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Acts of Oppression Made in the Name of Liberty

From the Russian Embassy at Washington, diplomat Baron Edouard de Stoeckl monitored the Lincoln administration and reported his observations in detail to St. Petersburg. He concluded, as other observers did, that Lincoln’s apparent goal was to maintain the territorial union by force, with slavery intact and confined to the existing geographic limits of the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Acts of Oppression Made in the Name of Liberty

“If the reign of the demagogues continues for a long time, General [John] Fremont is destined to play an important role. He is already the standard-bearer of the radical [Republican] party, and he will become the head of the party because of his superiority over the other leaders, among whom are only mediocre men and not a single leader of talent and energy.

Continuing his analysis of the “deplorable situation,” Stoeckl discussed in some detail the efforts of the radicals to gain control of affairs.

“General Fremont acted without authorization of [President Lincoln] and even contrary to his instructions, which forbid him to act in regard to the slave States of the west where Unionists are still fairly numerous. So the President was greatly astonished to learn about the [emancipation] proclamation of General Fremont. He regarded is as an act of insubordination.

For awhile there was consideration of dismissal [of Fremont], but after all [Lincoln] did nothing and did not even dare to reprimand him. The radicals, emboldened by this triumph, demand today that the edicts laid down by General Fremont in Missouri shall be applied everywhere. In other words, they demand that the government should convert the present struggle into a war of extermination.

What the radical party fears most is a reaction which would bring its ruin. So it takes advantage of the hold it has on the administration in order to drive it to extreme measures. The government has forbidden postmasters to carry newspapers in the mails which advocate conciliation and compromise. The result has been that the majority of newspapers which were opposed to war have had to suspend publication.

In several towns the extremists have gone even further. They have stirred up the populace, which has smashed the plants of the moderate newspapers. Conditions are such that mere denunciation by a general is sufficient for a person to be arrested and imprisoned. The act of habeas corpus and all the guarantees which the Americans have appeared to prize so much, have vanished and given way to martial law, which . . . is being enforced throughout the North.

We are not far from a reign of terror such as existed during the great French Revolution, and what makes the resemblance more striking is that all these acts of oppression are made in the name of liberty.”

Stoeckl wrote that the people of the North were being misled into believing that these drastic measures would hasten the peaceful restoration of the Union. But he did not believe the deception could persist:

“People will not be duped long by their political leaders. The reaction will necessarily take place. But unfortunately it will come too late to repair the harm that the demagogues have done to the country. It will be necessary finally to revolutionize the political and administrative institutions . . . which have been weakened upon the first rock against which the nation has been hurled.

In the North and in the South they will have to reconstruct the edifice which the founders of the Republic have had so much trouble in building . . . The present war is only the prelude of the political convulsions which this country will have to pass through.”

(Lincoln and the Radicals, Albert A. Woldman, World Publishing Company, 1952, excerpts, pp. 80-83)

Generals Hasten to Join the Radical Fold

Radical Republicans favored the abolition of slavery not so much for their concern regarding the black race, but because it would devastate the South’s economic system and political status in the country. After the sack of McClellan, senior and aspiring commanders were swayed to either join the Radical Republican fold or to at least support Lincoln’s administration and Radical political goals. One Northern general complained that “commissions became political patronage and promotions the reward of partisan zeal.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Generals Hasten to the Radical Fold

“[With General George McClellan sacked,] Republicans rejoiced that the way was now open to gain political control of the army. Radicals were at first disappointed over the appointment of Ambrose Burnside, a friend of McClellan’s, to the command of the Army of the Potomac. But they took him under their protective wing when Burnside, fearing the wrath of the Committee on the Conduct of the War after the Fredericksburg disaster, assured committee members that he favored the abolition of slavery. Moreover, he announced, he was seeking to “inspire his fellow officers with a cordial hatred of the [South’s economic] system.”

But the task of winning over the army to Republican principles was no easy one; the men were sincerely fond of their dismissed commander. Republicans had to face a growing public desire for peace as well as McClellan’s highly successful presidential-boom tour of New England early in 1863. Struggling against the all-but-overwhelming circumstances, Republicans turned the full force of their propaganda upon the civilian public and redoubled their efforts to win control of the army.

[Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton and the Committee on the Conduct of the War waged unremitting war on McClellan sympathizers among the commanders. As part of this campaign the committee court-martialed Fitz-John Porter, ruined Charles P. Stone, discipline Irvin McDowell, and caused Buell’s dismissal. Constantly they worked to prejudice Lincoln against his Democratic commanders.

Others; alarmed by the committee’s success with McClellan and others, hastened to join the Radical fold. “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker was one of these; [Ben] Butler had already been converted. Ulysses S. Grant, savagely attacked for Democratic convictions, turned the assault aside by urging employment of Negro soldiers.

Warned first of the Radicals’ plans by his brother [John Sherman] and later informed by Halleck that the Radicals were working against him in regard to the “inevitable Sambo,” Sherman was scornfully indifferent. In 1864, he announced his unequivocal opposition to that pet project of the Radicals, the recruiting of colored regiments. “The Negro is in a transitional state, and is not equal to the white man” he wrote, “I prefer Negroes for pioneers, teamsters, clerks and servants, others gradually to experiment in the art of the soldier . . .”

The fact that this conclusion was based upon practical experience rendered it all the more distasteful to Radicals. Yet they dared not attack him openly; he was too successful.”

(Veterans in Politics, the Story of the G.A.R.; Mary R. Dearing, LSU Press, 1952, excerpts, pp. 10-12)

South Carolina Declares the Causes of Secession

In his “Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina,” Christopher Memminger, revisited the original American concept of self-government and restated that whenever any “form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.”  It should be noted that though reference is made below to “anti-slavery” feeling in the North, Republican Party doctrine held that African slavery must be kept within the borders of the South, not that the slaves must be freed. Republicans were a white supremacy party and the territories were for white settlers alone.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Carolina Declares the Causes of Secession

“Dr. J.H. Thornwell . . . [stated] immediately after secession [that] . . . ”The real cause of the intense excitement of the South, is not in vain dreams of national glory in a separate confederacy . . .; it is in the profound conviction that the Constitution . . . has been virtually repealed [by the North]; that the new [Lincoln] Government has assumed a new and dangerous attitude . . .”

In South Carolina [this] idea was repeatedly expressed in the secession period. For example, [Robert Barnwell] Rhett in a speech of November 20 said: We are two peoples, essentially different in all that makes a people.” [D.F.] Jamison in his opening speech to the [secession] convention said there was “no common bond of sympathy or interest between the North and South.”

The “Declaration of Immediate Causes,” after defending the right of secession under the compact theory of the Union, justified the exercise of that right almost entirely on the point that Northern States had infringed and abrogated that compact by refusal to abide by their constitutional obligations . . . When [the Northern sectional] President should gain control of the government, constitutional guarantees would no longer exist, equal rights would have been lost, the power of self-government and self-protection would have disappeared, and the government would have become the enemy. Moreover, all hope of remedy was rendered in vain by the fact that the North had “invested a great political error with the sanctions of a more erroneous religious belief.”

Rhett . . . held that the one great evil from which all others had flowed was the overthrow of the Constitution of the United States.

The tariff, unequal distributions of appropriations, and attacks on slavery, were only manifestations of a broken faith and a constitution destroyed through construction for Northern aggrandizement at the expense of a weaker South.

The sections had grown apart; all identity of feeling, interest, and institutions were gone; they were divided between slaveholding and non-slaveholding, between agricultural and manufacturing and commercial States; their institutions and industrial pursuits had made them totally different peoples. The South was unsafe under a government controlled by a sectional anti-slavery party . . .”

Many South Carolinians, in the military service of the United States when war came, proved themselves Unionists by refusing to resign to enter the service of the State. Feeling against such men was violent. The [Charleston] Mercury thought that such refusal constituted “hideous moral delinquency, ingratitude, dishonor and treachery.”

The well-nigh complete unity after secession is no more striking than the universal belief that the cause was just . . . [and belief] that the future of republican government was involved in the struggle . . . Secession was endorsed by the synod of the Presbyterian church and by the annual conference of the Methodists. One need not question the sincerity of the legislature for appointing on the eve of secession a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer.”

(South Carolina Goes to War, 1860-1865, Charles Edward Cauthen, UNC Press, 1950, excerpts, pp. 72-78)

 

South Carolina Injected with a Foreign Poison

Newspaper editor William Watts Ball of South Carolina could painted a vivid picture of life in the postwar South, and railed at the “foreign poison of democracy” injected into his State by Northern radicals. The Founders’ erected barriers to democracy in their Constitution; historian Charles Beard tells us that “When the Constitution was framed, no respectable person called himself or herself a democrat.” John C. Calhoun’s greatest fear was that democracy in the United States would evolve into a class warfare system with taxpayers perpetually looted by the tax consuming class. Alexis de Tocqueville also noted the evil powers of this “strange new democratic monster with its tyranny of public opinion and numerical majority dwelling in perpetual self-applause.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Carolina Injected with a Foreign Poison

“The State That Forgot” is a historical sketch of South Carolina from colonial days to the turn of the twentieth century, generously adorned with “local color” and autobiographical anecdotes. But the heart is [W.W.] Ball’s political philosophy; everything else is embellishment. South Carolina had surrendered to democracy, he said, and as surrender implies defeat, so had she induced her own decline when rule by the aristocracy gave way to rule by the masses. Ball traced the democratic curse back to Reconstruction:

“My political thesis is that the Federal Government, by means of armed forces, placed South Carolina on the operating table in 1867, that in 1868 the Carpetbaggers made an incision in its body, and, by the constitution they adopted, injected into it the deadly and foreign poison of democracy, which, after causing the loathsome ulcers of Reconstruction, subtly spread through the bloodstream of the white people and killed for ever in it the inherited corpuscles of political and social health.”

“The new constitution,” said Ball, was a long step but not a plunge in democracy.” The State had not spurned the colonial constitution fashioned along semi-feudal lines by John Locke. “A more “numerous democracy” had been made but a “too numerous democracy” had been avoided.

South Carolina, however, was forced to scrap that constitution and devise another which would better satisfy the [Northern Republican] Radicals who had taken control of the federal Reconstruction program. Accordingly, a convention composed almost entirely of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and Negroes fashioned the constitution of 1868. Ball appraised the new constitution with these words:

“The finished product of the convention was a document copied from constitutions of Northern States . . . [T]hus at last the rash of democracy was spread by law, backed by bayonets, over the body of South Carolina . . .”

(Damned Upcountryman: William Watts Ball, John D. Stark, Duke University Press, 1968, pp. 144-146)

The South Seeks a Convention of the States

Contrary to mainstream belief, Lincoln and his Republican Party demonstrated no interest in preserving the Union and regularly spurned peace initiatives. Those who wanted to resort to the United States Constitution for a solution to the intense sectionalism in both North and South, saw a convention of the States as the method provided by the Founders. As in the peace overture noted below, all efforts to end the bloodshed of Lincoln’s war originated in the South, and all ended in failure due to Lincoln’s intransigence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South Seeks a Convention of the States

“As early as February, 1863, it was rumored that [South Carolina Representative William W. Boyce] had been advocating in secret session of the [Confederate] House [of Representatives] some form of conciliation with the Northwestern States.

When the Democratic convention, meeting at Chicago August 29, 1864, adopted a platform declaring that efforts should be made immediately for a cessation of hostilities and that a convention of the States be employed to restore peace “on the basis of the Federal union of the States,” Boyce addressed an open letter to President [Jefferson] Davis urging him to declare his willingness for an armistice and such a convention that Northwestern Democrats proposed.

In his letter of September 29 Boyce argued that a republic at war inevitably drifted into despotism . . . [through] conscription, illegally laid direct taxes, [issuing] vast quantities of paper money . . . suspended the writ of habeas corpus . . . in short, [giving] the President all the powers of a military dictator.

Nor would the evils necessarily end with the war; that would depend on the nature of the peace. “A peace without reconciliation carried in its bosom the seed of new wars.”   A peace without harmony would be a mere armed truce. Such a peace would cause the North to develop a great military power and the South would be forced to do likewise. There would then be two opposing military despotisms under which republican institutions would permanently perish.

To prevent such an outcome a peace of harmony must be negotiated with the United States. In bringing this to pass a successful military policy was essential but it was not enough; it must be accompanied by a political policy, a political policy which could not succeed if Lincoln, representing the fanaticism of the North, were returned to the White House.

The South’s only hope for a satisfactory peace, therefore, lay in the victory [in November 1864] of the Northern Democratic Party which should be encouraged in every possible way. [Boyce’s advice was to] . . . Assure [Northern Democrats] of the South’s willingness to cooperate in a convention of the States, and let South cooperate even if an amendment of the Constitution be necessary for that purpose. Such a convention would be the “highest acknowledgment” of State rights principles.”

(South Carolina Goes to War, Charles Edward Cauthen, University of South Carolina Press, 1950, 1860-1865, excerpts, pp. 217-218)

 

The True Story of the Late War

Northern General Don Piatt was a prewar Ohio lawyer who was critical of Lincoln, whom he believed a skeptic, believing only what he saw, and possessing a low estimate of human nature. Piatt believed the latter blinded Lincoln to the South as Southerners valued honor and were determined to achieve political liberty and independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The True Story of the Late War

“[James] Madison said: “A Union of States with such an ingredient as coercion would seem to provide for its own destruction.”

It certainly would provide for the destruction of the principles of liberty itself. Looked at in the lurid light of the [18]60’s, one expression in the above letter of President Madison will make the reader pause and reflect a moment. The “feeble debility of the South could never face the vigorous activity of the North.”

The Republican Party had inherited from its progenitor, the Federal [Party], the above idea of the South’s feeble debility. Members of that party invited United States Senators and Congressmen to take their wives and daughters out to see the first fight of the war, especially to “see rebels run at the sight of Union soldiers.” Everybody knows how the rebels ran at Bull Run.

Republican officers of the Union army have expressed their opinion of the South’s “feeble debility.” General Don Piatt, a Union officer, on this subject has this:

“The true story of the late war,” wrote General Piatt in 1887, “has not yet been told. It probably never will be told. It is not flattering to our people; unpalatable truths seldom find their way into history. How rebels fought the world will never know; for two years they kept an army in the field that girt their borders with a fire that shriveled our forces as they marched in, like tissue paper in a flame. Southern people were animated by a feeling that the word fanaticism feebly expresses. (Love of liberty expresses it.)

For two years this feeling held those rebels to a conflict in which they were invincible. The North poured out its noble soldiery by the thousands, and they fought well, but their broken columns and thinned lines drifted back upon our capital, with nothing but shameful disasters to tell of the dead, the dying, the lost colors and the captured artillery. Grant’s road from the Rapidan to Richmond was marked by a highway of human bones. The Northern army had more killed than the Confederate Generals had in command.”

“We can lose five men to their one and win,” said Grant. The men of the South, half-starved, unsheltered, in rags, shoeless, yet Grant’s marches from the Rapidan to Richmond left dead behind him more men than the Confederates had in the field!

The Reverend H.W. Beecher preached a sermon in his church on the “Price of Liberty” . . . [and] astonished his congregation by illustrations from the South:

”Where,” exclaimed the preacher, “shall we find such heroic self-denial, such upbearing under every physical discomfort, such patience in poverty, in distress, in absolute want, as we find in the Southern army? They fight better in a bad cause than you do in a good one; they fight better for a passion than you do for a sentiment. They fight well and bear up under trouble nobly, they suffer and never complain, they go in rags and never rebel, they are in earnest for their liberty, they believe in it, and if they can they mean to get it.”

“Lincoln’s low estimate of humanity,” says Piatt, “blinded him to the South. He could not understand that men would fight for an idea. He thought the South’s [independence] movement a sort of political game of bluff.”

Hannibal Hamlin said: “The South will have to come to us for arms, and come without money to pay for them.” “And for coffins,” said John P. Hale, with a laugh. “To put a regiment in the field,” said Mr. Speaker Banks, “costs more than the entire income of an entire Southern State.”

It was not long before the men of the North found that the South’s soldiers supplied themselves with arms and clothing captured from Union soldiers.”

(Facts and Falsehoods Concerning the War on the South, 1861-1865, George Edmunds, Spence Hall Lamb, 1904, pp. 117-119)

No Southern Terms of Reunion

Unofficial peace overtures of mid-1864 coming through leading citizens of the North to Confederate commissioners in Toronto and Niagara Falls led to much speculation, but all saw that the obstacle to peace was in Lincoln himself. Lincoln would not agree to self-government for the South and continued his war to crush independence for his fellow Americans.  Below, Confederate Commissioner Clement C. Clay reports to Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

No Southern Terms of Reunion

“We never proposed, suggested or intimated any terms of peace, to any person, that did not embrace the independence of the Confederate States. We have not dispelled the fond delusion of most of those with whom we have conversed, that some kind of common government might at some time hereafter be re-established. But we have not induced or encouraged this idea.

On the contrary, when obliged to answer the question – “Will the Southern States consent to reunion?” – I have answered:

“Not now.  You have shed so much of their best blood, have desolated so many homes, inflicted so much injury, caused so much physical and mental agony, and have threatened and attempted such irreparable wrongs, without justification or excuse, as they believe, that they would now prefer extermination to your embraces as friends and fellow citizens of the same government.

You must wait till the blood of our slaughtered people has exhaled from the soil, till the homes which you have destroyed have been rebuilt, till our badges of mourning have been laid aside, and the memorials of our wrongs are no longer visible on every hand, before you propose to rebuild a joint and common government.”

If we can credit the assertions of both peace and war Democrats, uttered to us in person or through the presses of the United States, our correspondence with Mr. [Horace] Greeley has been promotive of our wishes. It has impressed all but fanatical Abolitionists with the opinion that there can be no peace while Mr. Lincoln presides at the head of the Government of the United States.

All concede that we will not accept his terms . . . They see that he can reach peace only through the subjugation of the South . . . through the seas of their own blood as well as ours; through anarchy and moral chaos – all of which is more repulsive and intolerable than even the separation and independence of the South. “

(Correspondence of Confederate State Department, Hon. C.C. Clay, Jr. to Hon. J.P. Benjamin, August 11, 1864; Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume VII, Broadfoot Publishing, 1990, excerpt, pp. 335-336)

Power, Plunder and Extended Rule

Lincoln’s continued military defeats caused Radical Republicans to oppose his reelection, until Gen. George B. McClellan became the Democratic presidential nominee in 1864. As Charles Sumner put it privately, “Lincoln’s reelection would be a disaster, but McClellan’s damnation.” After winning their war against the South, Republicans extended their rule over the new empire beyond the turn of the century, except for the two terms of Democrat Grover Cleveland. For further reading on Lincoln’s opponents within his party see: Ward Hill Lamon’s “Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, 1847-1865,” published in 1895.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Power, Plunder and Extended Rule

“Surgeon [Francis Marion] Robertson equates the Union logic of war with that which was being espoused by a set of Union opponents of President Abraham Lincoln’s conduct of the war.

Following the long series of Federal military disasters leading up to and including their defeats in the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville in 1863, there arose a movement within the Army and Federal Congress that reached a fever pitch in its call to displace President Lincoln, in effect, by the appointment of a dictator to direct the war effort.

Members of Congress called for appointing a vigilant “committee on the conduct of the war” to watch and supervise Lincoln’s movements and decisions. Supporters of this cabal included (a), political activists who sought increased military victories and preservation of their personal and party power, (b), commercial zealots who desired spoliation and plunder of the South, and (c), religious abolitionists whose sympathy for the slave had degenerated into envenomed hostility toward his owner.

These aggressive enemies of Lincoln in the North and within his own party summed up the logic of war in the comprehensive formula, “Power, plunder and extended rule.”

This phrase summarized the vindictive motivation that the seceding Southerners both expected and feared from the Union, if they should lose the war. The collection of attitudes has later been described by historians as the Radical Republican philosophies.

So Lincoln, faced with fire in both his front and rear, finally concluded that he must assert himself. Lincoln exclaimed, “This state of things shall continue no longer. I will show them at the other end of the Avenue whether I am President or not!” From soon after this moment, “his opponents and would-be masters were now, for the most part, silenced; but they hated him all the more cordially.”

In the end, after the Southern surrender and Lincoln’s assassination, the worst apprehensions of white Southerners about “power, plunder and extended rule” at the hands of the Republican North and the carpetbaggers would largely come true.”

(Resisting Sherman, A Confederate Surgeon’s Journal and the Civil War in the Carolinas, 1865, Thomas Heard Robertson, Jr., editor, Savas-Beatie, 2015, pg. 64)

A Conquered and Foreign People

Most, if not all, foreign observers recognized the fiction that the Union was saved by Lincoln. Americans in the South were put under military rule and the Republican Party moved quickly to enlist and manipulate the freedmen vote to attain political dominance and ensure the election of Grant in 1868 – lest their military victory be lost with the election of New York Democrat Horatio Seymour.  Grant won a narrow victory over Seymour, by a mere 300,000 votes of the 500,000 newly enfranchised freedmen.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Conquered and Foreign People

“Not everything was settled on the day the Federal flag was raised once again over the capitol building in Richmond. The nation had to go forward resolutely to complete the revolution begun by the Civil War . . . It was needful not only to impose obedience on the conquered inhabitants but also to raise them up again after having subjugated them, to bring them back into the bosom of the Union; to rebuild the devastated countryside and enlist the people’s sincere acceptance of the great reform about to be inaugurated.

They must be made to feel the firm hand of a determined government that would not, however, be a threat to their liberties. Armed repression must give way to politics . . .

[In dealing with the Southern States, they] might be considered conquered territory and be told that when they left the Union they gave up all their rights under the Federal Constitution that they had ceased to be sovereign States.

In that case they must be treated as a conquered foreign people; their State and local governments must be destroyed or allowed to collapse and then reorganized as territories . . . Then someday, when the memory of the Civil War had been completely erased, they would be readmitted to the Union.

This procedure, the Radicals argued, would be merely the literal application of the United States Constitution, the sole method of ensuring respect for national authority. It would be the only way to restore the former Union on a solid foundation, having levelled the ground beforehand by stamping out all tendencies to rebellion . . .

It would be a good thing for the Southern States to be subjected for a time to the rigors of military rule and arbitrary power, or at least for them to be kept for a number of years under the guardianship of Congress, that is to say, under the domination of the North.

Their delegates might come, like those from the territories, and present their grievances or defend their interests; but they would only have a consultative voice in Congress and would have no share in the government. Great care must be taken not to give back to the South the preponderant influence it had exercised for so long.

The rebellion is not yet dead, the Radical orators declared; it has only been knocked down and it may get back on its feet if we are not vigilant. Never has the Union been in such danger as in this moment of victory when peace seems to prevail, but when the future depends on the decisions the people and the government now adopt.

If the [Democratic Party] is once again allowed to reorganize, if the Southerners renew their alliance with the Northern Democrats, it will be all up for national greatness and liberty. The same arrogant claims and the same quarrels will reappear . . . all this will someday or another lead to another civil war which will encompass the total destruction of America.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, 1864-1865, Ernest Duvergier de Hauranne, Volume II, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company, 1975 (original 1866), pp. 543-545

 

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McClellan’s Men to March on Washington

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 [1862], 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)

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