Monday, October 1, 2012

Troubled Relationship

President Abraham Lincoln 1861 - 1865

I love the study of the American Civil War.  Shelby Foote, a Civil War historian, says "It is the cross road of our being!"  When I teach American History I love to offer extra credit to have the students write why Foote thinks that.  I cannot imagine having the country torn apart, brother against  brother, friend against friend.  When one thinks about it - it is amazing to think our country survived that.  The Civil War changed everything!  America will never be the same - especially the relationship of the ordinary citizen and the government.  After the government is going to take on a much bigger role in the lives of the citizens.

But today I want to discuss the relationship of President Lincoln and General George B. McClellan.  Lincoln is going to have many Generals during the war till he settles on General  Grant.  McClellan is going to be so interesting.  McClellan on the surface and on paper looked perfect.  He was a graduate of West Point, brought discipline to the military, and was loved by all.  He had the love and respect of the the men!  That is hard to do - so in the beginning McClellan made Lincoln very happy!

General George McClellan

But there was a problem.  McClellan lacked the moral courage to send men into battle. As he was loved, he loved the men back.  McClellan loved them a lot!  So the idea to send the men to fight was too much.  Often what this created was inaction.  This frustrated Lincoln to no end!  Lincoln was quoted  to sum up his feelings nicely:
"If General McClellan isn't going to use his army, I'd like to borrow it for a time." (Commenting on General McClellan's lack of aggression, 1862)

Lincoln came out himself to check McClellan out on the battlefield!

To be a fly on the wall of that TENT!  I would love to know how that conversation went down.  Was it calm and patient, or angry and frustrated?  I cannot imagine Lincoln getting angry, but it will be after this moment Lincoln gives McClellan one more shot.  He might have run out of patience?

In the end McClellan was fired, and actually ran against Lincoln in the Presidential Race of 1864.  But as we all know Lincoln wins a second term!

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