Primary Resource

Telegram from George B. McClellan to Abraham Lincoln (September 13, 1862)

On September 13, 1862, Union general George B. McClellan sent the following telegram to U.S. president Abraham Lincoln after discovering a stray Confederate order that explained the positions and movements of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Lee had invaded Maryland two weeks earlier, and McClellan would defeat him at the Battle of Antietam on September 17.

Transcription from Original

HEADQUARTERS, Frederick, September 13, 1862–12 m.

(Received 2.35 a. m., September 14.)


I have the whole rebel force in front of me, but am confident, and no time shall be lost. I have a difficult task to perform, but with God's blessing will accomplish it. I think Lee has made a gross mistake, and that he will be severely punished for it. The army is in motion as rapidly as possible. I hope for a great success if the plans of the rebels remain unchanged. We have possession of Catoctin. I have all the plans of the rebels, and will catch them in their own trap if my men are equal to the emergency. I now feel that I can count on them as of old. All forces of Pennsylvania should be placed to co-operate at Chambersburg. My respects to Mrs. Lincoln. Received most enthusiastically by the ladies. Will send you trophies. All well, and with God's blessing will accomplish it.