Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On March 11, 1862

On this day in 1862, Abraham Lincoln relieved frustratingly cautious General George B. McClellan ("Little Mac") of his duties as General-in-Chief of the U. S. Army so that he could devote all of his time to the Army of the Potomac -- and hopefully win some battles for the beleaguered North.

McClellan's subsequent performance in the Peninsula Campaign (the first Union operation against the South, commencing in March of 1862 and ending in July,) was less than spectacular. McClellan repeatedly overestimated the size of the brilliant - and aggressive - General Lee's army, and repeatedly refused to commit all of his reserves to battle.

After repeated Union retreats ahead of Lee's smaller army, the failure of his plan to capture Richmond, and his continual insubordination when dealing with Lincoln, McClellan gradually eroded any trust he had earned in the North when he built and drilled the mighty Army of the Potomac. Mac was great a building armies... he simply wasn't willing to risk his glorious fighting machine in battle.

McClellan lacked the aggressiveness to match Lee's genius on the field, and it cost the North dearly. In September of 1862, the battle at Antietam (Sharpsburg, if you are from the South) was fought to a draw, which halted Lee's invasion of Maryland. But MacClellan cautiousness allowed Lee's army to retreat back into Virginia and escape total destruction, which set the stage for two more bloody years of war.

Lincoln eventually removed Mac from command of the Army of the Potomac as well, turning at last to less flamboyant but increasingly successful generals in the Western theater, Grant and Sherman.

President's War Order No. 3 [1]

Executive Mansion
Washington, March 11, 1862.

Major General McClellan having personally taken the field at the head of the Army of the Potomac, until otherwise ordered, he is relieved from the command of the other Military departments, he retaining command of the Department of the Potomac.

Ordered further that the two departments now under the respective commands of Generals Halleck, and Hunter together with so much of that under General Buell as lies West of a North and South line indefinitely drawn through Knoxville, Tennessee, be consolidated, and designated the Department of the Mississippi; and that, until otherwise ordered, Major General Halleck have command of said department.

Ordered also, that the country West of the Department of the Potomac, and East of the Department of the Mississippi be a Military department to be called the Mountain Department; and that the same be commanded by Major General Fremont.

That all the commanders of departments, after the receipt of this order by them respectively, report severally and directly to the Secretary of War, and that prompt, full, and frequent reports will be expected of all and each of them.



[1] ADS, IHi. A preliminary draft of this order prepared by Stanton is as follows:

``In view of active operations by the Army of the Potomac which will demand the presence & supervision of its Commanding General in the field and that he should be relieved from all other duties is ordered by the President

``1st. That Major General George B McClellan be and he is hereby relieved from & after this date from duty as General Commanding and directed to devote his attention exclusively to the operations of the Army of the Potomac

``2. The Adjutant General is directed to give immediate notice of this order to all Generals commanding Armies expeditions or Departments and instruct them from and after the receipt of this order to make their reports to & receive their instruction from the President through the War Department.'' (DLC-Stanton Papers).

The issuing of War Order No. 3 was also recommended by Bates in the cabinet meeting of March 11 (see Diary of Edward Bates, p. 239). On March 12 McClellan sent a letter by Governor Dennison of Ohio which he marked "Unofficial,'' reading in part as follows:

"I have just seen Gov. Dennison who has detailed to me the conversations he held with you yesterday and today.

"I beg to say. . . that I cordially endorse all that he said to you in my behalf, and. . . I thank you. . . for the official confidence & kind personal feelings you entertain for me. I believe I said to you some weeks since. . . that no feeling of self interest or ambition should ever prevent me from devoting myself to your service. I am glad to have the opportunity to prove it, & you will find that under present circumstances I shall work just as cheerfully as ever before & that no consideration of self will in any manner interfere with the discharge of my public duties. . . .'' (DLC-RTL).

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