To Henry W. Halleck

Executive Mansion, Washington, [November 5, 1862].

“By direction of the President, it is ordered that Major General McClellan be relieved from the command of the Army of the Potomac; and that Major General Burnside take the command of that Army.

Also, that Major General Hunter take command of the Corps in said Army, which is now commanded by General Burnside.

That Major General Fitz-John Porter be relieved from the command of the corps he now commands in said Army; and that Major General Hooker take command of said corps.”

The General-in-Chief, is authorized, in discretion, to issue an order substantially as the above, forthwith, or so soon as he may deem proper. A. LINCOLN

Halleck issued the first paragraph of Lincoln’s order relieving McClellan and appointing Burnside [on] November 5, 1862. The second paragraph concerning Hunter was not issued, but “no revocation of the order is of record.”  The Ninth Corps which had been commanded by Burnside was under command of Brigadier General Orlando B. Willcox as of November 10, 1862. The third paragraph appointing Hooker to the Fifth Corps was issued … November 10, 1862. Burnside assumed command on November 9.

Lincoln’s order of removal had been long delayed in spite of tremendous pressure from many political figures and private citizens, as well as the majority of his cabinet. On August 30, Secretary Chase had drawn up a letter to the president which Secretaries Stanton and Smith joined him in signing, recommending “the immediate removal of George B. McClellan.” On September 2, a similar document was drafted by Secretary Bates “declaring to you our deliberate opinion that, at this time, it is not safe to entrust to Major General McClellan the command of any of the armies of the United States.” Stanton, Chase, Smith, and Bates signed this document, a copy of which is in the Nicolay Papers bearing the following note in Bates’ handwriting:

“Note. M. Blair p.m.g. declined to sign (no reason given that I heard, but preserving a cautious reticence)

Gideon Welles, Secy Navy, declined to sign, for some reasons of etiquette, but openly declared in Council, his entire want of confidence in the general

W.H. Seward, Sec of State, absent

The Prest. was in deep distress. He had already, with, apparently, Gen Halleck’s approbation, assigned Genl McClellan to the command of the forts in & around Washington & entrusted him with the defence of the City. At the opening of the Council, he seemed wrung by the bitterest anguish—said he felt almost ready to hang himself—in ansr to something said by Mr. Chase, he sd. he was far from doubting our sincerity, but that he was so distressed, precisely because he knew we were earnestly sincere.

“He was, manifestly alarmed for the safety of the City. He had been talking with Gen Halleck (who, I think is cowed) & had gotten the idea that Pope’s army was utterly demoralized—saying that ‘if Pope’s army came within the lines (of the forts) as a mob, the City wd be overrun by the enemy in 48 hours!’

“I said that if Halleck doubted his ability to defend the City, he ought to be instantly, broke. 50,000 men were enough to defend it against all the power of the enemy. If the City fell, it would be by treachery in our leaders, & not by lack of power to defend. The shame was that we were reduced to the defensive, instead of the aggressive policy &c. That all the army was not needed to defend the City, & now was the time, above all others, to strike the enemy behind & at a distance &c”

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