Only five years after fielding its first presidential candidate, the purely-sectional Republican Party of Lincoln had driven South Carolina and other Southern States from the Union. The following year Lincoln’s army was in near-revolt — below, after Lincoln removed McClellan from command due to Radical Republican pressure, the soldiers in blue were ready to march on Washington.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.com
McClellan’s Men to March on Washington
“On November 10 , a part of the Army of the Potomac was drawn up in long lines of review along the Warrenton-Alexandria road. The parting scene made a lasting impression on many men in blue. An officer . . . wrote home one of the best accounts of the dramatic moment, mentioning the distinct threat of an uprising by the army against the government:
“As General McClellan passed along its front, whole regiments broke and flocked around him, and with tears and entreaties besought him not to leave them, but to say the word and they would settle matters in Washington.
Indeed, it was thought at one time there would be a mutiny, but by a word he calmed the tumult and ordered the men back to their colors and their duty. [A General], who was riding near McClellan, [said] to another mounted officer close by that he wished to God McClellan would put himself at the head of the army and throw the infernal scoundrels at Washington into the Potomac. What do you think of such a man? He had it in his power to be a dictator – anything he chose to name – if he would but say the word . . .”
This little-known account gives an indication of the very real danger of a military revolt against the government in Washington. The army was beside itself with anger at the administration. A few days after [Sharpsburg], at McClellan’s headquarters, during a council of war of the top generals, no less prominent a civilian than John W. Garrett, President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, had suggested using the Army of the Potomac to coerce the administration by force into adopting whatever policies the generals desired.
McClellan himself describes the threatening situation in a moderate way: “The order depriving me of command created an immense deal of deep feeling in the army – so much so that many were in favor of my refusing to obey the order, and of marching upon Washington to take possession of the government.”
(General George B. McClellan, Shield of the Union, LSU Press, 1957, excerpts, pp. 327-329)