By Andy Mateja

Abraham Lincoln, arguably the finest president the United States ever had, was beset with difficulties far beyond any previous American president. In addition to radical Southern leaders who chose to withdraw their states from the Union as the result of his election, Lincoln had a myriad of problems with members of his own cabinet who second-guessed his leadership and felt superior to his intellect, Democrats (sometimes referred to as “Copperheads”) who undermined his efforts to reunite the Union without preserving slavery and an unfriendly media who criticized his every move and routinely characterized him as inept and incompetent.
Perhaps the most galling of all of his mistreatments can from the man Lincoln himself placed in command of all the Union armies during the early stages of the war – George B. McClellan
McClellan was placed in command by Lincoln of the recently defeated Union army on July 27th 1861. McClellan was welcomed in Washington DC as a conquering hero and someone who could organize the “volunteer army” into an effective fighting force. However months went by without any action by McClellan against the Confederate army, in position just 35 miles outside Washington DC, and the politicians were getting impatient. By December 1861, the impatience with McClellan’s inactivity forced Lincoln to act. Accepting McClellan’s word that he was going to lead the army to battle before winter and that the current General-in Chief , Winfield Scott was “holding him back”, Lincoln accepted Scott’s resignation and place McClellan in total command of all the Union armies. Lincoln also was aware that McClellan was a prominent Democrat and felt that by placing McClellan in full command , he might garner support from Democrat congressmen who, thus far have been mostly opposing is efforts.
Lincoln, along with Secretary of State William Seward, went to see McClellan at his home in mid-November to ascertain the commander’s plans for the Union army that he had already spent six months preparing for battle. Lincoln and Seward were told McClellan was out so they decided to wait for his return. An hour later McClellan returned home and, after being told the president was waiting to see him, ignored the request and went directly to bed. Lincoln and Seward were not informed of this until a half-hour later. Lincoln made no further visits to McClellan’s home after this incident.
As McClellan’s inactivity continued into December, word began to leak out about the further distain McClellan had for Lincoln and members of his cabinet. At one time McClellan referred to Lincoln as “nothing more than a well-meaning baboon” and communicated frequently with Democrat leaders about his own version as to how the war should be fought.
With March 1862 beginning and political pressure mounting on Lincoln to force McClellan to act, Lincoln demoted McClellan from General-In-Chief to army commander with orders to move his army forward.
Rather than following Lincoln’s order, McClellan now finally revealed his own plan of attack. It called for an amphibious movement to “flank” the Confederate army and move on Richmond VA, from the East instead of the North. While it had the desired effect of forcing the Confederate army to fall back to defend Richmond, it also left the direct approaches to Washington DC vulnerable.
McClellan’s movements were slow and methodical that it left plenty of time for the Confederates to prepare for his attack. As Lincoln kept prodding McClellan along, the requests came for reinforcements….
Even though McClellan had 100,000 men at his disposal, through a series of mathematical calculations that defy logic, McClellan was convinced he was “outnumbered” and needed more men. This was further compounded by intelligence reports from McClellan’s friend Allan Pinkerton of the Pinkerton Detective Agency who concurred with McClellan’s assessment……even there was no evidence to support this conclusion.
When reinforcements were sent to McClellan, they never seemed to be enough and, according to McClellan, and Lincoln was always to blame fault who McClellan was convinced was trying to undermine his success.
McClellan even went so far as to initiate discussion with the Confederates as to how best to end the war. This of course was without approval or authority from Lincoln or the U.S. Congress.
When the battles outside Richmond known as the Peninsular Campaign were finally fought ultimately lost by McClellan, reflecting later as an embittered ex-soldier and unsuccessful presidential candidate, he placed the entire blame of his defeat on Abraham Lincoln, and refused to accept his own failures of troop dispositions and lethargic “advances”.

Imagine if Lincoln had Ulysses S. Grant in command at that time ……………

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