McClellan

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Saphroneth

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OK I will accept that as true but does Mac ever take an offensive posture? Even when he has the advantage.....in numbers or postion or elsewise...
There are two possible answers to this.

1) Yes he did.
2) No, he somehow defended his way to within ten miles of the Confederate capital and then defended his way to Warrenton post-Antietam. And all the attacking at the bloodiest day of American combat in the Civil War must have been someone else.

In fact a good example of McClellan taking an offensive posture is day one of the Seven Days, Oak Grove. This is a bite-and-hold operation launched in the first clear weather since about the 5th of June, and it captures high ground which allows for artillery bombardment of the Richmond forts. McClellan is making it a battle of posts just as Lee said he would; what causes the subsequent disaster is that to make his offensive McClellan has had to strip his lines north of the river, as he's got insufficient men.
 

Saphroneth

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Possibly the same statement said differently.... What I see different about Grant as opposed to his predecessors was he had complete control over how the troops were deployed. I'm not sure if Halleck really did; if he did he did not exercise it. Certainly no commander of the Army of the Potomac could call for the reinforcements Grant did over the course of the campaign.
It's not just Halleck, really, it's also Lincoln, who regularly promised McClellan reinforcements and then reneged. That said Halleck could have sent Burnside's troops up to McClellan in late July (and McClellan had said he'd advance with Burnside's men alone); Halleck opted against it. Thus when given a clear choice (McClellan will advance with these available troops he has been promised for weeks which you have control over) Halleck decided not to take it.

Grant didn't have to bother asking anyone, and could simply order troops into his army to bulk it out. He arguably took too many, but I am strongly of the opinion that if McClellan had been allowed 30,000 reinforcements in June 1862 (which is still tens of thousands fewer than Grant took) then Richmond would have fallen that summer - we know exactly where McClellan was going to put his reinforcements, north of the Chickahominy, and we know that the outflanking move by the Confederates would not have worked with that many extra troops north of the Chickahominy. Thus it becomes an artillery battle along the rail line from Savage's Station to Richmond, and the Union artillery is superior enough to win - that's why Yorktown was abandoned, the weight of artillery support had rendered it untenable.
 

thomas aagaard

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That's not what I'm talking about. I am talking about the focus that an excellent battlefield commander has on the destruction of the opposing force. If Grant had been in command at Antietam, Lee's army would have been obliterated.
Or, just as likely the south would have won the war when Grant gave impossible orders and not understanding the limits of the force he commanded... He would likely have attacked until his army was broken.

The union army was not that much bigger than Lee's army (when one actually understand how the two armies used different counting systems),
And it was way, way greener with most units only seen combat one time and something like 25% of the army never seen combat. And some units completely untrained. (compared to most CSA units being in combat 3+ times)
And in no way a unified force, but effectively 3 different armies that had no real experience working together.

Iam no McClellan fanboy, but I do think much of his bad reputation come from early historians of the war not understanding the CSA paperwork and misunderstanding what happened during the battle.
And the result is myths about how Lee was outnumbered more than 3 to 1 and how McClellan didn't use half his army,
 
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Norm53

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As has been noted on several recent threads failure is the direct responsibility of the commander.
Direct or indirect, the responsibility for capturing Richmond by Mac required the cooperation of several people, including Lincoln, who retained Blenker's Division and McDowell's Corps from the campaign. If Mac had them, might he not have prevailed?
 

1SGDan

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To be precise McClellan shifted his base south to avoid the destruction of his army, since the base he had been ordered to stay on by Stanton had become untenable. He then asked for reinforcements sufficient to resume the advance.


What exactly did Halleck do to try to get McClellan to move the campaign forwards? He certainly didn't send McClellan any reinforcements at all, and he didn't send any bridging materials either; this means either Halleck was insufficiently supportive OR McClellan had enough men to simply advance on Richmond sans any extra support and take it easily.
Since Lee had been reinforced since the Seven Days the idea that McClellan had enough men to simply advance and take Richmond is obviously false (as Lee had more men than McClellan in the seven days and you normally want at least parity when advancing against a strong enemy fortified position); thus Halleck was insufficiently supportive.


Well, he didn't make any positive progress towards beating the enemy for a few weeks, but I'm sure he's not unique in terms of Union commanders on that front...


Bottom line. If you think McClellan's recall was due to his own failings as a commander, please suggest an alternative course of action McClellan should have taken at any point after the 20th of June 1862 which would have avoided his recall.
I don't have to suggest anything. Failure speaks for itself. And as any intelligent observer of military history knows failure (as this campaign certainly was) is the responsibility of the commander. All the Mac back scrubbing, excuse making, and irrelevant numbers cannot change that.
 
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1SGDan

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Direct or indirect, the responsibility for capturing Richmond by Mac required the cooperation of several people, including Lincoln, who retained Blenker's Division and McDowell's Corps from the campaign. If Mac had them, might he not have prevailed?
We will never know, What we do know is that this campaign failed.
 

leftyhunter

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My point well made.
But are you taking into account the fact that McCellen was fighting an enemy even in numbers but the AoP under Grant outnumbered their opponents and suffered as many casualties as Lee had total manpower in the AnV?
Leftyhunter
 

Andy Cardinal

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It's not just Halleck, really, it's also Lincoln, who regularly promised McClellan reinforcements and then reneged. That said Halleck could have sent Burnside's troops up to McClellan in late July (and McClellan had said he'd advance with Burnside's men alone); Halleck opted against it. Thus when given a clear choice (McClellan will advance with these available troops he has been promised for weeks which you have control over) Halleck decided not to take it.

Grant didn't have to bother asking anyone, and could simply order troops into his army to bulk it out. He arguably took too many, but I am strongly of the opinion that if McClellan had been allowed 30,000 reinforcements in June 1862 (which is still tens of thousands fewer than Grant took) then Richmond would have fallen that summer - we know exactly where McClellan was going to put his reinforcements, north of the Chickahominy, and we know that the outflanking move by the Confederates would not have worked with that many extra troops north of the Chickahominy. Thus it becomes an artillery battle along the rail line from Savage's Station to Richmond, and the Union artillery is superior enough to win - that's why Yorktown was abandoned, the weight of artillery support had rendered it untenable.
I include Lincoln with Halleck. I have not been able to determine if Halleck and Lincoln agreed about this, or if Halleck followed Lincoln's thinking.

This was one of the main points from How the North Won that made an impression on me.
 
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Saphroneth

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I don't have to suggest anything. Failure speaks for itself. And as any intelligent observer of military history knows failure (as this campaign certainly was) is the responsibility of the commander.
But if you can't come up with an alternative
then
you can't distinguish between
the commander was incompetent
and
the situation was impossible.

Now, it so happens that part of why McClellan got his army into the situation it was in was that he was told how much support he was going to get, and that support did not materialize. This strongly suggests that the problem was that McClellan's plans were based on the support he was told he was going to get.

It is not McClellan "back scrubbing" to ask what he could possibly have done that was better. If I have a poor opinion of a commander from history in a given campaign it is because I can point at places where he could have made different decisions (e.g. Grant digging in at Shiloh instead of not bothering to); if you are critical of a commander but have no possible constructive criticism then your criticism is the next best thing to invalid, as you're expressing an unwillingness to understand the situation he was in and the constraints he was under.
 

Saphroneth

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I include Lincoln with Halleck. I have not been able to determine if Halleck and Lincoln agreed about this, or if Halleck followed Lincoln's thinking.
It's an interesting question. I wonder whether Halleck was selected as GiC because Lincoln thought he'd go along with Lincoln's means of thinking, because Lincoln had had no qualms trying to manage without a GiC for months; Halleck's interest in concentration of all possible force made it likely that he'd go along with Lincoln's preferred "battering ram from over land" operational concept.
 

1SGDan

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But if you can't come up with an alternative
then
you can't distinguish between
the commander was incompetent
and
the situation was impossible.
I most certainly can and have. History has painted a very clear picture of what happened here. It is universally accepted that the overall responsibility for a military failure is on the Commander. Thus McClellan was a failure here.
 
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DanSBHawk

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But are you taking into account the fact that McCellen was fighting an enemy even in numbers but the AoP under Grant outnumbered their opponents and suffered as many casualties as Lee had total manpower in the AnV?
Leftyhunter
I think one of the problems in reducing the issue to one of numbers, is that as Alfred Young found, the confederate numbers are very questionable.
 

67th Tigers

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I think one of the problems in reducing the issue to one of numbers, is that as Alfred Young found, the confederate numbers are very questionable.
Indeed, and his numbers were essentially the same as those determined by Steven Newton more than a decade before. Newton also turned his hand to the Peninsula, and found the rebels were also much stronger than they claimed. The Lost Cause didn't start their manipulations in April 1864.

Essentially, Grant had a 2:1 advantage and failed. He retreated from Cold Harbor (the same place McClellan's right was at in June '62) to the James and then failed again trying to cross the James. A year later he had close to 3:1 and the rebels were finally overwhelmed.

McClellan fought against close to 1:1, and sometimes more like 3:4. He gained the same amount of ground as Grant, inflicting more casualties for much less suffered.
 
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He retreated from Cold Harbor (the same place McClellan's right was at in June '62) to the James and then failed again trying to cross the James.
Retreated - he stole a march on Lee and moved by his left flank and I can show you a 1000 period photographs of the AoP crossing the James. The battle of Cold Harbor ended on June 12 and Grant finished crossing the James on June 14 - explain how that is a failure. I am waiting with bated breath to hear your description of that failure.
 

67th Tigers

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Retreated - he stole a march on Lee and moved by his left flank and I can show you a 1000 period photographs of the AoP crossing the James. The battle of Cold Harbor ended on June 12 and Grant finished crossing the James on June 14 - explain how that is a failure. I am waiting with bated breath to hear your description of that failure.
Please show me photos of the Federal occupation of Richmond in June 1864.
 

DanSBHawk

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Indeed, and his numbers were essentially the same as those determined by Steven Newton more than a decade before. Newton also turned his hand to the Peninsula, and found the rebels were also much stronger than they claimed. The Lost Cause didn't start their manipulations in April 1864.

Essentially, Grant had a 2:1 advantage and failed. He retreated from Cold Harbor (the same place McClellan's right was at in June '62) to the James and then failed again trying to cross the James. A year later he had close to 3:1 and the rebels were finally overwhelmed.

McClellan fought against close to 1:1, and sometimes more like 3:4. He gained the same amount of ground as Grant, inflicting more casualties for much less suffered.
As I said, reducing the issue to numbers and body counts is problematic because the numbers are questionable and sometimes intentionally distorted.

The bottom line is that McClellan failed in '62.
 
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He gained the same amount of ground as Grant, inflicting more casualties for much less suffered.
Fortress Monroe to Richmond is about 80 miles. The Rapidan to Petersburg via Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor is 125 miles. Grant crossed the James one month an 10 days after setting off and fought three major battles (pitched battles involving whole armies) along the way. McClellan marched from Fort Monroe to the outskirts of Richmond in a day or two less than three months - fighting no major battles along the way. Your math is, shall we say, unique. In addition, in 2 of 3 major battles Grant fought, his enemy was fully intrenched in well-engineered earthworks that are still there today - what McClellan would have faced if he had attacked Richmond in 1862. You do not need to try to pull Grant down to make McClellan look better. But if you are going to try, use actual verifiable facts, please.
 
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