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George B. McClellan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George McClellan
George B McClellan - retouched.jpg
24th Governor of New Jersey
In office
January 15, 1878 – January 18, 1881
Preceded byJoseph D. Bedle
Succeeded byGeorge C. Ludlow
4th Commanding General of the United States Army
In office
November 1, 1861 – March 11, 1862
PresidentAbraham Lincoln
Preceded byWinfield Scott
Succeeded byHenry Halleck
Personal details
George Brinton McClellan

(1826-12-03)December 3, 1826
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedOctober 29, 1885(1885-10-29) (aged 58)
Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
Resting placeRiverview Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Nelly McClellan
RelativesGeorge McClellan (Father)
Randolph B. Marcy (Father-in-law)
EducationUnited States Military Academy (BS)
Military service
Nickname(s)Little Mac
The Young Napoleon[1]
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Union Army
Years of service1846–1857 (U.S. Army)
1861–1864 (Union Army)
RankMajor General
CommandsDepartment of the Ohio
Army of the Potomac
Battles/warsMexican-American War
American Civil War
A portion of the Julian Scott portrait of McClellan in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
A portion of the Julian Scott portrait of McClellan in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

George Brinton McClellan (December 3, 1826 – October 29, 1885) was an American soldier, civil engineer, railroad executive, and politician. A graduate of West Point, McClellan served with distinction during the Mexican War (1846–1848), and later left the Army to work in railroads until the outbreak of the Civil War (1861–1865). Early in the war, McClellan was appointed to the rank of major general and played an important role in raising a well-trained and organized army, which would become the Army of the Potomac in the Eastern Theater; he served a brief period (November 1861 to March 1862) as general-in-chief of the Union Army. Although McClellan was meticulous in his planning and preparations, these very characteristics hampered his ability to challenge aggressive opponents in a fast-moving battlefield environment. He chronically overestimated the strength of enemy units and was reluctant to apply principles of mass, frequently leaving large portions of his army unengaged at decisive points.

McClellan organized and led the Union army in the Peninsula Campaign in southeastern Virginia from March through July 1862. It was the first large-scale offensive in the Eastern Theater. Making an amphibious clockwise turning movement around the Confederate Army in northern Virginia, McClellan's forces turned west to move up the Virginia Peninsula, between the James and York Rivers, landing from the Chesapeake Bay, with the Confederate capital, Richmond, as their objective. Initially, McClellan was somewhat successful against the equally cautious General Joseph E. Johnston, but the emergence of General Robert E. Lee to command the Army of Northern Virginia turned the subsequent Seven Days Battles into a partial Union defeat.

General McClellan failed to maintain the trust of President Abraham Lincoln. He did not trust his commander-in-chief and was privately derisive of him. He was removed from command in November after failing to decisively pursue Lee's Army following the tactically inconclusive but strategic Union victory at the Battle of Antietam outside Sharpsburg, Maryland, and never received another field command. McClellan went on to become the unsuccessful Democratic Party nominee in the 1864 presidential election against Lincoln's reelection. The effectiveness of his campaign was damaged when he repudiated his party's platform, which promised an end to the war and negotiations with the southern Confederacy. He served as the 24th Governor of New Jersey from 1878 to 1881, and eventually became a writer, and vigorously defended his Civil War conduct.

Most modern authorities have assessed McClellan as a poor battlefield general. Some historians view him as a highly capable commander whose reputation suffered unfairly at the hands of pro-Lincoln partisans who made him a scapegoat for the Union's military setbacks. After the war, subsequent commanding general and 18th President Ulysses S. Grant was asked for his opinion of McClellan as a general; he replied, "McClellan is to me one of the mysteries of the war."

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  • ✪ On the McClellan Go Round- George McClellan and the Antietam Campaign (Lecture)
  • ✪ Sacred Trust Talks 2016 - Did George McClellan Out-Think General Robert E. Lee?
  • ✪ Lincoln 101: President Abraham Lincoln and General George McLellan
  • ✪ Chapter 10: George McLellan
  • ✪ The Election of 1864 Explained


Its one o’clock so we are going to go ahead and get started I want to welcome everyone here to Gettysburg National Military Park I see some familiar faces some friendly faces some faces I don’t recognize that’s great to have everybody here today for our one o’clock winter lecture my name is Dan Vermilya, I’m a park ranger here at Gettysburg I’ve been in the Park Service for about six or seven years now and I spent the first five years of my time with the NPS at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, MD, and one of the topics that I was always fascinated by at Antietam was how or how not the popular perceptions of the battle stack up with the some of the things I was learning as a park ranger there learning from some of the ranger staff some of the licensed guides some of the volunteers there I was really learning quite a lot when I started there about the battle and when we had this topic for our lecture series this year the myths and controversies of the war I started thinking well wouldn’t George McClellan just be a perfect fit for this topic plus I wanted to have something that everyone would agree on as I said I learned a lot at Antietam when I started there I wrote a paper back in college about the Army of the Potomac at Antietam where I basically lambasted George McClellan calling him a traitor all sorts of terrible things and when I started at Antietam I learned all these new things about him and started to approach the topic in a different way and in 2012 I actually did a big research project on the Army of the Potomac at the battle, the strength and the experience of it and I’m going to be sharing some of that research with you today some of the details and particulars of the army so our lecture today is going to be kind of half big picture and half details and we are going to be talking about George McClellan as a broad figure and most specifically during the Maryland Campaign of September 1862 as a way of trying to get a better glimpse a better understanding of him because unfortunately through the years George McClellan has been the general we love to hate and it’s not that hard to find negative things about George McClellan these are just a few things that I encountered in doing research for this program an article calling him the Civil War’s most chicken general Stephen Sears wrote in his biography of McClellan when making war George McClellan was a man possessed by demons and delusions Edward Bonekemper has a book McClellan and failure a study of civil war fear incompetence and worse McClellan is featured on countless worst generals in US history lists probably my particular favorite or one of them is from Antietam when a visitor said you know if George McClellan was Robert E. Lee he would have won this battle and my response was sir Lee was Lee and he didn’t win this battle I also had a guy shout balderdash at me once but that’s happened a couple times though our opinion of McClellan today is not as much of a general as of a caricature of a general and I’m going to do probably a winter lecture first in bringing some cartoons into this it seems that one of the ways we view George McClellan is as Wiley Coyote always trying to get that speedy roadrunner, trying to capture Robert E Lee and defeat him but he can never do it he is too foolish and inept almost idiotic in some ways to really seal the deal and defeat Lee in battle McClellan the coward he didn’t want to win he was too timid scared to see his soldiers killed didn’t have the heart for battle and Scar from the Lion King McClellan the villain he was nefarious he was a traitor power hungry and conniving and we have these caricatures of McClellan for so long that he has become the fodder of jokes I know we have had some laughter already but I actually scoured the internet to find some funny pictures on McClellan Little Mac Big Mac that’s kind of obvious with his nickname and then this meme here about him never wanting to attack the Confederacy and we do have a serious topic here today but I think approaching it with some lightheartedness up front helps us to ease into it and understand that it is time to start reevaluating how we think about George McClelland it’s not my goal today that everyone will walk out of here thinking hey that ranger was 100% right McClelland was a brilliant general because that’s not what I’m saying but perhaps just ask yourself why do I think these things about George McClellan perhaps let’s reevaluate some of our assumptions about him as a commander McClellan really has a difficult task in Civil War history in a number of different ways first off he is caught between two legends of the war no matter where you are from North or South you have pretty good reason to dislike McClellan because his two biggest opponents are Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee is his battlefield opponent the man who he never can seem to quite destroy him in combat and Lee is a beloved figure especially for those south of the Mason Dixon line Abraham Lincoln is McClellan’s opponent in the 1864 presidential election and I should also note his opponent while he was actively serving in the army in a number of ways they clashed on many different things McClellan notably called Lincoln in private correspondence the original gorilla it was a moment in November 1861 where Lincoln came to call on McClellan who was out and about and when he came back he didn’t have any time for the president he went to bed without telling the president he didn’t want to see him and Lincoln was sitting there waiting for him for another half an hour they didn’t have a very good relationship so McClellan doesn’t stack up well with these two legends of the war in either way he also doesn’t stack up very well with Grant and Sherman the Unionist interpretation of the war is still pretty prevalent today pretty dominant and Grant and Sherman are the two big heroes of this largely northern view of the war that Lincoln struggled for so many years to find a competent commander and it wasn’t until 1864 when Grant becomes the overall Union army commander and Sherman is commanding forces in the west that Lincoln finally has his leadership team in place McClellan simply cannot stack up with these guys first because he never had the successes that these guys had and moreover for us in the 21st century there is something about Grant and Sherman that is much more accessible to us today how many folks have read the memoirs of Grant and Sherman? They are pretty well written books and we read them and at least I always get this sense of we talk about if the Civil War was a modern war and we read those books and you get this sense of modernity in these generals an aggression that McClellan lacked how many people have read McClellan’s Own Story it’s not as well read a book it’s not as entertaining a book necessarily not one that appeals to us today as much but McClellan really doesn’t stack up very well and the title of this program comes from an article that the late Dr. Joseph Harsh wrote a great Civil War historian specialist on the Maryland Campaign called the McClellan go round for too long historians have only seen McClellan as a caricature his innate slowness and exaggerations of enemy strength have become personality traits in ways that other generals simply don’t have and a psychoanalysis of McClellan based on his private letters to his wife has informed this opinion of him as a commander it takes an evaluation though of McClellan’s ideas strategies and the circumstances that he faced to understand his generalship and today we are going to use the Maryland Campaign as an avenue towards that Harsh wrote of McClellan “Whatever numerical advantage McClellan may have held on historical battlefields, he has been overwhelmed by the opposition in the historiographical war of words” he also noted “any man deserves to be judged on one level at least by his intended objectives and his own understanding of his responsibilities” now McClellan has a lot of controversial things about him there are a lot of things people don’t like about him the Maryland Campaign and Antietam really stand out to me to be the biggest things about this he is blamed for missing out on his greatest chance to end the war and crush Lee’s army and rather than understanding the MD campaign through McClellan’s personality flaws we are going to look at some of the specifics of it and that is where some of the things I’ve studied with the numbers and experience of the army are going to come into play here just a few things about what has been said about McClellan at Antietam James McPherson wrote “he was reluctant to run his machine the Army of the Potomac at full speed for fear of breaking it” Richard Slotkin wrote “to historians armed with hindsight and a good map it is easy to see how McClellan could have ravaged or even destroyed the Army of northern Virginia on either the 16th or 17th of September 1862” Stephen Sears wrote in the most well-read book on the Maryland Campaign Landscape Turned Red “George McClellan however remained in character so fearful of losing that he would not risk losing. He shrank from his paramount responsibility to command.” He also wrote in a separate article published more recently “one third of the army of the Potomac would not fire a shot on Sept 17 and one leaves this spot so terrible in its eloquence in wonder at the obtuseness of George McClellan” these are a few of the key points we are going to look at for McClellan in the Maryland Campaign we often hear people say things like well McClellan wasn’t much of a battlefield commander but he sure was a good organizer ok so what does this mean what does it mean that he is a good organizer we are going to address that him rebuilding the Army of the Potomac in September 1862 the famed Lost orders of the Maryland Campaign this golden opportunity that McClellan has his actual plan at Antietam does he even want to win the battle his troop strength at Antietam which a lot of this hinges on did he have this massive army that was too big to fail that only he could have found a way to not achieve total crushing victory and on September 18 the day after the battle why doesn’t he continue the fight now to address something here why are you a McClellan apologist I’ve been asked this question before. Why am I defending a general who doesn’t really have a lot of defenders well he is a man of many faults and in a lot of ways he is his own worst enemy if you’ve read his letters and his correspondence and writings this comes out very clearly he is rather arrogant narcissistic too political he loves to complain he doesn’t share Lincoln’s view of the war he opposes the Emancipation Proclamation there’s a lot of reasons to dislike George McClellan and I dislike him for all these reasons but let’s not invent new ones its important to ask questions to determine if our view of history is based on history or our own perceptions so who is George McClellan he is born to wealthy parents in Philadelphia on December 3 1826 he has a great resume a great pedigree as a general he is educated at the University of Pennsylvania and he enters into the military academy at West Point at the age of 15 he speaks seven different languages he is a brilliant man serves in the Mexican War at numerous engineering assignments in the army he is an observer for the US in military operations in Crimea in the mid-1850s he is a railroad executive from 1857 to 1860 it is during that time that he marries Mary Ellen Marcy he becomes a major general in 1861 in April 1861 he is so well respected and so sought after that he accepts the command of all Ohio troops on April 23 1861 only to find out the very next day that New York and Pennsylvania had also offered him command of all their troops three different states saying will you lead all our volunteers from our state he has several military successes in western Virginia in 1861 the early part of the year in the summer some of the first successes for the Union army and these are coming just before the major battlefield defeat at First Manassas or First Bull Run we are not spending a whole lot of time on McClellan’s life leading up to the war and on the early stages of the war because we have a lot to get to about the Maryland campaign but after the defeat at First Manassas McClellan is brought to Washington DC to command Union forces in the east and it is in November of 1861 that he replaces Winfield Scott and becomes the general-in-chief of the United States forces at the age of 34 not bad 34 and he is the general in chief commanding all Union forces now that quote there at the top you will see that a lot when you read things about George McClellan “I can do it all” he is reported to have said that on November 1 1861 when he was given command of all Union forces and it comes across especially knowing how some of his campaigns played out as very arrogant very selfish but it shows the confidence that he brought to the job his goal in the war the way he thought victory could best be achieved and we’ll talk about this a lot today was in one big campaign reduce the number of battles you have to fight, go straight towards the heart of the enemy and for McClellan that was Richmond so after months of waiting and building the Army of the Potomac at the end of 1861 and early 1862 McClellan launches a campaign to get down to the Virginia peninsula to advance towards Richmond from the east and southeast he comes close to Richmond but with Robert E. Lee taking command of Confederate forces outside of the capital that summer McClellan does not seize the city he is eventually recalled back toward Washington it appears as though by August 1862 his military career is all but over and I want to get into this because this is important for understanding his generalship McClellan’s view of the Civil War it is not a view that most of us have today it is a view that is very different from many historians today but McClellan was a Whig a member of the Whig party he sought moderation in politics and he feared that the Civil War would destroy the very fabric of the United States as Joe Harsh wrote the heart of McClellan’s policy was to wage war within the limits of the constitution and to do nothing to render ultimate reconciliation and harmony impossible unless such a course were imperative to secure military success quite simply he wanted to defeat the south through overwhelming force convince them that resistance was futile now the irony about this is that McClellan’s approach ultimately leads to the battle of Antietam which arguably did more to upset the social fabric of the nation than any other with Antietam leading to the Emancipation Promotion and it also showed that he could not avoid casualties as a commander because Antietam was the bloodiest single day of the entire war. Now McClellan was not kind towards those who did not agree with his view of the war he is a highly educated man who comes from the high ranks of society all of his social influences tell him that he is correct he knows how to do this and others are not and that is where he finds big problems with President Abraham Lincoln now both of these men a reformer Whigs members of the Whig party that arose in opposition to Andrew Jackson in the early 1800s believing that moderation was key in politics a check on the strong executive moderation and reason above all but the stories of McClellan and Lincoln veer off in different directions they veer in different directions when slavery starts becoming more and more involved in national politics Lincoln was always more democratic than McClellan one of these men attended the University of Pennsylvania and West Point, the other one was largely self-taught entirely different backgrounds entirely different ways of approaching things McClellan saw increasing attempts to bring slavery to the forefront of national debate as upsetting the country upsetting the delicate balance Lincoln became a Republican in the mid-1850s believing in stopping the westward expansion of slavery McClellan thought positions like that left no room for compromise we can see before the war they are taking different paths and diverging in different ways and that is going to have an effect later on now early on in the war Lincoln has pretty conservative war aims he is not out to free the slaves in 1861 he is out to try to restore the Union that is the big rallying cry at the start of the war and McClellan’s thinking that’s great, that’s my goal restore the Union but as the war progresses Lincoln realizes that he is going to have to exert more and more of his leadership and his vision for where the country is going to go while Lincoln’s early conservative approach was based around pragmatism, McClellan’s was based around ideology and this is important to understand the split that these two men are going to have the irrevocable split later on all of this leads us to September 1862 perhaps the lowest point in the war for the North in September 1862 John Pope had just received a stunning defeat at Second Manassas on August 28, 29, and 30 at that time Confederates are making gains in the West pressing into Kentucky and across the Atlantic England and France are on the verge of recognizing the South as a separate independent nation McClellan gets his second chance at command at this crucial time and this is where the great organizer comes into play he is often described as a great organizer so what does that actually mean well on September 1 as Pope’s defeated army is streaming back towards the capital McClellan is given command of the defenses of Washington by Lincoln and Halleck the next day it is made clear that he is to command all of the troops around Washington including John Pope’s army this is September 2 1862 and McClellan puts on a fancy uniform he rides out and he greets some of these guys coming back to the capital some of these guys who had their spirits and their moral broken and they start to cheer him and poor John Pope has to watch now McClellan wasn’t enthusiastic about helping Pope during the second Manassas battle he said let Pope get out of his own scrape this is probably because he is frustrated at having his own army pulled off the Peninsula and he wanted to keep troops near Washington doesn’t make him right or wrong but that is the thinking going into that decision now at this time the status of the army was very bad there are thousands of stragglers all around Washington McClellan estimated that there were maybe 20,000 stragglers around the city on September 1 John Pope writes to McClellan saying “you have hardly an idea of the demoralization among officers of high rank in the Potomac army” now Lincoln’s cabinet was very much against McClellan being placed back in command and being given charge again but Lincoln really doesn’t see another option at this time it is a crisis moment for the Union “I must have McClellan to reorganize the army and bring it out of chaos” Lincoln writes that to Gideon Welles on September 5 and making matters worse as of September 3 and 4 intelligence is coming to Washington saying that Lee is preparing a move across the Potomac because even Robert E. Lee knew how bad things were at that time Lee knew that the Union army had just sustained a major defeat he knew that they were going to have to reorganize and he knew that thousands of new soldiers who had just answered the call to serve in the summer of 1862 would soon be on their way towards Washington so he wanted to strike while the iron was hot and move into Maryland early in September so while Lee is moving his army toward and across the Potomac George McClellan is building an army again he had to do this once built the original Army of the Potomac that took months the second time its going to take him five days starts on September 2 I’ve always struggled with a good way to describe what he is trying to do here you could say he has to take five different cars that are broken down on the side of the road and strip them all for spare parts and use those to fix one car you could say he is taking five different jigsaw puzzles dump all the pieces out on the table and combine them into one because McClellan is taking five different army pieces and taking the best parts from each one and building a new army a brand new army he is taking the best of the old Army of the Potomac that he had on the Peninsula Campaign he is taking two out of the three corps that John Pope had with him in the Army of Virginia at Second Manassas and he is taking the Kanawha Division commanded by Jacob Cox from Western Virginia he is taking a division from Isaac Stevens which had been in South Carolina and he is taking two divisions which had served under Ambrose Burnside’s North Carolina expedition he is building these all together into one new command now the Ninth Corps is going to be Burnside’s North Carolina expedition Cox’s Kanawha division and Stevens’s South Carolina command that is going to have some real organizational difficulties but in the midst of all this there are stragglers everywhere there are camps rounding up stragglers McClellan believes that he is going to have to out of the sheer necessity of the moment build this army and get it ready for the field some of his officer shad been arrested on charges by John Pope such as Fitz John Porter who I believe you heard about last weekend from ranger Matt Atkinson and William Franklin were brought up on charges by Pope after Second Manassas so on the day that Lee is coming in MD McClellan is writing Halleck for permission to have some of his officers to serve with him in the field again McClellan’s goals for the campaign are rooted in the condition of his army he knows that this is not an army that is a good fighting force but this is the best that he has its going to have to make do his goal for the campaign was to at the very least get Lee out of Maryland that was his goal if he stopped Lee then he could have some time to properly rebuild this army and launch a new effort aimed at stopping the war and as Joseph Harsh wrote in his book Taken at the Flood on Confederates in the campaign “the size of an army is but part measure of its strength of course just as important is its ability to fight rosters do not kill a single enemy and numbers alone do not gain victories” experience matters for these armies so what kind of experience does McClellan’s army have in the Maryland campaign these are some comparative slides here the simple version is it doesn’t stack up well to Lee’s army over 60 percent of the Army of Northern Virginia in the Maryland Campaign had been in three or more major battles less than ten percent of the Army of the Potomac had been in three or more major battles you will see here no combat experience, pretty much the entire Confederate army were veteran soldiers in this campaign for the Union army about 20 percent had no combat experience probably about 25 percent these were all soldiers who were for the most part added or answered the call in the summer of 1862 to serve in the army at that time some of these guys enlisted in mid-August and now they are marching in the field with McClellan in the MD campaign there is a significant portion of McClellan’s army in September 1862 that has less experience than Irvin McDowell’s army at First Manassas there are reports from soldiers who do not know how to fire their weapons there are reports of soldiers in the 12th corps who did not know how to go from line of march into line of battle these are things being said by their officers in the days leading up to the Battle of Antietam but it’s the best that McClellan can do what about commander experience who are the men leading these sometimes inexperienced soldiers well some of these guys are inexperienced themselves as well for the corps commanders three out of the six Union corps commanders at Antietam had never led a corps before for the Confederates we’re taking James Longstreet and Stonewall Jackson as corps commanders they weren’t officially corps commanders at that time but they were more or less acting in that capacity for brigade commanders this is key only 29 percent of Union brigade commanders had ever led a brigade in combat before and a lot of decision sin battle are made at the brigade level 75 percent thirty out of the forty Confederate brigades were led by experienced officers and you had officers in all different ranks and levels dealing with big problems for example Joseph Hooker takes command of the Union First Corps he had been a division commander in the Third Corps in the Peninsula Campaign now he is commanding the Union first corps well his correspondence leading up to Antietam is covering things like how he wants to replace one of his brigade commanders because he says he is totally unfit to lead he needs an officer of physical and intellectual force to replace him the corps sis so thinned out by battle losses and disease that he wants to consolidate all the regiments from the same states together to build up stronger regiments he is furious when he finds out that John Reynolds one of his division commanders is called north into Pennsylvania to command emergency militia that had bene raised believing that Reynolds was the only good division commander that he had he is encountering some big problems in the 9th corps all four division commander in the 9th corps in the Army of the Potomac in the Maryland campaign took command of those division in September 1862 one of them Orlando Wilcox wrote correspondence on September 10 1862 a week before Antietam asking for a list of the other division commanders in the corps he didn’t even know who the other division commanders were a week before the battle I’m seeing some faces looking at me like really? That’s true some big experience problems here of those brigade commanders 40 percent of the brigade commanders in the Army of the Potomac took command of their brigades in September 1862 so the simple point here is that George McClellan does not have a shiny brand new corvette he does not have a muscle car he has a car that is broken down on the side of the road its hood is up steam is coming out of the engine and it is up on four cinder blocks and he has to use this because it’s all that he has just interesting things to consider but September 7 McClellan begins moving his army out of DC begins moving them into the field during the campaign again he wrote he was moving forward “simply to meet the necessities of the moment by frustrating Lee’s invasion “now as he is moving through the campaign through Maryland he is receiving different intelligence reports saying that Lee has anywhere from 80-120,000 soldiers and this is important to note because you hear a lot that McClellan is himself inflating Confederate strength well yes there is some of that but he is only as good as the numbers he is being given by his cavalry officers and by officers in other ranks and other positions by September 12 and 13 the Union army is reaching Frederick MD and on September 13 Union forces make an important discovery they are given a copy of Lee’s marching orders Special Orders 191 now this is often hailed as the intelligence find of the war McClellan had Lee’s battle plan for Antietam I hear that quite often any other general would have found these and the war would have been instantly over so what actually does he have with these special orders 191 what is the reality of this situation well when Lee was in Frederick MD on September 9 he needed to get rid of a Union garrison at Harpers Ferry so he wrote out orders dividing his army and sending different pieces to get rid of Union forces at Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg in Western Virginia this operation was supposed to be wrapped up by September 12 McClellan gets these orders on September 13 so they’re four days old they’re already out of date they say nothing of Confederate troop strength only referring to things like the main body of the force which would supposedly be near Boonsboro and the orders are not accurate there have been some different movement of troops sine then so the troops weren’t where they were according to the orders it wasn’t an accurate picture of the Confederate army at that time so it’s not the intelligence find of the war perhaps it’s just a blurry picture that McClellan can use to get a little bit better understanding about what Lee is doing at that time doesn’t have anything to do with the actual fighting at Antietam it is a week before the battle when those orders were written but McClellan uses this knowledge that the Confederate army is indeed divided he takes several hours to send out scouts and cavalry patrols to try to verify the veracity of this information and at 6 pm on the 13th he issues orders for the Battle of South Mountain which would be fought the following day on some of the most difficult terrain of any Civil War battlefield McClellan has a victory at South Mountain on September 14 he attacks at several different mountain passes he gains those passes this battle changes the campaign taking momentum away from Lee and giving it to the Federals McClellan views it as a big success that he has effectively stopped Lee’s campaign and stopped his northward movement and his right in that regard because on the night of September 14 Lee is intent on retreating from MD back into Virginia perhaps McClellan was even too aggressive with his battle plan at south Mountain that’s right you just heard the words McClellan and too aggressive in the same sentence McClellan’s plan called for the Union 6th corps to burst through Campton’s Gap come down here and help liberate the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry and then if they could head north through Pleasant valley and help out at Turners and Fox’s Gaps not really realistic but it leads to a victory at South Mountain Lee ends up stopping his retreat toward Virginia near the town of Sharpsburg and he sets up there on September 15 and 16 he decides to stay in MD upon learning that Stonewall Jackson had secured the surrender of Union forces at Harpers Ferry on September 15 McClellan’s army makes their way down from the mountain and they arrive near the banks of Antietam Creek late in the day on September 15 they begin arriving there late on the 15th on the 16th of September a heavy fog is obscuring the creek that morning McClellan cant launch a battle plan without seeing where the other army is so when the fog lifts he comes up with his plan and Union forces begin moving into action and on September 17 the terrible Battle of Antietam is fought with over 23,000 people killed, wounded, or missing in action in one day the bloodiest single day in American history so Antietam what are some traditional points on the battle itself well normally when you talk about Antietam you hear things like the battle was a draw the Union army failed to use their massive reserve of soldiers two or three to one times what Lee had to destroy his army McClellan arrived on the 15th and waited two days before attacking but as I noted there was fog on the morning of the 16th and he can’t see enemy forces when the fog lists he moves his troops into action McClellan allowed Lee to escape on the 18th Confederate commanders were superior but a lot of this hinges on the idea that George McClellan had an army so big and so massive that only he could have found a way to not destroy lee and win the war so what was McClellan’s plan at Antietam and exactly how big was his army well his plan at Antietam again he draws it up on September 16 he is going to use different parts of his army newer parts of his army on the flanks of his attack he is going to take the Union 9th corps under Ambrose Burnside what you heard about last week from my buddy John Hoptak and he is going to use them on the Union left to get across Antietam Creek and press Lee’s right he is going to send the corps of Joseph Hooker and soon Joseph Mansfield 1st and 12th corps both new to McClellan the majority of the army is new to him he is using units he has not worked with before on the flanks of his battle plan. The idea is open the battle with the 1st and 12th corps against Lee’s left use right wing jabs into the left flank of the Confederate line once those jabs have either weakened Lee’s flank or forced him to take troops form other parts to reinforce that flank use Burnside and the 9th corps as a left wing hook to knock Lee out of the battle and if all is going well use the veteran reserves of the 2nd and 5th corps to push up the center of the line now that’s not exactly how the battle went when the battle begins at 6 am Joe Hooker is hammering away in the Cornfield soon Mansfield and the 12th corps are fighting there as well and the 2nd corps is sent across the creek as well the bulk of the battle is here on the Northern end of the field leaving Ambrose Burnside on his lonesome here on the southern end I’m sure John talked your ear off about Burnside last week we won’t talk about him too much today I see John laughing in the back but this shows which parts of the army McClellan is familiar with so he did have a battle plan that was pretty good the plan was designed to at least push Lee back toward the Potomac and at the best destroy his army all together but what kind of army is McClellan using to implement this plan was his army to borrow a phrase that was popular during the big financial crisis “too big to fail” while different estimates of Union strength at Antietam they vary most say that McClellan had at least 75,000 troops or more there in Landscape Turned Red Stephen Sears says about 72,000 in later articles you see numbers like 100,000 soldiers there the consensus seems to be that McClellan had at least 80,000 men there at Antietam which would seem to say that he has a two to one advantage over Lee but when we’re talking about numbers and armies we need to talk some specifics what do we mean there are two categories combat effectives and present for duty combat effectives counts the number actually fighting in battle this is the number often used for Confederate forces it is lower than present for duty it is the most accurate count of an army’s fighting strength the present for duty number that is often used for Union forces so you can see this is not an easy exercise we’re using two different categories of numbers this counts everybody in the army all the soldiers in the ranks and its often an overestimate of combat strength some in regards it is like comparing apples and oranges here for these two categories and just to summarize a few things before we get into the details of it what does the Union army actually look like in the Maryland Campaign how are these generals and Georg McClellan understanding how many men they can bring to the fight well throughout the campaign and this is true for all commanders getting accurate numbers was very difficult in fact during the campaign Lee is writing correspondence saying things like I haven’t yet gotten my full list of casualties from Second Manassas there are record books for companies that are inaccurate or missing it is tough to piece all this together straggling is a big problems for forces during the campaign for both sides its more reported for the Confederates but there was significant straggling for Union troops as well the numbers are changing dramatically during the campaign the army is at its strongest on the 10th and 30th before and after the battle at no one point before the battle was the entire Union army gathered together in the campaign McClellan never had unified strength until after the battle the highest estimate for Federal strength is about 90,000 present for duty on September 10 on that same day, according to the work of Joseph Harsh in Taken at the Flood Confederate Present for Duty strength is around 70,000 significant straggling would bring numbers down for each army this is how the numbers are fluctuating throughout the campaign using present for duty numbers on the 10th and 30th and then the combat effective strength as best we can tell on the day of the battle and these are all interesting particulars because if we are going to see McClellan was a bad general because he didn’t use this massive army we need to know if that army was quite as massive as we think and just to give you a few details about what these numbers actually look like for the army during the campaign in the Union 1st corps anybody see a pattern here declining rapidly right? Look at the day after the battle only 6,000 men in the Union first corps while at the start of the campaign they had over 15,000 men strong the numbers are dropping through the campaign getting weaker and weaker as they get to the battle of Antietam in the Union 5th corps one that was sent to McClellan as reinforcements during the campaign McClellan is famous for having a habit of constantly asking for reinforcements form his superior officers well on September 11 and 12 Lincoln and Halleck the higher ups in Washington DC they said alright McClellan alright we are going to send you the Union 5th corps they’ve got over 20,000 soldiers after all look at this return here for September 10, says they’ve got over 20,000 men we’re sending o you in the field in McClellan correspondence he is saying alright we’ve got over 20,000 reinforcements coming this is good except the problem is if you actually look at these numbers there is no way the 5th corps has over 20,000 men on that day the generals themselves inside the command are struggling to understand the strengths they have a lot of these soldiers that they thought were being sent out actually weren’t being sent out to McClellan in the field at all inaccurate reports of strength from Lincoln all the way down to corps and division commanders one thing to note this is all based off of different corps returns from the National Achieves and on September 10 the 5th corps lists you can see there 23,000 men in its ranks for the division of George Morrell on the corps report it says he has over 8,000 men but on Morrell’s own division report it says he has just under 7,000 so within the army corps there are inaccurate pictures of strength as well what does all this mean it means that when McClellan gets these soldiers in the field he probably doesn’t know exactly how many men that he has nor how many men the Confederates have another thing you hear about McClellan at Antietam is that he’s not using a vast majority of the soldiers under his command different books say that there are as many as 30,000 Union soldiers who are completely unused at Antietam well this is a percentage view of how McClellan is using his army the only part of the army that isn’t actively used in combat that day on Sept 17 1862 is Union cavalry and part of the Union fifth corps the Union sixth corps is holding the line from basically the sunken road to the North Woods on the afternoon of Sept 17 holding about a mile and a half to two miles of territory they have combat losses the 9th corps on the southern end of the field the 1st 12th and 2nd corps are chewed up on the morning of the battle there is far less than 20 percent of the Union army that is held in reserve at Antietam now what’s the total figure for the Union forces there well in coming up with this number I had to use the work of Ezra Carman how many folks in here are familiar with the name Ezra Carman ok a good number of you for those who aren’t Ezra Carman was a colonel in the 13th NJ at the battle of Antietam and he is basically Antietam’s version of John Bachelder who we had here at Gettysburg he is the first real historian of Antietam years after the battle he is compiling a history of Antietam from accounts from all sorts of different veterans and he is coming up with roughly how many soldiers each side had and writing a history of the battle well I noticed when going through Carman’s numbers some of them weren’t quite accurate they were leaving something out so I used some of the corps and division returns from the National Archives and I came up with this for the breakdown for the Union army about 70,000 soldiers overall for the Union army at Antietam effective strength but here’s the catch I don’t think McClellan knows how many men he has and this is an area where McClellan is his own worst enemy in his official report on the Antietam Campaign McClellan gives his strength at 87,000 men in the McClellan papers in the Library of Congress there is a detailed chart listing the strength of the Army of the Potomac at Antietam listing it at 101,000 men that’s a lot higher than 70,000 I think if McClellan actually had known that he had fewer than 87,000 well let me ask you do you think George McClellan if he had known that he had fewer soldiers than everybody else thought do you think he would have kept that a secret no I think he would have been writing letters to Lincoln saying don’t you realize what I just did with far fewer soldiers than anybody else thought I had I don’t think McClellan realizes how low his army actually was due to straggling due to various things and on the day of the battle his strength is fluctuating wildly this is something we encounter here at Gettysburg when we are talking about total troop strength for the battle we give figures like 90,000 for the Army of the Potomac or 70,000 for the Army of Northern Virginia but was there ever a time when all those soldiers were ever here at once? No there are not all here at once on July 1 and by the time the rest of those troops have arrived there have been significant battle losses weakening the armies so how many men does McClellan have at the start of the day about 54,000 soldiers are present halfway through the battle of Antietam more reinforcements have arrived for him the Union 6th Corps the rest of the Union 5th corps or another division of the Union fifth corps but his strength really hasn’t risen that much because he has lost so many troops in battle so his overall strength is about 70,000 but he never had more than 60,000 there at any one time hopefully this is beginning to give us a little bit clearer picture of what George McClellan was really facing as an army commander at Antietam he had an army with significant experience problems an army that was actually weaker than even he thought with strength’s fluctuating throughout the day so I would say his army really isn’t this massive force that history has made it out to be well what about September 18th why does he not attack well at the end of the day on the 17th with over 23,000 casualties on the field McClellan’s impulse that night is to continue the battle the next day continue on the fight he takes stock of his army that night notices heavy losses in the 1st 2nd 9th and 12th army corps the attack would have to rely on the 5th and 6thcorps the 5th corps wasn’t all there yet they were hoping for reinforcements to arrive from Humphreys’s division but by the time these reinforcements and others arrived they had made a night march up and over mountains they really weren’t in any condition to fight now this note here this is something very interesting that I came across years ago in the McClellan papers on the top it has a list of soldiers in the Union 5th corps and the division of Darius Couch about 21,000 soldiers the one thing these soldiers all have in common is none of them were used in combat on the 17th of September down below you have a list of officers with things like killed mortally wounded or wounded badly next to them from the best that I can tell there is no date on this this is someone on McClellan’s staff or McClellan himself on the night of the 17th or early on the 18th coming up with a list on what the army has left whether in fresh troops or making a list of the different officers the army has lost so you can see here there is a calculation of trying to figure out who was killed who was wounded one reason why I think this was right after the battle is it says here George Hartsuff mortally wounded he didn’t die he survived his wounds and Rodman it says wounded badly he did die of his wounds a week or two after the battle so this must have been soon after the battle otherwise those labels would be switched so its more proof that McClellan is working through different things gears are turning in his mind trying to figure out whether he is going to attack on the 18th ultimately with this list of officers killed his reinforcements arriving exhausted he doesn’t believe that this is strength enough for him to continue the fight and as D. Scott Hartwig wrote a name familiar to many here had McClellan attacked again on the 18th a major element of his attacking force would have been the newly arrived division of Andrew Humphreys which consisted of seven raw regiments and one trained regiment hardly an assault force to give a commanding general confidence so perhaps we should think twice before labeling McClellan’s decision to not renew the fight on the 18th an act of cowardice perhaps we should think twice before saying he blew a huge golden chance to win the war and consider some of these particulars so what was McClellan’s perspective what kind of things do we need to think about here well studying the Army of the Potomac in the Maryland Campaign provides a much clearer picture of the realities of September 1862 it’s important to understand a general’s army that he is using to fight if we are going to form opinions of that general especially critical opinions the Army of the Potomac was not a well-oiled machine in the MD campaign we often don’t take these things into account when forming our judgments of commanders McClellan was certainly far from a perfect commander but he is not the caricature that history has painted him out to be I could do a long list of different things that McClellan didn’t do right in this campaign but a lot of people are already familiar with those things one of them is McClellan doesn’t write out his battle orders at Antietam doesn’t give everybody a unified plan to work off of he has communication problems he has personality problems as you heard last week he doesn’t get along very well with Burnside after the battle trying to push off blame on Burnside but he is not the caricature history has made him out to be so what is McClellan’s perspective at Antietam in early September he quickly rebuilt the Army of the Potomac in a time of great stress he likely did not know the exact number of his army at the battle and to be honest we probably don’t know the exact number today either if McClellan did have a two to one advantage neither he nor his army officers knew it he did not have 70,000 soldiers together to fight until after the battle he did know the army was in rough shape due to straggling new commanders he only believed his army was ready for the field because of necessity and why doesn’t he risk more this is a crucial question why doesn’t he push the envelope why doesn’t he risk more during the campaign its for all the reasons we’ve just described he has an army that lacks experience has strength problems lacks experience with commanders all sorts of issues with the army he believes this army is only good enough to push Lee out of Maryland and that’s about it now we can disagree with him but its important to take his own calculations into account here now after the battle McClellan keeps his army in Western Maryland for quite some time Lincoln famously comes to visit him in early October and quips that the Army of the Potomac is just General McClellan’s bodyguard we are all familiar with the Lincoln-McClellan spat with the quips back and forth Lincoln asking McClellan what have your horses done since the battle of Antietam to be fatigued of anything things of that sort but there is something to be said of McClellan performing well in the Maryland Campaign he rebuilt this army quickly he moved it through the state of Maryland in the span of ten days he had two victories at South Mountain and Antietam and when Confederates are going back across the Potomac he pursues them there is a battle at Shepherdstown West Virginia on the 19th and 20th of September Lee responds pretty fiercely at Shepherdstown pushes back McClellan’s response and pursuit and Lee gets safely away back into VA but it should be noted there is a pursuit after Antietam that leads to the Battle of Shepherdstown McClellan was able to stop Lee’s campaign achieve his own strategic goals pivot and prepare for a new campaign but here is the problem he doesn’t keep his job because as I just said he meets his own strategic goals this is where we get back to what we were talking about earlier with Lincoln and McClellan as Whigs Abraham Lincoln wants more he is the commander in chief five days after Antietam he issues the Emancipation Proclamation the preliminary version declaring that all slaves in those southern states would be then thenceforward and forever free McClellan’s not a big fan of that McClellan sees the Emancipation Proclamation as inviting servile insurrection in his opinion the war is already going to end with the death of slavery why do something like this to upset the balance why do something like this to push the south further away it doesn’t go along with McClellan’s conciliation ideas his ideas of a soft war and much as there is a big fracture in this photograph their relationship is fractured see I didn’t want one of the clean ones without the fracture in it cause I thought I’m going to use that see what I did there but their relationship has a fracture in it and I would say after the preliminary emancipation Proclamation has been issued even though McClellan did a good job in the Maryland Campaign he had a victory at Antietam he is no longer fit to be the commander of this army because he does not agree fundamentally with Lincoln this is a disagreement that goes back to their political philosophies before the war let alone their personality differences a new campaign is soon launched Lincoln wants McClellan to get in-between Lee and Richmond he wants to block off his communication McClellan will reluctantly move into the Loudon Valley moving down to try to get in between Lee and Richmond but once Lee is able to get James Longstreet to Culpepper to block off the route that Lincoln wanted McClellan to take that was it for George McClellan really at that point it’s only a waiting game after the mid-term elections Lincoln can finally fire this very popular general and on November 7 McClellan is in his tent late that evening writing a letter home to his wife halfway through the letter he has to pause because he receives his orders removing him from command this was not something that a lot of soldiers in the Army of the Potomac wanted a lot of them were very upset that their beloved George McClellan was relieved of command and for the next several months even into the Gettysburg Campaign you can read accounts of these rumors popping their way up saying McClellan is back in command and the troops will throw their hats in the air and rejoice again because he was very popular with his men they loved him but he is no longer the commander fit to lead the Army of the Potomac despite him doing better than we often give him credit for in the Maryland Campaign because of his strategic and philosophical differences with the president the president sets the policy the generals in the field follow it McClellan is dismissed he has several days saying goodbye to the different officers under his command there is a reception for his staff on November 9 on November 10 there is a final review of his men perhaps history “would do justice to the Army of the Potomac even if the present generation does not” I would say that history has not done justice to the Army of the Potomac in the Maryland Campaign they achieved far more with far less than we often give them credit for it should be noted that you hear sometimes talk about an uprising in the army whether McClellan could have led a coup against the administration form within the army different voices of discontent for all the talk McClellan never ever acted on it he never did anything and the thought that he ever would lead an overthrow of the government using the army to push Lincoln out of power is fundamentally opposed to his core beliefs this is a guy who doesn’t want to upset things too much is he really going to lead the army in an overthrow of the government? No that is against his core beliefs as a Whig he believes in moderation and reason not passion and violence the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say he is the Democratic presidential nominee in 1864 he never again has an active service in the Civil War he travels to Europe he is the Chief engineer of the New York City department of docks he works in the railroads again becomes the Governor of New Jersey tries to make a play for a national political spot supports Grover Cleveland for president in 1884 never gets that national political post he is writing his memoirs when in 1885 he dies at the age of 58 and his memoirs are published posthumously in 1887 so in wrapping up what are some things others have said about George McClellan what about the two most famous generals of the war well for Lee once when he was asked by his cousin Cassius Lee which Union commander he thought to have been the greatest Lee responded McClellan by all odds now I’ve heard it said by some that this is Lee being sarcastic but to me that strikes me as a little odd because I don’t think of Lee as a man making sarcastic snide remarks what about Grant in the late 1870s he said of McClellan “he is to me one of the mysteries of the war it has always seemed to me that the critics of McClellan do not consider this vast and cruel responsibility the war was a new thing to all of us the army new everything to do from the outset with a restless people in congress McClellan was a young man when this devolved upon him and he did not succeed it was because the conditions of success were so trying if McClellan had gone into the war as Sherman Thomas or Meade had fought his way along and up I have no reason to suppose that he would not have won as high a distinction as any of us reminds us that McClellan skyrocketed to general in chief at the age of 34 he doesn’t have much time to learn while he is on the job and the last word on the campaign comes from historian Joe Harsh if you’ve never read Joe Harsh’s books go read them they are excellent also another great book on this is McClellan’s War by Ethan Rafuse provides a different perspective on all this but Joe Harsh his books have been very important for me and my learning curve as I said when I started at Antietam I thought McClellan was an absolute traitor I thought he was horrible but it was when I began to read these books by Joe Harsh and go on tours with people like John Hoptak corrupting my mind that I began to second guess my own opinions and really that’s all I’m asking for here today perhaps just reevalute why we think the things that we think I will leave you with these two quotes from Joe Harsh the first one from his article on the McClellan Go Round Civil War History 1973 “It seems more honest, more human, and more historical to view McClellan as a man with at least some control over his own conduct and some commitment to ideas beyond his own selfishness and ambition. It ought not be necessary for our present generation to agree with McClellan’s conservative aims in order to understand them—and him—and to get him off of his merry-go-round of make believe controversy” and the second one from Harsh’s book Taken at the Flood on Confederate strategy in the Maryland Campaign “Soldiers are not brightly colored pins, and the hills they climb and the rivers they wade are not the flat, smooth paper of maps. Commanding a large 19th century army and getting it to do what was wanted when it was wanted, and staying in good shape while doing it, was not an easy task—not for George McClellan and not for Robert E. Lee” Thank you very much thanks for coming out


Early life and career

George Brinton McClellan was born in Philadelphia, the son of a prominent surgeon, Dr. George McClellan, the founder of Jefferson Medical College.[2] His father's family was of Scottish heritage.[3] His mother was Elizabeth Sophia Steinmetz Brinton McClellan (1800–1889), daughter of a leading Pennsylvania family, a woman noted for her "considerable grace and refinement".[4] The couple had five children: a daughter, Frederica; then three sons, John, George, and Arthur; and finally a second daughter, Mary. McClellan was the great-grandson of Revolutionary War general Samuel McClellan of Woodstock, Connecticut.

McClellan attended the University of Pennsylvania in 1840 at age twelve, resigning himself to the study of law. After two years, he changed his goal to military service. With the assistance of his father's letter to President John Tyler, young George was accepted at the United States Military Academy in 1842, the academy having waived its normal minimum age of sixteen.[5]

At West Point, he was an energetic and ambitious cadet, deeply interested in the teachings of Dennis Hart Mahan and the theoretical strategic principles of Antoine-Henri Jomini. His closest friends were aristocratic Southerners such as James Stuart, Dabney Maury, Cadmus Wilcox, and A. P. Hill. These associations gave McClellan what he considered to be an appreciation of the Southern mind and an understanding of the political and military implications of the sectional differences in the United States that led to the Civil War.[6] He graduated at age nineteen in 1846, second in his class of 59 cadets, losing the top position to Charles Seaforth Stewart only because of poor drawing skills.[7] He was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.[1]

Mexican American War

McClellan's first assignment was with a company of engineers formed at West Point, but he quickly received orders to sail for the Mexican War. He arrived near the mouth of the Rio Grande in October 1846, well prepared for action with a double-barreled shotgun, two pistols, a saber, a dress sword, and a Bowie knife. He complained that he had arrived too late to take any part in the American victory at Monterrey in September. During a temporary armistice in which the forces of Gen. Zachary Taylor awaited action, McClellan was stricken with dysentery and malaria, which kept him in the hospital for nearly a month. The malaria would recur in later years—he called it his "Mexican disease".[8] He served as an engineering officer during the war, was frequently subject to enemy fire, and was appointed a brevet first lieutenant for his services at Contreras and Churubusco and to captain for his service at Chapultepec.[1] He performed reconnaissance missions for Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott, a close friend of McClellan's father.[9]

McClellan's experiences in the war would shape his military and political life. He learned that flanking movements (used by Scott at Cerro Gordo) are often better than frontal assaults, and the value of siege operations (Veracruz). He witnessed Scott's success in balancing political with military affairs, and his good relations with the civil population as he invaded, enforcing strict discipline on his soldiers to minimize damage to property. McClellan also developed a disdain for volunteer soldiers and officers, particularly politicians who cared nothing for discipline and training.[10]

Peacetime service

McClellan returned to West Point to command his engineering company, which was attached to the academy for the purpose of training cadets in engineering activities. He chafed at the boredom of peacetime garrison service, although he greatly enjoyed the social life. In June 1851, he was ordered to Fort Delaware, a masonry work under construction on an island in the Delaware River, forty miles (65 km) downriver from Philadelphia. In March 1852, he was ordered to report to Capt. Randolph B. Marcy at Fort Smith, Arkansas, to serve as second-in-command on an expedition to discover the sources of the Red River. By June the expedition reached the source of the north fork of the river and Marcy named a small tributary McClellan's Creek. Upon their return to civilization on July 28, they were astonished to find that they had been given up for dead. A sensational story had reached the press that the expedition had been ambushed by 2,000 Comanches and killed to the last man. McClellan blamed the story on "a set of scoundrels, who seek to keep up agitation on the frontier in order to get employment from the Govt. in one way or other".[11]

In the fall of 1852, McClellan published a manual on bayonet tactics that he had translated from the original French. He also received an assignment to the Department of Texas, with orders to perform a survey of Texas rivers and harbors. In 1853 he participated in the Pacific Railroad surveys, ordered by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, to select an appropriate route for the planned transcontinental railroad. McClellan surveyed the western portion of the northern corridor along the 47th and 49th parallels from St. Paul to the Puget Sound. In doing so, he demonstrated a tendency for insubordination toward senior political figures. Isaac Stevens, governor of the Washington Territory, became dissatisfied with McClellan's performance in his scouting of passes across the Cascade Range.

McClellan selected Yakima Pass (47°20′11″N 121°25′57″W / 47.3365°N 121.4324°W / 47.3365; -121.4324) without a thorough reconnaissance and refused the governor's order to lead a party through it in winter conditions, relying on faulty intelligence about the depth of snow pack in that area. In so doing, he missed three greatly superior passes in the near vicinity, which were eventually used for railroads and interstate highways. The governor ordered McClellan to turn over his expedition logbooks, but McClellan steadfastly refused, most likely because of embarrassing personal comments that he had made throughout his adventures.[12]

Returning to the East, McClellan began courting his future wife, Mary Ellen Marcy (1836–1915), the daughter of his former commander. Ellen, or Nelly, refused McClellan's first proposal of marriage, one of nine that she received from a variety of suitors, including his West Point friend, A. P. Hill. Ellen accepted Hill's proposal in 1856, but her family did not approve and he withdrew.[13]

In June 1854, McClellan was sent on a secret reconnaissance mission to Santo Domingo at the behest of Jefferson Davis. McClellan assessed local defensive capabilities for the secretary. (The information was not used until 1870, when President Ulysses S. Grant unsuccessfully attempted to annex the Dominican Republic.) Davis was beginning to treat McClellan almost as a protégé, and his next assignment was to assess the logistical readiness of various railroads in the United States, once again with an eye toward planning for the transcontinental railroad.[14] In March 1855, McClellan was promoted to captain and assigned to the 1st U.S. Cavalry regiment.[1]

Because of his political connections and his mastery of French, McClellan received the assignment to be an official observer of the European armies in the Crimean War in 1855. Traveling widely, and interacting with the highest military commands and royal families, McClellan observed the siege of Sevastopol. Upon his return to the United States in 1856 he requested assignment in Philadelphia to prepare his report, which contained a critical analysis of the siege and a lengthy description of the organization of the European armies. He also wrote a manual on cavalry tactics that was based on Russian cavalry regulations. Like other observers, though, McClellan did not appreciate the importance of the emergence of rifled muskets in the Crimean War, and the fundamental changes in warfare tactics it would require.[15]

The Army adopted McClellan's cavalry manual and also his design for a saddle, dubbed the McClellan Saddle, which he claimed to have seen used by Hussars in Prussia and Hungary. It became standard issue for as long as the U.S. horse cavalry existed and is still used for ceremonies.

Civilian pursuits

George B. McClellan and Mary Ellen Marcy (Nelly) McClellan
George B. McClellan and Mary Ellen Marcy (Nelly) McClellan

McClellan resigned his commission January 16, 1857, and, capitalizing on his experience with railroad assessment, became chief engineer and vice president of the Illinois Central Railroad, and then president of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad in 1860. He performed well in both jobs, expanding the Illinois Central toward New Orleans and helping the Ohio and Mississippi recover from the Panic of 1857. Despite his successes and lucrative salary ($10,000 per year), he was frustrated with civilian employment and continued to study classical military strategy assiduously. During the Utah War against the Mormons, he considered rejoining the Army. He also considered service as a filibuster in support of Benito Juárez in Mexico.[16]

Before the outbreak of the Civil War, McClellan became active in politics, supporting the presidential campaign of Democrat Stephen A. Douglas in the 1860 election. He claimed to have defeated an attempt at vote fraud by Republicans by ordering the delay of a train that was carrying men to vote illegally in another county, enabling Douglas to win the county.[17]

In October 1859 McClellan was able to resume his courtship of Mary Ellen, and they were married in Calvary Church, New York City, on May 22, 1860.[18]

Civil War

Ohio and strategy

At the start of the Civil War, McClellan's knowledge of what was called "big war science" and his railroad experience suggested he might excel at military logistics. This placed him in great demand as the Union mobilized. The governors of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, the three largest states of the Union, actively pursued him to command their states' militia. Ohio Governor William Dennison was the most persistent, so McClellan was commissioned a major general of volunteers and took command of the Ohio militia on April 23, 1861. Unlike some of his fellow Union officers who came from abolitionist families, he was opposed to federal interference with slavery. For this reason, some of his Southern colleagues approached him informally about siding with the Confederacy, but he could not accept the concept of secession.[19]

On May 3 McClellan re-entered federal service as commander of the Department of the Ohio, responsible for the defense of the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and, later, western Pennsylvania, western Virginia, and Missouri. On May 14, he was commissioned a major general in the regular army. At age 34, he outranked everyone in the Army except Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott, the general-in-chief. McClellan's rapid promotion was partly due to his acquaintance with Salmon P. Chase, Treasury Secretary and former Ohio governor and senator.[20]

As McClellan scrambled to process the thousands of men who were volunteering for service and to set up training camps, he also applied his mind to grand strategy. He wrote a letter to Gen. Scott on April 27, four days after assuming command in Ohio, that presented the first proposal for a strategy for the war. It contained two alternatives, each envisioning a prominent role for himself as commander. The first would use 80,000 men to invade Virginia through the Kanawha Valley toward Richmond. The second would use the same force to drive south instead, crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky and Tennessee. Scott rejected both plans as logistically unfeasible. Although he complimented McClellan and expressed his "great confidence in your intelligence, zeal, science, and energy", he replied by letter that the 80,000 men would be better used on a river-based expedition to control the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy, accompanied by a strong Union blockade of Southern ports. This plan, which would require considerable patience of the Northern public, was derided in newspapers as the Anaconda Plan, but eventually proved to be the outline of the successful prosecution of the war. Relations between the two generals became increasingly strained over the summer and fall.[21]

Western Virginia

McClellan's first military operations were to occupy the area of western Virginia that wanted to remain in the Union and subsequently became the state of West Virginia. He had received intelligence reports on May 26 that the critical Baltimore and Ohio Railroad bridges in that portion of the state were being burned. As he quickly implemented plans to invade the region, he triggered his first serious political controversy by proclaiming to the citizens there that his forces had no intentions of interfering with personal property—including slaves. "Notwithstanding all that has been said by the traitors to induce you to believe that our advent among you will be signalized by interference with your slaves, understand one thing clearly—not only will we abstain from all such interference but we will on the contrary with an iron hand, crush any attempted insurrection on their part." He quickly realized that he had overstepped his bounds and apologized by letter to President Lincoln. The controversy was not that his proclamation was diametrically opposed to the administration's policy at the time, but that he was so bold in stepping beyond his strictly military role.[22]

His forces moved rapidly into the area through Grafton and were victorious at the tiny skirmish called the Battle of Philippi, arguably the first land conflict of the war. His first personal command in battle was at Rich Mountain, which he also won, but only after displaying a strong sense of caution and a reluctance to commit reserve forces that would be his hallmark for the rest of his career. His subordinate commander, William S. Rosecrans, bitterly complained that his attack was not reinforced as McClellan had agreed.[23] Nevertheless, these two minor victories propelled McClellan to the status of national hero.[24] The New York Herald entitled an article about him "Gen. McClellan, the Napoleon of the Present War".[25]

Building an army

Patriotic cover honoring the arrival of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan in Washington, D.C., on July 26, 1861
Patriotic cover honoring the arrival of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan in Washington, D.C., on July 26, 1861

After the defeat of the Union forces at Bull Run on July 21, 1861, Lincoln summoned McClellan from western Virginia, where McClellan had given the North the only engagements bearing a semblance of victory. He traveled by special train on the main Pennsylvania line from Wheeling through Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, and on to Washington City, and was greeted by enthusiastic crowds that met his train along the way.[26]

Carl Sandburg wrote, "McClellan was the man of the hour, pointed to by events, and chosen by an overwhelming weight of public and private opinion."[27] On July 26, the day he reached the capital, McClellan was appointed commander of the Military Division of the Potomac, the main Union force responsible for the defense of Washington. On August 20, several military units in Virginia were consolidated into his department and he immediately formed the Army of the Potomac, with himself as its first commander.[28] He reveled in his newly acquired power and influence:[26]

I find myself in a new and strange position here—Presdt, Cabinet, Genl Scott & all deferring to me—by some strange operation of magic I seem to have become the power of the land. ... I almost think that were I to win some small success now I could become Dictator or anything else that might please me—but nothing of that kind would please me—therefore I won't be Dictator. Admirable self-denial!

— George B. McClellan, letter to Ellen, July 26, 1861
General George B. McClellan with staff & dignitaries (from left to right): Gen. George W. Morell, Lt. Col. A.V. Colburn, Gen. McClellan, Lt. Col. N.B. Sweitzer, Prince de Joinville (son of King Louis Phillippe of France), and on the very right – the prince's nephew, Count de Paris
General George B. McClellan with staff & dignitaries (from left to right): Gen. George W. Morell, Lt. Col. A.V. Colburn, Gen. McClellan, Lt. Col. N.B. Sweitzer, Prince de Joinville (son of King Louis Phillippe of France), and on the very right – the prince's nephew, Count de Paris

During the summer and fall, McClellan brought a high degree of organization to his new army, and greatly improved its morale with frequent trips to review and encourage his units. It was a remarkable achievement, in which he came to personify the Army of the Potomac and reaped the adulation of his men.[29] He created defenses for Washington that were almost impregnable, consisting of 48 forts and strong points, with 480 guns manned by 7,200 artillerists.[30] The Army of the Potomac grew in number from 50,000 in July to 168,000 in November, becoming the largest military force the United States had raised until that time.[27] But this was also a time of tension in the high command, as he continued to quarrel frequently with the government and the general-in-chief, Lt. Gen. Scott, on matters of strategy. McClellan rejected the tenets of Scott's Anaconda Plan, favoring instead an overwhelming grand battle, in the Napoleonic style. He proposed that his army should be expanded to 273,000 men and 600 guns and "crush the rebels in one campaign". He favored a war that would impose little impact on civilian populations and require no emancipation of slaves.

McClellan's antipathy to emancipation added to the pressure on him, as he received bitter criticism from Radical Republicans in the government.[31] He viewed slavery as an institution recognized in the Constitution, and entitled to federal protection wherever it existed (Lincoln held the same public position until August 1862).[32] McClellan's writings after the war were typical of many Northerners: "I confess to a prejudice in favor of my own race, & can't learn to like the odor of either Billy goats or niggers."[30] But in November 1861, he wrote to his wife, "I will, if successful, throw my sword onto the scale to force an improvement in the condition of those poor blacks." He later wrote that had it been his place to arrange the terms of peace, he would have insisted on gradual emancipation, guarding the rights of both slaves and masters, as part of any settlement. But he made no secret of his opposition to the radical Republicans. He told Ellen, "I will not fight for the abolitionists." This put him in opposition with officials of the administration who believed he was attempting to implement the policies of the opposition party.[33]

The immediate problem with McClellan's war strategy was that he was convinced the Confederates were ready to attack him with overwhelming numbers. On August 8, believing that the Confederacy had over 100,000 troops facing him (in contrast to the 35,000 they had actually deployed at Bull Run a few weeks earlier), he declared a state of emergency in the capital. By August 19, he estimated 150,000 rebel soldiers on his front. McClellan's subsequent campaigns were strongly influenced by the overblown enemy strength estimates of his secret service chief, detective Allan Pinkerton, but in August 1861, these estimates were entirely McClellan's own. The result was a level of extreme caution that sapped the initiative of McClellan's army and dismayed the government. Historian and biographer Stephen W. Sears observed that McClellan's actions would have been "essentially sound" for a commander who was as outnumbered as McClellan thought he was, but McClellan in fact rarely had less than a two-to-one advantage over the armies that opposed him in 1861 and 1862. That fall, for example, Confederate forces ranged from 35,000 to 60,000, whereas the Army of the Potomac in September numbered 122,000 men; in early December 170,000; by year end, 192,000.[34]

The dispute with Scott became increasingly personal. Scott (as well as many in the War Department) was outraged that McClellan refused to divulge any details about his strategic planning, or even such basic information as the strengths and dispositions of his units. McClellan claimed he could not trust anyone in the administration to keep his plans secret from the press, and thus the enemy. In the course of a disagreement about defensive forces on the Potomac River, McClellan wrote to his wife on August 10: "Genl Scott is the great obstacle—he will not comprehend the danger & is either a traitor, or an incompetent. I have to fight my way against him."[35] Scott became so disillusioned with the young general that he offered his resignation to President Lincoln, who initially refused to accept it. Rumors traveled through the capital that McClellan might resign, or instigate a military coup, if Scott were not removed. Lincoln's Cabinet met on October 18 and agreed to accept Scott's resignation for "reasons of health".[36]

However, the subsequently formed Army of the Potomac had high morale and was extremely proud of their general, some even referring to McClellan as the saviour of Washington. He prevented the army's morale from collapsing at least twice, in the aftermath of the First and Second Battles of Bull Run. Many historians argue that he was talented in this aspect.


"Quaker guns" (logs used as ruses to imitate cannons) in former Confederate fortifications at Manassas Junction
"Quaker guns" (logs used as ruses to imitate cannons) in former Confederate fortifications at Manassas Junction

On November 1, 1861, Winfield Scott retired and McClellan became general-in-chief of all the Union armies. The president expressed his concern about the "vast labor" involved in the dual role of army commander and general-in-chief, but McClellan responded, "I can do it all."[36]

Lincoln, as well as many other leaders and citizens of the northern states, became increasingly impatient with McClellan's slowness to attack the Confederate forces still massed near Washington. The Union defeat at the minor Battle of Ball's Bluff near Leesburg in October added to the frustration and indirectly damaged McClellan. In December, the Congress formed a Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, which became a thorn in the side of many generals throughout the war, accusing them of incompetence and, in some cases, treason. McClellan was called as the first witness on December 23, but he contracted typhoid fever and could not attend. Instead, his subordinate officers testified, and their candid admissions that they had no knowledge of specific strategies for advancing against the Confederates raised many calls for McClellan's dismissal.[37]

McClellan further damaged his reputation by his insulting insubordination to his commander-in-chief. He privately referred to Lincoln, whom he had known before the war as a lawyer for the Illinois Central, as "nothing more than a well-meaning baboon", a "gorilla", and "ever unworthy of ... his high position".[38] On November 13, he snubbed the president, who had come to visit McClellan's house, by making him wait for 30 minutes, only to be told that the general had gone to bed and could not receive him.[39]

On January 10, Lincoln met with top generals (McClellan did not attend) and directed them to formulate a plan of attack, expressing his exasperation with General McClellan with the following remark: "If General McClellan does not want to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a time."[40] On January 12, 1862, McClellan was summoned to the White House, where the Cabinet demanded to hear his war plans. For the first time, he revealed his intentions to transport the Army of the Potomac by ship to Urbanna, Virginia, on the Rappahannock River, outflanking the Confederate forces near Washington, and proceeding 50 miles (80 km) overland to capture Richmond. He refused to give any specific details of the proposed campaign, even to his friend, newly appointed War Secretary Edwin M. Stanton. On January 27, Lincoln issued an order that required all of his armies to begin offensive operations by February 22, Washington's birthday. On January 31, he issued a supplementary order for the Army of the Potomac to move overland to attack the Confederates at Manassas Junction and Centreville. McClellan immediately replied with a 22-page letter objecting in detail to the president's plan and advocating instead his Urbanna plan, which was the first written instance of the plan's details being presented to the president. Although Lincoln believed his plan was superior, he was relieved that McClellan finally agreed to begin moving, and reluctantly approved. On March 8, doubting McClellan's resolve, Lincoln again interfered with the army commander's prerogatives. He called a council of war at the White House in which McClellan's subordinates were asked about their confidence in the Urbanna plan. They expressed their confidence to varying degrees. After the meeting, Lincoln issued another order, naming specific officers as corps commanders to report to McClellan (who had been reluctant to do so prior to assessing his division commanders' effectiveness in combat, even though this would have meant his direct supervision of twelve divisions in the field).[41]

Two more crises would confront McClellan before he could implement his plans. The Confederate forces under General Joseph E. Johnston withdrew from their positions before Washington, assuming new positions south of the Rappahannock, which completely nullified the Urbanna strategy. McClellan revised his plans to have his troops disembark at Fort Monroe, Virginia, and advance up the Virginia Peninsula to Richmond, an operation that would be known as the Peninsula Campaign. Then, however, McClellan came under extreme criticism in the press and Congress when it was learned that Johnston's forces had not only slipped away unnoticed, but had for months fooled the Union Army with logs painted black to appear as cannons, nicknamed Quaker Guns. Congress's joint committee visited the abandoned Confederate lines and radical Republicans introduced a resolution demanding the dismissal of McClellan, but it was narrowly defeated by a parliamentary maneuver.[42] The second crisis was the emergence of the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia, which threw Washington into a panic and made naval support operations on the James River seem problematic.

On March 11, 1862, Lincoln removed McClellan as general-in-chief, leaving him in command of only the Army of the Potomac, ostensibly so that McClellan would be free to devote all his attention to the move on Richmond. Lincoln's order was ambiguous as to whether McClellan might be restored following a successful campaign. In fact, the general-in-chief position was left unfilled. Lincoln, Stanton, and a group of officers who formed the "War Board" directed the strategic actions of the Union armies that spring. Although McClellan was assuaged by supportive comments Lincoln made to him, in time he saw the change of command very differently, describing it as a part of an intrigue "to secure the failure of the approaching campaign".[43]

Peninsula Campaign

Peninsula Campaign, map of events up to the Battle of Seven Pines   Confederate   Union
Peninsula Campaign, map of events up to the Battle of Seven Pines
Seven Days Battles, June 25 – July 1, 1862
Seven Days Battles, June 25 – July 1, 1862

McClellan's army began to sail from Alexandria on March 17. It was an armada that dwarfed all previous American expeditions, transporting 121,500 men, 44 artillery batteries, 1,150 wagons, over 15,000 horses, and tons of equipment and supplies. An English observer remarked that it was the "stride of a giant".[44] The army's advance from Fort Monroe up the Virginia Peninsula proved to be slow. McClellan's plan for a rapid seizure of Yorktown was foiled when he discovered that the Confederates had fortified a line across the Peninsula, causing him to decide on a siege of the city, which required considerable preparation.

McClellan continued to believe intelligence reports that credited the Confederates with two or three times the men they actually had. Early in the campaign, Confederate General John B. "Prince John" Magruder defended the Peninsula against McClellan's advance with a vastly smaller force. He created a false impression of many troops behind the lines and of even more troops arriving. He accomplished this by marching small groups of men repeatedly past places where they could be observed at a distance or were just out of sight, accompanied by great noise and fanfare.[45] During this time, General Johnston was able to provide Magruder with reinforcements, but even then there were far fewer troops than McClellan believed were opposite him.

After a month of preparation, just before he was to assault the Confederate works at Yorktown, McClellan learned that Johnston had withdrawn up the Peninsula towards Williamsburg. McClellan was thus required to give chase without any benefit of the heavy artillery so carefully amassed in front of Yorktown. The Battle of Williamsburg on May 5 is considered a Union victory—McClellan's first—but the Confederate army was not destroyed and a bulk of their troops were successfully moved past Williamsburg to Richmond's outer defenses while the battle was waged and for several days thereafter.[46]

McClellan had also placed hopes on a simultaneous naval approach to Richmond via the James River. That approach failed following the Union Navy's defeat at the Battle of Drewry's Bluff, about 7 miles (11 km) downstream from the Confederate capital, on May 15. Basing artillery on a strategic bluff high above a bend in the river, and sinking boats to create an impassable series of obstacles in the river itself, the Confederates effectively blocked this potential approach to Richmond.[47]

McClellan's army cautiously inched towards Richmond over the next three weeks, coming to within four miles (6 km) of it. He established a supply base on the Pamunkey River (a navigable tributary of the York River) at White House Landing where the Richmond and York River Railroad extending to Richmond crossed, and commandeered the railroad, transporting steam locomotives and rolling stock to the site by barge.[48]

On May 31, as McClellan planned an assault, his army was surprised by a Confederate attack. Johnston saw that the Union army was split in half by the rain-swollen Chickahominy River and hoped to defeat it in detail at Seven Pines and Fair Oaks. McClellan was unable to command the army personally because of a recurrence of malarial fever, but his subordinates were able to repel the attacks. Nevertheless, McClellan received criticism from Washington for not counterattacking, which some believed could have opened the city of Richmond to capture. Johnston was wounded in the battle, and General Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan spent the next three weeks repositioning his troops and waiting for promised reinforcements, losing valuable time as Lee continued to strengthen Richmond's defenses.[49]

At the end of June, Lee began a series of attacks that became known as the Seven Days Battles. The first major battle, at Mechanicsville, was poorly coordinated by Lee and his subordinates and resulted in heavy casualties for little tactical gain. However the battle had a significant impact on McClellan's nerve. The surprise appearance of Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson's troops in the battle (when they had last been reported to be many miles away in the Shenandoah Valley) convinced McClellan that he was even more outnumbered than he had thought. He reported to Washington that he faced 200,000 Confederates (the actual number was 85,000.)[50]

Federal troops under heavy attack at the Battle of Gaines's Mill, sketched by Alfred R. Waud and published in Harper's Weekly, July 26, 1862
Federal troops under heavy attack at the Battle of Gaines's Mill, sketched by Alfred R. Waud and published in Harper's Weekly, July 26, 1862

As Lee continued his offensive at Gaines's Mill to the east, McClellan played a passive role, taking no initiative and waiting for events to unfold. He kept two thirds of his army out of action, fooled again by Magruder's theatrical diversionary tactics.[51] That night, he decided to withdraw his army to a safer base, well below Richmond, on a portion of the James River that was under control of the Union Navy. In doing so, he may have unwittingly saved his army. Lee had assumed that the Union army would withdraw to the east toward its existing supply base and McClellan's move to the south delayed Lee's response for at least 24 hours.[52] But McClellan was also tacitly acknowledging that he would no longer be able to invest Richmond, the object of his campaign; the heavy siege artillery required would be almost impossible to transport without the railroad connections available from his original supply base on the York River. In a telegram to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, reporting on these events, McClellan blamed the Lincoln administration for his reversals. "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."[53] Fortunately for McClellan, Lincoln never saw that inflammatory statement (at least at that time) because it was censored by the War Department telegrapher.

Wounded men after the Battle of Savage's Station, one of the Seven Days Battles

McClellan was also fortunate that the failure of the campaign left his army mostly intact, because he was generally absent from the fighting and neglected to name any second-in-command who might direct his retreat.[54] Military historian Stephen W. Sears wrote, "When he deserted his army on the Glendale and Malvern Hill battlefields during the Seven Days, he was guilty of dereliction of duty. Had the Army of the Potomac been wrecked on either of these fields (at Glendale the possibility had been real), that charge under the Articles of War would likely have been brought against him."[55] In the battle of Glendale, McClellan was five miles (8 km) away behind Malvern Hill, without telegraph communications and too distant to command his army. In the battle of Malvern Hill, he was on a gunboat, the U.S.S. Galena, which at one point was ten miles (16 km) away, down the James River.[56] In both battles, effective command of the army fell to his friend and V Corps commander Brigadier General Fitz John Porter. When the public heard about the Galena, it was yet another great embarrassment, comparable to the Quaker Guns at Manassas. Editorial cartoons published in the course of the 1864 presidential campaign lampooned McClellan for having preferred the safety of a ship while a battle was fought in the distance.[57]

McClellan was reunited with his army at Harrison's Landing on the James. Debates were held as to whether the army should be evacuated or attempt to resume an offensive toward Richmond. McClellan maintained his estrangement from Abraham Lincoln with his repeated call for reinforcements and by writing a lengthy letter in which he proposed strategic and political guidance for the war, continuing his opposition to abolition or seizure of slaves as a tactic. He concluded by implying he should be restored as general-in-chief, but Lincoln responded by naming Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck to the post without consulting, or even informing, McClellan.[58] Lincoln and Stanton also offered command of the Army of the Potomac to Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, who refused the appointment.[59]

Back in Washington, a reorganization of units created the Army of Virginia under Maj. Gen. John Pope, who was directed to advance toward Richmond from the northeast. McClellan resisted calls to reinforce Pope's army and delayed return of the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula enough so that the reinforcements arrived while the Northern Virginia Campaign was already underway. He wrote to his wife before the battle, "Pope will be thrashed ... & be disposed of [by Lee]. ... Such a villain as he is ought to bring defeat upon any cause that employs him."[60] Lee had assessed McClellan's defensive nature and gambled on removing significant units from the Peninsula to attack Pope, who was beaten decisively at Second Bull Run in August.

Maryland Campaign

McClellan riding through Frederick, Maryland, September 12, 1862 (From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper)
McClellan riding through Frederick, Maryland, September 12, 1862 (From Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper)
Maryland Campaign, actions September 3–15, 1862
Maryland Campaign, actions September 3–15, 1862

After the defeat of Pope at Second Bull Run, President Lincoln reluctantly returned to the man who had mended a broken army before. He realized that McClellan was a strong organizer and a skilled trainer of troops, able to recombine the units of Pope's army with the Army of the Potomac faster than anyone. On September 2, 1862, Lincoln named McClellan to command "the fortifications of Washington, and all the troops for the defense of the capital". The appointment was controversial in the Cabinet, a majority of whom signed a petition declaring to the president "our deliberate opinion that, at this time, it is not safe to entrust to Major General McClellan the command of any Army of the United States".[61] The president admitted that it was like "curing the bite with the hair of the dog". But Lincoln told his secretary, John Hay, "We must use what tools we have. There is no man in the Army who can man these fortifications and lick these troops of ours into shape half as well as he. If he can't fight himself, he excels in making others ready to fight."[62]

Northern fears of a continued offensive by Robert E. Lee were realized when he launched his Maryland Campaign on September 4, hoping to arouse pro-Southern sympathy in the slave state of Maryland. McClellan's pursuit began on September 5. He marched toward Maryland with six of his reorganized corps, about 84,000 men, while leaving two corps behind to defend Washington.[62] McClellan's reception in Frederick, Maryland, as he marched towards Lee's army, was described by the correspondent for Harper's Magazine:

The General rode through the town on a trot, and the street was filled six or eight deep with his staff and guard riding on behind him. The General had his head uncovered, and received gracefully the salutations of the people. Old ladies and men wept for joy, and scores of beautiful ladies waved flags from the balconies of houses upon the street, and their joyousness seemed to overcome every other emotion. When the General came to the corner of the principal street the ladies thronged around him. Bouquets, beautiful and fragrant, in great numbers were thrown at him, and the ladies crowded around him with the warmest good wishes, and many of them were entirely overcome with emotion. I have never witnessed such a scene. The General took the gentle hands which were offered to him with many a kind and pleasing remark, and heard and answered the many remarks and compliments with which the people accosted him. It was a scene which no one could forget—an event of a lifetime.[63]

Lee divided his forces into multiple columns, spread apart widely as he moved into Maryland and also maneuvered to capture the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. This was a risky move for a smaller army, but Lee was counting on his knowledge of McClellan's temperament. He told one of his generals, "He is an able general but a very cautious one. His army is in a very demoralized and chaotic condition, and will not be prepared for offensive operations—or he will not think it so—for three or four weeks. Before that time I hope to be on the Susquehanna."[64] This was not a completely accurate assessment, but McClellan's army was moving lethargically, averaging only 6 miles (9.7 km) a day.[65]

However, McClellan soon received a miraculous break of fortune. Union soldiers accidentally found a copy of Lee's orders dividing his army, wrapped around a package of cigars in an abandoned camp. They delivered the order to McClellan's headquarters in Frederick on September 13. Upon realizing the intelligence value of this discovery, McClellan threw up his arms and exclaimed, "Now I know what to do!" He waved the order at his old Army friend, Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, and said, "Here is a paper with which if I cannot whip Bobbie Lee, I will be willing to go home." He telegraphed President Lincoln: "I have the whole rebel force in front of me, but I am confident, and no time shall be lost. I think Lee has made a gross mistake, and that he will be severely punished for it. I have all the plans of the rebels, and will catch them in their own trap if my men are equal to the emergency. ... Will send you trophies."[66]

Battle of South Mountain

Battle of South Mountain
Battle of South Mountain

Despite this show of bravado, McClellan continued his cautious line. After telegraphing to the president at noon on September 13, rather than ordering his units to set out for the South Mountain passes immediately, he ordered them to depart the following morning. The 18 hours of delay allowed Lee time to react, because he received intelligence from a Confederate sympathizer that McClellan knew of his plans. (The delay also doomed the federal garrison at Harpers Ferry because the relief column McClellan sent could not reach them before they surrendered to Stonewall Jackson.)[67] In the Battle of South Mountain, McClellan's army was able to punch through the defended passes that separated them from Lee, but also gave Lee enough time to concentrate many of his men at Sharpsburg, Maryland. The Battle of South Mountain presented McClellan with an opportunity for one of the great theatrical moments of his career, as historian Sears describes:

The mountain ahead was wreathed in smoke eddies of battle smoke in which the gun flashes shone like brief hot sparks. The opposing battle lines on the heights were marked by heavier layers of smoke, and columns of Federal troops were visible winding their way up the mountainside, each column ... looking like a 'monstrous, crawling, blue-black snake' ... McClellan posed against this spectacular backdrop, sitting motionless astride his warhorse Dan Webster with his arm extended, pointing Hooker's passing troops toward the battle. The men cheered him until they were hoarse ... and some broke ranks to swarm around the martial figure and indulge in the 'most extravagant demonstrations'.[68]

The Union army reached Antietam Creek, to the east of Sharpsburg, on the evening of September 15. A planned attack on September 16 was put off because of early morning fog, allowing Lee to prepare his defenses with an army less than half the size of McClellan's.[69]

Battle of Antietam

Overview of the Battle of Antietam
Overview of the Battle of Antietam
Lincoln with McClellan and staff after the Battle of Antietam. Notable figures (from left) are 5. Alexander S. Webb, Chief of Staff, V Corps; 6. McClellan;. 8. Dr. Jonathan Letterman; 10. Lincoln; 11. Henry J. Hunt; 12. Fitz John Porter; 15. Andrew A. Humphreys; 16. Capt. George Armstrong Custer
Lincoln with McClellan and staff after the Battle of Antietam. Notable figures (from left) are 5. Alexander S. Webb, Chief of Staff, V Corps; 6. McClellan;. 8. Dr. Jonathan Letterman; 10. Lincoln; 11. Henry J. Hunt; 12. Fitz John Porter; 15. Andrew A. Humphreys; 16. Capt. George Armstrong Custer

The Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, was the single bloodiest day in American military history. The outnumbered Confederate forces fought desperately and well. Despite significant advantages in manpower, McClellan was unable to concentrate his forces effectively, which meant that Lee was able to shift his defenders to parry each of three Union thrusts, launched separately and sequentially against the Confederate left, center, and finally the right. McClellan was also unwilling, due to Porter's opinion, to employ his ample reserve forces to capitalize on localized successes. Historian James M. McPherson has pointed out that the two corps McClellan kept in reserve were in fact larger than Lee's entire force. The reason for McClellan's reluctance was that, as in previous battles, he was convinced he was outnumbered.[70]

Lincoln in McClellan's tent after the Battle of Antietam
Lincoln in McClellan's tent after the Battle of Antietam

The battle was tactically inconclusive, with the Union suffering a higher overall number of casualties, although Lee technically was defeated because he withdrew first from the battlefield and retreated back to Virginia and lost a larger percentage of his army then McClellen did. McClellan wired to Washington, "Our victory was complete. The enemy is driven back into Virginia." Yet there was obvious disappointment that McClellan had not crushed Lee, who was fighting with a smaller army with its back to the Potomac River. Although McClellan's subordinates can claim their share of responsibility for delays (such as Ambrose Burnside's misadventures at Burnside Bridge) and blunders (Edwin V. Sumner's attack without reconnaissance), these were localized problems from which the full army could have recovered. As with the decisive battles in the Seven Days, McClellan's headquarters were too far to the rear to allow his personal control over the battle. He made no use of his cavalry forces for reconnaissance. He did not share his overall battle plans with his corps commanders, which prevented them from using initiative outside of their sectors. And he was far too willing to accept cautious advice about saving his reserves, such as when a significant breakthrough in the center of the Confederate line could have been exploited, but Fitz John Porter is said to have told McClellan, "Remember, General, I command the last reserve of the last Army of the Republic."[71]

Despite being a tactical draw, Antietam is considered a turning point of the war and a victory for the Union because it ended Lee's strategic campaign (his first invasion of the North) and it allowed President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, taking effect on January 1, 1863. Although Lincoln had intended to issue the proclamation earlier, he was advised by his Cabinet to wait until a Union victory to avoid the perception that it was issued out of desperation. The Union victory and Lincoln's proclamation played a considerable role in dissuading the governments of France and Britain from recognizing the Confederacy; some suspected they were planning to do so in the aftermath of another Union defeat.[72] McClellan had no prior knowledge that the plans for emancipation rested on his battle performance.

Because McClellan failed to pursue Lee aggressively after Antietam, Lincoln ordered that he be removed from command on November 5, 1862. Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside assumed command of the Army of the Potomac on November 9, 1862.[73] McClellan wrote to his wife, "Those in whose judgment I rely tell me that I fought the battle splendidly and that it was a masterpiece of art. ... I feel I have done all that can be asked in twice saving the country. ... I feel some little pride in having, with a beaten & demoralized army, defeated Lee so utterly. ... Well, one of these days history will I trust do me justice."[74]

1864 Presidential election

An anti-McClellan poster from Harper's Weekly, drawn by Thomas Nast, showing rioters assaulting children, slave-catchers chasing runaway slaves, and a woman being sold at a slave auction
An anti-McClellan poster from Harper's Weekly, drawn by Thomas Nast, showing rioters assaulting children, slave-catchers chasing runaway slaves, and a woman being sold at a slave auction
Currier and Ives print of the McClellan–Pendleton Democratic presidential party ticket, 1864.  Lithograph with watercolor.
Currier and Ives print of the McClellan–Pendleton Democratic presidential party ticket, 1864. Lithograph with watercolor.

Secretary Stanton ordered McClellan to report to Trenton, New Jersey, for further orders, although none were issued. As the war progressed, there were various calls to return McClellan to an important command, following the Union defeats at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, as Robert E. Lee moved north at the start of the Gettysburg Campaign, and as Jubal Early threatened Washington in 1864. When Ulysses S. Grant became general-in-chief, he discussed returning McClellan to an unspecified position. But all of these opportunities were impossible, given the opposition within the administration and the knowledge that McClellan posed a potential political threat. McClellan worked for months on a lengthy report describing his two major campaigns and his successes in organizing the Army, replying to his critics and justifying his actions by accusing the administration of undercutting him and denying him necessary reinforcements. The War Department was reluctant to publish his report because, just after completing it in October 1863, McClellan openly declared his entrance to the political stage as a Democrat.[75]

Cartoon of McClellan used by his political opponents in 1864 presidential campaign
Cartoon of McClellan used by his political opponents in 1864 presidential campaign

McClellan was nominated by the Democrats to run against Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 U.S. presidential election. Following the example of Winfield Scott, he ran as a U.S. Army general still on active duty; he did not resign his commission until election day, November 8, 1864. McClellan supported continuation of the war and restoration of the Union (but not the abolition of slavery), but the party platform, written by Copperhead leader Clement Vallandigham of Ohio, was opposed to this position. The platform called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a negotiated settlement with the Confederacy. McClellan was forced to repudiate the platform, which made his campaign inconsistent and difficult. He also was not helped by the party's choice for vice president, George H. Pendleton, a peace candidate from Ohio.[76]

The deep division in the party, the unity of the Republicans (running under the label "National Union Party"), the absence of a large portion of the Democrats' base (the South) from the voter pool, and the military successes by Union forces in the fall of 1864 doomed McClellan's candidacy. Lincoln won the election handily, with 212 Electoral College votes to 21 and a popular vote of 2,218,388 to 1,812,807 or 55% to 45%.[77] For all his popularity with the troops, McClellan failed to secure their support and the military vote went to Lincoln nearly 3–1. Lincoln's share of the vote in the Army of the Potomac was 70%.[78]

Postbellum years

At the conclusion of the war (1865) McClellan and his family went to Europe, not returning until 1868; in this period he did not participate in politics.[79] Prior to his return in September 1868, the Democratic Party had expressed some interest in nominating him for president again, but Ulysses S. Grant became the Republican candidate in May 1868, and this interest died.[80] McClellan worked on engineering projects in New York City and was offered the position of president of the newly formed University of California[81] (established in 1868).

McClellan photographed by William S. Warren, circa 1880
McClellan photographed by William S. Warren, circa 1880

McClellan was appointed chief engineer of the New York City Department of Docks in 1870. Evidently the position did not demand his full-time attention because, starting in 1872, he also served as the president of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad. He and his family then embarked on another three-year stay in Europe (1873–75)[82]

In March 1877 the Governor of New York, Lucius Robinson, nominated McClellan as the first Superintendent of Public Works,[83] but the New York State Senate rejected him as "incompetent for the position".[84]

In 1877 the Democrats nominated McClellan for Governor of New Jersey, an action that took him by surprise because he had not expressed an interest in the position. He accepted the nomination, won election, and served a single term from 1878 to 1881, a tenure marked by careful, conservative executive management and by minimal political rancor. The concluding chapter of his political career was his strong support in 1884 for the election of Grover Cleveland. He sought the position of Secretary of War in Cleveland's cabinet, for which he was well qualified, but political rivals from New Jersey succeeded in blocking his nomination.[85]

McClellan devoted his final years to traveling and writing; he produced his memoirs, McClellan's Own Story (published posthumously in 1887), in which he stridently defended his conduct during the war. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 58 at Orange, New Jersey, after suffering from chest pains for a few weeks. His final words, at 3 a.m., October 29, 1885, were, "I feel easy now. Thank you." He was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Trenton.[86]


McClellan's son, George B. McClellan Jr. (1865–1940), was born in Dresden in the Kingdom of Saxony during the family's first trip to Europe. Known within the family as Max, he too became a politician, serving as a United States Representative from New York State (1893–1903) and as Mayor of New York City from 1904 to 1909.

McClellan's daughter, Mary ("May") (1861–1945), married a French diplomat and spent much of her life abroad.

McClellan's wife, Ellen, died in Nice, France in 1915 while visiting May at her home "Villa Antietam". Neither Max nor May had any children of their own.[87][88]


McClellan statue in front of Philadelphia City Hall
McClellan statue in front of Philadelphia City Hall

The New York Evening Post commented in McClellan's obituary, "Probably no soldier who did so little fighting has ever had his qualities as a commander so minutely, and we may add, so fiercely discussed."[89] This fierce discussion has continued for over a century. McClellan is usually ranked in the lowest tier of Civil War generals. However, the debate over McClellan's ability and talents remains the subject of much controversy among Civil War and military historians. He has been universally praised for his organizational abilities and for his very good relations with his troops. They referred to him affectionately as "Little Mac"; others sometimes called him the "Young Napoleon". It has been suggested that his reluctance to enter battle was caused in part by an intense desire to avoid spilling the blood of his men. Ironically, this led to failing to take the initiative against the enemy and therefore passing up good opportunities for decisive victories, which could have ended the war early, and thereby could have spared thousands of soldiers who died in those subsequent battles. Generals who proved successful in the war, such as Lee and Grant, tended to be more aggressive and more willing to risk a major battle even when all preparations were not perfect. McClellan himself summed up his cautious nature in a draft of his memoirs:

It has always been my opinion that the true course in conducting military operations, is to make no movement until the preparations are as complete as circumstances permit, & never to fight a battle without some definite object worth the probable loss.[90]

McClellan's reluctance to press his enemy aggressively was probably not a matter of personal courage, which he demonstrated well enough by his bravery under fire in the Mexican–American War. However, his initiative on the battlefield was not so decisive, as Stephen Sears wrote,

There is indeed ample evidence that the terrible stresses of commanding men in battle, especially the beloved men of his beloved Army of the Potomac, left his moral courage in tatters. Under the pressure of his ultimate soldier's responsibility, the will to command deserted him. Glendale and Malvern Hill found him at the peak of his anguish during the Seven Days, and he fled those fields to escape the responsibility. At Antietam, where there was nowhere for him to flee to, he fell into a paralysis of indecision. Seen from a longer perspective, General McClellan could be both comfortable and successful performing as executive officer, and also, if somewhat less successfully, as grand strategist; as battlefield commander, however, he was simply in the wrong profession.[91]

One of the reasons that McClellan's reputation has suffered is his own memoirs. Historian Allan Nevins wrote, "Students of history must always be grateful McClellan so frankly exposed his own weaknesses in this posthumous book."[92] Doris Kearns Goodwin claims that a review of his personal correspondence during the war reveals a tendency for self-aggrandizement and unwarranted self-congratulation.[93] His original draft was completed in 1881, but the only copy was destroyed by fire. He began to write another draft of what would be published posthumously, in 1887, as McClellan's Own Story. However, he died before it was half completed and his literary executor, William C. Prime, editor of the pro-McClellan New York Journal of Commerce, included excerpts from some 250 of McClellan's wartime letters to his wife, in which it had been his habit to reveal his innermost feelings and opinions in unbridled fashion.[94]

Robert E. Lee, on being asked (by his cousin, and recorded by his son) who was the ablest general on the Union side during the late war, replied emphatically: "McClellan, by all odds!"[95]

While McClellan's reputation has suffered over time, especially over the later half of the 20th century, there is a small but intense cadre of American Civil War historians who believe that the general has been poorly served in at least four regards. First, McClellan proponents say that because the general was a conservative Democrat with great personal charisma, radical Republicans fearing his political potential deliberately undermined his field operations.[96] Second, that as the radical Republicans were the true winners coming out of the American Civil War, they were able to write its history, placing their principal political rival of the time, McClellan, in the worst possible light.[97] Third, that historians eager to jump on the bandwagon of Lincoln as America's greatest political icon worked to outdo one another in shifting blame for early military failures from Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to McClellan.[98] And fourth, that Lincoln and Stanton deliberately undermined McClellan because of his conciliatory stance towards the South, which might have resulted in a less destructive end to the war had Richmond fallen as a result of the Peninsula Campaign.[99] Proponents of this school claim that McClellan is criticized more for his admittedly abrasive personality than for his actual field performance.[100]

Several geographic features and establishments have been named for George B. McClellan. These include Fort McClellan in Alabama, McClellan Butte and McClellan Peak in the state of Washington, where he traveled while conducting the Pacific Railroad Survey in 1853, and a bronze equestrian statue honoring General McClellan in Washington, D.C. Another equestrian statue honors him in front of Philadelphia City Hall, while the McClellan Gate at Arlington National Cemetery is dedicated to him and displays his name. McClellan Park in Milbridge, Maine, was donated to the town by the general's son with the stipulation that it be named for the general.[101] Camp McClellan, in Davenport, IA, is a former Union Army camp established in August 1861 after the outbreak of the American Civil War. The camp was the training grounds for recruits and a hospital for the wounded. McClellan Fitness Center is a United States Army gym located at Fort Eustis, Virginia near his Peninsula Campaign.[102]

The Fire Department of New York operated a fireboat named George B. McClellan from 1904 to 1954.[103] While this vessel is sometimes said to be named after the General, it was actually named after his son, who was Mayor of New York City, when the vessel was launched.[104]

Electoral history

1864 Democratic National Convention:[105]

United States presidential election, 1864

New Jersey gubernatorial election, 1877:[106]

Dates of rank

Insignia Rank Component Date
Union army 2nd lt rank insignia.jpg
Brevet 2nd Lieutenant Regular Army 1 July 1846
Union army 2nd lt rank insignia.jpg
2nd Lieutenant Regular Army 24 April 1847
Union army 1st lt rank insignia.jpg
Brevet 1st Lieutenant Regular Army 20 August 1847
Union army cpt rank insignia.jpg
Brevet Captain Regular Army 13 September 1847
Union army 1st lt rank insignia.jpg
1st Lieutenant Regular Army 1 July 1853
Union army cpt rank insignia.jpg
Captain Regular Army 4 March 1855
Union army maj gen rank insignia.jpg
Major General Volunteers 23 April 1861
Union army maj gen rank insignia.jpg
Major General Regular Army 14 May 1861

Selected works

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Eicher, p. 371.
  2. ^ Wilson, James Grant, ed. (1888). "McClellan, Samuel". Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography. 4.
  3. ^ Partial Genealogy of the McClellans, CLP Research
  4. ^ Rowland, Leaders, p. 259.
  5. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 3; Rafuse, pp. 10, 27–28.
  6. ^ Rowland, Leaders, p. 260; Rafuse, p. 36. McClellan's friend James Stuart was a South Carolinian killed skirmishing with Indians in 1851.
  7. ^ Rowland, Leaders, p. 260.
  8. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 14–15.
  9. ^ Rafuse, p. 43.
  10. ^ Rafuse, pp. 47–49; Rowland, Leaders, pp. 260–61; Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 16–17.
  11. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 32–34.
  12. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 40–41.
  13. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 61.
  14. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 43–44.
  15. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 46–49.
  16. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 56.
  17. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 59.
  18. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 63.
  19. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 66–69.
  20. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 72.
  21. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 75–76.
  22. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 79–80.
  23. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 89–91.
  24. ^ Beagle, p. 1274.
  25. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 93.
  26. ^ a b Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 95.
  27. ^ a b Sandburg, p. 62.
  28. ^ Beatie, p. 480. Eicher, pp. 372, 856.
  29. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 111.
  30. ^ a b Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 116.
  31. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 98–99.
  32. ^ McPherson, Tried by War, p. 122.
  33. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 116–17.
  34. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 101–04, 110.
  35. ^ Beatie, pp. 471–72.
  36. ^ a b McPherson, Battle Cry, p. 360.
  37. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 136–37.
  38. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, p. 364.
  39. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 132–33.
  40. ^ McPherson, Tried by War, p. 66.
  41. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 140–41, 149, 160.
  42. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 168–69.
  43. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 164–65.
  44. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 167–69.
  45. ^ Bailey, Forward to Richmond, p. 99.
  46. ^ Bailey, Forward to Richmond, pp. 107–13.
  47. ^ Bailey, Forward to Richmond, pp. 128–29.
  48. ^ Sears, Gates, pp. 103–04.
  49. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 192–95.
  50. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 205.
  51. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 211–12.
  52. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 216.
  53. ^ Beagle, p. 1275.
  54. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 217.
  55. ^ Sears, Controversies, p. 16.
  56. ^ Sears, Gates, pp. 280, 309.
  57. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 221.
  58. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 227.
  59. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 235.
  60. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, p. 525.
  61. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 260.
  62. ^ a b Bailey, Bloodiest Day, p. 15.
  63. ^ Harper's Weekly, Saturday, October 4, 1862, p.2
  64. ^ Bailey, Bloodiest Day, p. 21.
  65. ^ Bailey, Bloodiest Day, p. 23.
  66. ^ Sears, Landscape, p. 113.
  67. ^ Sears, Landscape, pp. 120–21.
  68. ^ Sears, The Young Napoleon, p. 289.
  69. ^ Bailey, Bloodiest Day, pp. 61–64.
  70. ^ McPherson, Crossroads, pp. 129–30.
  71. ^ Bailey, Bloodiest Day, p. 141.
  72. ^ McPherson, Crossroads, p. 155.
  73. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 238–41.
  74. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, p. 545.
  75. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 353–56.
  76. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 372–74; John Buescher, "Civil War Peace Offers Archived 2010-12-02 at the Wayback Machine Archived 2010-12-02 at the Wayback Machine",, accessed September 2, 2011.
  77. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, p. 805.
  78. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 385–86.
  79. ^ Sears, Controversies, p. 5.
  80. ^ Compare: Sears, Stephen W. (1988). George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (published 2014). p. 391. ISBN 9780544391222. Initially there was interest among Democrats in running him for the presidency again in 1868, but his support dwindled after the Republicans nominated General Grant.
  81. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 388–92.
  82. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 393.
  83. ^ New York Times, March 16, 1877
  84. ^ New York Times, January 5, 1878.
  85. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 397–99.
  86. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, pp. 400–401.
  87. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 404.
  88. ^ Sears, Stephen W. (1988). George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (published 2014). p. 406. ISBN 978-0-544-39122-2. [Ellen McClellan] died in 1915, at the age of seventy-nine, while visiting her daughter in Nice. May, too, lived abroad much of her life. In 1893 she married Paul Desprez, a French diplomat, and she died, childless, in 1945 at the Villa Antietam, her home in Nice. Max – George B. McClellan, Jr. – achieved a political career of some distinction .... In 1889 he had married Georgianna Heckscher, but like May he had no children.
  89. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 401.
  90. ^ Sears, Young Napoleon, p. 293.
  91. ^ Sears, Controversies, pp. 19–20.
  92. ^ Nevins, pp. 294–95.
  93. ^ Goodwin, pp. 378–79.
  94. ^ Sears, Controversies, p. 6.
  95. ^ Lee, p. 416.
  96. ^ Eckenrode & Conrad, pp. 46–47, 170.
  97. ^ Eckenrode & Conrad, p. 280.
  98. ^ Rowland, McClellan and Civil War History, pp. 46, 50.
  99. ^ Eckenrode & Conrad, p. 238; Rowland, McClellan and Civil War History, pp. 97–99.
  100. ^ Rowland, McClellan and Civil War History, pp. 7–8; Rowland, Leaders, pp. 268–70, provides a concise historiography of McClellan's legacy, stating that "McClellan has had few supporters in the literature over the last half-century." Rafuse, pp. 384–96, presents an analysis of McClellan that is more sympathetic than the majority of current works, focusing not only on his military strategy, but how his Whig political heritage affected the way he proposed to wage war in a manner that would promote reconciliation with the South.
  101. ^ "Milbridge Historical Society Presentation".
  102. ^ "Joint Base Langley-Eustis McClellan Fitness Center". 2014-03-17. Archived from the original on 2018-08-17. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  103. ^ Clarence E. Meek (July 1954). "Fireboats Through The Years". Retrieved 2015-06-28.
  104. ^ Brian J. Cudahy (1997). "Around Manhattan Island and Other Maritime Tales of New York". Fordham Univ Press. pp. 85, 88, 95, 100, 119, 200, 252, 249. ISBN 9780823217618. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  105. ^ "Our Campaigns – US President – D Convention Race – Aug 29, 1864".
  106. ^ "Our Campaigns – NJ Governor Race – Nov 06, 1877".


Further reading

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Irvin McDowell
Commander of the Army of the Potomac
Succeeded by
Ambrose Burnside
Preceded by
Winfield Scott
Commanding General of the United States Army
Succeeded by
Henry Halleck
Party political offices
Preceded by
Stephen A. Douglas
John C. Breckinridge¹
Democratic nominee for President of the United States
Succeeded by
Horatio Seymour
Preceded by
Joseph D. Bedle
Democratic nominee for Governor of New Jersey
Succeeded by
George C. Ludlow
Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph D. Bedle
Governor of New Jersey
Succeeded by
George C. Ludlow
Notes and references
1. The Democratic party split in 1860, producing two presidential candidates. Douglas was nominated by Northern Democrats; Breckinridge was nominated by Southern Democrats.
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