Monday, October 3, 2011

October 4, 1861 (Friday): MacClellan, The Insubordinate Subordinate

General Winfield Scott
Washington, D. C., October 4, 1861.

Honorable SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War:
SIR: You are, I believe, aware that I hailed the arrival here of Major-General McClellan as an event of happy consequence to the country and the Army. Indeed, if I did not call for him, I heartily approved of the suggestion, and gave him the most cordial reception and support.
    He, however, had hardly entered upon his new duties when, encouraged to communicate directly with the President and certain members of the cabinet, he in a few days forgot that he had any intermediate commander, and has now long prided himself in treating me with uniform neglect, running into disobedience of orders.
   Of the smaller matters-neglects-though in themselves grave military offenses, I need not speak in the face of the following.
   First. To suppress an irregularity more conspicuous in Major-General McClellan than in any other officer I published the following:

Washington, D. C., September 16, 1861.

There are irregularities in the correspondence of the Army which need prompt correction. It is highly important that junior officers on duty be not permitted to correspond with the General-in-Chief or other commander on current official business except through intermediate commanders; and the same rule applies to correspondence with the President direct or with him through the Secretary of War, unless it be by the special invitation or request of the President.
By command of Lieutenant-General Scott:

Assistant Adjutant-General.

With this order fresh in his memory, Major-General McClellan addressed two important communications to the Secretary of War on, respectively, the 19th and 20th of the same month, over my head, and how many since to the Secretary, and even to the President direct, I have not inquired, but many, I have no doubt, besides daily oral communications with the same high functionaries-all without my knowledge.
Second. To correct another case of gross neglect I the same day caused to be addressed to Major-General McClellan the following order:

Washington, D. C., September 16, 1861.

Major-General McCLELLAN, U. S. Army,
Commanding Department of the Potomac:
The commanding general of the Army of the Potomac will cause the positions, State, and numbers of troops under him to be reported at once to general headquarters, by divisions, brigades, and independent regiments or detachments, which general report will be followed by reports of new troops as they arrive, with the dispositions made of them, together with all material changes which may take place in the same army.
By command of General Scott:

Assistant Adjutant-General.

   Eighteen days have now elapsed and not the slightest respect has been shown to either of those orders by Major-General McClellan. Perhaps he will say, in respect to the latter, it has been difficult for him to procure exact returns of divisions, brigades, &c. No doubt; but why not have given me proximate returns; such as he so eagerly furnishes the President and certain Secretaries?
   Has, then, a senior no corrective power over a junior officer in case of such persistent neglect and disobedience? The remedy by arrest and trail before a court-martial would probably soon cure the evil. But it has been feared that a conflict of authority near the head of the Army would be highly encouraging to the enemies and depressing to the friends of the Union; hence my long forbearance; and, continuing (though but nominally) on duty, I shall try to hold out till the arrival of Major-General Halleck, when, as his presence will give me increased confidence in the safety of the Union-and being as I am unable to ride in the saddle or to walk by reason of dropsy in my feet and legs and paralysis in the small of my back-I shall definitively retire from the Army.
    I have the honor to be, with high respect, your most obedient servant,


(Copy called for by resolution of the Senate, February 19, 1863.)

Official Records, Series I, Vol 51., Page 491

Of all that is written of McClellan's conduct with regard to the President, it should be noted Lincoln tolerated the same conduct by McClellan towards Scott.  Although it appears here Scott believed Halleck would succeed him, Lincoln made McClellan general-in-chief on November 1 when Scott retired.  Scott was undoubtedly not physically up to the task of leading the Union armies, but history records that his basic conception of how to defeat the South "The Annaconda Plan" would encircling and strangling the Confederacy logistically is how the war would eventually be won.

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