Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862

Appearance of Robert E. Lee

Why did Lincoln not sack McClellan?

This one is more difficult to answer. Lincoln had seen and witnessed enough to know that McClellan was no fighter, but he did not wish to repeat his mistake of 1861. In that summer, he urged General Irvin McDowell to fight too quickly, with the defeat at Bull Run as the result. Then, too, Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton did not really believe that McClellan could fail. He had the largest army ever seen on the North American continent, along with the heaviest artillery train ever seen in the Western Hemisphere. He was less than six miles from downtown Richmond. Surely, they reasoned, McClellan would succeed in spite of himself.


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