George McClellan (see Plate CI) was born in Philadelphia on 3 December I82i>. Attending the L niversity of Pennsylvania, Ik- left in order to enter West Point, where he was graduated second in his class of
1846. Appointed to the Corps of Engineers» he was noted for getting roads and bridges built during Scott's Mexico City campaign of 1847. earning nvo brevets. Thereafter he returned to West Point as an instructor; translated a French bayonet manual; explored the sources of the Red River; was one of a group of US Army observers during the Crimean War; designed a saddle for army use that was based on the Hungarian model; and surveyed possible tra use on tin en tail railroad routes. He resigned his commission as captain, I si Cavalry, iu 18o7 to become chief engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad.
At the outbreak of the Civil War he was president of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad; he volunteered his services to Ohio's governor, who on 23 April 1861 appointed McClellan a major-general to organize the state forces. So well did he perform this task that President Lincoln appointed him a major-general in the regular army - as its second ranking officer - in June 1861.
McClellan was successful in West Virginia in June and July - a time of few successes - and Lincoln brought him East to command the Army of the Potomac in August, naming him General-iu-Chief of the Armies of the United States on 1 November 1861 in succession to Winfield Scott. He set about rebuilding the army's morale, getting clothes and food for the troops, while holding parade after parade to inslii pride and confidence, McClellan himself did not lack for confidence, wr iting on 2! May 1862, "When I see the hand of God guarding one so weak as myself, I can almost think myself a chosen instrument to carry out his schemes/'
hi March 1862, President Lincoln, frustrated by McClellan's inactivity, relieved him of his generalship-in-chief to concentrate on his army command and gave him a direct order to take the field, McClellan finally shipped his Army of the Potomac to the Peninsula that juts into Chesapeake Bay, planning a rapid march to take Richmond, Faulty intelligence, which he believed despite evidence to the contrary, indicated
that Confederate forces greatly outnumbered him. After making laborious preparations to conduct a siege at York town that never happened, the Union army almost reached Richmond, only to be attacked by the Confederates under Joseph Johnston (Fair Oaks, 31 May-1 June), and then again under Robert E.Lee (Game's Mill, 27 June). McClellan, thoroughly unnerved by these attacks, rejected the advice of Kearny and Hooker that Richmond was still vulnerable, and withdrew to a defendabie base on the James River.
He was then ordered to bring the army back to northern Virginia to support John Pope's abortive campaign, which failed at
Blessed with a versatile mind and sweeping interests, George McCleHan made a technically perfect commander for the Army of the Potomac, In which appointment his handsome looks and gentlemaniy manners also earned him many admirers. However, his unshakable self-confidence was at lied to excessive caution, and a total lack of political instinct; and when his lack of nerve in combat situations ted to repeated failure in 1862, Lincoln dismissed him. That this came as a complete surprise to him says much about McClellan's limitations.
Second Bull Run (Manassas - 30 August). As Lee headed into Maryland, McClellan followed, and even had the luck to obtain a copy of' Lee's battle plan. Moving rapidly - for McClellan - he struck Lee's divided army at Antietam (17 September). I he Union attacks were piecemeal, however, and Lee's gready outnumbered forces held, inflicting ^reat losses; two days later they withdrew across the Potomac, unmolested.
McClellan followed Lee with characteristic caution, Lincoln visited his headquarters; but unable to persuade him to act aggressively, the President dismissed McClellan from command of The Army of the Potomac and replaced him with Vmbrose Burnside On 7 November 1862. Most of the army were as shocked as was McClellan. "The greatest indignation is expressed by everyone here, even those who have blamed McClellan [for the army's failure to succeed]," Charles Wain Wright wrote in his dairy the next day. On the 9th lie noted that some officers, on McClellanTs farewell, used "expressions with regret to his removal which they had no right to use, and a few even going so far as to beg him to resist the order, and saying that the army would support him." Even a private in die 9th New York, Edward Wight man, wrote home that "there seems to be a general impression that this is no time to change field officers...
McClellan went home to Trenton, New Jersey, fully expecting orders to resume his command; but they never came. The Democratic Party nominated this conservative to run against Lincoln in the 1864 presidential election on a peace platform. He duly resigned his commission on election day; but his bid failed, in part due to Lincoln's overwhelming support from soldiers who voted in the field. McClellan later became governor of New Jersey; he died on 19 October 1885 at Orange, New Jersey, and was buried in Riverview Cemetery, Trenton.
In 1866 William Swinton, who had been a reporter for the New York Times during the war, wrote a history of the army, which he had accompanied. Of McClellan he wrote: "He was assuredly not a great general; for he had the pedantry of war rather than the inspiration of war. His talent was eminently that of the cabinet; and his proper place was in Washington, where he should have remained as general-in-chief Here his ability to plan campaigns and form large strategic combinations, which was remarkable, would have had full scope; and he would have been considerate and helpful to those in the field. But his power as a tactician was much inferior to his talent as a strategist, and he executed less boldly than he conceived: not appearing to know well those counters with which a commander must work - time, place, and circumstance."
McDOWELL, Irvin (1818-85)
lrvin McDowell (see Plate A3) was born in Columbus, Ohio, on 15 October 1818. At first educated in France, he was graduated in the US
Military Academy class of 1838, and taught tactics at the Academy from 1841 to 1845. He served as a staff officer in the Mexican War, earning a captain's brevet for gallantry at Buena Vista (22 February 1847). From then until the outbreak of the Civil War he was assigned to duty in the office of the Adjutant General of the Army.
On 14 May 1861 he was appointed a brigadiergeneral in the regular army, although he had exercised no command until that point. He was given command of the Army of the Potomac and directed to lead it on Richmond. McDowell believed that the army was unready to take the field, and later testified to Congress; "There was not a man there who had ever manoeuvred troops in large bodies. There was not one in the army; I did not believe there was one ill the whole country; at least, I knew there was no one there who had ever handled 30,0()0 troops. 1 had seen them handled abroad in reviews and marched, but I have never handled that number, and no one here had, I wanted verv much a little time; all of us wanted it, We did not have a bit of it. The answer was: 'You are green, it is true; but they arc-green, also; you are all green alike'."
His campaign plan was a good one, but his ill-trained force fell apart at First Bull Run (Manassas) on 21 July, and he was replaced in command of the army by George McCleMau. Jn March 1862 he was named a major-general of volunteers and given command of a corps in the Army of the Potomac. His corps was left to defend Washington during the Peninsula campaign, but took the Held in the Second Bull Run campaign in summer 1862.
Colonel David Strother met McDowell in June 1862 and noted in his diary: "Ilis manner is not strong but his conversation was clear and concise, showing a good understanding of the subject in hand." A month later he had a chance to talk further with McDowell: "Sitting down, we had a very pleasant half of an hour [talking] chiefly about trouting, of which he is very fond. His manners are very kind and he talks agreeably...
McDowell was blamed for the army's defeat in the Second Bull Run campaign almost as much as was John Pope, its commander. It had not helped him that many of his troops, at all levels, basically distrusted his loyalty to the Union. McDowell himself complained to Marsena Patrick on 12 July 1862 "that [Brig Gen. Abner] Doubleday has been the cause of more evil to him than any one else, having made the matter of his guarding rebel property the test of his loyalty".
McDowell was relieved from command and spent two years of inactivity, finally being assigned as commander of the Department of the Pacific on I July (864. He later commanded both the Department of the East and that of the; South before returning to command the Department of the Pacific. He died in San Francisco on 4 May 1885. and is buried at the Presidio there.
Irvin McDowell had the ill fortune to be the first commander of the wholly unprepared Army of the Potomac In its unsuccessful First Bull Run (Manassas} campaign of Juty 1661. He had previously been involved with construction projects in Washington, DC, as a professional engineer, and as a long-time staff officer he had very little experience of command. He was perfectly well aware of his own and his army's failings, but was unjustly blamed for the outcome when the government forced him into premature action.
3eorge Gordon Meade as a -Laior-general. Meade thought -at he would be replaced as ::mmander of the Army of the =»©tomac after earning Lincoln's z ^pleasure for his failure to destroy Lee's army after Gettysburg, at Bristoe Station, and at Mine Run; but he was stained in command until the end of the war. He looks . ^ u brio us in portraits, but was *r»own for his hot temper a :ontemporary called him a damned old goggle eyed snapping turtle."
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