“What of McClellan?” Lincoln finally asked.
When Rumble hesitated, Lincoln’s voice became harsher. “Why do you think are here, Sergeant Major? I asked General Delafield to tell me of the West Pointers, since he’s been superintendent three times, more than any other. He informed me that the man who could tell me the most was the Master of the Horse. Who had once been a cadet and then taught riding to class after class of cadets. Who went to the Mexican War and wrote many notebooks full of information that no one reads.
“So? What of McClellan? He won our first battle at Philippi. Thus he now has command on the other side of the Appalachians. And he sent General Scott a strategic plan to win the war. Very industrious and showing of initiative, don’t you think?”
“You seem to have your mind made up about him, sir,” Rumble said.
“I have not,” Lincoln snapped. He sighed. “I’m sorry. Let me explain. There’s a call to abolish West Point. So many graduates have gone over to the other side, there is a very legitimate question as to why we should continue funding the institution. But as we used to say back in Illinois, that cow has already left the barn. We’re stuck with the officers we have and I need to know about them. So. McClellan.”
“McClellan is a very good organizer, sir,” Rumble said. “But he’s not daring. And he will flinch at the critical moment, when a general needs to press on. He’s not a finisher and this war will need a finisher.”
Lincoln smiled. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “From all the West Pointers you’ve seen, as cadets and as officers, who is the best ‘finisher’ as you call it?”
“Ulysses S. Grant, sir.”
“I like the name Ulysses. Very martial.” Lincoln frowned. “Ulyssess Grant? That strikes a bell.” He began sifting through a pile of papers on his desk.
Rumble plunged on. “He’s solid and steady, sir, and if there’s one thing he will do, it’s get where he’s going. I fought with him in Mexico.”
“Ah!” Lincoln said, pulling out a sheet. “Here’s his name. Recommendations for promotion to General from each state. He’s very far down. The war might indeed be over before his name bubbles up high enough. Curious.”
Lincoln reached out and grabbed a pen. He scratched through some names, then wrote a note next to Grant’s name. “Well, he’ll be a general within the month.”