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CHAPTER VI

LINCOLN DIRECPS COOPERATION

HE President was highly gratified when Hal

leck wrote from the Department of Missouri, under date of December 19, to McClellan, who was yet General-in-Chief, that the discipline of the troops was improving; that sundry minor expeditions had been successful; that Price would be ruined in Missouri by another retreat; and that he hoped soon to be able to attack him under favoring conditions; also that he was gradually curing the serious disorders in military administration bequeathed him by Frémont. “An excellent letter,” wrote Lincoln, as an endorsement, though he also noted his regret that Halleck was unfavorably impressed with Lane on the Kansas border, from whose cooperation under Hunter, with a quasiindependent column, the President had hoped for substantial benefit. But the prospect at Washington was not so encouraging. Except to organize, drill, and review the Army of the Potomac, to make an unfruitful reconnaissance, and to sufier the lamentable Ball’s Bluif disaster, McClellan had nothing to show for his five months of local, and two months of chief command. The splendid

autumn weather, the wholesome air, and dry roads

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cnr.vI. had come and gone. Rain, snow, and mud, crippling clogs to military movements in all lands and epochs, were to be expected for a quarter, if not for half, the coming year. Besides all this, McClellan had fallen seriously ilL With most urgent need of early action, every prospect of securing it Lincoln seemed to be thus cut ofi. In this dilemma, Lin

ggggggg coln turned to the Western commanders. “Gen

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w_ R_ Buell and Halleck should at once establish a Vig

v°§I5§'¢.I.I" orous and hearty coiiperation. Their replies were

not specially promising. “There is no arrange

ment between General Halleck and myself,” re

sponded Buell, adding that he depended on McClel

lan for instructions to this end; while Halleck

said, “I have never received a word from Gen

eral Buell. I am not ready to coiiperate with him,”

adding in his turn that he had written to Me

Clellan, and that too much haste would ruin every

thing. Plainly, therefore, the military machine,

both East and West, was not only at a complete standstill, but was without a programme.

Of what avail then were McClellan’s oflice and function of general-in-chief if such a contingency revealed either his incapacity or his neglect? The force of this question is immensely increased when we see how in the same episode McClellan’s acts followed Lincoln’s suggestions. However silent and confiding in the skill and energy of his generals, the President had studied the military situa

tion with unremitting diligence. In his telegram of December 31 to Halleck, he started a pregnant inquiry. “ When he [Buell] moves on Bowling Green, what hinders it being reiinforced from Columbus 7 ” And he asked the same question at the same time of Buell. Halleck seems to have had no answer to make; Buell sent the only reply that was possible : “ There is nothing to prevent Bowling Green being reénforced from Columbus if a military force is not brought to bear on the latter place.” The sequel proves that Lincoln was not content to permit this know-nothing and do-nothing policy to continue. “I have just been with General McClellan, and he is much better,” he wrote the day after New Year’s; and in this interview the necessity for action and the telegrams from the Western commanders were fully discussed, as becomes evident from the fact that the following day McClellan wrote a letter to Halleck containing an earnest suggestion to remedy the neglect and need pointed out by Lincoln’s dispatch of December 31. In this letter McClellan advised an expedition up the Cumberland River, a demonstration on Columbus, and a feint on the Tennessee River, all for the purpose of preventing reénforcements from joining Buckner and Johnston at Bowling Green, whom Buell was preparing to attack.

Meanwhile Lincoln’s dispatch of inquiry had renewed the attention, and perhaps aroused the ambition, of Buell. He and Halleck had, after Lincoln’s prompting, interchanged dispatches about concerted action. Halleck reported a withdrawal of troops from Missouri “almost impossible”; to which Buell replied that “the great power of the

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rebellion in the West is arrayed ” on a line from Columbus to Bowling Green, and that two gunboat expeditions with a support of twenty thousand men should attack its center by way of the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, and that “ whatever is done should be done speedily, within a few days.” Halleck, however, did not favorably entertain the proposition. His reply discussed an altogether different question. He said it would be madness for him with his forces to attempt any serious operation against Camp Beauregard or Columbus, and that if Buell’s Bowling Green movement required his help, it ought to be delayed a few

' weeks, when he could probably furnish some

troops. Leaving altogether unanswered Buell’s suggestion for the movement up the Cumberland and Tennessee, Halleck stated his strong disapproval of the Bowling Green movement, and on the same day he repeated these views a little more fully in a letter to the President. Premising that he could not then withdraw any troops from Missouri, “ without risking the loss of this State,” he said, “I know nothing of General Buell’s intended operations, never having received any information in regard to the general plan of campaign. If it be intended that his column shall move on Bowling Green, while another moves from Cairo or Paducah on Columbus or Camp Beauregard, it will be a repetition of the same strategic error which produced the disaster of Bull Run. To operate on exterior lines against an enemy occupying a central position will fail, as it always has failed, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. It is condemned by every military authority I have ever

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of Bull Run.”

Lincoln, finding in these replies but a continuation not only of the delay, but also of the want of plans, and especially of energetic joint action which had thus far in a majority of cases marked the operations of the various commanders, was not disposed further to allow matters to remain in such unfruitful conditions. Under his prompting McClellan, on this same 6th of January, wrote to Buell: “ Halleck, from his own account, will not soon be in a condition to support properly a move

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for that? ” And on the next day Lincoln followed vi>l~'lg1I-L’ this inquiry with a still more energetic monition: “Please name as early a day as you safely can on or before which you can be ready to move south

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Halleck’s already quoted letter of the 6th reached
Washington by mail, and after its perusal the

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