McClellan Doubles his Plea, Asks for 100,000 Reinforcements

July 3, 1862 (Thursday)

The Seven Days Battles were at an end. The Peninsula Campaign, at least as it’s remembered now, was drawing to a close. In the minds of those fighting and those leading the armies, however, the match was still to be decided. General George McClellan, often cited as having, by this time, given up, was a potential threat to Richmond and Petersburg. He had backed his Army of the Potomac to the James River, but held a fine defensive position at Harrison’s Landing.

Union camp at Harrison's Landing

The position might be a good one, but McClellan believed his army might not be up to the task. “It is of course impossible to estimate as yet our losses,” wrote the General to Washington, “but I doubt whether there are to-day more than 50,000 men with their colors.” Straggling had been rampant, to be sure, however, McClellan was grossly underestimating the men that remained, which numbered around 90,000.

Reinforcements had always been a sticking point with McClellan. Even before he set out on the campaign, he screamed for more men. This plea he carried with him, writing almost daily that Washington send him more troops. “To accomplish the great task of capturing Richmond and putting an end to this rebellion, re-enforcements should be sent to me rather much over than much under 100,000 men.”1

General Porter's Headquarters at Harrison's Landing

There was, of course, no way that Washington could send him 100,000 troops. President Lincoln had even called McClellan’s request for 50,000 “simply absurd.” Besides, the capture of Richmond was turning out not to be one of Lincoln’s primary concerns. By June 28th, Lincoln had seen that McClellan wasn’t going to finish the job, and so told him to save his army and be happy that the Rebels hadn’t taken Washington.2

Still, Lincoln was trying. He had asked General Henry Halleck, commanding in the West to send 25,000. By now, Lincoln had learned that Halleck refused to do so, believing that he would lose all that he had gained in Tennessee and Mississippi. Lincoln also reminded McClellan that Washington had ordered General Burnside to bring his infantry to the Peninsula, but that McClellan had instead ordered them to Goldsborough, North Carolina.

Ignoring McClellan’s refusal of Burnside’s help, Lincoln re-ordered Burnside to McClellan’s position. He also ordered General David Hunter, at Hilton Head, South Carolina to send 10,000. It certainly wasn’t 100,000 or even 50,000, but it would have to do for now.3


John Pope’s Army of Virginia

General Fremont Declines

During the Seven Days Battles, there had been no sizable Rebel force in the Shenandoah Valley. The Federals used this lull to change their plan of operation. On June 24th, General John Pope, commander of the Army of the Mississippi under General Halleck, had arrived in Washington to receive a new position. Three days later, he was made commander of the newly-minted Army of Virginia.

This was somewhat surprising, as soon after he arrived in the capital, he spoke very openly against General McClellan, claiming that he had greatly exaggerated the Confederate numbers battling against him. The Army of Northern Virginia, Pope correctly stated, was no more than half of what McClellan said it to be.

Due to McClellan’s cries for reinforcements, Lincoln had called upon Pope to see what could be done. With bitter scorn, Pope blasted McClellan’s retreat to the James, saying that it recklessly put the Rebel army between the Army of the Potomac and his own Army of Virginia, allowing them to attack either at will.4

Pope’s new army brought four separate military departments under one rule. General John C. Fremont’s Mountain Department became the army’s First Corps. The Department of the Shenandoah, commanded by Nathaniel Banks, became the Second Corps. The Third was made from General Irvin McDowell’s Department of the Rappahannock. The Department of Washington was also put under Pope’s authority.5

Map showing very approximate positions of US troops in Virginia.

This new arrangement did not sit well at all with General Fremont, who had commanded Pope in Missouri. Feeling that Pope’s promotion was actually a demotion for himself, Fremont resigned.6 Taking his place was General Franz Sigel, with whom Pope had served in Missouri, gaining much ill will for his new subordinate.

While Fremont had, in Pope’s words, been “simply foolish,” he regarded Sigel as “the God damndest coward he ever knew,” promising to “arrest Sigel the moment he showed any signs of cowardice.” 7

As Pope tried to pull his scattered new army together, his biggest battles would be against fellow Union officers, not the Rebels. At least, not yet.

  1. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p292-293. []
  2. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p282; 269. []
  3. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p290-291. []
  4. General John Pope by Peter Cozzens, University of Illinois, 2000. []
  5. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War by David S Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, Norton, 2000. []
  6. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 12, Part 3, p437-438. []
  7. General John Pope by Peter Cozzens, University of Illinois, 2000. []
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McClellan Doubles his Plea, Asks for 100,000 Reinforcements by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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