Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/309
Buckner and M'Clellan.
returned from a visit to Pillow, and he clearly showed by his conversation that he understood my determination at the first interview, just as I have related it above. * * * Buckner's letter to Governor Magoffin, subsequently published, stating that in our first interview I had agreed to respect the neutrality of Kentucky, gave an incorrect account of the case, which was as I have stated it."
This is certainly explicit and clear enough, and undoubtedly recites the facts as McClellan remembered them, but as it was written twenty-six years after the event, it is possible he may have forgotten some of the details of his conversation with Buckner.
McClellan's correspondence at this period makes it probable that he was called to book by General Scott or President Lincoln about this matter, though no letter or telegram on the subject from the Washington end of the line is found. But on June 26th, after he had entered upon his West Virginia campaign, McClellan sent a long telegram to Scott from Grafton, in which he shows great anxiety to explain satisfactorily to his superior his relations with Buckner. "This transaction," said McClellan, "has surprised me beyond expression. My chief fear has been that you, whom I regard as my strongest friend in Washington, might have supposed me to be guilty of the extreme of folly." This telegram was supplemented by a letter on the same day, embodying the substance of both, and covering the whole case.
This contemporaneous letter is entitled to great consideration in summing up the misunderstanding of these two old friends, both truthful men, concerning "our misunderstanding," at Cincinnati. One thing is made clear by it—McClellan's "policy" at the time Buckner visited him was, and had been, a policy of strict neutrality toward Kentucky. It is not unlikely that, during a long night's conversation, without entering into any specific agreement, McClellan gave Buckner the impression that that policy of neutrality should continue, if the status quo was maintained, and he received no orders to the contrary from Washington. All the circumstances lend probability to this view.
Leslie J. Perry