MHO Home   Forum Home   Help   Register   Login
 
 
Welcome to MilitaryHistoryOnline.com.
You are not signed in.
The current time is: 10/17/2017 9:13:37 AM
 Civil War Commanders and Units    
AuthorMessage
1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 67

George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/15/2017 5:43:37 PM
“No other general in the war commanded more respect and admiration from his men than George McClellan”
-John Cannan The Antietam Campaign


It is my opinion that General George B McClellan was the most underrated army commander of the civil war. Not because I think he was a great general or military genius, but because he is portrayed as so awful a general. No one carries today the example of a in-complainant, timid northern general like Mcclellan has been given. I think unjustified. George B McClellan nicknamed “Young Napoleon” or “Little Mac” [mac from here on] graduated second in his class of 59 at the U.S Military Academy in 1846. A class that included 20 future full rank generals. He would return to West Point as an instructor.

West Virginia and Promotion

Mac first saw action in the civil war as a commander of union forces in what is know West Virginia. During the rich mountain campaign he dislodged, captured, and forced the retreat of confederate forces while taking minimal loses. This helped secure west Virginia for the union. Lincoln was very impressed and this propelled him to commander of all union forces. Mac would take over for McDowell after his defeat in the battle of Bull Run.

Organization of the Army of the Potomac and Demotion by Lincoln

What the non military press and Lincoln, who was pressured for political reasons, wanted was quick action and a fast end to the war. Part of what fueled this was the north's inability to see how determined the south was even after the loss at Bull Run. They thought this would be an easy quick war. They underestimated the south resolve to fight and their ability to wage war. So while the press and Lincoln called on mac for fast action. The military man mac, understood that what the demoralized, undisciplined, citizen army needed was discipline, training and organization. He disciplined and trained the soldiers while reorganizing the army. He got rid of poor performing generals and instilled in the soldiers a spirit and pride while increasing their morale. He was loved and revered by his men. One area those even critical of him admit is that he was a first rate organizer of the army. Mac took a militia army and turned it into a professional army.

“Mcclellan started with little more than a collection of undisciplined, ill-officered, and un-instructed men, who were, as a rule, much demoralized by defeat and ready to run at the first shot. He ended with the finest army ever seen on the North American continent”
-James V Murfin Battlefields of the civil war


Had the north attacked soon after bull run or before they were ready like Lincoln and the press called for, likely the same result would have happened further dropping national morale. As General Sherman stated Napoleon took three years to build an army “Here its expected in ninety days and bull run is the consequence.” Macs offensive plan, as many in the north called for, was to mass a large army some said up to 200,000 to than march on Richmond and end the war. They wanted no mistakes after Bull Run. This was mac's general plan, this plan would take time and preparations. Mac also constructed large fortifications around D. C including 48 forts and 480 guns as the capital had been left almost completely unguarded or prepared for by McDowell.

Given mac had to train, organize, recruit, supply and discipline a massive citizen army and transform it into a professional world class army the time he was able to do so is reasonable. Just when mac felt his army was ready winter had started in. Lincoln and the non military press wanted action know. This offensive action was attempted in the winter of 62 by Burnside, the results were Fredricksburg and the “mud march” ending in the removal of Burnside. Grant in 64 would start his spring offensive in April later than mac would his peninsula campaign. As grant said because the roads in Virginia would not allow large movements of troops before than. Mac started at the normal time for spring offensives. No other union army was campaigning during this winter. Yet Because of Lincolns urgency and what he saw as a too cautious McClellan. He demoted mac to simply commander of the army of the Potomac. Lincoln also chose and forced corps commanders on the army of the Potomac. Mac wanted to wait to promote generals after seeing them in battle. This is not the last time Lincoln interfered with macs plans.

“It was inevitable that the first leaders should be sacrificed to the nations ignorance of war”
-William Swinton Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac


Peninsula Campaign Begins

"Let me tell you that if your government had supported General McClellan in the field as it should have done, your war would have been ended two years sooner than it was."
-- General Helmuth von Moltke, Chief of Staff of the Prussian Army and one of the leading military experts of the 19th Century


The peninsula campaign started with a well thought out plan designed by mac an amphibious movement utilizing the north navel superiority to transport and supply his army, the ultimate goal was Richmond. Mac thought he would have over 150,000 men for the campaign as he left for the peninsula. However once landed Lincoln would greatly reduce his army with the other troops spread around the valley, D.C, and mananas. Mac had wanted more men but Lincoln wanted him to hold men back to guard D.C. Lincoln forced mac to leave Blenkess division of 10,000 men in D.C along with the garrison already available. Lincoln know had a garrison of around 20,000 in D.C and up to 74,000 as far as NY that could be shipped/railed/marched to the D.C if attacked. Plus world class fortifications set up by McClellan. McClellan, McDowell, Winfeild Scott, and every corp commander believed this was more than enough men to guard D.C and supported McClellan plan to bring more men, but Lincoln would not allow for fear of D.C being attacked.

So Mac landed the army that was slow moving because it was so massive and carried heavy siege equipment. Once his army landed he was notified that Stanton had closed all the recruiting depots in the union. His army would know have to do without any replacements or reinforcements during a major campaign. This was a huge shock to mac and the generals in the army. He than was told that McDowell's 40,000 men near mananas could not be used but must help defend any possible action towards D.C. McDowell told McClellan this decision [McDowell protested it] was “Intended a blow to you.” Than McClellan was told the garrison of 10,000 men at Fort Monroe would as well be withheld. Even critics of McClellan like general Heintzelman said it was a “Great outrage” to withhold his army from his command. General Wells said it was the radicals trying to get mac to resign. Harpers weekly stated “To exaggerate the mischief which has been done by division of councils and civilians interference with military movements”

Mac was know forced to revise his plans because of the over cautions Lincoln. In the revised plan McDowell would advance on Richmond from the north with his 40,000 men and would better protect an attack by confederate general Joe Johnson if he were to go north to Washington due to Lincolns concern with protecting Washington. However as mac argued the attack on Richmond would force the confederate army to defend their capital rather than a desperate attack on D.C. This disagreement and argument delayed the attack further with Lincoln getting his way.

"Notwithstanding all that has been said and written upon this subject, I have no hesitation in expressing the opinion, that had not the President and his advisors stood in such ungrounded fear for the safety of Washington, and had not withheld McDowell's forces at a time when their absence was a most serious blow to the plans of General McClellan, the close of the year would have seen the Rebellion crushed, and the war ended."
-- Allan Pinkerton, chief of the Union Intelligence Service, 1861-1862


Yorktown

Mac know moved up the peninsula towards Richmond and was promised McDowell men if D.C was clear. His army first encountered confederate general John Magruder small confederate force at Yorktown. Magruder did a fantastic job deceiving mac into thinking his force was larger than it really was by moving the same troops around in multiple places, acting aggressive, small units moving constantly, using ammo freely, setting up dummy defensive positions etc this convinced mac the force was larger than it really was so mac set in for a siege also wanting his siege artillery to come up. Mac eventually captured Yorktown but it gave confederate general Joe Johnson time to organize troops to defend Richmond.

Advance on Richmond

Mac than started to push towards Richmond with Johnson falling back. The union army captured both supply and cannons during this advance. Mac is criticized for slow movement with a smaller confederate force in front of him, yet he relied upon his friend and “expert” spy Alan Pinkerton of the Pinkerton detective agency. Pinkerton gave relabel info on many matters and was considered dependable. Yet the one area he failed was in enemy troop numbers. He gave confederate force numbers from various agents as 160,000 123,000 180,000 and even 200,000 in the Richmond area. Because of this Mac actually believed he was outnumbered. This was common during the war generals thinking the force opposed him was larger than reality. Since this was the information he had and believed he was not being cautious but aggressive and daring to continue the campaign even if at a slow/ cautious pace. Some northern newspapers working independent gave even higher estimates than mac did. At the time the enemy numbers were not certain. Mac also waited for his heavy siege artillery to come up from the back as it was needed for an attack on Richmond's large forts.

But without doubt the advance was working. Richmond was preparing to evacuate. It forced the confederates to scuttle the ironclad Virginia. Johnson called general Euell from Jackson to help in Richmond. McDowell was advancing unopposed north of Richmond. Three things saved Richmond and stopped mac from capturing the confederate capital and being hailed as a hero. All three had to happen to stop mac, and two were very unlikely and could not be foreseen.

1] Jackson in the Valley

Mac unlike Lincoln saw Jackson's valley campaign as a diversion by Lee to pull men away to help protect Richmond. Richmond was saved because of Jackson brilliance in the valley. Jackson outmaneuvering and outfought a force three times his own [17,000- 60,000] defeating them in multiple battles while also threatening D.C. Jackson knew Lincoln concern with protecting D.C so he knew aggressive maneuvers would pull men from the peninsula and help save Richmond. In all Jackson kept 71,000 additional men away from the Richmond attack with his victories and maneuvering. Lincoln was constantly scarred of what Jackson might do and this caused McDowell and other troops from helping Mac, the withholding of McDowell would prove decisive.

2] Lincoln Recalling Troops to Valley

Because of Jackson Lincoln recalled troops to support Washington and the valley, he also held back McDowell's 40,000 from the attack on Richmond. This “Changed the whole nature of the confrontation near Richmond” and “The confederacy was truly handed a amazing gift.” Mac would have rather left Jackson to clear out the valley and even attack D.C if he wished. Mac had built massive forts with a large garrison to protect the capital. With Pinkerton reporting large numbers of enemy to mac he paused his attack without McDowell who was suppose to attack Richmond from the north and pin the confederates from any attack. McDowell called his recall to the valley “a crushing blow to us” Even Lincoln told mac “If you think you are not strong enough to take Richmond just know, I do not ask you to try just know”

3] Lee Replaces Joe Johnson

The commanding confederate general Joe Johnson was injured and replaced by Robert E Lee. This would change the entire campaign. Mac had been slowly pushing back Johnson towards Richmond but Lee would take the inventive and attack mac.

Lee vs Mac

Lincoln had micro manged a trap for Jackson in the valley and greatly reduced mac force near Richmond. Heavy rains swelled the Chickahominy river and created a split in the army of the Potomac and lee saw his opportunity. Lee who many consider not only the premier general of the south but of the war, recalled Jackson from the valley to help in the offensive vs mac, know with a force near equal of mac's, would battle on the peninsula. Lee would strike the smaller portion of macs army and threaten is supply line under general Porter. Porter was suppose to be supported by McDowell from the north to meet up with his flank coming south from mananas. Had Macs plan been allowed, the attack would not have been possible, repulsed, or Richmond captured. However when Lincoln sent McDowell to the valley to trap Jackson, this left porter vulnerable and Lee pounced.

Lee attacked in multiple bloody battles that resulted in high loses on both sides. Mac would cause high causalities on Lee during the campaign inflicting more loses than he received. However Mac going off “expert” information know believed not only was he outnumbered but in danger of being cut off with no help from the north with Lincoln recalling so many of his troops, ordered a retreat off the peninsula. Mac telegraphed D.C stating “If I save this army now, I tell you plainly I owe no thanks to you or to any other persons in Washington...you have done your best to sacrifice this army.” The retreat off the peninsula was dangerous yet well conducted by McClellan to save his force from disaster. It was a major strategic victory for the south yet tactical victory for the union. Lincoln called it a “half defeat.” Given the force size and causalities suffered, mac performed better than the future union commanders of the army of the Potomac.

-Peninsula campaign total troops involved
-Union 105,000 causalities 15,849
-Confederate [with Jackson] 88,500 causalities 20,133

Antietam/Mac Takes Command

“I must have McClellan to reorganize this army and bring it out of chaos...there is no man in this army who can man these fortifications and lick these troops into shape half as well as he can”
-Abraham Lincoln


Aggressive general John Pope's army of Virginia was defeated and he was embarrassed by Jackson and Lee at Second Mananas, Pope was exiled to Minnesota to fight Indians. Lee turned his attention to an invasion of the north. Meanwhile mac had to reorganize the defeated army of popes and integrate it into his command and try and restore morale. Mac was given command of popes army and the army of the Potomac on September 2nd .

“The effect of the news was instantaneous. All of a sudden the federals forgot their defeat, weariness, and hunger and exploded into triumphant hurrahs, multitudes of caps were thrown in the air”
-John Cannan The Antietam Campaign

“As the news passed down the columns, men jumped to their feet and sent out such a hurrah as the army had never heard before”
-Union solider upon hearing McClellan had taken command


Slow to Meet Lee?

A modern criticism of mac in the Antietam campaign is that he was slow to move the army out to meet Lee's invasion allowing Lee to enter Maryland. Lee entered Maryland around Sep 4-7. Mac had just taken control on the 2nd of a disorganized defeated army. McClellan “worked a minor miracle in the next few days as he restored the army's morale and organization, and equally significant, its pride and sense of purpose.” No other man in the army could have as fast restored morale and cohesion as mac did before the battle of Antietam. Mac had already reorganized his army and marched to meet Lee by September the 9th. Lee expected a longer time for mac to prepare and his fast reaction spoiled Lee's plan to capture Harrisburg Pennsylvania.

"A man who could take a demoralized army, as McClellan took the combined forces that had been defeated under Pope in front of Washington at the second Bull Run, restore its discipline by the magic of his name and his swift reconstruction of its shattered organizations, and then lead it to victory within fourteen days, after an almost unexampled celerity of movement against the enemy who had crushed it two weeks before--such a man is not to be spoken of or thought of as wanting in the force and vigor of a great general."
-- George T. Curtis, U.S. Commissioner, historian


Also Hallack had ordered Mac to be cautious of D.C and wait until Lee's intentions were fully known believing Lee was trying to draw mac out to than attack D.C. Mac was receiving consistent reports from his Calvary of an enemy strength between 60,000-120,000. This was accepted by union high command believing Lee must have been reinforced before an invasion attempt.

Mac moved west forcing Lee to fall back to link with Jackson from Harper's Ferry. Mac helped lead the attack at the battle of turners gap, south mountain and Fox Turners Gap. All victories. At Turners Gap CSA losses were 2,300 USA loses 1,800 despite the fact that the attack was up a mountain and rough terrain and the confederates used multiple stone walls. The union still took the ground. On sep 16th Mac trapped Lee by a flank maneuver on Lee's left and captured the road to Hagerstown forcing an end to Lee's northern invasion. Lee had wanted to link with Jackson and than move north once more.

The Battle

The two armies met near Sharpsburg Maryland on Sep 17th The “cautious” mac would assault the confederate lines leading to the bloodiest day of the war. Mac plan was for an attack simultaneously on both the confederate left and right, to be followed up with a massive and reserves attack in the center. The attack met with small success, but failed to destroy Lee in part due to Burnside's late hour to come into the battle. Burnsides delayed attack on the confederate right “throw off the whole plan” and allowed lee to shift reinforcements along his line to meet the attack in the center and left. McClellan sent a half dozen couriers to Burnside to push him to attack and threatened to relive him of command. Yet still Lees army was near to breaking in all three sectors. Mac deserves criticism for being cautious and not trowing in his reserves that would have won the battle. He was fearful of a confederate counter attack given his reports of the enemy strength. Mac did not show tactical genius and made some mistakes but in the end it was a strategic victory for the north and a tactical draw. It sent Lee's army wounded back to Virginia and more importantly ended any hopes the confederacy had for European involvement in the war.

“George McClellan saved the union”
-Dennis Frye Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park


Antietam
Union Forces 87,000 Causalities 12,401
Confederate Forces 47,000 Causalities 10,316

McClellan Allowed Lee to Escape?

“The federals found that the rebels still had a formidable bite”
--John Cannan The Antietam Campaign

“Myths created by politicians that Lee should have been destroyed”
-Dennis Frye Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park


Mac was heavily criticized by Lincoln for not destroying lee's army and not following him back into Virginia. However mac had sent Porter to harass the enemy retreat that had initial success capturing 40 confederate artillery pieces. However A.P Hill counter attacked pushing the union men back across the Potomac. Hill said it was “The most terrible slaughter...a lesson to the enemy, and taught to them to know it may sometimes be dangerous to press a retreating army.” Often retreating armies fought great rear guard actions to prevent the destruction of the army. Civil war battles rarely ended in the destruction of the army and I think points more to the expectations of the early war north had, rather than realistic goals. When the army was criticized after for not destroying Lee's army a solider in the army of the Potomac replied.

“Think the rebbel army can be bagged? let them come and bagg them. Easy to talk about”
-Pennsylvanian solider after Antietam


Mac's army was also low on supply and had just fought two large scale engagements. Lee knew where mac would not be able to supply his army [size of a moving city] and planned his withdrawal accordingly. Mac was also working off his Calvary and Pinkerton's estimate of the confederate strength. Thinking the confederates still had equal force, he chose not to push the attack. After Lee fell back to Virginia his plan was to continue the invasion once more. He sent Stuarts Calvary to create a bridgehead at Williamsport Maryland to renew the invasion. However mac had anticipated this move and sent Calvary along with the 6th corps to prevent such a move. As argued by Dennis Frye who has studied the Antietam campaign for 50 years, Mac out thought Lee in Maryland. Later in October mac moved into Virginia to the Warrenton area so fast he split and surprised Lee. Both Lee and Longstreet were concerned, however the order was given 2 days before by Lincoln, and mac was removed from command.

Conclusions

“Strong grounds for believing he was the best commander the army of the Potomac ever had”
-Francis Pafrey Antietam, Fredircksburg


While I would not go as far as the above quote does, I would say mac was the most underrated general of the war. He does not get credit where he should and gets the blame where he should not. I do not see mac as cautious to a fault as claimed. It was often Lincoln, Stanton and Halleck being over cautious about protecting D.C. That interfered with macs plans. His intelligence let him down not his over cautious nature. Lincoln and the papers wanted aggression and the results were Bull run, Burnside at Fredricksburg and Pope at Second mananas. No general of the early war was able to handle the tandem of Jackson and Lee. Extreme events withheld mac from a capture of Richmond in 62. A fair critical comparison between mac and Sherman/Grant up until mac dismissal, is if anything very favorable to mac. Later when Grant/Sherman gained victories, it was more because of the capabilities of the confederate armies to offer Resistance than their ability being grater than macs.

I believe the real reason for Lincolns disappointment with mac was in the high expectations from the north. The north thought one battle, one victory in Virginia would win the war for them. They underestimated the resolve of the southern people to fight the war. They also underestimated the ability of Lee and Jackson.

“I fear we shall at last find out that the difficulty is in our cause rather than in particular generals”
-Abraham Lincoln to his friend Carl Schurz 1862


The reason maybe historians have rated and viewed mac in a negative light is he was opposed and disagreed with Lincoln. He committed the unpardonable sin of running against Lincoln in the 64 election on a peace platform to end the bloodshed. Lincoln committed many errors that robbed mac of success as Lincoln would even admit. After McClellan Lincoln would not anymore get directly involved with his generals. Lincolns military faults it seems have simply been passed on to mac by his fan club of historians.

“McClellan's relationship with Lincoln is central to any understanding of why historians judge him as a flawed personality...Lincoln has attained a stature that sets him apart from other mortals”
-Thomas J Rowland George B Mcclellan and Civil war History in the Shadow of grant and Sherman Kent State University Press

“The republicans could not allow McClellan to be a victory. They could not allow that to happen. They needed to do everything they could to smear McClellan”
--Dennis Frye Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park


Major Battles and Causalities of Union Generals vs Lee

Union commander Battle/ /Union Losses/ /Lee loses/ /Union causality per confederate causality

Pope- Second Manasas 13,879 Lee 8,353 1.65 per
Hooker- Chancellorsville 17,100 Lee 12,151 1.43 per
Burnside- Fredricksburg 13,353 Lee 4,576 2.95 per
Grant- Wilderness 18,400 Lee 11,400 1.61 per
Grant- Spotsylvania 18,000 Lee 12,000 1.5 per
Grant- Cold Harbor 12,737 Lee 4,594 2.8 per
Grant- Total 49,100 Lee 27,900 1.75 per
Meade- Gettysburg 23,049 Lee 28,063 .82
Meade- Total [Above] 72,049 Lee 55,963 1.29

McClellan- Peninsula 15,849 Lee 20,133 .78 per
McClellan - Antietam 12,401 Lee 10,316 1.2 per
McClellan - Total 28,250 Lee 30,449 .92 per

McClellan was the only union general to give out more causalities than taken when faced with lee. His average over two battles is only bested once by a union commander, that was by Meade at Gettysburg. He fought against Lee with if anything less of a manpower advantage than Grant would have later on. He also faced the Army of Northern Virginia while it had Jackson, was well supplied and the south had high national morale, unlike what Grant faced. How many other union commanders can claim over two battles with Lee to have won a tactical victory on the first, and a strategic victory and tactical draw on the second while inflicting heavy losses? It is no wonder Lee said mac was the best he faced. Also famed confederate John Mosby the “gray ghost” of the confederacy said that McClellan was the best union commander “by all odds.”


Main References
-Great Campaigns Jackson's Valley Campaign David G Martin Combined Books PA 1994
-Great Campaigns The Peninsula Campaign David G Martin Combined Books PA 1992
-Great Campaigns The Antietam Campaign John Cannan Combined Books PA 1994
-Thomas J Rowland George B Mcclellan and Civil war History in the Shadow of Grant and Sherman Kent State University Press 1998
- America's Civil war Magazine http://www.historynet.com/americas-civil-war
-How the South Could Have Won the Civil War: The Fatal Errors That Led to Confederate Defeat Bevin Alexander 2008 Crown Forum
--The Confederate war Gary Gallagher Harvard University press 1999 -A History of the south the Confederate States of America E Merton Coulter Louisiana State Press 1950 -James V Murfin Battlefields of the Civil war -The Ultimate Civil war Series 2012
-Dennis Frye McClellan out thought Lee in Maryland
http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...d.php?t=175075
---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2474

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/15/2017 6:12:27 PM
Thanks for this : a tour de force.

Most on this forum will disagree almost by default : so ingrained is the view that McClellan was a damnable ditherer, virtually treacherous in his words and deeds.

I find some of what you say pretty compelling. I use that word some as a disclaimer in case I'm held to account !

You are especially discerning in the ability of Little Mac to inflict more casualties than he received : a feature that differentiates him from other AoP commanders.

There will, I hope, be much debate.

Regards, Phil





---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 67

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/15/2017 7:05:42 PM

Quote:
Thanks for this : a tour de force.

Most on this forum will disagree almost by default : so ingrained is the view that McClellan was a damnable ditherer, virtually treacherous in his words and deeds.

I find some of what you say pretty compelling. I use that word some as a disclaimer in case I'm held to account !

You are especially discerning in the ability of Little Mac to inflict more casualties than he received : a feature that differentiates him from other AoP commanders.

There will, I hope, be much debate.

Regards, Phil






--phil andrade



Thanks for the comments. I do enjoy starting discussions and am glad you liked, some of my post.
---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2474

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 3:54:21 AM
To my mind, McClellan and Joe Johnston exhibited similarities.

Both were extremely well finished articles of military education.

I think Johnston had more combat experience by virtue of his Mexican War record.

Both were notoriously disdainful of their respective presidents, carrying the habit of non communication to extremes. In McClellan's case, this was to reach the point of open affront.

Both were beloved of their troops.

Both were said to be finding reasons not to commit to battle ; forever insisting that the time was not ripe.....more frightened of losing than being determined to win.

Johnston won Grant's acclaim as a formidable general - better, in his opinion, than Lee ; while Lee asserted that McClellan was his ablest opponent.

I suppose they diverged in many ways, though...especially in regard to political ambition, which McClellan cherished.

It seems that Mac had a messianic aspiration.

I do find myself seduced into reconsidering the popular view of McClellan.

He moved quickly and decisively in the Maryland Campaign, hitting hard at South Mountain.

And for a man supposedly reluctant to engage in battle, his big day on 17 September 1862 stands out as the day of days.

Regards, Phil



---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2474

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 5:06:21 AM

Quote:

Quote:
Thanks for this : a tour de force.

Most on this forum will disagree almost by default : so ingrained is the view that McClellan was a damnable ditherer, virtually treacherous in his words and deeds.

I find some of what you say pretty compelling. I use that word some as a disclaimer in case I'm held to account !

You are especially discerning in the ability of Little Mac to inflict more casualties than he received : a feature that differentiates him from other AoP commanders.

There will, I hope, be much debate.

Regards, Phil






--phil andrade



Thanks for the comments. I do enjoy starting discussions and am glad you liked, some of my post.
--1stvermont


What inspired you to post this elaborate reappraisal of Mac?

Do you seek to tone down criticism; or do you aim to bestow praise ?

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Dick Evick
Waco , TX, USA
top 40
E-4 Corporal
Posts: 142

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 10:08:44 AM
1st vermont.

Enjoying your post. I must add that the Western Virginia Campaign was commanded from a distance, Mac wasn't really "in the field" and his Commanders enjoyed numerical superiority.

I will say he was an excellent administrator as he reorganized the army after defeats.

Dick.

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class


Posts: 442

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 11:31:32 AM
Hi folks,

I can forgive Mac for many things, (for example, the Seven Days' battles as he faced completely unexpected and vigorous assaults from the Confederates) but his performance at Antietam was nothing short of lamentable.

He was a fine organiser of men and materiel (although he comes across as an odious arrogant man, with a grand opinion of himself and nobody else), with a reasonably sound plan that taking Richmond in 1862 would probably bring most of the rebellion/secession to an end. However, let's look at the comments on Antietam from 1st Vermont (welcome, btw ) , a battle that I suppose most of us would agree was a real chance to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia and bring an end to the war much closer:


Quote:
The two armies met near Sharpsburg Maryland on Sep 17th The “cautious” mac would assault the confederate lines leading to the bloodiest day of the war. Mac plan was for an attack simultaneously on both the confederate left and right, to be followed up with a massive and reserves attack in the center.


Mac was reasonably sure, was he not, that he finally had a numerical advantage over the Confederate army (where did he think all those men had come and went from/to, btw?). Having managed to force them into a pretty poor position at Sharpsburg, his method should have been to launch a general assault everywhere across the field and prevent Lee from parrying his attacks.


Quote:
The attack met with small success, but failed to destroy Lee in part due to Burnside's late hour to come into the battle. Burnsides delayed attack on the confederate right “throw off the whole plan” and allowed lee to shift reinforcements along his line to meet the attack in the center and left.


Small success? The Confederate army was an intact, coherent force, albeit bled heavily by the battle. Mac had reserves across the line and failed to use them, in fear of some Confederate counter-attack being summoned up from somewhere.


Quote:
McClellan sent a half dozen couriers to Burnside to push him to attack and threatened to relive him of command.


Yet he kept him in command, even though was clearly aware that the whole battle was turning on a pin and that he needed to exploit the CSA right wing. A decisive commander would have gotten closer and made the necessary changes and not hide behind couriers and other officers.


Quote:
Yet still Lees army was near to breaking in all three sectors. Mac deserves criticism for being cautious and not trowing in his reserves that would have won the battle. He was fearful of a confederate counter attack given his reports of the enemy strength. Mac did not show tactical genius and made some mistakes but in the end it was a strategic victory for the north and a tactical draw. It sent Lee's army wounded back to Virginia and more importantly ended any hopes the confederacy had for European involvement in the war.


Lee's army was close to breaking because he was out of men, because McLellan finally engaged him on all fronts. That Lee was able to escape Antietam with anything resembling an army cannot, in my view, be described as anything other than a national disgrace. McLellan had him and let him go. Mac simply couldn't have lost the battle, given his resources and the paucity of Lee's, so a draw must be seen as the worst result possible, which is what occurred. He was, IMO, rightly removed from command.

Cheers,

Colin
---------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2474

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 12:14:57 PM
His method should have been to launch a general assault everywhere across the field

Failure to do this was the hallmark of several commanders on several fields, not least of Lee himself at Gettysburg.

It was too unusual to coordinate that massive, concerted attack. Longstreet got it together with his corps at Second Mannassas, and Lee finally got it working at Gaines's Mill, but only after terrible casualties had been sustained in disjointed attacks earlier in the day.

It must have been very difficult in those days to effect that battlefield concert of action.

The opprobrium for this deficiency falls most heavily on McClellan at Antietam ; that in itself suggests that there might be a syndrome of " Mac bashing " that gives undue weight to his failure here without giving fair countenance to its ubiquitous feature among generals North and South.

The thing that differentiates Antietam, I suppose, is the inordinate numerical superiority that McClellan enjoyed.

Regards, Phil



---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

jahenders
Colorado Springs, CO, USA
top 60
E-3 Private First Class
Posts: 34

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 1:58:40 PM
There's certainly some truth to your assertion that he gets blame for some things that weren't totally his fault and he did suffer political interference.

However, all the Union generals suffered varying degrees of political interference.

He DID fare poorly at Antietam when presented with a great opportunity.

Finally, your point about his casualty ratio vs. Lee is a good one, but it kind of hints at one of his failings -- he wouldn't fight unless he was convinced he had great superiority. He delayed action multiple times because he THOUGHT he was outnumbered though he actual had a numerical advantage. He used Pinkerton for a lot of his intel, they often made poor estimates, and he accepted those bad estimates or even made them worse to justify delays and demands for additional reinforcements. It was ultimately his responsibility to make good decisions based on intel and he did poorly at that -- using a process that led to some provably poor estimates, but continuing to use them anyway (or, perhaps, because of that).

So, you're right in that he is often viewed too negatively, but some of that is definitely deserved.


Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2474

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 4:06:12 PM
Grant must have been on the money when he described McClellan as one of the war's great mysteries .

Edit : apologies to Mac : he had served in the Mexican War ; I was wrong in my comparison with Joe Johnston regarding combat experience prior to 1861.

Another edit : He had served as an observer in the Crimean War. He had, perhaps, been imbued with the set piece , methodical manner of siege warfare that he had seen there, as the Allies conducted the Siege of Sebastopol . I wonder whether this experience imparted to him a kind of "European " outlook : his posture in some photographs suggests something of this. Might it be that this very attribute anatagonised historians and commentators who sought - and seek still - a peculiarly American narrative to the Civil War ?


Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 67

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 5:40:14 PM

Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
Thanks for this : a tour de force.

Most on this forum will disagree almost by default : so ingrained is the view that McClellan was a damnable ditherer, virtually treacherous in his words and deeds.

I find some of what you say pretty compelling. I use that word some as a disclaimer in case I'm held to account !

You are especially discerning in the ability of Little Mac to inflict more casualties than he received : a feature that differentiates him from other AoP commanders.

There will, I hope, be much debate.

Regards, Phil






--phil andrade



Thanks for the comments. I do enjoy starting discussions and am glad you liked, some of my post.
--1stvermont


What inspired you to post this elaborate reappraisal of Mac?

Do you seek to tone down criticism; or do you aim to bestow praise ?

Regards, Phil
--Phil andrade



I was reading a series [great campaign series] of all the major campaigns in chronological order. I read the valley campaign and peninsula campaign and thought, this is not at all how mac was presented in my previous understanding of him. I thought he was robbed by politicians and should have won the war than. I than went and bought a great book [George McClellan and civil war history by Rowland] for ammunition to try as best i could to make the case mac was much better than is often portrayed. A few other sources and here we are.

I dislike when I think events or persons in history are misleading or inaccurate. I try my best as a amature to correct what i see as inaccuracies to instead present a more balanced view. So my purpose is not so much looking for praise for the man, nor lessening criticism per say, but i think that is deserved. But to present the "good" side of mac that is often neglected. To defend where i think he is portrayed wrong.
---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 67

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 5:42:27 PM

Quote:
To my mind, McClellan and Joe Johnston exhibited similarities.

Both were extremely well finished articles of military education.

I think Johnston had more combat experience by virtue of his Mexican War record.

Both were notoriously disdainful of their respective presidents, carrying the habit of non communication to extremes. In McClellan's case, this was to reach the point of open affront.

Both were beloved of their troops.

Both were said to be finding reasons not to commit to battle ; forever insisting that the time was not ripe.....more frightened of losing than being determined to win.

Johnston won Grant's acclaim as a formidable general - better, in his opinion, than Lee ; while Lee asserted that McClellan was his ablest opponent.

I suppose they diverged in many ways, though...especially in regard to political ambition, which McClellan cherished.

It seems that Mac had a messianic aspiration.

I do find myself seduced into reconsidering the popular view of McClellan.

He moved quickly and decisively in the Maryland Campaign, hitting hard at South Mountain.

And for a man supposedly reluctant to engage in battle, his big day on 17 September 1862 stands out as the day of days.

Regards, Phil




--phil andrade



I never noticed those similarities, well done.
---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 67

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 5:50:51 PM

Quote:
Hi folks,

I can forgive Mac for many things, (for example, the Seven Days' battles as he faced completely unexpected and vigorous assaults from the Confederates) but his performance at Antietam was nothing short of lamentable.

He was a fine organiser of men and materiel (although he comes across as an odious arrogant man, with a grand opinion of himself and nobody else), with a reasonably sound plan that taking Richmond in 1862 would probably bring most of the rebellion/secession to an end. However, let's look at the comments on Antietam from 1st Vermont (welcome, btw ) , a battle that I suppose most of us would agree was a real chance to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia and bring an end to the war much closer:


Quote:
The two armies met near Sharpsburg Maryland on Sep 17th The “cautious” mac would assault the confederate lines leading to the bloodiest day of the war. Mac plan was for an attack simultaneously on both the confederate left and right, to be followed up with a massive and reserves attack in the center.


Mac was reasonably sure, was he not, that he finally had a numerical advantage over the Confederate army (where did he think all those men had come and went from/to, btw?). Having managed to force them into a pretty poor position at Sharpsburg, his method should have been to launch a general assault everywhere across the field and prevent Lee from parrying his attacks.


Quote:
The attack met with small success, but failed to destroy Lee in part due to Burnside's late hour to come into the battle. Burnsides delayed attack on the confederate right “throw off the whole plan” and allowed lee to shift reinforcements along his line to meet the attack in the center and left.


Small success? The Confederate army was an intact, coherent force, albeit bled heavily by the battle. Mac had reserves across the line and failed to use them, in fear of some Confederate counter-attack being summoned up from somewhere.


Quote:
McClellan sent a half dozen couriers to Burnside to push him to attack and threatened to relive him of command.


Yet he kept him in command, even though was clearly aware that the whole battle was turning on a pin and that he needed to exploit the CSA right wing. A decisive commander would have gotten closer and made the necessary changes and not hide behind couriers and other officers.


Quote:
Yet still Lees army was near to breaking in all three sectors. Mac deserves criticism for being cautious and not trowing in his reserves that would have won the battle. He was fearful of a confederate counter attack given his reports of the enemy strength. Mac did not show tactical genius and made some mistakes but in the end it was a strategic victory for the north and a tactical draw. It sent Lee's army wounded back to Virginia and more importantly ended any hopes the confederacy had for European involvement in the war.


Lee's army was close to breaking because he was out of men, because McLellan finally engaged him on all fronts. That Lee was able to escape Antietam with anything resembling an army cannot, in my view, be described as anything other than a national disgrace. McLellan had him and let him go. Mac simply couldn't have lost the battle, given his resources and the paucity of Lee's, so a draw must be seen as the worst result possible, which is what occurred. He was, IMO, rightly removed from command.

Cheers,

Colin
--Lightning




Thanks for the post. I think in hindsight of course it is much easier to say what he should have done at Antietam. I see no issue with his general plan of attacking the flanks so as to force Lee to reinforce and than hit Lee in the center with a large reserve. ALso this plan would allow him to change on the fly or take advantage of breakthroughs. If they were to occur.


Yes small [not large] success. he stopped lee's invasion, bloodied the hell out of his small army, and enabled the EP that lost the CSA the best chance for victory they had, that is success.


Not a bad point. Maybe it was political or he put to much trust in Burnside as Lincoln would later.


As for the escape i cover that in my op and will await comments.


Thanks for the post.
---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 67

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 5:53:55 PM

Quote:
His method should have been to launch a general assault everywhere across the field

Failure to do this was the hallmark of several commanders on several fields, not least of Lee himself at Gettysburg.

It was too unusual to coordinate that massive, concerted attack. Longstreet got it together with his corps at Second Mannassas, and Lee finally got it working at Gaines's Mill, but only after terrible casualties had been sustained in disjointed attacks earlier in the day.

It must have been very difficult in those days to effect that battlefield concert of action.

The opprobrium for this deficiency falls most heavily on McClellan at Antietam ; that in itself suggests that there might be a syndrome of " Mac bashing " that gives undue weight to his failure here without giving fair countenance to its ubiquitous feature among generals North and South.

The thing that differentiates Antietam, I suppose, is the inordinate numerical superiority that McClellan enjoyed.

Regards, Phil




--Phil andrade


Very good points. The civil war battles were enormous. Trying to coordinate large scale attacks through messaging real time, was no easy task as was seen in the war.
---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 67

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 5:58:43 PM

Quote:
There's certainly some truth to your assertion that he gets blame for some things that weren't totally his fault and he did suffer political interference.

However, all the Union generals suffered varying degrees of political interference.

He DID fare poorly at Antietam when presented with a great opportunity.

Finally, your point about his casualty ratio vs. Lee is a good one, but it kind of hints at one of his failings -- he wouldn't fight unless he was convinced he had great superiority. He delayed action multiple times because he THOUGHT he was outnumbered though he actual had a numerical advantage. He used Pinkerton for a lot of his intel, they often made poor estimates, and he accepted those bad estimates or even made them worse to justify delays and demands for additional reinforcements. It was ultimately his responsibility to make good decisions based on intel and he did poorly at that -- using a process that led to some provably poor estimates, but continuing to use them anyway (or, perhaps, because of that).

So, you're right in that he is often viewed too negatively, but some of that is definitely deserved.


--jahenders



I agree with this fully

"So, you're right in that he is often viewed too negatively, but some of that is definitely deserved."


I will just add overestimating your opont in the civil war especially early, was a common feature of generals on both sides. Just look at the aggressive Sherman early war.

Other sources gave higher estimates than even pinkerton [though to be expert at spying] he was cautious, but i just dont think as much as portrayed. Him not wanting to engage a larger force on the defensive i think is a good idea. he wanted small amount of blood spilt for victory, that is admirable imo.
---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class
Posts: 455

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/16/2017 6:10:29 PM
Phil,

Did you realize Joe Johnston and Little Mac were great friends and Johnston in many ways Little Mac's mentor?
---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2474

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/17/2017 2:42:48 AM

Quote:
Phil,

Did you realize Joe Johnston and Little Mac were great friends and Johnston in many ways Little Mac's mentor?
--John R. Price


John,

No...this I had not realised : thanks for telling me.

This is turning out to be a good thread.

1stVermont : you are to be welcomed and congratulated !

But I must warn....beware of " confirmation bias " : the tendency to countenance only that information that bears out your case. If you seek to put a more sympathetic interpretation on Mac's generalship - and you'll see from my posts that I tend to endorse this - the danger is that you jump at facts that support, and turn away from those that subvert. I'm sure that I'm susceptible to this too, so please don't think that I condescend.

Here's some grist to your mill....

John Price mentions the close personal affinity between Mac and Jo Johnston. They actually fought each other in two major battles - Williamsburg and Seven Pines. No doubt their subordinate commanders did the heavy lifting on the field itself , but it adds weight to your argument when the casualties ( combined ) in these two engagements are taken into account : about 7,350 for Mac and 7,850 for Johnston . Of course, as the attackers the confederates at Seven Pines might have been expected to take the higher casualties ; but to a degree this is countered by the fact that Mac was attacking at Williamsburg.

I though it worthwhile extending the remit beyond the exchange rate of casualties against Lee alone, especially since Johnston was a fighter renowned for avoiding profligacy of his mens' lives in battle.

Regards , Phil


---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class


Posts: 442

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/17/2017 6:47:57 AM

Quote:
His method should have been to launch a general assault everywhere across the field

Failure to do this was the hallmark of several commanders on several fields, not least of Lee himself at Gettysburg.

It was too unusual to coordinate that massive, concerted attack. Longstreet got it together with his corps at Second Mannassas, and Lee finally got it working at Gaines's Mill, but only after terrible casualties had been sustained in disjointed attacks earlier in the day.

It must have been very difficult in those days to effect that battlefield concert of action.

The opprobrium for this deficiency falls most heavily on McClellan at Antietam ; that in itself suggests that there might be a syndrome of " Mac bashing " that gives undue weight to his failure here without giving fair countenance to its ubiquitous feature among generals North and South.

The thing that differentiates Antietam, I suppose, is the inordinate numerical superiority that McClellan enjoyed.

Regards, Phil




--Phil andrade


Hi Phil,

No doubt that a general assault is difficult to implement, but it's not impossible (as you've cited examples in the same year of combat, so it wasn't beyond the ability of forces of the day), and shouldn't have been beyond the boy wonder of the Union Army, the self-styled "Young Napoleon". Mac picked the deployments, commanded the Corps and Division commanders and set the battle plan. As no doubt he would grabbed full credit had Lee's army been destroyed at Antietam, he must similarly accept full blame for the failure to do so.

I reiterate my earlier point about the possibility of Union defeat at Antietam; it didn't exist. Mac couldn't lose, yet still couldn't win. A bad indictment of a general with almost overwhelming advantages. For this alone he must go down as a failure, despite his undoubtedly fine work in whipping the Union army in the east into shape after 1st Bull Run.

Cheers,

Colin
---------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."

1stvermont
Vermont, VT, USA
top 50
E-4 Specialist


Posts: 67

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/17/2017 8:08:06 AM

Quote:

Quote:
Phil,

Did you realize Joe Johnston and Little Mac were great friends and Johnston in many ways Little Mac's mentor?
--John R. Price


John,

No...this I had not realised : thanks for telling me.

This is turning out to be a good thread.

1stVermont : you are to be welcomed and congratulated !

But I must warn....beware of " confirmation bias " : the tendency to countenance only that information that bears out your case. If you seek to put a more sympathetic interpretation on Mac's generalship - and you'll see from my posts that I tend to endorse this - the danger is that you jump at facts that support, and turn away from those that subvert. I'm sure that I'm susceptible to this too, so please don't think that I condescend.

Here's some grist to your mill....

John Price mentions the close personal affinity between Mac and Jo Johnston. They actually fought each other in two major battles - Williamsburg and Seven Pines. No doubt their subordinate commanders did the heavy lifting on the field itself , but it adds weight to your argument when the casualties ( combined ) in these two engagements are taken into account : about 7,350 for Mac and 7,850 for Johnston . Of course, as the attackers the confederates at Seven Pines might have been expected to take the higher casualties ; but to a degree this is countered by the fact that Mac was attacking at Williamsburg.

I though it worthwhile extending the remit beyond the exchange rate of casualties against Lee alone, especially since Johnston was a fighter renowned for avoiding profligacy of his mens' lives in battle.

Regards , Phil


--Phil andrade


I am indeed guilty of "confirmation bias" in my op. I did so purposely. My op was not to be a fair even look at mac so much as information generally ignored and a defense often not given. So I have ignored some negatives of him as they do not serve my purpose. I am not trying to lie or give a false view, just the opposite side of the coin so as to than hopefully paint a fuller more historically accurate view of him as a military commander. That I think would show him the most underrated general of the war.


Thank you for your thoughts and additions you could have greatley improved my op i suspect.
---------------
“The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supremeCourt

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2474

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/17/2017 4:10:36 PM
Colin,

The possibility of Union defeat at Antietam didn't exist ?

Two people clearly thought that it did : Lee and McClellan.

Has there ever been a battle in which both the opposing commanders were so stupefyingly deluded ?

There are fools, damned fools....and Lee and McClellan !

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class


Posts: 442

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/17/2017 6:41:25 PM
Phil,

They may have thought it, but I can't see it happening, given the disparity in resources on the day. McLellan may have believed he was fighting for his life, but in reality it was Lee. Was there any point in the battle where the Union line wasn't ultimately on the advance? The Confederates made several brave and skillful counter-attacks, but in truth it's a miracle that Lee had a coherent army left at the end of the day. For that, ultimate blame lies with Mac.


Quote:
Has there ever been a battle in which both the opposing commanders were so stupefyingly deluded?


Isandhlwana? Although not the commander on the day, Cetswayo thought it folly to attack, but couldn't hold his impis back for fear of losing face. Likewise (and speaking of damned fools), Chelmsford thought he couldn't lose and marched off with a column on a wild goose chase, leaving his supplies and line of retreat guarded by an idle regiment.

Anyway, I digress!

Cheers,

Colin
---------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 2474

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/18/2017 4:02:12 AM
A decent digression, and a discerning one, Colin !

I hope you didn't think I was being facetious in my comments about heroic delusion on both sides at Antietam : we tend to remember Mac's failure as the defining feature....yet, come to think of it, what the heck was Lee playing at, too ?

Regards , Phil

---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 2745

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/18/2017 12:26:48 PM
Custer was actually one of Mac's right hand men!

[Read More]

[Read More]

Ya gotta love this tune!?

[Read More]

Cheers,
MD
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

jahenders
Colorado Springs, CO, USA
top 60
E-3 Private First Class
Posts: 34

Re: George B McClellan the Most Underrated general of the Civil war
Posted on: 8/22/2017 4:46:52 PM
Would generally have to agree that it's an admirable thing, but NOT if it means you lose chances of victory and, in turn, prolong the war and increase casualties overall.

 Civil War Commanders and Units    
 Forum Ads from Google