June 18, 1863: McPherson’s response to McClernand

James B. McPherson

McPherson didn’t take kindly to McClernand’s “congratulatory order” denigrating the efforts of his corps.

Official Records:


HDQRS. 17TH ARMY CORPS, DEPT. OF THE TENNESSEE, near Vicksburg, MISS, June 18, 1863.
Major-General GRANT,
Comdg. Dept. of the Tennessee:

GENERAL: My attention has just been called to an order published in the Missouri Democrat of the 10th instant, purporting to be a congratulatory order from Major General John A. McClernand to his command.

The whole tenor of the order is so ungenerous, and the insinuations and criminations against the other corps of your army are so manifestly at variance with the facts, that a sense of duty to my command, as well as the verbal protest of every one of my DIVISION and brigade commanders against allowing such and order to go forth to the public unanswered, require that I should call your attention to it. After a careful perusal of the order, I cannot help arriving at the conclusion that it was written more to influence public sentiment at the North and impress the public mind with the magnificent strategy, superior tactics, and brilliant deeds of the major-general commanding the Thirteenth Army Corps than to congratulate his troops upon their well-merited successes. There is a vain-gloriousness about the order, an ingenious attempt to write himself down the hero, the master-mind, giving life and direction to military operations in this quarter, inconsistent with the high toned principles of the soldier, sans peur et sans reproche. Though born a warrior, as he himself stated, he has evidently forgotten one of the most essential qualities, viz, that elevated, refined sense of honor, which, while guarding his own right with zealous care, at all times renders justice to others.

It little becomes Major-General McClernand to complain of want of co-operation on the part of other corps in the assault on the enemy’s works on the 22nd ultimo, when 1,218 men of my command were placed hors de combat in their resolute and daring attempt to carry the positions assigned to them, and fully one-THIRD of these from General Quinby’s DIVISION, with the gallant and accomplished Colonel [George B.] Boomer at their had, who fell in front of his own lines, where they were left [after being sent 2 miles to support him] to sustain the whole brunt of the battle from 5 p. m. until after dark, his own men being recalled. If General McClernand’s assaulting columns were not immediately supported when they moved against the enemy’s intrenchments, and few of the men succeeded in getting in, it most assuredly was his own fault and not the fault of any other corps commander. Each corps commander had the positions assigned to him which he was to attempt to carry, and it remained with him to dispose his troops in such a way as to support promptly and efficiently any column which succeeded in getting in. The attack was ordered by the major general commanding the department to be simultaneous at all the points selected, and precisely at the hour the columns moved, some of them taking a little longer than others to reach the enemy’s works, on account of the natural and artificial obstacles to be overcome, but the difference in time was not great enough to allow of any changing or massing of the enemy from one part of the line to the other.

The assault failed, not, in my opinion, from any want of co-operation or bravery on the part of our troops, but from the strength of the works, the difficulty of getting close up to them under cover, and the determined character of the assailed.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAS. B. McPHERSON,
Major-General.

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