James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
Secretary of War over and over again that he was not competent to command so large an army and that McClellan was the best general for the position. Had he simply been asked to take it, he would have refused; but as the promotion came to him in the form of an order, he deemed it his duty to obey.
Ropes thought that Franklin should have been given the command.1 It is among the possibilities that Meade or Reynolds or Humphreys may have been considered. Meade had served with distinction as a brigade commander during the seven days fighting in Virginia; at Antietam he and his division were in the thickest of the battle and, when Hooker was wounded, he was placed by McClellan in command of the corps. During the Presidents visit to Antietam after the battle Meade accompanied him and McClellan on their survey of the battle-field, on which occasion McClellan highly commended the work of his subordinate.2 If Meade created a favorable impression in the Presidents mind, it is surprising that McClellans comments did not lead to his being considered for the post of commander of the Army of the Potomac. He would probably have proved as capable at this juncture as he did eight months later.3
Burnside was a man of high character and gentle nature; he deserved a better fate but he had not a happy hour during the eighty days of his command. He soon gave evidence of the incompetence to which he had so often confessed. The removal of McClellan implied the ascendancy of the Radicals and the assumption of a vigorous offensive in the conduct of the war. Burnside lent himself to that policy, but neither he nor the President took sufficiently