What If McClellan isn't Removed in Fall of 1862?

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Joshism

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I could imagine McClellan making a similar move on Fredericksburg like Burnside did. Unlike Burnside, I think McClellan gets the pontoons there on time, but also moves the army slower so Lee still blocks him. McClellan looks at the situation and doesn't attack at all. So you get a winter campaign, but no battle.

I expect McClellan has the AotP in good shape by spring too, but he keeps Pleasanton in charge of the cavalry.

From there I'm not sure where we go. Lincoln would insist he do something in May and would deny another try at the Peninsula. I don't see Mac making a move like Hooker's Chancellorsville offensive. Maybe attempting a crossing downstream of Fredericksburg if he can get the shipping together?
 
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Dead Parrott

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I think a big part of the (hypothetical) answer depends on how Lincoln and McClellan interact with each other afterwards. Do we still have Lincoln's exasperation with Mac's attitude and inactivity, and Mac's distain and dismissal of Lincoln's requests and interference? Do we still have Mac being suspicious and not sharing plans, overestimating CSA strengths, and seeing conspiracies everywhere? Do conspiracies to remove him actually bubble up from other corners of power? Does Lincoln 'keep' Mac but give new army resources (and whole new armies!) to other generals, as motivation, bargaining chips and\or additional attack options?

Lots of corollary questions on this one, and very dependent upon the nature of the post-Antietam relationship between the Prez and Mac.
 

CanadianCanuck

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I could imagine McClellan making a similar move on Fredericksburg like Burnside did. Unlike Burnside, I think McClellan gets the pontoons there on time, but also moves the army slower so Lee still blocks him. McClellan looks at the situation and doesn't attack at all. So you get a winter campaign, but no battle.

I expect McClellan has the AotP in good shape by spring too, but he keeps Pleasanton in charge of the cavalry.

From there I'm not sure where we go. Lincoln would insist he do something in May and would deny another try at the Peninsula. I don't see Mac making a move like Hooker's Chancellorsville offensive. Maybe attempting a crossing downstream of Fredericksburg if he can get the shipping together?
If he didn't attack at Fredericksburg he is probably sacked. His November movements were supposed to set up some big battle, but they got nothing and Lincoln dismissed him in frustration. If he had been allowed to move on Fredericksburg and the same happened, same result a few months later.
 

Ara Oko

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Burneside was basically sacked for unaccountable inaction and being most sluggardly in his actions. Or so I'm led to believe. The fact McLennan did little more just pours more glory on Grant et al on their policy of eradicating the South as a fighting power.
I'm British, pls excuse inconsistencies. I was not brought up on this like many folks were.
 
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Belfoured

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I could imagine McClellan making a similar move on Fredericksburg like Burnside did. Unlike Burnside, I think McClellan gets the pontoons there on time, but also moves the army slower so Lee still blocks him. McClellan looks at the situation and doesn't attack at all. So you get a winter campaign, but no battle.

I expect McClellan has the AotP in good shape by spring too, but he keeps Pleasanton in charge of the cavalry.

From there I'm not sure where we go. Lincoln would insist he do something in May and would deny another try at the Peninsula. I don't see Mac making a move like Hooker's Chancellorsville offensive. Maybe attempting a crossing downstream of Fredericksburg if he can get the shipping together?
To follow up on retaining Pleasonton, nothing in McClellan's track record suggests that his cavalry would ever have become more than an oversized HQ escort and a staff of couriers. Although Porter did put it to good use as an excuse for losing the field at Gaines's Mil. McClellan's failure to understand the proper role and use of cavalry brings to mind Lincoln's rersponse to Mac's latest "explanation" for their dominance by Stuart, asking what his horses had done that would fatigue anything.
 

Joshism

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Do we still have Lincoln's exasperation with Mac's attitude and inactivity, and Mac's distain and dismissal of Lincoln's requests and interference? Do we still have Mac being suspicious and not sharing plans, overestimating CSA strengths, and seeing conspiracies everywhere?
I doubt anything about the relationship between McClellan and Lincoln was ever going to change.

Burneside was basically sacked for unaccountable inaction and being most sluggardly in his actions.
Burnside could have been sacked after the Fredericksburg disaster. He then attempted an offensive that bad weather turned into the Mud March and was cancelled before getting anywhere. Winter had really stopped the campaign season. Burnside's removal really stemmed by the near mutiny of some of his chief subordinates. The insubordinate malcontents were reassigned for their backhanded dealings, but Burnside left too - as well he should. Unlike Braxton Bragg, Burnside knew when to bow out gracefully.
 

67th Tigers

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If he didn't attack at Fredericksburg he is probably sacked. His November movements were supposed to set up some big battle, but they got nothing and Lincoln dismissed him in frustration. If he had been allowed to move on Fredericksburg and the same happened, same result a few months later.
McClellan was relieved just as his army contacted Longstreet. Indeed, 9th Corps was in contact when McClellan was relieved. McClellan's relief is why no battle occurred - Burnside withdrew.

If McClellan had moved on Fredericksburg, he'd have seized it. He'd have had no problems with allowing Sumner to seize the far side before the enemy arrived, knowing that Sumner could hold off a larger force. See Rich Mountain, or Eltham's Landing, or Seven Pines, or the opening part of the Seven Days battles, or the reoccupation of Harper's Ferry ca. 21st September '62. Indeed, McClellan would have pushed over and gained the heights. Further, McClellan is not going to screw up his staff work and lose track of his pontoon train.
 
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67th Tigers

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To follow up on retaining Pleasonton, nothing in McClellan's track record suggests that his cavalry would ever have become more than an oversized HQ escort and a staff of couriers. Although Porter did put it to good use as an excuse for losing the field at Gaines's Mil. McClellan's failure to understand the proper role and use of cavalry brings to mind Lincoln's rersponse to Mac's latest "explanation" for their dominance by Stuart, asking what his horses had done that would fatigue anything.
They'd done huge amounts of work, and their horses were shot, and suffering with a hoof and mouth outbreak.

McClellan understood cavalry better than most. He just never had much of it.
 

cake1979

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McClellan was relieved just as his army contacted Longstreet. Indeed, 9th Corps was in contact when McClellan was relieved. McClellan's relief is why no battle occurred - Burnside withdrew.

If McClellan had moved on Fredericksburg, he'd have seized it. He'd have had no problems with allowing Sumner to seize the far side before the enemy arrived, knowing that Sumner could hold off a larger force. See Rich Mountain, or Eltham's Landing, or Seven Pines, or the opening part of the Seven Days battles, or the reoccupation of Harper's Ferry ca. 21st September '62. Indeed, McClellan would have pushed over and gained the heights. Further, McClellan is not going to screw up his staff work and lose track of his pontoon train.
The speed you’re hypothesizing seems very unlike the McClellan who stared across the Antietam for two days instead of moving against a force scarcely larger than two of his corps. If he’s looking at Lee atop Marye’s Heights there is no way he moves, even if the pontoons arrive on time.
 

Dead Parrott

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The speed you’re hypothesizing seems very unlike the McClellan who stared across the Antietam for two days instead of moving against a force scarcely larger than two of his corps. If he’s looking at Lee atop Marye’s Heights there is no way he moves, even if the pontoons arrive on time.
I love your tag line about Thomas! 🙂
 
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67th Tigers

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The speed you’re hypothesizing seems very unlike the McClellan who stared across the Antietam for two days instead of moving against a force scarcely larger than two of his corps. If he’s looking at Lee atop Marye’s Heights there is no way he moves, even if the pontoons arrive on time.
When did this happen?

If you're referring to 15th-16th September, then on the 15th the AoP simply didn't have much force on the Antietam; Richardson and Sykes were facing a much larger force on good ground behind a water feature. The next day (16th) McClellan moved over the Antietam with Hooker.

The historical situation Burnside faced was that he got to Falmouth with his entire force three days before the rebels occupied Marye's Heights on 25th November (and Sumner was there for a week before). Both Sumner and Hooker ask permission to push over the fords and occupy the unoccupied high ground. Burnside denied them permission. It is hard to see McClellan doing this.
 

Saphroneth

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It may be worth considering that in the November-December sequence of events Lee initially pulled back to the North Anna; he thought he wouldn't be able to hold the line of the Rappahanock. Holding the line of the Rappahanock is obviously much better if you can do it, so why did Lee think he couldn't?
 

Belfoured

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They'd done huge amounts of work, and their horses were shot, and suffering with a hoof and mouth outbreak.

McClellan understood cavalry better than most. He just never had much of it.
Talk about unsupported hyperbole - "McClellan understood cavalry better than most"? Feel free to fill us in on the evidence. McClellan's cavalry did nothing meaningful between August 1861 and November 7, 1862. Among other things he never developed any sort of competent scouting function in his cavalry and never figured out how to establish his cavalry as an effective organization. The post-Antietam outbreak was grease heel, not "hoof and mouth", and also affected the ANV equally. Somehow that didn't prevent Stuart from (once again) circumnavigating McClellan's army and his moribund cavalry.
 
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Saphroneth

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The post-Antietam outbreak was grease heel, not "hoof and mouth", and also affected the ANV equally. Somehow that didn't prevent Stuart from (once again) circumnavigating McClellan's army and his moribund cavalry.
My understanding is that the outbreak hit the ANV after the AotP, which is why Jackson stayed immobile in the Valley despite Lee ordering him to join Longstreet roughly every other day for about a fortnight.

Jackson is ordered to move to unite with Longstreet on the 6th.
And on the 8th.
And on the 10th.
And on the 11th.
And on the 14th.
And on the 18th.
Jackson moves on the 21st.


It's also worth considering two parallel situations.
McClellan and Lee both complained in this time period about their horses being sick.
Lincoln asked McClellan what his horses had been doing to tire them out; Davis sent Lee fresh horses.


McClellan's cavalry did nothing meaningful between August 1861 and November 7, 1862.
This is such a broad statement it's easy to disprove.

During the Maryland campaign, the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac scouted after Lee's army effectively enough to discern his rough movements even before SO 191 was found; they also captured the Catoctin passes without needing significant line infantry help, and thus helped to enable McClellan's strategic surprise on the 14th.

During the Loudoun Valley campaign, the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac effectively screened and scouted McClellan's movements including taking the gaps in the Blue Ridge Mountains and preventing Jackson and Stuart from pushing through them. This was done well enough that Lee was unaware of McClellan's intentions (i.e. to strike south towards Culpeper instead of west into the Valley) for several days.
Subsequent to this the cavalry seized the crossings of the Hazel river, thus meaning that McClellan wouldn't have to fight for the crossings and setting him up nicely to advance on Culpeper.


That second one by the way (Loudoun Valley) featured the biggest all-cavalry battle until Brandy Station.
 

Saphroneth

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The army would still be there
Doubtful; McClellan's static under exactly three conditions.

1) He's facing a strong enemy fortified line; if this lasts for a month, it's because he's moved his guns into place to blast the enemy out of it.
2) He's been ordered to wait for reinforcements which he's been promised are en route before advancing.
3) His army is not being supplied.

None of the three obtains in November 1862, which is why McClellan's army was concentrated around Warrenton (resupplying) when he was relieved. If he'd been going to just stay static he'd still be concentrated around Harpers Ferry when relieved.
 
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67th Tigers

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None of the three obtains in November 1862, which is why McClellan's army was concentrated around Warrenton (resupplying) when he was relieved. If he'd been going to just stay static he'd still be concentrated around Harpers Ferry when relieved.
The September-October '62 halt has a simple reason - Halleck has ordered him to halt.

I'm writing this up as I poke at it, but essentially on 26th September Halleck denies McClellan reinforcements, support, or the resources to rebuild the Harper's Ferry bridges until plans are "agreed on". McClellan argues that he should be allowed to advance on Winchester.

The 6th October telegram simply asks McClellan to submit a plan for approval. McClellan immediate submits his Winchester plan, and hears nothing until the 16th October, when Lincoln's letter was handed to McClellan (being hand carried). On the 17th McClellan sent a reply back that he understands that Lincoln has not approved his plan, and he will send out recces of the fords east of the Blue Ridge. On the 22nd the missing supplies started to arrive at the AoP depots and McClellan telegrams a new plan. At 1530 on the 23rd, Halleck approves McClellan's new offensive plan. On the 24th McClellan acknowledges the approval, and enacts the movement. Burnside will march to Berlin the next day (25th) and throw over a pontoon bridge, occupying the far bank the next morning.

Thus for 4 weeks, from 26th September to 24th October, the Army of the Potomac is static by order of Halleck. Halleck imposed control measures, and was tardy in the utilisation.
 

Saphroneth

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Goodness! I suppose he probably couldn't have advanced anyway given the supply situation, but still...
 
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