Notes on Pope and McClernand

Orville Browning, in a letter to Lincoln, takes a nice swipe at John Pope before allowing Napoleon Buford, in an excerpted letter, to take shots at McClernand and his father-in-law. From the Library of Congress collection:

From Orville H. Browning to Abraham Lincoln, September 24, 1861

Quincy, Ills. Sept 24. 1861

Mr. President

Nothing but the most earnest solicitude for the safety of the Country, and grief at its present condition, would induce me again to trespass upon your time and patience.

But I feel as if it were my duty to address you, even at the hazard of your displeasure, and though the only result may be to annoy you.

I am not easily dispirited, and thus far have kept high in hope, and have exerted myself to the utmost of my ability to infuse hope and spirit into the people. But this morning, I confess, I am somewhat despondent. The storm which overhangs the Country seems to be intensifying in strength, and spreading farther and farther its devastations.

Last night from twelve to fifteen hundred men arrived here from Lexington -- prisoners of war discharged upon their parol not to serve again during the war. Seven hundred more of them are to arrive to day.

They consist of Mulligan's Irish Brigade, and Tom Marshall Cavalry.

They all surrendered to Price. Arms, ammunition, horses, equipments, clothing, provisions, every thing was captured. They were stripped of all except the clothing they had on, and sent here a disorganized mob without an officer among them.

This morning telegraphic communication with St Jo is again interrupted. The wires have been cut, and what the condition of the road is we can not learn. The probability is that the track and bridges are again being destroyed, and that in a day or two more all Northern Missouri will again be over run with rebels. We have no forces there, and none here to send there. Pope was sent up to take command. He passed over the road from Quincy to St Jo and back again, and did nothing, and then left.

Between ourselves, and confidentially, he is, in my opinion, of no account as a general. There ought to be some competent man to take charge of all that part of Missouri north of the River. Had this been done in the beginning the rebellion there would long ago have been suppressed, and many lives and many hundred thousands of dollars would have been saved to the government.

Things in this State are in rather a deplorable condition. The troops at Cairo are neither armed, nor clothed nor fed as they should be. There are broken Regiments at Springfield, in the same condition, and two half Regiments in camp here, without arms, doing nothing except living at the cost of the government. They have been here for weeks, and are no more fit for service now than they were the day they enlisted. I have just received a letter from Col [Napoleon B.] Buford whose Regiment is at Cairo. He requested that I should regard it as strictly confidential, but notwithstanding that I copy a few extracts, and beg you to read them. His Regiment is in better condition than many others. He says

"When my Regiment was assigned me I was asked by friends of Genl McClernand if I had any objection to being placed in his Brigade. I answered no, I came to obey orders. I was informed by him that his quarter master, Capt James Dunlap, his father in law, had contracted for better clothing, arms and equipments than any other Illinois troops.

"I have been in command a month. The Regiment is of fine material -- farmers sons from the 4th Congressional District, and good officers -- but we have not yet been half clad -- poorly fed, and 863 men armed with three kinds of muskets 740 in all, and of different bores -- the ammunition not fitting 240 of the muskets, they being old, Tower English muskets. They do to drill with, and I am making the most of them.

"Quarter Master Dunlap is the author of our lack of clothing. His promises all fail. He is too old, and his contracts are for poor instead of good clothing, judged by the results. It has been difficult to preserve discipline under daily disappointments

"Could you not get my Regiment detached so that I might be armed and equipped &c."

The events in the West, of the few past weeks, have not only disheartened the people, but gone far to demoralize them, and it is now a hundred times more difficult to arouse any true feeling of patriotism than it was a month ago; and enthusiasm is dead.

Is there no remedy for these evils?

We brave soldiers who have been induced to volunteer, to give up the safety and repose of domestic life, and sacrifice all the endearments of home, by the highest and noblest impulses of patriotism, are being every day sacrificed, and the Country hopelessly ruined by the multitudes of infamous rogues who crowd the offices, and get the contracts.

There are, no doubt, many honorable exceptions, but it is still true that a great many, perhaps a majority of those who have got into the quarter masters, and commissary department are men without principle or patriotism, and who hang upon the skirts of the army only for the purposes of plunder, and who would be perfectly willing to see the government overthrown when it shall be no longer worth plundering.

I dont fear the rebels. We can manage them, and put the rebellion down, if we can only save the government from overthrow by the strifes, and contentions, and corruption, and rascality in our own ranks.

There are individual instances within my own knowledge which I might mention, but I forbear.

Now Mr President, you know that I would forfeit my life before I would trafic in the misfortunes of my country for my own individual profit and advantage, or for the profit and advantage of any friend I have on earth. You know that I belong to no clique, and have the interest and advancement of no man in charge.

You know that I am neither asking nor seeking office or contract for myself or any one else, and that what I say to you is said from the sincerest desire for your fame and success as President, and for the true good and glory of the Country.

And I assure you most solemnly that unless a change soon takes place in the condition of public affairs, the spirit of the people will be broken down, and the government irretrievably overthrown. I do not show despondency to any one else. I do not publicly find fault, but always speak with a confidence and hopefulness which I confess to you I am ceasing to feel.

In some way or other, and by some means or other, an end must be put to the wholesale plundering of the government and people which is going on, and villany driven from its coverts, and our soldiers fed, and clothed, and armed, or we are ruined past all redemption

As ever truly your friend