June 27, 1863: McClernand appeals to Stanton

Gen. John A. McClernand

Having been summarily dismissed by Grant, McClernand turns once again to the secretary of war for support. This time, though, he’ll have difficulty finding anyone to take his side against the general who is about to take Vicksburg.


SPRINGFIELD, ILL., June 27, 1863.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

Under authority conferred by you in previous correspondence to communicate freely, I inclose the accompanying correspondence* between Major-General Grant and myself. From that correspondence you will learn that General Grant has assumed power to relieve me from the command of the Thirteenth Army Corps and to banish me from the Department of the Tennessee. The ostensible motive for this act is the failure of my adjutant to send General Grant a copy of a congratulatory order communicated to commanders of DIVISIONS of the Thirteenth Army Corps, the design of which was to assert the just claims of that corps and to stimulate its soldierly pride and conduct.

The order reflected upon no one [Note: See the actual text to assess the veracity of this statement], nor was it to have been expected that I could have personally supervised the routine of the adjutant’s office in this or any like particular. I was in the presence of the enemy, and my attention and best efforts were due to what was transpiring in the field; besides, sent or unsent, outside of the purpose mentioned, the order effected nothing.

The real motive for so unwarranted an act was hostility – personal hostility-growing out of the early connection of my name with the Mississippi River expedition and your assignment of me to the command of it. [Note that there was a long struggle between Grant and McClernand over the leadership of the expedition. Stanton backed McClernand, while Halleck supported Grant. Numerous posts in this blog deal with the issue. ] This feeling subsequently became intensified by the contrast made by my success at Arkansas Post with General Grant’s retreat from Oxford and his repulse at Chickasaw Bayou, and, later still, more intensified by the leadership and success of my corps during the advance from Milliken’s Bend to Port Gibson, to Champion’s Hill [McClernand was late in attacking and played a lesser role at Champion’s Hill], and to Big Black. In all these battles my corps led the advance and bore the brunt; indeed, I made the dispositions for the battles of Port Gibson and Champion’s Hill [This appears to be a complete fabrication], also for the battle of Big Black, which was fought on our part alone by my own corps.

During May 19, 20, 21, and 22, I lost 1,487 men killed and wounded before Vicksburg in fruitless attempts to carry the enemy’s works, in obedience to General Grant’s orders-orders which, under the circumstances, were incapable of execution.

On the 22nd, I was the first to attack. I made the only lodgments; held them all day under a scorching sun and wasting fire, while the corps on my right, sustaining repulse, left the enemy to mass upon me. Yet, so far as I have seen, the only dispatch from General Grant noticing me or the Thirteenth Army Corps placed me in the position of bringing up the rear.

The fact that McPherson and Sherman gained the lead for a day or two by reason of the temporary substitution of Jackson for Edwards Station as the objective point of the army’s movements, was the occasion for a statement calculated to induce the belief that I was uniformly in the rear. All this, however, is but consistent with the motive that censured me for the Arkansas expedition, which, fortunately for me and the country, terminated in the fall of Post Arkansas, and the attempt to charge me with the failure at Chickasaw Bayou, which occurred before I took command of the Mississippi River expedition.

I ask, in justice, for an investigation of General Grant’s and my conduct as officers from the battle of Belmont to the assault of the 22nd upon Vicksburg, inclusive; and meantime, until the public service will allow the investigation, that I be restored to my command, at least until the fall of Vicksburg. General Grant cannot consistently object to the latter, because only two days before my discussion he made my command larger than the Fifteenth and SEVENTEENTH Army Corps combined by the addition of one DIVISION certainly and two others contingently, thus in an emergency, notwithstanding his personal feelings, testifying his confidence in my fidelity and capability. Please early advise me of the determination of the Government in the premises.

Your obedient servant,
JOHN A. McClernand,
Major-General.

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