Difference between revisions of "George B. McClellan"

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| image = [[File:McClellan, George B. (1).jpg]]
 
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| caption = George B. McClellan, portrait by Mathew Brady, 1861.
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| caption = George B. McClellan, portrait by Mathew Brady, 1861. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration  
Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration  
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<p>George B. McClellan was a prominent nineteenth century American military and political leader. </p>
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George Brinton McClellan was born into an elite Philadelphia family on December 3, 1826. He attended the University of Pennsylvania but did not graduate. McClellan was admitted into West Point Academy in 1842, before his sixteenth birthday. He graduated in 1846, second in his class. McClellan’s first combat experiences came during the Mexican-American War, in which he was enlisted as a lieutenant of engineers under General Winfield Scott. Described as fearless and gallant under fire, McClellan was awarded brevets to first lieutenant in Contreras-Churubusco, followed by a promotion to Captain at Chapultepec. After the Mexican-American War, McClellan returned to West Point as an assistant instructor until his reassignment to explore the western frontier, including Oregon and the Southwest. In 1855 then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis sent McClellan to travel throughout Europe to study the tactics being utilized in the Crimean War. Upon his return, McClellan released his military report, Armies of Europe, which detailed his analysis of what he saw while traveling. In 1857 McClellan retired from the military and became chief engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad. Following his term as chief engineer he was promoted to President of the Ohio and Mississippi River Railroad, the headquarters of which was located in Cincinnati.  
<p>George Brinton McClellan was born on December 3, 1826, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended the University of Pennsylvania but did not graduate. In 1842, McClellan received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated in 1846, ranking second in his class. After his graduation, McClellan participated in the U.S.-Mexican War. He also traveled extensively in Europe and studied European military tactics. McClellan resigned his army commission in 1857. </p>
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<p>During the next several years, McClellan became involved in the railroad industry. Using his training at West Point in engineering, McClellan served as an engineer for the Ohio &amp; Mississippi Railroad and the Illinois Central Railroad. During this time, he lived primarily in Cincinnati, Ohio. With the beginning of the American Civil War in April 1861, McClellan reenlisted in the United States Army. </p>
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The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 led to McClellan’s return to the military. While he was opposed to the outright abolition of slavery, his allegiance ultimately resided with the preservation of the Union. McClellan accepted the position of commander of the volunteer army of Ohio in 1861. Governor of Ohio William Dennison dispatched McClellan and Jacob Cox to the state arsenal in Columbus to investigate the guns and other supplies that Ohio had on hand to help equip the state's militia units. The two men discovered a few crates of rusted smoothbore muskets, mildewed harness for horses, and some six-pound cannons that could not be fired. Despite the lack of equipment, Dennison encouraged Ohio communities to revive the militia system and to form units that they would send to Columbus, the state capital. Dennison entrusted McClellan with command of these units and asked him to create a professional force from the volunteers.  
<p>McClellan played an important role in Ohio's early defense. In April 1861, Governor William Dennison dispatched McClellan and Jacob Cox to the state arsenal in Columbus to investigate the guns and other supplies that Ohio had on hand to help equip the state's militia units. The two men discovered a few crates of rusted smoothbore muskets, mildewed harness for horses, and some six-pound cannons that could not be fired. Despite the lack of equipment, Dennison encouraged Ohio communities to revive the militia system and to form units that they would send to Columbus, the state capital. Dennison entrusted McClellan with command of these units and asked him to create a professional force from the volunteers. </p>
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<p>In the fall of 1861, General McClellan led a Union army into western Virginia (modern-day West Virginia) to hold this territory for the North. In this campaign, McClellan successfully defeated two Confederate forces. He secured the region for the Union and enhanced his reputation as a skillful military commander. After the Union loss at the First Battle of Bull Run, President Abraham Lincoln replaced General Irvin McDowell as commander of the Army of the Potomac with McClellan. McClellan spent the remainder of 1861 recruiting volunteers and training them to be professional soldiers. </p>
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The exceptional training regimen McClellan demanded of these new recruits garnered him esteem in Washington and he soon became a Major General in the United States Army. He was placed in charge of the department of Ohio. McClellan’s first course of action was to disperse small units across the Ohio River into western Virginia to fragment Confederate divisions. Due to constant, successful support provided by his troops to the greater Union Army, McClellan was nicknamed ‘the Young Napoleon.After the Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run, President Abraham Lincoln replaced General Irvin McDowell as commander of the Army of the Potomac with McClellan. McClellan spent the remainder of 1861 recruiting volunteers and training them to be professional soldiers.  
<p>In early 1862, McClellan took the offensive against the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Rather than marching overland from Washington, DC, McClellan decided to transport the Army of the Potomac by ship to Fortress Monroe on the Atlantic coastline. This maneuver was planned to flank the Confederates and allow the Union force to march unopposed into Richmond. President Lincoln was happy that McClellan had finally taken the offensive. He nevertheless was concerned that Washington, DC, would be vulnerable to a Confederate attack and forced McClellan to leave behind thousands of men with General Irvin McDowell. </p>
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<p>McClellan's assault on Richmond became known as the Peninsula Campaign. It was unsuccessful. McClellan believed reports that the Confederates had two to three times the number of men that they actually had. He believed that his force was outnumbered. The Army of the Potomac advanced within sight of Richmond, but Confederate General Robert E. Lee conducted a strong defense. McClellan retreated to the vicinity of Fortress Monroe and began to send his troops via water back to Washington, DC. </p>
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When General Winfield Scott retired from his duties in 1861, McClellan was promoted to General-in-Chief of the Union Army. However, McClellan quickly began to differentiate in tactical opinion from his commanding leaders, including President Lincoln. McClellan fell under the belief that the Confederate Army was superior to the Union Army and he therefore concluded that a massive offensive against the South would be inadvisable. Both President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton were concerned by McClellan’s hesitation to launch an invasion. As a result, they removed McClellan as General-in-Chief and instructed him to focus on a southern advance.
<p>Lee's Army of Northern Virginia attacked in the late summer of 1862. General John Pope and the Army of Virginia stood in Lee's way. Lincoln created this army to defend Washington from Confederate attack. He took thousands of men from McClellan's command and gave them to Pope. In late August, Pope lost the Second Battle of Bull Run. A few weeks later the Army of Northern Virginia launched its first invasion of the North. Union authorities dissolved the Army of Virginia and placed its men with McClellan's Army of the Potomac. McClellan's task was to pursue the Confederates and to drive them back into the South. </p>
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<p>McClellan found Lee's army at Sharpsburg, Maryland. Union soldiers found misplaced copies of orders sent by Lee to his commanders and gave them to McClellan, Now the Union general knew the exact location of Lee's men and the size of the Army of Northern Virginia. On September 17, the Battle of Antietam began on the outskirts of Sharpsburg. Although McClellan's army outnumbered Lee's force, the battle ended in a draw. The Confederates retreated back into Virginia and ended the Army of Northern Virginia's first invasion of the North. </p>
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McClellan and the Army of the Potomac set out to seize the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia in early 1862. Hoping to flank the defending Confederate armies and march into Richmond unopposed, McClellan transported his army by ship to Fortress Monroe, located on the Virginia Peninsula, beginning the Peninsula Campaign. McClellan, though initially successful in landing and moving his army toward Richmond, allowed the heavily outnumbered Confederate defenders, under General Joseph E. Johnston, to withdraw into the city defenses and buy time for reinforcements to arrive. After minor encounters, Johnston was wounded and the Confederate army was placed under the command of General Robert E. Lee. McClellan, convinced that the Confederates outnumbered his soldiers, stalled his advance on the city to await reinforcements. The Army of the Potomac was then attacked by General Lee in a series of engagements known as the Seven Days Battles. President Lincoln refused to send more reinforcements and ordered the Army of the Potomac to return to Washington.  
<p>President Lincoln believed that McClellan had a chance to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan, however, moved slowly. Due to McClellan's cautious approach, Lincoln decided to remove him from command of the Army of the Potomac in November 1862. Lincoln replaced him with General Ambrose Burnside. McClellan never received another military command. </p>
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<p>McClellan became one of Lincoln's chief critics. In 1864, the Democratic Party selected McClellan as its presidential candidate and George Pendleton, a resident of Cincinnati, as its vice presidential candidate. The party wanted to adopt a platform condemning the war effort and demanding an immediate end to the conflict. While McClellan wanted an immediate end to the war, he was unwilling to condemn the war effort as a complete failure. Thanks to Northern battlefield victories at Atlanta, Georgia, Mobile, Alabama, and in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Lincoln won the election. He won the popular vote by more than 400,000 votes and the Electoral vote was 212 to 21. McClellan resigned his commission in the United States Army on the day of the election. </p>
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McClellan was relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac, but was reinstated after the Union defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run. McClellan was ordered halt Confederate advances into the North during Lee’s Maryland Campaign in September, 1862. The two armies met at Sharpsburg, Maryland. Prior to the battle, Union soldiers discovered copies of the Confederate battle plans, which were then relayed to McClellan. Despite this, the Battle of Antietam, as it is now known, ended in a draw. Though outnumbered, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was allowed to escape. While the battle blunted Lee’s first invasion of the North, President Lincoln believed McClellan had passed up an opportunity to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan was removed from command of the Army of the Potomac and replaced with General Ambrose Burnside. McClellan would never receive another military command.
<p>&nbsp;McClellan spent the last years of his life in New Jersey. He was elected governor of the state and served from 1878 to 1881. He died on October 29, 1885. </p>
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McClellan became one of Lincoln’s chief critics, and was nominated by the Democratic Party to run against Lincoln in the Presidential election of 1864. McClellan, a War-Democrat, was not only battling against the Republican Party, but also against fellow Democrats who wanted to condemn the war effort, something McClellan was not willing to do. Thanks in part to Union successes on the battlefield, McClellan lost the election by some 400,000 popular votes and suffered a 212-21 vote defeat in the Electoral College. McClellan resigned his commission in the United States Army on the day of the election.  
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McClellan relocated to Europe for several years before returning to the United States in 1870. He settled in New York where he supervised the construction of a floating battery before being appointed the chief of New York’s department of docks as well as the President of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad. In 1878 McClellan was elected to a term as Governor of New Jersey, his final place of residence, where he reformed the administration of the state and developed military programs. He died on October 29, 1885.  
 
==See Also==
 
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Revision as of 12:13, 7 June 2013

McClellan, George B. (1).jpg
George B. McClellan, portrait by Mathew Brady, 1861. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

George Brinton McClellan was born into an elite Philadelphia family on December 3, 1826. He attended the University of Pennsylvania but did not graduate. McClellan was admitted into West Point Academy in 1842, before his sixteenth birthday. He graduated in 1846, second in his class. McClellan’s first combat experiences came during the Mexican-American War, in which he was enlisted as a lieutenant of engineers under General Winfield Scott. Described as fearless and gallant under fire, McClellan was awarded brevets to first lieutenant in Contreras-Churubusco, followed by a promotion to Captain at Chapultepec. After the Mexican-American War, McClellan returned to West Point as an assistant instructor until his reassignment to explore the western frontier, including Oregon and the Southwest. In 1855 then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis sent McClellan to travel throughout Europe to study the tactics being utilized in the Crimean War. Upon his return, McClellan released his military report, Armies of Europe, which detailed his analysis of what he saw while traveling. In 1857 McClellan retired from the military and became chief engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad. Following his term as chief engineer he was promoted to President of the Ohio and Mississippi River Railroad, the headquarters of which was located in Cincinnati.

The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 led to McClellan’s return to the military. While he was opposed to the outright abolition of slavery, his allegiance ultimately resided with the preservation of the Union. McClellan accepted the position of commander of the volunteer army of Ohio in 1861. Governor of Ohio William Dennison dispatched McClellan and Jacob Cox to the state arsenal in Columbus to investigate the guns and other supplies that Ohio had on hand to help equip the state's militia units. The two men discovered a few crates of rusted smoothbore muskets, mildewed harness for horses, and some six-pound cannons that could not be fired. Despite the lack of equipment, Dennison encouraged Ohio communities to revive the militia system and to form units that they would send to Columbus, the state capital. Dennison entrusted McClellan with command of these units and asked him to create a professional force from the volunteers.

The exceptional training regimen McClellan demanded of these new recruits garnered him esteem in Washington and he soon became a Major General in the United States Army. He was placed in charge of the department of Ohio. McClellan’s first course of action was to disperse small units across the Ohio River into western Virginia to fragment Confederate divisions. Due to constant, successful support provided by his troops to the greater Union Army, McClellan was nicknamed ‘the Young Napoleon.’ After the Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run, President Abraham Lincoln replaced General Irvin McDowell as commander of the Army of the Potomac with McClellan. McClellan spent the remainder of 1861 recruiting volunteers and training them to be professional soldiers.

When General Winfield Scott retired from his duties in 1861, McClellan was promoted to General-in-Chief of the Union Army. However, McClellan quickly began to differentiate in tactical opinion from his commanding leaders, including President Lincoln. McClellan fell under the belief that the Confederate Army was superior to the Union Army and he therefore concluded that a massive offensive against the South would be inadvisable. Both President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton were concerned by McClellan’s hesitation to launch an invasion. As a result, they removed McClellan as General-in-Chief and instructed him to focus on a southern advance.

McClellan and the Army of the Potomac set out to seize the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia in early 1862. Hoping to flank the defending Confederate armies and march into Richmond unopposed, McClellan transported his army by ship to Fortress Monroe, located on the Virginia Peninsula, beginning the Peninsula Campaign. McClellan, though initially successful in landing and moving his army toward Richmond, allowed the heavily outnumbered Confederate defenders, under General Joseph E. Johnston, to withdraw into the city defenses and buy time for reinforcements to arrive. After minor encounters, Johnston was wounded and the Confederate army was placed under the command of General Robert E. Lee. McClellan, convinced that the Confederates outnumbered his soldiers, stalled his advance on the city to await reinforcements. The Army of the Potomac was then attacked by General Lee in a series of engagements known as the Seven Days Battles. President Lincoln refused to send more reinforcements and ordered the Army of the Potomac to return to Washington.

McClellan was relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac, but was reinstated after the Union defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run. McClellan was ordered halt Confederate advances into the North during Lee’s Maryland Campaign in September, 1862. The two armies met at Sharpsburg, Maryland. Prior to the battle, Union soldiers discovered copies of the Confederate battle plans, which were then relayed to McClellan. Despite this, the Battle of Antietam, as it is now known, ended in a draw. Though outnumbered, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was allowed to escape. While the battle blunted Lee’s first invasion of the North, President Lincoln believed McClellan had passed up an opportunity to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan was removed from command of the Army of the Potomac and replaced with General Ambrose Burnside. McClellan would never receive another military command.

McClellan became one of Lincoln’s chief critics, and was nominated by the Democratic Party to run against Lincoln in the Presidential election of 1864. McClellan, a War-Democrat, was not only battling against the Republican Party, but also against fellow Democrats who wanted to condemn the war effort, something McClellan was not willing to do. Thanks in part to Union successes on the battlefield, McClellan lost the election by some 400,000 popular votes and suffered a 212-21 vote defeat in the Electoral College. McClellan resigned his commission in the United States Army on the day of the election.

McClellan relocated to Europe for several years before returning to the United States in 1870. He settled in New York where he supervised the construction of a floating battery before being appointed the chief of New York’s department of docks as well as the President of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad. In 1878 McClellan was elected to a term as Governor of New Jersey, his final place of residence, where he reformed the administration of the state and developed military programs. He died on October 29, 1885.

See Also

References

  1. Dee, Christine, ed. Ohio's War: The Civil War in Documents. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.  
  2. Hassler, Warren W. General George B. McClellan: Shield of the Union. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1957.  
  3. Jordan, Philip D. Ohio Comes of Age: 1874-1899. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1943.  
  4. Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of Rebellion, 1861-1866. Akron, OH: The Werner Company, 1893.  
  5. Rafuse, Ethan Sepp. McClellan's War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.  
  6. Reid, Whitelaw. Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers. Cincinnati, OH: Clarke, 1895.
  7. Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.  
  8. Sears, Stephen W. George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon. New York, NY: Ticknor & Fields, 1988.