Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War

By Benjamin P. Thomas; Harold M. Hyman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
MY WAY IS CLEAR

THE NEW commander of the Army of the Potomac, Burnside, claimed Stanton's primary attention. He was only thirty-eight years old. After graduating from West Point, he had served in the artillery near the close of the Mexican War, and then resigned from the Army to become a manufacturer and later a railroad official. Volunteering immediately on the outbreak of war, he fought at Bull Run, captured Roanoke Island on the North Carolina coast, then New Bern, and performed ably during Pope's Virginia campaign and at South Mountain. He had been slow getting into action at Antietam, through no fault of his own, Stanton believed. Friendly, open, striking in appearance, popular with fellow officers and with the troops, he seemed a promising man.1

On November 5, 1862, Halleck asked Burnside to report at once his plan of operations. The new commander answered that he would feint from Warrenton toward Culpeper and Gordonsville, then move his whole force to Fredericksburg and drive on to Richmond from there. Although Halleck, Stanton, and Lincoln all favored Burnside's advancing by way of Culpeper and Gordonsville, instead of merely feinting in that direction and attacking by way of Fredericksburg, Halleck on November 14 wired Burnside: "The President has just assented to your plan. He thinks that it will succeed, if you move rapidly; otherwise not."

Burnside arrived at Fredericksburg on schedule. Then a hitch

____________________
1
Stanton's memo on Burnside, undated, ca. Oct., 1862, copy owned by the estate of Benjamin P. Thomas.

-251-

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