The Public Interest

Commanding the commanders

Jay Winik

Winter 2003

A SNAPSHOT in time: One evening, early in the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and his secretary of state, William Seward, called upon the Union General-in-Chief, George McClellan, at his house. McClellan was out, so they Waited.  When he returned, the general flatly refused to see the president, strolling past the parlor where he sat, and going upstairs to bed. Lincoln’s response? Not anticipating such an insult, the president continued to sit there, in that parlor, in near silence, for more than an hour. Unthinkable as it is to us today, he never reprimanded McClellan. 

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