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It soon became evident that the administration did not agree with him, and that he had lost its confidence. No new reinforcements were sent him, but a strong army was gathered in front of Washington, under command of General Pope, who had been doing some good work in the West, and was thought to have the aggressive qualities that were wanted. Lee was alert. He saw that the Union forces were divided and took advantage of McClellan's inaction to launch Jackson, with a strong force, upon Pope's army. In quick alarm the officials at Washington sent peremptory orders to McClellan to move his forces in all haste to Washington.
A retrograde movement at once began; but as soon as the alert Lee saw what was being done, he marched in haste to Jackson's support. His great lieutenant had already been victorious over Pope and the aid of Lee enabled the Confederates to deal the Western general a crushing blow. It might have been more disastrous still but for the fact that McClellan's advance had already reached Washington and was in position to cover the retreat. General Lee, seeing that Washington was secure against capture, and also that Richmond was for the time safe from attack, now made a new and threatening movement, invading Maryland, with the hope of gaining recruits in that semi-southern State.
In this dilemma the Government turned again to McClellan, as the one general to be trusted in an emergency. He was placed in command of Pope's army in addition to his own and ordered to check the invasion. The soldiers were filled with joy when they heard that “Little Mac,” their favorite, was again in command. New hope filled their hearts and they followed their old
commander with confidence as he led the way to Maryland in rapid pursuit of Lee.
The first encounter of the hostile forces took place on the 14th of September, at a pass in South Mountain. McClellan was victorious and continued his hasty pursuit of Lee, who, seeing his foe so sharply on his track, was making a rapid movement of concentration at Antietam, on the western Potomac. Here the two armies came into contact on the 16th and one of the bloodiest battles of the war was fought, continuing for two days. This has often been called a drawn battle, but Lee's retreat across the Potomac stamps it as a victory for McClellan, though, as he maintained, his men were in no condition to pursue.
The army had lost more than 11,000 men in the battle. The soldiers needed supplies of all kinds, mostly clothing. Their shoes were in such a condition that they were quite unfit for marching. Supplies were urgently demanded, but the shoes and clothing, so badly needed, did not come. It is said that, through some mistake, they were given to the troops around Washington and not sent where most needed. That such an error could take place under such circumstances seems incredible, but worse blunders than this are not unknown in war.
There were those at the time, bitter critics of McClellan, who said that Lee's army was more ragged and barefooted than his, and that if they could retreat, he could follow. However that be, he did not, and it is to be presumed that McClellan knew better the state of his army than the paper generals at home. It is now known that he had no authority to make an offensive movement into Virginia. He himself declared that he fought the battle of Antietam “with a rope around his neck,” indicating that a defeat might have brought him a severe punishment. Victory has saved more than one general from the rope.
What we know is that the Union army lay in its camp on the Potomac for more than a month, then the river was crossed and an advance made on Warrenton, Virginia. Here came a further delay, McClellan apparently deliberately preparing for battle, while Stanton and Halleck, then commander-in-chief, fretted and fumed. President Lincoln also shared in their dissatisfaction, and on the 7th of November, when McClellan had about finished his preparations for a battle with Lee, a messenger from Washington reached his camp with orders relieving him from command. He was bidden to turn over the army to General Burnside, which he quietly did, and prepared to “repair to Trenton, New Jersey," as ordered.
The news of his dismissal aroused intense indignation in the army. We are told that the men were ripe for a revolt, and that some officers advised him to march upon Washington, turn out the Government, and make himself dictator. If any such foolish counsel was given it was not obeyed. McClellan went to Trenton, as ordered, and his military career came to an end, he taking no further part in the war.
He was severely criticised, though the temperate judgment of history has placed his conduct in a better light. If he had made many enemies, he had a host of friends, and when, in 1864, the time for the next Presidental election came round, he was placed in nomination against Lincoln, as the candidate of the War Democrats. Though his chance for an election was very small, he received a popular vote of 1,800,000 against 2,200,000 for Lincoln.
The war feeling has long since passed away and though McClellan is not classed among the world's great commanders, he has won a place among the leading generals of the war. He could fight well when he had to, but deliberation and over-caution seem to have been his bane. The Confederate commanders appreciated his abilities, and it is said that when Lee was crossing the Potomac into Maryland, one of his officers saw him, with knotted brow and serious look, reading a despatch. " What is the news?” he ventured to inquire.
The worst news possible,” was the grave reply. “McClellan is in command again.”
McClellan resigned his commission as major-general November 8, 1864, and made a long visit to Europe, remaining there till 1868. After his return he was appointed superintendent of docks and piers in New York City, holding this position till 1872. He was elected governor of New Jersey in 1877, and in 1881 was appointed by Congress on the Board of Managers of the National Home for Disabled Soldiers. Many tempting business offers and invitations to accept the presidency of colleges were made him, but he declined them all.
It is difficult to find a man in military history, beside the first Napoleon, who equalled him in personal magnetism over his men. They fairly made an idol of him, and would obey him when all other control failed. As a student of military history and tactics he had no superior, and as a man he was of irreproachable character. He died at his home in Orange, New Jersey, October 28, 1885.
ULYSSES S. GRANT, COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE ARMIES OF
DURING the six years preceding 1861 a poor Illinois farmer, with a wife and two children and without trade or profession, was doing his best to make both ends meet and was succeeding very poorly. He worked hard. He raised wheat and potatoes, cut the trees on his farm into cordwood, and tried to sell this in St. Louis. Finding that this did not pay, he tried auctioneering, bill collecting, real estate dealing, but all to no purpose. Then, deeming himself a failure as a business man, he went to work in his father's leather and saddlery establishment, at Galena, Illinois.
He was not a failure. He was simply a good man out of place. In the next four years he made himself a phenomenal success, for this poor farmer and incapable business man was Ulysses Simpson Grant, the famous commander-in-chief of the Union armies in the Civil War, who is acknowledged as one of the greatest military men of modern times.
Soldiery was not a new business for Grant. He had been a soldier before he was a farmer, but had made no special mark. He was then only a minor officer and had no chance to show what was in him. He needed a broad field and a fair opportunity, and they came.
Grant was born at Point Pleasant, Ohio, April 27, 1822. His father obtained him admission to the West Point Military Academy, where he did not especially shine, though he got the credit of being a fine horse