Lincoln changed the command structure of the Union army several times before choosing Ulysses S. Grant as the general-in-chief who could lead Union forces to final victory. George McClellan, Lincoln’s first appointment as general-in-chief, was, even after Lincoln rescinded that higher appointment, the most popular commander of the Army of the Potomac, the main Union army in the East. But McClellan lost Lincoln’s confidence because of his reluctance to take offensive action. When the general failed to pursue the retreating Confederate army after the Battle of Antietam in 1862, Lincoln removed him from command. Under McClellan’s first two successors—Ambrose E. Burnside and Joseph Hooker—the failures mounted.
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