November 4, 2012

This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Nov. 4

McClellan sacked from command of Union's Army of the Potomac


Associated Press

— President Abraham Lincoln removes Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan from his command of the leading Union army 150 years ago this week in the Civil War. Long vexed by McClellan's cautious steps in waging war on the Confederacy, Lincoln replaces McClellan with Ambrose Burnside. The move comes after renewed criticism of McClellan as Lincoln, and the Union, anxiously seeks a commander able to aggressively battle and defeat the foe. McClellan had failed during his major offensive in the summer of 1862 to capture Richmond, seat of the Confederacy, with a force of more than 100,000 troops — the so-called Peninsula Campaign. Now McClellan's recent refusal to chase Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's outnumbered and battered army back into Virginia after the September 1862 Battle of Antietam, Md., is one of the final straws in eroding Lincoln's support of McClellan. But it will still be some time yet before Lincoln discovers a general who fights and wins — in the form of Ulysses S. Grant. Although McClellan is deposed on Nov. 7, 1862, much of the country is informed days later when The Associated Press reports the shakeup in a dispatch to leading newspapers. The AP dispatch dated Nov. 10, 1862, notes McClellan has been abruptly relieved of his command of the Army of the Potomac. The ouster of McClellan "was entirely unexpected to all, and therefore everyone was taken by surprise," AP added. The dispatch noted that ranking government officials gave no immediate reason publicly for the step, which, "though sudden to the public ... may possibly have been for some time contemplated by the Executive."