A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 609 pages of information about A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln.

It must be borne in mind that this Peninsula campaign, from the landing at Fortress Monroe to the battle at Malvern Hill, occupied three full months, and that during the first half of that period the government, yielding to McClellan’s constant faultfinding and clamor for reinforcements, sent him forty thousand additional men; also that in the opinion of competent critics, both Union and Confederate, he had, after the battle of Fair Oaks, and twice during the seven days’ battles, a brilliant opportunity to take advantage of Confederate mistakes, and by a vigorous offensive to capture Richmond.  But constitutional indecision unfitted him to seize the fleeting chances of war.  His hope of victory was always overawed by his fear of defeat.  While he commanded during a large part of the campaign double, and always superior, numbers to the enemy, his imagination led him continually to double their strength in his reports.  This delusion so wrought upon him that on the night of June 27 he sent the Secretary of War an almost despairing and insubordinate despatch, containing these inexcusable phrases: 

“Had I twenty thousand or even ten thousand fresh troops to use to-morrow, I could take Richmond; but I have not a man in reserve, and shall be glad to cover my retreat and save the material and personnel of the army....  If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or to any other persons in Washington.  You have done your best to sacrifice this army.”

Under almost any other ruler such language would have been quickly followed by trial and dismissal, if not by much severer punishment.  But while Mr. Lincoln was shocked by McClellan’s disrespect, he was yet more startled by the implied portent of the despatch.  It indicated a loss of confidence and a perturbation of mind which rendered possible even a surrender of the whole army.  The President, therefore, with his habitual freedom from passion, merely sent an unmoved and kind reply: 

“Save your army at all events.  Will send reinforcements as fast as we can.  Of course they cannot reach you to-day, to-morrow, or next day.  I have not said you were ungenerous for saying you needed reinforcements.  I thought you were ungenerous in assuming that I did not send them as fast as I could.  I feel any misfortune to you and your army quite as keenly as you feel it yourself.  If you have had a drawn battle or a repulse, it is the price we pay for the enemy not being in Washington.”


Jackson’s Valley Campaign—­Lincoln’s Visit to Scott—­Pope Assigned to Command—­Lee’s Attack on McClellan—­Retreat to Harrison’s Landing—­Seward Sent to New York—­Lincoln’s Letter to Seward—­Lincoln’s Letter to McClellan—­Lincoln’s Visit to McClellan—­Halleck made General-in-Chief—­Halleck’s Visit to McClellan—­Withdrawal from Harrison’s Landing—­Pope Assumes Command—­Second Battle of Bull Run—­The Cabinet Protest—­McClellan Ordered to Defend Washington—­The Maryland Campaign—­Battle of Antietam—­Lincoln Visits Antietam—­Lincoln’s Letter to McClellan—­McClellan Removed from Command

Project Gutenberg
A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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