A Triangle: McClellan Returns
Ellen Marcy’s mother had spread vicious rumors about A. P. Hill’s youthful indiscretion and his resulting disease. Unsuspecting George McClellan returned to Washington and stepped into a swirling caldron. He had continued corresponding with Mrs. Marcy from Europe but he considered her recent silence a bad omen. Now he learned that not only was Ellen engaged, but to his best friend. He went directly to his good friend Ambrose Powell Hill who confirmed that he and Miss Nelly were in love and engaged.
Above all else, George McClellan was a gentleman. He withdrew and accepted his fate. Hill was now seething about the rumors about him swirling in Washington and he considered Mrs. Marcy the source. She spoke disparagingly of Hill in two letters to McClellan and now McClellan was also seething that she would defame his dear friend. Amazingly and to his credit, his friendship for Hill overrode his desire to see Ellen available again.
He wrote a stiff reply to Mrs. Marcy, “As a matter of course I transmitted to Hill none of the remarks you made: I thought that you would regret what you had written before the letter reached me—that reflection would convince you that you had been unjust to him, and that you had said unpleasant and bitter things to me in reference to one of my oldest and best friends. I shall destroy your letter and never allude to its contents to any human being.”
McClellan was caught in the middle. Ellen even wrote to him for counsel about her engagement to Hill. He blandly advised her “To govern yourself by the dictates of your good sense and true woman’s feelings.”
McClellan had had it. He was through with this entire depressing business and he retreated to Philadelphia and a self-imposed loveless life. He threw himself into writing his brilliant Crimean report.
After less than a three month engagement, Ellen Marcy was also sounding the retreat. With rumors about her intended flying, she wrote her father a letter of surrender and reluctantly returned the ring to Hill. He gave it to his beloved sister Lucy. *
Stay tuned for “Hill Moves On.”
*From “The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomatax” by John Waugh (Highly recommended.)