|Me guarding President Lincoln while he meets Gen. McClellan on Oct. 3, 1862.|
After the defeat of the Union forces at Bull Run on July 21, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln summoned Philadelphia's George McClellan from West Virginia. McClellan traveled by special train on the main Pennsylvania line through Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., and was greeted by adoring crowds that met his train along the way.
This effusive article was printed by the Philadelphia Inquirer on July 26, 1861:
General McClellan in Philadelphia—Grand Reception
A telegraphic dispatch was received in this city yesterday morning from Pittsburg, stating that General McClellan would pass through Philadelphia en route to Washington. He left Pittsburg in the fast night line on the Pennsylvania Railroad, and reached the West Philadelphia depot at two P.M. yesterday afternoon.
The ground in the neighborhood of the West Philadelphia station was crowded with workmen, citizens and ladies, and as the last car, in which the General was seated, was detached from the locomotive, it was invaded by the curious spectators. The utmost exertions of the brakesmen and employees was required to keep the platform even passably clear, and finally the object of the excitement was induced to expose himself to view at the rear door, when he was greeted with enthusiastic and oft-repeated cheers.
Gen. McClellan was accompanied by his wife and Colonel Key and Major Storman. Mrs. McClellan joined her husband at Wheeling, and participated in the reception at Pittsburg. E. C. Biddle, Esq., a relative of Mrs. McClellan, with other Philadelphians, met the party just beyond the city.
The passage of the car down Market street was almost obstructed by the crowds rushing over the cobblestones and pavements. The General made his appearance on the front platform, and received cheers at every corner. He gratefully acknowledged the compliment, and as the curve at Eleventh street was rounded, and the vehicle turned into the railroad depot, he was doubtless glad to be relieved from the necessity of paying tribute to the admiring people. Another trial was yet to come, however, for while passing from the car door to the street, he was beset by a crowd more enthusiastic than polite, and was obliged to yield to the pressure, and be carried along by the tide. Before leaving the car, he was introduced to Mayor Henry, and the two proceeded to the barouche in company. They were then driven up Market street to Broad, and the General was received by the First Regiment of Grey Reserves, Colonel Ellmaker, who were drawn up in line, the right resting on Market street. The barouche was driven along the front of the line, and the men presented arms, General McClellan standing upright in the vehicle. The steps of the Mint, immediately opposite, were crowded, as was the sidewalk.
The barouche halted in front of the color-bearers, who then took precedence, and the regiment, escorting the General, marched down Chestnut street to Third, along Third to Walnut, and up Walnut to the residence of John McClellan, brother of the General. At various points on the route, including the Continental Hotel, and the office of The Inquirer, loud cheers were given, and acknowledged by the recipient. The vehicle also contained Mayor Henry and Paymaster R. P. DeSilver, of the Grey Reserves.
At the house on Walnut Street the military halted. A strong police force was in attendance, and General McClellan passed into the dwelling without difficulty, only to reappear, however, in a few moments, upon the balcony, in answer to repeated calls. He then reviewed the troops, and as the cheering and shouts still continued, made a few remarks.
He thanked his fellow citizens for the reception which they had given him, but felt that the good wishes and good feeling expressed were not intended for him personally, but for the brave men under his command. This was not the time to indulge in words, but to act, and in obedience to his instructions he would go to Washington and lend what assistance he could in the present emergency. After again thanking the large number of persons for the kind reception, he withdrew amid continued applause, and the crowd dispersed.
General McClellan will leave for Washington, this morning, at eleven o’clock.
Carl Sandburg wrote, "McClellan was the man of the hour, pointed to by events, and chosen by an overwhelming weight of public and private opinion." McClellan was appointed commander of the Military Division of the Potomac on July 26, the main Union force responsible for the defense of Washington.
He later lasted four months (November 1861 to March 1862) as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. While beloved by his troops, he was reluctant to enter into battle. Lincoln said this about McClellan: "If he can't fight himself, he excels in making others ready to fight."
I'll say this about McClellan, he viewed slavery as an institution recognized in the Constitution, and entitled to federal protection wherever it existed. (To be fair, Lincoln held the same public position until August 1862.)
After the war, Ulysses S. Grant said, "McClellan is to me one of the mysteries of the war."
McClellan's not the only mysterious one of the war....