"I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the Army . . . will now turn upon you."

As I've mentioned here recently, I often listen to re-broadcasts of the Sunday morning political talk shows on C-SPAN (you get to skip all the commercials that way).

001rThis morning, while waiting for the Meet the Press to start, I heard a snippet of a speech by a military historian - he teaches, I think, at the Command and General Staff College, an institution at which my father studied when I was in 8th Grade, attending the General George S. Patton Jr. Junior High School - who told the story of the insubordination of one General John Hooker.

The historian's name is Ethan Rafuse, and he framed this story from the Civil War by transporting us to the interview at the White House where the head of the Army of the Potomac, a General Burnside, asked for President Lincoln's support of Burnside's decision to sack Hooker.

Lincoln demurred. Professor Rafuse let us know this by reading from the famous letter that the President sent Hooker, not simply to tell him that he hadn't been sacked, but instead that he had been promoted and given Burnside's job.

I think this letter is famous for what Lincoln says in it about risking dictatorship in exchange for victories on the battlefield, but that's not what interests me. Here's the part that I think speaks volumes of Lincoln's character:

"I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons. And yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which, I am not quite satisfied with you. . . . I think that during Gen. Burnside's command of the Army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country . . . . I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the Army, of criticising their Commander, and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can, to put it down."


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