Restricted What was the cause for President Lincoln's loss of confidence in General McClellan?

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Hoseman

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Contrary to several other's opinions, I believe Lincoln had a very good grasp on the war. He knew that Little Mac was supposed to be the rising star in the army and hoped he was the man who would lead the AOP to victory in the east. But Lincoln started having serious doubts about McClellan's ability early on for a multitude of reasons. McClellan never had enough men and was continually calling for more men to the point of absurdity. He was paranoid, partially because of bad intelligence being given by Pinkerton, in that he always thought he was greatly outnumbered. He would give the president a date when the army was to leave and the date would come and go and he hadn't moved an inch. When Lincoln asked, there was always an excuse and his army would be delayed several more weeks for seemingly no good reason. When his army finally reached the lower Peninsula it moved at a snails pace despite being opposed by a much smaller force that tricked him into thinking they had many more men than they actually had in his front. McClellan was very disrespectful to Lincoln and I believe Lincoln should have cashiered him the moment he cowered at Harrison's Landing under the protection of his gunboats after Malvern Hill. If you read his letters to his wife it becomes clear that one of his biggest faults was his ego which was the size of Texas. He certainly thought highly of himself and he demonstrated over and over that he was not the man for the job and Lincoln showed great patience in dealing with him. McClellan was like a 5 star, can't miss, blue chip football recruit. He had the pedigree, talked the talk and looked the part. But when the big lights came on he became timid and folded under the pressure and blamed everyone else for his failures.
 

Saphroneth

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Permission to submit a letter does not guarantee that the letter is going to be viewed favorably.
It does mean McClellan didn't "overstep his bounds", though.

All it did was show Lincoln that he had a general who was not only not getting his own job done, but also disagreed with the way Lincoln was doing his.
Which can be attributed to the manpower problem.

McClellan never had enough men and was continually calling for more men to the point of absurdity.
Really? Is it absurd to ask for the number of men you outlined as necessary to conduct a military operation?
Is it absurd to ask for reinforcements which just about everyone who ever voiced an opinion on the matter agreed should be sent?


He would give the president a date when the army was to leave and the date would come and go and he hadn't moved an inch.
Example, please?

When Lincoln asked, there was always an excuse and his army would be delayed several more weeks for seemingly no good reason.
In what instance did McClellan delay for no good reason?

When his army finally reached the lower Peninsula it moved at a snails pace despite being opposed by a much smaller force that tricked him into thinking they had many more men than they actually had in his front.
In fact on the Peninsula McClellan was facing quite a large army quite quickly - Johnston moved almost the whole field army down to oppose him. On what date do you think McClellan "moved at a snails pace despite being opposed by a much smaller force" etc.?

I believe Lincoln should have cashiered him the moment he cowered at Harrison's Landing under the protection of his gunboats after Malvern Hill.
Oddly Lincoln promised to send McClellan about 40,000-50,000 reinforcements after Malvern Hill, but then never sent him any.
As calculated by Joseph Harsh, Lee's army during the Seven Days was larger than that of McClellan fighting the same campaign. Lee subsequently got reinforced.


If on the other hand McClellan had easily enough troops to attack Richmond, the solution would be simple - fire McClellan and replace him. Not pull his forces back, which was what was done - which seems to demonstrate that the problem was not "the army is big enough but McClellan doesn't want to attack" but "the army is south of Richmond and I want it north of Richmond".




So the question at the nub of all this is - what was the force ratio that faced McClellan?

It changed a lot, naturally, as we're talking about several months of warfare. But if you can pinpoint a date or campaign you find objectionable we can look at the numbers.

Please be specific - pick your best example.

The reason why I ask for the best example is that that way we can look at that specific example. If McClellan was "always" doing this, then it should be easy to find an example!
 

Hoseman

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It does mean McClellan didn't "overstep his bounds", though.


Which can be attributed to the manpower problem.


Really? Is it absurd to ask for the number of men you outlined as necessary to conduct a military operation?
Is it absurd to ask for reinforcements which just about everyone who ever voiced an opinion on the matter agreed should be sent?



Example, please?


In what instance did McClellan delay for no good reason?


In fact on the Peninsula McClellan was facing quite a large army quite quickly - Johnston moved almost the whole field army down to oppose him. On what date do you think McClellan "moved at a snails pace despite being opposed by a much smaller force" etc.?


Oddly Lincoln promised to send McClellan about 40,000-50,000 reinforcements after Malvern Hill, but then never sent him any.
As calculated by Joseph Harsh, Lee's army during the Seven Days was larger than that of McClellan fighting the same campaign. Lee subsequently got reinforced.


If on the other hand McClellan had easily enough troops to attack Richmond, the solution would be simple - fire McClellan and replace him. Not pull his forces back, which was what was done - which seems to demonstrate that the problem was not "the army is big enough but McClellan doesn't want to attack" but "the army is south of Richmond and I want it north of Richmond".




So the question at the nub of all this is - what was the force ratio that faced McClellan?

It changed a lot, naturally, as we're talking about several months of warfare. But if you can pinpoint a date or campaign you find objectionable we can look at the numbers.

Please be specific - pick your best example.

The reason why I ask for the best example is that that way we can look at that specific example. If McClellan was "always" doing this, then it should be easy to find an example!
I can’t believe that anyone would defend him in 2019. Have you read his letters to his wife?
 
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Saphroneth

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I can’t believe that anyone would defend him in 2019.
Which should, itself, be a sign that something is a bit skewed about McClellan's position in history. This is someone who was the attacker on the bloodiest single day of combat in the Civil War and is criticized for being insufficiently aggressive that day, and the only person who inflicted more casualties on Lee than the reverse.


Have you read his letters to his wife?
How many people from history do we have those for in the first place?

Joseph Harsh (H) on the subject:

M: But McClellan does not seem unlikeable only by comparison. What of the letters in his memoirs that reveal a man who is petulant, childish in some ways, impatient, even spoiled? Those letters make it difficult for us to like McClellan in his own right, regardless of where he stands in relation to anyone else.
H: I’m glad you asked that question because the letters are at or near the heart of the negative impression that has persisted about McClellan.
M: They are not flattering.
H: I disagree. First of all, the letters have been extensively quoted. I think they have not been extensively read. I think it’s easy to pick quotations that make readers suck in their breath in horror that anyone could not be in awe of Abraham Lincoln. I view the letters as revealing someone who is essentially admirable.
M: Pardon me? You’re kidding.
H: They are in effect a diary. His relationship with his wife Ellen was so close that those letters to her are almost stream-of-consciousness. The events flow over him, and he reacts immediately, as in a diary. That’s how they have to be read. Keeping a diary is a form of therapy. When you read these letters in that fashion you see a man under tremendous pressure, you can see them in a different light. And he was young, relatively inexperienced.
M: Do you think this youth had more to do with his ultimate failure than perhaps has been considered? He was 35 on the Peninsula; he was relieved of command before his 36th birthday.
H: I don’t think so. Grant and several others have made an important point. McClellan’s difficulties might not have been so directly related to his youth as to his sudden elevation to command. McClellan didn’t have the chance to work his way up the chain of command.
M: Right. Many of the commanders that we view as successful – Meade, Grant and Sherman for example – grew into army command. They came up through brigade, divisional and corps command.
H: If some of those men had had their careers chopped off after a year and a half, they wouldn’t have been very outstanding. In fact Grant wouldn’t have been outstanding at all.
M: Sherman either.
H: Absolutely. McClellan could have been 54 rather than 34 and still have been suddenly elevated to army command. So the earliness rather than the youth is a factor.



Now, can we focus perhaps on his actual operations as a general?
I'll expand my previous suggestion:



So - which action as a general in the field or as a grand strategist is McClellan's largest failing?

There's a lot of time to choose from, naturally, as we're talking about several months of warfare. But if you can pinpoint a date or campaign you find objectionable we can look at the numbers and situation.

Please be specific - pick your best example.

The reason why I ask for the best example is that that way we can look at that specific example. If McClellan was "always" doing this, then it should be easy to find an example!




ED: I should also note that, per a post I gave earlier in the thread, McClellan's strategic concept of operations was fundamentally sound. There is no need to look further for the reason he did not take Richmond than the fact he had to execute his campaign with fewer troops than he planned to use; any operation against Richmond with the number of troops he had to use would have been enormously difficult.
 
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wausaubob

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It was political. McClellan and Buell were relieved. Eventually McClernand and Rosecrans lost their commands. Even John Logan was passed over for Howard, who was more acceptable to the abolitionist wing of the Republican party. Many of US officers were Democrats and had Confederate friends. Eventually Stanton and Seward were weeding out people who they saw as potential competitors.
 

Hoseman

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Which should, itself, be a sign that something is a bit skewed about McClellan's position in history. This is someone who was the attacker on the bloodiest single day of combat in the Civil War and is criticized for being insufficiently aggressive that day, and the only person who inflicted more casualties on Lee than the reverse.



How many people from history do we have those for in the first place?

Joseph Harsh (H) on the subject:

M: But McClellan does not seem unlikeable only by comparison. What of the letters in his memoirs that reveal a man who is petulant, childish in some ways, impatient, even spoiled? Those letters make it difficult for us to like McClellan in his own right, regardless of where he stands in relation to anyone else.
H: I’m glad you asked that question because the letters are at or near the heart of the negative impression that has persisted about McClellan.
M: They are not flattering.
H: I disagree. First of all, the letters have been extensively quoted. I think they have not been extensively read. I think it’s easy to pick quotations that make readers suck in their breath in horror that anyone could not be in awe of Abraham Lincoln. I view the letters as revealing someone who is essentially admirable.
M: Pardon me? You’re kidding.
H: They are in effect a diary. His relationship with his wife Ellen was so close that those letters to her are almost stream-of-consciousness. The events flow over him, and he reacts immediately, as in a diary. That’s how they have to be read. Keeping a diary is a form of therapy. When you read these letters in that fashion you see a man under tremendous pressure, you can see them in a different light. And he was young, relatively inexperienced.
M: Do you think this youth had more to do with his ultimate failure than perhaps has been considered? He was 35 on the Peninsula; he was relieved of command before his 36th birthday.
H: I don’t think so. Grant and several others have made an important point. McClellan’s difficulties might not have been so directly related to his youth as to his sudden elevation to command. McClellan didn’t have the chance to work his way up the chain of command.
M: Right. Many of the commanders that we view as successful – Meade, Grant and Sherman for example – grew into army command. They came up through brigade, divisional and corps command.
H: If some of those men had had their careers chopped off after a year and a half, they wouldn’t have been very outstanding. In fact Grant wouldn’t have been outstanding at all.
M: Sherman either.
H: Absolutely. McClellan could have been 54 rather than 34 and still have been suddenly elevated to army command. So the earliness rather than the youth is a factor.



Now, can we focus perhaps on his actual operations as a general?
I'll expand my previous suggestion:



So - which action as a general in the field or as a grand strategist is McClellan's largest failing?

There's a lot of time to choose from, naturally, as we're talking about several months of warfare. But if you can pinpoint a date or campaign you find objectionable we can look at the numbers and situation.

Please be specific - pick your best example.

The reason why I ask for the best example is that that way we can look at that specific example. If McClellan was "always" doing this, then it should be easy to find an example!




ED: I should also note that, per a post I gave earlier in the thread, McClellan's strategic concept of operations was fundamentally sound. There is no need to look further for the reason he did not take Richmond than the fact he had to execute his campaign with fewer troops than he planned to use; any operation against Richmond with the number of troops he had to use would have been enormously difficult.
You mention that he was the attacker at Sharpsburg and inflicted more casualties on Lee than in reverse and was criticized for not being aggressive enough. For goodness sake, he was literally handed Lee's game plan, his troop dispositions, strength, etc. Lee had divided his command and nearly half of his army was still at Harper's Ferry when McClellan attacked. Mac had 85,000 men on the field that morning vs Lee's 25,000. McClellan should have annihilated the ANV before noon that day before the other brigades could come up from Harper's Ferry. And Mac held a portion of his army in reserve that was never used. So yes, he deserves a huge amount of criticism for Sharpsburg. He was handed the best opportunity of the entire war to him on a golden platter with the captured orders and Lee's army divided and still could not beat him despite the 3:1 advantage he had in the morning. He spent most of his time in the rear during the battle and had no clear idea of what was going on. He ordered Burnside to attack early in the morning but that attack never came until late in the afternoon. McClellan should have galloped to the front and demanded that Burnside attack early. Instead the attacks were launched on the right, then the middle and finally with Burnside on the left. This allowed Lee to shuffle troops during the day to where the were most needed at the time. Had McClellan attacked both flanks simultaneously or nearly at the same time then Lee would have been in a world of hurt and both his flanks would have collapsed. And he would have had to try to scramble back across the Potomac which would have made him trapped. It was the absolute perfect chance to bag the ANV and McClellan simply was not the man for the job. Had Grant or Lee been in command of the AOP that day he would have decimated and maybe even bagged the majority of the ANV. And most people consider Sharpsburg McClellan's best performance. McClellan's gift was training, planning and organizing, it certainly was not combat.
 
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Saphroneth

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Okay, so let's go through this lot.

For goodness sake, he was literally handed Lee's game plan, his troop dispositions, strength, etc.
He wasn't. SO 191 is a movement order from a few days ago; it gives Lee's plan at that time, but it does not give the strengths of the units involved and McClellan has no confirmation that Lee is keeping to the order.

He does get confirmation that Lee has divided his command, yes, and South Mountain is predicated on this.


nearly half of his army was still at Harper's Ferry when McClellan attacked.
This is incorrect. McClellan attacked on the morning of the 17th.

The units in Lee's army by brigades were:

Forces in Longstreet's main body and DH Hill, thus already on the field on the 15th:
Evans (1 brigade)
Hood's division (2 brigades)
DH Hill's division (5 brigades)
Jones' division (6 brigades)

Forces that arrived from south of the Potomac:
McLaws division (4 brigades) - arrive on the field dawn of the 17th (and are available to be put in by 0800 hours)
Anderson's division (6 brigades) - arrive on the field dawn of the 17th (ditto)
Ewell's division (4 brigades) - arrive afternoon of the 16th.
Jackson's division (4 brigades) - cross Boteler's Ford dawn of the 16th.
Walker's division (2 brigades) - cross Boteler's Ford noon of the 16th.
AP Hill's division (5 brigades) - arrive afternoon of the 17th.

So as of the point McClellan attacks everyone except AP Hill is on the field - that's 34 out of the 39 brigades, though some of the men from McLaws and Anderson's ten brigades are still straggling in.


Mac had 85,000 men on the field that morning vs Lee's 25,000.
And I've no idea where you get that number. McClellan's 87,164 number is his PFD before straggling, and by the same metric Lee's force is about 75,000.

AP Hill's division is about 9,400 PFD and is not on the field; thus on the morning of the 17th before straggling Lee had at least 65,000 men (though straggling reduced this, it also reduced the strength of the Union army).

And Mac held a portion of his army in reserve that was never used.
Yes, Morell's division, of which one brigade was assisting the massed artillery and was probably not fully available (so 2 brigades in reserve) and one brigade of Sykes which was behind the troops actually engaged. Everything else was being used in the battle line, though some brigades of Franklin were not actually launching attacks.
Interestingly McClellan did actually commit the two brigades of Morell to the northern sector, but while they were still marching over there Burnside's corps collapsed and he recalled them.

Of McClellan's ca. 43.5 infantry brigades, 33 made assaults. That's a huge fraction, and most of the remainder was holding the battle line in places where it wasn't protected by a river; Burnside of course was asking for reinforcement by the end of the day, and would ultimately soak up another 4-5 brigades.

McClellan launched assaults on 17th September 1862 with exactly as large a fraction of his brigades as Lee launched assaults on Gettysburg up to but not including Pickett's Charge.



He ordered Burnside to attack early in the morning but that attack never came until late in the afternoon. McClellan should have galloped to the front and demanded that Burnside attack early.
Perhaps he should have done, though McClellan at the time was needed at the CP because Morell and Franklin hadn't yet arrived - he had to direct them to where he wanted them as they arrived.
Of course, if he goes over there he loses track of what's going on on the other side of the field.

The difficult question is when McClellan should have gone over to Burnside - any suggestions for when he should have done it?

Had McClellan attacked both flanks simultaneously or nearly at the same time then Lee would have been in a world of hurt and both his flanks would have collapsed.
It's quite possible it would have; as the battle stood Lee managed to parry all of McClellan's attacks with a total number of brigades used exactly two greater than the number he had on hand at the beginning of the day. (He had three brigades that didn't fire a shot, and AP Hill turned up with a total of five.)



Had Grant or Lee been in command of the AOP that day he would have decimated and maybe even bagged the majority of the ANV.
Did either of them ever do something like that to a field army close in strength to their own?

Of course, McClellan did cut the strength of Lee's army pretty harshly in the Maryland campaign, by at least 1/6, so I suppose he did better than "decimate".


And most people consider Sharpsburg McClellan's best performance.
I'd say the strategic concept behind the Peninsular campaign is up there. It's a course of operations which McClellan takes up with less than half the troops he originally thought it would take to operate against Richmond; he endures the loss of several divisions of troops after he's embarked on the campaign and only gets any of them back after considerable time and lobbying. Despite this, a hundred days after he embarks on the campaign he's moving siege artillery onto the bluffs within range of Richmond, and if he'd been sent the troops he was promised back in May we know where he'd have put them; they would have prevented his being forced away from Richmond.
 
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67th Tigers

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Part 1 of what will be a multi-part post.

We should note there was a debate about the boundaries between the civilian government and the military in 1861-2.

No-one doubted that the Constitution invested the powers of "commander in chief" with the President. However, in all previous wars the President had appointed a "general in chief", and in the 1820's this post was made permanent. The role of POTUS was to set policy, that of SECWAR to allocate resources, and that of GinC to command and control operations.

Lincoln stepped into a situation where the GinC (Scott) was acting far too independently for him. Chase, with Lincoln's approval, created a parallel command structure with a committee of Lorenzo Thomas (Adj Gen), Irvin McDowell and Wm. Franklin creating their own plan. The result was the Bull Run operation, which was what Lincoln, Chase and the committee came up with. It was of course a disaster.

In the wake of Bull Run, McClellan was called to Washington. McClellan essentially supplanted the old committee and there were still two parallel command structures in the army; Scott and McClellan. Since McClellan conversed directly with the government, this irked Scott. For several months this situation continued, with Scott trying to assert absolute authority over McClellan, despite McClellan receiving orders directly from POTUS and SECWAR. Scott's issue was that he thought he should be in absolute command - Lincoln should tell him war policy, and Scott should enact it without regard to POTUS. This was the understanding of the civil-military relationship that had existed since the old Continental Army.

McClellan for his part tried to work with Scott. In mid-October he organised divisions out of the Army of the Potomac, contravening Scott's explicit order. This brought about a confrontation and Scott basically said "him or me" to Lincoln and gave in a letter of resignation. This did not impress Lincoln, who accepted the resignation, but refused the recommendation of Halleck in favour of McClellan. (NB: Halleck was not Scott's first choice, which was Col Totten, but Totten refused)

In the 1st November Cabinet, Lincoln questioned Bates about the legal status of GinC. It is clear that Lincoln was reluctant to appoint anyone, and wanted to leave the post empty and run the war himself. Bates assured him that the GinC was a lieutenant to the POTUS, and Lincoln was indeed supreme commander. Lincoln then issued the order, but excluded MG Wool and his command (Wool had been promoted MG by brevet in 1847, and considered the office of GinC his by right of seniority).

For two months McClellan laboured as GinC, and he did what was asked of him by Lincoln. On assuming the office he sent Buell and Halleck to assume command of the two western departments. In Sherman's department, only 4 brigades had been organised (at Camp Nevin by McCook) but had no transportation etc. to take to the field, and the rest of the department just consisted of regiments at various camps of instruction or occupation. In Fremont's department there were no organised brigades.

McClellan assigned Halleck to replace Fremont, ordering him to concentrate a field army on the Mississippi once he'd sorted the department out. His orders to Buell were to concentrate an army to seize Knoxville and the Cumberland Gap. These reflected Lincoln's concerns - reopen the Mississippi (and McClellan started to create an expedition to New Orleans) and liberate East Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Lincoln's popularity, such as it was,was in freefall. Starting with his repudiation of the Fremont emancipation Lincoln came to seen to be support the slavocracy. Lincoln recalled the Sec'y of War's annual report for being too pro-emancipation, and had it redacted. He needed immediate military victories to shore up his own position. McClellan however went down with fever, and was at one point expected to die. Cameron, the Sec'y of War, had to be purged in early January as a threat to the government. Lincoln would continue to annoy the Radicals with actions like pardoning an African slave trader in early February etc.

With all this going on, at the beginning of January, Chase reformed his committee. It primarily still consisted of McDowell and Franklin. Chase knew McClellan's plan to make an amphibious movement down the Chesapeake, because Lincoln (who of course discussed it with McClellan) asked McClellan to brief Chase. Initially McDowell favoured another direct assault on Centreville, but after discussion of the Chesapeake plan, the committee adopted it.

At the same time, Lincoln started to assume direct command. He cut Cameron out before forcing him to resign, and at the same time consulted Bates about whether he could assume direct command of all forces. Bates' argument is worth a read, but Bates' theory was that there was no use for a GinC, and that Lincoln as POTUS should assume direct command of all forces. Lincoln indeed did assume command, and found that he could not get Halleck or Buell to move, and also met Chase's committee where he asks about "borrowing" the Army of the Potomac "provided he could see how it could be made to do something". The committee replied with the Peninsula plan. Lincoln approved the plan.

A few days later the committee met with the rump cabinet, with Meigs in attendance. Meigs was there to report on the feasibility of moving the army down the Chespeake. In walked McClellan, and resumed command. Chase asked for McClellan to state his plan in cabinet, and McClellan asked whether Lincoln would order it. He didn't. Everyone in the room had heard McClellan's plan, either first hand (Lincoln and Chase certainly), or second hand from the committee. However McClellan's refusal to have the plans placed in the official minutes of the cabinet is misconstrued as him keeping his plans from Lincoln. He did not. On the same day, Lincoln nominated Stanton to be Sec'y of War.

Not much happens for the following fortnight. McClellan resumed command, but in the interim Buell and Thomas had cancelled the advance to the Cumberland Gap. CF Smith reported Forts Henry and Donelson could easily be taken in accordance with McClellan's orders to Halleck. On the 20th January Cameron handed over his office to Stanton. That evening McClellan held a reception for Stanton, and afterwards Stanton had a meeting with Ben Wade and his fellow radicals, and they agreed that the existence of a General-in-Chief was "illegal" and that McClellan should be removed from office and Stanton should run the army directly.

Stanton's first move was to get Lincoln to write his "War Orders". These were in fact written by Stanton, probably as a way of removing McClellan, and approved by Lincoln. As we know, as soon as McClellan moved against Centreville on 11th March, Stanton, Bates etc. ambushed Lincoln in Cabinet and forced him to suspend the office of GinC. Stanton immediately seized the office, and all McClellan's papers. The orders were a typical "****ed if you do, ****ed if you don't trick" that a lawyer would pull; if McClellan didn't throw his army directly into the Centreville entrenchments then he'd disobeyed an order, but if he did then he'd vacated his office.

As it was, McClellan asked Lincoln if his orders were peremptory (in which case he'd obey without question), or whether he could rebut them. Lincoln indicated that he could give a rebuttal, and that if he did then Lincoln would "gladly yield my plan to yours". McClellan's 22 page long rebuttal was apparently effective, as the President suspended the order. He approved the Urbanna Plan on two provisos: that the B&O Railroad be reopened, and that the rebel batteries on the Potomac be removed.

Lincoln was still not happy, preferring his own idea. McClellan reoccupied the line of the B&O RR and had the railroad back in service. There was an argument that developed when McClellan sent a report to Lincoln, through Stanton, about why Lincoln's idea of using canal boats failed. It was found that Stanton had pocketed the report and not passed it on.

However, on the evening of 27th February he authorised starting to assemble transports. The Navy was still procrastinatng about landing Hooker to deal with the Potomac batteries. Lincoln suggested to McClellan that the division commanders should vote on it, or rather Stanton suggested that Lincoln suggest this. Lincon told McClellan that if the vote went against him, then McClellan would be replaced by Fremont as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Stanton meanwhile was telegraphing EA Hitchcock to come to Washington to assume the chair of a new "War Board". It was a disaster for Lincoln, as the result was 8-4 in McClellan's favour.

Almost immediately Johnston retreated, and McClellan and his army chased him to the Rappahannock. Stanton moved against McClellan, delivering his case to the cabinet (as recorded in Bates' diary). He argued that McClellan wasn't really GinC, and that the existence of such a position was illegal and unconstitutional. Bates repeated his advice. Lincoln assented to Stanton's and Bates' proposition that McClellan wasn't GinC and all armies should report to Stanton. Stanton seized McClellan's office.

Unhappy with the result of the last vote, Stanton appointed corps commanders (which Lincoln rubberstamped) from those opposed to McClellan's plans, and got them to vote again. Amazingly, whilst the CC's rejected the Urbanna plan, they substituted an even worse plan - the Peninsula. The same day Stanton held the first meeting of the War Board, and his ousting of McClellan was complete. Instead of Lincoln assuming personal command, what had happened was that Stanton had seized command of the armies.

With the amphibious movement continually approved, Lincoln and Stanton had no choice but to assent. The initial movement was slow, because Stanton and Meigs were in charge of providing shipping. Stanton had already embarrassed himself with purchasing a large number of schooners etc., and having them loaded with rocks to block the Potomac against the Virginia ("Stanton's Navy" as Lincoln called it, and that it was "as useless as the paps of a man to a sucking child"). There is some confusion in the historiography, as "Stanton's Navy" and the Peninsula transports are almost always conflated. The War Department procured large numbers of schooners in late February and early March for "Stanton's Navy", but these sat at Washington being filled with rocks, and weren't available as transports.

Ingalls received the first transports on 4th March - 2 small propellers and 2 schooners, all needing refitting. They came in slowly, and by 17th March there was enough transportation to embark one division. Hamilton's division embarked on the 18th. Another divisions worth of transports was acculumated and Porter's division embarked on the 22nd when the return convoy from the Hamilton movement arrived (only the Naval escort went immediately back). The movement of division is best explained by a table:

Transport%2Bfor%2Bthe%2BPeninsula.png

Table 1: Notional transport groups for the Peninsula movement. Eventually transports for three divisions were acquired (groups 1-3), with the 3 groups making their first movements on the 18th, 22nd and 27th March respectively. It took one day to embark a division, another to run it to Ft Monroe, two days to offload, and then another to run back, so each group could move one division every 5 days. On 29th March it was asked whether to embark Hooker etc., or 1st Corps. A storm disrupted movement for several days, and when it cleared Richardson's division had been on ship and went. On the 4th McClellan sent to embark "at least Franklin" and as much else as could be embarked and land them at Gloucester. Franklin's division got off the ships on the 5th. For cavalry, the capacity to transport two regiments was acquired (groups 4 and 5). There was excess capacity for one "battalion" of artillery (group 5), which was used for a lift of the Reserve. Casey's division moved without artillery or heavy equipment.

On 27th March, Stanton asked the War Board if McClellan had left Washington perfectly secure. They concluded that he had. Not liking that answer, he asked Wadsworth to write him a brief explaining Washington's weakness, and then asked Hitchcock and Lorenzo Thomas to reassess. They concluded he hadn't, by applying a much higher standard than that agreed by Lincoln. Stanton ambushed Lincoln with this brief and asked to suspend the movement of 1st Corps, which he assented to. Franklin's division were actually ordered off the transports.

Initial Conclusions

In examining the Lincoln-McClellan relationship, it's worth noting several things:

1. Lincoln was not a strong leader. Whilst he made quips etc., he did not "lead" cabinet or policy. He was mostly lead by others.
2. Chase moved to create a parallel command structure to usurp Scott before McClellan came to Washington. When McClellan arrived, he was used to create another parallel command structure usurping Scott.
3. Before January '62 McClellan, Cameron and Lincoln had a perfect understanding of their relative responsibilities, and enacted them.
4. Bates was pushing a theory that overturned the existing relationship between POTUS and the GinC. When Stanton replaced Cameron he was on board with this, but with the twist that the SECWAR was a necessary intermediary (proving that the GinC role was necessary, it's just the SECWAR wanted it).
5. With McClellan ill, another attempt was made to create a parallel command structure, reinstating the pre-McClellan committee.
6. Although not mentioned above, in late January Congress authorised two additional Assistant SECWARs, and these took on the traditional role of SECWAR.
7. From his appointment, Stanton intrigued to usurp the GinC position for himself. He succeeded when McClellan took to the field. He then intrigued to create an army for himself.

I shall continue this, but this has been underway for several days...
 

DanSBHawk

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Part 1 of what will be a multi-part post.

We should note there was a debate about the boundaries between the civilian government and the military in 1861-2.

No-one doubted that the Constitution invested the powers of "commander in chief" with the President. However, in all previous wars the President had appointed a "general in chief", and in the 1820's this post was made permanent. The role of POTUS was to set policy, that of SECWAR to allocate resources, and that of GinC to command and control operations.

Lincoln stepped into a situation where the GinC (Scott) was acting far too independently for him. Chase, with Lincoln's approval, created a parallel command structure with a committee of Lorenzo Thomas (Adj Gen), Irvin McDowell and Wm. Franklin creating their own plan. The result was the Bull Run operation, which was what Lincoln, Chase and the committee came up with. It was of course a disaster.

In the wake of Bull Run, McClellan was called to Washington. McClellan essentially supplanted the old committee and there were still two parallel command structures in the army; Scott and McClellan. Since McClellan conversed directly with the government, this irked Scott. For several months this situation continued, with Scott trying to assert absolute authority over McClellan, despite McClellan receiving orders directly from POTUS and SECWAR. Scott's issue was that he thought he should be in absolute command - Lincoln should tell him war policy, and Scott should enact it without regard to POTUS. This was the understanding of the civil-military relationship that had existed since the old Continental Army.

McClellan for his part tried to work with Scott. In mid-October he organised divisions out of the Army of the Potomac, contravening Scott's explicit order. This brought about a confrontation and Scott basically said "him or me" to Lincoln and gave in a letter of resignation. This did not impress Lincoln, who accepted the resignation, but refused the recommendation of Halleck in favour of McClellan. (NB: Halleck was not Scott's first choice, which was Col Totten, but Totten refused)

In the 1st November Cabinet, Lincoln questioned Bates about the legal status of GinC. It is clear that Lincoln was reluctant to appoint anyone, and wanted to leave the post empty and run the war himself. Bates assured him that the GinC was a lieutenant to the POTUS, and Lincoln was indeed supreme commander. Lincoln then issued the order, but excluded MG Wool and his command (Wool had been promoted MG by brevet in 1847, and considered the office of GinC his by right of seniority).

For two months McClellan laboured as GinC, and he did what was asked of him by Lincoln. On assuming the office he sent Buell and Halleck to assume command of the two western departments. In Sherman's department, only 4 brigades had been organised (at Camp Nevin by McCook) but had no transportation etc. to take to the field, and the rest of the department just consisted of regiments at various camps of instruction or occupation. In Fremont's department there were no organised brigades.

McClellan assigned Halleck to replace Fremont, ordering him to concentrate a field army on the Mississippi once he'd sorted the department out. His orders to Buell were to concentrate an army to seize Knoxville and the Cumberland Gap. These reflected Lincoln's concerns - reopen the Mississippi (and McClellan started to create an expedition to New Orleans) and liberate East Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Lincoln's popularity, such as it was,was in freefall. Starting with his repudiation of the Fremont emancipation Lincoln came to seen to be support the slavocracy. Lincoln recalled the Sec'y of War's annual report for being too pro-emancipation, and had it redacted. He needed immediate military victories to shore up his own position. McClellan however went down with fever, and was at one point expected to die. Cameron, the Sec'y of War, had to be purged in early January as a threat to the government. Lincoln would continue to annoy the Radicals with actions like pardoning an African slave trader in early February etc.

With all this going on, at the beginning of January, Chase reformed his committee. It primarily still consisted of McDowell and Franklin. Chase knew McClellan's plan to make an amphibious movement down the Chesapeake, because Lincoln (who of course discussed it with McClellan) asked McClellan to brief Chase. Initially McDowell favoured another direct assault on Centreville, but after discussion of the Chesapeake plan, the committee adopted it.

At the same time, Lincoln started to assume direct command. He cut Cameron out before forcing him to resign, and at the same time consulted Bates about whether he could assume direct command of all forces. Bates' argument is worth a read, but Bates' theory was that there was no use for a GinC, and that Lincoln as POTUS should assume direct command of all forces. Lincoln indeed did assume command, and found that he could not get Halleck or Buell to move, and also met Chase's committee where he asks about "borrowing" the Army of the Potomac "provided he could see how it could be made to do something". The committee replied with the Peninsula plan. Lincoln approved the plan.

A few days later the committee met with the rump cabinet, with Meigs in attendance. Meigs was there to report on the feasibility of moving the army down the Chespeake. In walked McClellan, and resumed command. Chase asked for McClellan to state his plan in cabinet, and McClellan asked whether Lincoln would order it. He didn't. Everyone in the room had heard McClellan's plan, either first hand (Lincoln and Chase certainly), or second hand from the committee. However McClellan's refusal to have the plans placed in the official minutes of the cabinet is misconstrued as him keeping his plans from Lincoln. He did not. On the same day, Lincoln nominated Stanton to be Sec'y of War.

Not much happens for the following fortnight. McClellan resumed command, but in the interim Buell and Thomas had cancelled the advance to the Cumberland Gap. CF Smith reported Forts Henry and Donelson could easily be taken in accordance with McClellan's orders to Halleck. On the 20th January Cameron handed over his office to Stanton. That evening McClellan held a reception for Stanton, and afterwards Stanton had a meeting with Ben Wade and his fellow radicals, and they agreed that the existence of a General-in-Chief was "illegal" and that McClellan should be removed from office and Stanton should run the army directly.

Stanton's first move was to get Lincoln to write his "War Orders". These were in fact written by Stanton, probably as a way of removing McClellan, and approved by Lincoln. As we know, as soon as McClellan moved against Centreville on 11th March, Stanton, Bates etc. ambushed Lincoln in Cabinet and forced him to suspend the office of GinC. Stanton immediately seized the office, and all McClellan's papers. The orders were a typical "****ed if you do, ****ed if you don't trick" that a lawyer would pull; if McClellan didn't throw his army directly into the Centreville entrenchments then he'd disobeyed an order, but if he did then he'd vacated his office.

As it was, McClellan asked Lincoln if his orders were peremptory (in which case he'd obey without question), or whether he could rebut them. Lincoln indicated that he could give a rebuttal, and that if he did then Lincoln would "gladly yield my plan to yours". McClellan's 22 page long rebuttal was apparently effective, as the President suspended the order. He approved the Urbanna Plan on two provisos: that the B&O Railroad be reopened, and that the rebel batteries on the Potomac be removed.

Lincoln was still not happy, preferring his own idea. McClellan reoccupied the line of the B&O RR and had the railroad back in service. There was an argument that developed when McClellan sent a report to Lincoln, through Stanton, about why Lincoln's idea of using canal boats failed. It was found that Stanton had pocketed the report and not passed it on.

However, on the evening of 27th February he authorised starting to assemble transports. The Navy was still procrastinatng about landing Hooker to deal with the Potomac batteries. Lincoln suggested to McClellan that the division commanders should vote on it, or rather Stanton suggested that Lincoln suggest this. Lincon told McClellan that if the vote went against him, then McClellan would be replaced by Fremont as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Stanton meanwhile was telegraphing EA Hitchcock to come to Washington to assume the chair of a new "War Board". It was a disaster for Lincoln, as the result was 8-4 in McClellan's favour.

Almost immediately Johnston retreated, and McClellan and his army chased him to the Rappahannock. Stanton moved against McClellan, delivering his case to the cabinet (as recorded in Bates' diary). He argued that McClellan wasn't really GinC, and that the existence of such a position was illegal and unconstitutional. Bates repeated his advice. Lincoln assented to Stanton's and Bates' proposition that McClellan wasn't GinC and all armies should report to Stanton. Stanton seized McClellan's office.

Unhappy with the result of the last vote, Stanton appointed corps commanders (which Lincoln rubberstamped) from those opposed to McClellan's plans, and got them to vote again. Amazingly, whilst the CC's rejected the Urbanna plan, they substituted an even worse plan - the Peninsula. The same day Stanton held the first meeting of the War Board, and his ousting of McClellan was complete. Instead of Lincoln assuming personal command, what had happened was that Stanton had seized command of the armies.

With the amphibious movement continually approved, Lincoln and Stanton had no choice but to assent. The initial movement was slow, because Stanton and Meigs were in charge of providing shipping. Stanton had already embarrassed himself with purchasing a large number of schooners etc., and having them loaded with rocks to block the Potomac against the Virginia ("Stanton's Navy" as Lincoln called it, and that it was "as useless as the paps of a man to a sucking child"). There is some confusion in the historiography, as "Stanton's Navy" and the Peninsula transports are almost always conflated. The War Department procured large numbers of schooners in late February and early March for "Stanton's Navy", but these sat at Washington being filled with rocks, and weren't available as transports.

Ingalls received the first transports on 4th March - 2 small propellers and 2 schooners, all needing refitting. They came in slowly, and by 17th March there was enough transportation to embark one division. Hamilton's division embarked on the 18th. Another divisions worth of transports was acculumated and Porter's division embarked on the 22nd when the return convoy from the Hamilton movement arrived (only the Naval escort went immediately back). The movement of division is best explained by a table:

View attachment 306888
Table 1: Notional transport groups for the Peninsula movement. Eventually transports for three divisions were acquired (groups 1-3), with the 3 groups making their first movements on the 18th, 22nd and 27th March respectively. It took one day to embark a division, another to run it to Ft Monroe, two days to offload, and then another to run back, so each group could move one division every 5 days. On 29th March it was asked whether to embark Hooker etc., or 1st Corps. A storm disrupted movement for several days, and when it cleared Richardson's division had been on ship and went. On the 4th McClellan sent to embark "at least Franklin" and as much else as could be embarked and land them at Gloucester. Franklin's division got off the ships on the 5th. For cavalry, the capacity to transport two regiments was acquired (groups 4 and 5). There was excess capacity for one "battalion" of artillery (group 5), which was used for a lift of the Reserve. Casey's division moved without artillery or heavy equipment.

On 27th March, Stanton asked the War Board if McClellan had left Washington perfectly secure. They concluded that he had. Not liking that answer, he asked Wadsworth to write him a brief explaining Washington's weakness, and then asked Hitchcock and Lorenzo Thomas to reassess. They concluded he hadn't, by applying a much higher standard than that agreed by Lincoln. Stanton ambushed Lincoln with this brief and asked to suspend the movement of 1st Corps, which he assented to. Franklin's division were actually ordered off the transports.

Initial Conclusions

In examining the Lincoln-McClellan relationship, it's worth noting several things:

1. Lincoln was not a strong leader. Whilst he made quips etc., he did not "lead" cabinet or policy. He was mostly lead by others.
2. Chase moved to create a parallel command structure to usurp Scott before McClellan came to Washington. When McClellan arrived, he was used to create another parallel command structure usurping Scott.
3. Before January '62 McClellan, Cameron and Lincoln had a perfect understanding of their relative responsibilities, and enacted them.
4. Bates was pushing a theory that overturned the existing relationship between POTUS and the GinC. When Stanton replaced Cameron he was on board with this, but with the twist that the SECWAR was a necessary intermediary (proving that the GinC role was necessary, it's just the SECWAR wanted it).
5. With McClellan ill, another attempt was made to create a parallel command structure, reinstating the pre-McClellan committee.
6. Although not mentioned above, in late January Congress authorised two additional Assistant SECWARs, and these took on the traditional role of SECWAR.
7. From his appointment, Stanton intrigued to usurp the GinC position for himself. He succeeded when McClellan took to the field. He then intrigued to create an army for himself.

I shall continue this, but this has been underway for several days...
There are many questionable assertions in this post.

The roles of POTUS, SecWar, and GinC had never been written in stone. A couple examples: President Washington leading militia in the Whiskey rebellion, or GinC Winfield Scott going from administrator to field general in the Mexican war.

Lincoln's issues with Scott were not that he was acting too independently. There was no "parallel command structure." Scott was still GinC when McClellan arrived and began going behind his back.

The Jan '62 "committee" was requested by Lincoln, because the inaction of the armies and McClellan being sick.

After the Jan 10, '62 diary entry, Lincoln did get Halleck and Buell to move. Lincoln gave a date for offensive action and within a month Fort Henry had fallen with Fort Donelson to follow, with Buell occupying Nashville after that.

There is little doubt that McClellan was uncommunicative about his plans to Lincoln. The fact that McClellan had to write a "22 page rebuttal" to sell Lincoln on the Chesapeake shows that Lincoln was not in the loop until then.

The canal boat fiasco was not Lincolns failure. He was furious at McClellan about it and wrote, "Everything seems to fail. The general impression is daily gaining ground that the Gen. does not intend to do anything."

The 8-4 vote came right after this, and was not a "disaster" for Lincoln and Stanton. Lincoln had his doubts but let McClellan have his Chesapeake plan. Stanton's opinion was that it showed generals who were "afraid to fight."

The generals who became corps commanders were the senior generals.

Stanton had not seized control of the armies. Lincoln was still CinC and he was in ultimate command.

The confusion over the security of Washington would have not existed if McClellan had ensured that Lincoln understood the arrangements.

I would have to disagree with all 7 of the conclusions.
 
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67th Tigers

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Lincoln's issues with Scott were not that he was acting too independently. There was no "parallel command structure." Scott was still GinC when McClellan arrived and began going behind his back.
Yes it was. Lincoln wanted an offensive, and Scott refused. Chase created this parallel command structure which went around Scott. They planned the offensive against Bull Run and it failed.

The Jan '62 "committee" was requested by Lincoln, because the inaction of the armies and McClellan being sick.
Nope, Chase again. He reformed his committee in early January and on the 10th January they approached Lincoln. Lincoln endorsed them, but McClellan walked into their meeting of the 13th and did them in.


After the Jan 10, '62 diary entry, Lincoln did get Halleck and Buell to move. Lincoln gave a date for offensive action and within a month Fort Henry had fallen with Fort Donelson to follow, with Buell occupying Nashville after that.
No, he didn't. Both responded that what Lincoln asked was impossible, and what Lincoln asked was for Buell to move against Knoxville, and Halleck to support that movement. Since what happened doesn't correspond with what POTUS asked, Lincoln was hardly successful, was he?

Buell openly rebuffed Lincoln (unlike Halleck who merely pleaded ignorance and told Lincoln what he wanted was impossible), and on 6th January McClellan (having met Lincoln that day) wrote to Buell that Buell was mistaken, and he should advance Thomas immediately. Instead of course Thomas didn't move far, got attacked at Fishing Creek, and then retreated, abandoning the line of operations Lincoln and McClellan had agreed upon. Neither Buell nor Thomas saw any point to their orders, and so decided not to bother.

The Ft Donelson operation had it's genesis in a 3rd January order from McClellan to Halleck, and McClellan ordered Halleck to advance on Ft Henry and Ft Donelson after feinting at Columbus. It took Halleck a month to arrange it, but he did as ordered, and McClellan sent reinforcements from Buell.


There is little doubt that McClellan was uncommunicative about his plans to Lincoln. The fact that McClellan had to write a "22 page rebuttal" to sell Lincoln on the Chesapeake shows that Lincoln was not in the loop until then.
Since the rebuttal was to "My dear Sir: You and I have distinct, and different plans for a movement of the Army of the Potomac---yours to be down the Chesapeake, up the Rappahannock to Urbana, and across land to the terminus of the Railroad on the York River---, mine to move directly to a point on the Railroad South West of Manassas.", in what way does Lincoln not know McClellan's plans?

In fact McClellan had discussed them many times with Lincoln, and Lincoln had asked McClellan to brief Chase, which he did.

The canal boat fiasco was not Lincolns failure. He was furious at McClellan about it and wrote, "Everything seems to fail. The general impression is daily gaining ground that the Gen. does not intend to do anything."
It was Lincoln's idea. McClellan had a back-up plan for if it failed. It did fail for reasons previously discussed - the lock had bowed in due to neglect.

The 8-4 vote came right after this, and was not a "disaster" for Lincoln and Stanton. Lincoln had his doubts but let McClellan have his Chesapeake plan. Stanton's opinion was that it showed generals who were "afraid to fight."

The generals who became corps commanders were the senior generals.
Then why the second vote? Why the resistance even after the vote?

Stanton had not seized control of the armies. Lincoln was still CinC and he was in ultimate command.
But he had. The generals reported to Stanton, not to Lincoln. Lincoln might poke his head in, but Stanton was wielding the actual power.

The confusion over the security of Washington would have not existed if McClellan had ensured that Lincoln understood the arrangements.
McClellan had many meetings and wrote reports that (correctly) showed Washington was secure. Lincoln showed no doubt until Stanton walks into his office with a prepared brief and asks Lincoln to sign this order Stanton and Lorenzo Thomas have written grabbing 1st Corps. Lincoln is apparently bamboozled by Stanton, and signs the order without thinking about it. The fact that Lincoln didn't write to McClellan about the matter is probably because he didn't understand what he'd done. When forced to remove Blenker, Lincoln immediately wrote a quite apologetic letter, but now... nothing. On the 6th Lincoln replies to the second of McClellan's telegrams with a rather snide telegram that shows he doesn't know how strong McClellan actually is. Lincoln also referred to Wool's command being under McClellan's command, which of course it wasn't and never was.

One must wonder about how much Lincoln actually understood...

Oh, and thanks for reminding me about Stanton's intrigues to have Blenker and Hooker removed from the AoP and sent to Fremont. Stanton of course managed to get Blenker sent.
 

DanSBHawk

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Yes it was. Lincoln wanted an offensive, and Scott refused. Chase created this parallel command structure which went around Scott. They planned the offensive against Bull Run and it failed.



Nope, Chase again. He reformed his committee in early January and on the 10th January they approached Lincoln. Lincoln endorsed them, but McClellan walked into their meeting of the 13th and did them in.
Scott offered his advice but Lincoln was calling the shots. That's the way the American chain of command works. Lincoln was CinC and Scott was his subordinate. There was no "parallel command." And it was Lincoln's increasing impatience and frustration during the early part of the war that caused him to intervene. Chase was a non-issue. Lincoln had his number and knew exactly what he was all about.
No, he didn't. Both responded that what Lincoln asked was impossible, and what Lincoln asked was for Buell to move against Knoxville, and Halleck to support that movement. Since what happened doesn't correspond with what POTUS asked, Lincoln was hardly successful, was he?

Buell openly rebuffed Lincoln (unlike Halleck who merely pleaded ignorance and told Lincoln what he wanted was impossible), and on 6th January McClellan (having met Lincoln that day) wrote to Buell that Buell was mistaken, and he should advance Thomas immediately. Instead of course Thomas didn't move far, got attacked at Fishing Creek, and then retreated, abandoning the line of operations Lincoln and McClellan had agreed upon. Neither Buell nor Thomas saw any point to their orders, and so decided not to bother.

The Ft Donelson operation had it's genesis in a 3rd January order from McClellan to Halleck, and McClellan ordered Halleck to advance on Ft Henry and Ft Donelson after feinting at Columbus. It took Halleck a month to arrange it, but he did as ordered, and McClellan sent reinforcements from Buell.
Lincoln ordered the armies to go on the offensive by February 22 1862. He was tired of the inaction. Halleck got the message, and let Grant and Foote go with their plan for Henry/Donelson. McClellan had virtually nothing to do with it. In fact, McClellan was far more focused on east Tennessee than on the river forts. Really the effort in the west only started moving when Lincoln intervened, and much of the progress (Shiloh, Corinth, Island No. 10) only happened after McClellan was relieved as GinC.
Since the rebuttal was to "My dear Sir: You and I have distinct, and different plans for a movement of the Army of the Potomac---yours to be down the Chesapeake, up the Rappahannock to Urbana, and across land to the terminus of the Railroad on the York River---, mine to move directly to a point on the Railroad South West of Manassas.", in what way does Lincoln not know McClellan's plans?

In fact McClellan had discussed them many times with Lincoln, and Lincoln had asked McClellan to brief Chase, which he did.
First-hand primary sources from the time documented that McClellan refused to discuss his plans with Lincoln.
It was Lincoln's idea. McClellan had a back-up plan for if it failed. It did fail for reasons previously discussed - the lock had bowed in due to neglect.
It may well have been Lincoln or someone else's idea, but it was McClellans job to make it work and Washington was getting tired of the excuses.
Then why the second vote? Why the resistance even after the vote?
Lincoln was never enthused about it. Perhaps McClellan should have realized this, and either changed the plan or resigned.
But he had. The generals reported to Stanton, not to Lincoln. Lincoln might poke his head in, but Stanton was wielding the actual power.
Stanton wielded all the power he could, but he still had to obey his superior (Lincoln).
McClellan had many meetings and wrote reports that (correctly) showed Washington was secure. Lincoln showed no doubt until Stanton walks into his office with a prepared brief and asks Lincoln to sign this order Stanton and Lorenzo Thomas have written grabbing 1st Corps. Lincoln is apparently bamboozled by Stanton, and signs the order without thinking about it. The fact that Lincoln didn't write to McClellan about the matter is probably because he didn't understand what he'd done. When forced to remove Blenker, Lincoln immediately wrote a quite apologetic letter, but now... nothing. On the 6th Lincoln replies to the second of McClellan's telegrams with a rather snide telegram that shows he doesn't know how strong McClellan actually is. Lincoln also referred to Wool's command being under McClellan's command, which of course it wasn't and never was.

One must wonder about how much Lincoln actually understood...

Oh, and thanks for reminding me about Stanton's intrigues to have Blenker and Hooker removed from the AoP and sent to Fremont. Stanton of course managed to get Blenker sent.
I think the trophy for bizarre telegrams during the Peninsula campaign would go to McClellan, but the fact of the matter remains... If McClellan had ensured that Lincoln knew the plan to secure Washington before the operation began, then there would have been no issues from Stanton, Wadsworth, Thomas, Hitchcock, or anyone else.
 

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Contrary to several other's opinions, I believe Lincoln had a very good grasp on the war. He knew that Little Mac was supposed to be the rising star in the army and hoped he was the man who would lead the AOP to victory in the east. But Lincoln started having serious doubts about McClellan's ability early on for a multitude of reasons. McClellan never had enough men and was continually calling for more men to the point of absurdity. He was paranoid, partially because of bad intelligence being given by Pinkerton, in that he always thought he was greatly outnumbered. He would give the president a date when the army was to leave and the date would come and go and he hadn't moved an inch. When Lincoln asked, there was always an excuse and his army would be delayed several more weeks for seemingly no good reason. When his army finally reached the lower Peninsula it moved at a snails pace despite being opposed by a much smaller force that tricked him into thinking they had many more men than they actually had in his front. McClellan was very disrespectful to Lincoln and I believe Lincoln should have cashiered him the moment he cowered at Harrison's Landing under the protection of his gunboats after Malvern Hill. If you read his letters to his wife it becomes clear that one of his biggest faults was his ego which was the size of Texas. He certainly thought highly of himself and he demonstrated over and over that he was not the man for the job and Lincoln showed great patience in dealing with him. McClellan was like a 5 star, can't miss, blue chip football recruit. He had the pedigree, talked the talk and looked the part. But when the big lights came on he became timid and folded under the pressure and blamed everyone else for his failures.
Ah, @Hoseman, you have brought forth my initial perspective almost perfectly. And after much listening, I saw the contest and its purposes being carried forth contrary to my gut feelings. But I still listened, and to good argument on McClellan's behalf especially, being his own need for historic revision is due. I must admit to no less than three here on this thread topic that have culled the documents to an infinitely greater depth than I can focus upon. The arguments ought not be on numbers, for these are mostly verifiable. Instead, it still compresses into a solid argument over personality conflicts, ambitions, exertion of will by might, etc., between some very powerful men. Singly and alone, whether I speak of McClellan or Lincoln or Stanton, et.al., the real dynamism and strength occurs when these solitary strengths of character combine together in a united effort. They were not witnesses of themselves in their own hindsight as we are now to them. It is very clear a lesson can be learned for pulling together and not for separate ends. I am enjoying the discussion immensely, and request @DanSBHawk, @67th Tigers, and @Saphroneth to continue in this enlightening discussion, with grace and goodwill pervading, with us all.
Thank you, Lubliner.
 
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67th Tigers

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Scott offered his advice but Lincoln was calling the shots. That's the way the American chain of command works. Lincoln was CinC and Scott was his subordinate. There was no "parallel command." And it was Lincoln's increasing impatience and frustration during the early part of the war that caused him to intervene. Chase was a non-issue. Lincoln had his number and knew exactly what he was all about.
This goes right to the point. You are projecting a modern interpretation of Presidential powers onto 1861. Indeed, this expansion of Presidential powers into a "temporary King with divine right" is something that largely happens under Lincoln's aegis.

In 1861 the accepted interpretation was that military operations were the domain of the General-in-Chief. Scott pursued his own strategy, and Scott's strategy was contrary to what Lincoln wanted, and more importantly, what Lincoln's party wanted.

Whilst Chase was Sec'y of the Treasury, under Lincoln he assumed many of the powers of the SECWAR. Chase developed an alternative command pathway, and he had McDowell appointed BG in the regular army, and arranged to have him made a MG over the objections of Scott. That McDowell wasn't made a MG is mainly on McDowell, who refused the promotion. This is right at the beginning of the war, and it could have placed McDowell as the second highest ranking general in the army, ahead of McClellan and Fremont, who had yet to be promoted.

McDowell and Franklin* developed into an alternative command team, and in May Lincoln approved of the McDowell-Franklin plan, and created an army for McDowell against Scott's wishes. Things with Scott came to a head on 29th June when Lincoln summonsed both Scott, and McDowell to see him (Franklin was in NY collecting as many troops as possible for the planned offensive), and told Scott that McDowell's offensive would happen despite his objections.

* Capt Franklin was assigned to work on rebuilding the Treasury building, which is how he got involved - he knew Chase.

Lincoln ordered the armies to go on the offensive by February 22 1862. He was tired of the inaction. Halleck got the message, and let Grant and Foote go with their plan for Henry/Donelson. McClellan had virtually nothing to do with it. In fact, McClellan was far more focused on east Tennessee than on the river forts. Really the effort in the west only started moving when Lincoln intervened, and much of the progress (Shiloh, Corinth, Island No. 10) only happened after McClellan was relieved as GinC.
Lincoln had nothing to do with these movements. The Cumberland movement was ordered by McClellan on 3rd January, and it just took Halleck over a month to arrange it. Lincoln's only communications with Halleck were about whether Halleck could support Lincoln's favoured movement into East Tennessee.

Lincoln was obsessed with Knoxville, and McClellan pushed Buell into making a movement. Buell and Thomas both regarded the movement on Knoxville as pointless, and wanted to ignore it in favour of a Nashville movement. McClellan ordered Buell to send Thomas forward and reinforce that column, but Thomas only advanced as far as Fishing Creek and, despite repelling an attack, fell back to his base.

First-hand primary sources from the time documented that McClellan refused to discuss his plans with Lincoln.
13th January 1862, and he asked not to publicly state the Urbanna plan on the record.

Lincoln of course knew about the plan. Lincoln had sent a letter (not a telegram) to McClellan in early December (letter undated) asking how long it would take to prepare a frontal assault against Centreville combined with an ampibious landing at Dumfries. McClellan endorsed it back to Lincoln on the 10th, and told Lincoln:

1. That if the bridging trains were ready a movement might be possible on the 15th, but likely it would be the 25th.
2. That 104,000 troops could be thrown forward, 71,000 from Alexandria (7 divisions: Franklin, Heintzelman, McCall, McDowell, Porter, Smith and Sumner), and 33,000 from along the Potomac (3 divisions: Banks, Keyes and Stone). He made it clear that this involved leaving essentially no-one garrisoning Washington. In another hand it is noted that 50,000 were for the amphibious column (apparently based upon a memo McClellan sent to Lincoln on 28th November).
3. That the rebels could concentrate a "nearly equal" force against it (correct, they could concentrate the equivalent of 8 divisions to meet the 10 Federal divisions in a day, and under Lincoln's scheme could easily bottle up the landing force, crush the outnumber attackers on Centreville and then drive the landing group back into the river. It was not a great plan.)
4. He had an alternate plan - "I have now my mind actively turned towards another plan of campaign that I do not think at all anticipated by the enemy nor by many of our own people."

On the 12th, McClellan called on Chase, and they discussed McClellan's idea of a Chespeake movement. A month later Chase disclosed the idea to McDowell and Franklin, and told them that McClellan had told the President of his plan, and the President had told McClellan to confide in him. Since Chase soon thereafter left Washington and didn't see McClellan, it is clear that this is the meeting where McClellan told Chase, at Lincoln's direction, of the Urbana idea. It is thus clear that McClellan told Lincoln in person between the 10th and 12th December about the Urbana plan.

In the coming days Lincoln had many informal meetings with McClellan where strategy was discussed. He is known to have spent the evenings of at least the 18th, 19th and 21st at McClellan's House discussing matters with his GinC. Orville H Browning recorded the 19th and 21st in his diary, as he accompanied Lincoln.

Now, to the 13th January meeting, the usual account given is by Meigs, who was not in McClellan's confidence. Lincoln and Chase had been told of the Urbana plan by McClellan a month before. Indeed, Chase had told McDowell and Franklin of the plan, and they had adopted it as their own. Chase asked McClellan to formally tell the room about the plan, and so place it on record. McClellan indicated that Lincoln and him had already discussed and matter and stated he did not recognise the Sec'y of the Treasury's right to give the army an order. He asked Lincoln whether he wanted to give that order. Lincoln said no. Meigs of course was left in the dark, and was probably the only person not in the room who hadn't heard the plan *as McClellan's*.

McClellan later indicated the question was a trap, and it probably was. Chase was intriguing to have McDowell replace McClellan.

It may well have been Lincoln or someone else's idea, but it was McClellans job to make it work and Washington was getting tired of the excuses.
It did work. Lincoln's barges didn't fit, but the engineers quickly built a bridge. Winchester fell.

Lincoln was never enthused about it. Perhaps McClellan should have realized this, and either changed the plan or resigned.
Virtually every military authority Lincoln consulted told Lincoln that he was wrong. Lincoln pouted, and continued to seek a "yes man". In May he sent Seward and Chase to investigate what has happened and was horrified when they replied that McClellan had been right all along, and the 1st Corps and Shield's Division should be immediately transported by water to McClellan. Lincon didn't like that, and so ignored it. In June he traveled to West Point to consult Scott about it, and Scott said McClellan had been right all along, and 1st Corps should immediately go by water to McClellan.

The question is obvious - if virtually every authority agreed that McClellan was right, then why should Lincoln accept it?


Stanton wielded all the power he could, but he still had to obey his superior (Lincoln).
Stanton played Lincoln. There was no diffidence shown.
 
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DanSBHawk

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This goes right to the point. You are projecting a modern interpretation of Presidential powers onto 1861. Indeed, this expansion of Presidential powers into a "temporary King with divine right" is something that largely happens under Lincoln's aegis.

In 1861 the accepted interpretation was that military operations were the domain of the General-in-Chief. Scott pursued his own strategy, and Scott's strategy was contrary to what Lincoln wanted, and more importantly, what Lincoln's party wanted.

Whilst Chase was Sec'y of the Treasury, under Lincoln he assumed many of the powers of the SECWAR. Chase developed an alternative command pathway, and he had McDowell appointed BG in the regular army, and arranged to have him made a MG over the objections of Scott. That McDowell wasn't made a MG is mainly on McDowell, who refused the promotion. This is right at the beginning of the war, and it could have placed McDowell as the second highest ranking general in the army, ahead of McClellan and Fremont, who had yet to be promoted.

McDowell and Franklin* developed into an alternative command team, and in May Lincoln approved of the McDowell-Franklin plan, and created an army for McDowell against Scott's wishes. Things with Scott came to a head on 29th June when Lincoln summonsed both Scott, and McDowell to see him (Franklin was in NY collecting as many troops as possible for the planned offensive), and told Scott that McDowell's offensive would happen despite his objections.

* Capt Franklin was assigned to work on rebuilding the Treasury building, which is how he got involved - he knew Chase.
A study of the Mexican-American war shows that there was indeed a history in the US of a president having the authority to intervene and exert his control over the General in Chief. Read about how Polk and Scott got along during that war.

There was no parallel command structure. No alternative command team. Secretaries of the Treasury have never had the authority to appoint generals. Yes, Chase advocated for certain generals, such as Rosecrans, and Chase was also a supporter of McClellan. But Chase had no power if Lincoln decided to relieve one his favored generals from command. Lincoln understood Chase. He knew Chase was maneuvering to be president and Lincoln described Chase's scheming as "like the bluebottle fly, lays his eggs in every rotten spot he can find."
Lincoln had nothing to do with these movements. The Cumberland movement was ordered by McClellan on 3rd January, and it just took Halleck over a month to arrange it. Lincoln's only communications with Halleck were about whether Halleck could support Lincoln's favoured movement into East Tennessee.

Lincoln was obsessed with Knoxville, and McClellan pushed Buell into making a movement. Buell and Thomas both regarded the movement on Knoxville as pointless, and wanted to ignore it in favour of a Nashville movement. McClellan ordered Buell to send Thomas forward and reinforce that column, but Thomas only advanced as far as Fishing Creek and, despite repelling an attack, fell back to his base.
Lincoln had more to do with these movements than McClellan. Lincoln told Halleck and Buell on January 1st to communicate with each other and figure out how to work in concert. McClellans Jan 3rd telegram merely asked Halleck to create some feints and demonstrations so that the confederate forces opposing Buell in Kentucky would not be reinforced. It was Lincolns order and Grant/Foote urging that finally convinced Halleck to order the offensive.
13th January 1862, and he asked not to publicly state the Urbanna plan on the record.

Lincoln of course knew about the plan. Lincoln had sent a letter (not a telegram) to McClellan in early December (letter undated) asking how long it would take to prepare a frontal assault against Centreville combined with an ampibious landing at Dumfries. McClellan endorsed it back to Lincoln on the 10th, and told Lincoln:

1. That if the bridging trains were ready a movement might be possible on the 15th, but likely it would be the 25th.
2. That 104,000 troops could be thrown forward, 71,000 from Alexandria (7 divisions: Franklin, Heintzelman, McCall, McDowell, Porter, Smith and Sumner), and 33,000 from along the Potomac (3 divisions: Banks, Keyes and Stone). He made it clear that this involved leaving essentially no-one garrisoning Washington. In another hand it is noted that 50,000 were for the amphibious column (apparently based upon a memo McClellan sent to Lincoln on 28th November).
3. That the rebels could concentrate a "nearly equal" force against it (correct, they could concentrate the equivalent of 8 divisions to meet the 10 Federal divisions in a day, and under Lincoln's scheme could easily bottle up the landing force, crush the outnumber attackers on Centreville and then drive the landing group back into the river. It was not a great plan.)
4. He had an alternate plan - "I have now my mind actively turned towards another plan of campaign that I do not think at all anticipated by the enemy nor by many of our own people."

On the 12th, McClellan called on Chase, and they discussed McClellan's idea of a Chespeake movement. A month later Chase disclosed the idea to McDowell and Franklin, and told them that McClellan had told the President of his plan, and the President had told McClellan to confide in him. Since Chase soon thereafter left Washington and didn't see McClellan, it is clear that this is the meeting where McClellan told Chase, at Lincoln's direction, of the Urbana idea. It is thus clear that McClellan told Lincoln in person between the 10th and 12th December about the Urbana plan.

In the coming days Lincoln had many informal meetings with McClellan where strategy was discussed. He is known to have spent the evenings of at least the 18th, 19th and 21st at McClellan's House discussing matters with his GinC. Orville H Browning recorded the 19th and 21st in his diary, as he accompanied Lincoln.

Now, to the 13th January meeting, the usual account given is by Meigs, who was not in McClellan's confidence. Lincoln and Chase had been told of the Urbana plan by McClellan a month before. Indeed, Chase had told McDowell and Franklin of the plan, and they had adopted it as their own. Chase asked McClellan to formally tell the room about the plan, and so place it on record. McClellan indicated that Lincoln and him had already discussed and matter and stated he did not recognise the Sec'y of the Treasury's right to give the army an order. He asked Lincoln whether he wanted to give that order. Lincoln said no. Meigs of course was left in the dark, and was probably the only person not in the room who hadn't heard the plan *as McClellan's*.

McClellan later indicated the question was a trap, and it probably was. Chase was intriguing to have McDowell replace McClellan.
I will continue to believe the historians, like Ethan Rafuse, who describe McClellan at the January 13 meeting as "refusing to disclose his plans."
It did work. Lincoln's barges didn't fit, but the engineers quickly built a bridge. Winchester fell.
Lincolns barges? Here are a couple first hand accounts of the mood at the White House when McClellan failed: https://abrahamlincolnandthecivilwar.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/president-lincolns-frustration-with-mcclellan-boils-over/
Virtually every military authority Lincoln consulted told Lincoln that he was wrong. Lincoln pouted, and continued to seek a "yes man". In May he sent Seward and Chase to investigate what has happened and was horrified when they replied that McClellan had been right all along, and the 1st Corps and Shield's Division should be immediately transported by water to McClellan. Lincon didn't like that, and so ignored it. In June he traveled to West Point to consult Scott about it, and Scott said McClellan had been right all along, and 1st Corps should immediately go by water to McClellan.

The question is obvious - if virtually every authority agreed that McClellan was right, then why should Lincoln accept it?
In your link, Scott does not write anything that could reasonably be understood as McClellan being "right all along." Scott gives Lincoln his advice (yet again) about the present military situation.
 

DanSBHawk

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It did work. Lincoln's barges didn't fit, but the engineers quickly built a bridge.
So, about the "lock-jaw" canal boats being Lincolns idea... do you have any evidence for that?

Because reading the OR ser 1 vol 5, an engineer Lt Babcock in the AOP suggests the canal boats on Dec 7 1861, here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924077730194;view=1up;seq=693

Banks and his staff express doubt about the canal boat plan on January 21 1862, here:
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924077730194;view=1up;seq=721

Then, on Feb 1 1862, McClellan's chief engineer Barnard forwards the suggestion by Lt Babcock, here:
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924077730194;view=1up;seq=728

On Feb 26 1862, McClellan singles out the engineers, including Babcock, for the "splendid" job they did in constructing the foot bridge, recommends Babcock for promotion, and writes that they will attempt the canal-boat bridge tomorrow, here:
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924077730194;view=1up;seq=743

Unless there is some evidence to the contrary, it seems to me that the canal boat fiasco was the idea of McClellans engineers. And it should be noted that McClellan was an engineer as well, so it is reasonable to assume he should have had a better grasp of the operation.
 
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Hoseman

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Okay, so let's go through this lot.


He wasn't. SO 191 is a movement order from a few days ago; it gives Lee's plan at that time, but it does not give the strengths of the units involved and McClellan has no confirmation that Lee is keeping to the order.

He does get confirmation that Lee has divided his command, yes, and South Mountain is predicated on this.



This is incorrect. McClellan attacked on the morning of the 17th.

The units in Lee's army by brigades were:

Forces in Longstreet's main body and DH Hill, thus already on the field on the 15th:
Evans (1 brigade)
Hood's division (2 brigades)
DH Hill's division (5 brigades)
Jones' division (6 brigades)

Forces that arrived from south of the Potomac:
McLaws division (4 brigades) - arrive on the field dawn of the 17th (and are available to be put in by 0800 hours)
Anderson's division (6 brigades) - arrive on the field dawn of the 17th (ditto)
Ewell's division (4 brigades) - arrive afternoon of the 16th.
Jackson's division (4 brigades) - cross Boteler's Ford dawn of the 16th.
Walker's division (2 brigades) - cross Boteler's Ford noon of the 16th.
AP Hill's division (5 brigades) - arrive afternoon of the 17th.

So as of the point McClellan attacks everyone except AP Hill is on the field - that's 34 out of the 39 brigades, though some of the men from McLaws and Anderson's ten brigades are still straggling in.



And I've no idea where you get that number. McClellan's 87,164 number is his PFD before straggling, and by the same metric Lee's force is about 75,000.

AP Hill's division is about 9,400 PFD and is not on the field; thus on the morning of the 17th before straggling Lee had at least 65,000 men (though straggling reduced this, it also reduced the strength of the Union army).


Yes, Morell's division, of which one brigade was assisting the massed artillery and was probably not fully available (so 2 brigades in reserve) and one brigade of Sykes which was behind the troops actually engaged. Everything else was being used in the battle line, though some brigades of Franklin were not actually launching attacks.
Interestingly McClellan did actually commit the two brigades of Morell to the northern sector, but while they were still marching over there Burnside's corps collapsed and he recalled them.

Of McClellan's ca. 43.5 infantry brigades, 33 made assaults. That's a huge fraction, and most of the remainder was holding the battle line in places where it wasn't protected by a river; Burnside of course was asking for reinforcement by the end of the day, and would ultimately soak up another 4-5 brigades.

McClellan launched assaults on 17th September 1862 with exactly as large a fraction of his brigades as Lee launched assaults on Gettysburg up to but not including Pickett's Charge.




Perhaps he should have done, though McClellan at the time was needed at the CP because Morell and Franklin hadn't yet arrived - he had to direct them to where he wanted them as they arrived.
Of course, if he goes over there he loses track of what's going on on the other side of the field.

The difficult question is when McClellan should have gone over to Burnside - any suggestions for when he should have done it?


It's quite possible it would have; as the battle stood Lee managed to parry all of McClellan's attacks with a total number of brigades used exactly two greater than the number he had on hand at the beginning of the day. (He had three brigades that didn't fire a shot, and AP Hill turned up with a total of five.)




Did either of them ever do something like that to a field army close in strength to their own?

Of course, McClellan did cut the strength of Lee's army pretty harshly in the Maryland campaign, by at least 1/6, so I suppose he did better than "decimate".




I'd say the strategic concept behind the Peninsular campaign is up there. It's a course of operations which McClellan takes up with less than half the troops he originally thought it would take to operate against Richmond; he endures the loss of several divisions of troops after he's embarked on the campaign and only gets any of them back after considerable time and lobbying. Despite this, a hundred days after he embarks on the campaign he's moving siege artillery onto the bluffs within range of Richmond, and if he'd been sent the troops he was promised back in May we know where he'd have put them; they would have prevented his being forced away from Richmond.
You have done nothing here but make excuses for his failures as a commander. He was handed a chance that no other commander was given and failed miserably despite having at least a 3:1 manpower superiority the morning of of the battle of Sharpsburg. I have read on this subject for forty years and know that he simply was in over his head. He was a complete failure and Lincoln made the right choice to remove him. He could have come to Pope’s aid at 2nd Manassas and didn’t. This is a separate debacle that demonstrates he was unfit to command.
 

67th Tigers

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A study of the Mexican-American war shows that there was indeed a history in the US of a president having the authority to intervene and exert his control over the General in Chief. Read about how Polk and Scott got along during that war.
... or not.

"I can have no confidence in General Scott’s disposition to carry out the views of the administration as commander in chief of the army on the Del Norte, and yet unless Congress shall authorize the appointment of additional general officers I may be compelled to continue to entrust the command to him. If I shall be compelled to do so, it will be with the full conviction of his hostility to my administration, and that he will reluctantly do anything to carry out my plans and views in the campaign."
- POTUS Polk, 21st May 1846

Polk and Scott hated each other. Polk was a Democrat POTUS, whilst Scott was a Whig GINC who was known to be in the running for their Presidential candidacy (and indeed he was their 1852 nominee). Polk wanted Scott gone, but the only other candidate to command the army, Zach Taylor, was also a Whig, and even more of a threat to Polk. Indeed Taylor was the Whigs 1848 Presidential candidate and he won. In fact, the five highest ranking generals (Scott, Gaines, Wool, Taylor and Roger Jones) were all Whigs. Scott was only sent to command the invasion army because he was judged the least threatening to Polk, and it was part of Polk's (successful) plan to destroy Scott.

Polk's plan was tripartite:

1. To have a Democrat appointed as GINC. However, the interpretation of time, established by John Quincy Adams, was that the senior general was GINC by right. Thus Polk tried to have the rank of Lieutenant-General revived and his ally Thomas Hart Benton appointed to it
2. To fill the ranks of the volunteer generals with his Democratic political allies
3. To try and have all the blame for things going wrong placed on the Whig regulars, and the praise for success on the Democrat volunteers.

Part (1) failed when Congress got wise to it. They refused to authorise the rank of Lt Gen. Part (2) worked very well, and all 13 volunteer generals were not just Democrats, but hyper-partisan Democrats loyal to Polk. Part (3) backfired - loyalists released the "Leonidas" and "Veritas" letters, denouncing Scott in favour of Pillow et al., and Scott's response broke him as a political figure. The Whigs dumped him and nominated Taylor. Now, Taylor had already been effectively smeared as a war criminal, and the Democrats thought they'd managed what they were aiming for - the destruction of Scott and Taylor despite them being successful generals, and the return of the Democratic Party to the Presidency seemed assured. Then ex-President Martin Van Buren, in response to not being selected by the Democratic National Convention, split away from the Democrats and ran as a third party candidate. This split the vote just enough to give the Whigs a narrow victory by giving the Whigs NY, CT and MA by spliting the Democrat vote in those states. (NB: flipping NY would have given D a victory, and flipping just MA would have tied the electoral college).

So, Polk did not hold the whip hand over Scott. He had to intrigue against him. Bates' revised theory of Presidential powers which was enacted under Lincoln changed things somewhat. McClellan was the poor guy who was hit by the transition.

When Scott was GINC, Chase and Lincoln had to intrigue to get their way. McDowell was their stalking horse, and the complete failure at Bull Run destroyed their plans. McClellan was brought in, and was generally quite amenable. McClellan listened to Lincoln, and took what little direction Lincoln gave very seriously. However, Bates' theory was gaining ground, and the whole idea of having a GINC was under threat.

Eventually, they moved to delete the role, but Stanton did not step up into the new role. The armies became unco-ordinated, with each general running their own little war as best they saw fit. Things did not improve under Halleck, who basically stepped into Hitchcock's shoes at the War Board, and Stanton continued running the war. Even when Grant was made a Lt Gen the status quo continued, as Grant was neutered by Stanton ordering him to take to the field. Stanton continued running the war through Halleck, and Grant was essentially just another field commander.
 

DanSBHawk

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... or not.

"I can have no confidence in General Scott’s disposition to carry out the views of the administration as commander in chief of the army on the Del Norte, and yet unless Congress shall authorize the appointment of additional general officers I may be compelled to continue to entrust the command to him. If I shall be compelled to do so, it will be with the full conviction of his hostility to my administration, and that he will reluctantly do anything to carry out my plans and views in the campaign."
- POTUS Polk, 21st May 1846

Polk and Scott hated each other. Polk was a Democrat POTUS, whilst Scott was a Whig GINC who was known to be in the running for their Presidential candidacy (and indeed he was their 1852 nominee). Polk wanted Scott gone, but the only other candidate to command the army, Zach Taylor, was also a Whig, and even more of a threat to Polk. Indeed Taylor was the Whigs 1848 Presidential candidate and he won. In fact, the five highest ranking generals (Scott, Gaines, Wool, Taylor and Roger Jones) were all Whigs. Scott was only sent to command the invasion army because he was judged the least threatening to Polk, and it was part of Polk's (successful) plan to destroy Scott.

Polk's plan was tripartite:

1. To have a Democrat appointed as GINC. However, the interpretation of time, established by John Quincy Adams, was that the senior general was GINC by right. Thus Polk tried to have the rank of Lieutenant-General revived and his ally Thomas Hart Benton appointed to it
2. To fill the ranks of the volunteer generals with his Democratic political allies
3. To try and have all the blame for things going wrong placed on the Whig regulars, and the praise for success on the Democrat volunteers.

Part (1) failed when Congress got wise to it. They refused to authorise the rank of Lt Gen. Part (2) worked very well, and all 13 volunteer generals were not just Democrats, but hyper-partisan Democrats loyal to Polk. Part (3) backfired - loyalists released the "Leonidas" and "Veritas" letters, denouncing Scott in favour of Pillow et al., and Scott's response broke him as a political figure. The Whigs dumped him and nominated Taylor. Now, Taylor had already been effectively smeared as a war criminal, and the Democrats thought they'd managed what they were aiming for - the destruction of Scott and Taylor despite them being successful generals, and the return of the Democratic Party to the Presidency seemed assured. Then ex-President Martin Van Buren, in response to not being selected by the Democratic National Convention, split away from the Democrats and ran as a third party candidate. This split the vote just enough to give the Whigs a narrow victory by giving the Whigs NY, CT and MA by spliting the Democrat vote in those states. (NB: flipping NY would have given D a victory, and flipping just MA would have tied the electoral college).

So, Polk did not hold the whip hand over Scott. He had to intrigue against him. Bates' revised theory of Presidential powers which was enacted under Lincoln changed things somewhat. McClellan was the poor guy who was hit by the transition.

When Scott was GINC, Chase and Lincoln had to intrigue to get their way. McDowell was their stalking horse, and the complete failure at Bull Run destroyed their plans. McClellan was brought in, and was generally quite amenable. McClellan listened to Lincoln, and took what little direction Lincoln gave very seriously. However, Bates' theory was gaining ground, and the whole idea of having a GINC was under threat.

Eventually, they moved to delete the role, but Stanton did not step up into the new role. The armies became unco-ordinated, with each general running their own little war as best they saw fit. Things did not improve under Halleck, who basically stepped into Hitchcock's shoes at the War Board, and Stanton continued running the war. Even when Grant was made a Lt Gen the status quo continued, as Grant was neutered by Stanton ordering him to take to the field. Stanton continued running the war through Halleck, and Grant was essentially just another field commander.
American generals have often been involved in politics. Mixing and mashing the generals political careers with their military careers does not accurately describe the basic tenets of American command structure.

US Presidents have always been the Commanders-in-Chief. Period. They have always had the authority to intervene and override their subordinates serving in the military. Period.

The part about Grant being a neutered field commander is just historically false. Grant exercised his authority as GinC while in the field, and was a more successful GinC while in the field than McClellan was while in Washington. One good example is Lincolns August 4 1864 telegram to Grant:

“I have seen your despatch in which you say ‘I want Sheridan put in command of all the troops in the field, with instructions to put himself South of the enemy, and follow him to the death. Wherever the enemy goes, let our troops go also.’ This, I think, is exactly right, as to how our forces should move. But please look over the despatches you may have received from here, ever since you made that order, and discover, if you can, that there is any idea in the head of any one here, of ‘putting our army South of the enemy’ or of following him to the death’ in any direction. I repeat to you it will neither be done nor attempted unless you watch it every day, and hour, and force it.

Lincoln knew that Grant was the one making things happen. Not Stanton. Not Halleck.

Did Lincoln ever write a comparable telegram to McClellan?
 
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Lubliner

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A certain amount of clarification, if forthcoming, would be helpful here concerning military grades and outlooks. On March 3, 1862, General McClellan responds to Halleck after apparently being requested to share his troops out west. After assuring he was not remaining idle, he goes on to question a proposition floating among the Army;

"I hardly know what to say as to your proposition about new grades. Why change the European order in the military hierarchy, and make a general junior to a lieutenant-general? I see no especial reason for it....hoping that Congress would give another grade after marked success. I have ever felt that higher grades than that of major-general are necessary in so large an army as that we now have, but I have felt great delicacy in alluding to it."

He continues on mentioning this as already a plan in the works. So we have the seed of promotion being discussed and openly vied for in the military, where the decision lies with Congress for appointment. This is March 3, 1862. How does this align with Stanton who has already replaced Chase? A Cabinet position is a military liaison to the President, and is there to translate the political agenda into the military structure or vice-versa.
The political request for Knoxville was based upon the premise of protecting the concentrated loyal unionists in East Tennessee, and to save J. Parsons Brownlow. The political request for quick action was also the highly contentious 'waiting period' while an army was being formed and trained in specifics or soldiering.

The basis for Stanton's urgency I believe can be found in Lincoln's prodding, and whatever actions were made by the Secretary of War were directly in obedience to Lincoln's tact. That a better line of communication existed here is part and parcel to the successes it produced. McClellan was outnumbered politically, and overruled continuously by higher councils, in spite of military persuasions. Agreed?

Thanks, Lubliner.
 

DanSBHawk

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"I can have no confidence in General Scott’s disposition to carry out the views of the administration as commander in chief of the army on the Del Norte, and yet unless Congress shall authorize the appointment of additional general officers I may be compelled to continue to entrust the command to him. If I shall be compelled to do so, it will be with the full conviction of his hostility to my administration, and that he will reluctantly do anything to carry out my plans and views in the campaign."
- POTUS Polk, 21st May 1846

Polk and Scott hated each other. Polk was a Democrat POTUS, whilst Scott was a Whig GINC who was known to be in the running for their Presidential candidacy (and indeed he was their 1852 nominee). Polk wanted Scott gone, but the only other candidate to command the army, Zach Taylor, was also a Whig, and even more of a threat to Polk. Indeed Taylor was the Whigs 1848 Presidential candidate and he won. In fact, the five highest ranking generals (Scott, Gaines, Wool, Taylor and Roger Jones) were all Whigs. Scott was only sent to command the invasion army because he was judged the least threatening to Polk, and it was part of Polk's (successful) plan to destroy Scott.

Polk's plan was tripartite:

1. To have a Democrat appointed as GINC. However, the interpretation of time, established by John Quincy Adams, was that the senior general was GINC by right. Thus Polk tried to have the rank of Lieutenant-General revived and his ally Thomas Hart Benton appointed to it
2. To fill the ranks of the volunteer generals with his Democratic political allies
3. To try and have all the blame for things going wrong placed on the Whig regulars, and the praise for success on the Democrat volunteers.

Part (1) failed when Congress got wise to it. They refused to authorise the rank of Lt Gen. Part (2) worked very well, and all 13 volunteer generals were not just Democrats, but hyper-partisan Democrats loyal to Polk. Part (3) backfired - loyalists released the "Leonidas" and "Veritas" letters, denouncing Scott in favour of Pillow et al., and Scott's response broke him as a political figure. The Whigs dumped him and nominated Taylor. Now, Taylor had already been effectively smeared as a war criminal, and the Democrats thought they'd managed what they were aiming for - the destruction of Scott and Taylor despite them being successful generals, and the return of the Democratic Party to the Presidency seemed assured. Then ex-President Martin Van Buren, in response to not being selected by the Democratic National Convention, split away from the Democrats and ran as a third party candidate. This split the vote just enough to give the Whigs a narrow victory by giving the Whigs NY, CT and MA by spliting the Democrat vote in those states. (NB: flipping NY would have given D a victory, and flipping just MA would have tied the electoral college).

So, Polk did not hold the whip hand over Scott. He had to intrigue against him. Bates' revised theory of Presidential powers which was enacted under Lincoln changed things somewhat. McClellan was the poor guy who was hit by the transition.
Here is a good summary of Polk as CinC during the Mexican war:

"James K. Polk was the first president to exercise fully the powers of commander-in-chief. Although he had no professional military experience, the strong-willed chief executive left no doubt as to who was in charge of the war against Mexico. Bypassing the War Department, Polk himself developed the broad outlines of an initial strategy that involved striking Mexico at three vital points: Santa Fe, New Mexico; Mexico's northern provinces below the Rio Grande; and California. Polk supervised every aspect of the war effort, choosing and replacing officers and even taking a direct role in logistical matters. All decisions made at the War Department were subjected to the closest scrutiny. Mindful of government inefficiency, the president insisted on being kept constantly informed by Secretary of War William L. Marcy of military expenditures. Much to his astonishment, Polk discovered that the Quartermaster's Department had ordered thousands of wagons for the campaigns in Mexico, despite the fact that pack mules were better suited to Mexico's rugged terrain. Polk was also annoyed to find that the army was purchasing horses and mules in the United States and transporting them to the theater of operations, when such animals were readily available at a fraction of the cost in Mexico.

From the earliest days of the war, partisan rancor created an atmosphere of distrust between the president and the nation's military authorities. While Polk's powers of appointment allowed him to shape the volunteer regimental command structure to suit his purposes, he did not enjoy similar latitude in the professional army, which was top-heavy with Whig partisans in 1846. General Winfield Scott, the highest ranking officer in the U. S. Army and a prominent Whig, quickly fell into disfavor with the president, who then named Zachary Taylor to serve as field commander of U.S. forces. Taylor proved equally unsatisfactory from the president's point of view, a view which did not improve as the general became receptive to Whig overtures to accept their presidential nomination. Deciding to open a second front in the fall of 1846, the president turned reluctantly again to Scott to command an invasion of southern Mexico. The president remained suspicious of Scott's partisan loyalties, however, and despite a string of impressive victories culminating in the capture of Mexico City, he was recalled by the administration.

Polk grew similarly frustrated with his peace commissioner, Nicholas P. Trist, who was sent to negotiate with Mexican leaders after the fall of Vera Cruz. A lifelong Democrat, Trist nonetheless established a close working relationship with Scott, which the president interpreted as a sign of his diplomat's untrustworthiness. When peace talks with the Mexican government stalled, Polk recalled Trist, but the diplomat decided to remain in Mexico City and conclude his negotiations in defiance of Polk's order. Although angered by this act of insubordination, Polk signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, by which Mexico ceded California and New Mexico to the United States for $15 million.

While the fault for these squabbles was by no means Polk's alone, the president's desire for control of every situation led inevitably to friction with his subordinates. Polk's hands-on style of management worked well enough in Washington, D.C., where a small bureaucracy discharged its duties under the watchful eye of the chief executive, but it was impossible for Polk to supervise the operations of U.S. troops on foreign soil with similar exactitude. Far removed from the seat of government, the nation's military leaders and diplomatic representatives enjoyed a freedom of action that Polk found enormously frustrating. In an atmosphere already poisoned by partisan suspicions, even the most well-intentioned deviation from instructions appeared to the president to be an act of partisanship or betrayal."

https://library.uta.edu/usmexicowar/item?bio_id=14&nation=US&ofst=34&sort=nameasc&ni=52
 
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