Skip to comments.General McClellan and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Posted on 04/05/2012 5:10:55 PM PDT by Upstate NY Guy
April 5, 1862 (Saturday) Yorktown, VA
The previous day had been a good one for George Briton McClellan, commander of the Union Army of the Potomac. The Rebels to his front gave up ground quickly as he advanced two columns up the Virginia Peninsula. Though a division had been withheld from him a few days ago, he quickly recovered, taking less than two days to get his entire army of 66,700 on the road.
As the dawn drove out the night, he must have felt a renewed optimism. He was certain that Confederate commander General John Magruder had left his back door open wide enough for one wing of the Army of the Potomac to slip around behind Yorktown, the Confederate stronghold. He was also certain that General McDowells First Corps, 10,000-strong, would be joining him in the next couple of days.
But his day went from good to bad possibly even before he left his tent. General Erasmus Keyes, heading up the armys left column, reported early, saying that the back door was blocked by a large force with three guns in position and strong breastworks. McClellan had expected Keyes to face little or no resistance, but it was now Keyes opinion that we shall encounter very serious resistance. There was no way that he was going to be able to best the Rebels with the force he had, so he called for reinforcements. Though they had done no fighting, his artillery was inexplicably low on ammunition. The same was true for the infantry. Also, he wanted some more artillery, and the roads were bad.
(Excerpt) Read more at civilwardailygazette.com ...
Not that McClellen ever needed an excuse for inaction.
Exactly....which is why he was eventually fired by Lincoln and replaced by Grant (who had been a total failure as a civilian). Strange how war plucks otherwise-”losers” from obscurity and propels them to greatness at key times in history.
McClellan had such overwhelming superiority in the Peninsula Campaign, all he had to do was keep moving right up to Richmond but Lee knew him and knew he could and did spook him into thinking he had the superiority in troops.
The USMC Mameluke Sword was adopted earlier, but it was not authorized between 1859 (curiously, the year the McClellan was first adopted) and 1875.
Some credit due to Alan Pinkerton, still famous for his sleuthing skills. Really wish we had a history forum here.
Interesting. I didn’t know that.
In before the LWAT crowd shows up
I have two ancestors who fought in NY Volunteer Infantry Regiments: the 97th and 13th.
What is a LWAT?
Interesting. I've lived in NY State my whole life but have ancestors who in the 8th Virginia Cavalry.
I thought Pinkerton worked for the North.
He did, for McClellan. He was responsible for the vast overestimations of Confederate strength. And became famous. No disrespect intended to Gen Magruder.
...that's David Kincaid doing the lead vocals. He's also the lead singer of the rock group "The Brandos" and big time civil war reenactor.
“McClellan had such overwhelming superiority in the Peninsula Campaign, all he had to do was keep moving right up to Richmond but Lee knew him and knew he could and did spook him into thinking he had the superiority in troops.”
In Grant’s autobiography he reveals one of his battle strategy secrets:
Whenever he got apprehensive about the strength and the ability of the enemy, he would refresh his courage by considering that his opponent over the hill, or across the woods, was just as frightened about His army.
Maybe a little off-topic but here’s another Civil War song by the Brandos.
“Down in Gettysburg”
It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
While in the Navy, I was assigned to a riding stable/ranch attached to NAS Millington (Tenn).
We had a few of the old ‘U.S.’ saddles around. Very comfortable saddle for a long day.
The next day Lew Wallace rescued the Union Forces at Pittsburgh Landing, aka Shilo.
McClellan’s narcissictic letters whining to his wife and complaining that no one appreciated his brilliance reminds me of a certain occupant in Washington DC.
That is really interesting. Can you point us to some pictures and/or more information on this?
Take evasive action! Green Group, stay close to holding sector MD-7.
Yes he did... but he did more good for the South with his alarmism.
Pinkerton was a very cautious man who always overestimated his opponents. But I don't think McClellan would have taken advantage of even totally accurate estimates of enemy strength if he had them.
McClellan was a wonderful parade ground general. He could train troops to be 'the best they could be.' But as to battlefield tactics, he totally sucked. He was overly cautious, not for the sake of the troops, but for his own reputation -- which was all he really cared about.
The only good thing to be said is that he did train the best army the world had ever seen at that point, and US Grant finally utilized that army to its full extent and ended the war that McClellan could have ended two years earlier.
Salute to the Army of the Potomac! They were good soldiers and the best in the world when they finally had a great leader in General Grant.
Sure thing. Wikipedia has a pretty good entry on the McClellan Saddle. The design was exceptionally pragmatic and is still made by a number of saddlery shops to present. In addition to military reenactors it remains popular with a lot of distance/pack riders as well as mounted police units, in one variation or another...
Tomorrow, April 6, is the 150th anniversary of the first day of the battle of Shiloh...and of the death of Albert Sidney Johnston.
Also found a neat little video here:
McClellan was certainly overcautious, ridiculously so. But I do think that at that time, no one really appreciated how bloody the war would be. Except perhaps Sherman, who was written off as crazy for his prognostication about the number of troops the North would need.
If McClellan had entered into a confrontation resulting in the kinds of losses that Grant later experienced in several of his battles, he would have been removed from his position and vilified by the northern press.
The web site points out that, at the time that McClellan was moving so cautiously up the peninsula, the battle of Shiloh was about to take place. Shiloh’s losses were a shock to a lot of people, north and south. But the people would be in for a lot of such shocks in the three years ahead of them.
Thank you so much!
I really appreciate this...
He wasn’t fired by Lincoln and replaced by Grant. He was replaced by Ambrose Burnside. Burnside was replaced by Joe Hooker, and Hooker by George Meade. Meade continued as commander of the Army of the Potomac under Grant, who was general in chief of all Union armies.