The Peninsula General Barnard on McClellan's Peninsula Campaign

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
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Nov 10, 2006
McClellan was the author of the plan and commander of it's execution. The plan and execution of the plan failed = McClellan failed. The commander always takes responsibility. Please stop assuming what I considered or didn't consider in making my determination.

No, he actually planned a completely different operation. Washington nixed said operation after three months of planning and substituted the Peninsula operation at a very late stage. McClellan himself said it did not promise any brilliant results unless the navy fully cooperated, which they didn't. However, it was the only remaining realistic option for an offensive operation. Unlike 1864, the Rappahanock, York and James rivers are not open for supply and an overland approach (supplying from the sea) such as that Grant did is impossible. After the Washington ordered a retreat from the James, the Federals spent over 18 months trying to get a force across the Rapidan and in supply, and shortly after that Grant's army attached to a depot at White House Landing on the Pamunkey and continued McClellan's operations, adopting exactly McClellan's modified plan. Grant attached to WHL almost two years to the day after McClellan did. It took him another 10.5 months to crack the Petersburg defences.

Anyway, responsibility stops at the top, yes. However, you'll note that "the top" isn't McClellan. It is the triumvirate of Lincoln, Stanton and Halleck. They ordered a general retreat, and that is why the Peninsula campaign was put on hold for ca. two years.

There is a tendency to try and cast the triumvirate's mistake onto McClellan. This is an attempt to absolve Lincoln of blame for his part in the fact that Richmond did not fall in '62.

The question is, in the circumstances could McClellan have done better with what he had? The answer is a simple no; he made no major mistakes, and the example of Grant, who performed far worse with more advantages, absolves McClellan of any blame for the campaign's ultimate failure. That sits with the triumvirate, who hated the idea from the beginning, did not fully support it, and finally decided to recall the army to "defend Washington" when there was no threat.
 

Saphroneth

Major
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Feb 18, 2017
McClellan was the author of the plan and commander of it's execution. The plan and execution of the plan failed = McClellan failed. The commander always takes responsibility. Please stop assuming what I considered or didn't consider in making my determination.
Okay, so - to be clear - you consider it to be McClellan's fault that his plan failed, when his plan included an assumption about force levels, he secured those force levels from his superior, and then his superior witheld those forces repeatedly?
 

1SGDan

Captain
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Location
New Hampshire
No, he actually planned a completely different operation. Washington nixed said operation after three months of planning and substituted the Peninsula operation at a very late stage.

The Urbanna plan was made impractical by Joe Johnston's retreat. McClellan offered up the Peninsula plan as the substitute. Blaming Washington for succumbing to military expediency is just another effort at whitewashing Mac's failures.
 

67th Tigers

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The Urbanna plan was made impractical by Joe Johnston's retreat. McClellan offered up the Peninsula plan as the substitute. Blaming Washington for succumbing to military expediency is just another effort at whitewashing Mac's failures.

Hardly. It was the opinion of others that Urbana was not possible, but they'd all opposed the plan before Johnston was turned out of position but McClellan.

McClellan had laid down a series of options beforehand, with the Peninsula being the worst.

Lincoln and Stanton had tried to get the Urbana plan nixed and tried putting it to a vote of McClellan's division commanders. They voted 8-4 in favour. Since they'd got the "wrong result" Stanton made the four that voted as he want corps commanders and made them the electorate. They did as her wanted and nixed the Urbana plan, but they substituted the Peninsula, which Stanton hated even more. He was hoist by his own petard.

Since the Peninsula had been imposed "by committee" at the last minute, McClellan had to do his best to make it work. He came up with a plan that could work. As soon as he started to implement it, Stanton and Lincoln started meddling. They, by degrees, inflicted serious damage on the plan. McClellan muddled through and was actually making progress. They they ordered the whole army to retreat to Washington....
 

Saphroneth

Major
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Feb 18, 2017
The Urbanna plan was made impractical by Joe Johnston's retreat. McClellan offered up the Peninsula plan as the substitute. Blaming Washington for succumbing to military expediency is just another effort at whitewashing Mac's failures.

Speaking of military expediency, can you justify the decision not to send 1st Corps in May and June of 1862? Those troops would have given McClellan an important numerical margin in the battles that historically were the Seven Days, possibly preventing them.
 

1SGDan

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Location
New Hampshire
McClellan had laid down a series of options beforehand, with the Peninsula being the worst.
So you admit that Mac designed the peninsula plan. Why would he design a poor plan?

Speaking of military expediency, can you justify the decision not to send 1st Corps in May and June of 1862?
I do not have to justify anything. Those that evaluated the situation in real time had that responsibility.
 

Saphroneth

Major
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Feb 18, 2017
So you admit that Mac designed the peninsula plan. Why would he design a poor plan?
Er... it's a natural result of forming contingency plans that there will be some which you consider the better options and some which you consider the worse options. The Peninsular Plan was not the one McClellan recommended.

I do not have to justify anything. Those that evaluated the situation in real time had that responsibility.
Right, so Lincoln and Stanton are responsible.
 

67th Tigers

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Nov 10, 2006
So you admit that Mac designed the peninsula plan. Why would he design a poor plan?

McClellan considered a broad array of options, like any good commander. When he was forbidden by his superiors from doing the superior plan(s) which he'd spent loads of time planning for. They imposed the Peninsula option, against McClellan's better judgement. He thought it could work if well supported, hence his annoyance.

I do not have to justify anything. Those that evaluated the situation in real time had that responsibility.

That's essentially an admission that you don't know, put still hold an opinion.
 

1SGDan

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McClellan considered a broad array of options, like any good commander. When he was forbidden by his superiors from doing the superior plan(s) which he'd spent loads of time planning for. They imposed the Peninsula option, against McClellan's better judgement. He thought it could work if well supported, hence his annoyance.



That's essentially an admission that you don't know, put still hold an opinion.

I suspect that I know much more than you think. One of those things is that those responsible made the decisions they felt best. Mac's responsibility was to execute his plan to successful conclusion. He did not.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
It was his responsibility to execute the campaign with what he had.
And whose responsibility is it if what he has is less than what he's been promised?

Now, to be clear, I think that if McClellan had been told right at the start by Lincoln that he was only getting eight divisions (and not 1st Corps), and that the Navy would not help, then McClellan would have been in the wrong to say his plan would capture Richmond without trouble. But Lincoln said the opposite - he specified that McClellan would get eleven divisions (promising that no more troops would be removed from his force) and he specified that McClellan would get the full cooperation of the Navy.

McClellan made a plan to conduct his campaign with what he had. His superiors then almost immediately reneged on their promises, and continued to promise support that did not arrive. McClellan, understandably, tended to believe the President of the United States when that President told him "you are going to get reinforcements", and based his campaign plan on those promises.

Of course, it's also quite feasible that McClellan could have pulled through on the Peninsula with the troops Lincoln saw fit to allow him, except that Lincoln and Stanton also interfered with McClellan's conduct of operations - issuing him categorical orders which he could not disobey. Those orders (to fix his base at White House Landing, operate against the railroads, and wait for McDowell to come down) at once mean this is no longer McClellan executing his campaign plan with what he had - it's Lincoln and Stanton making their own plan which overrides what McClellan wanted to do and forcing him to follow it. McClellan does the best he can, given that Lincoln and Stanton screw up the movement of McDowell's corps for more than a month, but ultimately McClellan is forced away from Richmond by a flanking attack he's been warning about for weeks but which he could not alleviate the risk from without disobeying direct orders.

How is Stanton's order to fix the base at White House Landing McClellan's fault? How is Lincoln's order to operate against the railroads north of Richmond McClellan's fault? Because McClellan was planning based on those orders, and it is those orders which prevented McClellan grinding out a victory by moving south of the Chickahominy and conducting regular approaches with his whole army between the Chickahominy and the James.


Historically McClellan kept doing the best he could with the circumstances he was under, including a serious attempt to stay close to Richmond by moving base to the James once he was forced off White House Landing and a plan post-Seven Days to cross the river to Petersburg. However, he was never given enough time or resources to successfully execute the campaign - in particular, the time between the pontoons arriving for his attack on Petersburg and the time he was ordered off the Peninsula is comically small.
McClellan never stops trying. He also wants to have the troops he's been repeatedly promised.
 

Saphroneth

Major
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Feb 18, 2017
His superiors.You are convinced that he didn't have enough to carry on a successful campaign I am not and apparently neither were his bosses.
Okay. Why are you not convinced? At what point, specifically, did McClellan have enough forces to carry on a successful campaign?


Remember that his original campaign plan for the Peninsular operation, approved by his superiors, involved taking eleven divisions with him.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
His superiors.You are convinced that he didn't have enough to carry on a successful campaign I am not and apparently neither were his bosses.
Bonus question. Why, when Lincoln sent ashore a fact finding expedition to find out whether McClellan had enough men, and their response was "No, he needs another four divisions immediately", did he ignore them? (He sent one division and promised the rest, but then never sent them.)
Because to me, by itself, this is gross negligence on the part of Lincoln.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
It was his

It was his responsibility to execute the campaign with what he had.

You're told to drive 100 miles from Washington to Richmond but only have 50 miles of gasoline. You ask for more and are told "it's your responsibility to drive 100 miles on 50 miles of gas"....
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Bonus question. Why, when Lincoln sent ashore a fact finding expedition to find out whether McClellan had enough men, and their response was "No, he needs another four divisions immediately", did he ignore them? (He sent one division and promised the rest, but then never sent them.)
Because to me, by itself, this is gross negligence on the part of Lincoln.

That of course is absolutely true. Lincoln and Stanton kept getting answers they didn't like, so ignored the answers and kept repeating the question...
 

1SGDan

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Location
New Hampshire
You're told to drive 100 miles from Washington to Richmond but only have 50 miles of gasoline. You ask for more and are told "it's your responsibility to drive 100 miles on 50 miles of gas"....
There were no internal combustion engines involved in the civil war.
 

1SGDan

Captain
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Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
Bonus question. Why, when Lincoln sent ashore a fact finding expedition to find out whether McClellan had enough men, and their response was "No, he needs another four divisions immediately", did he ignore them? (He sent one division and promised the rest, but then never sent them.)
Because to me, by itself, this is gross negligence on the part of Lincoln.

Possibly because they didn't have three more divisions they wished to send.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
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Nov 10, 2006
There were no internal combustion engines involved in the civil war.

It's a logical point.

Span this almost 10 meter gap with a 5 meter plank. What do you mean it's not long enough, it's your responsibility to do it....
 
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