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as the enemy, and it is unmanly to say they can not do it. This letter is in no sense an order.
It is not strange that there were ardent Republicans who thought political rather than military reasons governed McClellan's conduct at this time. State elections were to be held in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana early in October, and in New York and many other States a few weeks later. The Opposition party was now well organized and very active. There had been disappointments in the prosecution of the war; there were criminations and recriminations between the President's adherents and those who still cherished the views prevalent during the Pierce-Buchanan era. The preliminary Emancipation proclamation came out just in time to serve as fresh material for the Opposition in this political canvass. All possible use was made of this, and of its first impression on ultra-conservative minds, to alienate support from the Administration and to crush the party which brought it into power.
A significant incident at this juncture was the dismissal, by the President's direct action, of a military officer who had expressed with indiscreet freedom precisely the views which so many believed to have influenced McClellan. The obnoxious language having been reported to Lincoln, he addressed this note, September 26th, to the officer in question:
Major John J. Key:-I am informed that, in answer to the question, “ Why was not the rebel army bagged immediately after the battle near Sharpsburg ?" propounded to you by Major Levi C. Turner, Judge Advocate, etc., you said: “That is not the game. The object is, that neither army shall get much advantage of the other; that both shall be kept in the field till they are exhausted, when we will make
a compromise and save slavery.” I shall be very happy if you will, within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this, prove to me by Major Turner that you did not, either literally or in substance, make the answer stated.
Major Key responded in person next day, with what result appears from the following memorandum in the President's own handwriting:
At about ii o'clock A, M., September 27, 1862, Major Key and Major Turner appeared before me. Major Turner says: “As I remember it, the conversation was: “Why we did not bag them after the battle of Sharpsburg ?' Major Key's reply was: “That was not the game; that we should tire the rebels out and ourselves; that that was the only way the Union could be preserved, we come together fraternally, and slavery be saved.'” On cross-examination, Major Turner says he has frequently heard Major Key converse in regard to the present troubles, and never heard him utter a sentiment unfavorable to the maintenance of the Union. He has never uttered anything which he, Major T., would call disloyalty. The particular conversation detailed was a private one.
On this paper he indorsed:
In my view, it is wholly inadmissible for any gentleman holding a military commission from the United States to utter such sentiments as Major Key is within proved to have done. Therefore, let Major John J. Key be forthwith dismissed from the military service of the United States.
A. LINCOLN. The President said of the matter orally that if there was a “game,” even among Union men, to have our army not take advantage of the enemy when it could, it was his intent to break
game. During these days of delay and depression the Confederate armies at the West, as we have seen, were vigorously active all along the far-extending line of war.
The elections came on when discontent over McClellan's inaction was at the worst. Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana all gave anti-Administration majorities in October. New York, New Jersey, and even Illinois did the same in November. True, in each case the majority was small, but large enough to be disheartening — large enough in the Empire State to make Horatio Seymour Governor instead of the noble-hearted candidate of the Republicans, General James S. Wadsworth. In nearly all the States which still gave Administration majorities, the Republican vote was materially reduced. In the choice of Representatives the change was so considerable as even to portend an Opposition majority in the next House.
On the 21st of October, fifteen days after receiving the President's peremptory order to move, and after having held out the promise of speedily beginning, McClellan telegraphed to Halleck, begging "leave to ask whether the President desires” him “to march at once, or to await the reception of the new horses,” etc., and was answered: “He directs me to say that he has no change to make in his order of the 6th inst. The President does not expect impossibilities, but he is very anxious that all this good weather should not be wasted in inactivity.” But still there was no movement. Inadequate supplies, insufficient transportation, or some other element of unreadiness was continually alleged. On the 25th came a report as to the sick, lame, and weary condition of the cavalry horses. Lincoln replied: “Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anything?” The General specified
“making reconnoissances, scouting and picketing,” and forced marches “while endeavoring to reach Stuart's cavalry.” The President rejoined (on the 26th): “Of course you know the facts better than I. Still, two considerations remain: Stuart's cavalry outmarched ours, having certainly done more marked service on the Peninsula and everywhere since. Secondly, Will not a movement of our army be a relief to the cavalry, compelling the enemy to concentrate instead of 'foraging' in squads everywhere? But I am so rejoiced to learn from your dispatches to General Halleck that you began crossing the river this morning.”
Two infantry divisions and a brigade of cavalry crossed the Potomac at Berlin that day. Nearly all the remainder of the army was on the Virginia side by the second day of November. The long waiting had not been for the lack of numbers much superior to those of the enemy, or on account of such destitution of supplies or means of any kind as to compel delay, even had there been no positive orders to advance to positions where everything needed could quite as readily be received. Halleck, a good authority on war matters, discerned a more real embarrassment in what he deemed an excess of baggage and a deficiency of walking exercise on the part of the soldiers. In a dispatch to McClellan (October 7th) Halleck had said:
There is a decided want of legs in our troops. They have too much immobility, and we mu try to remedy the defect. A reduction of baggage and baggage trains will effect something, but the real difficulty is, they are not sufficiently exercised in marching ; they lie still in camp too long. After a hard march, one day is time enough to rest. Lying still beyond that time does not rest the men.
Now that breaking camp was actually begun, in the last days of October and the earliest of November, the good weather so long enjoyed was interrupted, and McClellan reported that “heavy rains delayed the movement considerably.” The several corps slowly advanced by way of Lovettsville, Snicker's Gap, and Rectortown, along the southern base of Blue Ridge, until finally massed near Warrenton. Lee promptly retired up the Shenandoah Valley, as he would have done six weeks earlier (if permitted to escape at all), had he been vigorously pursued on his retreat from Sharpsburg. He now made all the haste necessary to keep out of danger until he reached Gordonsville.
A special messenger from the War Department arrived at the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac on the evening of November 7th, with an order to General McClellan, relieving him of the command and designating General Burnside as his successor.