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MAP OF THE PENINSULA
South West Br
Calhoun now Ft.Woul
exception of a single representative from New York, these gentlemen belonged to the Republican party, and the most conspicuous of them, Mr. Wade, of Ohio, and Mr. Chandler, of Michigan, to the extreme section of that party.
None of them were possessed of any military experience. They had, however, extremely well-defined and positive notions in respect to the "politics of war," and that these notions were diametrically antagonistic to those held upon the same subject by the commander-in-chief of the forces, will sufficiently appear from the following extract from a majority report in relation to the conduct of the war under General Fremont in Missouri.
"That feature of General Fremont's administration which attracted the most attention at the time, and which will ever be most prominent among the many parts of interest connected with the history of that department, is his proclamation of emancipation. Whatever opinion may be entertained in reference to the time when the proclamation of emancipation should have been inaugurated, or by whose authority it should have been promulgated, there can be no doubt that General Fremont at that early day rightly judged in regard to the most effective means of subduing this rebellion. In proof of that it is only necessary to refer to the fact that his successor, when transferred to another department, issued a proclamation embodying the same principle.* And the President, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, has applied the same principle to all the rebellious States, and few will deny
* This successor was General DAVID HUNTER, who, having been transferred to the command in South Carolina, issued there a procłamation "embodying the principle" of emancipation. Whether the effectiveness of this "means of subduing the rebellion" was "proved" by the publication of General Hunter's proclamation may perhaps be questioned when we consider that the rebellion has not yet been subdued in South Carolina nor even in Missouri, and that General Hunter, after issuing his “proclamation" was removed from the former department, as he had been from the latter, leaving no trace of his presence in a single military or political advantage gained for the cause of the Union.
that it must be adhered to till the last vestige of treason and rebellion is destroyed."
That a committee on the conduct of the war holding such views of the politics of war should bestow either "confidence" or "cordial support" upon a commander-in-chief whose whole military policy was based on the principle that everything ought to be done to quiet and nothing to inflame those passions of the people of the seceded States in which resided the real strength of their armies in the field, it was of course absurd to expect. It became, therefore, a matter of vital importance to the future of General McClellan's operations, that this committee should in no manner be suffered to interfere with the active management of military affairs.
During the interval which had witnessed the first reachingforth of this committee after the control of the war, another change, not less momentous, had occurred in the administrative machinery at Washington.
Mr. Cameron had retired from the war office, and had been succeeded by Mr. Stanton.
Mr. Stanton brought with him to the duties of this most arduous and responsible post no administrative experience, but an established reputation for activity, energy, and all those indefinable, but easily recognizable, qualities which are commonly spoken of as "talents for business;" qualities which, in such a field of duty as that to which Mr. Stanton was now called, may make a man either the most useful or the most mischievous of ministers, accordingly as they are, or are not, under the control of a well-balanced character, of a liberal mind, and of a disposition naturally just.
Mr. Stanton was appointed secretary of war on the 14th of January, 1862. Seven days afterwards, on the 21st of January, the new secretary permitted the chairman of the committee on the conduct of the war to address to him the following letter :
SIR-I am instructed by the joint committee on the conduct of the present war, to inquire of you whether there is such an office as commander-in-chief of the armies of the United States, or any grade above that of major-general? If so, by what authority is it credited? Does it exist by virtue of any law of Congress, or any usage of the government? Please give us the information asked for at your convenience.
I remain, &c.,
B. F. WADE, Chairman. EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
Had General McClellan been aware of the fact that such a letter as this had been addressed to the new secretary he could scarcely have failed to understand that a deliberate attack was about to be made by the joint committee of Congress, in conjunction with that minister, upon his own position at the head of the armies, and upon the "confidence” and "cordial support" which had been pledged to him by the President.
The letter, too, was a direct insult to the President, who had appointed General McClellan in November to fill the office of which this committee question the existence, so direct an insult, that one is at a loss to understand how the newly appointed secretary should have ventured to risk his official position by making himself a party to it, unless, indeed, the whole matter had been concerted and brought about with the full knowledge and consent of the President himself.
Of the intellectual fitness of the new secretary for his new position, he himself gave the public a safe measure in a letter which he addressed to the New-York Tribune, about a month after his appointment; and by the reflected light of which we may now fairly estimate the temper which he must have brought, in January, to the grave questions of command then about to be decided. This letter was written on the occasion of some slight advantage won over a handful of the enemy by an enterprising officer at the head of a small body of men :