Lincoln grows impatient with McClellan

In Washington, meanwhile, President Abraham Lincoln (18091865) waded through political difficulties of his own during the early months of 1862. In December 1861, U.S. senators nervous about Union defeats at First Bull Run and Ball's Bluff (located a mere thirty miles from the U.S. capital) had established a Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War in order to review military strategies and leadership. By the spring of

1862, Lincoln could tell that this Republican-dominated committee posed a threat to his leadership. Its members continually tried to interfere with his control of the military and his efforts to set administration policy in a number of areas. Lincoln never allowed this committee to seize control of the Union war effort, but handling its membership challenged the president's powers of diplomacy and persuasion over the next few years.

Lincoln's relationship with his top general turned sour during the first months of 1862 as well. General McClellan insisted that he was eager to move against the South, but he kept his Army of the Potomac in Washington. One reason for McClel-lan's inaction was an attack of typhoid fever that sent him to bed for a few weeks in December 1861. Another reason was his tendency to overestimate the strength of his opponents. He routinely misjudged the numbers of Confederate troops to an amazing degree, in part because his military intelligence department often misinterpreted the information it received on enemy movements.

The existence of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War also may have slowed McClellan. By the spring of 1862, the committee had become a severe critic of a number of the Union's military leaders. McClellan knew that he would take a lot of abuse if his offensive was unsuccessful. As a result, he continued to train his troops and explore various strategies, ignoring the growing num ber of radical Republicans who said that McClellan might actually be a Confederate sympathizer.

As time passed, however, President Lincoln became more impatient with McClellan's inactivity. In January 1862, the two men clashed on a number of occasions. By January 27, Lincoln had become so fed up that he released General War Order No. 1, which called for a Union offensive into Virginia by February 22. But the Army of the Potomac still remained in Washington. On March 11, Lincoln punished McClellan for his inaction by stripping him of his title as generalin-chief over all Union forces.

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