Gen. McClellan snubs his President

On Sunday, Nov. 10, President Jefferson Davis wrote to Gen. Joseph E. Johnston at Manassas that he was surprised the Army had shown so little increase since July, but that “we are restricted in our capacity to reinforce by want of arms.”  He hoped to augment the numbers of troops, “but you must remember that our wants greatly exceed our resources.” There were a number of skirmishes and engagements in western Virginia on this day, at Gauley Bridge, Guyandotte, and Blake’s Farm near Cotton Hill.  Confederate troops began to withdraw eastward as much of the fighting ended in western Virginia.  The fighting at Ivy Mountain in Kentucky, which began on the 8th, ended this day when Confederate troops fought to a draw, and then began to retreat into Virginia, felling trees and burning bridges behind them to slow any advancing Union troops.

In New York on Nov. 11, formal obsequies were held for Col. Edward Baker, Lincoln’s friend and Oregon senator killed at Leesburg or Ball’s Bluff.  His body was sent to San Francisco.  In Washington, President Lincoln watched a torchlight procession in honor of Gen. McClellan, a few hours after Prof. Thaddeus Lowe made another balloon ascension, this time from a “balloon raft” anchored in the Potomac River.  This was the second time an “aircraft carrier” had been deployed; the first had been done by the Confederates in Virginia.  In Kentucky, one of the large 128-pound guns on the bluffs near Columbus accidentally exploded, killing seven men and wounding Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk, CSA.  The next day, the Confederate-government owned blockade-runner Fingal (later the C.S.S. Atlanta) bought in England, arrived in Savannah with military supplies.  There was fighting in northern Virginia, near Occoquan and Pohick Church, and Federal troops were driven back by enraged Confederates.

In a later and widely reported incident on Wednesday evening, Nov. 13, President Lincoln and his private secretary John Hay visited Gen. George McClellan at his Washington home.  The president waited some time before his army commander returned home, but McClellan immediately on his return went up to bed and retired for the night without acknowledging or speaking to Mr. Lincoln. This incident was often cited to show the manner in which the youthful general treated his President.

There was minor skirmishing on Nov. 14 reported at a number of various locations: a small Federal force broke up a Confederate camp in Virginia, across the Potomac from Point of Rocks, Md.; on the road from Fayetteville to Raleigh in No. Carolina; at McCoy’s Mill in western Virginia.

On Friday, Nov. 15, the U.S.S. San Jacinto under Capt. Charles Wilkes arrived at Fortress Monroe, Va., with the captured Confederate commissioners Mason and Slidell.  In a few hours, the news of their seizure from the British ship Trent capture resounded throughout the North.  Initially there was cheering and rejoicing as the prisoners were ordered to be sent to Ft. Warren in Boston harbor.  It was initially thought that the U.S. had struck a blow against the Confederacy and foreign recognition.  The Confederate government was aghast at such treachery as taking diplomatic personnel off a non-belligerent vessel, but soon realized that, just the opposite, the incident might be the catalyst to obtain foreign recognition.   Within a few days, in the North,  cooler heads prevailed with the realization that this act of seizing diplomats was serious, and might lead to a war with Great Britain and France.

Also on Nov. 15, the YMCA organized the U.S. Christian Commission for service to Federal soldiers.  Throughout the War they published tracts, furnished nurses, and aided soldiers in countless ways.  The Confederate Navy Department called for offers for construction of ironclad ships.  In Louisville, Kentucky, the Journal newspaper published a suggestion of a Wisconsin soldier challenging any fifer in the Confederate Army to compete with him on the fife for the sum of $500 a side.  “Yankee Doodle” and “The Star Spangled Banner” would be played, and “…the trial match to come off when Gen. Buckner and his army have all been taken prisoner.”

On Saturday, Nov 16, it was reported that flour in Vicksburg, Miss. cost $20 a barrel.  U.S. Sen. Charles Sumner and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair protested the capture of Mason and Slidell, and urged their surrender to Confederate authorities at once.

Arthur Candenquist
About Arthur Candenquist 194 Articles
A long-time historian, researcher, lecturer and author, Arthur Candenquist serves as secretary-treasurer of the Rappahannock County Sesquicentennial Committee. He can be reached at