James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
Grants candid expression fourteen years after the war is of great value: In any judgment on McClellan, he asserted, there must be considered the vast and cruel responsibility which at the outset of the war devolved upon him, a young man watched by a restless people and Congress. If he did not succeed, it was because the conditions of success were so trying. If McClellan had gone into the war as Sherman, Thomas or Meade, had fought his way along and up, I have no reason to suppose that he would not have won as high distinction as any of us. Nineteen days after the removal, Lincoln confessed his mistake, writing to Carl Schurz, I certainly have been dissatisfied with the slowness of Buell and McClellan; but before I relieved them I had great fears I should not find successors to them who would do better; and I am sorry to add, that I have seen little since to relieve those fears.1
Even though Lincoln felt that he must yield his better judgment to political considerations he might have exercised greater discretion in the choice of McClellans successor. A certain Radical, reflecting deeply in his quiet retreat at Cambridge, suggested the test that William T. Sherman afterwards applied [in January 1865]2a test that should have been seriously considered by the President, his Secretary of War and Halleck. Burnside may be able to command one hundred thousand men in the field but is he?3 Burnside had given no proof of his fitness, had refused the place twice and had told the President and
Note 2. I have commanded one hundred thousand men in battle, wrote General Sherman to the Senator on Jan. 22, 1865, and on the march, successfully and without confusion, and that is enough for reputation. Sherman Letters 246. [back]