Too Useful to Sacrifice: Reconsidering George B. McClellan's Generalship in the Maryland Campaign...

chellers

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Steven R. Stotelmyer (Author)
Savas Beatie (September 30, 2016)

The importance of Robert E. Lee’s first movement north of the Potomac River in September 1862 is difficult to overstate. After his string of successes in Virginia, a decisive Confederate victory in Maryland or Pennsylvania may well have spun the war in an entirely different direction. Why he and his Virginia army did not find success across the Potomac was due in large measure to the generalship of George B. McClellan, as Steven Stotelmyer ably demonstrates in Too Useful to Sacrifice: Reconsidering George B. McClellan’s Generalship in the Maryland Campaign from South Mountain to Antietam.

Although typecast as the slow and overly cautious general who allowed Lee’s battered army to escape, in fact, argues Stotelmyer, General McClellan deserves significant credit for defeating and turning back the South’s most able general. He does so through five comprehensive chapters, each dedicated to a specific major issue of the campaign:

Fallacies Regarding the Lost Orders

All the Injury Possible: The Day between South Mountain and Antietam

Antietam: The Sequel to South Mountain

General John Pope at Antietam and the Politics behind the Myth of the Unused Reserves

Supplies and Demands: The Demise of General George B. McClellan

Was McClellan’s response to the discovery of Lee’s Lost Orders really as slow and inept as we have been led to believe? Although routinely dismissed as a small prelude to the main event at Antietam, was the fighting on South Mountain the real Confederate high tide in Maryland? Is the criticism leveled against McClellan for not rapidly pursuing Lee’s army after the victory on South Mountain warranted? Did McClellan fail to make good use of his reserves in the bloody fighting on September 17? Finally, what is the real story behind McClellan’s apparent “failure” to pursue the defeated Confederate army after Antietam, which triggered President Lincoln’s frustration with him and resulted in his removal?

Utilizing extensive primary documents and with a keen appreciation for the infrastructure of the nineteenth century Maryland terrain, Stotelmyer deeply explores these long-held beliefs, revealing that often the influence of political considerations dictated military decision-making, and the deliberate actions of the Lincoln Administration behind McClellan’s back resulted in bringing about many of the general’s supposed shortcomings. As readers will soon discover, Lincoln did not need to continue searching for a capable commander; he already had one.

About the Author
Steven R. Stotelmyer is a native of Hagerstown, Maryland. As a child he visited Antietam National Battlefield during many family picnics to that area. After a stint in the U.S. Navy he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Frostburg State College and a Master of Arts from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. He has worked as a teacher, surveyor, and civil engineer. Always interested in local history, especially South Mountain and Antietam, Mr. Stotelmyer was a founding member of the Central Maryland Heritage League in 1989. The league gained a modest amount of success in preserving some of the lands of the South Mountain Battlefield. From 1989 through 1994 Mr. Stotelmyer volunteered at the Antietam National Battlefield. In 1992 he published The Bivouacs of the Dead: The Story of Those Who Died at Antietam and South Mountain (Toomey Press, Baltimore, Maryland). From 2000 through 2005 Mr. Stotelmyer served as a part-time volunteer and historical consultant for the South Mountain State Battlefield. Steven currently enjoys being a National Park Service Certified Antietam and South Mountain Tour Guide.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1611213045/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

Disclaimer: This post is neither a recommendation nor solicitation by CivilWarTalk or Chellers. It is solely for informational purposes.
 

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Joshism

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I hope this will be a useful book and not a shameless apologist work as these things sometimes are.

I'm particularly curious about the reference to the "Myth of the Unused Reserves". Is the author going to allege McClellan had no unused infantry reserves?
 

kholland

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I'm particularly curious about the reference to the "Myth of the Unused Reserves". Is the author going to allege McClellan had no unused infantry reserves?
And also that chapter is titled "General John Pope at Antietam". He was relived of command two weeks before the battle. What could that chapter cover? As for the reserves, I thought McClellan had two corps that were not used. This sounds interesting.
 

67th Tigers

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I'm particularly curious about the reference to the "Myth of the Unused Reserves". Is the author going to allege McClellan had no unused infantry reserves?
McClellan had a single brigade (Barnes') in reserve.
 

67th Tigers

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When did Porter's V Corps (divisions of Morrell, Sykes, and Humphreys) become engaged at Antietam?
"Not engaged" is not the same thing as "in reserve".

Sykes' division was reasonably heavily engaged except for Warren's little demi-brigade, which was sent to Burnside and kept in local reserve there (with 225 effective officers and men). Of the regulars both brigades were engaged with a few regiments remaining east of the creek. The unengaged regulars add upto 978 effective officers and men.

Morell's division of ca. 3,800 effectives was McClellan's final reserve, and he committed two brigades of it to his right leaving him only Barnes' brigade of ca. 1,300 effectives in the centre. McClellan recalled Morell's two brigades later in the day and had them in hand when he ordered Burnside to counterattack at 1815 hrs and regain his lost ground. Obviously Burnside failed to counterattack.

Humphreys' division was not on the field.

Porter later stated that around 1600 hrs he had only the two regular brigades and Barnes' brigade in the centre amounting to 4,000 effectives. The track of unit locations and strengths shows this to correct.
 

67th Tigers

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So McClellan didn't have reserves by the end of the day because he had squandered them.
There's a turn-around.

McClellan had few available reserves because he indeed was essentially going "all-in" on his right flank, having largely given up on Burnside and Cox. He was forced to suspend this movement and react when Burnside collapsed. After pulling back his committed reserves to reform a significant force in the centre he gave Burnside an order to counterattack, which Burnside did not obey.
 

Arioch

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Didn't McClellan refuse to bring reserves up for Burnsides, after he finally got across the bridge?….and McClellan refused after promising to support Burnsides, with reserve support, prior to Burnsides last push to get across the bridge?
 

67th Tigers

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Didn't McClellan refuse to bring reserves up for Burnsides, after he finally got across the bridge?….and McClellan refused after promising to support Burnsides, with reserve support, prior to Burnsides last push to get across the bridge?
McClellan told Burnside he would be supported on the right once he crossed the bridge, and sent this very early in the morning, being his second (or confirmatory) order to attack.

"HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, September 17, 1862— 9.10 a. m. Major-General BURNSIDE: GENERAL: General Franklin's command is within one mile and a half of here. General McClellan desires you to open your attack. As soon as you shall have uncovered the upper Stone bridge you will be supported, and, if necessary, on your own line of attack. So far all is going well. Respectfully: GEO. D. RUGGLES, Colonel, &c."

This McClellan did, advancing Sykes' regulars and half his cavalry to conform to 9th Corps as they advanced, and sending Warren's brigade to Burnside (which he never used).

When the panic set in and Cox ordered a retreat over the objections of the division commanders, but with the approval of Burnside (who remained at the Rohrbach House), 9th Corps disconnected from Sykes. McClellan by this point had already committed his last usable reserve (Morell's division) to Sumner's sector and called them back leading to Morell marching back and forth.

The next day Burnside managed managed to suck in loads of reserves but still refused to attack. McClellan shifted Morell to reinforce Burnside on the proviso this was a temporary reinforcement to support him if he were attacked, and they would be used later to support Franklin's attack. Burnside used the division to relieve his battleline, putting it west of the Antietam and thus stymieing any thoughts McClellan had about using them in the centre. Couch's division (maybe 5,000 effective infantry) arrived midmorning on the 18th, and was sent to Franklin, where two brigades formed left of Slocum, and another relieved Irwin's Brigade of Smith. Finally Humphreys arrived with his exhausted raw recruits (at most 5,000, and probably less) which McClellan used to try and wrestle Morell back from Burnside - and Burnside promptly put them into his reserve and didn't send Morell back!
 

KansasFreestater

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View attachment 100016

Steven R. Stotelmyer (Author)
Savas Beatie (September 30, 2016)

The importance of Robert E. Lee’s first movement north of the Potomac River in September 1862 is difficult to overstate. After his string of successes in Virginia, a decisive Confederate victory in Maryland or Pennsylvania may well have spun the war in an entirely different direction. Why he and his Virginia army did not find success across the Potomac was due in large measure to the generalship of George B. McClellan, as Steven Stotelmyer ably demonstrates in Too Useful to Sacrifice: Reconsidering George B. McClellan’s Generalship in the Maryland Campaign from South Mountain to Antietam.

Although typecast as the slow and overly cautious general who allowed Lee’s battered army to escape, in fact, argues Stotelmyer, General McClellan deserves significant credit for defeating and turning back the South’s most able general. He does so through five comprehensive chapters, each dedicated to a specific major issue of the campaign:

Fallacies Regarding the Lost Orders

All the Injury Possible: The Day between South Mountain and Antietam

Antietam: The Sequel to South Mountain

General John Pope at Antietam and the Politics behind the Myth of the Unused Reserves

Supplies and Demands: The Demise of General George B. McClellan

Was McClellan’s response to the discovery of Lee’s Lost Orders really as slow and inept as we have been led to believe? Although routinely dismissed as a small prelude to the main event at Antietam, was the fighting on South Mountain the real Confederate high tide in Maryland? Is the criticism leveled against McClellan for not rapidly pursuing Lee’s army after the victory on South Mountain warranted? Did McClellan fail to make good use of his reserves in the bloody fighting on September 17? Finally, what is the real story behind McClellan’s apparent “failure” to pursue the defeated Confederate army after Antietam, which triggered President Lincoln’s frustration with him and resulted in his removal?

Utilizing extensive primary documents and with a keen appreciation for the infrastructure of the nineteenth century Maryland terrain, Stotelmyer deeply explores these long-held beliefs, revealing that often the influence of political considerations dictated military decision-making, and the deliberate actions of the Lincoln Administration behind McClellan’s back resulted in bringing about many of the general’s supposed shortcomings. As readers will soon discover, Lincoln did not need to continue searching for a capable commander; he already had one.

About the Author
Steven R. Stotelmyer is a native of Hagerstown, Maryland. As a child he visited Antietam National Battlefield during many family picnics to that area. After a stint in the U.S. Navy he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Frostburg State College and a Master of Arts from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. He has worked as a teacher, surveyor, and civil engineer. Always interested in local history, especially South Mountain and Antietam, Mr. Stotelmyer was a founding member of the Central Maryland Heritage League in 1989. The league gained a modest amount of success in preserving some of the lands of the South Mountain Battlefield. From 1989 through 1994 Mr. Stotelmyer volunteered at the Antietam National Battlefield. In 1992 he published The Bivouacs of the Dead: The Story of Those Who Died at Antietam and South Mountain (Toomey Press, Baltimore, Maryland). From 2000 through 2005 Mr. Stotelmyer served as a part-time volunteer and historical consultant for the South Mountain State Battlefield. Steven currently enjoys being a National Park Service Certified Antietam and South Mountain Tour Guide.

http://www.amazon.com/Too-Useful-Sacrifice-Reconsidering-Generalship/dp/1611213045/ref=pd_sim_14_15?ie=UTF8&dpID=51fG8rZxmjL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR107,160_&refRID=02PSYFE44K8HFQXBZGQG

Disclaimer: This post is neither a recommendation nor solicitation by CivilWarTalk or Chellers. It is solely for informational purposes.
Sounds intriguing. Always good to read stuff that questions the conventional narrative!
 

Joshism

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I notice the original post said this was scheduled for a Sep 2016 release. Now scheduled for August 19, 2017 per Amazon.
 

Bruce Vail

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Hmmm...I visited South Mountain last year and had a very good conversation with the Park Ranger there. He seemed to be very knowledgable. I wonder if it was Stotelmyer ?
 

Pvt.Shattuck

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Here's the problem. Little Mac had already earned himself a well deserved reputation for being slow, hesitant, overly cautious, arrogant, etc. in the Peninsular campaign.
Anything less than swift and decisive action resulting in the final destruction of the ANV in Maryland would result in the appearance of another failure.
So even though Lee was forced to retreat back into Virginia, McClellan was not swift, not aggressive, not brilliant, and finally, not decisive.
Good enough performance for Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, but not good enough to save his job.
 

Bruce Vail

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Here's the problem. Little Mac had already earned himself a well deserved reputation for being slow, hesitant, overly cautious, arrogant, etc. in the Peninsular campaign.
Anything less than swift and decisive action resulting in the final destruction of the ANV in Maryland would result in the appearance of another failure.
So even though Lee was forced to retreat back into Virginia, McClellan was not swift, not aggressive, not brilliant, and finally, not decisive.
Good enough performance for Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, but not good enough to save his job.
Yes, this is right. The only thing that could have saved Mac's job would have been a smashing victory at Antietam leading directly to the end of the war.

Lincoln had fired him once already, and had no confidence in his ability or loyalty. He was only recalled to service in Sept. 1862 as a desperate emergency measure.
 


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