Sunday, September 20, 2009

'They Have Got The Wrong Idea'

33rd of 45 excerpts from Lincoln by David Herbert Donald:
[N]either the generals nor the people had recognized that they were at war and that it would take hard, tough fighting to win it. "They have got the idea into their heads that we are going to get out of this fix, somehow, by strategy!" Lincoln exclaimed. "That's the word -- strategy! General McClellan thinks he is going to whip the rebels by strategy; and the army has got the same notion." It was to this belief in strategy that he attributed both Buell's leisurely pursuit of Bragg into Tennessee after the battle of Perryville and McClellan's slowness to move against Lee after Antietam.

. . . Lincoln devoted himself to getting McClellan to move, and he began sending the general pointed, short messages that amounted, as Nicolay said, to "poking sharp sticks under Mac's ribs.: Resenting "the mean and dirty character of the dispatches" he received from Washington, McClellan (below) told his wife, "There never was a truer epithet applied to a certain individual than that of a gorilla."

The breaking point came in late October [1862]. Facing a bitterly contested election, the Republican governors and representatives from Ohio, Indiana and Illinois demanded that Lincoln remove Buell (above), whose Army of the Ohio was largely recruited from those states. What that general, oblivious to political reality and apparently indifferent to the wishes of his military superiors in Washington, announced that he was not going into eastern Tennessee, where Unionists were clammoring for protection, but was going to make his winter quarters in the comfortable city of Nashville, even the President could no longer defend him. . . .

At almost the same time, McClellan informed the President that the Army of the Potomac could not pursue Lee because his cavalry horses were "absolutely broken down from fatigue and want of flesh." Lincoln's temper snapped. "Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigue anything?" he shot back. In a subsequent message he attempted to tone down his language and said he certainly intended "no injustice," but the fate of McClellan had been decided.

Telling Secretary Chase that it was "inexpedient" to remove the general before the elections, the President bided his time, but on November 5 he directed Halleck to relieve McClellan and entrusted the Army of the Potomac to Ambrose E. Burnside (above).

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