of it to the general-in-chief without changing his status as general-in-chief.

Thank Jeff Davis for that confused mess!
Please stop this. The three-star shoulder strap for the General-in-Chief was not an actual rank. Traditionally, the general-in-chief position was simply the senior officer.

Winfield Scott and Edmund Gaines had spent eight years arguing about which one of them would succeed Jacob Brown (incapacitated in 1821, died in 1828). They badgered the rest of the Army, the War Department, the Congress and two Presidents about it over that eight-year period, arguing interminably over tiny points -- both had a brevet rank of Major General with a date of rank of difference dating back to 1814. Both had the same substantive date of rank for their Brigadier General, Colonel and Lt. Colonel ranks. Gaines insisted he should be general-in-chief because he had a substantive date of rank as Major earlier than Scott's. Scott insisted he should be general-in-chief because his brevet Major General commission pre-dated Gaines brevet Major General commission by about 20 days.

President Andrew Jackson (himself a former US Army Major General) was sick and tired of listening to this squabbling. Jackson finally promoted Macomb over their heads to substantive Major General -- not brevet -- with a date of rank of May 28, 1828. Since substantive ranks are superior to equivalent brevet ranks in the US Army, Jackson made Macomb the most senior major general in the US Army when he did this -- even though the brevet ranks of Gaines and Scot were from 1814.

Essentially, Andrew Jackson got ticked and told both Gaines and Scott to stuff it.

Macomb then decided he needed a distinctive insignia to show that he was above Scott and Gaines. Macomb designed the three-star shoulder strap and started wearing it. After that, Macomb had it inserted into a clause of the new 1934 Regulations -- six years after Jackson made him general-in-chief by promoting Macomb to be the most senior major general in the Army.

Macomb died in June 1841, setting the stage for another Scott-Gaines feud over the position -- but no one wanted to repeat the 1821-28 mess and Gaines was ill. Secretary of War Bell recommended Scott and President John Tyler promoted Scott to substantive Major General, date of rank June 25, 1841 -- making Winfield Scott the most senior major general in the Army. Scott becomes General in Chief as of July 5, 1841. Scott remains as general-in-chief commanding the US Army until November 1, 1861 when McClellan takes over.

Scott did not exercise his functions as commanding officer of the Army from November 26, 1846 to May 10, 1849. The reason is obvious: he was commanding a field army during the War with Mexico. In the 1840s, travel and communication delays alone would have made that impossible. He resumes those functions when he returns to the US.

During that period -- despite having the same substantive rank as Macomb and the same general-in-chief position as Macomb, Winfield Scott does not wear the three-star shoulder strap that Macomb concocted. Winfield Scott only begins to wear the three-star shoulder strap when he is commissioned a brevet Lieutenant General on March 7, 1855 (date of rank March, 1847). The three-star shoulder strap business is all about pomp and circumstance for the general-in-chief, not the position. If you want to put on a show, you wear it, that's all.

So Winfield Scott was general-in-chief for a bit over 20 years -- and he did not wear the three-star shoulder strap for the first 14 years of that period. He only wore it after he had been promoted to brevet Lieutenant General.

During the period you are talking about, Stanton may not have known McClellan was still wearing the three-star shoulder strap. I am not even sure Stanton saw McClellan during that period, since McClellan's HQ was in a different building than Stanton's, McClellan was trying to keep away from Washington, and in any case McClellan soon left for the Peninsula.
 

Belfoured

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Please stop this. The three-star shoulder strap for the General-in-Chief was not an actual rank. Traditionally, the general-in-chief position was simply the senior officer.

Winfield Scott and Edmund Gaines had spent eight years arguing about which one of them would succeed Jacob Brown (incapacitated in 1821, died in 1828). They badgered the rest of the Army, the War Department, the Congress and two Presidents about it over that eight-year period, arguing interminably over tiny points -- both had a brevet rank of Major General with a date of rank of difference dating back to 1814. Both had the same substantive date of rank for their Brigadier General, Colonel and Lt. Colonel ranks. Gaines insisted he should be general-in-chief because he had a substantive date of rank as Major earlier than Scott's. Scott insisted he should be general-in-chief because his brevet Major General commission pre-dated Gaines brevet Major General commission by about 20 days.

President Andrew Jackson (himself a former US Army Major General) was sick and tired of listening to this squabbling. Jackson finally promoted Macomb over their heads to substantive Major General -- not brevet -- with a date of rank of May 28, 1828. Since substantive ranks are superior to equivalent brevet ranks in the US Army, Jackson made Macomb the most senior major general in the US Army when he did this -- even though the brevet ranks of Gaines and Scot were from 1814.

Essentially, Andrew Jackson got ticked and told both Gaines and Scott to stuff it.

Macomb then decided he needed a distinctive insignia to show that he was above Scott and Gaines. Macomb designed the three-star shoulder strap and started wearing it. After that, Macomb had it inserted into a clause of the new 1934 Regulations -- six years after Jackson made him general-in-chief by promoting Macomb to be the most senior major general in the Army.

Macomb died in June 1841, setting the stage for another Scott-Gaines feud over the position -- but no one wanted to repeat the 1821-28 mess and Gaines was ill. Secretary of War Bell recommended Scott and President John Tyler promoted Scott to substantive Major General, date of rank June 25, 1841 -- making Winfield Scott the most senior major general in the Army. Scott becomes General in Chief as of July 5, 1841. Scott remains as general-in-chief commanding the US Army until November 1, 1861 when McClellan takes over.

Scott did not exercise his functions as commanding officer of the Army from November 26, 1846 to May 10, 1849. The reason is obvious: he was commanding a field army during the War with Mexico. In the 1840s, travel and communication delays alone would have made that impossible. He resumes those functions when he returns to the US.

During that period -- despite having the same substantive rank as Macomb and the same general-in-chief position as Macomb, Winfield Scott does not wear the three-star shoulder strap that Macomb concocted. Winfield Scott only begins to wear the three-star shoulder strap when he is commissioned a brevet Lieutenant General on March 7, 1855 (date of rank March, 1847). The three-star shoulder strap business is all about pomp and circumstance for the general-in-chief, not the position. If you want to put on a show, you wear it, that's all.

So Winfield Scott was general-in-chief for a bit over 20 years -- and he did not wear the three-star shoulder strap for the first 14 years of that period. He only wore it after he had been promoted to brevet Lieutenant General.

During the period you are talking about, Stanton may not have known McClellan was still wearing the three-star shoulder strap. I am not even sure Stanton saw McClellan during that period, since McClellan's HQ was in a different building than Stanton's, McClellan was trying to keep away from Washington, and in any case McClellan soon left for the Peninsula.
Those are solid points, including what Stanton knew regarding McClellan's shoulder straps commencing March 12 (if he even would have cared). The Army of the Potomac commenced its movement to the Peninsula from Alexandria less than a week later (March 17). I'll wager that McClellan was tied up with this and Stanton wasn't on site to perform uniform compliance inspections - there were things happening in those other departments that GBM no longer controlled.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
McClellan was still General-in-Chief. He had not been relieved.

Consider the case of General Scott, who from late 1857 to 12th December 1860 had command of about half-a-dozen men - his personal staff headed by Lorenzo Thomas. Whilst throughout this whole period he was general-in-chief, command of the forces had been assigned elsewhere. The President can do what he wants with the army.

The position of general-in-chief and the actual command of the army were different. No-one would suggest Scott wasn't general-in-chief in 1859, would they? Yet he had less command in the army than McClellan in April 1862.

That many people make this mistake is because the subtleties of the legal statuses aren't understood.
Strangely enough, the US Army does not believe what you have imagined.
 

Belfoured

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Strangely enough, the US Army does not believe what you have imagined.
And - not surprisingly - "crickets" on the point I raised about Adjutant General Thomas, who would be involved with the G in C as part of that position's staff, but with other generals only in their roles as supplicants for help or as reporters of their activities. Yet that is the character of McClellan's correspondence with Thomas after March 11. Apparently there is no answer for McClellan's own description of how he understood the position and how that description applied after his command over "all the armies" was eliminated on March 11. McClellan understood; Lincoln understood; Stanton understood; Halleck and the other dep't CO's understood; the Adjutant General understood. Everybody in the mix at the time understood. Everybody who has written about it since has understood. In fact, thus far we haven't seen anything from anybody who did not understand that as of March 12 there was no G in C, and that Lincoln and Stanton were exercising that authority until Halleck was appointed on July 23.
 

trice

Colonel
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May 2, 2006
And - not surprisingly - "crickets" on the point I raised about Adjutant General Thomas, who would be involved with the G in C as part of that position's staff, but with other generals only in their roles as supplicants for help or as reporters of their activities. Yet that is the character of McClellan's correspondence with Thomas after March 11. Apparently there is no answer for McClellan's own description of how he understood the position and how that description applied after his command over "all the armies" was eliminated on March 11. McClellan understood; Lincoln understood; Stanton understood; Halleck and the other dep't CO's understood; the Adjutant General understood. Everybody in the mix at the time understood. Everybody who has written about it since has understood. In fact, thus far we haven't seen anything from anybody who did not understand that as of March 12 there was no G in C, and that Lincoln and Stanton were exercising that authority until Halleck was appointed on July 23.
Actually, I do not recall ever seeing any order appointing McClellan to be "General in Chief" of the Army. I have seen an order appointing Halleck to be General in Chief.

McClellan:

GENERAL ORDERS, No. 94​
WAR DEP'T, ADJT. GEN.'S OFFICE,​
Washington,November 1, 186l.​

The following order from the President of the United States, announcing the retirement from active command of the honored veteran Lieut. Gen. Winfield Scott will be read by the Army with profound regret:​
EXECUTIVE MANSION,
Washington, November 1, 1861.
On the 1st day of November, A.D. 1861, upon his own application to the President of the United States, Brevet Lieut. Gen. Winfield Scott is ordered to be placed, and hereby is placed, upon the list of retired officers of the Army of the United States, without reduction in his current pay, subsistence, or allowances.
The American people will hear with sadness and deep emotion that General Scott has withdrawn, from the active control of the Army, while the President and a unanimous Cabinet express their own and the nation's sympathy in his personal affliction, and their profound sense of the important public services rendered by him to his country during his long and brilliant career, among which will ever be gratefully distinguished his faithful devotion to the Constitution, the Union, and the Flag, when assailed by parricidal rebellion.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
The President is pleased to direct that Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan assume the command of the Army of the United States. The headquarters of the Army will be established in the city of Washington. All communications intended for the Commanding- General will hereafter be addressed direct to the Adjutant-General. The duplicate returns, orders, and other papers, heretofore sent to the assistant adjutant-general, headquarters of the Army, will be discontinued.
By order of the Secretary of War:​
L. THOMAS,​
Adjutant-General.​

Halleck:

WAR DEPARTMENT,​
July 11, 1862.​
Major-General HALLECK, Corinth:​
The President has this day made the following order, which I hasten to communicate to you:​

EXECUTIVE MANSION,
Washington, July 11, 1862.
Ordered, That Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck be assigned to command the whole land forces of the United States as General-in-Chief, and that he repair to this capital so soon as he can with safety to the positions and operations within the department under his charge.
A. LINCOLN.

You will please acknowledge the receipt of this order, and state when you may be expected here. Your early presence is required by many circumstances.​
EDWIN M. STANTON,​
Secretary of War.​

So we know for sure that Halleck was appointed to be "General-in-Chief". McClellan was appointed to be "assume the command of the Army of the United States".
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Please stop this. The three-star shoulder strap for the General-in-Chief was not an actual rank. Traditionally, the general-in-chief position was simply the senior officer.
No, the general-in-chief position was defined in the 1834 Army Regulations, and modified slightly over the course of various regulations until Jeff Davis deleted the article defining the position in 1857.

The regulations throughout this entire period were the the General-in-Chief wore three stars, other major-generals two stars and brigadier-generals one star.

The general-in-chief position was an appointment. Indeed, Scott wore the three stars (on epaulets) in Mexico. This in itself was queried, and it was the position of the government that Scott had been relieved of the position on 23rd November 1846 when he went on campaign, and it was the position of Scott that he continued to be general-in-chief. Modern writers generally think he was still general-in-chief. Either way, Scott was assigned to the Eastern Division on 31st August 1847 as an "other" major-general rather than resuming his former post. He was reappointed to be general-in-chief on 20th May 1849.

We could discuss whether Scott was general-in-chief from 1846 to 1849, which is often ignored because he was reassigned to the office. However, to admit that Scott was general-in-chief in this period is also to admit that McClellan was general-in-chief until 26th July 1862.

Further, with the 1857 Regulations, Scott was completely stripped of all responsibilities. He then commanded as the President assigned, rather than commanding the army as per regulations. He was not so assigned, and hence remained in New York for four years in command of only his personal staff. On 12th December 1860 he was recalled to Washington and assigned to command the army. To construct a case that McClellan was not general-in-chief because a large part of the army was not assigned to his command anymore (and indeed, never had the whole army been under his command), one would have to admit that from 1857 to December 1860 Scott was not general-in-chief.
 
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