The meeting on 26th of September, 1861 (conclusion)

Jefferson Davis faced what would become an American military cliche in future years: top generals requesting resources with no strategy in hand but brandishing a fistfull of dire predictions to motivate their president.

Did Davis indicate a strategy of his own at this meeting? Look at some of his points:

(1) Motivation: "...the whole country was demanding protection at his hands, and praying for arms and troops for defence... he could not take any troops from the points named..."

(2) Means: (A) "...at that time no reinforcements could be furnished to this army of the character asked for..." (B) "...without arms from abroad [Davis] could not reinforce this army..."

(3) Methods: "...instead of an active offensive campaign, we should attempt certain partial operations—a sudden blow against Sickles or Banks—or to break the bridge over the Monocacy."

(4) Limitations: … We cannot afford to divide our forces unless and until we have two armies [i.e. one defending before Richmond or DC and one invading the North] able [independently strong enough] to contend with the enemy's forces at Washington [whichever of the two Southern armies USA should take on]. [Letter of Sep. 8]

(5) Aspirations: "Had I the requisite arms the argument would soon be changed…" [Letter of Sep. 8: Davis aspires to a major invasion of the North.]

(6) Primacy of Theatre: "It is true that a successful advance across the Potomac would relieve other places; but, if not successful, ruin would befall us" [without a second army between DC and Richmond - Sep. 8].

What we have here are the elements of a strategic policy.

The motivations (1) are Clausewitzian: military power, and strategy, are subordinate to political policy. The generals, certainly Smith, do not understand the purpose of troops stationed on idle fronts and postwar Smith gives the example of Bragg at the head of divisions idling in Florida. Davis understood that a force of this size located in this quiet place served a political purpose for the larger cause. He didn't articulate what that was but possibilities point to maintaining or increasing support for the CSA central government.

Davis was offended, and gave voice to this postwar, because the generals slighted his motives for the dispositions of armed forces on quiet fronts. Like many Civil War writers of today, the generals applied a purely abstract military analysis.

The means (2) are subordinate to Davis's Clausewitzian motivations. He cannot reinforce this or that army because he has calibrated an optimal dispersion of available force for maximum political gain.

His methods (3) and aspirations (5) are balanced. If Davis can build up materiel and manpower, ambitious projects (to be defined) will be undertaken. In the meantime, opportunities to hurt the enemy will be sought. Davis gives the example of defeating an independent or detached command in detail (Sickles or Banks) and he posits a raid to destroy a strategic asset (bridge).

The Civil War reader needs to think this out far more carefully than the usual authors have done. These lesser offensives have no decisive military value. They put political points on the board. Cumulatively, they demoralize a polity. They aspire to be what the military recently called "effects based operations." (Look at the linked PowerPoint slideshow and you will understand what Davis was about.)

Here is the mind-bending aspect to this. As many viable commands as Davis could deploy opposite Union armies, garrisons, posts, and geographic objectives, that is how many storehouses of "effects based operations" he would command. The more independent commands there are to score political points by breaking a bridge or humiliating a Banks, the faster the political points accumulate to deliver that weight that breaks the union's political back. More commands, more operations, more effects, snowballing politics.

Note how well this accommodates a surplus of military experience and talent.

Jackson, in independent command, consistently fulfills Davis's strategic vision; Lee, Johnston, Beauregard - these represent necessary evils, factors to stave off worst-case outcomes. The Southern public was roused by Jackson, it venerated Jackson, not because he best fulfilled Davis's vision but because what he was doing resonated with them. Davis anticipated that resonance with a policy Jackson was specially suited to fulfill. Jackson's popularity was in its way a mark of Davis's innate political and strategic gifts.

Unfortunately, the pop history reader is looking for decisive battles that won the war. This has nothing to do with Davis (or Lincoln) and blinds one to the underlying logic of events.

Davis's limitations (4) exactly mirror Lincoln's obsession; he wants an army to defend the capital and an army for field operations and will not accept McClellan's (and Johnston's) dictum that an offensive against the enemy's capital is the surest defense.

In Davis's evaluation of theatres of war (6), he does not rate Richmond-DC as decisive except in a negative sense, that loss here would be decisive. He recognizes it as decisive to the North (however) by saying an advance across the Potomac would relieve pressure on other fronts.

In sum, Davis has a framework for strategy that is entirely political. Because we are so polluted with the decisive battle doctrine, we misread the invasions of Maryland and Pennsylvania and the disconnects between Lee and Davis.

The invasion of Maryland has all the hallmarks of a Davis concept as long as the aim is the capture of Harpers Ferry and its garrison. This work combines the Banks-Sickles-bridge example into one piece. It is saturated with Davis flavor as long as Jackson commands; when Jackson accomplishes his Davis-like aims, the operation goes off the rails (typically) under the big-battle, hamfisted Robert E. Lee.

Lee represents an expedient, a high-casualty, high-risk adaptation of the Davis-Jackson model for the middle and late war that becomes necessary through the consolidations that eliminate Davis's many "effects based storehouses" into a few large lumbering commands. The Gettysburg campaign is a striking failure of Davis-Jackson style opportunism that becomes an elephantine blunder. I am convinced that Davis's idea for ambitious offensives was that the larger force, having greater menace and more freedom of action than a smaller force, would find greater opportunity to "break bridges," defeat detachments and independent commands, and put points on the board without running up giant losses, wasting materiel, and committing to "decisive engagements."

Davis's strategic policies were subject to opportunities and the vagaries of command. They were also subject to the North's capacity to shrug off minor Southern successes.

The pop historian

- cerainly every best-selling one - has a "precocious knack for hackery."


Did you know? Now you know!

Paul Gottfried says: "...most of those who fought for Southern independence did not own slaves, while Northern commanders such as McClellan and Grant did."

Some of us are still slaves to McClellan and Grant, I suppose.

Guelzo and anti-Guelzo

Good old Usenet flamewars have been taken up by the legacy media:

Guelzo: Abe's Ticking Clock

Gottfried: Being Dishonest About Abe

Letters to the Editor

Canadian "smackdown"

These are days when one is proud of the probity, restraint, good graces, and all-around civility inherent in blogging.


The meeting on 26th of September, 1861 (cont.)

Some reflections on the meeting with special reference to this post.

A strange reticence - Johnston asked for a meeting with Davis to request forces to invade the North. Then, neither he nor Beauregard raised the subject with Davis the night before the meeting, nor did they raise it the next day, during the actual meeting. GW Smith, the junior general present (perhaps fatigued by shilly-shallying) eventually introduced the topic that was the subject of Davis's visit.

Requesting a blank check - Davis was not presented with any concept, plan, or strategy that would use the proposed manpower increase. The generals are simply going to invade the North. Perhaps the generals did not agree on a use for the men at that point.

Use it or lose it - The generals tried to motivate Davis to concentrate not by presenting a compelling idea for the use of an enlarged army but by posing a negative incentive - the wasting away of an experienced field army.

Doubling down - When Davis was unmoved by a negative rationale, the generals doubled down on the negativity proposing a "death ride" for the army - having their reduced force invade the North without reinforcement so as to use it before it wasted away, acknowledging it could be destroyed but that would be "better" than losing it through expirations and attrition. In this case Davis would need to make a heroic supply effort to enable the death ride.

Basic position - If you reconstruct the meeting back-to-front, if you consider the generals' "bottom line" first and then work backwards to their opening proposition, you find this: the proposal they made was for a "death ride" enhanced for better odds with units stripped from quiet posts. They wanted a larger death ride but would settle for a smaller one.

Even if you disagree with the conclusion above, if you place yourself in Davis's shoes you would conclude that these generals were out of their minds. Having reaped a political bonanza at Bull Run, they were urging Davis to forgo politics to risk destruction of an army and the capture of Richmond because that would be better than to leave a tool rusting in the toolbox.

To invite Davis to a conference like this, to present no strategy but demand resources, and then to accuse Davis of having no strategy is as flamboyantly outrageous as the very meeting on 26th of September, 1861.

Now, did Davis indicate a strategy of his own at this meeting?


The Sesquicentennial has a Facebook page

It looks more like a blog.

You, yes YOU!

... can be a member of the The Society of Civil War Historians.

The Sesquicentennial: a view from abroad

"The news and entertainment media love anniversaries. So it is strange that the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War has been so low key."

"... a willingness on the part of the United States to admit the possibility that the [Civil] war was not the best response to Secession would be a healthy sign."

The Civil War: an Eerie Silence


The meeting on 26th of September, 1861 (cont.)

The text of Smith's memo can be reduced to stated propostitions and stated or implied counterpropositions. All material is from Smith's memo except text in talics, which is from Davis's The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, and text which is labeled as being from Smith's Confederate War Papers.

(1) Proposition (Johnston): Meet "for the purpose of deciding whether the army could be reënforced to the extent that the Commanding General deemed necessary for an offensive campaign."

Counter: none, agreement.

(2) Proposition (all): "... the military force of the Confederate States was at the highest point it could attain without arms from abroad—that the portion of this particular army present for duty was in the finest fighting condition—that if kept inactive it must retrograde immensely in every respect during the winter, the effect of which was foreseen and dreaded by us all."

Counter: none, agreement.

(3) Proposition (all): "The enemy were daily increasing in numbers, arms, discipline, and efficiency. We looked forward to a sad state of things at the opening of a Spring campaign."

Counter: none, agreement.

(4) Proposition (generals): "...our force at that time here was not sufficient for assuming the offensive beyond the Potomac."

Counter: none, agreement. However, see Davis on (8).

(5) Proposition (generals): Strip "other points to the last they will bear—and even risking defeat at all other places, put us in condition to move forward."

Counter (Davis): "...the whole country was demanding protection at his hands, and praying for arms and troops for defence... he could not take any troops from the points named..."

Counter (Davis): The proposition is false because it announces Johnston's "conclusion that troops could be withdrawn from a place or places without knowing how many were there, and what was the necessity for their presence."

Response (Smith): "At that time [Davis] had a large body of disciplined, seasoned soldiers, well organized, under General Bragg at Pensacola; which place was abandoned, in the Spring of 1862, after this force had remained there, idle and comparatively useless, for nearly a year. There were troops at various other points that might well have been made available..." (Confederate War Papers)

(6) Proposition (generals): "Success here at this time saves everything—defeat here loses all." ("...various ... special illustrations were offered.")

Counter (Davis): Nothing is more common than that a General, realizing the wants of the army with which he is serving, and the ends that might be achieved if those wants were supplied, should overlook the necessities of others, and accept rumors of large forces which do not exist, and assume the absence of danger elsewhere than in his own front.

(7) Proposition (generals): "...even with a much larger force, an attack upon their army under the guns of their fortifications, on this side the river, was out of the question."

Counter: none, agreement.

(8) Proposition (Smith): The number of men needed for an offensive campaign would be "Fifty thousand effective seasoned soldiers ... such men as we had here, present for duty." (Johnston, Beauregard): " ...a force of sixty thousand such men..."

Counter (Davis): (A) "...at that time no reinforcements could be furnished to this army of the character asked for..." (B) "...without arms from abroad [Davis] could not reinforce this army..."

(9) Proposition (implied, Davis): [The difference between the amount of men needed and the amount sent forward since Bull Run represents wastage under the generals' stewardship]: "To my surprise and disappointment, the effective strength was stated to be but little greater than when it fought the battle of the 21st of the preceding July. The frequent reënforcements which had been sent to that army in no wise prepared me for such an announcement."

Counter (Smith): The proposition is false. "At the time of the Fairfax Court House Conference the number of enlisted men present for duty in General Johnston's Army was something more than Forty thousand." It would have taken 10,000 men to bring it up to 50,000. (Confederate War Papers)

(10) Proposition (generals): "...this force would require large additional transportation and munitions of war—the supplies here being entirely inadequate for an active campaign in the enemy's country, even with our present force."

Counter: none, agreement.

(11) Proposition (generals): "...it was felt that it might be better to run the risk of almost certain destruction fighting upon the other side of the Potomac, rather than see the gradual dying out and deterioration of this army, during a winter, at the end of which the term of enlistment of half the force would expire."

Counter (generals): "... the hope and expectation that before the end of winter, arms would be introduced into the country—and all were confident, that we could then not only protect our own country but successfully invade that of the enemy."

Counter (Davis): "...this supply of arms, however abundant, could not furnish ‘seasoned soldiers..."

Counter (Davis, implied): The proposition is false because if the risk of certain destruction were preferable, the generals would have taken up Davis's suggestion of a partial campaign over the Potomac against Banks, Sickles, etc.. (See below)

(12) Proposition (Davis): "...instead of an active offensive campaign, we should attempt certain partial operations—a sudden blow against Sickles or Banks—or to break the bridge over the Monocacy."

Counter (generals): "... if an opportunity should occur offering reasonable chances of success ... the attempt would be made" sometime in the future.

Smith's summing up of this affair in Confederate War Papers will be familiar to every reader of Civil War history as something of an endlessly recycled insight:
... no well-defined, comprehensive war policy had been adopted by the Confederate Government. The authorities in Richmond seemed to be floundering in a discursive plan for trying to protect all the assailable points in the Country, hoping that something favorable would turn up from abroad.
Is this a fair summing up of the strategy or policy of Jefferson Davis in October 1861?

p.s. Here's Smith's postscript on the conference from Confederate War Papers; few historians have internalized this fact:
...whilst we [Johnston, Beauregard, Smith] could not make a campaign of invasion, our hope was that the enemy [McClellan], with the large army of raw troops in front of us, would make a determined forward movement into our country. In this we were disappointed.

The Won Cause

A nice piece of revisionism has been issued by UNC Press called The Won Cause. It's a study of the Union's veteran organization, the Grand Army of the Republic, with an emphasis on interracial activities. I counted 468 integrated posts in the appendix, including venues in Kentucky and Missouri. As one of the chapter titles says, these were associations where balck and white citizens mingled on a basis of equality. Let's see whose oxen are gored.

The editor of the series that issued this title is Gary Gallagher. He has shown (over time) very good judgement in manuscript selection, I have to say.


The nonfiction trade and market forces

It was a running joke in the early seventies to begin certain sentences with "In another drug related incident..." Well, it's a different decade but the news cliches nowadays point to "In another nonfiction publishing scandal..."

The author of a hilariously hokey, preposterously bogus, nonsensically sentimental, spuriously uplifting nonfiction bestseller called Three Cups of Tea has been busted. Here's an innocuous news summary; this one's outright grisly; knock yourself out, as Google news at this hour counts 524 news articles to choose from.

Consider this bust a publicity event where the cops have put the drug stash and associated guns, knives and paraphenalia on the table. The real story, not reported, is on the demand side.

The mass-market nonfiction reader is a kind of crackhead in search of fiction-quality narratives. The "kick" in nonfiction that reads better than a novel is that "it's like, real man."

We need sociologists to study these people. Instead we get Civil War authors who serve their segment of this market with elaborately contrived master narratives, books gushing with "novelistic" anecdotes ripped out of their natural context (of diaries and letters), and stripped down "stories" featuring "characters" who amuse and entertain. The crackhouse that is Civil War history has its corner in the larger slum of nonfiction publishing, with suburbanites cruising through to score their stuff on the way to the beach. Party on dudes.

What the hell.

There's so much money involved, the nonfiction dealer would be crazy to try to sell dry analysis, abstract compiled data, or mere historiography. This Tea Cups author is said to have sold four million copies of his utterly absurd insult-to-your-intelligence products. He should be given a prize in addition to his money. He understands the nonfiction reader like nobody else does. The Civil War author wants this level of success too.

Our tea dealer was willing to cross a few lines. I commend Greg Mortenson. I say sincerely, after reading enough mutilation of context, suppression of data, and the procrustean application of master narratives to Civil War histories that I am convinced that outright lying can do no further harm to that type of nonfiction. At the same time, outright lying can give the reader so much more pleasure. It's all about the reader, isn't it?

And until we get a different reader, we're going to keep getting nonfiction - and Civil War histories - with the same "three cups of tea."


The meeting on 26th of September, 1861 (cont.)

We come now to the text of the memo. Smith explains the meeting behind the memo:
Soon after the author joined the army he learned that Generals Johnston and Beauregard already favored an immediate offensive campaign, beyond the Potomac, provided an adequate force could be concentrated for that purpose: and he urged General Johnston to request President Davis to visit the headquarters of the army with a view to discuss and determine this question. The President came in compliance with General Johnston's invitation.
Here is the full account of the meeting:

“On the 26th of September, 1861, General Joseph E. Johnston addressed a letter to the Secretary of War in regard to the importance of putting this army in condition to assume the offensive, and suggested that the President, Secretary of War, or some one representing them should at an early day come to the headquarters of the army, then at or near Fairfax Court House, for the purpose of deciding whether the army could be reënforced to the extent that the Commanding General deemed necessary for an offensive campaign.

“The President arrived at Fairfax Court House, a few days thereafter, late in the afternoon, and proceeded to the quarters of General Beauregard. On the same evening General Johnston and I called to pay our respects. No official subjects of importance were alluded to in that interview. At eight o'clock the next evening, by appointment of the President, a conference was had between himself, General Johnston, General Beauregard and myself—various matters of detail were introduced by the President, and talked over between himself and the two senior Generals.

“Having but recently arrived, and not being well acquainted with the special subjects referred to, I took little or no part in this conversation. Finally, with perhaps some abruptness, I said, ‘Mr. President, is it not possible to put this army in condition to assume the active offensive?’ Adding that this was a question of vital importance upon which the success or failure of our cause might depend. This question brought on discussion. The precise conversation which followed I do not propose to give—it was not an argument—there seemed to be little difference of opinion between us in regard to general views and principles.

“It was clearly stated, and agreed to, that the military force of the Confederate States was at the highest point it could attain without arms from abroad—that the portion of this particular army present for duty was in the finest fighting condition—that if kept inactive it must retrograde immensely in every respect during the winter, the effect of which was foreseen and dreaded by us all. The enemy were daily increasing in numbers, arms, discipline, and efficiency. We looked forward to a sad state of things at the opening of a Spring campaign.

“These and other points being agreed upon without argument, it was again asked—‘Mr. President, is it not possible to increase the effective strength of this army and put us in condition to cross the Potomac and carry the war into the enemy's country? Can you not by stripping other points to the last they will bear—and even risking defeat at all other places, put us in condition to move forward? Success here at this time saves everything—defeat here loses all.’

“In explanation, and as an illustration of this, the unqualified opinion was advanced, that, if for want of adequate strength on our part in Kentucky, the Federal forces should take military possession of that whole state, and enter and occupy a portion of Tennessee, a victory gained by this army beyond the Potomac would, by threatening the heart of the Northern States, compel their armies to fall back, free Kentucky—and give us the line of the Ohio, within ten days thereafter. On the other hand should our forces in Tennessee and Southern Kentucky be strengthened so as to enable us to take, and to hold, the Ohio River as a boundary, a disastrous defeat of this army would at once be followed by an overwhelming wave of Northern invaders, which would sweep over Kentucky and Tennessee, extending to the Northern part of the Cotton States, if not to New Orleans.

“Similar views were expressed in regard to ultimate results in North-Western Virginia, being dependent upon the success or failure of this army, and various other special illustrations were offered. Showing, in short, that success here was success everywhere—defeat here, defeat everywhere,—and that this was the point upon which all the available forces of the Confederate States should be concentrated.

“It seemed to be conceded by all that our force at that time here was not sufficient for assuming the offensive beyond the Potomac, and that even with a much larger force, an attack upon their army under the guns of their fortifications, on this side the river, was out of the question. The President asked me what number of men was necessary in my opinion to warrant an offensive campaign—to cross the Potomac, cut off the communications of the enemy with their fortified Capitol, and carry the war into their country. I answered ‘Fifty thousand effective seasoned soldiers’—explaining that, by seasoned soldiers, I meant such men as we had here, present for duty. And added that they would have to be drawn from the Peninsula, about Yorktown, Norfolk, Western Virginia, Pensacola, or wherever might be most expedient. General Johnston and General Beauregard both said that a force of sixty thousand such men would be necessary, and that this force would require large additional transportation and munitions of war—the supplies here being entirely inadequate for an active campaign in the enemy's country, even with our present force.

“In this connection there was some discussion of the difficulties to be overcome, and the probabilities of success; but, no one questioned the disastrous results of remaining inactive throughout the winter.

“Notwithstanding the belief that many in the Northern army were opposed on principle to invading the Southern States, and that they would fight better in defending their own homes than in attacking ours, it was believed that the best, if not the only, plan to insure success, was to concentrate our forces and attack the enemy in their own country.

“The President, I think, gave no definite opinion in regard to the number of men necessary for that purpose, and I am sure no one present considered this a question to be finally decided by any other person than the Commanding General of this army. Returning to the question that had been twice asked—the President expressed surprise and regret that the number of surplus arms here was so small—and I thought spoke bitterly of this disappointment. He then stated, that at that time no reinforcements could be furnished to this army of the character asked for—that the most that could be done, would be to furnish recruits to take the surplus arms in store here, (say 2500 stand)—that the whole country was demanding protection at his hands, and praying for arms and troops for defence. He had long been expecting arms from abroad but had been disappointed—he still hoped to get them, but had no positive assurance that they would be received at all. The manufacture of arms in the Confederate States was, as yet, undeveloped to any considerable extent. Want of arms, was the great difficulty; he could not take any troops from the points named, and without arms from abroad could not reinforce this army. He expressed regret, and seemed to feel deeply as did every one pressent.

“When the President had thus clearly and positively stated his inability to put this army in the condition deemed by the Generals necessary before entering upon an active offensive campaign, it was felt that it might be better to run the risk of almost certain destruction fighting upon the other side of the Potomac, rather than see the gradual dying out and deterioration of this army, during a winter, at the end of which the term of enlistment of half the force would expire. The prospect of a spring campaign to be commenced under such discouraging circumstances was rendered all the more gloomy by the daily increasing strength of an enemy already much superior in numbers. On the other hand was the hope and expectation that before the end of winter, arms would be introduced into the country—and all were confident, that we could then not only protect our own country but successfully invade that of the enemy.

“General Johnston said, that he did not feel at liberty to express an opinion as to the practicability of reducing the strength of our forces at points not within the limits of his command. With but few farther remarks from any one, the answer of the President was accepted as final, and it was felt that there was no other course left but to take a defensive position and await the enemy. If they did not advance we had but to await the winter and its results.

“After the main question was dropped the President proposed, that, instead of an active offensive campaign, we should attempt certain partial operations—a sudden blow against Sickles or Banks—or to break the bridge over the Monocacy. This, he thought, besides injuring the enemy, would exert a good influence over our troops, and encourage the people of the Confederate States generally.

“In regard to attacking Sickles, it was stated in reply that, as the enemy controlled the river with their ships of war, it would be necessary for us to occupy two points on the river—one above, and another below the point of crossing—in order that we might, by our batteries, prevent their armed vessels from interfering with the passage of the troops. In any case the difficulty of crossing large bodies over wide rivers, in the vicinity of an enemy, and then recrossing, made such expeditions hazardous. It was agreed, however, that if an opportunity should occur offering reasonable chances of success that the attempt would be made.

“During this Conference or Council which lasted, perhaps, two hours, all was earnest, serious, deliberate. The impression made upon me was deep and lasting; and I am convinced that the foregoing statement is not only correct, as far as it goes, but, in my opinion, it gives a fair idea of all that occurred, at that time, in regard to the question of our crossing the Potomac.

“Gustavus W. Smith, Major-General.”

“My recollection of the above Conference agrees fully with this statement of General G. W. Smith.

“G. T. Beauregard, General C. S. A.

“J. E. Johnston, General.

Signed in triplicate.

“Centreville, Va., January 31, 1862.”


The meeting on 26th of September, 1861 (cont.)

On August 4, 861, in a letter to Beauregard, Jefferson Davis says "I think you are unjust to yourself in putting your failure to pursue the enemy to Washington to the account of short supplies of subsistence and transportation." He follows on August 1, "Some excitement has been created by your letter; the Quartermaster and the Commissary General both feel that they have been unjustly arraigned."

This is the beginning of a critique that presents lost opportunities as being Richmond's failures. In fairly routine back-and-forth, it begins to become hard to tell which requests also hold within accusations under the Richmond failure paradigm:
Mr. PRESIDENT: I have suggested, through the Adjutant and Inspector-General, the importance of increasing our forces of artillery and cavalry - … It is certain to my mind that all of Napoleon's successes in 1813 were due to his large proportion of artillery. … May I remind you that I have more than once mentioned our deficiency in cavalry? We have not half enough for mere outpost duty. (Johnston, HEADQUARTERS, MANASSAS, August 10, 1861.)
On September 5, in response to what I am unsure, Davis answers Johnston, "I have done all that was possible to strengthen you since the date of your glorious victory."

On Spetember 8, Davis is already responding to "invade the north" suggestions defensively:
… We cannot afford to divide our forces unless and until we have two armies able to contend with the enemy's forces at Washington. Two lines of operation are always hazardous. I repeat that we cannot afford to fight without a reasonable assurance of victory or a necessity so imperious as to overrule our general policy. We have no second line of defense, and cannot now provide one. The cause of the Confederacy is staked upon your army, and the natural impatience of the soldier must be curbed by the devotion of the patriot… [I] wish we could strike him in his present condition; but it has seemed to me involved in too much probability of failure to render the movement proper with our present means. Had I the requisite arms the argument would soon be changed… It is true that a successful advance across the Potomac would relieve other places; but, if not successful, ruin would befall us.
On September 26, the day of the meeting, Johnston writes the secretary of war,
… Thus far the numbers and condition of this army have at no time justified our assuming the offensive. To do so would require more men and munitions. We are not now in a strong defensive position either to fight a battle or to hold the enemy in check. The position was occupied for a different purpose. It is now necessary to decide definitely whether we are to advance or fall back to a more defensible line…
This note represents the cards he will deal to Jefferson Davis in their meeting.

p.s. "The position was occupied for a different purpose" - We should note that Johnston has moved his army out of Centreville to an intermediate point from which it could launch an offensive or fall back.

Civil War 150: engine of prosperity

The Washington Post's Civil War 150 section yesterday was 22 pages long with four full pages of advertising, six half-page ads and scads of smaller ads. There's a business model in there somewhere.

Aside from history features, the editorial content was travel/event centered without a single book review (despite lots of book ads).


Dennison-McClellan (cont.)

Some more observations:

(1) In the OR and in the McClellan Papers (LoC), there is no backchannel correspondence between McClellan on one side and Lincoln or the Cabinet on the other. GBM's scant official exchanges with Cameron hold little interest. His correspondence with Scott is actually accusatory; he wants guidance, he wants orders, and he wants federal funds. One has the impression that McClellan is isolated in the grip of his patron, Dennison. He reaches out to Washington but there are no answers.

(2) Once he heads a multi-state department, it seems odd that the other state governors do not step into similar relations as Dennison has with GBM. They work him through Dennison.

(3) Just as McDowell-Franklin is liquidated by virtue of a military offensive, so the invasion of Virginia ends McClellan's career as advisor, organizer, planner, and strategist to the governors.

(4) Scott's refusal to allow GBM to link up with Patterson during Scott's first coordinated offensive could have been the fruit of a tidy mind honoring department borders or it could have been slapped down as an inopportune attempt to escape Dennison's patronage by placing himself under federal control.

(5) With GBM's arrival in DC, all the armies' three month men - the experienced part of the army - have melted away.


The meeting on 26th of September, 1861

The meeting of Jefferson Davis with Joe Johnston on the 26th of September, 1861, is another one of those steep gradient events that seriously overmatches the analytic engine of the modern Civil War historian.

Some talespinners, recognizing themselves as underpowered, keep their narrative jalopies away from such high mountains. Others, committed to the doctrine that Jefferson Davis had no strategy, take care not to ride roads where the signposts mark explicit statements of Davis's strategy.

This is the invade-the-north conference to which G.W. Smith and P.G.T. Beauregard were invited. The initial account of it was created in January, 1862, by G.W. Smith in memo form (signed by Johnston and Beauregard). Davis responded to it years later and Smith responded to Davis.

In the correspondence leading up to the meeting, one sees tendencies. Then, in the meeting, problems come into sharp relief and these are problems that persist in the war.

Apart from the strategic content of the conclave (which is clear, easily diagrammed, and fascinating) there are the respective criticisms Davis makes of the generals and the generals make of Davis. These tend to get reduced to cartoonish summaries in Civil War narrative without a real examination of their merits.

Let's look at some telling correspondence before the meeting.



Some reflections on the Dennison-McClellan chronology.

McClellan’s rise to the position of ranking major general in the Regular Army (behind Scott) occurs within 31 days: (1) GBM is offered MG, USV on April 14 (and on April 24, GBM offers to resign); (2) on May 3 his commission is foreshortened to 90 days by Lincoln’s assumption of new powers; at the same time he is made commander of the federal Department of the Ohio (3) on May 11, Dennison seeks federal extension of GBM’s USV commission; (4) on May 14, GBM is appointed MG RA.

This occurs without GBM accomplishing anything publicly apart from organizing, planning, conferencing, and advising. The invasion of Western Virginia comes later.

I don’t want to get into the complexities of McClellan’s initial Ohio commissioning except to say (1) by his initial actions, GBM clearly rated this opportunity lower than others and (2) Pinkerton left record of what appears to be a Lincoln intervention in Ohio during GBM’s commission hunt (see Spy of the Rebellion).

Neither Dennison nor Chase knew GBM when his commission hunt began. I don’t have to remind readers of this blog of the hours Lincoln and McClellan spent in each other’s company on railroad business in Illinois or that McClellan was Lincoln’s employer/paymaster before the war. We would be foolish not to consider that Lincoln, operating as usual through cutouts, obtained a result that he wanted for McClellan.

The problem with this is the parallel example of Fremont. Fremont is elevated to the same senior RA grade as GBM at the same time, and Fremont is in no way a Lincoln deal. He is in fact a political threat to Lincoln, being a former Republican Party presidential candidate, now with a major military command in position to win headlines and plaudits. He was the pet project of Montgomery Blair and a tool for levering Gen. Harney out of Missouri.

If Blair could win the necessary evil of Fremont top MG rank without Lincoln’s enthusiasm, Chase could possibly have won McClellan the same rank on the same basis. In fact, given the enmity of Blair and Chase, this dual promotion has the flavor of Lincoln’s peacekeeping within the Cabinet. Except at this point, Chase did not know McClellan except second-hand.

There is a third possibility which I like best. Dennison was a Lincoln admirer; while guarding Lincoln after the inauguration, Pinkerton, well known to Lincoln as another Illinois Central consultant, suggested Lincoln recommend McClellan to Dennison. This is speculation based on what might have been in Lincoln’s coded telegram, referred to by Pinkerton.

After that, matters snowball. The Administration sees military conferences, plans, and a partnership that threatens to re-center the war in Columbus. Dennison, for all his goodwill towards Lincoln, emerges as an hyperactive power center. McClellan is his capable military counterpart and tool. The Dennison-McClellan team, with its electrifying effect on Curtin and the western governors, destabilizes the Administration’s control of the war, moreso even than New York’s Union Committee, with its fleets of blockaders, privateers, and national supply operations.

Hesseltine is decisive on the point that Lincoln’s three-year enlistment proclamation with the asserted right to appoint generals was a political action against the governors and recognized by them as such.

I would go farther: the effect of the act specifically limited the tenure of incumbent USV MGs. Every state USV commander now faced an expiration date by which he had to please Washington or give it up.

For McClellan, there was a doubling down in that on the same day Washington also attempted to take him out of Dennison’s control by making him commander of a new federal department. For his part, McClellan tried to “play ball with D.C.” by engaging Scott and Cameron with queries, reports, and interactions and this fails due to their “apathy.”

On the other hand, as the chronology shows, he continued to be drawn into Dennison’s interstate combinations – presenting the picture of continued collaboration to re-center the war in the west.

The picture Dennison-McClellan offered to those in the know was in shocking contrast to that of Lincoln-Scott (even with the McDowell-Franklin skunkworks thrown in). The promotion of McClellan to MG, RA, is I think, yet another attempt to get McClellan under federal control. But Dennison-McClellan continues to its spectacular conclusion, regardless.

What is that conclusion? With no support or interest from Lincoln, Dennison and Curtin obtain a political separation of Western Virginia from Virginia – Lincoln calls it a secession – at the second Wheeling Convention. McClellan, with state men, money, and supplies, conquers that ephemeral polity that was conjured out of the Second Wheeling Convention. He does it. He delivers them territory for a new state.

At this point, McClellan has infinite federal tenure, a federal department with claims against federal resources, wide backing of the western states, and yet he is still working for Dennison. By enlarging McClellan, Washington accidentally enlarged Dennison and his gubernatorial allies.

I think of Dennison in terms of a paraphrased witticism by Lincoln: “Excuse me Mr. President, but if you are not going to make use of this war, I would like to borrow it for a time.”

McDowell’s defeat and McClellan’s victory make “natural” McClellan being brought to Washington. Unnaturally, this move separates the governor from his military alter ego. It kills the Dennison-McClellan project dead and restores Washington’s control of the war. That was no accident.

Chase claimed to have brought McClellan to Washington. So says Welles diary. If true, perhaps he hoped for a reprise of Dennison-McClellan on the Potomac with himself as Dennison.

In their first meeting after McClellan's arrival, Lincoln told McClellan that he had brought GBM east to take command of Mansfield's and McDowell's departments. So says McClellan's Own Story. If so, Lincoln left out motivations.

But I think I know them.


Dennison-McClellan, chronology

The Dennison-McClellan partnership is unintelligible to many without a contextual timeline. Here, I have interleaved milestones in their rich collaboration with related events in the broader struggle between the governors and Lincoln.

Dennison has his McClellan and New York's Gov. Morgan had his John Wool; as the governors initiate ever more military activity through McClellan and Wool, the Administration resorts to bold strokes to regain control.

First, Lincoln expropriates the right to name state level Volunteer generals with his call for three-year enlistments, retroactively limiting existing commissions, including McClellan's, to just three months.

As the Morgan-Wool-Dix project sputters out under this and other pressures, Dennison, with Pennsylvania's Curtin and the Western governors, rides McClellan from one success after another, culminating in the creation of West Virginia, a result not desired by the Administration.

McClellan's promotion to major general, U.S. Army, then divides his loyalties, subordinating his connection to Dennison. As a final stroke that disables the right arm of the war governors, McClellan is brought east and Dennison loses his irreplaceable military collaborator without the ability to create or sponsor a new one. This move precedes a similar stripping of Wool from Morgan.

April 17 - William Dennison Jr., Governor of Ohio (photo, right), sends State Sen. Thomas Key as peace emissary to Beriah Magoffin, Governor of Kentucky.

April 18 – GBM writes Ohio’s governor that GBM advised Ohio’s ranking militia general that he should withhold a few companies raised for Federal service in Cincinnati to secure it; he tells the governor that thus, “the available power of the state [will be] left free to act in other quarters.” McClellan is perhaps envisaging a war waged by Ohio.

April 20 – Magoffin meets with Key. April 21 – Salmon Chase urges Dennison to defend Cincinnati; says War Department has earmarked four federalized Ohio regiments for its defense.

April 22 – Unionist leaders gather in Clarksburg, VA.

April 23 – GBM accepts offer of the rank of MG, Ohio Volunteers from Dennison. (At his point in the war, state governors are appointing men to these non-militia general ranks)

April 24 - New York’s Union Defense Committee, under retired General John Wool (photo, right), charters privateers to operate in the Chesapeake: Quaker City, Monticello, Yankee, and Kedar. Between May 14 and July 10, Quaker City alone captures eight prizes.

The Ohio legislature passes law enabling GBM to become MG superseding the militia commander.

April 25 - New York’s Union Defense Committee sends Thurlow Weed to meet Lincoln for answers, including which Southern ports should be priorities for New York’s state fleet of 20 blockaders.

Pennsy Gov. Andrew Curtin writes letter introducing his emissary E.C. Biddle of Philadelphia asking Dennison to set up a three-way meeting with Biddle and Gov. Oliver Morton of Indiana.

McClellan offers to resign his position in favor of McDowell if Dennison wants – he has just learned of his Pennsylvania commission.

April 27th – On behalf of New York’s Union Defense Committee, John Dix, an organizer, approves a Kentucky request for arms and their shipment to Louisville.

Dennison’s emissary to Washington writes that Cameron is pleased with Dennison’s appointment of GBM.

Cameron writes to say regiments in excess of the Ohio quota cannot be received.

GBM sends Scott two alternative plans of western operations.

April 28 – Dennison's agent in Pennsylvania reports that Curtin is for “strong work” and he will accompany Curtin to Washington to press their joint case.

April 28-29 – Telegraphs exchanged among governors in preparation for Dennison’s governors’ war council in Cleveland.

McClellan features in the exchanges. Dennison asks Morgan send a confidential agent to the meetings if he cannot attend. GBM writes Patterson that he has not a single regiment ready for field duty - Patterson has asked for Ohio troops.

April 29 – A delegate from New York’s Union Defense Committee returns from Washington reporting that “The Administration were evidently chagrined, and General Scott discontented, by the extent of the authority assumed and exercised by General Wool.”

April 30 – Letter sent to Dennison by T.L. Crittenden on behalf of Magoffin asks Dennison and Morton to arrange a truce between federal government and seceded states.

May – Western governors inundate New York’s Union Defense Committee with requests for arms and equipment.

May 1 – Dennison’s agent reports from Washington that he learned from Chase “no [military] plan had yet been adopted, that the [Dennison/Curtin] plan he brought would probably not be adopted unless there was pressure, that there was much inertia in Washington to overcome…” He notes a rumor that “there had been a proposition from New York to organize a committee of safety to take possession of the federal government.”
(Some quotes are summaries posted at http://www.ohiohistory.org/onlinedoc/civilwar/sa0147/01a_1.cfm)

May 3 – Military conference for governors outside of New England is convened by Dennison in Cleveland. Present in person are Morton (IN), Curtin (PA), Randall (WI), and Blair (MI) with agents representing Morgan (NY) and Yates (IL); all meet with MG McClellan who is part of the conference. Agreed: Lincoln must supply “more men, more efficiency, more enthusiasm, and a concrete plan of campaign” (paraphrase from Hesseltine’s Lincoln and the War Governors). Randall designated to present governors’ demands to Lincoln personally. Cleveland crowds fired up by governors, call on McClellan for speech.

New York’s Union Defense Committee forwards to Lincoln’s War department its compiled report on the number of troops mustered into federal service in each of the loyal states, information not available in Washington. Thirteen governors responded to Committee queries within 24 hours.

Lincoln issues proclamation for more troops, including three-year men. Lincoln nationalizes the appointment of generals, reducing the terms of state appointed generals to the three-month period of soldier enlistments; this is the basis on which Patterson’s commission expires before the end of Scott's second coordinated offensive.

James Garfield, sent as Dennison’s agent to Illinois, reports he successfully secured 5,000 U.S. muskets.

GBM is appointed to federal command – the Department of the Ohio. Ten days later, he has still not received the order.

May 5 – Chase writes Dennison that he is doing all he can to get Dennison arms. Also “that he tried to persuade Scott of the wisdom in taking possession of Alexandria and then advancing a force strong enough to hold Manassas Gap Junction in order to command the main railroad communications in Virginia, that Scott thought it unwise to take such action at present, that Scott intended to fortify Arlington Heights, send a large force into Fortress Monroe and probably retake Harpers Ferry, that he feared Scott underestimated the value of an interior movement like that proposed to capture and hold Manassas Gap Junction, that he believed the success of such a movement would result in an anti-secession majority when Virginia's popular referendum on secession was held on May 23..” (Quoted material is paraphrased from link given above.)

US Ordnance Office replies to arms request telling Dennison that he has received arms in excess of his troop allotment.

May 6 – Secretary of State Seward ask New York’s Union Defense Committee to supply Kentucky’s union men with five thousand stand of arms. Some arms dispatched to Cincinnati.

May 7 – Dennison writes Washington to have GBM’s department expanded to include western Virginia.

May 8 – W. Va added to the Dept of the Ohio.

May 9 – Chase writes Dennison to say Lincoln will authorize three more Ohio regiments and possibly two regiments will be ordered east. “[H]e thought the remainder of the Western force would be employed on the Ohio and the Mississippi, that Colonel Anderson would organize the volunteers in western Virginia and Kentucky in place of the governors, that he trusted Major General George B. McClellan would look out for western Virginia and Cairo… and that he was sending copies of his plans of organization for the three years volunteers and the regular troops” (These are the McDowell-Franklin plans; note this highly decentralized war policy.)

GBM writes Scott for officers to organize his department. He says he has not received a dollar in federal aid not any instructions from Scott.

May 10 - New York’s Union Defense Committee receives a report from its agent on conferring with Lincoln’s Cabinet on sending New York’s Commodore Stringham (photo, right) to take command of New York’s Chesapeake Bay war fleet.

Dennison asks McClellan to intervene in Virginia. McClellan answers he has previously asked Scott for guidance and is still organizing.

Nathaniel Lyon captures Missouri militia in St. Louis.

May 11 – Dennison telegraphs Chase to get McClellan a three-year Volunteer commission, one dated to give seniority over other Voluteer generals because “Ohio must lead.”

May 13 – GBM writes Dennison that his primary cause for delay in invading Virginia is “I am in daily expectation of hearing from Washington the policy of the Govt…” which suffers from “singular & very discouraging” apathy.

Unionist Virginians gather in Wheeling to plot political strategy.

May 14 – Chase writes Dennison “We have today McClellan appointed a Major General in the regular army.”

New York’s Union Defense Committee travels to D.C. to meet with Lincoln and communicate its discontent over troop issues and other matters.

May 15 – John McClernand, acting for Gov. Yates, requests from Lincoln personally the authority for Yates to mount an Illinois military operation against Missouri secessionists.

May 19 – GBM shares his thoughts on the riverine defense of Cairo with Commander John Rodgers. “I am not yet in possession of the views of the administration, with respect to ulterior offensive operations sufficiently to express my opinion…”

May 20 – Dennison reports rebel movements around Grafton to Scott; Scott answers that he should refer the matter to McClellan.

Magoffin proclaims Kentucky neutral.

May 21 – McClellan acknowledges to the War Department acceptance of his federal rank of MG, the appointment being made May 14.

May 23 – Virginia secedes.

May 24 – Governors of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois aided by McClellan, formulate war policy in a conference in Indianapolis. This is to occupy four points in Kentucky after securing Kentucky politically for the Union. GBM should be authorized to execute this concept and his forces should be increased; their state legislatures would raise additional war funds. Yates of Illinois is sent to Washington to present a memorandum on the issue.

Cameron asks GBM if he cannot act to protect Grafton.

May 25 – GBM asks Dennison to tell Yates “in carrying out … his mission … not to use my name in such a way as to disturb the sensitive complexion” of Scott’s mind.

May 26 – GBM issues proclamation/order crossing into Virginia.

May 27 – Border state convention, with Missouri and Kentucky meets in Frankfort. Kentucky declares its Unionism at this conclave.

May 29 – Dennison receives letter from Connecticut state house that “knapsacks and equipments for one thousand infantry had been sent by express.” The same day Morgan writes Dennison that New York cannot spare any more kit for Ohio.

June 2 – Dennison agent finds Ohio troops in Washington deplorably equipped and a laughingstock. (This sets off a back-and-forth between Dennison and Chase, with Chase on the defensive).

June 8 – Simon Buckner visits McClellan on behalf of Magoffin.

June 10 – Simon Buckner reports on an agreement with GBM to Magoffin. The agreement, as recapitulated in Buckner’s memo, has to do with United States (not Ohio) actions and contingencies. (The flavor of the content is Dennison’s but the stipulations are federal.)

June 11-25 - Second Wheeling Convention of Virginia Unionists meets.

June 18 – Missouri added to GBM’s department.

June 19 and 20 – Chase sends letters to GBM prompting the response, “Gov Dennison has in no way interfered with my control of the troops mustered into the U.S. service … In addition to this Gov D. has exerted himself to the fullest extent in providing equipment for the troops … There has been in no respect any conflict between Gov Dennison & myself."

June 19 - Second Wheeling Convention approves formation of West Virginia, a Dennison-Curtin project.

June 20 – New representatives of the Virginia government are selected by the Second Wheeling Convention.

(Compiled from Reid's Ohio in the War, Hesseltine's Lincoln and the War Governors, McClellan's Own Story, Dennison's correspondence on the Ohio State History website linked above, and Sears' collection of McClellan's war papers)


The evolution of the McDowell-Franklin model

At that point at which McClellan is summoned from Western Virginia to serve in the East, Winfield Scott is a walking inflammation, tender all over from the abuses suffered by the McDowell-Franklin bypass operation and by the brutal power plays that installed McDowell and compelled the advance towards Manassas Junction.

These are not the only abuses Scott suffers, but they are emblematic. For example, as Chase was pushing forward the fortunes of McDowell (and Franklin), a parallel sponsorship featured Montgomery Blair's patronage of Ben Butler, also at Scott's expense, with a Scott-Butler feud erupting after Butler's assumption of command at Ft. Monroe. The private Butler-Blair correspondence is possibly the most vibrant, offensive, and shocking Civil War correspondence I myself have seen and I commend it highly to those who have shielded themselves from the political aspects of the ACW.*

The tendencies inherent in the McDowell-Franklin collaboration leave Scott angry enough that when McClellan arrives on the 26th of July and confers with him on the 27th, Scott famously contrives to detain GBM so that he cannot attend a Cabinet meeting to which Lincoln has invited GBM (but not Scott); this is followed by Scott ordering McClellan to ride through the city and collect stragglers, thus keeping him clear of "browsing presidents" and visiting Cabinet secretaries.

Scott, in his way, is asserting lawful command to head off any repeat of McDowell-Franklin. Scott is also attempting to imprint the relationship.

He wins small success at least, for in the weeks after his arrival, as Lincoln and the Cabinet continue to bypass Scott, McClellan repeatedly does the decent, correct thing by engaging Scott on questions of organization, strategy, and operations.

These exchanges end badly, as at least some readers should know. The ACW author who paints Scott's retirement as the result of GBM's personal ambition is clearly unfamiliar with the doctrinal and organizational struggles between the two men and the tenor with which Scott fought his cases. Likewise, the author who implies McClellan's complaint to the conclave of radical congressmen was empty, that Scott was in the way, a hindrance to him, that author has clearly kept himself innocent of the many deep disagreements between McClellan and Scott.

There does come a point in the period before Scott's retirement where GBM stops talking to him entirely but it is a big mistake to view this end state as the steady state.

In reprising and improving McDowell-Franklin, McClellan begins by trying to split the difference between Lincoln's penchant for chaos coupled with the Cabinet's lawless ad hockery and Scott's desire for total (lawful) control of his own sphere.

McClellan had developed a working style under Ohio Governor William Dennison Jr. that combined the best that McDowell-Franklin had to offer civilian leadership but within an orderly military and legal framework. In Ohio, McClellan was both Scott and at the same time he was the anti-Scott - i.e. McDowell-Franklin. In Washington, he could not implement this Dennison style of management until occupying Scott's chair.

Until then, McClellan would inevitably work on the side of the divide McDowell and Franklin created, to the detriment of Scott, though with some advantage to the larger cause.

* These private letters used to be online but I have not seen them on the Web anytime in the last five years. They are not to be confused with these mellow letters. Pointers appreciated


Notes on McDowell-Franklin from Whitelaw Reid

The closest thing to a military McDowell bio that we have, to the infinite shame of Civil War history, is the extended essay found in Whitelaw Reid's Ohio in the Civil War. This is a sourcebook to many (myself, obviously, and others) but it lacks detailed notes on sources; McDowell's kinship to Governor Dennison is stated as a given, for example, and some of the sources cited are unknown to us. Take this excerpt from a letter to Dennison by McDowell written on 14 May 1861 (according to Reid):
If I am placed in any reasonable position here, I wish you would write to your friend the Postmaster-General - whom I know but slightly - of the friendship you bear me, that I may also look to him for the support of anyone leading a body of raw men into a hostile State, with an excited country, expecting some positive and immediate success, must daily need [sic].
Have you seen that one before? If the Centennialist allowed it the light of day, he'd have to park his bullet train of a narrative in order to play whack-a-mole in front of a distracted and uncomforatble ridership: Why wasn't Lincoln's support good enough for a general? What has the postmaster to do with military operations? Why is a general seeking help from a governor and cabinet member? Isn't this playing politics? Reid rationalizes:
It is evident that at the very outset the General was placed in the false position of having to look to civil officers, rather than to his military superior, for support.
This lame rationale captures McDowell-Franklin in a nutshell. Note the tautology, though. McDowell-Franklin are looking to civil officers for support against their military superiors while they execute the plans and directives of ad hoc civilian leadership bent on bypassing the same military leadership. Reid paints the McDowell-Scott relationship in lurid colors that today's historians have washed away: "It was understood that the promotion [McDowell to general] was secured by the Cabinet." "It excited the displeasure ... aroused the hostility of Winfield Scott." "For General Scott, hostile originally to McDowell's promotion, was now found to be hostile to his assignment to duty in Virginia..." Reid gives an account of one of the ugly cat-and-mouse games McDowell and Scott play:
At first he [Scott] proposed to leave the occupation of the Virginia side to a volunteer officer whom he wanted to get out of Washington. The [War] Department told him he must send over a regular - either Mansfield of McDowell. Then, wishing to keep Mansfield in the city, he named McDowell, but made secret efforts to thwart the wishes of the Department by inducing him to prefer a personal request not to be sent across the Potomac. Twice he [Scott] sent his aide de camp and military secretary to McDowell, urging him to make this request. The young general was not blind to the consequences of again arousing the displeasure of his chief, but he recoiled ... from the proposition.
There is much more here on Scott's retaliations and withholdings vice the Virginia advance but we don't need that material to understand that this clandestine struggle began with Chase's formation of the McDowell-Franklin unit and it continued through McDowell's relief. This following summary nicely sets up the hornet's nest McClellan walked into:
The baleful effects of the anger thus aroused were destined long to oppress the country. In three or four ways [on the promotion and Virginia matter], General Scott had been overruled and disappointed. [...] He yielded indeed to the authority of the Cabinet, which settled every one of those questions over his head; but he yielded with bad grace, and petulantly threw obstacles in the way of operations he could not forbid.