In early September of 1862, Senator Robert Wilson of Missouri (image above) confided to Gideon Welles, Navy Secretary under Abraham Lincoln, that “there is a conspiracy on foot among certain [Union] generals for a revolution and the establishment of a provisional national government.” Wilson said he had obtained the unsettling information from one of General George McClellan’s staff. (Diary of Gideon Welles)
But Welles guessed that Wilson had been influenced in his news by rumor-mongering Edwin Stanton, War Secretary under Lincoln, who was “mad with the army and officers who stand by McClellan.” (Ibid.)
In New York City, site of later “draft riots” (admirably depicted in Martin Scorsese’s movie, “Gangs of New York”), Welles had been informed “that the public mind there is highly excited and on the eve of revolution.” (Ibid.) Mayor of that city was Fernando Wood. He had, in 1861, suggested to the New York City Council that New York secede and declare itself a free city, to continue its profitable cotton trade with the Confederacy. (“Fernando Wood”, Wikipedia, March 26, 2013)
The Union Admiral Andrew Hull Foote was privately laughing at the Union General John Pope. General Pope was friendly with Mary Todd Lincoln, the First Lady. General Pope and General Henry Halleck, according to Welles, had been “introduced here [Washington, DC] by an intrigue of the War [Department] and Treasury [Department] with the design of ultimately displacing [General] McClellan.”
Mary Todd Lincoln was friendly with General Pope, and Pope had “in some degree” influenced the introduction of General Henry Halleck into the corridors of power in Washington. But the War Department (Edwin Stanton) and the Treasury Department (Salmon Chase) had also “intrigued” in the matter. (Diary of Gideon Welles)
But why on earth was Salmon Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, intriguing about the promotion of military generals? What business was it of his? Of course, Mary Lincoln, a liberated woman of 1862, was perfectly proper to dabble in military affairs. Why not? Everyone else in Abraham Lincoln’s inner circle was doing it!
General Halleck was ushered in as “General-in-Chief” of all Union armies. But Admiral Foote told Gideon Welles that Halleck was a “military imbecile.” However Foote conceded that Halleck “might make a good clerk.” (Diary of Gideon Welles)
General Halleck was “destitute of originality” and “bewildered by the conduct of McClellan and his generals,” according to Gideon Welles.
Meanwhile, General McClellan had been sabotaged during the Peninsula Campaign by dilettante politicians in Washington. (Background: “Political Treachery Against McClellan”, Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of March 27, 2013.) Even the New York Times of August 8, 1862 had wondered about it. In the “public estimation” Edwin Stanton was under suspicion for refusing to reinforce McClellan during the Peninsula Campaign. And why did the War Department stop enlistments at that crucial time? (“Union For The Sake of Union”, NYT, Aug. 8, 1862)
But even amidst all the back-stabbing, President Lincoln still “adhered with tenacity” to General McClellan. (Welles, op. cit.)
Then, as if all these headaches weren’t enough, on September 6, 1862 Gideon Welles received information “that the Rebels have crossed the Potomac in considerable force, with a view of invading Maryland and pushing on into Pennsylvania. The War Department is bewildered, knows but little, does nothing, proposes nothing.”