Tag Archives: Winfield Scott

Hooker Reorganizes the Army of the Potomac

February 5, 1863 – Major General Joseph Hooker worked to reorganize and revitalize the demoralized Federal Army of the Potomac.

Maj Gen Joseph Hooker | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Hooker began the main part of his reorganization with General Order No. 6, which declared that former commander Ambrose E. Burnside’s “Grand Division” structure was “impeding rather than facilitating the dispatch of its current business.” He therefore replaced it with a traditional nine-corps organization:

  • Major General John F. Reynolds commanded I Corps
  • Major General Darius N. Couch commanded II Corps
  • Major General Daniel E. Sickles commanded III Corps
  • Major General George G. Meade commanded V Corps
  • Major General John Sedgwick commanded VI Corps
  • Major General William F. “Baldy” Smith commanded IX Corps
  • Major General Franz Sigel commanded XI Corps
  • Major General Henry W. Slocum commanded XII Corps
  • Major General George Stoneman commanded the new Cavalry Corps

IV Corps was stationed at Fort Monroe, on the Virginia Peninsula between the York and James rivers, detached from the Army of the Potomac. The VII, VIII, and X corps were also detached. Hooker arranged for IX Corps, which had been Burnside’s, to be transferred to Fort Monroe along with IV Corps. He also arranged for Smith to command that corps, knowing that Smith had been one of the conspirators against Burnside and not wanting him around to conspire against himself (Hooker).

For the first time, the army’s cavalry would be combined into a single unit; previously it had been scattered among the various divisions, brigades, and regiments, making it difficult for commanders to concentrate their horsemen against the swarming Confederate troopers. Hooker envisioned using Stoneman just as Robert E. Lee used Jeb Stuart in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Hooker did the opposite for the artillery, dispersing the batteries throughout the corps, divisions, and brigades as needed.

Hooker’s new chief of staff was General Daniel Butterfield, who had composed the song “Taps,” by slightly modifying the “Tattoo” composed by General Winfield Scott in 1835. His father had formed the Butterfield Overland Mail Company.

Army morale sank to a new low in early February, as 10 percent of the troops deserted. Hooker worked to change this by improving army sanitation, health care, food, clothing, shelter, and discipline. He cracked down on corruption in the quartermaster’s department, saw to it that soldiers received their back pay, and granted homesick soldiers furloughs.

Hooker also directed all troops to wear badges signifying the corps to which they belonged. This was similar to the “Kearny” patches that General Philip Kearny had his men wear to better identify them during the Peninsula campaign. Each corps had its own badge shape, and the colors indicated the division numbers (i.e., red was the first division of the corps, white was the second, blue was the third, etc.). The badges were sewn onto the men’s caps, and they helped instill a new sense of pride in their fighting units.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 260; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 233; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 262; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 102-03; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 318-19; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 585

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The Army of Virginia

June 26, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln created a new army intended to do what Major General George B. McClellan could not–destroy the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and capture Richmond.

On the afternoon of June 23, Lincoln boarded a special train bound for New York to informally meet with former General-in-Chief Winfield Scott at his summer residence in West Point. Lincoln, unsuccessful in directing the war effort and dissatisfied with McClellan’s performance, hoped to confidentially get Scott’s advice on strategy.

Lincoln and Scott discussed whether Major General Irvin McDowell’s Federals should remain near Fredericksburg to protect Washington or reinforce McClellan on the Virginia Peninsula. They also debated the merits of keeping Federal troops in the Shenandoah Valley versus sending them to the Peninsula.

After the meeting, Scott drafted a memorandum criticizing Lincoln’s effort to balance forces between the Peninsula and the Shenandoah Valley. Scott urged Lincoln to send McDowell to the Peninsula, writing, “The defeat of the rebels, at Richmond, or their forced retreat, thence… would be a virtual end of the rebellion.”

During his trip, Lincoln toured the West Point Foundry, across the Hudson River from the U.S. Military Academy. The foundry produced the popular Parrott gun, a rifled cannon. The public appearance was meant to conceal the true purpose of Lincoln’s trip. Word quickly spread that Lincoln was in the area, and on his return trip a crowd gathered at the Jersey City stop to try getting him to give a speech. Lincoln claimed that the trip “did not have the importance which has been attached to it,” and it had nothing to do with military strategy.

This may have been true, as Lincoln opted not to take any of Scott’s advice. Doubting the wisdom of military commanders, Lincoln returned to Washington determined to follow his own strategy. He no longer wanted to send reinforcements to McClellan, who lacked the aggressiveness needed to break the Confederate defenses and take Richmond.

Lincoln instead planned to merge all the forces in northern Virginia and the Valley into one major army, dedicated to driving toward Richmond and destroying the Confederate army under General Robert E. Lee. Lincoln also had a man in mind to command this new army: the current Army of the Mississippi commander, Major General John Pope.

Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

The administration had already begun courting Pope for this new command even before Lincoln went to New York. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton bypassed Pope’s superior, Major General Henry W. Halleck, and sent Pope a direct message on the 19th: “If your orders will admit, and you can be absent long enough from your command, I would be glad to see you at Washington.”

Pope suspected that he would be transferred to an eastern command, even though he preferred the West and had little respect for eastern commanders. In the East, some considered Pope a liar and a braggart, based on Halleck’s exaggerated report from Pope that he was about to capture 10,000 Confederate stragglers outside Corinth earlier this month.

When Halleck learned of Stanton’s request, he refused to allow Pope to leave: “The Secretary of War can order you to Washington if he deem proper, but I cannot give you leave, as I think your services here of the greatest possible importance.” Stanton then changed his request to an order, overriding Halleck.

Pope arrived at Washington on the 24th. Testifying before a Senate committee while in town, Pope declared that had he commanded the Army of the Potomac, he would have marched directly on Richmond and continued on through the Confederacy to New Orleans. Compared to McClellan, this was exactly the kind of commander the Lincoln administration wanted.

Under General Order No. 103, issued June 26, Pope was officially assigned to command the new Army of Virginia. This army would contain three corps from three previously separate commands north and west of Richmond:

  • Major General John C. Fremont’s Mountain Department became I Corps
  • Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s Department of the Shenandoah became II Corps
  • Major General Irvin McDowell’s Department of the Rappahannock became III Corps

The new army also included the Federal troops garrisoning the Washington defenses and a cavalry brigade. All told, the Army of Virginia totaled about 56,000 men. All three department commanders outranked Pope, but only Fremont complained about it.

Fremont considered serving under Pope an insult and tendered his resignation. Lincoln officially accepted it the next day. This ended the military career of the controversial explorer, soldier, and politician. Fremont’s frequent clashes with the Lincoln administration, his history of allowing corruption to run rampant, and his mediocre war record meant that he would not be missed.

Pope called Fremont’s decision to resign “simply foolish.” Replacing Fremont was Major General Franz Sigel, a former German revolutionary. Pope called Sigel “the God damnedest coward he ever knew,” and threatened to “arrest Sigel the moment he showed any signs of cowardice.” Sigel’s corps consisted mainly of Central European and German immigrants, most of whom were staunch abolitionists. Thus, this was the most politicized corps in the Federal army.

Some objected to Pope getting an eastern army command, arguing that he was too much of a braggart and an outsider to successfully operate in Virginia. Lincoln disagreed. He had been friends with Pope in Illinois (Pope accompanied Lincoln on the train from Springfield to Washington in February 1861), and he believed that Pope had the aggression needed to take the fight to the Confederates. The fact that Pope was a Republican (unlike McClellan) also played a factor in his promotion.

Pope’s main objectives were:

  • Protect Washington from “danger or insult”;
  • Provide “the most effective aid to relieve General McClellan and capture Richmond”;
  • Maintain communication and supply lines to Alexandria and Aquia Creek.

Creating this new army effectively stopped any chance of McDowell reinforcing McClellan on the Peninsula, which reflected Lincoln’s lost faith in McClellan’s ability to win there. Pope immediately began planning to move down the Orange & Alexandria Railroad toward Gordonsville, east of the Blue Ridge, and threaten Richmond from the northwest.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 14206-15; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 183, 185; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7526-37, 7537-48, 7614; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 526-28; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 169, 171, 173; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 227-31; Pritchard, Russ A., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 500; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 172-74, 787-88; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 93-97; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 515, 615, 676, 816; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q262; Wikipedia: Army of Virginia, Northern Virginia Campaign

President Lincoln’s 1861 Message to Congress

December 3, 1861 – President Abraham Lincoln submitted his first annual message to Congress, which described the current state of affairs and reiterated his view that the Union must be preserved by all necessary means.

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

In accordance with the tradition begun by Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln did not appear in person before Congress, but rather submitted his message for a clerk to read. In it, Lincoln declared: “A disloyal portion of the American people have during the whole year been engaged in an attempt to divide and destroy the Union.”

Lincoln provided a status on all executive departments. In an unprecedented move, Lincoln announced that he supported extending diplomatic recognition to the only two black republics in the world, Haiti and Liberia: “If any good reason exists why we should persevere longer in withholding our recognition of the independence and sovereignty of Hayti and Liberia, I am unable to discern it.”

Regarding the Treasury department, Lincoln wrote, “It is gratifying to know that the expenditures made necessary by the rebellion are not beyond the resources of the loyal people, and to believe that the same patriotism which has thus far sustained the Government will continue to sustain it till peace and union shall again bless the land.” This did not reflect the growing financial difficulties facing the country at that time.

Regarding the navy, Lincoln wrote that “… it may almost be said that a navy has been created and brought into service since our difficulties commenced.” By this time, the two blockading squadrons in the Atlantic and the Gulf had grown so large that they became four. The navy, which had less than 9,000 officers and men before the war, now had 24,000.

Noting that the Supreme Court had three vacancies, Lincoln stated, “I have so far forborne making nominations to fill these vacancies (because)… I have been unwilling to throw all the appointments northward, thus disabling myself from doing justice to the South on the return of peace; although I may remark that to transfer to the North one which has heretofore been in the South would not, with reference to territory and population, be unjust.”

Lincoln reviewed the Confiscation Act, which enabled Federal commanders to seize slaves used “for insurrectionary purposes” and decreed that disloyal slaveholders “forfeited” their rights to own slaves. He expressed hope that the border states would “pass similar enactments,” and if so, Congress should “provide for accepting such persons from such States, according to some mode of valuation.” According to Lincoln, states that voluntarily freed their slaves should be compensated, “in lieu, pro tanto, of direct taxes, or upon some other plan to be agreed on with such States respectively.” And slaves in those states would “be at once deemed free” by the Federal government.

Addressing fears that freed slaves would compete with whites for jobs, Lincoln reiterated his support for black colonization (i.e., deportation) “at some place or places in a climate congenial to them. It might be well to consider, too, whether the free colored people already in the United States could not, so far as individuals may desire, be included in such colonization.”

Referencing Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, Lincoln remarked that colonization may “involve the acquiring of territory… If it be said that the only legitimate object of acquiring territory is to furnish homes for white men, this measure effects that object, for the emigration of colored men leaves additional room for white men remaining or coming here.”

Turning to the war, Lincoln contended that “I have been anxious and careful that the inevitable conflict for this purpose shall not degenerate into a violent and remorseless revolutionary struggle” by making this a war to preserve the Union only. However, Lincoln stated, “The Union must be preserved, and hence, all indispensable means must be employed. We should not be in haste to determine that radical and extreme measures, which may reach the loyal as well as the disloyal, are indispensable.”

Lincoln boasted that Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri were now under Unionist control. Those states “have now an aggregate of not less than 40,000 in the field for the Union, while of their citizens certainly not more than a third of that number, and they of doubtful whereabouts and doubtful existence, are in arms against us.” However, Lincoln did not mention that Kentucky and Missouri had dual Unionist and secessionist governments.

Recounting the retirement of Winfield Scott, Lincoln stated, “The retiring chief repeatedly expressed his judgment in favor of General McClellan for the position, and in this the nation seemed to give a unanimous concurrence.” The president then paid a curious compliment to the new general-in-chief:

“It has been said that one bad general is better than two good ones, and the saying is true if taken to mean no more than that an army is better directed by a single mind, though inferior, than by two superior ones at variance and cross-purposes with each other.”

Lincoln noted the Confederacy’s tendency toward despotism without mentioning his own: “It continues to develop that the insurrection is largely, if not exclusively, a war upon the first principle of popular government–the rights of the people.” Arguing that only a small minority of southerners actually supported the Confederacy, the president stated, “Monarchy itself is sometimes hinted at as a possible refuge from the power of the people.”

Lincoln then turned attention to labor, and the principle that any free person could rise to prominence in America:

“Many independent men everywhere in these States a few years back in their lives were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system which opens the way to all, gives hope to all, and consequent energy and progress and improvement of condition to all.”

Lincoln concluded his message with: “The struggle of to-day is not altogether for to-day; it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.”

Lincoln did not directly address or defend his suspensions of writs of habeas corpus and other violations of civil liberties. He also made no mention of the Trent affair, which prompted laughs from members of Congress; some even exclaimed, “Mr. Lincoln forgot it!” However, Lincoln did not want to publicly address the matter because the State Department still awaited the official British response.

Lincoln also did not include Simon Cameron’s original report on the War Department, which included the controversial passage: “Those who make war against the Government justly forfeit all rights of property… It is as clearly a right of the Government to arm slaves, when it may become necessary, as it is to use gun-powder taken from the enemy.” Lincoln was not ready to allow slaves to serve in the army in any capacity other than as laborers.

The president disappointed abolitionists by not using slavery as a weapon to destroy the Confederacy. Abolitionist Strubal York wrote to Senator Lyman Trumbull, both from Lincoln’s home state of Illinois:

“Such a Message! Not one single manly, bold, dignified position taking it from beginning to end—No response to the popular feeling—no battlecry to the 500,000 gallant soldiers now in the field, but a tame, timid, timeserving common place sort of an abortion of a Message, cold enough with one breath, to freeze hell over. I have not seen one intelligent man who approves of it. I take it there are none such in the limits of the Free States… Mr. Lincoln must have been facing southward when he wrote this thing.

Criticism and praise for Lincoln’s message to Congress continued throughout the month.

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References

Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 6731-42; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 160; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 87; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 355 | 406-407; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 146; Time-Life Editors, The Blockade: Runners and Raiders (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 116-19; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q461; Wikipedia: Trent Affair

McClellan Replaces Scott

November 1, 1861 – Major General George B. McClellan, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, was promoted to general-in-chief of all armies after the retirement of Winfield Scott.

George B. McClellan and Winfield Scott | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

George B. McClellan and Winfield Scott | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

President Abraham Lincoln convened a meeting of his cabinet at 9 a.m. on November 1 to consider whether to accept Scott’s letter of resignation submitted the day before. The cabinet unanimously agreed that Scott should retire and McClellan should replace him.

Lincoln initially considered leaving the general-in-chief role vacant, recalling the complaints McClellan had about Scott interfering with his affairs. Lincoln also wanted McClellan to stay focused on getting the Army of the Potomac into fighting shape. However, the cabinet finally convinced Lincoln that he needed someone as general-in-chief to prevent him from micromanaging the war effort, and McClellan was the best man for the job.

Lincoln and his cabinet members called on Scott that afternoon to bid him farewell. Scott, who had to be helped off his sofa, greeted each man and expressed gratitude for their kind praise. Lincoln issued a statement paying tribute to Scott’s service and thanking him for “his faithful devotion to the Constitution, the Union, and the Flag, when assailed by parricidal rebellion.”

McClellan issued General Orders No. 19, a two-part directive that first declared that the U.S. would ultimately be victorious because “Providence will favor ours as the just cause.” The second part honored Scott’s service:

“Let us all hope and pray that his declining yearn may be passed in peace and happiness, and that they may be cheered by the success of the country and the cause he has fought for and loved so well. Beyond all that, let us do nothing that can cause him to blush for us; let no defeat of the army he has so long commanded embitter his last years, but let our victories illuminate the close of a life so grand.”

That evening, Lincoln visited McClellan at his headquarters to inform him that he was the new general-in-chief. Lincoln said, “Draw on me for all the sense I have, and all the information. In addition to your present command, the supreme command of the Army will entail a vast labor upon you.” McClellan replied, “I can do it all.”

At 4 a.m. on the 3rd, McClellan rode with his staff and a cavalry squadron through strong wind and rain to bid a final farewell to Scott at the Washington Depot. This was the same wooden railroad station where McClellan had arrived from western Virginia to form the Army of the Potomac. Scott was leaving for retirement at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Scott, who had read General Orders No. 19, complimented the new general-in-chief as one of the greatest commanders of all time. The generals exchanged kind words, with Scott imparting good wishes to McClellan’s wife and newborn child. Scott boarded the train and received a farewell salute as the train pulled out.

That evening, McClellan wrote his wife that “the sight of this morning was a lesson to me which I hope not soon to forget. I saw there the end of a long, active, and industrious life, the end of the career of the first soldier of the nation; and it was a feeble old man scarce able to walk; hardly any one there to see him off but his successor. Should I ever become vainglorious and ambitious, remind me of that spectacle.”

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References

Bailey, Ronald H., Forward to Richmond: McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 53; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 91; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 6719; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 110; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 77; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 133-34; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 360; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 662-63

Winfield Scott Resigns

October 31, 1861 – The legendary General-in-Chief Winfield Scott submitted his formal letter of resignation from the U.S. army after 53 years of service.

Brevet Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Brevet Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

At 75 years old, Scott suffered from various ailments and could no longer even mount his horse. He was also feuding with Major General George B. McClellan, a man more than 40 years his junior who aspired to take his job. President Lincoln had rejected an attempt by Scott to resign in August, but now the growing rift between the generals made it seem to Lincoln that Scott needed to retire.

While meeting with McClellan on the 30th, Lincoln showed him Scott’s unofficial letter of resignation and told him that Scott had recommended Henry W. Halleck, a brilliant military theorist, to replace him. But Halleck was still on his way to Washington from far-off California, and McClellan cleverly noted that Scott had never put the recommendation in writing.

After the meeting, McClellan wrote to his wife expressing “a sense of relief at the prospect of having my own way untrammeled.” This sense became even greater the next day, when McClellan learned that Scott’s resignation had become official. In his letter to Secretary of War Simon Cameron, Scott wrote:

“For more than three years I have been unable, from a hurt, to mount a horse or walk more than a few paces at a time, and that with much pain. Other and new infirmities, dropsy and vertigo, admonish me that a repose of mind and body, with the appliances of surgery and medicine, are necessary to add a little more to a life already protracted much beyond the usual span of man.

“It is under such circumstances, made doubly painful by the unnatural and unjust rebellion now raging in the southern states of our so late prosperous and happy Union, that I am compelled to request that my name be placed on the list of army officers retired from active service.”

Scott had served in the army longer than any man in U.S. history, and had led troops in the field since the War of 1812. The struggles with McClellan undoubtedly influenced Scott’s decision; McClellan had used his immense popularity to challenge Scott on various military issues and publicly stated that he believed Scott was unfit for command. Cameron forwarded the letter to Lincoln as the news quickly spread throughout Washington that Scott was retiring. All eyes soon turned to McClellan as the man in charge.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 77; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 133

Lincoln Fires Fremont

October 24, 1861 – President Lincoln issued formal orders replacing John C. Fremont with David Hunter. However, complications in executing the order would arise.

President Abraham Lincoln and Major General John C. Fremont | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

President Abraham Lincoln and Major General John C. Fremont | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

On the day that Fremont left St. Louis to join his army in pursuing Price, Secretary of War Simon Cameron and Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas left Washington to inspect Fremont’s department. Before leaving, Lincoln handed Cameron General Orders No. 18, written by General-in-Chief Winfield Scott:

“Major-General Fremont, of the U.S. Army, the present commander of the Western Department of the same, will, on the receipt of this order, call Major-General Hunter, of the U.S. Volunteers, to relieve him temporarily in that command, when he (Major-General Fremont) will report to General Headquarters, by letter, for further orders.”

Cameron was authorized to decide whether to present this order to Fremont, based on the inspection results.

At the same time, Lincoln wrote to Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis, one of Fremont’s subordinates, asking, “Ought Gen. Fremont to be relieved from, or retained in his present command?” Curtis’s answer would be “entirely confidential,” with Lincoln hoping to receive advice from “an intelligent unprejudiced, and judicious opinion from some professional Military man on the spot.”

Cameron and Thomas arrived at St. Louis on the 11th, where they visited Benton Barracks under Curtis’s command. They were impressed by the facility, but when told that it cost just $15,000 to build, Cameron concluded, “The actual cost should be ascertained.”

Curtis received Lincoln’s letter and responded that although Fremont was accessible, he never sought Curtis’s advice or divulged his plans. Regardless, Curtis stated that he would never offer his opinion to Fremont based on Fremont’s arrest of Colonel Frank P. Blair, Jr. Overall, Curtis asserted that Fremont was “unequal to the command of an army.”

That evening, Cameron and Thomas visited a camp south of St. Louis commanded by a cavalry major who expressed concern that department officials might be using funds meant to supply his garrison for other purposes. Lieutenant Colonel I.P. Andrews, the department’s deputy paymaster-general, told Cameron and Thomas of “irregularities in the Pay Department” requiring him “to make payment and transfers of money contrary to law and regulations.”

Andrews contended that Fremont had sent a “file of soldiers” to arrest him unless he honored a questionable payment. Andrews also alleged that Fremont had commissioned a St. Louis theater musician as a “captain of engineers” and “director of music,” and this musician had twice demanded pay. Cameron overrode Fremont’s order to pay him.

The department quartermaster informed Cameron and Thomas that many of Fremont’s staff officers were contractors who arranged for the army to hire their businesses and pay the prices that they set for their goods, without competitive bidding and without considering whether the goods were necessities. Even Cameron, a man known for vast corruption himself, considered Fremont’s expenditures offensive.

On October 12, Lincoln received independent reports from Congressman Elihu Washburne of Illinois and friend Ward H. Lamon, who recently met with Fremont. Washburne reported: “The disclosures of corruption extravagance and peculation are utterly astounding… A gang of California robbers and scoundrels rule, control and direct everything.” Lamon reported, “Things are in a terribly unorganized state here… There is about as much likelihood of his catching (Price’s Missouri Guards) as there is of his being struck by lightning.”

Cameron and Thomas finally met with Fremont at Tipton, where Fremont gave them a tour of his best division. However, both Cameron and Thomas agreed that even Fremont’s best troops were in no condition for battle. The men met with Hunter that same day, who stated that the army was mired in confusion because Fremont was “utterly incompetent.” Hunter complained that Fremont had ordered him to move his 10,000 troops without rations, supplies, or arms. Only 20 of Fremont’s 100 cannon imported from Europe functioned properly, though Hunter alleged that Fremont received a kickback for purchasing them. Hunter also asserted that even though he was second in command, Fremont shared none of his military plans with him.

Cameron confronted Fremont with the order to replace him with Hunter. Fremont pleaded for a chance to lead the Army of the West in battle. Cameron agreed, but only if Fremont used all the money being used to pay contractors to improve the army’s condition. Fremont was to send all future bills to Washington for examination, and stop paying officers he had commissioned. The administration had to approve all future appointments.

In a discussion about Fremont with his cabinet, Lincoln read a letter from Gustave Koerner, Fremont’s aide-de-camp, to “His Excellency the President,” complaining that Deputy Paymaster-General Andrews had been put in charge of approving department expenditures:

“Deputy Paymaster-General Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews refuses to honor General Fremont’s commissions, which have heretofore invariably been accepted by him. Officers of the Army who have sacrificed their all to take up arms for their country are thus left destitute, and their families in want of the most urgent necessities of life. Very many of these officers are now in the field and in face of the enemy. Their efficiency and the spirits of many of the troops serving under them will be most seriously affected by this course. Unless you will provide a remedy to insure these men in their well-deserved remuneration a portion of the army will necessarily disband… as no officers will or can serve without a valid commission.”

Six days later, Lincoln finally wrote to Curtis asking him to formally deliver General Orders No. 18 to Fremont. Curtis was instructed not to deliver the orders if Fremont had “fought and won a battle, or shall then be actually in a battle, or shall then be in the immediate presence of the enemy, in expectation of a battle.”

Republicans expressed shock and dismay when Lincoln’s order was leaked to the press; Fremont had been their first-ever presidential candidate and a hero to abolitionists. Lincoln explained that Fremont was being removed because of charges that he had been “incompetent, wasteful, extravagant, and under the influence of fraudulent contract manipulators.” Nevertheless, Horace White of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “Our President has broken his own neck if he has not destroyed his country.”

But Fremont would stay in command until the order was personally delivered to him. Learning from the press that the order had been issued, Fremont worked to avoid receiving the order by posting troops as guards, prohibiting any unauthorized persons from accessing his headquarters.

On October 29, Leonard Swett arrived at St. Louis with the order removing Fremont from command. Swett, who had worked with Lincoln on the Illinois circuit court in the 1850s, was assigned to hand the order to Curtis, and Curtis was then to effect the transfer of power from Fremont to Hunter.

Swett met with Curtis that evening and expressed concern that Fremont might already know about the order since it had been published in some newspapers. The men decided to make two copies of the order and send them with two different officers in the hope that at least one of them would get through the lines and reach Fremont’s headquarters. This farcical operation continued into November.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 85-86, 89; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 98; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 71, 75; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 124-25, 131; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q461

Rising Tension Between McClellan and Scott

September 28, 1861 – The growing tension between Major General George B. McClellan and General-in-Chief Winfield Scott resulted in a harsh exchange after a conference on military strategy.

George B. McClellan and Winfield Scott | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

George B. McClellan and Winfield Scott | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

In Washington, General McClellan continued organizing and building up the new Army of the Potomac. By this month, the army was larger than any ever before assembled in North America. Northerners nicknamed McClellan “Little Napoleon,” and some hailed him as the savior of the Union. McClellan enjoyed this immense popularity.

However, some began grumbling about McClellan’s supposed reluctance to test his new army in combat. The “Quaker gun” incident atop Munson’s Hill outside Washington slightly blemished McClellan’s stellar reputation. Others noted that McClellan, a young, rising military star, and Winfield Scott, the aging, ailing commander of all Federal armies, were not exactly seeing eye to eye when it came to military matters.

These tensions became clear during a meeting in Scott’s office with President Abraham Lincoln, the cabinet, the two commanders, and their rival staffs. Scott became angry when it was revealed that Secretary of State William H. Seward knew the troop count in and around Washington, even though McClellan had not shared these figures with either Secretary of War Simon Cameron or Scott, his immediate superiors.

After the meeting ended, McClellan extended his hand and said, “Good morning, General Scott.” Scott shook McClellan’s hand and replied, “You were called here (from western Virginia) by my advice. The times require vigilance and activity. I am not active and never shall be again. When I proposed that you should come here to aid, not supersede, me, you had my friendship and confidence. You still have my confidence.”

McClellan wrote to his wife that evening: “As he threw down the glove, I picked it up. I presume war is declared—so be it. I do not fear him. I have one strong point; that I do not care one iota for my present position.”

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References

Beatie, Russel H., Army of the Potomac, Volume 2: McClellan Takes Command, September 1861-February 1862 (Da Capo Press, Inc., 2002); CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 79; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 69; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 122