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General McClellan . Too Cautious?

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  • #91
    Originally posted by Massena View Post

    McClellan had myriad chances to defeat Johnston in northern Virginia as well as in the Peninsula. He hesitated because he was afraid of engaging. He was bluffed in northern Virginia and again in the Peninsula. After Lee took over, McClellan was now faced with an enemy commander who was not afraid to fight and drove McClellan from the Peninsula.

    It was not Halleck's nor Lincoln's fault. After the victory at Malvern Hill, won by Porter not McClellan, the latter sat on his hands once again and that is why he was ordered to withdraw. The Peninsular campaign was a costly failure and the responsibility for that failure rests entirely with McClellan. He had his chance(s) and he muffed them.
    Do you have a source for all these generals being afraid?

    McClellan never opened a vigorous battle, and he lost the Seven Days, because his intelligence reports greatly exaggerated Confederate troop numbers.

    Other than that, he pinned Lee down on the Peninsula and maintained a base along the same route Grant was forced to take 2 years later. And McClellan held that advantage with far less casualties than Grant sustained.

    With accurate intelligence reports, I believe McClellan would have captured Richmond and perhaps defeat Johnston or Lee in an offensive battle.
    "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

    "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

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    • #92
      Originally posted by American87 View Post

      Do you have a source for all these generals being afraid?

      McClellan never opened a vigorous battle, and he lost the Seven Days, because his intelligence reports greatly exaggerated Confederate troop numbers.

      Other than that, he pinned Lee down on the Peninsula and maintained a base along the same route Grant was forced to take 2 years later. And McClellan held that advantage with far less casualties than Grant sustained.

      With accurate intelligence reports, I believe McClellan would have captured Richmond and perhaps defeat Johnston or Lee in an offensive battle.
      Read anything reliable regarding McClellan and he 'took counsel of his fears' regarding numbers of the opposition. Capturing Richmond was not the objective-destroying the Confederate army was.

      McClellan lost the Seven Days' Battles because he was both outgeneraled and outfought. There was no reason to retreat to Harrison's Landing-none at all. Lee didn't defeat the Army of the Potomac, he defeated McClellan. McClellan did nothing but sit on his hands after Porter won at Malvern Hill. He sat for two months until finally he was ordered out. McClellan did not understand how to fight an offensive battle. His lack of performance, which has already been shown on this forum more than once, at Antietam is clear evidence of that fact. And he never went forward to take a look for himself in any of his operations. He was a headquarters operator, not a fighting commander.

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      • #93
        Originally posted by Massena View Post

        Read anything reliable regarding McClellan and he 'took counsel of his fears' regarding numbers of the opposition. Capturing Richmond was not the objective-destroying the Confederate army was.

        McClellan lost the Seven Days' Battles because he was both outgeneraled and outfought. There was no reason to retreat to Harrison's Landing-none at all. Lee didn't defeat the Army of the Potomac, he defeated McClellan. McClellan did nothing but sit on his hands after Porter won at Malvern Hill. He sat for two months until finally he was ordered out. McClellan did not understand how to fight an offensive battle. His lack of performance, which has already been shown on this forum more than once, at Antietam is clear evidence of that fact. And he never went forward to take a look for himself in any of his operations. He was a headquarters operator, not a fighting commander.
        Do you have any primary sources that say McClellan and Johnston were scared out of their wits, too scared to act, or anything like that? The reliable research you have should link to a primary source.

        McClellan lost the Seven Days-yes, I think we can all concede that. But he lost because his intelligence reports greatly exaggerated Confederate troop numbers. When you make decisions in campaign, you base them on the information you have. McClellan was not about to storm a position he believed was occupied by twice the number of troops he had.

        Had McClellan possessed accurate information, I believe he would have captured Richmond and perhaps given an offensive battle to Johnston or Lee. His actions at South Mountain show what he was capable of when be he believed the odds were in his favor.

        McClellan remained at Harrison's Landing for the same reason: he believed he was greatly outnumbered. He also believed that if he stayed on the Peninsula then Lee would remain there as well, thus defending Washington, which was one of Lincoln's goals. This proved to be right: Once Lincoln and Halleck ordered McClellan to retreat, Lee marched north, routed Pope, and entered Maryland. It was a total fiasco. None of that would have happened had Lincoln and Halleck taken McClellan's advice.

        The same can be said for the offensive, not just the defensive. Grant tried to march overland to Richmond, and he failed. Lee blocked every turn. There were too many rivers for the type of maneuvering Grant required to win. Grant was forced to establish a base on James River, just as McClellan figured out 2 years previously, and without earning the nickname "butcher." Again, the only thing keeping McClellan from dealing a death blow that would have taken the city in record time was that he had inaccurate information.

        "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

        "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

        Comment


        • #94
          Originally posted by American87 View Post

          Do you have any primary sources that say McClellan and Johnston were scared out of their wits, too scared to act, or anything like that? The reliable research you have should link to a primary source.
          Are you now relying on hyperbole in your arguments? I never used the term 'scared out of their wits' and never mentioned Johnston being afraid of anything.

          Have you read Battles and Leaders, specifically Volume II? Pages 160-277 and 313-438 might help you immensely. It is almost all primary source material.

          Further, two excellent references are very helpful: Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles by Brian Burton and Joseph E Johnston and the Defense of Richmond by Steven Newton. In the first volume, the author evaluates McClellan’s generalship on pages 310-311 concluding that ‘Whether born of timidity or not, McClellan’s activities did not reflect good judgment.’


          Originally posted by American87 View Post

          McClellan lost the Seven Days-yes, I think we can all concede that. But he lost because his intelligence reports greatly exaggerated Confederate troop numbers. When you make decisions in campaign, you base them on the information you have. McClellan was not about to storm a position he believed was occupied by twice the number of troops he had.

          Had McClellan possessed accurate information, I believe he would have captured Richmond and perhaps given an offensive battle to Johnston or Lee. His actions at South Mountain show what he was capable of when be he believed the odds were in his favor.

          McClellan remained at Harrison's Landing for the same reason: he believed he was greatly outnumbered. He also believed that if he stayed on the Peninsula then Lee would remain there as well, thus defending Washington, which was one of Lincoln's goals. This proved to be right: Once Lincoln and Halleck ordered McClellan to retreat, Lee marched north, routed Pope, and entered Maryland. It was a total fiasco. None of that would have happened had Lincoln and Halleck taken McClellan's advice.

          The same can be said for the offensive, not just the defensive. Grant tried to march overland to Richmond, and he failed. Lee blocked every turn. There were too many rivers for the type of maneuvering Grant required to win. Grant was forced to establish a base on James River, just as McClellan figured out 2 years previously, and without earning the nickname "butcher." Again, the only thing keeping McClellan from dealing a death blow that would have taken the city in record time was that he had inaccurate information.
          You're doing the same thing that McClellan did-blaming someone else for your own mistakes. What source material have you researched or referenced in coming to the conclusions you have?-which are all wrong by the way.

          McClellan quit when difficulties arose-Grant didn't. And that is the difference between the two. McClellan was gun-shy and was afraid to lose people. Commanders that act that way don't win-and that is the object of the exercise. Grant's target in 1864 was Lee's army, not Richmond. McClellan's supposed target was Richmond and not Lee's army. McClellan undoubtedly didn’t pay attention at West Point when those lessons were taught.

          After Malvern Hill McClellan did not follow up his one-sided victory (actually Porter's and Hunt's) with an immediate advance against Lee. Considering the heavy losses incurred by Lee, it could have turned a disastrous campaign into a victorious one. But once again, in Patton's words, McClellan 'took counsel of his fears' and sat on his hands for two months and did nothing.

          Why should Lincoln and Halleck taken a loser's advice? And what was that, by the way?

          Grant didn't fail, by the way. He ended up destroying Lee's army, which was the object of the exercise, and Richmond fell of its own accord. Grant drove Lee out of Petersburg and pursued him to destruction. He wasn't interested in Richmond, but the destruction of Lee's army and ending the war. McClellan was not.
          Last edited by Massena; 12 Jun 19, 07:21.

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          • #95
            By the way, do you understand the difference between moral and physical cowardice?

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            • #96
              Originally posted by Massena View Post

              Are you now relying on hyperbole in your arguments? I never used the term 'scared out of their wits' and never mentioned Johnston being afraid of anything.

              Have you read Battles and Leaders, specifically Volume II? Pages 160-277 and 313-438 might help you immensely. It is almost all primary source material.

              Further, two excellent references are very helpful: Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles by Brian Burton and Joseph E Johnston and the Defense of Richmond by Steven Newton. In the first volume, the author evaluates McClellan’s generalship on pages 310-311 concluding that ‘Whether born of timidity or not, McClellan’s activities did not reflect good judgment.’



              You're doing the same thing that McClellan did-blaming someone else for your own mistakes. What source material have you researched or referenced in coming to the conclusions you have?-which are all wrong by the way.

              McClellan quit when difficulties arose-Grant didn't. And that is the difference between the two. McClellan was gun-shy and was afraid to lose people. Commanders that act that way don't win-and that is the object of the exercise. Grant's target in 1864 was Lee's army, not Richmond. McClellan's supposed target was Richmond and not Lee's army. McClellan undoubtedly didn’t pay attention at West Point when those lessons were taught.

              After Malvern Hill McClellan did not follow up his one-sided victory (actually Porter's and Hunt's) with an immediate advance against Lee. Considering the heavy losses incurred by Lee, it could have turned a disastrous campaign into a victorious one. But once again, in Patton's words, McClellan 'took counsel of his fears' and sat on his hands for two months and did nothing.

              Why should Lincoln and Halleck taken a loser's advice? And what was that, by the way?

              Grant didn't fail, by the way. He ended up destroying Lee's army, which was the object of the exercise, and Richmond fell of its own accord. Grant drove Lee out of Petersburg and pursued him to destruction. He wasn't interested in Richmond, but the destruction of Lee's army and ending the war. McClellan was not.
              In post #90 you wrote, “He hesitated because he was afraid of engaging. He was bluffed in northern Virginia and again in the Peninsula. After Lee took over, McClellan was now faced with an enemy commander who was not afraid...” Do you have a primary source backing up your claim that McClellan was too scared to act or that Lee’s predecessor was too scared to fight McClellan?

              It seems to me McClellan acted cautiously, because his intelligence reports greatly exaggerated the Confederates troop numbers. There is no source for this, because McClellan did not realize his information was incorrect. When he received notice that he faced weaker numbers at South Mountain, he gave an offensive battle. He was not afraid to lose people, as the fighting in the Cornfield shows. Again you attribute people’s actions to fear: do you have a primary source for this?

              I’m not here to discuss Grants 1864 campaign at length. As it relates to McClellan, Grant learned through successive failures that he needed a base on James River to move against Richmond, or more specifically in his case, Petersburg. The terrain overland was too difficult for Grants plan to succeed. McClellan figured this out 2 years previously, and it cost him far less men.


              McClellan also pinned Lee down at Richmond by occupying the peninsula. That was his advice to Lincoln and Halleck: hold the peninsula, and Washington will be safe. He proved to be correct: once Lincoln and Halleck ordered him to retreat, Lee marched north, routed Pope, and marched into Maryland. It was a total fiasco. None of that would have happpened had Lincoln and McClellan followed sound advice. Those two commanders lacked the military sense and understanding of Lee’s temperament to make sound strategic decisions. McClellan was correct.

              McClellan did not go on the offensive after Malvern Hill, because it was a rear guard action to cover his retreat. He was preoccupied with protecting the army and drawing up a new plan of operations after he believed his first plan had failed.
              "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

              "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

              Comment


              • #97
                Again, what is your source material and do you understand the difference between physical cowardice and moral cowardice?

                And what was McClellan's new plan of operations after Malvern Hill, and after two months in place why didn't he implement it? Further, if he actually had one, why didn't he present it to Halleck when he visited McClellan's headquarters? I sincerely doubt if he had one and presented it to Halleck and it made sense, Halleck would have allowed him to execute it.

                As Lincoln once said of McClellan, he 'had the slows.'

                Comment


                • #98
                  Originally posted by Massena View Post
                  Again, what is your source material and do you understand the difference between physical cowardice and moral cowardice?

                  And what was McClellan's new plan of operations after Malvern Hill, and after two months in place why didn't he implement it? Further, if he actually had one, why didn't he present it to Halleck when he visited McClellan's headquarters? I sincerely doubt if he had one and presented it to Halleck and it made sense, Halleck would have allowed him to execute it.

                  As Lincoln once said of McClellan, he 'had the slows.'
                  Prisoners all state that I had 200,000 enemy to fight. A good deal more than two to one, and they knowing the ground
                  -McClellan to Lincoln, July 11, 1862
                  O.R., vol. 11, part 3, p. 315

                  In regard to the force of the enemy, he [McClellan] expressed the opinion that it was not less than 200,000, and I found that in this estimate most of his officers agreed.
                  -Halleck to Secretary of War Stanton, July 27, 1862
                  O.R. vol. 11, part 3, p. 338

                  My opinion is more and more firm that here is the defense of Washington, and that I should be at once re-enforced by all available troops to enable me to advance. Retreat would be disastrous to the army and the cause. I am confident of that.
                  -McClellan to Halleck, July 28, 1862
                  O.R. vol. 11, part 1, p. 75


                  I still feel that our true policy is to re-enforce the army by every available means and throw it again upon Richmond. Should it be determined to withdraw it, I shall look upon our cause as lost and the demoralization of the army certain.
                  -McClellan to Halleck, July 30, 1862
                  O.R. vol. 11, part 3, p. 342

                  It is determind to withdraw your army from the Peninsula to Aquia Creek. You will take immediate measures to effect this...
                  -Halleck to McClellan, August 3, 1862
                  O.R. vol. 11, part 1, p. 80-1

                  One of my general officers, who for five days past has held a position near Malvern Hill, in a letter just received, says:

                  The enemy before us is weak, and from all I can learn there is not 36,000 men between this and Richmond, nor do I believe they can get more before we can drive them. * * * I have good guides, &c.

                  General Barnard, chief of my engineers, is decidedly in favor of this movement at this time.

                  Under these circumstances I consider it my duty to present the foregoing information, and for your consideration, as under existing orders I do not feel authorized to make the movement.

                  -McClellan to Halleck, August 12, 1862
                  -O.R. vol. 11, part 3, p.372-3.

                  There you have it, as it should be done. McClellan believed himself outnumbered two to one; he argued for staying on the Peninusla in order to defend Washington; he planned on reenforcing his army and resuming the offensive; he offered Halleck the chance to strike at Lee's rearguard and the city of Richmond after Lee weakened himself drastically to attack Pope.

                  The narrative that McClellan was slow, or timid, or anything like that is groundless. He was deceived by his intelligence reports. That is what the primary sources say. After the war, big-government Republicans would bad mouth McClellan for loving the South and peaceably wanting to restore the Union. McClellan ran against the Emancipation Proclamation, plain and simple. It's politicaly taboo to say nice things about him. The moderators don't want historiographical discussions that focus on modern literature-there's too much politics involved. Therefore this post has to end, but at what expense?
                  "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

                  "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

                  Comment


                  • #99
                    And where did you get your information? Did you actually look into the official records or did you cherry pick what you thought you needed to support your mistakes?

                    Did McClellan do nothing to check on the intelligence reports? And he believed the Confederate prisoners?

                    There are more ways to acquire intelligence than employ the Pinkertons, who didn't do a creditable job in the first place.

                    McClellan was taken in by Johnston twice-in northern Virginia and in the Peninsula. He did not act like an army commander and he was defeated by an inferior army.

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by Massena View Post
                      And where did you get your information? Did you actually look into the official records or did you cherry pick what you thought you needed to support your mistakes?

                      Did McClellan do nothing to check on the intelligence reports? And he believed the Confederate prisoners?

                      There are more ways to acquire intelligence than employ the Pinkertons, who didn't do a creditable job in the first place.

                      McClellan was taken in by Johnston twice-in northern Virginia and in the Peninsula. He did not act like an army commander and he was defeated by an inferior army.
                      I got my information from the official records. That’s what the abbreviation O.R stands for. I’m not sure what you mean by cherry picking. The primary sources say you’re wrong, and you won’t back up your claims that McClellan was paralyzed by fear, etc., aka the traditional pro-Lincoln politicized narrative.

                      Im not sure what McClellan did for all his intelligence. He relied on the Pinkertons, prisoners, and presumably cavalry but I’m not sure.

                      What do do you mean Johnston took McClellan? McClellan forced him South from Manassas and then to within twelve miles of Richmond. McClellaN was right on track. He also acted like an army commander-he WAS an army commander. You like commanders who gallop into the fray and cheer on their men. That’s fine. A bit fantasy-esque but fine. McClellan was fine where he was. His decisions were based on poor intelligence.

                      "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

                      "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

                      Comment


                      • I know what the Official Records are. Did you use them or just extracts from them to prove your opinion? That's what cherry picking is.

                        And you haven't proven your opinion at all. All you've done is post material that is pro-McClellan and have not looked at why he lost. Looking at both sides is called historical inquiry, and you have not done that. What you have done is called revisionism-and your 'method' is revisionism of the worst type.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by Massena View Post
                          I know what the Official Records are. Did you use them or just extracts from them to prove your opinion? That's what cherry picking is.

                          And you haven't proven your opinion at all. All you've done is post material that is pro-McClellan and have not looked at why he lost. Looking at both sides is called historical inquiry, and you have not done that. What you have done is called revisionism-and your 'method' is revisionism of the worst type.
                          I have not read every single document in the official records. I have read orders and correspondence that took place during the period under question, and have posted them for you to see. They are the facts, and my summation of them is accurate: McClellan believed himsel outnumbered two to one; he argued for staying on the Peninsula in order to defend Washington; he asked for reinforcements so he could resume the offensive; and he offered to attack Lee's rearguard and seize Richmond after Lee detached most of his army againt Pope.

                          The idea that he was scared or whatever is not in the official records. Please provide the primary source where this claim of yours comes from.

                          At the risk of setting up a strawman, I venture to say that your interpretation of McClellan, which is shared by many other casual students of his, is based on a cursory view of battle maps and troop numbers. In other words, you know that McClellan outnumbered Johnston and Lee, and you see him acting as if he has this great big force in front of him-he's cautious, feeling things out, prepping his command before any major advance. You assume he's scared, timid, or some type of incompetent commander. This is false, because the record shows that he took the offensive in West Virginia and won, and that he took the offensive in Maryland and pretty much handed Lee's ass to him. So how do you explain his inaction during the Peninsula Campaign? It doesn't make sense. The truth is that he was misled by his intelligence reports.

                          That's not a pro-McClellan stance. I have my criticisms of him. But he did a much better job than McDowell, Burnside, Hooker, and Meade. He would have done Grant's job two years earlier-with far fewer casualties-if he had accurate information. Grant's success strategy was in many ways the same as McClellans, but Grant had Lincoln's support and more reliable intelligence reports.
                          "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

                          "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

                          Comment


                          • Mac always acted as if he were outnumbered, so he hasonly himself to blame re accurate reports. He claimed he had won the 7 days, yet while Lee shifted troops to face Pope, he sat still. At Antietam, he listened to Sumner who was with the routed divisions rather than those on the front line who correctly saw the weakness of Lee's line and urged a follow up. Those are facts Also, checkout Lincoln's arc of the chord comments re the advance in the fall of 1862.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by American87 View Post

                              I have not read every single document in the official records. I have read orders and correspondence that took place during the period under question, and have posted them for you to see.
                              Regarding the estimates of strength; whilst incorrect in places, they were not so wretched as is generally supposed. Certainly during the Yorktown operations every statement of enemy strength McClellan gives is correct.

                              When on 26th June McClellan reports the enemy may have 200,000 at Richmond and he is outnumbered, he is only incorrect on scale. Lee's army really was significantly larger than McClellan's. The 200,000 number was composed of three different forces that intelligence said were gathered at Richmond:

                              150,000 under Lee (actual number ca. 128,000 present, from ration issues)
                              30,000 under Jackson, including forces sent from Richmond to Jackson just prior (essentially correct)
                              20,000 from the west under Beauregard (completely incorrect and this was determined to be wrong in July and the force was dropped from estimates)

                              The Richmond force was estimated too high due to Babcock's orbat estimates acquiring 36 extra regiments beyond those actually present. If the orbat hadn't contained these 36 regiments, since regiments were estimated at 700 then the number would be correct (ca. 125,000). Babcock had not worked out that GW Smith had taken ill, and his division had been broken up. For example, on the 27th June, Pinkerton wrote an abstract of his estimates to McClellan to inform McClellan of that attacked at Beaver Dam Creek, and what was coming at Gaines' Mill. This is what he wrote:

                              GW Smith: brigades of Whiting, Hood, Hampton, Colston and Pettigrew
                              DH Hill: brigades of JR Anderson, Rains, Early, Featherstone, Garland and Rodes
                              AP Hill: brigades of Field, "JR Anderson" (the regiments indictate this is actually RH Anderson's bde) and "Pindar" (i.e. Pender)

                              As you can see, it is terribly confused. Federal intelligence here is understating that has crossed the Chickahominy. Longstreet's division is not mentioned (although they detected being engaged by two of his bdes, they misassigned them), and apparently they thought it was still at Richmond.

                              Although there were mistakes, the important point is that Lee's army was much larger than commonly believed, and indeed was larger than McClellan's.
                              "[T]he worst that could be said of the Peninsula campaign was that thus far it had not been successful. To make it a failure was reserved for the agency of General Halleck." -Emory Upton

                              Comment


                              • Originally posted by grognard View Post
                                Mac always acted as if he were outnumbered, so he has only himself to blame re accurate reports.
                                By June '62 McClellan was outnumbered. For most of the campaign the numbers were approximately equal, with both sides within 10% of each other until shortly before the Seven Days.

                                He claimed he had won the 7 days, yet while Lee shifted troops to face Pope, he sat still.
                                Lee did not move against Pope until mid-August, when it was clear McClellan's army was being packed up and moved back to Washington.

                                At Antietam, he listened to Sumner who was with the routed divisions rather than those on the front line who correctly saw the weakness of Lee's line and urged a follow up.
                                Lee's line at the "White Church" was not weak, but incredibly strong. Franklin had 2 brigades available, and wanted to frontally assault the strongest part of the enemy position. It would have been a blunder.

                                Also, checkout Lincoln's arc of the chord comments re the advance in the fall of 1862.
                                Yes, Lincoln was wrong.
                                "[T]he worst that could be said of the Peninsula campaign was that thus far it had not been successful. To make it a failure was reserved for the agency of General Halleck." -Emory Upton

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