Friday, May 15, 2009

Hitchcock offered command Army of the Potomac - March 15 1862


At New York I finally determined to say by note to the Secretary Stanton that if, with his knowledge of my broken health, he might announce my acceptance of the commission and order me to report to him. That was done and I reached here this morning—March 15 [1862]. On reporting to the Secretary, almost without a word of preface he asked me if I would take McClellan's place in command of the army

of the Potomac!l I was amazed, and told him at once that I could not. He spoke of the pressure on the President, and said that he and the President had had the greatest difficulty in standing out against the demand that McClellan be removed.

" He then asked me if I would allow him to put me at the head of the Ordnance Department, and remove General R. This surprised me almost as much as the other offer, and was entirely unlike anything I had anticipated, and I declined.

" He then took me to President Lincoln and introduced me. I was civilly received. Secretary Seward was present and some despatches were read—reports from the army, etc.

"The President took a letter out of his pocket and read it as a sample, he said, of what he was exposed to. It was anonymous, marked ' urgent,' and called on him to ' remove the traitor McClellan'—using the most extravagant language of condemnation. Judge Blair, Postmaster-General, came in and asked for a brigadier-general's commission for a relation of his wife.

" I offered to go, but Mr. Lincoln detained me till the others went. He then expressed the wish to have the benefit of my experience: said he was the depository of the power of the government and had no military knowledge. I knew his time was important and shortly left him.

"Now—what is to come of this? I want no command. I want no department. I came to be at hand for ' contingent service,' and must adhere to my purpose. General Scott, whom I saw in New York, told me I could be very useful here. He even said that I ought to be in command of the army, but that that was now impossible.

" I urged the Secretary to extend General Halleck's command over the whole valley of the Mississippi, and this has been done at once, putting Buell under his orders.

" On the whole, I am uncomfortable. I am almost afraid that Secretary Stanton hardly knows what he wants, himself.2

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