Saturday, August 13, 2016

Major-General Philip Kearny to Oliver S. Halsted Jr., August 4, 1862

HARRISON’S LANDING, 4th August, 1862.

DEAR PET: I thank you for your kind, long letter. You extend me hope.  You suggest withdrawing me and my division out of this ignoble position.  With Pope’s army I would breathe again.

We have no generals.  McClellan is the failure I ever proclaimed him.  He has been punished, just as I at once comprehended the moves of the parties. He will only get us in more follies, more waste of blood, fighting by driblets.  He has lost the confidence of all.  Nor has he a single officer about him capable of bettering us.  Sumner is a “bull in a china shop,” and a sure enough blunderer.  ––– lost his corps gratuitously at Fair Oaks.  He is not now in his right place, and will be much worse.  ––– is a small brain, ossified in a ‘4 company’ garrison on the frontier.  He was not ‘of us’ in Mexico, but in a rear column once saw a distant flash in a guerilla fight.  His skill is a myth, a poetical version of his own part at Bull’s Run. Porter is good in nature, but weak as water – the apparent of all this disaster for his want of generalship on the Chickahominy. ––– and Franklin are talented engineers.  They might make good generals if they understood the value of elements in their calculations; as it is, they are dangerous failures.

When ––– was drunk, he had some few men drowned before Yorktown.  I know of no other feat of his.  Franklin’s battle of West Point was a most runaway picket fight of our.  His part on the Chickahominy was unpardonable.  He sent over a division, (his own,) was present on that side out of fire, and never interfered to prevent them from being sacrificed by driblets and rendered prey to their false position.  I was horrified at it, as described by Gen. Taylor, and all others.  Is it surprising that I want to get out of this mess?  Besides, they have sent me a major generalship, like all these others, dating from 4th July, muddled in a batch of new and very ordinary junior officers.  Do they forget that I was appointed twelfth on the original list?  That I, on the heels of Bull’s Run, faced the enemy with a Jersey brigade in advance of all others, McClellan, McDowell, et id omne genus, nearly forcing me to come back of the “Seminary.”  Do they forget me at Manassas?  My Jersey brigade, that infected with panic the retiring enemy?  Has Williamsburg never come to their ears?  Oh, no!  I really feel aggravated beyond endurance.  Discipline becomes degradation if not wielded with justice.  Patriotism cannot amid all her sacrifices, claim that of self respect.  Generals, victorious in the past are not called on to expose their troops, unless those brave men are acknowledged.  Their identity in their chief’s promotion, claims a date of their own high acts.  Oh, No, I am nearer returning to the home I have given up, to the interests I have sacrificed, to my cherished wife, whose anxiety oppresses me, than I ever dreamt of in a war for the union.  But if the infatuated North are weak enough to let this crisis be managed by ‘small men of small motives,’ I am not willing to be their puppet.

My dear Pet, I am too lazy, and too little interested, to give into the future of this ‘little box of heresies,’ so do tell me – what do the people at the North look forward to in the future?  I fear lest the war will die out in rapid imbecility.

For McClellan, he is burnt out.  Never once on a battlefield, you have nothing to hope from him as a leader of a column.  How do they expect Pope to beat, with a very inferior force, the veterans of Ewell and Jackson?  But these are episodes.  We deceive ourselves.  There was a people of old – it was the warrior Spartan, with his Helot of the field.  The South have realized it.  There was an ambitious people of recent times, and a conscription pandered to her invasions .  At this moment the South exemplifies them both.  “Peace, peace,” but there is no peace.  No, not even with a disruptured Union.  Let the North cast away that delusion.

Draft we must, or the disciplined THOUSANDS of the South will redeem scrip in Philadelphia, and yet the true North must accept it, and quickly, to a man, or the moment it draggles in debate, Maryland, Tennessee, and Kentucky will cast past victories to the winds and rise with their nearly allied rebel kin.  My dear Pet, I shall be delighted when Henry can come on.  As to Col. Halstead, I think that his case is a type of the insane and unnecessary despotism introduced into the army, under the auspices of McClellan and his very weak aids.  It is now too late, but why was not the cavalry put in my charge at the commencement?  Two nights ago the rebel batteries fired across the river, and killed and wounded some thirty men.  Last night Hooker started out on a crude expedition to Malvern Hills.  He went out four miles and came back again.  Still a “false fuss” injures the whole army.  McClellan is dangerous, from the want of digesting his plans.  He positively has no talents.  Adieu.  Get me and my “fighting division” with Pope.  With best regards,

To Mr. O. S. HALSTEAD, JR., Newark, N. J.

SOURCES: George Congdon Gorham, Life and Public Services of Edwin M. Stanton, Volume 2, p. 21; Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 172-4; “A Letter from Gen. Kearney,” National Republican, Washington, DC, Thursday, October 16, 1862, p. 2; “Letter From General Kearny,” The Liberator, Boston, Massachusetts, Friday, October 24, 1862, p. 1; “Letter From General Kearney,” Alexandria Gazette, Alexandria, Virginia, October 16, 1862, p. 4; “The Famous Criticism of the late General Kearny on M'Clellan,” Richmond Times Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia, October 21, 1862;

No comments: