Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862

Unconditional Surrender U. S. Grant

Why had the Army of the Potomac remained in place?

This was, and remains, one of the most perplexing of questions. Was George B. McClellan something of a chicken, or was he merely a good father to his troops, wishing to see them perfectly ready before commencing a campaign? McClellan fell ill in the last part of 1861: typhoid fever nearly claimed his life. But even when he regained his health, he showed no signs of moving, and Lincoln, therefore, prodded him with Executive Order number 1.

On January 22, 1862, Lincoln directed that all sections of the various Union armies were to commence actions against the Confederate foe on or before February 22, 1862, which just happened to be Washington’s birthday. Privately, Lincoln expressed concerns that even this would not persuade McClellan, with whom he was increasingly exasperated, to move.


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