Category Archives: Generals Fremont and Hunter

1862: Charles G. Coffin to Donald A. Pollard

How Samuel might have looked

This tag team letter was penned in July 1862 after the disastrous Peninsula Campaign and captures the disappointment and frustration of the majority of the folks at home in the Northeastern states of the Union. The letter was written principally by Charles G. Coffin but a page and a note were also added by George P. Brown and one other whose name was obliterated by a tear in the paper. It is believed that George P. Brown was a “clerk” in New York City and his home in 1862 was on 51st North Second Avenue. I was not able to identify Coffin.

They addressed the letter to their friend, Don A. Pollard in Baltimore. Whether he was a resident of Baltimore or only passing through there on a business trip or for some other purpose is unknown. It is my hunch that the men were either business associates or former college classmates.


New York [City]
Tuesday, July 15, 1862

D. A. Pollard, Esq.

I received your favor of the 6th current and now propose a kind of answer, but what kind, I cannot tell. To answer a letter properly, one must be in good health & spirits. While I am tolerably well, I am not in good spirits. I am not satisfied with the war prospects in Virginia. I consider the delay in occupying Richmond a most unfortunate matter. Much more of such kind of work or the lack of military talent in the operations on the Potomac and indeed throughout the last nine months of the war on and about Virginia has been one to do as little hurt as possible to the enemy. Such a weak & senile course must lead to ruinous results; nothing less than independence to the rascally South but ill will of Europe super added.

“For my own part, it seems to me that the parties in power have never thought of this war as anything more than a kind of riot. It seems as if they were fearful of hurting the feelings of the Rebels.”

— Charles G. Coffin, NYC Businessman, 15 July 1862

The ill will of Europe I do not value only as it is calculated to subserve the purposes of the rebels. For my own part, it seems to me that the parties in power have never thought of this war as anything more than a kind of riot. It seems as if they were fearful of hurting the feelings of the Rebels. Why had they not called out the 500,000 men that I have talked of so long and have marched without stop or hindrance throughout Rebeldom hanging every leader and his friends as they meet? It is of little use to put a large army on the Potomac to lie 5 months in idleness and then lead them out to be murdered.

Why had not the army been hurled on Manassas, killed & captured half the Rebel army and taken its cannon? Because there was wanted someone who had a spark of generalship in his composition which ours had not. Though I stand alone, my view of the proceedings of all the Generals is that they have been faulty. They have all declined & spurned the advantages that they had within their reach and the victories, so called, have been attended with results but partially favorable. Fremont first always, Hunter next, are the only two who seemed to start right and had they been met with the proper feeling by the Government, all would have been well. For the great lack of military skill, the Nation, notwithstanding its great sacrifices, is drifting towards the abyss of ruin of divided opinion.

I want Congress to remain at its post. I want some one hundred monitors built. I want instructions given to our generals to live on the enemy, kill & capture all they can, and set every negro free, granting a pass & pointing him to the North Star, inflict all the hardships that was will justify or excuse.

And I would hang Mayor Wood, James Wood (bery), Vandamningham, &c. at the corner of every street, and any woman who lent her sanction to the Southern Rebellion should find a dwelling place inside of some prison walls and all foreigners who supported the Rebel cause in any way I would compel to remain 40 miles above the water or leave the country.

I wish I could find some general who has military education with a spark of Napoleonic stir. Then I should have some courage as to results. This matter has made me too mad to write more. We are to have a demonstration today & I hope it will be a rouser. I shall lend my all to kill traitors to the country. All well & remain very truly yours, — C. G. Coffin

Our mutual friend whose name is at the bottom of the last page has kindly allowed me to scratch you one work after expressing my satisfaction that you are in good health and heart, I have to tell you that I do sincerely subscribe to the substance of all Coffin has just written. I have changed my opinion of McClellan. Think he has been much overrated, that he has every quality of the soldier except the very one we gave him most credit for—viz: General. The proof of this I find in the fact that it took him so long to find out that the Chickahominy Swamp was not the best base of operations. By this culpable ignorance, there has been thousands on thousands of lives and millions of property scarified needlessly. But I think I hear you exclaim, how egotistic of me to criticize the military moves of skilled & experienced military men. Perhaps I deserve this, but it is pardonable for us all to have an opinion. Is it not a little singular that the man (General Benham) should in his first movement with an independent command have so egregiously blundered. I should like to hear from you upon these points.

Yours &c. [signature destroyed by paper tear]

July 16, 1862

Friend Don,

Not agreeing entirely with the above, I leave “old time” to determine. The meeting spoken of by G. C[offin] was a big thing. Union Square and Sam Kellingers were full. Probably the most uninteresting news I can write is your work is all up, balances got—and all o.k. Your particular friends D.H. H. & Savage are hearty. Yours truly, — G. P. Brown

G. Coffin desires me to say that the only prominent man enquired after in the crowd of yesterday was John C. Fremont. — G. P. B.