Lin­coln sacks ‘Lit­tle Mac’

150 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK

Rappahannock News - - EDITORIAL & OPINION - Arthur Can­den­quist [email protected] cs.com

Novem­ber 1862 opened with Maj. Gen. Ben­jamin But­ler, the Union com­man­der in New Orleans, is­su­ing or­ders tight­en­ing pass re­quire­ments and au­tho­riz­ing the dis­charge from con­fine­ment of “all slaves not known to be slaves of loyal own­ers.” In Rich­mond, Con­fed­er­ate Pres­i­dent Jef­fer­son Davis was con­cerned about the re­la­tion­ship of the Con­fed­er­ate states to the cen­tral gov­ern­ment, the rais­ing of troops and the dan­ger of Fed­eral in­va­sions of the coasts. On Nov. 2, Mrs. Lin­coln trav­eled to New York City.

One of the reg­i­ments used in a Fed­eral ex­pe­di­tion along the coasts of Ge­or­gia and east Florida from Nov. 3-10 was the First South Carolina Vol­un­teers (African De­scent) com­manded by Col. Thomas Hig­gin­son. This reg­i­ment of col­ored troops, still not com­plete and some­what un­of­fi­cial, was not to be mus­tered into Fed­eral ser­vice un­til Jan. 1, 1863, but had been slowly grow­ing out of ear­lier failed at­tempts to form reg­i­ments of for­mer slaves on the south­east­ern coast. In Vir­ginia, Maj. Gen. James Longstreet’s troops of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army ar­rived at Culpeper Court­house, plac­ing them be­tween Gen. Ge­orge McClel­lan’s Fed­eral Army of the Po­tomac – now in the area of Warrenton – and Rich­mond. Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jack­son’s troops re­mained in the Shenan­doah Val­ley.

Elec­tion day in the North was on Tues­day, Nov. 4, and Democrats made size­able gains in North­ern state and con­gres­sional elec­tions, es­pe­cially New York, where Ho­ra­tio Sey­mour was elected gover­nor. The Republican­s kept con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, with vic­to­ries in New Eng­land, the bor­der states, Cal­i­for­nia and Michi­gan. War weari­ness most likely ac­counted for many of the Demo­cratic vic­to­ries. In Ten­nessee, Maj. Gen. Ulysses Grant’s troops oc­cu­pied LaGrange and Grand Junc­tion, two im­por­tant rail and road bases for north­ern Mis­sis­sippi as his plans pro­gressed for an ad­vance on Vicks­burg.

“By di­rec­tion of the Pres­i­dent, it is or­dered that Maj. Gen. McClel­lan be re­lieved from the com­mand of the Army of the Po­tomac and that Maj. Gen. Burn­side take com­mand of that army.” On Nov. 5, af­ter months of at­tempt­ing to sup­port Gen. McClel­lan, Pres­i­dent Lin­coln had reached the end of his pa­tience with “Lit­tle Mac,” say­ing “send­ing re­in­force­ments to McClel­lan is like shov­el­ing flies across a barn.” The fail­ure to take Rich­mond in July; fail­ing to ob­tain a com­plete vic­tory at Sharps­burg on An­ti­etam Creek in Septem­ber; and the ex­tremely slow ad­vance in the weeks fol­low­ing the bat­tle all brought an end to the con­tro­ver­sial ca­reer of Gen. McClel­lan. The reper­cus­sions that fol­lowed were wide­spread: Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter – a strong McClel­lan sup­porter and com­man­der of the Union 5th Corps in the army – was also re­placed, by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker.

There were changes in the Army of North­ern Vir­ginia as well. On Nov. 6, Gen. Robert E. Lee pro­moted James Longstreet and Thomas Jack­son from ma­jor gen­eral to lieu­tenant gen­eral, and placed them in com­mand of the new First and Sec­ond Corps of the army, re­spec­tively. The next day, Nov. 7, at 11:50 a.m., an of­fi­cer from Wash­ing­ton ar­rived at Gen. McClel­lan’s head­quar­ters at Rec­tor­town, north of Warrenton, with or­ders re­liev­ing him of com­mand of the army and turn­ing it over to Ambrose Burn­side. Gen. McClel­lan was stunned and very hurt, and wrote to his wife, “I am sure that not the slight­est ex­pres­sion of feel­ing was vis­i­ble on my face.” Then he added, “Poor Burn­side feels dread­fully, al­most crazy – I am sorry for him.”

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