Bid to $65,000 (£50,780) at Heritage Auctions (25/20/15% buyer’s premium) on October 25, the letter was the last of a series between the president and McClellan concerning the Army of the Potomac’s pursuit of the retreating Confederate Army of Northern Virginia following the bloody Battle of Antietam.
Only days earlier Lincoln had written to McClellan demanding “is it your purpose not to go into action?”, and though the tone of this letter seemed on the face of it more conciliatory, it has been suggested that the sentiment that underlies it is “…likely sarcasm as much as it is relief”.
On October 28 McClellan had finally moved his troops across the Potomac, more than a month after Lincoln’s directive that he should pursue Lee’s army.
In this letter, running to fewer than 40 words, Lincoln wrote: “Your dispatch of night before last, yesterday, & last night, all received. I am much pleased with the movement of the Army.
“When you get entirely across the river let me know. What do you know of the enemy?”
Within the week, however, Lincoln decided he had endured McClellan’s caution and excuses for long enough and dismissed him.