Thursday, May 4, 2023

Abraham Lincoln Visits McClellan After Battle of Antietam


General George McClellan’s victory at Antietam proved a double-edged sword for Abraham Lincoln. The victory gave Lincoln the courage to issue his partial emancipation proclamation. It also stopped England and France from recognizing the Confederacy, ensuring the belligerents would receive no outside help during the rebellion.

As for the battle itself, Lincoln and McClellan interpreted it differently. While McClellan saw Antietam as a victory, Abraham Lincoln viewed it as a lost opportunity.

Shortly after the battle, Lincoln visited McClellan’s encampment near Antietam. Early that morning, he walked the battlefield with Ozias M. Hatch, Illinois Secretary of State. When they reached the outskirts of the camp, Lincoln threw his arms in the air, motioning to the army, and asked wonderingly, “What is all this?” Then, answering his own question, he whispered, “General McClellan’s bodyguard.”
That same day Lincoln warned McClellan about his “over-cautiousness” to attack the enemy.

It was clear that Abraham Lincoln was happy with the victory. What worried him was what came next. He would feel the same way after the Battle of Gettysburg. General George Gordon Meade had won the battle but thrown away “the golden ticket.” He stayed in place and failed to chase down the fleeing Confederates.

Soon after the battle at Gettysburg, Lincoln would write: “Now don’t misunderstand me, I am profoundly grateful down to the bottom of my boots for what he did at Gettysburg, but I think that if I had been General Meade, I would have fought another battle.”

Lincoln expected McClellan to chase after Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. When that didn’t happen, George McClellan’s days as commander of the Army of the Potomac became numbered.

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