Thursday, November 4, 2010

McClellan Spends the Night in Lewinsville

The other day I wrote that Salona had a connection to General George McClellan, commander of the Union Army of the Potomac. Several of McClellan's letters from the fall of 1861 reference the tiny hamlet of Lewinsville, Virginia in the vicinity of Salona, which at the time was owned by the Smoot family.  On the night of October 12, 1861, he appears to have been a guest at the house, which was then serving as the headquarters of General "Baldy" Smith.  McClellan had learned earlier in the day that a Confederate force was approaching the Union lines in Northern Virginia.  He decided to remain in the field to direct operations rather than go back to Washington.  As McClellan told his wife, Mary Ellen, in a letter in following day:
On the 12th while at [General Fitz John] Porter's camp I heard that the enemy was advancing in force.  Spent last night in WF Smith's camp expecting an attack at daylight. 
George B. McClellan, Harper's Weekly, January 25, 1862 (courtesy of Mr. Lincoln's White House)
According to an account in Army of the Potomac: McClellan Takes Command, September 1861-February 1862 by Russel Beatie, McClellan and his staff enjoyed an evening at the house hosted by General Smith's wife.  (The Smoot family had already fled their place by this time.)  As he fell asleep that night in his room at Salona, McClellan surely had a lot on his mind apart from military affairs --  Mary Ellen had given birth to their daughter, Mary, on the morning of October 12.  Upon waking, McClellan soon discovered that his intelligence was faulty.  There was no attack on Union forces at Lewinsville, and McClellan returned to D.C.

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