Abraham Lincoln, Volume II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 309 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume II.

A general who failed to respond to such a spur as this was not the man for offensive warfare; and McClellan did not respond.  Movement was as odious to him now as it ever had been, and by talking about shoes and overcoats, and by other dilatory pleas, he extended his delay until the close of the month.  It was actually the second day of November before his army crossed the Potomac.  Another winter of inaction seemed about to begin.  It was simply unendurable.  Though it was true that he had reorganized the army with splendid energy and skill, and had shown to the Northern soldiers in Virginia the strange and cheerful spectacle of the backs of General Lee’s soldiers, yet it became a settled fact that he must give place to some new man.  He and Pope were to be succeeded by a third experiment.  Therefore, on November 5, 1862, the President ordered General McClellan to turn over the command of the army to General Burnside; and on November 7 this was done.

This action, taken just at this time, called forth a much more severe criticism than would have attended it if the removal had been made simultaneously with the withdrawal from the Peninsula.  By what motive was Mr. Lincoln influenced?  Not very often is the most eager search rewarded by the sure discovery of his opinions about persons.  From what we know that he did, we try to infer why he did it, and we gropingly endeavor to apportion the several measures of influence between those motives which we choose to put by our conjecture into his mind; and after our toilful scrutiny is over we remain painfully conscious of the greatness of the chance that we have scarcely even approached the truth.  Neither diary nor letters guide us; naught save reports of occasional pithy, pointed, pregnant remarks, evidence the most dubious, liable to be colored by the medium of the predilections of the hearer, and to be reshaped and misshaped by time, and by attrition in passing through many mouths.  The President was often in a chatting mood, and then seemed not remote from his companion.  Yet while this was the visible manifestation on the surface, he was the most reticent of men as to grave questions, and no confidant often heard his inmost thoughts.  Especially it would be difficult to name an instance in which he told one man what he thought of another; a trifling criticism concerning some single trait was the utmost that he ever allowed to escape him; a full and careful estimate, never.

Such reflections come with peculiar force at this period in his career.  What would not one give for his estimate of McClellan!  It would be worth the whole great collection of characters sketched by innumerable friends and enemies for that much-discussed general.  While others think that they know accurately the measure of McClellan’s real value and usefulness, Lincoln really knew these things; but he never told his knowledge.  We only see that he sustained McClellan for a long while in the face of vehement

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Abraham Lincoln, Volume II from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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