Was McCellan a Coward or....

Nov 2019
138
Memphis TN
McCellan of the Civil war infamy is remembered by history as either a coward, a traitor and many other usually derogatory things.

He gained this reputation due to his inaction in the civil war.. he had a far superior force basically the entire time, but just refused to use it. Always claiming he believed the confederates to far outnumber their actual troop count.

Well I kinda wonder if we are not forgetting to add in the fact that he was right... ...

Pretty much everyone agrees that using napoleonic tactics probably should have died before he did..

Charging fortified positions, even with a far superior force was suicide..

It makes me wonder if he was not smart enough to realize “line fighting” and “turning the flank” was dead, but not smart enough to engineer a brand new war manual from scratch..

I could see how some one decently smart could believe that napoleonic tactics were the right way of doing things, because that was MORE THAN the conventional wisdom of the time... it was considered the gospel truth...

That is what every military school on the planet taught...

But also be smart enough to tell using those tactics against fortified positions with the present weapons.....

That could make anyone’s butt pucker up..

It really took a couple wild cards looking at the chess board from the side to make any real progress..

People who had less loyalty to the “brave military tradition” narrative that kept napoleonic tactics the ONLY thing being considered..

Sherman who was kinda crazy and didn’t care what people thought...

Forrest using gorilla tactics....


Stone wall was using napoleonic tactics, he just ran his men to death and got their before they could dig in... maybe now brilliantly making due with a bad situation... maybe not smart enough to though out the manual...






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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,779
Dispargum
McClellan spent the first year of the war training his army in the traditional tactics. If he thought those tactics were obsolete, he should have developed new ones. Absent new tactics, he was obliged to use the old ones. In a crisis, it's unacceptable for a leader to do nothing.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,799
McCellan of the Civil war infamy is remembered by history as either a coward, a traitor and many other usually derogatory things.

He gained this reputation due to his inaction in the civil war.. he had a far superior force basically the entire time, but just refused to use it. Always claiming he believed the confederates to far outnumber their actual troop count.

Well I kinda wonder if we are not forgetting to add in the fact that he was right... ...

Pretty much everyone agrees that using napoleonic tactics probably should have died before he did..

Charging fortified positions, even with a far superior force was suicide..

It makes me wonder if he was not smart enough to realize “line fighting” and “turning the flank” was dead, but not smart enough to engineer a brand new war manual from scratch..

I could see how some one decently smart could believe that napoleonic tactics were the right way of doing things, because that was MORE THAN the conventional wisdom of the time... it was considered the gospel truth...

That is what every military school on the planet taught...

But also be smart enough to tell using those tactics against fortified positions with the present weapons.....

That could make anyone’s butt pucker up..

It really took a couple wild cards looking at the chess board from the side to make any real progress..

People who had less loyalty to the “brave military tradition” narrative that kept napoleonic tactics the ONLY thing being considered..

Sherman who was kinda crazy and didn’t care what people thought...

Forrest using gorilla tactics....


Stone wall was using napoleonic tactics, he just ran his men to death and got their before they could dig in... maybe now brilliantly making due with a bad situation... maybe not smart enough to though out the manual...






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The Burden of command. Commanding large armies requires broad shoulders and not everyone has it. Sucess at a lower level does not mean a General is cpaable at the hiogher level, the skill sets reuired are not teh same.

Some people when given immense responsibilities just can;t face up to it. Moltke the younger in 1914, Gamelin in 1939. Pressure of command building leading to paralysis of rational decision making. Somne one can be a brave and quite capable commander at teh lower levels, but the Burden of higher commands can really impact some commanders.
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,776
Australia
McCelllan was over cautious and a poor tactician, but that does not make him a coward or a traitor. Apparently his troops liked him because they thought he would never risk their lives unnecessarily in the pursuit of glory and victory at any cost. He should have soundly beaten Lee at Antietam/Sharpsburg, especially given he had intelligence from the 'lost order'. Instead he was fought to a standstill and then allowed Lee to withdraw in good order. Its possible that Lee's army could have been destroyed and the war could have been ended much sooner had McClellan shown more initiative.
 
Nov 2019
138
Memphis TN
McClellan spent the first year of the war training his army in the traditional tactics. If he thought those tactics were obsolete, he should have developed new ones. Absent new tactics, he was obliged to use the old ones. In a crisis, it's unacceptable for a leader to do nothing.
That is my point..

He realized that attacking would just be catastrophic... crazy percentage of troops lost, but WAS UNWILLING to let go of the napoleonic tactics..

Causing him to freeze up basically..

I wrote it wrong I the op..

Supposed to read “was smart enough to realize it was suicide, but was not smart enough to invent a new war manual.”


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Nov 2019
138
Memphis TN
McCelllan was over cautious and a poor tactician, but that does not make him a coward or a traitor. Apparently his troops liked him because they thought he would never risk their lives unnecessarily in the pursuit of glory and victory at any cost. He should have soundly beaten Lee at Antietam/Sharpsburg, especially given he had intelligence from the 'lost order'. Instead he was fought to a standstill and then allowed Lee to withdraw in good order. Its possible that Lee's army could have been destroyed and the war could have been ended much sooner had McClellan shown more initiative.
I am wondering if he didn’t recognize attacking was suicide.. and he was right considering mainstream opinion is line fighting was way outdated..

But was not “ smart” enough to invent a new war manual or just recognize it was the tactics that were wrong and a new war manual would need to be written..

I wonder if this wasn’t the cause of his inaction..


Stuck between a rock and a hard place..

Married to napoleonic tactics, but smart enough to realize it was suicide..


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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,779
Dispargum
That is my point..

He realized that attacking would just be catastrophic... crazy percentage of troops lost, but WAS UNWILLING to let go of the napoleonic tactics..
Causing him to freeze up basically..
I wrote it wrong I the op..
Supposed to read “was smart enough to realize it was suicide, but was not smart enough to invent a new war manual.”
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Generals can't have it both ways. They must fight. Old tactics or new, they must decide and then act. There's no forgiveness if he refused to fight using obsolete tactics but could not come up with new tactics. I see no evidence he did think the tactics were obsolete. If he did think the old tactics were bad, he should have taken less enthusiasm to training his army in those tactics.
 
Nov 2019
138
Memphis TN
Generals can't have it both ways. They must fight. Old tactics or new, they must decide and then act. There's no forgiveness if he refused to fight using obsolete tactics but could not come up with new tactics. I see no evidence he did think the tactics were obsolete. If he did think the old tactics were bad, he should have taken less enthusiasm to training his army in those tactics.
Who said anything about forgiveness lol..

I’m jut wondering about his thinking process..

Obviously some generals were able to ignore napoleonic tactics.. so it would still make him sub standard.

But thinking about the casualty rate.. it was too high for the land gained..

Sherman and The anaconda plan to basically cut the south off and slowly work in ward is what worked.. not turning flanks and marching in rows.


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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,397
Sydney
A great organizer , acceptable strategist , poor tactician and a coward
he should have been a quartermaster of the army , as a commander he flinched at imaginary risks
 
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Sep 2012
1,181
Tarkington, Texas
"Gorilla Tactics", AB? One of his many failures was McCllelan believing Lee had thousands of troops held in reserve. Little Mac actually had thousands in Reserve at Antietam that he never used. Lee did beat several of McClellan's successors, so who would have done better than he did?

Pruitt