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General McClellan . Too Cautious?

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  • General McClellan . Too Cautious?

    Again pondering my new readings of the civil war from a basis of not knowing a lot .George McClellan it seems is given a lot of credit for actually creating a trained union army in pretty short order after the slow beginnings in 1861 but seems to get a decent amount of criticism (Including from the POTUS) for not actually using it particularly in 1862 when he transported his army south by boat to then park it not far from Richmond and then just stay put. I know he seems to have been convinced that the CSA had a large force nearby when he in fact outnumbered them ten to one or therabouts but nonetheless looks like he was just too cautious? What's the prevailing thinking from the more well read?

  • #2
    McClellan was a great trainer and administrator, probably the best in the war. The foundation he gave the AoP contributed a great deal towards the ultimate victory.

    But that great strength was also his great weakness; having built up a fine army, he was terribly hesitant to commit it to battle, usually doing so halfheartedly.

    On some level he feared damaging his beloved creation.

    Add in terrible arrogance and you have 'Little Mac'.
    Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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    • #3
      I did wonder about damaging his own creation. Lee seems to have take advantage of that in the Summer campaign. Lee look terrible casualties but McClellan kept backing off and then right out of Virginia. Amazing really .

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      • #4
        Originally posted by copenhagen View Post
        I did wonder about damaging his own creation. Lee seems to have take advantage of that in the Summer campaign. Lee look terrible casualties but McClellan kept backing off and then right out of Virginia. Amazing really .
        a fantastic training general, but not one to go to war under....
        The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

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        • #5
          Originally posted by marktwain View Post

          a fantastic training general, but not one to go to war under....
          Thats seems clear.I just find it interesting that he just didn't do anything in summer of 1862 when he had so many resources so close to Richmond. Incompetent in out and out inaction rather that on the battlefield itself. Odd. Didn't learn the lesson at Antietam either .

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
            McClellan was a great trainer and administrator, probably the best in the war. The foundation he gave the AoP contributed a great deal towards the ultimate victory.

            But that great strength was also his great weakness; having built up a fine army, he was terribly hesitant to commit it to battle, usually doing so halfheartedly.

            On some level he feared damaging his beloved creation.

            Add in terrible arrogance and you have 'Little Mac'.
            I couldn't have said it better, he built a great Army but he was reluctand to use it for it's intended purpose.
            Trying hard to be the Man, that my Dog believes I am!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Trung Si View Post

              I couldn't have said it better, he built a great Army but he was reluctand to use it for it's intended purpose.
              I think Lincoln said it all to the effect "My dear McClellan: If you don't want to use the Army I should like to borrow it for a while."
              Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
              Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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              • #8
                McClellan was not a good choice for a field commander, let alone an army commander. He 'took counsel of his fears' and was not present at some of the battles in the Peninsula. He was a headquarters operator not a combat commander. He was too young and inexperienced to command at that level and his ego would not allow him to admit it. Popularity among the rank and file is not a prerequisite for command.

                He was an excellent trainer and organizer, but he did not have the ability or the character to lead the instrument that he forged.

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                • #9
                  I will agree completely with all the above. It might also be noted that his political aspirations might have led him to positions not compatible with the best interests of the United States, which is a wholly separate issue.

                  Regards,
                  Dennis

                  If stupid was a criminal offense Sea Lion believers would be doing life.

                  Shouting out to Half Pint for bringing back the big mugs!

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                  • #10
                    That is absolutely correct. McClellan was not in favor of completely defeating the South and abolishing slavery.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by D1J1 View Post
                      I will agree completely with all the above. It might also be noted that his political aspirations might have led him to positions not compatible with the best interests of the United States, which is a wholly separate issue.

                      Regards,
                      Dennis
                      From what I've read about McClellan, he seemed much more occupied with future political ambitions, and something no ex-officer/future politician wants is a string of military defeats under his belt. Doesn't make a for a good résumé.

                      I've read some accounts of the massive build up of the Union army prior to the Pennisula Campaign and there was genuine concern in many quarters that disease would end up killing most of them before any of them ever saw any fighting.
                      Last edited by asterix; 09 Apr 19, 06:41.
                      You'll live, only the best get killed.

                      -General Charles de Gaulle

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MarkV View Post

                        I think Lincoln said it all to the effect "My dear McClellan: If you don't want to use the Army I should like to borrow it for a while."
                        Good line.

                        T. Harry Williams in his "Lincoln and His Generals" makes a keen statement and captures another Lincoln quote:

                        "The chief criticism of McClellan should not be that he offered advice to Lincoln but that he was not qualified to offer it. Only generals who win great victories should presume to counsel their political superiors about policy."

                        "I said I would remove him if he let Lee's army get away from him, and I must do so. He has got the 'slows'...."
                        Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post

                          Good line.

                          T. Harry Williams in his "Lincoln and His Generals" makes a keen statement and captures another Lincoln quote:

                          "The chief criticism of McClellan should not be that he offered advice to Lincoln but that he was not qualified to offer it. Only generals who win great victories should presume to counsel their political superiors about policy."

                          "I said I would remove him if he let Lee's army get away from him, and I must do so. He has got the 'slows'...."
                          And "If I gave McClellan all the men he asked for, they could not find room to lie down; they'd have to sleep standing up."
                          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Massena View Post
                            That is absolutely correct. McClellan was not in favor of completely defeating the South and abolishing slavery.
                            The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by asterix View Post

                              From what I've read about McClellan, he seemed much more occupied with future political ambitions, and something no ex-officer/future politician wants is a string of military defeats under his belt. Doesn't make a for a good résumé.

                              I've read some accounts of the massive build up of the Union army prior to the Pennisula Campaign and there was genuine concern in many quarters that disease would end up killing most of them before any of them ever saw any fighting.
                              That is on really good point!
                              One pointer that the army had to be almost whipped into was close quarters sanitation..

                              Dorothea dix might have won the war for the North.
                              The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

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