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1864 March 19: General McClellan and Kentucky Neutrality, Plus a “phrenological reminiscence” of McClellan

March 26, 2014

We are missing the March 26, 1864, issue of  The Prescott Journal, and that issue of The Polk County Press has only small articles, so we will be printing several more items from the March 19th issues.

The first article is from The Polk County Press of March 19, 1864; the second from The Prescott Journal of the same date.  Later in 1864, General George B. McClellan will be the Democratic candidate for president, running against Abraham Lincoln.  Right now many of the newspapers supporting Lincoln and the Union party consider him to be a front-runner for the nomination and are already beginning to attack his record.

From The Polk County Press:

Important Omission in McClellan’s Report—
His Idea of a Complete Civil and Military Policy.

(From the Cincinnati Gazette.)

When the General took the command at Washington, and had succeeded legitimately to General Scott’s [Winfield Scott] torpid anaconda, he issued wise instructions to the various commanders round the circumference.  In his general order to General Buell [Don Carlos Buell] in regard to Kentucky, he wrote:  “It is possible that the conduct of our political affairs in Kentucky is more important than that of our military operations.  I cannot overestimate the importance of the former.”

It will be noticed throughout Gen. McClellan’s report that he conceived he had a special mission in political affairs.  His genius for political affairs had a good foundation on the negative pregnant that he had tried other things, and had found nothing adapted to his genius.  When he had held his army helplessly astride the Chickahominy, where is was disabled from attack, and divided to be attacked alternately on the right and left bank of the river, and when he had sacrificed his campaign, and withdrawn his shattered army to Harrison’s Landing, sacrificing his army stores and the costly equipment of that army, leaving thousands of sick and wounded to the tender mercies of the enemy, and disengaging Lee’s army for an invasion of the North [Robert E. Lee], the first thing he did was to sit down and write a letter to the President, to lay out for him “a civil and military policy covering the whole grounds of our national trouble,” and a way “of directing the whole course of national affairs in regard to the rebellion.”

But while the General-in-Chief impressed on Gen. Buell that the conduct of the political policy in Kentucky was most important, he neglected to lay down in any clear manner that political policy suited to the latitude of Kentucky.  Nor did he give to Gen. Buell the political and military policy that he had established for Kentucky.  To supply this important omission, and to correct some of the imperfections of the report as a history, and to show his capacity to lay out a comprehensive political policy to cover the whole ground of our national trouble, even if his military performance had not negatively established it, we reproduce the treaty between Gen. McClellan, on the part of the United States, and Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, on the part of Gov. Beriah McGoffin [sic],¹ which established the celebrated Kentucky neutrality, and made that State a barrier against the national forces, gave up Tennessee to rebel conquest, placed the Confederacy in quiet possession of the Mississippi river below Cairo, made Kentucky a recruiting ground and supply country for the rebels, and left it to be carried into the rebellion by the machinations and violence of the Secessionists.

This treaty was published at the time, and was never authentically denied.  Having been authoritatively published to the people of Kentucky as a treaty, an authoritative repudiation by General McClellan would have been required by good faith if it was not binding.  But it was acknowledged by being allowed to stand, and to bind the Kentucky people and Confederacy without denial.  Besides the military convenience it gave the Confederacy, it goes the whole length of the doctrine of the right of a State to separate herself from the nation, and to take sides in a secession, or to stand neutral until she gets ready to decide.  We reproduce it as one of the curiosities in the history of this war, and particularly of that most wonderful part of it, the McClellan reign, and as showing General McClellan’s ideas of a complete comprehensive, civil and military policy, which shall cover the whole ground of the controversy.

LOUISVILLE, June 10, 1861. }

Sir :—On the 8th instant, at Cincinnati, Ohio, I entered into an arrangement with Major General George B. McClellan, Commander of the United States troops in the States north of the Ohio river, to the following effect :

The authorities of the State of Kentucky are to protect the United States property within the limits of the State, to enforce the laws of the of the United States in accordance with the interpretations of the United States Courts, as far as those laws may be applicable to Kentucky, and to enforce with all the power of the State our obligations of neutrality as against the Southern States, as long as the position we have assumed shall be respected by the United States.

General McClellan stipulates that the territory of Kentucky shall be respected on the part of the United States, even though the Southern States should occupy it ;  but in the latter case he will call upon the authorities of Kentucky to remove the Southern forces from our territory.  Should Kentucky rail [fail?] to accomplish this object in a reasonable time, General McClellan claims the right of occupancy given the Southern forces.  I have stipulated in that case to advise him of the inability of Kentucky to comply with her obligations, and to invite him to dislodge the Southern forces.  He stipulates that if successful in so doing, he will withdraw his forces from the territory of the State, as soon as the Southern forces shall be removed.

This, he assures me, is the policy which he will adopt toward Kentucky.

Should the Administration hereafter adopt a different policy, he is to give me timely notice of the fact.

The well known character of General McClellan is a sufficient guarantee for the fulfillment of every stipulation on his part.³

I am, sir, very respectfully,
.  .   .  .  .Your obedient servant,
.  .   .  .  ..  .   .  .  ..  .   .  .  .S. B. BUCKNER,
.  .   .  .  ..  .   .  .  ..  .   .  .  .Inspector General.

To his Excellency, B. Magoffin, Frankfort, KY.

From The Polk County Press:

A Bump-er to McClellan.

In a recent lecture in Maine, Fowler, the Phrenologist,² ralated [sic] the following phrenological reminiscence of “Little Mac :”

The father of George B. McClellan and himself were “old cronies,” as he expressed it ;  he often came into his office to listen to his examinations, and when, once on a time, the lad George was home from West Point the father brought his two sons to have their characters phrenologically descanted upon—Says Mr. Fowler :  “I remember all the circumstances as if it were but yesterday, and I remember the train of reasoning that then passed through my mind.”  “Never” with great emphasis, “never, in all my life, had I found such an inordinate development of the organ of “caution” as in the head of Geo. B. McClellan.  I also found the propelling faculties, combativeness and destructiveness, small, and I thought to myself, what is the sense or reason of sending such a natural coward to West Point!”

“But then I reasoned that there would probably never be any war to call for military genius and West Point might as well educate the cowards as any other institution.”  He said that his life had only proved his early convictions, and referring to the great seven days’ battle, related that a personal family friend was then in Richmond, and the plan of the battle was well known.  Lee said, “I know McClellan for a natural coward, and if I draw every available man from Richmond, and hurl our whole force upon his right wing he will not dare to move his left!”  He did so, and proved that he truly did know his adversary ;  for though McClellan could have swung his left wing over Richmond, he only sent forward a corporal’s guard to reconnoiter, and the golden opportunity was passed by.”

"Numbered divisions of the brain," originally from Fowler's Phrenological Chart

Fowler’s “Numbered divisions of the brain”³

1.  Beriah Magoffin (1815-1885) was the 21st governor of Kentucky (1859-August 1862). He was a states’ rights advocate, including the right of a state to secede from the Union, and he personally sympathized with the Confederate cause. But when the Kentucky General Assembly adopted a neutrality position, Magoffin ardently adhered to it, refusing calls for aid from both the Union and Confederate governments. Unable to provide effective leadership due to a hostile legislature, Magoffin agreed to resign as governor in 1862.
2.  Orson Squire Fowler (1809-1887) wrote and lectured on phrenology, preservation of health, popular education, and social reform, between 1834 and 1887.
Phrenology is a pseudoscience focused on measurements of the human skull and the skull’s bumps—hence the title of this article. Phrenology involved observing and/or feeling the skull to determine an individual’s psychological attributes. Phrenological thinking was influential in 19th-century psychiatry.
3.  From Orson S. Fowler’s Phrenological Chart (Baltimore, 1836).

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