Item #7058 The President to General McClellan. Abraham Lincoln.

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The President to General McClellan.

Washington, D.C., 9 April 1862. Broadside, 9.75” x 7.75”.

A broadside printing of Lincoln’s famous letter to the Gen. McClellan urging him to strike a decisive blow to the rebel army during the Peninsular Campaign, apparently published in an effort to rouse public opinion and pressure the stalling McClellan into action.

After the Union’s defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run in July of 1861, Lincoln quickly ordered McClellan to take command of the Army of the Potomac to defend the capital and destroy rebel forces in Virginia. Over the next nine months, McClellan built a strong army, but also developed an intense hatred of Lincoln—leading to a tortured relationship. Lincoln was particularly exasperated with McClellan’s repeated reluctance and/or outright refusal to go on the offensive against Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Lincoln here writes to McClellan during the Peninsular Campaign (4 April–1 July 1862), during which McClellan achieved several victories but acted very cautiously and seemed reluctant to pursue the enemy. Ultimately, McClellan would fail to fulfill the campaign’s objectives of taking Richmond and decisively defeating the enemy. Lincoln opens the letter palpably frustrated: “Your despatches complaining that you are not properly sustained, while they do not offend me, do pain me very much.” Lincoln discusses troop strength and positioning, and the susceptibility of Washington to a rebel attack. Lincoln queries: “‘Do you really think I should permit the line from Richmond, via Mannassas Junction, to this city to be entirely open, except what resistance could be presented by less than twenty thousand unorganized troops?’ This is a question which the country will not allow me to evade.”

Lincoln proceeds to press McClellan on the “curious mystery” of the discrepancies in his reported troop numbers. If, as Lincoln supposes, the “whole force which has gone forward for you, is with you by this time … it is the precise time for you to strike a blow.” Articulating the military consequences of McClellan’s delay of action, Lincoln again tells McClellan, “it is indispensable to you that you strike a blow.” However, he indicates his own doubt that McClellan will act: “I am powerless to help this. You will do me the justice to remember I always insisted.” Lincoln concludes the letter as follows: “The country will not fail to note—is now noting—that the present hesitation to move upon an intrenched enemy, is but the story of Manassas repeated. I beg to assure you that I have never written you, or spoken to you, in greater kindness of feeling than now, nor with a fuller purpose to sustain you, so far as in my most anxious judgment, I consistently can. But you must act.”

Following the Peninsular Campaign’s failure, Lincoln withdrew the Army of the Potomac from the peninsula. In Nov. 1862, the frustrated president removed McClellan from command, after his repeated failures to aggressively engage Lee, and named Gen. Ambrose Burnside commander of the Army of the Potomac. In the lead-up to the 1864 presidential election McClellan would butt heads with Lincoln once more. While McClellan secured the Democratic nomination Lincoln easily defeated him.

OCLC records six copies, at New York Historical Society, University of Delaware, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Boston Athenaeum, the Huntington Library, and Library Co. of Philadelphia.

REFERENCES: George B. McClellan at; Lincoln Removes General McClellan from Army of the Potomac at

CONDITION: Good, lightly soiled, reinstated losses to margins, backed with Japanese tissue.

Item #7058

Price: $2,250.00

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