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On the eve of the war, the U. Army consisted of approximately 16, men, of whom about 1, were commissioned officers. Of these, some 25 percent resigned to join the Confederate army. By April , when the war was a year old, the volunteer Union army had grown to , men. This mass mobilization could not have taken place without an enormous effort by local and state politicians as well as by prominent ethnic leaders.

Another important issue that began as a question of national strategy eventually crossed the boundary to become policy as well. That was the issue of slavery and emancipation. During the war's first year, one of Lincoln's top priorities was to keep border state Unionists and Northern antiabolitionist Democrats in his war coalition. He feared, with good reason, that the balance in three border slave states might tip to the Confederacy if his administration stepped prematurely toward emancipation.

When Gen. John C. I think that to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game. Kentucky gone, we can not hold Missouri, nor as I think, Maryland. These all against us, and the job on our hands is too large for us.

We would as well consent to separation at once, including the surrender of this capitol. During the next nine months, however, the thrust of national strategy shifted away from conciliating the border states and anti-emancipation Democrats. The antislavery Republican constituency grew louder and more demanding. The argument that slavery had brought on the war and that reunion with slavery would only sow the seeds of another war became more insistent.

The evidence that slave labor sustained the Confederate economy and the logistics of Confederate armies grew stronger. Counteroffensives by Southern armies in the summer of wiped out many of the Union gains of the winter and spring. Many northerners, including Lincoln, became convinced that bolder steps were necessary. To win the war over an enemy fighting for and sustained by slavery, the North must strike at slavery.

In July , Lincoln decided on a major change in national strategy. Instead of deferring to the border states and Northern Democrats, he would activate the Northern antislavery majority that had elected him and mobilize the potential of black manpower by issuing a proclamation of freedom for slaves in rebellious states—the Emancipation Proclamation. Emancipation was "a military necessity, absolutely necessary to the preservation of the Union. We must free the slaves or be ourselves subdued. By trying to convert a Confederate resource to Union advantage, emancipation thus became a crucial part of the North's national strategy.

But the idea of putting arms in the hands of black men provoked even greater hostility among Democrats and border state Unionists than emancipation itself. In August , Lincoln told delegates from Indiana who offered to raise two black regiments that "the nation could not afford to lose Kentucky at this crisis" and that "to arm the negroes would turn 50, bayonets from the loyal border States against us that were for us.

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Three weeks later, however, the president quietly authorized the War Department to begin organizing black regiments on the South Carolina Sea Islands. And by March , Lincoln had told his military governor of occupied Tennessee that "the colored population is the great available and yet unavailed of, force for restoring the Union. The bare sight of fifty thousand armed, and drilled black soldiers on the banks of the Mississippi, would end the rebellion at once.

And who doubts that we can present that sight, if we but take hold in earnest. This prediction proved overoptimistic. But in August , after black regiments had proved their worth at Fort Wagner and elsewhere, Lincoln told opponents of their employment that in the future "there will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation; while, I fear, there will be some white ones, unable to forget that, with malignant heart, and deceitful speech, they have strove to hinder it.

Lincoln also took a more active, hands-on part in shaping military strategy than presidents have done in most other wars.

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This was not necessarily by choice. Lincoln's lack of military training inclined him at first to defer to General in Chief Winfield Scott, America's most celebrated soldier since George Washington. But Scott's age 75 in , poor health and lack of energy placed a greater burden on the president. Scott's successor, Gen. George B. McClellan, proved an even greater disappointment to Lincoln. In early December , after McClellan had been commander of the Army of the Potomac for more than four months and had done little with it except conduct drills and reviews, Lincoln drew on his reading and discussions of military strategy to propose a campaign against Confederate Gen.

Joseph E. Johnston's army, then occupying the Manassas-Centreville sector 25 miles from Washington. Under Lincoln's plan, part of the Army of the Potomac would feign a frontal attack while the rest would use the Occoquan Valley to move up on the flank and rear of the enemy, cut its rail communications and catch it in a pincer movement.

It was a good plan; indeed it was precisely what Johnston most feared. McClellan rejected it in favor of a deeper flanking movement all the way south to Urbana on the Rappahannock River. Lincoln posed a series of questions to McClellan, asking him why his distant-flanking strategy was better than Lincoln's short-flanking plan. Three sound premises underlay Lincoln's questions: first, the enemy army, not Richmond, should be the objective; second, Lincoln's plan would enable the Army of the Potomac to operate near its own base Alexandria while McClellan's plan, even if successful, would draw the enemy back toward his base Richmond and lengthen the Union supply line; and third, "does not your plan involve a greatly larger expenditure of time McClellan brushed off Lincoln's questions and proceeded with his own plan, bolstered by an 8—4 vote of his division commanders in favor of it, which caused Lincoln reluctantly to acquiesce.

Johnston then threw a monkey wrench into McClellan's Urbana strategy by withdrawing from Manassas to the south bank of the Rappahannock—in large part to escape the kind of maneuver Lincoln had proposed. McClellan now shifted his campaign all the way to the Virginia peninsula between the York and James rivers. Instead of attacking a line held by fewer than 17, Confederates near Yorktown with his own army, then numbering 70,, McClellan, in early April, settled down for a siege that would give Johnston time to bring his whole army down to the peninsula.

They will probably use time , as advantageously as you can. In an April 9 letter to the general, Lincoln enunciated another major theme of his military strategy: the war could be won only by fighting the enemy rather than by endless maneuvers and sieges to occupy places.

You will do me the justice to remember I always insisted, that going down the Bay in search of a field, instead of fighting at or near Manassas, was only shifting, and not surmounting, a difficulty—that we would find the same, or equal intrenchments, at either place. The country will not fail to note—is now noting—that the present hesitation to move upon an intrenched enemy, is but the story of Manassas repeated.

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But the general who acquired the nickname of Tardy George never learned that lesson. The same was true of several other generals who did not live up to Lincoln's expectations. They seemed to be paralyzed by responsibility for the lives of their men as well as the fate of their army and nation. This intimidating responsibility made them risk-averse. This behavior especially characterized commanders of the Army of the Potomac, who operated in the glare of media publicity with the government in Washington looking over their shoulders.

In contrast, officers like Ulysses S. Grant, George H. Thomas and Philip H. Sheridan got their start in the western theater hundreds of miles distant, where they worked their way up from command of a regiment step by step to larger responsibilities away from media attention. They were able to grow into these responsibilities and to learn the necessity of taking risks without the fear of failure that paralyzed McClellan.

Meanwhile, Lincoln's frustration with the lack of activity in the Kentucky-Tennessee theater had elicited from him an important strategic concept. Generals Henry W. When the war ended, Grant traveled back to St. Louis to marry Julia. Unbeknownst to the groom, all three of his Southern attendants, including James Longstreet, would fight against him during the Civil War.

The Army then transferred the young lieutenant to Detroit and New York. At first, Julia was able to travel with him, but the Army then sent Grant to the Pacific Northwest, first to the Oregon Territory and then to California. He could not take his family to these distant locations and he hated being separated from them. He also ran into financial problems, became depressed, and, according to some accounts, began to drink to excess. In , Grant resigned suddenly from the Army. It is still unclear what precipitated his resignation.

After leaving the Army, Grant returned to his wife and children in Missouri. Julia's father had given her some land, and Grant tried to farm it, building a log house he dubbed "Hardscrabble. When extra labor was needed, he hired free blacks. He could have made money from selling the one slave that his father-in-law gave him but instead freed the slave. The painful reality was that Ulysses could not support his family, which eventually grew to four children. He also attempted a half-dozen other lines of work over the next several years.

By , Grant was forced appeal to his father for help, and he went to work for his younger brother in a leather shop in Galena, Illinois. The governor of Illinois appointed the former captain to lead a volunteer regiment that no one else had been able to train. Grant instituted badly needed discipline, focusing on the regiment's main goals and overlooking minor details. He gradually won the men's respect and allegiance and was subsequently appointed to brigadier general.

From the outset of the war, the Confederacy had the advantage of fighting on its own territory, as well as fighting a limited war for independence; in contrast, the United States needed to conquer vast territory and subdue a large population. The Confederates also enjoyed strong support from their citizens and, initially, had superior commanders. But over the years, the industrial capacity of the North proved consequential. The North had the advantage in factories, money, and manpower to fill the battleground with better weapons and more soldiers. The U. Navy also imposed an increasingly successful blockade that prevented the South from importing materiel equipment and supplies.

But the Northern advantage did not translate into victories, and the war dragged on. Incompetent Northern military leadership and strong Southern fighting ability continued to fan the flames for four long years. During the early phases of the conflict, the North lacked a commander with the nerve and logistical skills to take the offensive against the outgunned Rebels. President Lincoln grew frustrated with his ineffective, overcautious commanders, especially General George B.

McClellan was the first of many generals who fought not to win but to avoid losing. In time, Lincoln would select Grant as the man to lead the North to victory. Grant displayed his military prowess early in the conflict.

Lincoln removes McClellan - HISTORY

In , he led 3, troops into his first major engagement. The clash at Belmont, Missouri, was a draw, but he showed a rare Union trait at the time—a willingness to fight. More than that in this early period Grant learned something about the enemy, and about himself. The lesson was valuable. At Fort Donelson, he accepted the surrender of an entire Confederate force, earning a nickname, "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. Fort Donelson was the first real Union victory of the war, and Grant became known nationally overnight, earning a promotion to major general. But the good press did not last long.

That April of , the press blamed Grant for massive losses at the Battle of Shiloh, also in Tennessee. He had been surprised by an early morning Confederate attack that pushed the Union line back, resulting in the capture of many Union soldiers. At the end of the day, however, Grant had managed to hold his position. Supported by reinforcements, he launched a counterattack on the second day that led to a Southern retreat. In view of the recent highly publicized firing of General Stanley McChrystal, here is a retrospective list of the top ten American disgraced military leaders.

In descending order:. Arnold is the epitome of the word "traitor," the first in American history, and by virtue of the fact that he actually led battles against his former country he must head the list as the number one all-time disgraced military leader. His highly publicized recall by President Harry Truman for insubordinate behavior in Korea, nearly bringing about World War III with China, ranks as the greatest act of outright defiance of an American president by an American military leader.


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He was replaced by the bumbling and incompetent Ambrose Burnside, himself soon removed in favor of Joseph Hooker. Unsuccessfully ran for president against Lincoln in Another brilliant career officer. Fortunately, he was overruled and a nuclear holocaust was averted. It was later revealed that the Russians had and were authorized to use tactical nuclear weapons in the event of invasion. After retiring from the military in he further reduced his credibility as the vice-presidential candidate of segregationist George Wallace.

At the outbreak of the War of , he was appointed brigadier general and charged with defending Michigan and attacking Canada. His poorly planned invasion of Canada forced him to retreat to Detroit, where he surrendered without a fight. He was court-martialed and convicted of cowardice and neglect of duty. His death sentence was remitted by President James Madison because of his earlier service.