McClellan

Saphroneth

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#81
Let's be clear: Halleck wanted to unite the two armies of McClellan and Pope. Rightfully knowing Lincoln's view on protecting d.c., and that no one had a viable second solution, how can you fault him for doing exactly what he did?
What do you mean that nobody had a viable second solution? McClellan's solution was simple - add Burnside's men (who had been accumulating at Fort Monroe for weeks and had been earmarked for and promised to McClellan, and which were not engaged in protecting Washington) to his own force.
Simply by being at Harrisons Landing McClellan was preventing any major attack being made against Washington, and Pope's force was substantial enough to prevent a one-corps attack from capturing Washington. Reinforcing McClellan's forces (at any point in July) with the troops he'd been promised in the last couple of days of June/first couple of days of July would prevent any detachment of force sufficient to really threaten Washington.

The extra troops would permit McClellan to advance with greater safety than if he didn't have them.


That Halleck wanted to unite the forces of McClellan and Pope is not in dispute; what I dispute is that it was the only option. Perhaps it was the only option which Lincoln would countenance, but weeks previously Lincoln had countenanced promising McClellan as much as 65,000 troops (we have letters which demonstrate it); what good is the general-in-chief if he can't even fulfil one quarter of what the President has previously promised for fear that he'll be fired?

Of course, Halleck's plan has a greater flaw - see the next post.
 

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Saphroneth

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#82
Halleck's plan to unite the armies of McClellan and Pope has a single great flaw, and it is this - the amount of time that it would take to combine the armies. McClellan's force has a large number of sick - the options are to either abandon them all, or to ship them off, and to ship them off will take a long time. It is only once the shipping-off has been done that McClellan's army can actually start moving, marching away from Harrisons Landing to somewhere it can embark en masse (which is to say, Fort Monroe).

The distance between Harrisons Landing and Fort Monroe, counting the crossing of the Chickahominy, is about sixty foot miles; once there it will take a few days to transfer each corps north to Alexandria and the other ports on the Potomac (there's not enough shipping to move them as a single body), and they will then have to march to join Pope (about another 30 miles if Pope is at Manassas)
The distance between Richmond to Manassas is about ninety-five miles - three days extra marching - and there is a rail line most of the way to make the movement quicker. Even assuming that Lee does not move any troops away from Richmond until McClellan has actually shipped off all his sick and begun moving his army the amount of time that it will take Lee to reach Manassas (and thus to attack Pope) is at best a dead heat; if Lee transfers some forces north once McClellan is obviously preparing to leave (as actually happened) then Pope's force is in grave danger of being defeated in detail unless Pope withdraws to within the Washington fortifications and awaits the arrival of McClellan's army.

Pope did not in fact withdraw to await the arrival of McClellan's army, despite the marching distance involved being basically equivalent and the Union force having to also go by sea; thus, Second Bull Run.
 

Saphroneth

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#83
Fortress Monroe to Richmond is about 80 miles. The Rapidan to Petersburg via Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor is 125 miles.
At the end of the campaign the two armies were standing in essentially the same place; surely this is gaining the same ground? Unless an army can gain more ground by marching a longer route to end up at the same place; Grant's supply route was up the James, the same as McClellan's after the Seven Days, and that was partly because the overland route was not under Federal control once Grant had marched away from it.
 
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#84
So, to be clear, you believe that the overall responsibility for a military failure is on the commander?
But you don't believe it's necessary to explore or analyze any of the specific decisions?

So a commander is Good or Bad based on their ultimate fate, not on anything that led to that? So a good commander would succeed regardless of the number of troops they had, and a bad commander would fail regardless of their resources?

This is a very strange view of military history, and indeed if I'd been told someone held it without seeing it firsthand I likely wouldn't believe it - as it can be rephrased as "a good commander could win with ten men armed with muskets against the entire Chinese Army of 1955".

Before you say I'm putting words in your mouth, this is what's known as a reductio ad absurdam. If you disagree with the quoted statement above, then we both think that the forces available to a commander affect their chances of success; if you agree with it, then I don't think there's any point in further discussion.



But well-engineered earthworks are something which have a solution in the context of the period. It's why McClellan's foes abandoned the Yorktown line and it's why McClellan was able to take terrain at Oak Grove and Garnetts Hill - the use of superior heavy artillery can negate the defensive artillery and help shoot the attacking forces onto their objectives.
It still means attacking, but it works to gain a little ground at a time - and the Confederates didn't have much ground left to give.
You are right, up to a point. A siege train is necessarily slow in moving and being set up. If you don't mind waiting for the heavy artillery, fine. If you want to move more quickly, leave the big guns behind.
 

Specster

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#86
To be fair the AoP under Grant outnumbered the AnV. McCellen desperately asked for reinforcements but Lincoln denied the request and kept needed troops twiddling their thumbs at Washington DC.
Lincoln also ordered General Burnside from New Berne,North Carolina to the Peninsula Campaign instead of allowing Burnside to capture the strategic railway junction at Goldsboro, North Carolina which would of cut of supplies to Richmond.
Leftyhunter
as to your observation on Burnside, I cannot speak to that with knowledge off the top of my head...I thought he screwed up in that area but that was probably later at the Creator.....Anyway, unless I am mistaken, I think it is not even an issue of contention that Mac was using a sole source ...Pinkerton Detectives for his Intel and they over estimated Rebel numbers by 50% plus. I have a hard time believeing that Mac was sincere in the belief he was outnumbered.....I know of no modern historian who believes otherwise. Mac always had the numbers...there is a famous quote by Lincoln in this regard that if he gave Mac 20000 men today tomorrow Mac would need 40000 (not the actual quote).
 

Specster

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#87
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.
Perhaps it is because I am over reliant on Sears for the particulars of Antietam but didnt Mac have the upper hand in that battle and kept reserves that could have exploited breeches in the Confederate lines out of the battle basically because he wasnt commanding from the front and also because those reseves were commanded by Porter, his sycophant? Was he not safe and sound in a gun boat over a mile from the battlefeild? Is it not true that he was out of the loop of quick decision at Antietam...that he left instruction and baically left the battlefield?
 
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#88
David, I respectfully disagree with respect to McClellan's brilliance as a tactician. Other than that you are pretty much right on. I have always stated that my biggest issue with McClellan was his absolute disdain for his civilian superiors - his letters to his wife are just the overt signs of that disdain. To his friends and confidants, he made no secret of his disrespect for Lincoln and Stanton. The night of November 13, 1861 was just the most egregious example. Like Patton, if Mac had been the tactical genius you purport him to be, history would have been much kinder.
Jimklag. I totally agree and concur with your excellent assessment of McClellan. However, my statement regarding McClellan as a brilliant tactician is based on this definition of military tactics. Military tactics is the military art of employing and manoeuvring fighting forces on the field of battle. It also involves the implementation of what Fredrick the Great called "Coup d'oeil" concept in which troops are strategically placed in an advantageous position based predominately on the terrain, weather and training of his troops. In other words, a general who can instantly examine a battlefield and determine the major points of advantage in order to efficiently win the battle with the least amount of casualties. McClellan was certainly terrible at following up after defeating an enemy in order to win a complete victory. However, I think he was excellent at training and building an army and motivating soldiers as well as equipping the soldiers but when it comes to unleashing these well trained and well equipped troops on the enemy-he failed miserably. I hope I clarified my prior statement. If you still disagree I certainly understand. My intentions are not to try and convince you otherwise. David.
 
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#89
Have you read Rafuse's book? If not, I'd recommend it. I think he does a decent job of emphasizing McClellan's positives while acknowledging his weaknesses.

The other point I'd make is that McClellan was appropriate for the limited war envisioned in 1861. By the end of the Peninsula Campaign, war aims had changed. McClellan was not the man for that new war.
Andy. I absolutely agree and concur with your comments especially regarding the change in the war aims after the Peninsula Campaign. Sherman and Grant were correct in implementing a total war strategy in order to break the morale of the Southern citizens. McClellan could not under any circumstances change his military acumen in order to adapt to this change in the tactics of this new type of warfare. I do have Rafuse's book on McClellan but I have not read it at this point in time. I suggest that you and Jimklag obtain a copy of Joseph Harsh's PhD dissertation on McClellan, which is available online, which is quite an interesting read. Once you guys read it I would be very interested in your commentary. David.
 

67th Tigers

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#90
You are right, up to a point. A siege train is necessarily slow in moving and being set up. If you don't mind waiting for the heavy artillery, fine. If you want to move more quickly, leave the big guns behind.
Why? They had also to offload the sick and wounded onto boats, or should they have been left behind too?

As the regimental history shows, the siege train was loaded onto barges and departed on the 15th August. They landed at Alexandria on the 21st, and were placed in the unoccupied fortifications south of the Potomac. Pope had stripped all the defenders of Washington.
 

67th Tigers

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#91
Perhaps it is because I am over reliant on Sears for the particulars of Antietam but didnt Mac have the upper hand in that battle and kept reserves that could have exploited breeches in the Confederate lines out of the battle basically because he wasnt commanding from the front and also because those reseves were commanded by Porter, his sycophant?
The "reserve" available to Porter was roughly 2,500 effectives strong, and consisted of ca. 1,000 unengaged regulars and Barnes' brigade of Morell's division.

There were never any "breeches" to exploit.

Was he not safe and sound in a gun boat over a mile from the battlefeild?
You're confusing Antietam with Glendale.

At Glendale what happened was thus: At 1600 hrs there was no major fighting other than an artillery duel between McCall's artillery and Longstreet's artillery which McCall was winning. McClellan, at his command post on Malvern Hill, received a note from Rodgers insisting that the army had to withdraw all the way to Dancing Point (i.e. 30 miles SE of the armies position). This was unacceptable to McClellan, who was starting to land supplies, and considered his movement complete. McClellan rode down to Haxall's Landing and talked to Rodgers. At 1645, McClellan and Rodgers then boarded the Galena and went to the Captain's cabin, leaving the Comte De Paris on deck to summon McClellan if anything happened on land. Almost immediately McClellan boarded Wise's river column was spotted and the ship went into action shelling them. In the first break in the fire McClellan sent a signal to Malvern asking what was happening further north, and got back that there was an attack on McCall...

The attack on McCall was an accident. Losing the artillery duel, Longstreet told Micah Jenkins to advance the Palmetto Sharpshooters to snipe the guncrews. Instead of doing this, Jenkins (who'd been raised to brigade commander vice RH Anderson, who was commanding Longstreet's division vice Longstreet, who was commanding a wing) charged the brigade at ca. 1630-45, and were slaughtered. Seeing this, Longstreet tried to support brigade, but the orders only went out at 1700, and this was a surprise - the brigades had gone into routine and were cooking. Hence no supporting brigade attacked until after 1730, when Jenkins' men were already repulsed.

With the news of an attack on McCall, McClellan sent out a series of orders. Amongst them were for Couch's division to reinforce the attack point. Unfortunately for posterity, the signallers noted that the network became overloaded, and they could deal with the volume of traffic. So busy were they that they didn't have time to write the messages in their logbooks, and so we don't know the full contents of what was sent (see their report in SOR 2). That done he cross-decked to USS Jacob Bell and steamed back for Haxall's. There he goes ashore and rode hard back to his CP at ca. 1800.

After the battle, instead of reporting in as battle procedure, Franklin and Baldy Smith retreated without orders. Making matter's worse, they retreated eastwards, on the Charles City Road. Lt Newhall was sent by McClellan to find Franklin, and redirect his errant command to Malvern Hill. Because Jackson was already across the White Oak, the Federal position was now unzipped, and there was a scramble to quickly pull together a defensive position at Malvern Hill. Malvern Hill was not defensible long term (because the rebels could now cut off supply ships) and a compromise position of Harrison's Landing was agreed upon - that being as far upriver as the Navy could supply the army.

Is it not true that he was out of the loop of quick decision at Antietam...that he left instruction and baically left the battlefield?
No. He made his CP with 5th Corps HQ. He had a good view of the field (except Burnside's front) and good communications. At least once he rode to Sumner on the right, and it was his personal observation of Sedgwick's broken division that convinced him further offensive action without moving reinforcements there was a mistake.
 
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#92
as to your observation on Burnside, I cannot speak to that with knowledge off the top of my head...I thought he screwed up in that area but that was probably later at the Creator.....Anyway, unless I am mistaken, I think it is not even an issue of contention that Mac was using a sole source ...Pinkerton Detectives for his Intel and they over estimated Rebel numbers by 50% plus. I have a hard time believeing that Mac was sincere in the belief he was outnumbered.....I know of no modern historian who believes otherwise. Mac always had the numbers...there is a famous quote by Lincoln in this regard that if he gave Mac 20000 men today tomorrow Mac would need 40000 (not the actual quote).
While it is true that Pinkerton overestimated the strength of the AnV @Saphroneth and @67th Tigers have quoted other historians who showed that the AnV during the Peninsula Campaign equaled or occasionally had a slight manpower advantage over the AoP during the Peninsula Campaign.
Leftyhunter
 

67th Tigers

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#93
While it is true that Pinkerton overestimated the strength of the AnV @Saphroneth and @67th Tigers have quoted other historians who showed that the AnV during the Peninsula Campaign equaled or occasionally had a slight manpower advantage over the AoP during the Peninsula Campaign.
Leftyhunter
How this overestimate occurred is worth noting. Babcock on Pinkerton's staff kept an estimate of the enemy orbat. We are fortunate in that Pinkerton published the one that was current at the start of the Seven Days here. There are 36 infantry regiments and a cavalry regiment on this list that were not present. A couple of the small battalions are double counted (or triple counted for the Louisiana Zouaves). I didn't check the artillery.

Remove them from the list and run Pinkerton's equation (700 men present per regt, and only 5/6th are effective) then the numbers are actually very close.

Hence this is how the overestimate developed - extra regiments were added over time. When the BMI came in they tabulated by division, and so the extra regiments were no longer counted. Babcock was the only Pinkerton staffer who remained with the BMI.
 

Specster

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#94
The "reserve" available to Porter was roughly 2,500 effectives strong, and consisted of ca. 1,000 unengaged regulars and Barnes' brigade of Morell's division.

There were never any "breeches" to exploit.



You're confusing Antietam with Glendale.

At Glendale what happened was thus: At 1600 hrs there was no major fighting other than an artillery duel between McCall's artillery and Longstreet's artillery which McCall was winning. McClellan, at his command post on Malvern Hill, received a note from Rodgers insisting that the army had to withdraw all the way to Dancing Point (i.e. 30 miles SE of the armies position). This was unacceptable to McClellan, who was starting to land supplies, and considered his movement complete. McClellan rode down to Haxall's Landing and talked to Rodgers. At 1645, McClellan and Rodgers then boarded the Galena and went to the Captain's cabin, leaving the Comte De Paris on deck to summon McClellan if anything happened on land. Almost immediately McClellan boarded Wise's river column was spotted and the ship went into action shelling them. In the first break in the fire McClellan sent a signal to Malvern asking what was happening further north, and got back that there was an attack on McCall...

The attack on McCall was an accident. Losing the artillery duel, Longstreet told Micah Jenkins to advance the Palmetto Sharpshooters to snipe the guncrews. Instead of doing this, Jenkins (who'd been raised to brigade commander vice RH Anderson, who was commanding Longstreet's division vice Longstreet, who was commanding a wing) charged the brigade at ca. 1630-45, and were slaughtered. Seeing this, Longstreet tried to support brigade, but the orders only went out at 1700, and this was a surprise - the brigades had gone into routine and were cooking. Hence no supporting brigade attacked until after 1730, when Jenkins' men were already repulsed.

With the news of an attack on McCall, McClellan sent out a series of orders. Amongst them were for Couch's division to reinforce the attack point. Unfortunately for posterity, the signallers noted that the network became overloaded, and they could deal with the volume of traffic. So busy were they that they didn't have time to write the messages in their logbooks, and so we don't know the full contents of what was sent (see their report in SOR 2). That done he cross-decked to USS Jacob Bell and steamed back for Haxall's. There he goes ashore and rode hard back to his CP at ca. 1800.

After the battle, instead of reporting in as battle procedure, Franklin and Baldy Smith retreated without orders. Making matter's worse, they retreated eastwards, on the Charles City Road. Lt Newhall was sent by McClellan to find Franklin, and redirect his errant command to Malvern Hill. Because Jackson was already across the White Oak, the Federal position was now unzipped, and there was a scramble to quickly pull together a defensive position at Malvern Hill. Malvern Hill was not defensible long term (because the rebels could now cut off supply ships) and a compromise position of Harrison's Landing was agreed upon - that being as far upriver as the Navy could supply the army.



No. He made his CP with 5th Corps HQ. He had a good view of the field (except Burnside's front) and good communications. At least once he rode to Sumner on the right, and it was his personal observation of Sedgwick's broken division that convinced him further offensive action without moving reinforcements there was a mistake.

I do not agree with you 100% but you are far more accurate than I was. Best regards
 

trice

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#95
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.
From Halleck's report:
The first thing to which my attention was called on my arrival here was the condition of the army at Harrison's Landing, on the James River. I immediately visited General McClellan's headquarters for consultation. I left Washington on the 24th and returned on the 27th. The main object of this consultation was to ascertain if there was a possibility of all advance upon Richmond from Harrison's Landing, and, if not, to form some plan of uniting the armies of General McClellan and General Pope on some other line. Not being familiar with the position and numbers of the troops in Virginia and on the coast, I took the President's estimate of the largest number of re-enforcements that could then be sent to the Army of the Potomac.​
On the day of my arrival at Harrison's Landing General McClellan was of opinion that he would require at least 50,000 additional troops. I informed him that this number could not possibly be sent; that I was not authorized to promise him over 20,000, and that I could not well see how even that number could be safely withdrawn from other places. He took the night for considering the matter, and informed me next morning that he would make the attempt upon Richmond with the additional 20,000; but immediately on my return to Washington he telegraphed that he would require 35,000--a force which it was impossible to send him without leaving Washington and Baltimore almost defenseless. The only alternative now left was to withdraw the Army of the Potomac to some position where it could unite with that of General Pope, and cover Washington at the same time that it operated against the enemy. After full consultation with my officers I determined to attempt this junction on the Rappahannock by bringing McClellan's forces to Aquia Creek. Accordingly, on the 30th of July, I telegraphed to him to send away his sick as quickly as possible, preparatory to a movement of his troops. This was preliminary to the withdrawal of his entire army, which was ordered by telegraph on the 3d of August. In order that the transfer to Aquia Creek might be made as rapidly as possible, I authorized General McClellan to assume control of all vessels in the James River and Chesapeake Bay, of which there was then a vast fleet. The Quartermaster-General was also requested to send to that point all the transports that could be procured.​
Halleck's order on July 30 is probably the point at which a decision has been made, but not officially ordered. McClellan, as an experienced officer, must have known that change was in the air at that point: the reason for such an order could only be an anticipated movement by his army. He may have held out hope still that he would be reinforced, but Halleck ordered Burnside in Newport News to Fredericksburg on August 1st -- that news had to be a big clue to McClellan (Burnside disembarked at Aquia Creek on the 3rd and his transport was immediately sent back for McClellan).
 
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#96
So, to be clear, you believe that the overall responsibility for a military failure is on the commander?
Absolutely!

This is a very strange view of military history
Actually it is almost a universally accepted opinion in military circles.

All the other nonsense in your post is meaningless. Failure here is a matter of history. Mac, as commander, bears the responsibility for that.
 

67th Tigers

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#97
So, all the way to the top is Lincoln. I guess it's Lincoln's fault then?

Actually it is almost a universally accepted opinion in military circles.
It's the sort of nonsense they shout at you in Sapper School in the US I believe, but then that's not training you to manage a combat. Don't try and suggesting that's a universal opinion though, it's just the sappers being odd.
 
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#99
But sappers ARE odd! :D
I have three close friends who I believe would qualify as sappers - a Marine Gunny from force recon, another guy with a funny tattoo of a seal on his forearm and an old guy (the youngest of us is 69) with a funny accent who looks like he could still kick tail and is always talking in conspiratorial tones about "the regiment" - always has good single malt, too. We used to be golf buddies and now none of us play any more. We just drink our wee drams, smoke cigars and I listen to their stories. Those boys are most comprehensively odd.
 

thomas aagaard

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But sappers ARE odd! :D
Sure we are, but none US sappers know that sometimes impossible orders are given... often all the way from the politicians at top.

Yes an officer in command to have a lot of the responsibility. But Should Lee get all the blame for loosing the war?
No obviously not.
He should be blamed/praised for the decisions he made... not for things outside his control.
 



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