Putting all the McClellan stuff in one place...

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Intentions and possibilities for the Loudoun Valley campaign.



Lee

For Lee's part, the thing he was concerned about in this period was an amphibious threat to Richmond. By this time Lee cannot have failed to learn that the Union army has raised "new levies" in great numbers, and these new levies will lift much of the restrictions the Union previously had on force assignment. Lee meanwhile has most (though not quite all) of the brigades of the Confederate army east of the mountains and north of the Roanoke in his army, and so if there is an independent amphibious threat to Richmond (such as for example a corps or two being dispatched over sea up the James) Lee needs to be able to react to it as fast as possible. This (getting back to Richmond) is thus the main move he has prepared for in advance.

Longstreet's corps was at the start of the period largely concentrated at Martinsburg, while Jackson's corps was somewhat spread out. The Stonewall division and Ewell's division wre at Winchester, while AP Hill was to the east at about the same latitude and DH Hill's division (plus Walker's smaller division) were near Chester's Gap. (The position I have marked for them on the first few maps to follow is approximate; their orders to move to Upperville were dated on the 22nd).

It's my belief that this arrangement of forces is intended to defend Richmond in two ways. The first is an attempt to keep the Union army "pinned" defending Washington and the North in general (by threatening an invasion of the north with Longstreet's corps and with DH Hill's division posing threat towards Washington) and the second is to be able to move south to Richmond quickly if needed.

As it happens, Lee himself is in Richmond for part of this, and doesn't rejoin his army until about the 5th November. He does however command his army's movements by telegram.
A letter of the 24th sees Lee saying "General McClellan does not seem disposed, as yet, to move any portion of his army from this frontier, and, so long as this army retains its present position, I doubt whether he will materially diminish it. I think, though, that when he opens the campaign,it will be south of James River, and we ought to be prepared."


When McClellan starts moving, Lee begins moving as well. Looking at the movements it seems to be Burnside crossing south of the Potomac which is the trigger, though it could have been something else as well. During the movement Lee is alert for a situation where he could attack McClellan effectively, though he doesn't find one successfully.



McClellan

It is likely that McClellan did not seriously think he would be able to beat Lee to Richmond, because of all the obstacles in the way of being able to achieve this - in particular, Lee can route-march down to Culpeper while McClellan needs to guard his flank - but aside from this McClellan's concept of operations for the first stage is fairly simply stated.
McClellan would throw a pontoon bridge over the Potomac at Berlin (fortunately, this bridge was not destroyed by a freshet - the river did rise in this period, though it rose slowly rather than quickly as all the pontoon bridges survive) and cross 1st, 2nd and 9th Corps into the Loudoun Valley. If possible he would also cross 5th and 6th Corps, leaving just 12th Corps at Harpers Ferry and a small command under Morell ("Defences Upper Potomac", roughly two infantry brigades and a cavalry brigade) to cover the fords into Maryland.
Meanwhile (assuming that nothing untoward happened at Washington) the divisions of 3rd Corps (Stoneman and the other one under Sickles - Stoneman would rise to command the 3rd Corps entire shortly and turn his division over to Birney) and of 11th Corps would move out of Washington to help cover an interim supply point at Gainesville.
McClellan's general objective for the first state of the movement was to capture the town of Warrenton, on a spur of the Orange and Alexandria, and to establish a crossing of the upper Rappahannock river. Once established at Warrenton and with a crossing of the Rappahannock he can form his next plans depending on enemy reactions.

The worst case here is that McClellan gives Lee an opening for a significant victory, such as covering his flank insufficiently; the next worst case is that the whole Confederate army moves south and is able to get between him and Richmond. This however would basically "reset" the situation to an early 1862 "Overland Campaign" scenario, except that most available Confederate reinforcements have already been tapped while the York is open to Union supply ships.



Lincoln

Lincoln appears to have believed that it was possible for McClellan to simply march down to Richmond faster than Lee could get there. It is not clear if he ever put in the next level of analysis, which is to ask why Lee would allow himself to be put in such a vulnerable position if that vulnerability actually existed - especially if it was so simple that you could spot it just by looking at a map.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Operational movements:




24th October (i.e. before the campaign itself starts)
loudoun_24th.jpg


I've co-located DH Hill and Walker because I have no better information about their exact configurations.

At this point both armies are in a defensive posture for the most part, along the upper Potomac. McClellan is spread out firstly because his intent up to this point was to strike into the Shenandoah (he switched plans in the last couple of days and got them approved late on the 23rd) and secondly because this way he can counter a move by Lee to cross the Potomac west of the Blue Ridge.
Lee is mostly covering the lower Shenandoah Valley, and is spread out partly to allow for forage. (Though Lee himself is actually down in Richmond AIUI.)

The Union bridge engineers are at work on the bridge at Berlin.


25th October:
loudoun_25th.jpg



9th Corps moves to Berlin, where the pontoon bridge is being set up. Not all the corps moves in one go, and the bridge is still being built.
I now have Walker localized so have put his force at Paris.
McClellan asks Halleck if it's permissible to withdraw the 5th and 6th Corps from the line of the Potomac.
The letter goes into more detail than this, because it's partly about department boundaries - back in early 1862 the question of keeping Washington entirely secure was the source of an enormous amount of trouble, and McClellan wants to be absolutely certain about what troops he's allowed to take. His preferred defensive scheme would be to occupy Front Royal, Strasburg etc, and that would have been the goal of the Shenandoah movement.



26th October:
loudoun_26th.jpg


1st Corps also breaks camp, concentrating on Berlin. 9th Corps pushes over the now-bridged river to control the debouche.
This is one of McClellan's command patterns, and is something he does pretty much every time he comes up to a river where it's important to cross it but the river is not closely defended - he pushes a force (often a corps) across the river to secure control of the area as soon as he feasibly can.
The cavalry pushes south of Lovettsville.
Halleck basically punts on the question McClellan asked, and so McClellan decides that he'll be able to use 5th and 6th Corps once the Confederate army has abandoned Martinsburg. He'll just leave a small force under Morell (one of McClellan's more trusted division commanders it seems, as he was the possible replacement for Burnside during Antietam) and leave the 12th Corps at Harpers Ferry.




27th October:
loudoun_27th.jpg


9th Corps finishes crossing. 1st Corps has supply deficiencies to rectify, and does so while on the rail line; there is also some of the crossing of wagon trains here.
Meanwhile Stoneman's division is moved over the Potomac to Leesburg.
Burnside asks during this period whether it's really necessary to move the whole 9th Corps over the river during the storm, and McClellan confirms that yes, they should.


28th October:
loudoun_28th.jpg


Longstreet starts moving. (Some of the positions for Longstreet's movement are approximate.)
The news of Longstreet breaking camp causes McClellan to freeze his movement in case Longstreet is striking north (in which case he will need everything he has available north of the Potomac) and he sends a brigade-strength cavalry recce to investigate.

Lee's orders are for Jackson to move his camp from Winchester to somewhere between Charlestown and Berryville or on the waters of the Long Marsh Run owing to the deficiency of forage; Jackson is directed to:
1) Discover the movements and probable intentions of Confederate troops on the Potomac.
2) If required to fall back from Jefferson County (around Rippon) he is to fall back on Longstreet's new position.
3) Keep in mind the advantage of threatening the enemy east of the Blue Ridge, including crossing the mountains to threaten McClellan's flank if he's advancing east of the Blue Ridge.

Longstreet is directed to march to Culpeper ASAP but without panic.
Two brigades of Hood are sick with smallpox, and they're given a separate march route and told to basically be slower; the rest of the force is to take the best route via Chester Gap to Culpeper.
Walker's division is to remain in position until it's necessary to withdraw it, and Longstreet should inform Jackson when this takes place.
The exception is Pickett, which Lee requires Longstreet to move as fast as possible. It's also mentioned that Pickett might be diverted to Orange Court House if necessary.


Stuart's told to put a brigade into the Loudoun Valley,another brigade to the area of White Plains (to threaten the Union flank if the Union is moving towards Rappahannock, presumably Rappahannock station) and the final brigade is to stay in the Valley.




29th October:
loudoun_29th.jpg


With confirmation that Longstreet is not moving north, this is when the forces along the upper Potomac start peeling away. 9th Corps moves out to cover the whole of the upper Loudoun Valley (and possibly also to cover the terminus of the bridge at the mouth of the Shenandoah river).
This is the last point at which Pickett's position is estimated; after this point I'm pretty sure.
Slocum is formally placed in charge of the Harpers Ferry defences.


30th October:
loudoun_30th.jpg


1st and 2nd Corps cross much of their fighting echelon. Meanwhile Longstreet is moving south rapidly.
The period from the 30th October (2nd Corps stays in line with 9th Corps) to the 1st November (2nd and 9th Corps remain largely stationary on this date, making three days when those two corps are not moving) could be said to be a major delay, but looking at the map for this date we can see that a precipitate advance by 2nd and 9th Corps would have reached major difficulties about 15-20 miles further south. This is where DH Hill and Walker/Ransom are (total strength AP 14,311 based on November 10 report) and AP Hill is behind Snicker's Gap (AP Hill strength 12,239 AP on November 10 report). This combination of strength is weaker than the full 9th + 2nd Corps, but not that much weaker, and given positions at the time it would be quite feasible for other Confederate divisions to concentrate for a battle.




31st October:
loudoun_31st.jpg


At this point the only defensive forces along the upper Potomac are Morell's small force. 12th Corps is at Harpers Ferry and will be left there.
2nd Corps finishes crossing.
Walker begins moving south. All of what will formally be Longstreet's Corps next month are now on the move to Culpeper; Hood has split in half with the half going into quarantine taking a route that goes "west of" the map here.
On this date, McClellan reports enemy positions to Lincoln. Jackson's and Longstreet's forces "between Charlestown and Berryville" on the 30th. (about right in terms of latitude, though they're further west than that.) DH Hill's division near Berryville (actually AP Hill's).


1st November:
loudoun_1st.jpg


5th Corps crosses much of their fighting echelon, and 6th Corps reaches the pontoon bridge. There are now four Union corps over the river and moving south.
The "traffic jam" at Jefferson is an approximation of position, and Pickett could have preceded Walker or they could have taken parallel routes. The position is only roughly correct.



2nd November:
loudoun_2nd.jpg



2nd and 5th Corps acting as a single wing under Porter seize Snickers' Gap (it's held by cavalry and AP Hill is on the other side of it). 9th and 1st move past while the gap is masked.
6th Corps follows 9th and 1st.
Pleasonon's cavalry fights a skirmish at Union and drives the Confederate cavalry several miles south of there.
There are now Confederate troops at Culpeper itself. Notably, DH Hill is still in a position to block the approach to Culpeper, which would let him at least delay a single-corps dash south.
At this point DH Hill is worried that Union troops may enter the Valley and cut off his retreat; Jackson is also concerned, enough that he tells DH Hill to warn him immediately if the Union tries crossing into the Valley and DH Hill can't retreat (as Jackson will bring up his whole corps ready for a battle)


3rd November:
loudoun_3rd.jpg


5th Corps demonstrates against AP Hill, then returns to the gap. 9th and 2nd collect ready to go after Ashby's Gap, and push DH Hill away from his position at Upperville; the operations here are as much capturing the gap as if there'd been a major battle.
One division of 1st Corps is pushed forwards to take a crossing of Goose Creek.
Meanwhile 11th Corps (not shown) has taken possesssion of Thoroughfare Gap.


4th November:
loudoun_4th.jpg


2nd Corps takes Ashby's Gap, and DH Hill pulls back into the Shenandoah before marching for Front Royal. 5th Corps is still holding Snickers' Gap.
Walker moves south away from Culpeper itself, which may indicate that Lee's plan is to keep moving south.
There's a skirmish around Markham (in the approaches to Manassas Gap), where the Union cavalry gets the better of the Confederates.



5th November:
loudoun_5th.jpg


9th Corps marches to take control of Manassas Gap. There are now Union corps controlling all the main gaps in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and meanwhile 1st Corps is preparing to take Warrenton.
Lee returns from Richmond (to Culpeper).
This is also the day when Lincoln decides to sack McClellan.


6th November:
loudoun_6th.jpg


With the bulk of the army past and 1st Corps taking Warrenton, the Blue Ridge mountain gaps are now no longer necessary. 2nd, 5th and 9th Corps all pull away from the mountain gaps, and some of 9th Corps reaches the north fork of the Rappahanock to sieze control of a bridge there.
The Union cavalry report at this point is that Jackson's corps is "in Chester Gap and beyond".
Lee's letter to Jackson around this time tells him to march south, but is a little ambiguous; when Lee writes to the Confederate SecWar the next day however he is clearer that he meant for Jackson to move.
At this time Lee's communications with Stuart indicate he's asking:
- is McClellan's right wing detached enough to risk attacking?
- is McClellan going for Chester Gap or Thornton's Gap?
Also at this time Lee is ordered to pull a brigade from his army to send it to Weldon NC.
Lee's letter to Jackson also has him warning that McClellan's intent seems to be either "trap Jackson in the Valley" or "prevent Jackson from combining with Longstreet". Lee mentions that Jackson will have to be ready to move up the Valley (south) past Front Royal.
He also tells Jackson "I request that you will have your divisions as much united as possible, so that you may fall on any one of the enemy's columns which may expose itself should the opportunity occur to crush it, and that you will endeavour to lead the enemy forward for the purpose."

To GW Smith, Lee says that the indications are that McClellan's whole army is moving towards the Rappahannock "with more activity than usual".
To Jefferson Davis, Lee says specifically that the Union has not yet taken possession of Warrenton and that there's still Confederate cavalry there; if the Union keeps moving, he will order Jackson southwest up the Valley and Longstreet through Madison towards Swift Run Gap.

On this date, Stuart appears to have suggested that Longstreet's corps should attack Warrenton, which we can mostly infer from Lee's reply the next day.


This is also the date McClellan orders the bridge at Berlin dismantled and the pontoons taken to Washington. This order went via Washington, and instead of being telegraphed the War Dept. sent the order upriver by barge - meaning it didn't reach the engineers until the 12th November. (The bridge pontoons were then delayed by another three days en route from Washington to Fredericksburg by a heavy storm.)
This action results in 5-6 days of delay in the movement of the pontoon bridge to Washington and another 3 days in their arrival at Fredericksburg. It's quite possible (though impossible to prove) that the main reason this delay wasn't spotted was the chaos attendant with swapping McClellan out with Burnside - Burnside checked on the pontoons on the 14th.


7th November:
loudoun_7th.jpg


The Union army is concentrating on Warrenton, and 9th Corps does the same thing it did earlier in the movement - secure the area on the far side of a bridge.
At this point McClellan is relieved in command (the messenger arrives), but his already-issued march orders are followed for the duration of the 8th and 9th.
(This is also around when the other half of Hood reaches Gordonsville.)
The general intel picture at this point is that Longstreet is at Culpeper and Jackson with "one, perhaps both" of the Hills near Chester's Gap and Thornton's Gap. (In fact one Hill is at Chester's Gap and the rest of Jackson is further north.)
Lee's interpretation of McClellan's movements, to Stuart, is that he's either operating by his right flank entirely or moving his whole army along the Blue Ridge (neither is currently strictly true, McClellan has broken away from the Blue Ridge). He also says that if McClellan does push Lee back he'd have Longstreet fall back through Madison to make a junction with Jackson coming out of Swift Run Gap (repeating a theme he made to Jefferson Davis).
To GW Randolph, Lee reports that McClellan is advancing and will probably reach the Hazel tomorrow. His only information on Union infantry (aside presumably from Warrenton) is two brigades of infantry at Orleans on the 6th. Interestingly this is an understatement - two divisions reached Orleans on the 6th and the other two divisions reached Waterloo.
He also says that moving at the same speed the Union may reach the Hazel river the next day, though this may be cavalry or infantry (it's not clear).
Jackson may at this point have ordered a concentration on Winchester to strike north (we mostly know that he cancelled the concentration overnight 9th-10th November)



8th November
loudoun_8th.jpg


6th Corps holds the Thoroughfare Gap area to shield Gainesville while 5th Corps goes through.
Interestingly Stuart's command is showing signs of severe strain - Pleasonton captures his third gun from the Confederate horse artillery today, and there's not a lot of them to spare.
Lee is more explicit that Jackson must move now (he won't).
Walker has shifted to Madison Court House, possibly to defend the route by which Lee thinks he may have to retire.


9th November:
loudoun_9th.jpg


Much of the Army of the Potomac is now concentrated at Warrenton. 6th Corps leaves Thoroughfare Gap to 11th Corps (currently around Gainesville) and is under orders to move to Warrenton as well, but the change of command stops the army moving.
3rd Corps is also around Warrenton at this point - components of the corps have been seconded to 9th Corps or arriving by rail, but by now the whole corps is present (albeit spread out).



Interestingly, on this date (9th November), Lee told Stuart that there were dispatches to the effect that McClellan was concentrated "in the vicinity of Piedmont" (a theme he repeated to Jackson on 9th November and the Confederate SecWar on 10th November). This is a bit off... Lee thinks McClellan's object may be to attack Strasburg.
scout_error.jpg



Later on the 10th Stuart discovered a division-plus of 9th Corps at Amissville.




This movement by McClellan is perhaps not flawless, as it could have been possible to move 6th Corps away from the upper Potomac a day or two earlier, but it is still effective. McClellan's army is moving as a coordinated force of corps acting according to the direction of a single plan of action, with no one corps courting a battle without support nearby or some other advantage at play, and the cavalry screening work is highly effective.

Whether McClellan could have reached Culpeper before Lee is a tricky topic. I am of the opinion that the task is difficult enough that McClellan couldn't really have done it successfully given the actual operational requirements at play (Lee pretty much sprinted Pickett's division down from Martinsburg to Culpeper at maximum speed and Walker's division was literally on the route McClellan would have to take to get to Culpeper).

As for Lee's performance, he's alert to the possibility of attacking McClellan if McClellan makes an error, but he seems to have missed how fast McClellan was moving down the Loudoun Valley. As a consequence of this Lee ended up in a pretty terrible strategic situation - he got Longstreet in the way where he could block McClellan's route-march to Richmond, but he also ended up with a situation in which Jackson was basically unable to contribute and where he needed Jackson to unite with Longstreet ASAP by going via Swift Run Gap. (The extent to which this is because Jackson was immobilized by his supply problems or exercised independent command is of course relevant to the question of Lee's performance.)
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Prospects for future development

The position of the armies as of the 9th November is an excellent one for the Union. Lee has a force of about 40,000 Aggregate Present in infantry and artillery at and around Culpeper (November 10 strength of Longstreet's corps is 38,110 AP, plus the unknown strength of Pendleton's reserve artillery which was about 1,000 AP at previous report) as well as about 2/3 of Stuart's cavalry also being around Culpeper (i.e. about 5,500 AP). The other 37,000 AP infantry and 2,700 AP in cavalry were with Jackson in the Valley.
McClellan meanwhile has:
HQ and 1st, 2nd, 5th Corps at Warrenton (62,700 AP)
9th Corps and Whipple's division west of there and holding a debouche over the Rappahannock (20,900 AP)
Stoneman's division en route to Culpeper (10,600 AP)
Sickles' division and Sigel's corps at Gainesville (not explicitly broken out, best estimate based on later returns is that they total ~27,000 AP)
6th Corps marching south (28,800 AP)
And 7,200 in Buford's cavalry division (which does not embrace all the cavalry, as there were some regiments attached to corps).
The remaining Washington garrison is a little over 60,000 AP and includes some cavalry, along with enough troops for field divisions.

This means that Lee's force at and near Culpeper (total about 45,000 AP) is facing approximately 130,200 AP in Union troops within two days' march; another 27,000 is protecting the supply lines, but can move forwards if they become disposable (which would certainly happen if Jackson moved to reunite with Longstreet instead of trying to interfere with the supply lines).

March distances:

Warrenton to Culpeper ~23 miles
Culpeper to Orange ~19 miles
Orange to Gordonsville ~12 miles
Warrenton via Culpeper to Gordonsville 51-54 miles
Warrenton via Culpeper and Orange to Fredericksburg 85 miles
Culpeper via Gordonsville to the North Anna 77 miles
Warrenton via Culpeper, Germanna Fords and Fredericksburg to the North Anna ~95 miles
Winchester via Swift Run Gap to Gordonsville 109 miles
Winchester via Swift Run Gap to the North Anna 158 miles





There is no reason to believe McClellan would not try to take advantage. He was willing to attack heavily at Antietam and he knows he is stronger, and he knows his opponent is weaker; he also knows his opponent is divided to a much greater extent than they were at Antietam itself.
Lee can either try and fight at Culpeper, and if he tries he will get crushed at 3:1 odds or worse, or he can withdraw south and/or west. All indications are that he was planning to withdraw (thus his movements south with Walker etc).

Once Lee has withdrawn:

McClellan can go after Orange (and thence Gordonsville) or he can move on Fredericksburg. (He has enough men to do both at once by dividing his army to seek decisive manoeuvre).

If Lee pulls back to Madison County and McClellan occupies Orange Court House and Gordonsville, then McClellan is between Lee and Richmond. Lee is completely screwed, or at any rate his only option is to march south to Charlottesville and then rail to Richmond.

If Lee pulls back to Madison County and McClellan does not occupy Gordonsville etc. (but instead moves across to Fredericksburg with his whole force), then Lee has the option open of marching to Gordonsville and railing or marching across to the North Anna. This leads to the "Longstreet is at the North Anna" scenario below.

If Lee pulls south to Gordonsville and holds there and McClellan goes after Gordonsville with his whole force, then there is a large battle there in which the Confederates are outnumbered almost 2:1 (if Jackson's whole force has joined) or worse than 2:1 (if Jackson's whole force has not joined). Defeat in this battle would pretty much destroy any prospect of defending Richmond.
For Jackson's whole force to reach Gordonsville it has to march 109 miles faster than McClellan's can march 54, and McClellan will get at least one day's head start (because historically Jackson did not start marching while the armies were static, and he has to get different information to historical before he can start).

If Lee pulls south to Gordonsville and then moves across to the North Anna (whether threatened or not), this leads to the "Longstreet is at the North Anna" scenario. If McClellan has then taken Gordonsville with part of his force Jackson cannot arrive.

If Lee pulls south to Gordonsville and then moves further south (whether threatened or not), then his best remaining bet is probably to march for Richmond and hope to beat McClellan there.

If Lee marches straight for the North Anna, then we have the "Longstreet is at the North Anna" scenario.

If Lee moves east to Fredericksburg, then McClellan can simply crush Lee there with his whole force.



Longstreet is at the North Anna scenario

The variants of these all effectively boil down to Longstreet at the North Anna, and at least one "wing" of McClellan's army (probably two and possibly all three, depending on specifics) closing in on the Confederate force there.
The North Anna is not a bad defensive position, but it's also the most fordable of the defensive rivers between Fredericksburg and Richmond. Lee also does not have enough men to construct the "V" position from 1864, and if he does have a position strong enough to deter McClellan then McClellan can simply manoeuvre by his eastern flank.
More to the point, however, Lee would obviously be a lot happier to have Jackson with him, and if he has Jackson with him he has at least a significant prospect for a defensive victory. However Jackson simply has much further to march than any plausible Union movement.



Fredericksburg scenario

As previously mentioned, McClellan has a command pattern of pushing troops over a river ASAP to hold a debouche. If he had done Burnside's Fredericksburg movement, it is quite plausible he would have done it again here and fortified the heights before Longstreet got there (Lee initially pulled back to the North Anna, probably for this exact reason, and was surprised to find Burnside north of the river).



The worst case scenario for the Union is probably that they end up with a force established in good supply south of the Rappahannock/Rapidan (i.e. from Fredericksburg) but Lee has reunited his army at the North Anna. The best case scenario is probably that Lee refuses to be cut off from Jackson and stands at Gordonsville, but that McClellan fights a battle there before Jackson arrives and consequently Longstreet is destroyed.


If anyone would like to suggest Lee's best course of action, go ahead...
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Summary of McClellan's military career


I do not think one can simply say that McClellan was the finest general the Union had, as it's a bit hard to judge that sort of thing. I do however think he might be the most underrated.

McClellan is not an ideal commander, certainly, as he has real problems in the political side of things (most of his problems stemming ultimately from politics) and his tendency to go for steady progress rather than making dramatic lunges may at times rob him of the chance to seize at opportunities. On the other hand it also means he rarely puts a foot wrong in the same way that most of his fellow primary field army commanders do - Grant for example at times seems reduced to launching costly, self-destructive attacks on the enemy line hoping to find somewhere they've erred enough that his attack will work - and generally speaking McClellan's choices are not so much "the best option" as "there is no obvious better option" (sometimes even with hindsight).
This makes him consistent to a rare degree in the Civil War.


As a battlefield commander, McClellan is good for a Union high commander, and by that I mean both that his CEV number (using Lanchester Square to calculate it) is higher than all other Union high commanders in the east in comparable situations and that he displays a generally good sense of battlefield management.
As an operational commander, McClellan often shows a sense of when it is better not to fight but to pursue an alternative approach, and this is valuable both in terms of how it solves problems with fewer casualties and in terms of how it makes it clear to the men that McClellan cares for their lives. This actually makes his attacks more likely to succeed because it means that the men making them understand that this attack is important.
As a commander in handling a siege, McClellan has no obvious equal in the Union high command.
As a strategist, McClellan is focused on threatening Richmond as an economic target, as an attainable target, and as a military target. He is offensive minded, and during his time as general in chief is advocating an aggressive medium-term strategy (major attack in 1862 with a large army, coordinated with other attacks along the continent).
As noted, it is as a political animal where McClellan has his greatest failings, and this is a genuine failing for a general. It is quite possible for a close partnership between a general without good political sense and a politician to "run interference" for him to work well, but McClellan has few friends and many enemies in the establishment and it is the men who would rather see him fail who have continuous access to Lincoln.


McClellan basically looks bad chiefly because he was first and because expectations were so high.
He is the only general who took on the main strength of the strongest Confederate army when it was at its height, and the actual campaigns he fought saw him either with a smaller advantage than almost any other Union field commander or in one case actually significantly outnumbered, and in the face of this he inflicted very heavy casualties on the Confederate forces, opened up the strategic rivers of southeast Virginia to Union shipping, got so close to Richmond that he was putting artillery on the heights over it barely three months after starting his offensive, blunted Lee's first triumphant invasion of the North and (of course) built the Army of the Potomac.


There is no reason to believe that McClellan could not have led the Army of the Potomac to a final success in 1862, or in 1863 if the only change is that he is sustained in command.
 
Joined
Dec 22, 2016
Location
NH
Thanks for you extended analysis of the great McClellan Question. I had hoped to do more counter points here and there, and answer your request for better options on the Peninsula and the support of Pope. I might get to that one day! For now I respectfully post two quotes from McClellan that sum up his inadequacy as a general. They aren't related to his problems with politics, but rather with risk, something Robert E. Lee lived and worked with every day of his command of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Here is McClellan on September 10: From the moment the rebels commenced the policy of concentrating their forces, with their large masses of troops operating against our scattered forces, they have been successful. They are undoubtedly pursuing the same policy now, and are prepared to take advantage of any division of our troops in the futur.

We know this was the day Lee was doing the exact opposite, dividing his army into four (then five) parts to attack Harpers Ferry and defend South Mountain. McClellan was way off on estimating what the enemy would do, which certainly isn't a problem he alone had in military history. But he failed a lot in acting on what the enemy could do, which was to march hard and move with an audacity that outside of McClellan's tolerance of risk and the unknown.

Speaking of risk, here's McClellan regarding battle on September 18: After a night of anxious deliberation and a full and careful survey of the situation and condition of our army, the strength and position of the enemy, I concluded that the success of an attack on the 18th was not certain. I am aware of the fact that, under ordinary circumstances, a general is expected to risk a battle if he has a reasonable prospect of success; but at this critical juncture I should have had a narrow view of the condition of the country had I been willing to hazard another battle with less than an absolute assurance of success.

The day before wasn't certain either. Why attack at all anywhere? No nation can win a war without risk, something McClellan, a brilliant student of military history, should've known. Lee's army was tired, hungry, and fatigued, just like his own.

That's it for now. Thanks again for your hard work on this important subject.
 

Saphroneth

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Here is McClellan on September 10: From the moment the rebels commenced the policy of concentrating their forces, with their large masses of troops operating against our scattered forces, they have been successful. They are undoubtedly pursuing the same policy now, and are prepared to take advantage of any division of our troops in the futur.

We know this was the day Lee was doing the exact opposite, dividing his army into four (then five) parts to attack Harpers Ferry and defend South Mountain. McClellan was way off on estimating what the enemy would do, which certainly isn't a problem he alone had in military history. But he failed a lot in acting on what the enemy could do, which was to march hard and move with an audacity that outside of McClellan's tolerance of risk and the unknown.
Except that what McClellan is doing here is assuming that the enemy will make their best move, and taking that into consideration. Lee breaking up his army into multiple independent components (which, by the way, didn't actually happen until September 11 as that's when Jackson and McLaws etc. separated from the column; Walker's division is already separate but that's less than 10% of the force) gave him advantages, but it also meant he had significant problems as he nearly lost 1/4 of his army in the Pleasant Valley (McLaws and Anderson) owing to McClellan's columns striking him.

A key military maxim of corps operations is to march divided and fight united, and Lee is able to do this (including at Antietam, after having significant problems from having divided his force too much beforehand) but the Union had been frittering away their main effort for months with forces chasing Jackson around and on September 10 they were still doing it (Harpers Ferry being vulnerable to Lee's actions, over seventy thousand troops left behind in Washington and not part of McClellan's main army) which is what McClellan is arguing against.


You should not assume the enemy will act against their own best interests, especially when planning your own manoeuvres.
 

Saphroneth

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Speaking of risk, here's McClellan regarding battle on September 18: After a night of anxious deliberation and a full and careful survey of the situation and condition of our army, the strength and position of the enemy, I concluded that the success of an attack on the 18th was not certain. I am aware of the fact that, under ordinary circumstances, a general is expected to risk a battle if he has a reasonable prospect of success; but at this critical juncture I should have had a narrow view of the condition of the country had I been willing to hazard another battle with less than an absolute assurance of success.

The day before wasn't certain either. Why attack at all anywhere? No nation can win a war without risk, something McClellan, a brilliant student of military history, should've known. Lee's army was tired, hungry, and fatigued, just like his own.
What you're doing here is very strange, because you're achnowledging that McClellan was quite willing to attack on the 17th but you're then just assuming that McClellan must have meant his "less than an absolute assurance of success" as a rule for all situations.

On the 17th, McClellan commits extremely large amounts of troops, but he doesn't commit all his troops - he always retains at least some reserve, though it's usually of divisional strength - and this is part of large movements which do heavy damage to the enemy. McClellan can feel confident that if his attacks on the 17th don't succeed they will at least heavily disrupt Lee's line, and he has enough troops still able to fight (by the end of the day this is five brigades of 6th Corps and Morell's division, roughly) that if Lee does launch a counterattack with his now-disrupted troops he'll still be able to recover the situation.

On the 18th, meanwhile, McClellan is contemplating making an attack with the last troops he has available on the field who are in a good state to fight.

1st, 2nd, 9th and 12th Corps are to all appearances almost or completely combat ineffective, fought out and exhausted. Humphreys' division is full of green troops and has marched an enormous distance, and it's not exactly clear how badly they'd straggled but it must have been pretty bad. This means that McClellan largely just has Morell, Sykes, 5 brigades of 6th Corps and Couch to do all the fighting that they may be called upon to do that day, including defending if Lee feels the ability to counterattack (and at Second Bull Run Lee had endured punishment and then launched a devastating counterattack, so it's not like this is a pure hypothetical which sprang from McClellan's fevered imaginings - there are men on the field who saw this happen three weeks ago).

At the same time, McClellan does not have much choice over where he attacks. The options are basically like this:


Option one: attack against the Dunker Church plateau, with up to four divisions (Couch Morell Smith Slocum) assuming you ignore Burnside's worries and possibly arrest him to get Morell back.

This attack is strong enough that it could work, but it is not a guarantee of success.
If it succeeds, then McClellan has forced Lee back - not destroyed his army - because he cannot through this method cut Lee off from the Potomac fords. The reward is thus low.
If it fails, then McClellan has no troops left able to fight, and if Lee puts in some of his relatively undamaged brigades for a counterattack (he had several, like the brigades of Jenkins, Drayton, Kemper, Armistead, Pender and Field, which hadn't been repulsed or significantly engaged over the course of the 17th) then he could drive McClellan's army off the field. The risk is thus high - a defeat like that would probably cause the Army of the Potomac's morale to collapse.

The chance of success times the reward is low, and the chance of failure times the risk is high.


Option two: attack in the south again, with up to two divisions (Couch Morell) since Slocum and Smith are in the north.

This attack is much weaker, and so the chance of victory is much lower. For it to be successful Couch and Morell must both attack successfully in the south and then fend off any counterattack Lee has available (i.e. defeat at least Jenkins, Drayton, Kemper, Armistead, Pender and Field, plus AP Hill's other three brigades on the field).
If it succeeds, then McClellan has cut Lee off from the Potomac. The reward is thus high.
If it fails, then McClellan has one corps of troops left able to fight (6th Corps proper). He is probably safe from a counterattack (though not certainly) but if the campaign continues his assets are limited. The risk is thus medium.

The chance of success times the reward is low, and the chance of failure times the risk is high.



For McClellan to be able to absorb the risk associated with an attack with his "last reserves", he has to be pretty much certain that it will be successful. His army is in worse shape than Lee's army was before Pickett's Charge, because much of Lee's army on the 3rd had had a day's rest (or a day's not in active combat) after the fighting on the 1st July, and other parts of Lee's army had not been repulsed, and of course Lee's army was formed of veterans.
 

Saphroneth

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For now I respectfully post two quotes from McClellan that sum up his inadequacy as a general. They aren't related to his problems with politics, but rather with risk, something Robert E. Lee lived and worked with every day of his command of the Army of Northern Virginia.
In general, risk is a topic that's worth evaluating, but we can't simply assert that someone avoiding a given risk must therefore be an inadequate general. Critical to a successful general is risk management, which means that you are taking the risks which have a high probability of being profitable relative to the potential downside.


Take for example Wellington. In his day Wellington was considered to be practically cowardly for his risk-averse nature, but this is simply that he was entirely knowledgeable of the risks he was running and was evaluating them judiciously.



This is exactly what's going on during McClellan's tenure. He is dealing in probabilities - keeping in mind what his opponent could be doing and what the upsides or downsides of it would be. He is taking precautions against the things Lee could do which would be harmful to him, because if you don't do that then Lee hits you in the flank with a corps or sometimes an entire army (it happened in the Seven Days, and at Second Bull Run, and then later at Chancellorsville and indeed the Wilderness) but when he sees an opportunity he is quite willing to attack.
 

Saphroneth

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. But with McClellan, @Saphroneth, I am talking about his battles from the Peninsula campaign that were movements of awesome power, and slower than Lincoln permitted. Lee outsmarted him there.
Then be specific. What are you thinking of?

I ask because, for example, on the Peninsula McClellan is slow and cautious before Richmond in June because Lee has parity or slightly outnumbers him (in reality, not in terms of McClellan's estimates) and Lee has heavy fortifications to rely on, so McClellan has to rely on heavy artillery to equalize the situation. This means that McClellan waits until the rains have stopped and the ground hardened before making his move, but when he does he moves in - and Lee forces him away from Richmond not by outsmarting him but by employing raw concentrated attacking power.

The situation in early November around Culpeper is in no sense comparable. None of the drivers which created the June situation are present.

Lee's strength - in June Lee had a larger force than McClellan once Jackson joined, and McClellan's estimates of the time are higher than the reality but they are correct in terms of that basic fact.
In November, Lee's force around Culpeper is much smaller. McClellan's estimates of the time have been corrected back downwards by overestimates of the damage he was doing to Lee's force, and more importantly McClellan knows that Lee's army is divided; since McClellan's army is stronger than it was in the Seven Days, and Lee's army is (1) weaker and (2) divided, McClellan knows that the situation is not comparable.

Fortifications - Lee has no heavy fortifications around Culpeper to rely on.

Rains - there is no major rain of anything like the scale of the June 1862 rains.



My suspicion based on McClellan's previous actions (including calling for the pontoons at Berlin to be made available and the movements of 9th Corps and his cavalry) is that McClellan would first move on Culpeper. If Lee stood to fight there then McClellan would fight it out; if Lee pulled Longstreet south of the Rapidan then McClellan would EITHER move on Orange and Gordonsville by crossing the Rapidan (before then moving to Fredericksburg), OR move sideways to Fredericksburg directly via the Germanna Ford area, OR move sideways to Fredericksburg north of the Rapidan.

In all of these cases, McClellan would then follow his existing command pattern and push or station troops south of the Rappahannock to hold a tete du pont while pontoons were constructed and the Fredericksburg rail bridge repaired.


Given the specifics (that is, that McClellan was aware of the position of the Hills, Jackson and Ewell, and that he was capable of operating his wings independently) I have a suspicion that McClellan would have 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 9th corps operating along the line of advance Culpeper-Orange-Gordonsville at least until one of three situations arose:
1) Longstreet abandoned defending that line to move east. (In this case McClellan might be expected to leave a blocking force.)
2) Jackson's postion had been unknown for long enough that it was reasonable to expect he might be about to join Longstreet around Gordonsville.
3) The amount of supplies carried by McClellan's main body diminished to the point they had to move east to regain supply.

Meanwhile 6th Corps (the largest) and possibly 11th corps as well would move on Fredericksburg to establish a crossing of the Rappahannock and supply base there.


This is in keeping with how McClellan operated his army by corps and wings during any manoeuvre phase of campaigning, including the Loudoun Valley one that had just taken place. Remember that McClellan's objective wasn't "move to Warrenton and stop"; his army was on the move at the time of his firing, and there's no reason to believe he wouldn't keep going (he'd already secured crossings of the Rappahannock at Waterloo Bridge and the rail bridge at Rappahannock Station, and his cavalry was moving forward to secure the fords of the Hazel.)
 
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Lubliner

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Then be specific. What are you thinking of?

I ask because, for example, on the Peninsula McClellan is slow and cautious before Richmond in June because Lee has parity or slightly outnumbers him (in reality, not in terms of McClellan's estimates) and Lee has heavy fortifications to rely on, so McClellan has to rely on heavy artillery to equalize the situation. This means that McClellan waits until the rains have stopped and the ground hardened before making his move, but when he does he moves in - and Lee forces him away from Richmond not by outsmarting him but by employing raw concentrated attacking power.

The situation in early November around Culpeper is in no sense comparable. None of the drivers which created the June situation are present.

Lee's strength - in June Lee had a larger force than McClellan once Jackson joined, and McClellan's estimates of the time are higher than the reality but they are correct in terms of that basic fact.
In November, Lee's force around Culpeper is much smaller. McClellan's estimates of the time have been corrected back downwards by overestimates of the damage he was doing to Lee's force, and more importantly McClellan knows that Lee's army is divided; since McClellan's army is stronger than it was in the Seven Days, and Lee's army is (1) weaker and (2) divided, McClellan knows that the situation is not comparable.

Fortifications - Lee has no heavy fortifications around Culpeper to rely on.

Rains - there is no major rain of anything like the scale of the June 1862 rains.



My suspicion based on McClellan's previous actions (including calling for the pontoons at Berlin to be made available and the movements of 9th Corps and his cavalry) is that McClellan would first move on Culpeper. If Lee stood to fight there then McClellan would fight it out; if Lee pulled Longstreet south of the Rapidan then McClellan would EITHER move on Orange and Gordonsville by crossing the Rapidan (before then moving to Fredericksburg), OR move sideways to Fredericksburg directly via the Germanna Ford area, OR move sideways to Fredericksburg north of the Rapidan.

In all of these cases, McClellan would then follow his existing command pattern and push or station troops south of the Rappahannock to hold a tete du pont while pontoons were constructed and the Fredericksburg rail bridge repaired.


Given the specifics (that is, that McClellan was aware of the position of the Hills, Jackson and Ewell, and that he was capable of operating his wings independently) I have a suspicion that McClellan would have 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 9th corps operating along the line of advance Culpeper-Orange-Gordonsville at least until one of three situations arose:
1) Longstreet abandoned defending that line to move east. (In this case McClellan might be expected to leave a blocking force.)
2) Jackson's postion had been unknown for long enough that it was reasonable to expect he might be about to join Longstreet around Gordonsville.
3) The amount of supplies carried by McClellan's main body diminished to the point they had to move east to regain supply.

Meanwhile 6th Corps (the largest) and possibly 11th corps as well would move on Fredericksburg to establish a crossing of the Rappahannock and supply base there.


This is in keeping with how McClellan operated his army by corps and wings during any manoeuvre phase of campaigning, including the Loudoun Valley one that had just taken place. Remember that McClellan's objective wasn't "move to Warrenton and stop"; his army was on the move at the time of his firing, and there's no reason to believe he wouldn't keep going (he'd already secured crossings of the Rappahannock at Waterloo Bridge and the rail bridge at Rappahannock Station, and his cavalry was moving forward to secure the fords of the Hazel.)
Thanks, I asked another question for you on a previous thread just before finding this one. The whole period that occurred between Antietam and November transpired before Burnside took command. I believe the ANV was worse off than the AOP. Therefore 7 weeks of trying to recuperate or reconsolidate, or resupply and reorganize his troops? The ANV was at a worse advantage after retreating across the Potomac. They were bloodied, tired, looking at a quickly approaching winter and were in need of establishing themselves with supplies etc. (as above with the AOP). So I believe Lee being satisfied it would be all he could do for the season to establish camps and feed his army, preparing for the winter, he was off guard with Burnside advancing. But what was Lincoln's problem with McClellan at the end of his soldiering career? Not following Lee on the retreat; or not advancing in a due time to attack Lee? Burnside seems to have benefitted by this surprise, possibly because the affairs within the AOP were reorganized by McClellan, and he was able to move quickly. These are political decisions that were made that McClellan bears a good per cent of the cause.
What did he accomplish in 7 weeks time? Did he argue with Washington or malign policy and presidential proclivities? Did he rebuild the army of the Potomac? Lee should have been taken by opportunity is Lincoln's judgements upon it, same as he had against Meade after Gettysburg.
Lubliner.
 

Saphroneth

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The whole period that occurred between Antietam and November transpired before Burnside took command. I believe the ANV was worse off than the AOP. Therefore 7 weeks of trying to recuperate or reconsolidate, or resupply and reorganize his troops? The ANV was at a worse advantage after retreating across the Potomac. They were bloodied, tired, looking at a quickly approaching winter and were in need of establishing themselves with supplies etc. (as above with the AOP). So I believe Lee being satisfied it would be all he could do for the season to establish camps and feed his army, preparing for the winter, he was off guard with Burnside advancing. But what was Lincoln's problem with McClellan at the end of his soldiering career? Not following Lee on the retreat; or not advancing in a due time to attack Lee? Burnside seems to have benefitted by this surprise, possibly because the affairs within the AOP were reorganized by McClellan, and he was able to move quickly. These are political decisions that were made that McClellan bears a good per cent of the cause.
What did he accomplish in 7 weeks time? Did he argue with Washington or malign policy and presidential proclivities? Did he rebuild the army of the Potomac?
The simple answer is this.

Immediately after Antietam, McClellan wanted to move into the Shenandoah to follow and attack Lee, despite the very poor supply situation of his army (the Army of the Potomac hadn't had a chance to properly get itself supplied before marching out of Washington, and there were major deficiencies in supply that weren't rectified until the last week of October).

McClellan followed over the Shepherdstown fords and was forced back by Lee (in the battle of Shepherdstown itself), and also began making the preparations to cross into the Shenandoah at Harpers Ferry. This included building a permanent bridge to supply his army.
Halleck forbade him from building the bridge until his plans were agreed upon.
McClellan sent his plans to Halleck (i.e. cross into the Shenandoah and attack Lee), and Halleck didn't approve them. He didn't reject them either, by the way, he just asked for McClellan's plans and then sat on them.

Eventually McClellan submitted different plans which were more in keeping with what Halleck wanted but had not ordered (explicitly so; Halleck says in so many words that he had not given McClellan any orders, and he also says that Lincoln's preferences were not orders), and Halleck approved those within the day. McClellan was bridging the Potomac the next morning.



It seems that the basic problem is that both Lincoln and Halleck wanted McClellan to do a certain thing (advance east of the Blue Ridge), but neither of them wanted to order McClellan to do that thing - but they didn't want McClellan to advance west of the Blue Ridge either. So McClellan sent his offensive plan (advance west of the Blue Ridge, at least at first) and Halleck didn't approve it.
 

Lubliner

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The simple answer is this.

Immediately after Antietam, McClellan wanted to move into the Shenandoah to follow and attack Lee, despite the very poor supply situation of his army (the Army of the Potomac hadn't had a chance to properly get itself supplied before marching out of Washington, and there were major deficiencies in supply that weren't rectified until the last week of October).

McClellan followed over the Shepherdstown fords and was forced back by Lee (in the battle of Shepherdstown itself), and also began making the preparations to cross into the Shenandoah at Harpers Ferry. This included building a permanent bridge to supply his army.
Halleck forbade him from building the bridge until his plans were agreed upon.
McClellan sent his plans to Halleck (i.e. cross into the Shenandoah and attack Lee), and Halleck didn't approve them. He didn't reject them either, by the way, he just asked for McClellan's plans and then sat on them.

Eventually McClellan submitted different plans which were more in keeping with what Halleck wanted but had not ordered (explicitly so; Halleck says in so many words that he had not given McClellan any orders, and he also says that Lincoln's preferences were not orders), and Halleck approved those within the day. McClellan was bridging the Potomac the next morning.



It seems that the basic problem is that both Lincoln and Halleck wanted McClellan to do a certain thing (advance east of the Blue Ridge), but neither of them wanted to order McClellan to do that thing - but they didn't want McClellan to advance west of the Blue Ridge either. So McClellan sent his offensive plan (advance west of the Blue Ridge, at least at first) and Halleck didn't approve it.
This is what is stumping me. Halleck used to be a good friend of McClellan. Now he has shifted away entirely without discussion. Siding with Lincoln and seeing already the 'writing on the wall' and knowing that McClellan's days are numbered, possibly due to the problem at Second Manassas? And Lincoln has already requested Burnside twice for promotion, which was declined. Was Stanton allowed to 'cast a vote' on what to do with McClellan. The continual offering up of plans for a campaign at that time of year seems ridiculous. I would think some systematic development in a fluid situation by advancing and defending and supplying along the Potomac River would be required. I wouldn't want McClellan to run up the valley to the west either, separating the army from Washington. Maybe the big three, Stanton, Halleck, and Lincoln couldn't conceive anything using McClellan's input, thinking "No, we all already tried that." We want to defend the line of the Potomac until the spring, and then after small advances and scouts during the winter, and developing the enemy strengths and numbers, we attack; is my idea. But Burnside must have seen a way to protect Washington and the Potomac by moving toward Fredericksburg and opening Aquia Creek, and also using the Manassas Railroad and some of the Orange and Alexandria RR for supply and reserve. Did Lincoln push him to attack on December 8-13th?
Lubliner.
 

Lubliner

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@Saphroneth I am now coming more to terms with the severe judgements levied against McClellan. He was the first Major General having to deal with the Washington bureaucrats, and hoped the Peninsula Campaign would remove him from their control. I now see every general of the army in the field continually having reported in person at Washington; Hooker, Burnside too. I see Halleck believing that Lincoln could decide to put McClellan in his place for his skills behind the scenes, and also possibly Buell. So Halleck in his own mind mind might feel these pressures, though I don't think Lincoln entertained the idea for very long. McClellan possibly thought a Harper's Ferry move would deliver him from their harassments, but that was a sub-theater of the main army. Meade probably saw the full extent of this intrusion into military affairs and didn't want it, as neither Burnside. Hooker wanted to exploit it. Grant dismissed it, and drew up a plan for both Meade and him to sojourn through the Wilderness Campaign with as little interruption as possible. The whole measure of this war would not have fought to it's end if Washington had not let go at Grant's proposal. So chalk one more victory point up for Grant and his associate Charles Dana. Could Buell have been a good replacement in Washington for Halleck at this point?
Thanks,
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Saphroneth

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The continual offering up of plans for a campaign at that time of year seems ridiculous. I would think some systematic development in a fluid situation by advancing and defending and supplying along the Potomac River would be required. I wouldn't want McClellan to run up the valley to the west either, separating the army from Washington.
Except that McClellan's plan was to force the enemy out of the Valley north of Winchester (as he explicitly stated), so that he would no longer need to keep large forces along the Potomac. He would then be able to shift to a different line of operations. It's by no definition separating the army from Washington.

Halleck asked for a plan,giving two options; McClellan took one of the options; Halleck refused to approve it. This is the core of the issue - Halleck is stopping McClellan from moving.


I am now coming more to terms with the severe judgements levied against McClellan. He was the first Major General having to deal with the Washington bureaucrats, and hoped the Peninsula Campaign would remove him from their control.
That's not really why he embarked on the Peninsula Campaign - in fact his preference was Urbana.
 
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Saphroneth

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This is what is stumping me. Halleck used to be a good friend of McClellan. Now he has shifted away entirely without discussion. Siding with Lincoln and seeing already the 'writing on the wall' and knowing that McClellan's days are numbered, possibly due to the problem at Second Manassas? And Lincoln has already requested Burnside twice for promotion, which was declined. Was Stanton allowed to 'cast a vote' on what to do with McClellan.
Looking at all the information available, as far as I can tell what was going on was that there was a real mess of politics going on. Stanton and the radicals hated McClellan, Halleck was at the very least a patsy in a plot to discredit McClellan (the supply crisis in October is something Halleck should have at least noticed when he was told about it, but instead he claimed that there was nothing wrong with how things were going - either he was tricked or that was a lie) and Pope also appears to have wanted McClellan to go down as part of his attempts to avoid blame for 2nd Manassas. He had some kind of leverage over Halleck (proof Halleck falsified reports, I believe) and was planning on releasing it if he couldn't get what he was after some other way (i.e. Pope was blackmailing Halleck, functionally speaking).

Meanwhile Lincoln has unrealistic ideas about what's possible (he doesn't seem to realize it takes several days for an army's supply wagons and baggage to cross a river, and assumes McClellan must be closer than Lee to Richmond so therefore McClellan must be able to beat Lee to Richmond in a race) and there's also a not insignificant amount of evidence that Lincoln believed a conspiracy theory about McClellan trying to "let" Lee get away unscathed. (Lincoln certainly believed that Lee was allowed to get away unscathed after invading the North, notwithstanding both the incredibly bloody Battle of Antietam and the follow-up pursuit at Shepherdstown that was stopped; I think he didn't realize that armies can't fight at full capacity all the time.)

With all that being said, Halleck had McClellan's "attack into the upper Shenandoah" plan in his hands by 7th October. If he'd given approval then McClellan could have been attacking into the Shenandoah within a few days; if he instead wanted McClellan to move by the east of the Blue Ridge, his correct recourse is to make it an order.
 

Lubliner

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I'm not sure I follow. Whose view do you think this is?
I said it was my idea. Lincoln was too worried over Washington's safety to allow McClellan to go south and 'beat Lee to Richmond' as you say. Lincoln would fear Lee would storm into Washington after sidestepping McClellan. Do you think Buell could have been considered as a replacement for Halleck anytime during that political and military confrontation in November, 1862?
Lubliner.
 
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