Historum - History Forums  

Go Back   Historum - History Forums > Themes in History > War and Military History
Register Forums Blogs Social Groups Mark Forums Read

War and Military History War and Military History Forum - Warfare, Tactics, and Military Technology over the centuries


Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Old July 2nd, 2012, 02:57 PM   #1
Academician
 
Joined: Dec 2011
Posts: 55
Was George B.McClellan that bad?


McClellan always interested me as a Civil War general and as a Northerner, I actually know little about him. Was he really that bad of a general?
ELITEOFKINGWARMAN8 is offline  
Remove Ads
Old July 2nd, 2012, 03:17 PM   #2

Rongo's Avatar
Historian
 
Joined: Dec 2011
From: Ohio
Posts: 5,683

Quote:
Originally Posted by ELITEOFKINGWARMAN8 View Post
McClellan always interested me as a Civil War general and as a Northerner, I actually know little about him. Was he really that bad of a general?
He was a competent general, and he was an outstanding organizer and motivator of troops. But he didn't have the will to fight or take risk. In the position he was in, that was fatal.
Rongo is offline  
Old July 2nd, 2012, 03:35 PM   #3
Historian
 
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 9,249

McClellan would have been an excellent staff officer - if there had been a general staff in the US army.
pikeshot1600 is online now  
Old July 2nd, 2012, 04:04 PM   #4

nuclearguy165's Avatar
Snake's Eye
 
Joined: Nov 2011
From: Ohio, USA
Posts: 4,493

He was excellent at raising, organizing, and getting devotion out of his army, but as an actual field commander, he was an idiot. So overall, I would say that he was mediocre at best. He was definitely better than Burnside, Banks, or Butler (NOT THE B's!...ugh) though.
nuclearguy165 is online now  
Old July 2nd, 2012, 04:56 PM   #5

Sam-Nary's Avatar
Historian
 
Joined: Jun 2012
From: At present SD, USA
Posts: 6,503

Quote:
Originally Posted by ELITEOFKINGWARMAN8 View Post
McClellan always interested me as a Civil War general and as a Northerner, I actually know little about him. Was he really that bad of a general?
Overall, McClellan was a bad general, yes.

He was great organizer, and that enabled him to get the Union Army in shape after First Bull Run, but once the army was trained it had a mission to accomplish, and there, McClellan failed time and time again to even act, and when he did, it was usually to retreat.

He had two major campaigns, the Peninsula Campaign and the Antietam Campaign. We'll start with the Peninsula campaign.

The first fight of the campaign was at Yorktown, Virginia, overlooking the Revolutionary War battlefield. The Confederate unit there was tiny and could have been easily overwhelmed by a corps of McClellan's army. However, McClellan fell victim to the theatrics of his opponent... which included: making dummy cannon, marching a unit in and out of a clearing repeatedly, and other tricks. Had McClellan attacked, he would have destroyed the tiny force and made it to Richmond before the main Confederate Army, mostly between the Shennendoah and Manasas could respond. Instead, he didn't, and the Confederate army would shift to the Peninsula.

The worst of McClellan's generalship occurred in the Seven Days Battles. First, he missinterpreted the new Confederate commander completely, "Lee is too cautious and will shrink away under the grave responsibility." Lee then attacked him at various points along McClellan's line. For the most part, the Union army won these engagements... however, un-nerved by Lee's aggression, McClellan believed the Confederate army was larger then it was. His army won the battle in the field, but McClellan ran away from victory, giving Lee the right to claim he won the Seven Days Battles, as Lee's objective was attained: the Union army fled.

Following the failure of the Peninsula campaign, the Union Army was placed under the command of Pope, and McClellan was relegated to a supporting role. While Pope charged into Virginia like an idiot, McClellan did virtually nothing along the coastal areas of Virginia, and then criticized Lincoln for transfering men to Pope. The defeat of Pope's men at Manasas would force Lincoln to put McClellan back in comand.

And then came McClellan's greatest failure to act of the war... the Antietam campaign. Lee had moved north, hoping to inspire widespread anti-Union sentiment in Maryland and then threaten Philidelphia or Baltimore. This would draw the full Union army to battle and lead to its defeat. In the course of this, Lee wrapped his plans around two cigars, which were then lost...

By a trick of fate, the cigars were found by Union soldiers, who delivered them to McClellan. The plan included the routes, strengths, and timetables Lee was operating on. McClellan had everything he needed to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia, if he could act. But he did nothing for eighteen hours. By the time he arived at Sharpsburg, Maryland, Lee's army was largely back together in one place. The opportunity McClellan had to win the war was gone... but he could still win the battle that followed.

The Battle of Antietam's opportunity to win came at Bloody Lane. While John B. Gordon's men had innitially repulsed the Union attacks with heavy loss of life, the Union army managed to overpower him and turning the road Gorden's men were in into a sunken pit grave. Hence, Bloody Lane. The attack splintered the Confederate center as Gordon pulled back. Had McClellan committed his reserves in another major push, they might have broken the Confederate center and forced Lee to pull back...

McClellan decided it wouldn't be prudent to attack again, and the fighting shifted south to Burnside Bridge. There, Confederate sharpshooters held Burnsides men off as they charged across the bridge. While they would succeed in taking the bridge and forcing the Confederates there to pull back, they ran headlong into AP Hill's men and were forced back to the bridge they had fought hard to sieze. Again, McClellan refused to commit his resevers and allowed the battle to end inconclusively.

These actions show that McClellan was a failure as a general.
Sam-Nary is offline  
Old July 2nd, 2012, 07:29 PM   #6
Citizen
 
Joined: Jul 2012
Posts: 5

He was definitely better than Burnside
Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.
MarjorieHui is offline  
Old July 3rd, 2012, 04:38 AM   #7

Viperlord's Avatar
Tilting at Windmills
 
Joined: Aug 2010
From: VA
Posts: 7,858
Blog Entries: 22

Amazing post Sam-Nary, but I have one minor correction.

Quote:
Following the failure of the Peninsula campaign, the Union Army was placed under the command of Pope, and McClellan was relegated to a supporting role. While Pope charged into Virginia like an idiot, McClellan did virtually nothing along the coastal areas of Virginia, and then criticized Lincoln for transfering men to Pope. The defeat of Pope's men at Manasas would force Lincoln to put McClellan back in comand.
John Pope commanded the Army of Virginia, a completely separate body of troops. McClellan never lost command of the Army of Potomac until he was relieved by Burnside.
Viperlord is online now  
Old July 3rd, 2012, 04:43 AM   #8

Vintersorg's Avatar
Pseudo-American
 
Joined: Jul 2011
From: Belgium
Posts: 5,927
Blog Entries: 7

Quote:
Originally Posted by ELITEOFKINGWARMAN8 View Post
McClellan always interested me as a Civil War general and as a Northerner, I actually know little about him. Was he really that bad of a general?
McLellan was not willing to take risks and had a tendency to overestimate his enemy.
He could have done much more in the ACW, had he had a little more guts.
Antietam is an excellent example of this.
McLellan was utterly convinced that the Confederates outnumbered the Union troops, whereas it was entirely the other way around. (in fact, as McPherson notes in Battle Cry of freedom, the union reserves were already larger than the entire confederate force).
Vintersorg is offline  
Old July 3rd, 2012, 04:21 PM   #9

Sam-Nary's Avatar
Historian
 
Joined: Jun 2012
From: At present SD, USA
Posts: 6,503

Quote:
Originally Posted by Viperlord View Post
Amazing post Sam-Nary, but I have one minor correction.


John Pope commanded the Army of Virginia, a completely separate body of troops. McClellan never lost command of the Army of Potomac until he was relieved by Burnside.
Oh, yeah... I know he was still on the coastal area of Virginia, but because he did nothing during Pope I thought that Pope got the official command... especially when Pope's bluster gathered a lot of attention for the shift in command.

Thanks for the reminder.
Sam-Nary is offline  
Old July 3rd, 2012, 11:15 PM   #10
Academician
 
Joined: Jan 2012
Posts: 78

Gee Viperlord, I was wondering when you were going to chime in.
Good to see you.
Sheridan is offline  
Reply

  Historum > Themes in History > War and Military History

Tags
bad, bmcclellan, george



Search tags for this page
Thread Tools
Display Modes


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
George B. McClellan: The Chronically Cautious Hero Qymaen War and Military History 35 April 11th, 2012 06:02 AM
George McClellan Salah American History 59 December 15th, 2011 04:42 AM
George B McClellan Richard Stanbery American History 29 October 15th, 2009 09:47 PM
General George McClellan Raven45 American History 7 August 7th, 2009 10:10 AM
McClellan flaja War and Military History 5 October 13th, 2006 06:56 PM

Copyright © 2006-2013 Historum. All rights reserved.