Has any Civil War General divided opinion more than McClellan?

GwilymT

First Sergeant
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Aug 20, 2018
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Pittsburgh
Having noticed that Saphroneth has placed all of the stuff on McClellan in one place (great work by the way!) I just wondered has any other general from either side divided opinion more than McClellan or even come close to the love him/hate him relationship he seems to have attained?
Might be a neat idea for a poll... you have a few nominations above. I think Butler and Forrest would be decent additions to a “who’s the most controversial general” list.
 

Sbc

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Aug 18, 2015
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Easley, South Carolina
Having noticed that Saphroneth has placed all of the stuff on McClellan in one place (great work by the way!) I just wondered has any other general from either side divided opinion more than McClellan or even come close to the love him/hate him relationship he seems to have attained?
Rosecrans is next imo
 

Hannover

Private
Joined
Jan 30, 2020
Thank you for all of the contributions thus far - generating quite a list!
Surprised no one mentioned Bragg - or did everyone think the same about him, perhaps apart from Jefferson Davis?
Sheridan? considering what he did to Warren.
I would say Dan Sickles.
Didn't Sickles get lucky - his position may have been poor judgement but it disrupted the Confederate assault completely. If he had not been there would the Confederate assault possibly have turned the Union flank by hitting the line directly?
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
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Dec 5, 2019
Thank you for all of the contributions thus far - generating quite a list!
Surprised no one mentioned Bragg - or did everyone think the same about him, perhaps apart from Jefferson Davis?
Sheridan? considering what he did to Warren.

Didn't Sickles get lucky - his position may have been poor judgement but it disrupted the Confederate assault completely. If he had not been there would the Confederate assault possibly have turned the Union flank by hitting the line directly?
Yes...Sheridan also! Although I can't believe ☺️ that there's any controversy: he was absolutely despicable. :cold:
 

Saphroneth

Major
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Feb 18, 2017
Didn't Sickles get lucky - his position may have been poor judgement but it disrupted the Confederate assault completely. If he had not been there would the Confederate assault possibly have turned the Union flank by hitting the line directly?
The thing with Sickles is that it's not so much "Sickles screwed up" but that Sickles was placed in a nearly impossible situation. Meade had laid out that part of his defensive line without really paying much attention to it, and not only Sickles himself but also Hunt IIRC (who Meade sent to reassure Sickles) agreed that the position was flawed; Meade wasn't willing to come over and look himself, which is probably because he was extremely new to army command and wasn't used to the idea his responsibility was the entire battle space. Eventually after repeatedly asking for Meade to come and have a look, Sickles acted unilaterally.

It's impossible to tell exactly what would have happened if Sickles had stayed in position, but if he had done so and then been smashed as he feared he would probably not have been excused for it - he'd been in almost exactly the same situation just a couple of months previously.
 

Belfoured

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Aug 3, 2019
The thing with Sickles is that it's not so much "Sickles screwed up" but that Sickles was placed in a nearly impossible situation. Meade had laid out that part of his defensive line without really paying much attention to it, and not only Sickles himself but also Hunt IIRC (who Meade sent to reassure Sickles) agreed that the position was flawed; Meade wasn't willing to come over and look himself, which is probably because he was extremely new to army command and wasn't used to the idea his responsibility was the entire battle space. Eventually after repeatedly asking for Meade to come and have a look, Sickles acted unilaterally.

It's impossible to tell exactly what would have happened if Sickles had stayed in position, but if he had done so and then been smashed as he feared he would probably not have been excused for it - he'd been in almost exactly the same situation just a couple of months previously.
The problem is that he actually made it more flawed by unilaterally separating himself from his support and by creating an extended line that he could not sufficiently man, as well as setting up ia salient, on ground that was even worse for his batteries. The "positive" result - which is debatable and probably will never be resolved - focuses on whether he inadvertently interfered enough with Longstreet that it tipped the balance against Longstreet's ultimate success. The line Meade established may well not have been adequate and it may be that Meade should have addressed that. But Sickles' solo response created more problems than it solved.
 

Saphroneth

Major
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Feb 18, 2017
The problem is that he actually made it more flawed by unilaterally separating himself from his support and by creating an extended line that he could not sufficiently man, as well as setting up ia salient, on ground that was even worse for his batteries. The "positive" result - which is debatable and probably will never be resolved - focuses on whether he inadvertently interfered enough with Longstreet that it tipped the balance against Longstreet's ultimate success. The line Meade established may well not have been adequate and it may be that Meade should have addressed that. But Sickles' solo response created more problems than it solved.
An interesting (though not conclusive) method is to look at the strength of Sickles' original line and then compare it to the strength of the force that it actually took to stop Longstreet's attack.

We can reasonably assume that Longstreet's attack was at least somewhat disrupted by fighting through the whole of Sickles' corps (albeit by less than the resistance Sickles would have been able to put up either fully established on the advanced line or fully established on the original line) but after going through 3rd Corps and despite a whole division veering off to attack the Round Tops it was still a lot of work for all the reinforcements (i.e. functionally 5th Corps) plus what would have been there in the first place (everyone else except for Sickles) to stop Longstreet.
Based on this, I suspect that there's a case to be made that if Sickles doesn't push his forces out then what actually happens is that Longstreet makes somewhat better progress against "Sickles plus the rest of the Union left flank, but not Sykes" than he did against "Sykes plus the rest of the Union left flank". (He would then be stopped by the arrival of part of Sykes.)
Since that means the fighting starts practically on top of the Taneytown road instead of several hundred yards further west, Longstreet would thus be likely to gain access to the Taneytown road. (If he pushed Sickles back just a couple of hundred yards this would be achieved.)

This is not immediately a better situation than historical.

On the other hand, I think that there is also a case to be made that what actually happened was the worst of both worlds compared to if Meade had actually gone over and looked (and verified either that the position was good enough and reaffirmed his orders to Sickles, or realized the flaw and moved the line further out in a timely fashion). As it was Meade did essentially everything to reinforce the idea that he wasn't paying attention to Sickles' concerns and just wanted him to shut up, even though the man he sent to reassure Sickles actually agreed with Sickles about the flaws in the line.


What this means is not that Sickles is exonerated, but rather that Meade also acted badly - he was paying no real attention to the part of his line where Lee's main blow fell on the second day despite the corps commander in question raising issues about the position. This can all be explained by the immediately previous history of the commanders, Sickles in particular having been in a situation so similar just a couple of months previously that deja vu is not an unwarranted term...
 

NH Civil War Gal

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What about Hooker? Sherman didn’t think so highly of him if things got hot and he was right with Chancellorsville.
 
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