Politicians (December 18, 1863)

General George B. McClellan strikes a Napoleonic pose with his wife by his side (Library of Congress).

General George B. McClellan strikes a Napoleonic pose with his wife by his side (Library of Congress).

Like a small moon affected by the gravitational pull of a much larger body, the Army of the Potomac was always being pushed and pulled by the forces in Washington. Politics and politicians were unavoidable. Even in exile, George B. McClellan, the army’s first commander, remained an influence, for good or ill. Congressional Republicans looked with suspicion on any general suspected of being tainted by McClellanism. In 1864 that will create political challenges for Meade. Yet he does retain his command until the end of the war, so maybe he is right when he says he can keep the politicians “in their proper places.”

To-day Captain Chauncey handed me your letter of the 13th inst.

As to politics and politicians, as I never have had anything to do with them, and have personal friends in all parties, I don’t see why I am to fear them now. I think I can keep them in their proper places. Already the Tribune has charged that the gentleman in New Jersey, my correspondent, is George B. McClellan, and asks why this is not openly avowed. I have no political aspirations. I have the ambition to prove myself a good soldier, and intend to try to afford evidences of this to the last. Major Jim Biddle has gone on leave; so you will hear all the latest news from the camp.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), p. 162. Available via Google Books.

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