Friday, January 9, 2015

Defense of General George McClellan

General McClellan is one of the most misrepresented figures in American history. If we were to judge other Civil War generals by the same unreasonable standards by which McClellan has usually been judged, no general would emerge untarnished or credible. To understand the true nature of the Civil War, one must understand what was done to McClellan and why.

Last week I web-published an article titled Answering Some Criticisms of General George B. McClellan. It deals with many of the most common attacks on McClellan. Among other issues, it discusses McClellan's response to the finding of Lee's Special Order 191, the Battle of Antietam, the siege of Yorktown, the estimation of Confederate troop strength, the Seven Days Battle, the change of base to Harrison's Landing, and McClellan's response to the order to send his troops to General Pope.

I have web-published two other articles in defense of McClellan:

The Smearing of General George B. McClellan

McClellan's Early Defenders Speak: Voices from the Past in Defense of General George B. McClellan

I've also created a McClellan website:

George B. McClellan: Outstanding General, War Hero, Christian Gentleman


  1. McClellan is a very complex general. Somehow you can't really say he was bad or good, he did lose the 7 Days battle, but he drew at Antietam, hence saving the Union. And against general Lee that is quite an accomplishment.

    1. I think McClellan clearly won all but one of the battles of the Seven Days Battle. Not only did he inflict far more casualties than he suffered, but he carried out a brilliant change-of-base movement that left him in a better tactical position and in a good location from which to resume his advance on Richmond.

      As a result of his change-of-base movement, he forced Lee to keep the bulk of his army near Richmond. Luckily for Lee, Lincoln and Stanton decided to squander the opportunity that McClellan had achieved and ordered him to send his army to Manassas to join Pope's army. This enabled Lee to go after Pope and defeat him handily at Second Bull Run.

      McClellan defeated Lee at South Mountain and then again at Antietam. Although casualties were roughly equal at Antietam, Lee felt compelled to retreat back to Virginia after suffering enormous casualties that he could not easily replace. If Lee had remained at Antietam until September 19, McClellan would have attacked him and possibly smashed his army. If nothing else, Lee would have left with a much smaller army than he did when he departed on the night of September 18.

    2. ^^ I agree with you to some extent, Lee was compelled to retreat after Sharpsburg otherwise the Federals would have attacked. Quite an irony that it was the bloodiest single day battle fought by the so called "most timid general"

      Lee NEVER lost a large scale field battle to Grant. However, McClellan was the only general besides Meade who did win a field battle against Lee, so that deserves praises.

    3. Yes, I agree that it is very ironic that the general who was supposedly the most timid and indecisive ordered ferocious attacks that produced the highest casualties for a single day of any battle in the war.

      Speaking of Lee, I find it interesting that Lee had a number of positive things to say about McClellan's skill as a general.

    4. ^^ As my father likes saying "The good people are the most cruel ones"

      Lee has always said that McClellan was the best Union general if I am not mistaken. Not Meade or Grant or whoever. Even if we presume that McClellan was bad, his replacements (namely Burnside & Hooker) were way, way worse.