Ctiticism of General McClellan


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, May 24, 1862

This site contains an archive of all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. Sit back, relax, and dive into this incredible resource. These old newspapers contain intriguing details of the war you simply will not find anywhere else.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to a specific page of interest)



Norfolk, Virginia

British Sympathy, Trent Affair

British Support of the South

McClellan Criticism

McClellan Criticism

Capture of New Orleans

Capture of New Orleans

Battle of Williamsburg

Battle of Williamsburg

General Hancock

General Hancock

Jeff Davis Cartoon

Jeff Davis Cartoon


New Orleans Naval Battle

New Orleans Naval Battle

New Orleans Expedition

The New Orleans Expedition

Fort John Morgan

Fort John Morgan

Battle of Williamsburg

Battle of Williamsburg Pictures

Yorktown, Virginia

Yorktown, Virginia









MAY 24, 1862.]



(Previous Page) men in Congress and out sneered and gibed at his miraculous faculty of staying in one place, he held his tongue triumphantly. For an American in his place at this time silence was greatness. What other man of us all, except Fremont, would not have written a letter, or made a speech, or authorized some friend to speak for us?

The question is not, and never has been, whether he were Napoleon, Hannibal, or Frederick the Great; whether if Alexander had been in Washington he would not have moved in December, or whether the Prince of Parma would not have cleared the Potomac. The question has always been perfectly simple—when and how can he best go to Richmond? Of that McClellan was the judge, and not a prejudiced newspaper correspondent at Willard's Hotel, nor a vehement partisan at the Capitol. Moreover he has always necessarily acted under this stringent condition, that he must not lose a battle. Other Generals might be beaten for a while, but his defeat lost Washington. Other Generals might move and retire, but McClellan could only march to assured victory.

And he has marched; and for the first time, in a private bulletin to his wife from his first victorious battle-field, he alludes quietly to the long abuse and doubt that have followed him, by saying that "the Quaker army" have done superbly. Events show that he has not been mistaken; that his estimate of the numbers and the strength of the enemy and their works has been correct. Every account declares that his coming turned the lingering day of Williamsburg into a brilliant victory. He came, he saw, he conquered—are almost the words of the reports. And at this moment the public confidence in him is entire, because he has persuaded every honest man in the country that he does not move until he is ready, and then moves resistlessly.

The week after the rebel flight from Yorktown reads like the Rich Mountain week of last spring. It blazes and rings with the light and the shouts of victory. And to complete his crown, it is Owen Lovejoy—politically the representative of his bitterest detractors, if not himself one—who rises in his place as a Representative and moves the sincere thanks of this House to Major-General George B. MClellan, for the display of those high military qualities which secure important results with but little sacrifice of human life.

And all the people say Amen!


SINCE there are so many lively and graphic correspondents at the various seats of war, it would be a good thing if they could inform us exactly what we are to believe. It is curious, but it is true, that you can always anticipate the tone in which the correspondents of the different papers will treat facts. If General McClellan does something or doesn't do any thing, there are papers which will express a sneer. If General Fremont does or doesn't, others will do the same. You are sure never to know quite the truth about one General in one paper, or about another General in another. We are all as desperate military, as we have been political, partisans.

This feeling inevitably colors the statements of fact, so that the future historian of the war will have many a sharp word over the clashing testimony of eye-witnesses. For instance, there was the late retreat of the rebels from Yorktown. All the McClellan papers celebrated the "bloodless victory." In Albany they fired a hundred guns over his "glorious success." He had driven the rebels, demoralized and disorganized, in a panic rout. He had struck the coup de grace of the rebellion. The anti-McClellan papers, on the other hand, "didn't see it." He had been outwitted again. The rebels never meant to stand at Yorktown. They had no serious works. They mounted Quaker cannon. "The balloon first informed General McClellan of the escape of the foe, and of the disappointment of his preparations."

These are general statements, but side by side with them are details of fact—so called. A McClellan journal, recording that a party had returned from Yorktown, adds: "The stores abandoned by the rebels, they say, were immense, and exhibit the most conclusive evidence of demoralization and confusion in the retreat." "Competent judges, who went carefully over the ground abandoned by the rebels near Yorktown," says an anti-McClellan journal of the same morning, "say that there are no signs that their retreat partook of the character of a rout. There were no signs of demoralization whatever....The retrograde movement has all the appearance of being well ordered, in obedience to a preconcerted plan."

The animus of such conflicting statements is evident enough.


NOBODY will deny that in this war the American Navy has sustained its old fame. When the rebel Commodore Barron, who was taken at Hatteras, heard at Fort Warren, where he is imprisoned, of the beautiful and brilliant victory at Port Royal, he jumped up, forgetting his treason in hearty pride and admiration of the service which had given his family name all its renown, and exclaimed: "I tell you nothing can stand against our navy!" The rebel Captain spoke truly. It was prophecy as well as history. Nothing has stood against it. Hatteras, Port Royal, Fort Henry, Roanoke, Island No. 10, and New Orleans are the witnesses.

But chief witness of all was the Monitor in her first fight with the Merrimac, for that marked an epoch in naval science and history. The battle itself resulted in defeating the only really formidable weapon the rebellion has brought against us. It saved more than can be computed. It was the single service of the war which stands pre-eminent among all the glorious successes, and it deserves—every loyal man feels it—the heartiest and amplest national recognition.

When General Grant took Fort Donelson he was

properly made a Major-General; when Burnside captured Newbern he justly received the same honor; when Siegel and Curtis conquered at Pea Ridge they earned the grade they won; when Mitchell occupied Huntsville the President spoke for the grateful nation in nominating him also a Major-General. These were instances of splendid service promptly and honorably acknowledged and rewarded. Each sent a thrill of satisfaction to every sympathizing and admiring spectator. Surely Dupont, and Foote, and Worden have not done less brilliantly or deserved less than their brothers of the army, and we all wonder why they have not been distinguished with similar rewards.

The difficulty is not the ingratitude of the people nor the reluctance of the President, but simply the rule of the service. But whatever the impediment it should be removed at once. New grades of rank to be conferred for signal service should be immediately established. But meanwhile something can be done to show the sincerity of national feeling.

Lieutenant Worden, the gallant Captain of the Monitor in her most famous and eventful moment, was sadly wounded. The blow virtually destroyed his sight and shattered his system. In the instant of his glorious victory he fell—happily not so fatally hurt as Nelson at Trafalgar, but hopelessly and permanently. A generous instinct seeks to offer him the homage of respect and gratitude which the law can not afford. Mr. Everett and other noted gentlemen have suggested a subscription to a fund to be presented to the hero upon whom so many hopes hung that day, and who did not disappoint them. The sum already subscribed is considerable, and as the facts are made known it will doubtless largely increase. Mr. W. H. Aspinwall is the treasurer, and every man will see the peculiar propriety of this offering to an officer injured for life in serving us, and whom our imperfect laws can not honor by that superior rank with which his brother-soldiers are honored.


WHEN Sir John Scott (afterward Lord Eldon) brought in a bill for restraining the liberty of the press, an Irish member moved the insertion of a clause providing that all anonymous works should have the names of the authors printed on the title-pages!

THE BITER BIT.—A lady having accidentally broken her smelling-bottle, her husband, who was very petulant, said to her, "I declare, my dear, every thing that belongs to you is more or less broken." "True," replied the lady, "for even you are a little cracked!"

In a large party one evening the conversation turned upon young men's allowance at college. Tom Sheridan lamented the ill-judging parsimony of many parents in that respect. "I am sure, Tom," said the father, "you need not complain; I always allowed you three hundred a year." "Yes, father, I must confess you allowed it, but then it was never paid."

A clever man, M—, who had run counter to the general opinions, pronounced himself strongly against a popular work. In all societies he was answered that the public had come to a very different conclusion from his. "The public!" he rejoined; "how many fools must you collect together to form a public?"

"What are those speckled birds?" inquired Mrs. Skinflint of a poulterer. "Guinea fowls, ma'am." "Keep 'em, then," murmured the lady, as she walked away, disgusted at such imposition; "you don't get my guineas for 'em, that's all!"

When Dean Goodenough preached before the peers a wag wrote:

" 'Tis well enough that Goodenough

Before the lords should preach;

For sure enough they're bad enough

He undertakes to teach."

It is said that printed declarations, with blank forms, are to be used by young ladies who have lovers too modest to propose. The ladies themselves fill out the blanks, and, of course, no sensible man can refuse signing them.

A public writer thinks that much might be gained if speakers would observe the miller's creed—always to shut the gate when the grist is out.

This pleasant little word we notice in the Darmstadt newspaper—"Civildienerwittwenininstitut," meaning Institution for Widows of Civil Service Officers.

LETTING THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG.—A little girl the daughter of a baker, being asked in her class at a Sunday-school what bread was made of, answered at once, "Flour and alum, Sir!"

"Boy, why don't you go to school?" '''Cause, Sir, daddy is afeard that if I larns every thing now, I sha'n't have any thing to larn ven I comes to the 'cademy."

NEXT DOOR TO A FOOL.—"Mr. Brown," said a little boy to a gentleman who was calling on his father, "who is your next-door neighbor?" "Mr. Jones, my dear," replied the visitor. "Isn't he a very silly man, Sir?" asked the child. "No, my dear; Mr. Jones is a sensible man enough." "Oh, I don't think he is," persisted the boy, "for I heard mamma say to papa that you were next door to a fool!"

"I can bear," said a sufferer, "I can bear the squealing of a pig, the roaring of thunder, or the squall of ten thousand cats; but the voice of a dun is like the crack of doom; and when I hear a dun, I am done out and out."

DISADVANTAGES OF IGNORANCE.—A farmer recently received a very polite note from a neighbor, requesting the loan of an ass for a few days. Being unable to decipher his friend's hieroglyphics, and wishing to conceal his ignorance from the servant, the farmer hastily returned for answer, "Very well; tell your master I will wait upon him myself presently!"

To CURE THE GOUT.—Accustom yourself to virtue and well-water.

CATCHING A TARTAR.—"Remember, Madam, that you are the weaker vessel," said an irate husband. "Exactly," said the lady; "but do not you forget that the weaker vessel may have the stronger spirit in it !"

"Sambo, whar you get dat watch you wear to meetin' last Sunday?" "How you know I hab watch?" "Bekase I seed de chain hang out de pocket in front." "Go 'way niXXer! S'pose you see halter round my neck, you tink dar is horse inside ob me?"

A drunken fellow, at a late hour in the night, was sitting in the middle of the Place Vendome. A friend of his happening to pass, recognized him, and said, "Well, and what do you do here? Why don't you go home?" The drunkard replied, "My good fellow, 'tis just what I want; but the place is all going round, and I'm waiting for my door to go by,"



ON Tuesday, May 6, in the Senate, a resolution calling for all the official reports relative to the battle at Pittsburg Landing was laid over. The Homestead bill was taken up, and passed by a vote of 33 to 7. The debate on the Confiscation bill was resumed, and finally the subject was referred to a select committee. The Finance Committee reported the Internal Tax bill, and it was ordered to be printed. After an executive session the Senate adjourned.—In the House, a bill was reported appropriating $2500 indemnity to the officers and crew of the Spanish bark Providencia, illegally detained by the blockading squadron. A bill to punish frauds on the Government by fine and imprisonment was referred to the Judiciary Committee. A resolution directing the steps to be taken for the impeachment of West H. Humphreys, Judge of the United States Courts for Tennessee, for high crimes and misdemeanors, was adopted. The Pacific Railroad bill was passed by a vote of 79 to 49. Mr. Segar was admitted a Member from the First District of Virginia, and took his seat. A resolution declaring F. W. Lowe not entitled to represent California was adopted. The Nebraska contested election was discussed till the adjournment.

On Wednesday, May 7, in the Senate, the House hill appropriating $30,000,000 for the support of the army for the year ending June 30, 1862, was reported by the Finance Committee, and after a brief discussion as to the number of men in the army laid aside. The House bill to provide increased revenue was passed. A resolution was adopted directing inquiry as to what legislation is necessary with reference to the vessels seized by the rebels at New Orleans and other ports, and recaptured. Senator Sumner offered a resolution for the expulsion of Senator Stark, of Oregon, who is charged with disloyalty, which was laid over. A bill for the relief of Captain Farragut, for advances made while in California, was passed. The House Committee appointed to impeach Judge Humphreys, of Tennessee, charged with high crimes and misdemeanors, appeared in the Senate and stated their business: but no action was taken on the subject. A bill regarding the number of generals in the army was debated; but no action taken. The select Committee on the Confiscation bill was announced, as follows: Messrs. Clark of New Hampshire, Collamer of Vermont, Harlan of Iowa, Cowan of Pennsylvania, Wilson of Massachusetts, Sherman of Ohio, Henderson of Missouri, and Willey of Virginia. After an executive session the Senate adjourned.—In the House, a bill making Port Royal, South Carolina, a port of entry was passed, and Mr. Daily was confirmed in his seat as delegate from Nebraska.

On Thursday, May 8, in the Senate, the House bill appropriating $30,000,000 for the pay of the army for the year ending June 30, 1862, was passed. The House bill making Port Royal, South Carolina, a port of entry was also passed. Messrs, Foster, Doolittle, and Davis were appointed a select committee to which was referred the House resolution relative to the impeachment of Judge Humphreys, of Tennessee. The bill limiting the number of major and brigadier generals was passed. It limits the number of major-generals to 30, and of brigadiers to 200. Senator Sumner offered a resolution, which lies over, declaring that it is inexpedient to inscribe on the colors of regiments the victories won over our own citizens. The bill providing for the collection of taxes on lands in insurrectionary districts was explained by Senator Doolittle, and then laid aside. The bill relating to the selection of jurors for the District of Columbia was passed. A bill to abolish the office of Marshal of the District of Columbia and establish that of Sheriff was introduced by Senator Hale. The bill providing for the education of colored children was taken up, and an amendment adopted, repealing the black code of the District of Columbia. The Senate then adjourned.—No business of general importance was transacted by the House. Mr. Lovejoy called up his bill to secure freedom to all persons within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Government, to the end that freedom may remain forever the fundamental law of the land, and in all places whatsoever, as far as it lies within the power or depends upon the action of the Government of the United States to make it so. A motion to lay the bill on the table was negatived by a vote of 50 against 65.

On Friday, May 9, in the Senate, the resolution presented by Senator Sherman, calling for the reports of the officers commanding in the two battles of Pittsburg Landing, was taken up, and debated at considerable length. It was finally passed. The Select Committee on the Humphrey's impeachment case reported assurance that they would proceed with the case immediately. The bill for the education of colored children in the District of Columbia was passed, 28 to 7. After an executive session the Senate adjourned until Monday.—In the House, Mr. Lovejoy, of Illinois, offered resolutions giving thanks to Almighty God for the recent successes of our arms against the rebels—expressing special satisfaction at the great triumphs of the Army of the Potomac, and tendering the sincere thanks of the House to General McClellan for the display of those high military qualities which secure important results with but little sacrifice of human life. The resolutions were unanimously adopted. Mr. Lovejoy offered a substitute modifying the bill introduced by trim on Thursday, and acted upon, providing for freedom in the Territories. A motion to lay it on the table was disagreed to, 65 to 50. Mr. Lovejoy demanded the previous question, but the House refused to second the demand. Mr. Lovejoy then moved to recommit the bill, and a long debate then occurred on the merits of the negro question generally, in which a number of members took part. The House finally adjourned until Monday without taking a vote.

On Monday, May 12, in the Senate, the bill providing for the collection of direct taxes in insurrectionary districts was taken up, and pasted by a vote of 32 against 3. The House resolution, that Congress adjourn on the 19th of May was then taken up, on motion of Senator Davis, of Kentucky, who moved to amend by fixing the 2d day of June as the time for the final adjournment; and in the course of his remarks said Congress had passed unconstitutional, iniquitous, and unwise measures, which he should counsel his people to resist by every mode of resistance they can devise. Senator Wilson pronounced the remark treasonable. Senator Davis explained that he meant nothing treasonable; and after some discussion the subject was dropped, and the resolution laid on the table. After an executive session the Senate adjourned.—In the House, the bill introduced by Mr. Lovejoy, abolishing slavery wherever the Federal Government has jurisdiction, was passed by a vote of eighty-five against fifty. The Senate bill empowering the Medical Inspector-General to discharge from service men physically disabled for duty was also passed. A Committee of conference on the Homestead bill was appointed. A bill defining and punishing treason was introduced and referred. The bill appropriating $6,000,000 for soldiers' bounties was passed. In case of the death of a person entitled to bounty it is to accrue to the widow, children, father, mother, brothers, or sisters of the deceased.


General McClellan has pursued the enemy to a point within twenty-two miles of Richmond. The rebels were still in sight on Saturday at three o'clock, but were rapidly falling back. It was reported that they would make a stand at Bottom Bridge, on the Chickahominy River, fifteen miles from Richmond.


The Galena, Aroostook, and Port Royal, started up the James River on Thursday morning, at six o'clock, to cut off the river communication with the rebels on the Chickahominy. They had passed Day's Point before seven o'clock, and heavy firing was heard at that time.


The advance of the iron-clad gun-boat Galena up the James River has created the utmost consternation in Petersburg. The fact that she had silenced the rebel batteries at Day's Point and was approaching Petersburg caused a complete panic there.


The rebels made a sortie upon General McDowell's advance, near Fredericksburg, on the Bowling Green road, on Saturday afternoon (10th), driving the pickets toward the city. General Patrick at once threw forward his brigade, whereupon the enemy made no further demonstration.

The Harris Light Cavalry provoked the attack from the rebels by making a dashing reconnoissance, in which they captured a lieutenant and ten privates of the rebel force.


A dispatch, dated Cairo, May 11, says: The desperation of the rebel cause in the Mississippi culminated yesterday in an attack on the flotilla. Early on Saturday morning eight of their gun-boats came round the point above the fort and boldly attacked our fleet. The Cincinnati, which was stationed at the point where the rebels came up to on Friday, did not attract them until the fleet had passed above her. As soon as she was seen a simultaneous attack from the whole of their gun-boats was made upon her, with but little effect, as the guns were poorly aimed. The Cincinnati in the mean time had hauled into the stream, when an iron-clad ram supposed to be the Mallory, advanced in the face of the continued broadsides from the former until within forty yards, and, being a faster sailer, succeeded in mooring between the Cincinnati and their right hand, when men appeared upon her decks, preparing to board with grapnels thrown out, which design was frustrated by throwing hot water front the steam batteries of the Cincinnati. In the mean time the rest of our gun-boats had arrived on the scene of action and engaged the fleet. The Mallory, undaunted by her failure, crowded on a full head of steam and came toward the Cincinnati, evidently intending to run her down. Captain Stembel, in command of the latter, waited until the rebel monster was within twenty yards, when he sent a broadside into her from his Parrott guns, which did fearful execution. The two boats were so close together by this time that it was impossible for the gunners of the Cincinnati to swab out the guns, and it was only by bringing the steam batteries to bear upon her again that the Mallory was compelled to haul off. Captain Stembel shot her pilot with his revolver, and was himself wounded by a pistol-shot fired by the pilot's mate of the Mallory. While the engagement between the Mallory and the Cincinnati was in progress our shots exploded the boilers of one of the rebel gun-boats and set fire to another, burning her to the water's edge. The air was very heavy, and under cover of the dense smoke which hung over the river the rebel fleet retired, but were pursued until they gained shelter under the guns of Fort Wright. None of our boats were injured except the Cincinnati. Tins damage to her is so slight that she can be repaired in twenty-four hours. Four men were wounded on her, including the master's mate. No other casualties are mentioned. When the smoke cleared away a broadside from the flag-ship Benton was sent after the Mallory, and shortly after she was seen to careen, and went down with all on board.


The national forces now in the Southwest, and under the immediate command of Major-General Halleck, are divided into three corps d'armee—the Army of the Ohio, the Army of the Tennessee, and the Army of the Mississippi.

The Army of the Tennessee is divided into two grand divisions, commanded by Major-Generals Thomas and McClernand, and into divisions commanded by Major-General Lew Wallace, Brigadier-Generals Davis, T. W. Sherman, Hurlbut, McKean, and Crittenden.

The army of the Ohio is commanded in person by Major-General Buell, and the divisions commanded by Brigadier-Generals McCook, Nelson, Mitchell, and Woods.

The army of the Mississippi is commanded by General Pope in person, and its divisions commanded by Generals Paine, Stanley, and Hamilton.

The order of succession is arranged so that General Grant is second in command, that General being without any special command, his late army being distributed between Generals McClernand and Thomas.


General Buell's army has seized the portion of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad between Corinth and the Grand Junction, cutting off all communication between the two points.

On Friday the rebel General Bragg's division attacked General Paine's division, in position two miles beyond Farmington. A sharp engagement followed, our men fighting bravely, and making several bayonet charges on the enemy, who were repulsed with great slaughter. Large reinforcements of rebels having arrived, our troops returned to Farmington.

We lost nearly 200 in killed, wounded, and missing. No particulars are received.


The rebel brigand, Morgan, with a force of about one thousand cavalry, attacked a small body of Union troops at Pulaski, Tennessee, on Friday last, and after a fight of two hours and a half, during which the rebels lost six killed and two wounded, and our troops lost two killed, three wounded, and one missing, the whole force was taken prisoners. The prisoners were released on parole, and are now in Nashville. The rebels outnumbered our forces four to one.

On Monday morning General Dumont, who had sent a strong body of cavalry in pursuit, found and attacked the united rebel cavalry under Morgan and Wood, at Lebanon, and utterly routed them, after killing a great number, capturing 150 prisoners and nearly all their horses and arms. The fight lasted an hour and a half, and the rebels fled, closely pursued by General. Dumont.


Governor Johnson, of Tennessee, has issued a proclamation to the effect that, for every Union man captured or ill-treated by the rebel bands of marauders, five prominent rebels shall be made to suffer, and that ample remuneration shall be made to all loyalists who may be despoiled of their property out of the property of such parties as have given aid and comfort to the enemy.


The rebel Secretary of State, J. P. Benjamin, has addressed a letter in answer to an inquiry by a Southern firm whether cotton purchased on foreign account would be treated as exempted from the general law which declares that all cotton shall be destroyed when it is about to fall into the hands of the enemy, in which he says: "I know no law which prohibits the purchase of cotton on foreign account, but I am not aware of any law or reason of policy which should induce this Government to extend to property thus purchased greater protection than is extended to that of our own citizens. It is the settled determination of the Government to allow no cotton to fall into the hands of our enemies, as it is perfectly well known that they would seize and appropriate to themselves all cotton they could find without regard to ownership. If your correspondents buy cotton they must expect to share the same risks as are incurred by our own citizens."


On Saturday afternoon a mast destructive fire commenced in the city of Troy, originating in the covered wooden bridge across the Hudson. At the time the fire broke out the wind was blowing a furious gale from the west, and fire-brands from the bridge were carved over various parts of the city; and a large number of the most valuable buildings of the city, including the Union Railway Depot, were destroyed. The area over which the fire extended is said to cover about fifty acres. The loss of property has further been attended with a serious loss of life.—[See Illustration on page 334.]




The recapture of the British ship Emilie St. Pierre from an American prize crew by her English captain, and her arrival in Liverpool, with the Federal seamen in irons, caused quite a sensation in the commercial world. The St. Pierre was from Calcutta, and was taken by the Union steamer James Adger, off Charleston. She was being navigated to Philadelphia by a prize crew, when her commander—a Scotchman—although having only four men at his disposal, disarmed, ironed, and confined in the hold sixteen of our men, took control of the vessel, and ran her to Liverpool—completing a romantic incident of the war in a fortunate manner both for himself and his employers.




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