ON THE huge map which he ordered placed near his desk during his first day as War Secretary, Stanton could see what the Union had achieved in nine months of civil war. Considering the unready state of the nation when Sumter fell, there had been great accomplishments. Scratch forces had taken important rebel fortifications off the Carolinas. Westward, improvised armies had saved Kentucky and Missouri from secession, were enlarging a Unionist center around Wheeling, and were poised to move toward Tennessee and Arkansas.
In the East, likewise, swift and brave action had thwarted Maryland's secessionists, and the safety of Washington was no longer a daily gamble. Since Bull Run blighted hopes of a swift victory, McClellan had wrought vast improvements in the spirit, discipline, and drill-field performance of the greatly augmented Army of the Potomac. But though the huge force McClellan commanded now maneuvered with impressive snap, it fought only a few indecisive skirmishes. Nothing he accomplished compared with the successes of Union commanders in the Mississippi Valley.
Throughout the last half of 1861, Stanton had shared in the Northern expectation that McClellan was readying a massive onslaught southward. He came to the war office convinced that the general's immobility had been a tragic error, permitting the South to improve its defenses. During his first days in the war office, Stanton gained information that sustained him in this conviction.
Consulting the members of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, and examining their files, Stanton found ample evidence, partly from McClellan's own generals, that he had merely been toying with an army which had been fully prepared to advance against the