- 06 Nov 2020 13:15
November 7, Friday
General Buckingham arrives at his first stop on his mission to relieve McClellan of his command, Burnside’s headquarters near Salem, in the midst of an unseasonably early snowstorm. Burnside, as he has on two previous occasions, refuses to accept command of the army, protesting that he is not qualified. But when Buckingham, acting under Secretary of War Stanton’s instructions, informs him that if he does not accept it the command will go to Hooker, his bitter rival, he relents.
Buckingham and Burnside then board the train together and ride a few miles up the line to Rectortown. It is about 11 pm, and McClellan is writing a letter to his wife when the two generals appear at the entrance to his tent. McClellan receives them cordially. He has girded himself for this moment; he has heard about the special train and expects to be sacked. The shock comes with the news of his successor: his old friend Burnside, whom he now regards as “not fit to command more than a regiment.” McClellan carefully conceals his emotions as he reads the orders to return immediately to his home in Trenton, New Jersey, where he is to await “further orders”—orders that will never come. In response to Burnside’s pleas, however, he agrees to remain for a few days to help with the transition in command.
On the face of it, McClellan’s opinion of Burnside is overwrought—whatever Burnside’s fellow officers and subordinates think of his abilities, and the opinions are remarkable diverse, almost everyone agrees that he has a captivating personality. There is a certain brigandish air about his casual dress, the pistol slung low on his hip, the broad-brimmed hat atop his balding, impressive head. He smiles frequently, remembers names, looks after the welfare of his troops, wins friends with ease, takes orders well, and conveys to the world an air of sturdy competence. But his dashing appearance disguises some critical flaws in his character. He is obstinate, unimaginative, and unsuited for high command. Those who know him sense it eventually. It is to Burnside’s credit that he understands his limitations and freely confesses them. And it will be an enduring tragedy that his superiors don’t listen to him. But Lincoln needs a leader for the Army of the Potomac, and he has few men from which to choose. The other eligible corps commanders all have disqualifying flaws: Edwin V. Sumner, at 65, is too old; William B. Franklin is uninspired and too much imbued with what Lincoln has called McClellan’s “slows”; Hooker is troublesome and too junior in rank. Burnside, on the other hand, is a brave, loyal, and youthful officer, one who has done well in North Carolina and seems free of McClellan’s influence despite their friendship. As so often happens in this war, Lincoln is forced to choose not the ideal man for the command, but the one who presents the fewest apparent liabilities.
The dread with which Burnside anticipates his new responsibilities deepens to depression after he reads his first order from the general in chief of the Union Army, Henry W. Halleck: “Report the position of your troops, and what you propose doing with them.” It is a straightforward, even elementary request. Yet, as Burnside will later comment, “I probably knew less than any other corps commander of the position and relative strengths of the several corps of the army.” Moreover, there is no time for him to learn. President Lincoln wants action, and he wants it immediately; delay is what has caused McClellan’s downfall. Now Burnside has a painful choice—he can continue McClellan’s march that President Lincoln has so firmly suggested, despite the obstacle that Longstreet’s corps presents at Culpeper Court House; he can try to get between the two halves of Lee’s army and deal with them separately; or he can come up with an alternative plan of action. But the President is clearly in no mood to be told that the Army of the Potomac is going into winter quarters.
At the same time Fitz John Porter is relieved from his corps command. Porter, a pro-McClellan corps commander charged with willful disobedience at Second Manassas, is replaced by Joseph Hooker.
Lincoln places the ram fleet on the Mississippi under navy control despite War Department objections.
For the Confederates, General Bragg, resuming command of the Army of the Mississippi after a brief absence, puts one army corps under former bishop Leonidas Polk and the other under William Hardee.
All the good will General Rosecrans has received from the soldiers he leads, his fellow officers (if rather mixed in the case of General Grant), and from President Lincoln cannot change the fact that his men, having marched 700 miles, have outdistanced their supplies. The problems that have undone General Buell remain to be solved. Buell had already started the army toward Nashville, Tennessee, when he was relieved at the end of October, and Rosecrans hasn’t changed those orders. But the relocation to Nashville doesn’t end the Federal supply difficulties, in spite of the fact that the city is located on the Cumberland River and served by the railroad from Louisville, Kentucky. The river is still too low for navigation, and the railroad is still being torn up regularly by Confederate cavalry raids.
There is increased fighting in Tennessee at Gallatin, Tyree Springs, and White Range; as well as at Boonesborough, Rhea’s Mills, and Marianna, Arkansas; Clark’s Mill in Douglas Country, Missouri; and at Spaulding’s or Sapello River in Georgia.
Governments—and corporations—believe free speech is a marvelous thing, so long as “free” is defined as “responsible” and “responsible” is defined by them.
In the United States we privatize everything, including censorship.