To: Dimitri Rotov
From: Stephen Sears
Re: General McClellan’s letters to his wife
Mention of the McClellan Papers, Library of Congress, and of my book The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan, and, generally, of McClellan’s letters to his wife in your posts of 12/5/09 and 12/7/09 require certain corrections and clarifications.
Your statement “There is no body of work in the Library of Congress’s McClellan Papers corresponding to McClellan’s letters to his wife so marked and labeled” is incorrect. The LC’s Photoduplication Service microfilm edition of the McClellan Papers includes a table of contents for the Papers at the beginning of each reel. Under the heading: Series C Letterbooks and Telegram Books, 1861-62, is the entry for Volume C-7, reel 63, reading: “Extracts of Letters to Wife, 1861-62.” From that reference the letters are easily found. Volume C-7, reel 63, is a bound letterbook bearing the heading, in General McClellan’s handwriting, “Extracts from letters written to my wife during the War of the Rebellion, [signed] Geo B. McClellan.”
You state, “Again, no one has ever seen an actual letter from McClellan to his wife during this period of his command. No one has ever seen an authenticated copy.” This too is incorrect. McClellan’s letterbook (Vol. C-7) contains the general’s own extracts (not notes, as you call them) of his letters to Ellen, made in the mid-1870’s as an aid to his memoir-writing. Nothing could be more authentic. After McClellan’s death, his daughter did additional copying of the general’s letters at the request of McClellan’s literary executor William C. Prime. May McClellan’s copies are in Vol. D-10, reel 72 of the McClellan Papers; these too are authentic. After the publication of McClellan’s Own Story, which included Prime’s expurgated and wholly unreliable versions of the general’s letters to Ellen, the original letters drop from sight. In my considered opinion, Mrs. McClellan, appalled by Prime’s work, destroyed them.
The particular letter you challenge, printed on pages 106-7 of my Civil War Papers of McClellan and sourced C-7, reel 63, McClellan Papers, is dated by me, c. October 11, 1861. It appears on page 20 of the McClellan letterbook with a headnote in McClellan’s hand, “October 1861 (Friday, but no other date).” From its contents and other sources, I selected Friday the 11th as the likeliest date, and inserted its place of writing as Washington.
To sum up: This is an authentic copy by McClellan himself of a letter he states in his own hand was written to his wife in October 1861. The “Searsian imbeds” (as you put it) are nothing more than standard procedure in any printing of documents, and hold true for all the McClellan letters included in Civil War Papers. The general’s own copies of his letters to Ellen are right there in the McClellan letterbook, easily found, in the McClellan Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, and in the LC-supplied microfilm.
I hope this clears up an misunderstandings about my work with McClellan’s papers.