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11 March 2006
  Today in Civil War History
1862 Lincoln shuffles the Union command


President Lincoln issues War Order No. 3, a measure making several changes at the top of the Union command structure. He created three departments, placing Henry Halleck in charge of the west, John C. Frýmont in command of troops in the Appalachian region, and George McClellan in the east.

The most significant change in the order removed McClellan from his post as General-in-Chief of all Union armies, though McClellan retained command of the Army of the Potomac, the most important Union force. He had assumed leadership of that army after it was defeated at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. He quickly installed an efficient command structure and began training an effective fighting force. Three months later, Lincoln elevated McClellan to General-in-Chief. The relationship between Lincoln and his commanding officer, however, was strained at best and contentious at worst. The arrogant McClellan was contemptuous of the president and he often ignored Lincoln's communications or kept information from him.

McClellan was stretched thin as General-in-Chief, and even he recognized this fact. He was bothered by the demotion, but he wrote to Lincoln that he would "work just as cheerfully as ever before, and...no consideration of self will in any manner interfere with the discharge of my public duties." For McClellan, this was a rare show of grace and deference towards Lincoln. The move allowed McClellan to spend more time planning his upcoming campaign against the Confederate capital at Richmond.

For a time, there was no General-in-Chief, and the three regional commanders reported to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. The post did not stay empty for long, though, as Halleck was elevated to General-in-Chief five months later.
 
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