Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Did McClellan Launch Halleck's Attacks on Grant

As I was doing research for my biography of Maj. Gen. C. F. Smith, I came upon some correspondence in the Official Records (Series 1 - Volume 7) between Maj. Gen. H. W. Halleck and Maj. Gen. G. B. McClellan which shed some new light, for me, on Halleck's attacks on Maj. Gen. Grant in February and March 1862.

Maj. Gen. McClellan
On February 21, Gen. McClellan telegraphed Gen. Halleck complaining about his lack of communication.  McClellan said: "You do not report either often or fully enough.  Unless you keep me fully advised, you must not expect me to abandon my own plans for yours."

Halleck had to blame someone and there were several good candidates. First, he blamed the officers of this department for being "negligent or ignorant of their duties in this respect." Then, Halleck blamed his predecessor Maj. Gen. Frémont. He charged the officers with becoming "negligent under the Frémont régime of all law, regulations, and orders." Then, he asked for more time to bring about this reformation because he was "doing everything in my [his] power to effect it."

Maj. Gen. Halleck
General Halleck then turned his attention to his unsuspecting subordinate and accused Grant of a shopping list of grievances. At the same instant, Halleck was advocating Grant for promotion, he was also trying to get Gen. Ethan Hitchcock to take Grant's place and praising Maj. Gen. David Hunter for his contributions in capturing Fort Donelson.  Halleck was also pushing to be named commander in the West. Unfortunately, Hitchcock refused to take Grant's place and President Lincoln declined to endorse Halleck's reorganization.

Bruce Catton in Grant Moves South (Chapter Ten p. 198), summed up the situation perfectly.

General Halleck probably meant nothing in particular by his sudden attack on Grant.  He himself had been chided by McClellan for failure to keep Washington informed about troop numbers and dispositions, and a major general who is reprimanded is quite likely to do two things almost automatically - to pass the reprimand along to an underling, and to show that whatever fault existed was not his own. Grant was ideally situated to take both reprimand and blame, and Halleck gave them to him - his attitude sharpened, possibly by his recent disappoints.


Halleck's desire to blame Grant for all of the problems in the West continued until his superiors in Washington brought him to the East to replace McClellan.

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