Another good Disunion article, this one offering a neat take on Lincoln’s visit to the Army of the Potomac after Antietam: Where Lincoln arrived worried that the troops would follow McClellan into revolt against Republican policies (to wit, the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation), the support they showed him led him to believe he was both the de facto and de jure Commander-in-Chief. McClellan’s ouster was assured from that point.
Hoping to bestir his inert commander, in early October Lincoln visited Antietam and the army he sarcastically referred to as “General McClellan’s bodyguard…”
After returning from Antietam, Lincoln was convinced that “I am now stronger with the Army of the Potomac than McClellan,” and he had Halleck order his general to “cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south.” But move the general would not. He bombarded Washington with excuses: exhausted troops; unknown terrain; a river too deep to cross or not deep enough to keep the Confederates from Washington; insufficient numbers of wagons; broken cannons; the enemy’s superior numbers; and too few boots and blankets. When he reported that his horses were “absolutely broken down from fatigue and want of flesh,” Lincoln displayed a rare flash of temper: “Will you pardon me for asking,” he telegraphed, “what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigue anything?”
In the words of his secretary John Nicolay, Lincoln kept “poking sharp sticks under little Mac’s ribs.”