Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rec'd: Etiquette & Personal Dignity

In which we go through some of my favorite recent articles

Harper's Weekly failed on cartoons this week, but here's a lovely picture of Massanutten Mountain in the Valley
November 13, 1861 is the anniversary of one of the most famous incidents of the early war, McClellan's snub of Abraham Lincoln. Here is the story, as told by Doris Kearns Goodwin in Team of Rivals (p. 383):
On Wednesday night, November 13, Lincoln went with Seward and Hay to McCellan's house. Told that the general was at a wedding, the three waited in the parlor for an hour. When McClellan arrived home, the porter told him the president was waiting, but McClellan passed by the parlor room and climbed the stairs to his private quarters. After another half hour, Lincoln again sent word that he was waiting, only to be informed that the general had gone to sleep. Young John Hay [Lincoln's secretary] was enraged... To Hay's surprise, Lincoln "seemed not to have noticed it specially, saying it was better at this time not to be making points of etiquette & personal dignity."
No record exists in McClellan's own accounts or among his letters (in fact, there was no letter to Mary Ellen that night), so no explanation for the behavior. McClellan was particularly critical of his men drinking alcohol, but because of the effect on discipline, not out of any tee-totaling principles, so maybe he had enjoyed the wedding too much. On the other hand, of the many criticisms of George McClellan that exist, the frequent general-bashing accusation of "drunkard" is not one. Whatever the reason for the slight, it might have remained overlooked if McClellan had been on better behavior later on.

All Not So Quiet follows up on who led Longstreet's Brigade after Longstreet moved on to lead a division (hint: it's Dick Ewell) and checks in on the Vermont Brigade encamped at Lewinsville, the sickliest brigade in the Union army.

Disunion checks in on Cump Sherman, who was on leave from the army in November, possibly from a mental breakdown, and covers the big national and international story, the Trent Affair.

The Confederate battery at Evansport [Quantico] made due with the artillery they were able to scrounge up, but To The Sound Of The Guns ventures south to Georgia to look at what a real Confederate coastal defense position would be armed with.

And Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post blogged and wrote about Ball's Bluff, just like the Evening Star did 150 years ago. Well maybe not just like.

How can we close without a little bit of Hooker? Before McClellan headed off to his wedding, he would have been advised by his adjutant of a report from the commander of his extreme right-wing, Brig. General Joe Hooker. The report was even thicker than usual for Hooker, because it contained the report of the 74th New York Infantry's expedition to Mathias Point on the Virginia side of the Potomac. Colonel Charles Graham had taken about 400 men from the regiment and transported them on the Island Belle and Dana, two ships from the Potomac Flotilla, during the night of November 9.

Graham and men had shot some pickets and captured some Confederate prisoners, while at the same time determining that no batteries had yet been erected at Mathias Point (though they thought they saw evidence of preparations to make some). They then returned to the north shore in triumph. But the unusual thing is that Hooker had no idea this raid was taking place.
I inclose herewith the report of Colonel Graham of his descent on Mathias Point, as it contains reliable information of the condition of that much talked of point. The expedition was projected without my authority or even knowledge. As it appears to have had no unfortunate sequence so far as I have learned, I shall not censure him, but in future no operations will be projected without my sanction; otherwise my command may be dishonored before I know it.
Hooker probably knew that the expedition had been planned by his subordinate and Graham's superior, Dan Sickles. Unfortunately for the army, making dangerous military moves without informing his superior would become a habit for Sickles.


  1. I like the view of Massanutten and wonder if you can identify where the artist was standing. I learned in Gettysburg and Manassas that standing in the terrain gave me more understanding of strategies. I remember Massanutten as being long, but not that sharp!

  2. Yes, it's definitely not that sharp. The artist decided to show off his skill at drawing rather than reproduction, and it's quite possible he wasn't ever on the scene. The proximity of a river and the background and a good road along the lone peak, and Union troops marching down that road, suggest that he was probably illustrating a scene taking place just to the south of Strasburg, if he had a place in mind at all.

    The Valley Pike didn't [and Route 11 doesn't] bend that close to the south end of Massanutten and the river isn't that big nearby. On the other hand, the placement of the river, the road, and the mountain in the illustration are fairly close to their real placement south of Strasburg, which also happened to be an important crossroads.

    The weak link to that theory? Strasburg was still firmly in Confederate hands in November 1861.