Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Young Napolean

I shouldn't opine on military matters because even if in terms of actual experience of warfare, I'm just as experienced as this guy, I'm too ignurint about these things. And I'm usually wrong, anyhow.

Nevertheless, I will say that Doris Kearns Goodwin is certainly correct -- Lincoln did not want to fire McClellan because of the harm it might do to the Army of the Potomac.

For example, one night in 1861, Lincoln went with his secretary of state, William Seward, and his young aide John Hay to McClellan’s house. Told that the general was out, the three waited in the parlor for an hour. When McClellan arrived home, the porter told him the president was there, but McClellan passed by the parlor and climbed the stairs to his private quarters. After a half hour more, Lincoln again sent word, only to be informed that the general had gone to sleep.

Hay was enraged, writing in his diary of the “insolence of epaulettes” and “the threatened supremacy of the military authorities.” To Hay’s astonishment, Lincoln “seemed not to have noticed it specially, saying it was better at this time not to be making points of etiquette and personal dignity.” He would hold McClellan’s horse, he’d once said, if a victory could be achieved.

But, ultimately, McClellan's self-importance could not overcome his fear of his opponent (and sympathy to his opponent's cause). By process of painful elimination, Lincoln finally found the one general who had good judgment and shared Lincoln's determination to defeat the Rebels and end the shameful institution of slavery.

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