News of McClellan’s firing flooded across both the North and the South. The Richmond Dispatch on November 17 reported the dismissal, caustically noting,
“We are by no means sure that the removal of McClellan from command is calculated to do the Yankee cause any great harm. It is said that he is the best General they have, and we think it probable he is. Yet they could have fallen upon no man who could have made a more signal failure that he did in his campaign against Richmond. If he be the best, they must all be exceedingly bad.”
On November 7, 1862 an officer from Washington, D.C. appeared at George McClellan’s Virginia field headquarters with the orders of November 5 removing “Little Mac” from command and turning over his army to Ambrose Burnside.
McClellan’s replacement as general in charge of the Union Army of the Potomac was not the only command changes made in the Union and Confederate armies in early November 1862.
On November 5 Lincoln also replaced General Fritz John Porter from his corps command; Porter, a pro-McClellan corps commander, would be charged with willful disobedience to orders at the battle of Second Manassas. He would be replaced by Joseph Hooker.
On Wednesday, November 5, 1862, after weeks of stress President Abraham Lincoln drafted the following telegram: “By direction of the President, it is ordered that Major General McClellan be relieved of the command of the Army of the Potomac; and that Major General Burnside take the command of that Army.”
On October 30, 1862 Union General Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel died of yellow fever while stationed at Beaufort, South Carolina. A West Point graduate, the multi-talented Mitchel primarily served as a professor at both West Point and Cincinnati College. In 1845 he personally financed and constructed at Cincinnati the world’s second largest refracting telescope.
Despite the fact that Lincoln’s administration warned that French interference and support for the Confederacy would result in war, Emperor Napoleon III of France throughout 1862 met unofficially with Southern diplomats, raising hopes that he would unilaterally recognize the Confederate States of America.
After Antietam and during what could easily be referred to as a “period of masterful inactivity,” General George McClellan’s large and well supplied Army of the Potomac remained essentially dormant, allowing Robert E. Lee time to recover from his first attempt to invade the American North.