Wrapped in Flames: The Great American War and Beyond

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
So, your three examples are still very, unreasonably, McClellan centric which don't really provide anything resembling the big picture Lincoln has to consider, and nowhere is the option that Lincoln considers the strategic goal of defending Washington/Maryland rather than the reputation of a specific general.

Since none of your options acknowledges the basic strategic Lincoln is operating under, I can't really say any of them is accurate, especially as you refer to McClellan the General in Chief.
I don't see how it can be the case that none of them is accurate. If you asked Lincoln "Is it okay for Stanton to fire McClellan under the authority you have given him", would he answer:
"Yes, I thought about that."
"No, I thought about that."
or
"I didn't think about that."

Either you think something is correct, or incorrect, or you haven't thought about it. There's no other option there.

And to be clear, this is "McClellan as senior Union general". I wanted to check if McClellan was GiC; you've confirmed he was relieved of the duties (though he still holds the position, as I understand it, as he historically did until Halleck replaced him).
 

CanadianCanuck

Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
The duties and the office are separate things. McClellan might have been relieved of the duties of the office (due to being in the field as historical), but he retains the office of General-in-Chief. If he returns to Washington then due to his presence he resumes the duties, as Grant did in April 1865.

He was already replaced, at the order of the President.

Important note, there's actually no legislation that requires the General in Chief to be the ranking soldier in the army. In fact, no such legislation would exist until the grade of Lieutenant General, and then General, was revived in 1864 and 1869 respectively to be put towards the General of the Army. In fact, the President has the right to appoint whoever he might wish.
 

CanadianCanuck

Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
I don't see how it can be the case that none of them is accurate. If you asked Lincoln "Is it okay for Stanton to fire McClellan under the authority you have given him", would he answer:
"Yes, I thought about that."
"No, I thought about that."
or
"I didn't think about that."

Either you think something is correct, or incorrect, or you haven't thought about it. There's no other option there.

And to be clear, this is "McClellan as senior Union general". I wanted to check if McClellan was GiC; you've confirmed he was relieved of the duties (though he still holds the position, as I understand it, as he historically did until Halleck replaced him).

Then that's a reasonable phrasing of the question. In that case, Lincoln would simply say that Stanton was granted the authority to relieve commanders as he saw fit in pursuance of the goals and authorities delegated to him in the defence of Washington and Maryland. McClellan wouldn't enter into it.

But no, McClellan also does not have the duties as they were conferred onto Dix as the Head of the Board of National Defense pursuant to the President's wishes.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
He was already replaced, at the order of the President.

Important note, there's actually no legislation that requires the General in Chief to be the ranking soldier in the army. In fact, no such legislation would exist until the grade of Lieutenant General, and then General, was revived in 1864 and 1869 respectively to be put towards the General of the Army. In fact, the President has the right to appoint whoever he might wish.
Indeed, the President had a free choice between his regular Major-Generals. That's why Halleck was able to be appointed.

Lincoln had in fact intended that Halleck continue to be General-in-Chief after making Grant a Lt-Gen. It was a debating point in Congress over whether they would include a clause automatically making the LG GinC or not. The Radicals pushed for it, but Lincolns faction pushed against it. It was not included in the final Act.

After Grant was promoted, Halleck tendered his resignation that whilst the law allowed him to command more senior Major-Generals (i.e. McClellan and Fremont), it made no reference to him commanding a Lieutenant-General, and hence he did not believe he could legally issue Grant an order. Hence the fudge of appointing Grant GinC after he was made LG but ordering him to the field, and appointing Halleck to be Chief-of-Staff. Until Lincoln accepted Halleck's resignation and appoint Grant, technically Halleck still commanded Grant.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Then that's a reasonable phrasing of the question. In that case, Lincoln would simply say that Stanton was granted the authority to relieve commanders as he saw fit in pursuance of the goals and authorities delegated to him in the defence of Washington and Maryland. McClellan wouldn't enter into it.
Okay, so since you've not quite chosen one of the three options, I'm going to insist you pick one. It's clearly not (B) but it could be (A) or (C).

Did Lincoln consider it before granting Stanton the authority, or not? Either answer is fine, but either he thought about it in relation to McClellan or he did not think about it in relation to McClellan.
(A) - Lincoln delegated that authority with the understanding that it included the option of getting rid of McClellan.
(C) - Lincoln did not think about whether Stanton would use that authority to get rid of McClellan.
 

CanadianCanuck

Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Okay, so since you've not quite chosen one of the three options, I'm going to insist you pick one. It's clearly not (B) but it could be (A) or (C).

Did Lincoln consider it before granting Stanton the authority, or not? Either answer is fine, but either he thought about it in relation to McClellan or he did not think about it in relation to McClellan.

Or did he think about it in relation to the defense of Washington and Maryland? None of your McClellan centric phrasings are yet to center on the fact that McClellan is not Washington or the General in Chief, just another general in the field.

I've already said you need to rephrase the scenarios to be relevant to the situation at hand. Your methodology doesn't apply to the stated scenario and I've already answered the changed question in the form Lincoln would probably have preferred as a lawyer.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Or did he think about it in relation to the defense of Washington and Maryland? None of your McClellan centric phrasings are yet to center on the fact that McClellan is not Washington or the General in Chief, just another general in the field.

I've already said you need to rephrase the scenarios to be relevant to the situation at hand. Your methodology doesn't apply to the stated scenario and I've already answered the changed question in the form Lincoln would probably have preferred as a lawyer.
Again, senior general, one of only a few MG(R). He's not "just" another general in the field, he's the senior general in the field - think Eisenhower or Pershing (or Grant), though Lincoln certainly at times considered the cases of rather more junior generals such as Hamilton.

The reason why this matters is that it is my understanding that you are rejecting the possibility of Lincoln writing out a sealed order for McClellan's relief and letting Stanton use it. If this is the case then the question takes on a sharp importance.

So let's say Lincoln answered in that way, and someone followed up.
"Did you consider the possibility of Stanton removing General McClellan with the authority you delegated?"
(Which is a yes or no answer, now we've gotten rid of B).
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
But no, McClellan also does not have the duties as they were conferred onto Dix as the Head of the Board of National Defense pursuant to the President's wishes.
If Lincoln wanted Dix to actually replace McClellan as GinC he has to do the following:

1. Appoint Dix to be a Major-General in the Regular Army (doable, the 29th July 1861 Act allows for 5 regular MG and 9 regular BG)
2. Have the Senate approve the appointment (tricky)
3. Appoint Dix to be General-in-Chief.

If Lincoln has done as he historically did, with Dix vice Hitchcock, then McClellan is still GinC.
 

CanadianCanuck

Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Again, senior general, one of only a few MG(R). He's not "just" another general in the field, he's the senior general in the field - think Eisenhower or Pershing (or Grant), though Lincoln certainly at times considered the cases of rather more junior generals such as Hamilton.

The reason why this matters is that it is my understanding that you are rejecting the possibility of Lincoln writing out a sealed order for McClellan's relief and letting Stanton use it. If this is the case then the question takes on a sharp importance.

So let's say Lincoln answered in that way, and someone followed up.
"Did you consider the possibility of Stanton removing General McClellan with the authority you delegated?
(Which is a yes or no answer, now we've gotten rid of B).
Except not really. It had no bearing on his replacement by Halleck, and no bearing on his outright dismissal in 1862. Lincoln has, as stated, delegated the authority to Stanton, his political superior, to dismiss him or any other officer in the interests of defending Washington and Maryland.

If Lincoln wanted Dix to actually replace McClellan as GinC he has to do the following:

1. Appoint Dix to be a Major-General in the Regular Army (doable, the 29th July 1861 Act allows for 5 regular MG and 9 regular BG)
2. Have the Senate approve the appointment (tricky)
3. Appoint Dix to be General-in-Chief.

If Lincoln has done as he historically did, with Dix vice Hitchcock, then McClellan is still GinC.

The 1,2,3 option was followed. The Radicals were adverse to Dix but the Conservative Republicans wanted a handle on them and the Democrats voted for a lifelong Democrat out of spite, but specifically spite for Secretary Seward.
 

CanadianCanuck

Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Yet, there is a way out which Saphroneth has offered. Lincoln has to issue the order somehow.

Except Lincoln already issued the orders delegating Stanton authority to act in the defence of Washington and Maryland. There seems to be no reason to continue the topic when I've made that clear.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Except Lincoln already issued the orders delegating Stanton authority to act in the defence of Washington and Maryland. There seems to be no reason to continue the topic when I've made that clear.
As we're discussed, such orders are impossible. Lincoln cannot give away his Presidential powers to someone else.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Having gone away and thought about it a bit, I think I can summarize it in this way.


It is plausible that Lincoln would delegate a vast amount of power to Stanton - he never did historically, and Stanton was careful to get approval from Lincoln even before doing things like moving troops between departments (i.e. out of McClellan's AotP into defending Washington).

It is also plausible that Stanton would use that power to remove McClellan.

It is not, however, plausible that Lincoln would not have realized such a thing would happen. Lincoln is a politician and was quite aware that Stanton disliked McClellan historically, and could not fail to have noticed it this time.

Stanton historically thought it would be better for Washington to fall than for McClellan to retain command (or so he said, during the post-Second-Bull-Run crisis) and so arguably he'd have exercised that authority as soon as he had it rather than waiting.

McClellan is certainly not beneath notice, as he is commanding one of the main Union armies - the one defending Washington, in fact - and is the highest ranking Union general by seniority at this time; he's also presumably the one who's GiC on the org chart, regardless of whether he is currently exercising that authority (as he was historically until June 1862 when Halleck swapped with him). He's also appointed personally to his position by Lincoln, and Lincoln never delegated the ability to remove such men to anyone at all, historically.

The interaction between senior general and senior civilian member of the War Department is the most immediately obvious political issue to consider involving the army on any level at all, and so it is effectively Lincoln's duty to consider it. Of course, he could have avoided thinking about it (and even told himself that he wasn't considering it) but in fact it is something he should have considered.

What this means is that, when Lincoln delegates that power to Stanton, it is almost certainly with the understanding that it will be used to remove McClellan at some point.

And if that's the case, why not just have Lincoln avoid any possible ambiguity by writing out orders removing McClellan (along with the other people who Lincoln personally appointed to their position)? There can't be many of them.
 

steve59p

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
I feel this is going around in circles.

I would agree. Think it might be best if we paused for a while and let people think over what their said to see where the other is coming from. Both sides have given arguments that they are convinced Stanton could/couldn't sack McClellan in this way. In some cases at least using the same details.

As I understand it Stanton is out of touch with Lincoln, since Washington is under siege. As such he has acted on his own initiative at this point. CC thinks Stanton [and Lincoln] has the authority to do this, although Saphroneth and 67th Tigers obviously disagree. [At least not without a written statement to that effect from Lincoln which doesn't appear to be in existence].

The point I find unclear, given Stanton's stated hostility towards McClellan, which all three posters seem to have agreed on, is why Stanton has waited until this point? I think this is the basis of Saphroneth's argument. He may have what seems a false belief that McClellan will surrender the army, which seems at least partially based on his personal hostility towards the general but I would have expected him to move earlier.

Steve
 

Luke Freet

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
I would agree. Think it might be best if we paused for a while and let people think over what their said to see where the other is coming from. Both sides have given arguments that they are convinced Stanton could/couldn't sack McClellan in this way. In some cases at least using the same details.

As I understand it Stanton is out of touch with Lincoln, since Washington is under siege. As such he has acted on his own initiative at this point. CC thinks Stanton [and Lincoln] has the authority to do this, although Saphroneth and 67th Tigers obviously disagree. [At least not without a written statement to that effect from Lincoln which doesn't appear to be in existence].

The point I find unclear, given Stanton's stated hostility towards McClellan, which all three posters seem to have agreed on, is why Stanton has waited until this point? I think this is the basis of Saphroneth's argument. He may have what seems a false belief that McClellan will surrender the army, which seems at least partially based on his personal hostility towards the general but I would have expected him to move earlier.

Steve
Thank you.
The fear of McClellan surrendering is considerable, especially as the Confederates were in a similar strait OTL. At Atlanta, Davis had the impression that Joe Johnston wanted to give up Atlanta for more room to maneuver, something that while it may have helped on the operational level (arguable, at best), it was strategically unviable. So, Davis decided to remove him just before he was planning to go on the offensive, leaving the fate of the Confederacy in the hands of John Bell Hood and his (now demoralized) army.
McClellan in this timeline has had more actual military successes against Joe Johnston to back up his credibility, more so than in OTL. But still, OTL, he was dismissed in Late 62, admittantly after his failure to follow up what was for all intents and purposes a victory at Antietam.
Then again, Washington is in the middle of a siege. Removing McClellan, certainly incompetent as a field commander but loved by most of the army, is on many levels a stupid idea. The legal stuff on its own has been argued to death at this point, but it will only exacerbate the politicing of the AotP, even more so than OTL, as though some high ranking McClellanites like Franklin and Porter have been stripped of command, other are quitely seething over this. And it will certainly destroy morale, unless Rosecrans manages to make himself into the Union Lee within the first week of his command...and though I respect Rosecrans as an organizer, he certainly isn't the best field commander of the Union, and he certainly does not command the same respect McClellan would have, let alone a Lee.
I imagine there's gonna be a spike in desertions, as well as unrest from soldiers whose enlistment terms should be expiring by now.
 

Luke Freet

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
ITTL he might. Canuck is very taken with the arguments of David Moore, and this whole situation might be a setup for "Rosecrans, God of War"(TM).
I wouldn't go that far.
This situations comes off to me that Rosecrans is gonna make a breakout, and its gonna fail spectacularly, as his troops by this point would be too demoralized and likely running on partial rations of everything. And the Confederates being well supplied and equipped.
Thus, with the fall of Washington, the Union war effort will unravel, and the US is forced to come to the peace table.
That is what I get from all this context. Because the only other occasion in OTL of a popular but politically incompetent and maybe downright militarily incompetent commander, being replaced mid-campaign with a new, more politically well connected and theoretically aggressive commander, to prepare for a series of aggressive breakout attempts, was at Atlanta...and that went poorly.
 

CanadianCanuck

Sergeant
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
What this means is that, when Lincoln delegates that power to Stanton, it is almost certainly with the understanding that it will be used to remove McClellan at some point.

I don't know how this conclusion has been arrived at, but remove if from your thinking and you're really simplifying the problem.

As I understand it Stanton is out of touch with Lincoln, since Washington is under siege. As such he has acted on his own initiative at this point. CC thinks Stanton [and Lincoln] has the authority to do this, although Saphroneth and 67th Tigers obviously disagree. [At least not without a written statement to that effect from Lincoln which doesn't appear to be in existence].

This bolded part here seems to be the, semi confusing, sticking point to some. As I laid out, it was already established by greater legal minds than mine, that Stanton would not need a written order with Lincoln's signature to dismiss McClellan in the way I have described. The argument, near as I can parse out, seems to be that there needs to be a written order specifically for McClellan's dismissal. There does not.

The point I find unclear, given Stanton's stated hostility towards McClellan, which all three posters seem to have agreed on, is why Stanton has waited until this point? I think this is the basis of Saphroneth's argument. He may have what seems a false belief that McClellan will surrender the army, which seems at least partially based on his personal hostility towards the general but I would have expected him to move earlier.

Steve

Stanton was hostile to McClellan historically. He believed rightly or wrongly, (though McClellan's decision to run for President in 1864 sure validated Stanton's personal opinions in his mind) that McClellan did not mean to win the war in the way the government desired. He saw all of McClellan's self serving excuses, pleading, and attempts to subvert his authority as the generals way of trying to win the war on his terms, and not those of the government, which in fairness he was probably right that McClellan wanted to win the war on his terms, and not those of the elected officials. The animosity post-Antietam didn't help.

But here, Stanton would still have to justify the decision for sacking McClellan post-facto, and say what you will, but Stanton is an eminently practical and canny individual who managed to sort out the scandal laden and inefficient War Office of 1861-62 and replace it with a well run and centralized machine which did so much to crush the Southern Confederacy. He used the powers he held to great effect, and certainly moved like lightning when he was able. However, he never threw anyone out unless it was necessary. Sacking McClellan before the Battle of Frederick would have been impossible, and Lincoln only left for Philadelphia after the invasion and the outcome of the battle was known, and by that point the defeated Army of the Potomac was streaming back towards Washington to protect the capital. Sacking McClellan would have been too chaotic in the early days of the siege, and Stanton, much as he might have disliked it, needed the man to keep the city in order. By July however, a cabal of officers dissatisfied with the siege and what they view as previous slights, who had an opportunity to change the whole war around. Stanton, seeing a fully justified opportunity, takes it.

Whether that's a good idea or a bad idea remains to be seen.

ITTL he might. Canuck is very taken with the arguments of David Moore, and this whole situation might be a setup for "Rosecrans, God of War"(TM).

Tragically for this line of thought, I have not read David Moore. Though that's another one for my wish list now.
 
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