Monday, November 19, 2012

November 20, 1862 (Thursday): Pope Appeals for Justice

General Fitz John Porter
SAINT PAUL, November 20, 1862.
Major General H. W. HALLECK:
    DEAR GENERAL: Your letter of the 7th received a few days since. I will wait the action of the Government with all the patience that is in my nature. I have the firm conviction that in any report you make of the operations in the East since you assumed command you will do me justice.
    I neither seek popularity nor do I especially desire it, having a consciousness that I do my duty zealously and earnestly. You have yourself pronounced upon the degree of ability and energy with which the Virginia Campaign was conducted. At the same time you will agree that it is beyond measure hard that in the silence of the Government my reputation as a soldier, and in some respects my character as a man, should be blasted in the public mind by the studious, unscrupulous, and vindictive publications against me which have been sowed broadcast over the country. These atrocious slanders, iterated and reiterated without contradiction and in the midst of the profound silence maintained by the Government for so long a time, cannot fail greatly to prejudice the public mind against me, and to make during this long period an impression which it will be next to impossible to eradicate.
    One of the great points made against me and in favor of McClellan is that he took an army which had been defeated and demoralized under my command and immediately marched against the same enemy and defeated him at South Mountain and Antietam. I presume it is unnecessary to tell you that the only troops of the Potomac Army which ever drew triggers under my command were the army corps of Heintzelman and Porter, and the "Reserves" under Reynolds, numbering, all told, about 21,000 men. Of these one-half was commanded by Porter, who did nothing. Heintzelman, Sigel, and Banks were left in the entrenchments at Washington. McDowell's corps, numbering about 11,000, and Porter's corps, unhurt by any actions or operations under my command, were the only portions of the force ever engaged with me that McClellan took with him. They did not number over 21,000 all told, of whom Poeter's whole corps was kept carefully out of action in Maryland.
    Of a piece with this falsehood is the one stating that I had lost numbers of wagons, &c.: utterly and wholly false. My wagon trains were always out of the way and the enemy at no time pressed upon me. No wagons were reported lost to me except some 20 or 30 broken-down, between Centreville and Fairfax Court-House, which I sent back for on Tuesday morning whilst my whole force was at Fairfax Court-House. A report of the quartermaster in charge will exhibit this, and ought to accompany the official reports of corps commanders.
    I say to you, in all views, that unless the Government would have great embarrassment in the future the whole of McClellan's career should be laid bare. The overt act at Alexandria, during the engagements near Centreville, can be fully substantiated by letters from many officers since I have been here, it is quite certain that my defeat was predetermined, and I think you must now be conscious of it. You remember that I expressed to you before I entered Virginia my firm conviction that McClellan would not co-operate with me, nor in fact with any other man, under such circumstances. I had before said the same thing to the President and Secretary of War.
    It is not unnatural that the mere fact of my being called from the West, a stranger, and placed in command of three corps, each commanded by my senior in rank, should have caused jealously and heartburning even in the Army of Virginia, and when to that was added the bitter vindictiveness of the Potomac Army officers, it will be agreed that my position was a hard one. That I did my best, and really succeeded beyond any reasonable expectation, under the circumstances, I think you will admit. This is all I wish made public under the sanction of your authority. I hope and believe you will do it.
    My position here is not pleasant. The creation of a department in this region has inflamed the cupidity of every unscrupulous speculator and trader in this whole country, and every means will be used to get some man of themselves appointed to command, who will minister to their operations. Rice, a reckless and ruined speculator and old Indian trader, is a representative of this band of Malays, and will no doubt again be urged. His appointment will be based upon a knowledge of Indians and Indian character, acquired during many years of unlimited concubinage with Indian women. Should he be successful, many years of border war or ruinous Indian treaties and frauds will follow. Politically he is ruined,and he looks to this position to restore his broken political and material fortunes. Sibley has lived here longer than Rice, has quite as much, if not more, familiarity with Indians, and is, besides, a high-toned man, who has the respect of everybody, as he has conducted a successful campaign against the Indians, and endured all the hardships and exposures of such service. The Appointment of Rice, who had done nothing, will be a great and unmerited humiliation to him.
    I think, perhaps, that the creation of a military department in this region was unfortunate. A brigade or so is enough here, and I suggest that it be a military district and, with Dakota, be placed under command of the department commander in Saint Louis. Everything that can be desired will be thus accomplished and the Government relieved from incessant annoyance.
    As soon as the condemned Indians are disposed of this arrangement can readily be made, and Sibley is undoubtedly the best man to leave here in command. He will have plenty of troops for the spring campaign, which should be made. I have already made Dakota a separate military district, and sent an officer to Sioux City, ont eh Missouri, to command it. My future command or place I leave to yourself without uneasiness, feeling assured that you will do me justice, and that I can rely upon the friendly feeling you have always entertained and manifested.
     Very truly, yours,
    JNO. POPE,
 Official Records, Series I., Vol. 12, Part 3, Page 826.

Pope would never receive the sort of written vindication he sought from Halleck.  It would have been difficult to accuse McClellan, as does Pope here, of intentionally preventing Pope from being successful against the Confederates during the Second Manassas campaign.  However, Porter (a close friend of McClellan's) was court martialed for failing to promptly move his troops in response to a command from Pope.  For a brief time at the end of 1862 and first few months of 1863 Pope was without a command and likely anticipated a return to a major assignment.  But eventually he was placed back in charge of the same department in Minnesota and served out the war there. 

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