The President’s Special War Order Number 1

January 31, 1862 – President Lincoln followed up General War Order No. 1 by implicitly notifying General-in-Chief George B. McClellan that the order also applied to him.

Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

While the first order had directed general movements for nearly all Federal forces, this order specified the movement that Lincoln sought from the Army of the Potomac. The President’s Special War Order No. 1 directed:

“That all the disposable force of the Army of the Potomac, after providing safely for the defense of Washington, be formed into an expedition for the immediate object of seizing and occupying a point upon the railroad southwestward of what is known as Manassas Junction, all details to be in the discretion of the commander-in-chief, and the expedition to move before or on the 22d day of February next.”

These two war orders represented Lincoln’s desperate effort to be the commander-in-chief by forcing his commanders, particularly McClellan, to begin offensive operations. When McClellan received this order, he rushed to the White House and objected to Lincoln ordering an overland advance. He hoped to move the Federals by water down the Virginia coast and land at Urbanna, between the Confederate army at Manassas Junction and Richmond.

Finally forced to divulge his strategy, McClellan asked for time to put his plan in writing for Lincoln’s review. McClellan had already been working on such a document when the president’s order arrived, so he sought to revise it to argue why Lincoln’s overland plan would be untenable. Lincoln agreed to wait until McClellan submitted his counterproposal.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 68; Bailey, Ronald H., Forward to Richmond: McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 72; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (January 31); Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 119; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 248; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 103; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 164-65; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 601; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 90; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 773-74

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