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Date modified7-Jan-16 11:27
01216- Gen John Alexander McClernand

01216- Gen John Alexander McClernand

"We did the fighting. He did the writing." Richard Oglesby, future Illinois Governor

Gen Grant's dismal of Gen John Alexander McClernand during the Vicksburg campaign has been billed as a professional vs volunteer officer conflict.

As a powerful Illinois Democrat, Gen McClernand was not only a well connected former Congressman, he had a relationship with Lincoln that began when he served as a private under Captain Lincoln during the Black Hawk War in 1832.

As a soldier, McClernand would write press releases that glorified his actions, complain about his superior officers to their superior officers, had a disdain for administrative details and contempt of military protocol. He was also a fiery orator, willing to fight and was developing into an able combat officer.

During the May 22, 1863 attack to capture Vicksburg, McClernand's troops fought their way to the ditches that fronted the confederate fortifications. Needing reinforcements, McClernand sent a message to Grant during the battle:

"We are hotly engaged with the enemy. We have part possession of two forts, and the Stars and Stripes are floating over them. A vigorous push ought to be made all along the line."

Grant was dubious about continuing the attack but he did order an afternoon assault based on McClernand's message. Afterwards, as he walked the battlefield littered with the dead and wounded, Grant realized that not only had McClernand exaggerated his troops accomplishments, lives were unnecessarily lost because of him.

An officer "coloring" a report after a battle - happens. However, by "coloring" the status of his troops during battle, McClernand demonstrate a lack of warrior integrity that cost Grant's trust. At that point, McClernand had to go. Nevertheless, McClernand's political clout made it imperative to dismiss him for "cause".

About May 30th, McClernand wrote a publicity piece targeted for a northern audience, praising his troops, alienating his fellow officers and releasing it to newspapers. His downfall came by calling it "General Orders, No. 72".

Officially, McClernand was dismissed for having General Orders printed in the newspapers without prior approval from his superior officer, Gen Grant. Unofficially ...

Despite the efforts of McClernand and his politically powerful supporters, Lincoln allowed the dismissal to stand. On the other hand, on February 20, 1864, Lincoln appointed McClernand to command the Department of the Gulf.