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

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Carronade

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Sooo.......what happens if McClellan remains in command? He had created a favorable situation to concentrate against Longstreet before Jackson could intervene; would it go forward?
 

Jamieva

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I doubt anything about the relationship between McClellan and Lincoln was ever going to change.



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.
Desertion was at an all time high under burnside at the end as well. The army was disintegrating in winter quarters and not being taken care of
 
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Saphroneth

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Sooo.......what happens if McClellan remains in command? He had created a favorable situation to concentrate against Longstreet before Jackson could intervene; would it go forward?
There's no reason to think McClellan wouldn't go after Longstreet if Longstreet stayed in place, so long as McClellan could keep himself in supply; when McClellan thought he'd caught part of an army larger than his own at Sharpsburg, he launched the bloodiest day of combat in American history. Here he thinks he's caught part of an army smaller than his own.+
For this reason, I think Lee steps back.

+ McClellan's been reinforced and his estimates for Confederate strength at Antietam included everything north of the Roanoke; as far as he's concerned there's nothing else to reinforce Lee with. He's also of the opinion his army inflicted more casualties than it took.


In my opinion, the worst case for the Union is that the Union army is across at Fredericksburg (and commanding Marye's Heights) and the Confederate army is concentrated at the North Anna. This is what Lee expected to happen (it's why he pulled back to the North Anna), and is what happens if McClellan basically shifts east to Fredericksburg but pushes over the Rappahanock early and then waits for the pontoons*; this is, naturally, an improvement over the historical course of events.

* if you want an example of when McClellan was willing to take a debouche under risky circumstances, look at the Chickahominy fighting.



The best case for the Union is a bit more involved but it looks like this:

McClellan pushes forwards towards Culpeper.
Lee declines battle, falls back to Gordonsville and orders Jackson to concentrate there via the Swift Run Gap (his historical orders to Jackson).
Jackson does not move until the date that he historically began moving, which is the 21st.

The time between the last marches taken under McClellan's orders and the first point at which Jackson starts moving is twelve days; it's another few days at least for Jackson to reach Swift Run Gap**. This means McClellan has roughly two weeks of marching and fighting to do before Jackson concentrates with Lee.

** Jackson's army is split up, but the closest unit to Swift Run Gap is DH Hill who's 52 miles away over a road that's not the Valley Pike. To get DH Hill to Swift Run Gap and then to Gordonsville would be a journey of seventy miles, and Jackson's main body and AP Hill have to move even further; this cannot possibly be achieved in less than three full marches.

Under this "best case" scenario, McClellan basically punches at Gordonsville with two of his three grand divisions while sending the third along the Orange turnpike towards Fredericksburg. Longstreet can't possibly defend Gordonsville successfully because Jackson hasn't even started moving yet, and either he's smashed or he retreats from Gordonsville:

If Longstreet retreats SOUTH AND WEST away from Gordonsville, McClellan leaves one Grand Division there and the other two race for the Richmond and Fredericksburg and thence to Richmond. Lee has to try and get at least one of his corps to Richmond before McClellan gets a Grand Division there, or McClellan takes the city pretty much by default; even if Lee makes it into the fortifications first McClellan can just set up to repeat his approaches from earlier in the year.

If Longstreet retreats SOUTH AND EAST away from Gordonsville, McClellan leaves one Grand Division there and the other two head for the North Anna position. McClellan is now preventing Lee from uniting his army unless Jackson gives up and marches all the way to Richmond, in which case it's basically the Overland Campaign without the bloodshed; Lee might try defending the line of the North Anna, but he's outnumbered heavily if he does so and one of the grand divisions is coming down the road from Louisa Court House instead of both coming from the northeast.

If Longstreet STAYS AND FIGHTS, McClellan hits him with more than 2:1 numerical advantage and smashes him.


Honestly I think Lee's best choice at this point is the choice he historically made - try and concentrate the wings of his army, but if push comes to shove getting to the North Anna position first is imperative. If McClellan reaches the North Anna position before Lee does and there isn't a Confederate corps already in Richmond then Lee's lost the city.
 

Belfoured

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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.



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.
On we go. There's a difference between screening and scouting - especially organized scouting to gather intelligence. The Loudoun Valley campaign occurred in late October, after Lincoln had badgered McClellan into actually moving. It featured a few skirmishes. Suggesting that they remotely rose to a full-fledged battle, let alone something analogous to Brandy Station, is alternative history. You might also fill us in on the results of that campaign. Both armies also had horses which suffered from sore tongue. But none of that stopped Stuart's second ride. As for the "supply" of horses, when did Davis provide all of those replenishments? Fitz Lee could not come close to mounting a full division by November and, unlike the Union side, a good portion of the Confederate cavalry's mounts were supplied by the individual soldiers themselves.
 
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Saphroneth

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On we go. There's a difference between screening and scouting - especially organized scouting to gather intelligence.
Using one's cavalry for screening is an appropriate use of cavalry, surely. It prevents enemy scouting - indeed, they're much the same, with the cavalry out in advance of the army.
As for organized scouting, McClellan certainly directed his cavalry to confirm the information in SO 191, for example. That's definitely organized scouting to gather intelligence, and by itself it indicates that McClellan's cavalry was doing something useful.


The Loudoun Valley campaign occurred in late October, after Lincoln had badgered McClellan into actually moving.
Strictly it happened after McClellan had begun recieving supplies (and after Halleck had permitted McClellan to move). It couldn't have happened earlier on because of the lack of supplies, though Lincoln may not have been aware of this; nevertheless the fact that there were actual food riots happening in the Army of the Potomac indicates how bad the supply situation was.
The supplies were being directed to the outskirts of Washington instead of to the army dozens of miles away.

It featured a few skirmishes. Suggesting that they remotely rose to a full-fledged battle, let alone something analogous to Brandy Station, is alternative history.
What do you think all-cavalry actions look like? They're mostly small because the cavalry components of both sides are small and screening cavalry is widely spread out. Nevertheless, what happened in Loudoun is that the cavalry successfully screened the movements of McClellan's army; if you can find a battle larger than the battles in Loudoun before Ashby's Gap which was all-cavalry, I will of course apologize.
The Loudoun Campaign isn't very well studied, I'll admit - most histories skip over it.

You might also fill us in on the results of that campaign.
McClellan moved south from the Potomac to Warrenton (thus changing his base of operations to a much better one for offensive operations) and was preparing to thrust further south when Lincoln sacked him, the decision to sack him coming the day after the midterms. This may or may not be coincidental.
As of the point of McClellan's sacking, Lee was repeatedly ordering Jackson to come and reinforce him, which suggests that Lee felt McClellan was doing something that would lead to Lee needing reinforcements.


Both armies also had horses which suffered from sore tongue. But none of that stopped Stuart's second ride.
Well, no; it's quite hard to prevent a ride-around-the-army if the enemy is willing to detach most of their cavalry to do it, unless you have enough cavalry to outfight them after providing for other duties. The riding-around cavalry is mobile enough to decline engagement by infantry forces, while if you spread out most of your infantry force in a "cordon" you end up with an army that can prevent enemy cavalry raids but isn't concentrated enough to do anything else (including, in the state McClellan's logistics were in in October 1862, eat.)

The ride-around-the-army however isn't actually very useful compared to the scouting and screening duties the same cavalry could do with the army, which is why in 1863 (Gettysburg, Lee) and 1864 (Overland, Grant) armies which sent their cavalry off on a ride into the blue could end up with serious scouting information shortfalls.
 

Saphroneth

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Via 67th, a quick summary of the scouting information the AotP had during Loudoun.




On 31st October, McClellan is able to report the accurate location of the whole enemy army to the President. On the same day the movement of a large body of troops (Longstreet) south is observed. The next day he (accurately) reported the enemy at Snicker's Gap, and the following day there was a report that Jackson was coming east through Snicker's Gap. McClellan's reaction is indicative, because he seized the gap and moved on.

On the 3rd int says Jackson hasn't moved, but Longstreet is moving to Culpeper. The cavalry report accurately on the 6th November that Jackson hadn't moved, and Longstreet had come to Culpeper. On the 8th they again report Jackson and both Hills west of the Blue Ridge, and it goes on...



This seems to indicate that during Loudoun the AotP's cavalry was gaining accurate scouting information.
 

Joshism

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McClellan leaves one Grand Division there and the other two race for the Richmond and Fredericksburg
McClellan and race don't belong in the same sentence.

If Longstreet STAYS AND FIGHTS, McClellan hits him with more than 2:1 numerical advantage and smashes him
Like McClellan smashed Lee at Antietam with a similar advantage?
 
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Joshism

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Is there any book that looks at McClellan's and Lee's post-Antietam operations in depth, ala Jeffrey William Hunt's work on Meade & Lee after Gettysburg?
 

67th Tigers

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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.
Except all the actual cavalry stuff that the cavalry does.

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.
McClellan had an extremely effective scouting arm. Scouting is something that at it's core is one man on a horse having a sneaky-peaky, but the problem is the enemy screens to prevent infiltration. In turn, recce patrols have to get bigger to provide self-defence, and a viscous cycle ensues. The outcome is you have the armies with both sides cavalry screens in contact, trying to penetrate to gather intelligence and simultaneously attempting to deny the same to the enemy.

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.
The outbreak in the ANV was after the raid. Indeed, it was probably communicated to Stuart's horses during the raid.

On we go. There's a difference between screening and scouting - especially organized scouting to gather intelligence.
Not really. They are on intimate terms, since the scout and counter-scout (screen) are the same troops.

The Loudoun Valley campaign occurred in late October, after Lincoln had badgered McClellan into actually moving.
Or, after Lincoln and Halleck ceased blocking McClellan from assuming the offensive.

As for the "supply" of horses, when did Davis provide all of those replenishments?
The question is not one of action, but rather attitude. The northern states had plenty of horses available to remount McClellan's cavalry, but Lincoln blocks this and scoffs at the notion. Randolph and Davis however take Lee's identical claims seriously. As I'm sure you know, on 10th November Lee wrote to Randolph suggesting that since the supply of remounts was becoming exhausted, they should be purchased in Texas. This was accepted.

As it was, Lee's cavalry was remounted in the coming months and dispersed into camps to recover.

Fitz Lee could not come close to mounting a full division by November and, unlike the Union side, a good portion of the Confederate cavalry's mounts were supplied by the individual soldiers themselves.
Indeed, Fitz Lee's brigade of 4 regiments of Virginia cavalry was no-where near as strong as a full division.
 

67th Tigers

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Like McClellan smashed Lee at Antietam with a similar advantage?
Converted to effectives it was likely closer to 5:4, maybe 3:2 depending how things are cut. There is a bad habit of counting McClellan's roster strength and comparing to the rebel engaged effectives. If you bring either to the same measurement, then the strengths get a lot closer.

However, in November the numbers really do allow for overwhelming Longstreet. Longstreet has ca. 23,400 effectives at Culpeper, and Walker and elm. Hood are a days march away with ca. 7,500. McClellan has ca. 60,000 effectives bearing down on Longstreet with ca. 35,000 effectives screening Jackson.
 
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Saphroneth

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McClellan and race don't belong in the same sentence.
On some days during the Loudoun Valley campaign McClellan's corps moved twenty miles a day. (Nov 6, Burnside and Porter's corps.) There is no way this can be viewed as slow.


Like McClellan smashed Lee at Antietam with a similar advantage?
He didn't have a similar advantage; at Antietam the entire ANV was present, here half of it is. By definition McClellan's numerical advantage is almost twice whatever you think it was at Antietam.

I happen to think that the AoNV's strength in the Maryland campaign was 75,000 regulation PFD before straggling and the AotP's strength in the same campaign was 87,000 regulation PFD before straggling.


Here's the positions map for the point at which McClellan was relieved:

McClellan_relief.jpg
 

Saphroneth

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I happen to think that the AoNV's strength in the Maryland campaign was 75,000 regulation PFD before straggling and the AotP's strength in the same campaign was 87,000 regulation PFD before straggling.
This view by the way is derived from three independent sources.

1) Lee's post-Antietam strength reports plus reported casualties.
2) Lee's post-Second-Bull-Run strength as calculated in Harsh.
3) Reports and observations of the moving army.

These all converge on roughly the same 75,000 figure in PFD. It also agrees with estimates based on number of brigades and regiments.
Brigades:
39 Confederate, 39.5 Union on the field (44 embraced in post-battle report)
Regiments:
188 Union, 185 Confederate, with some of the Union ones being new "green" ones which were both larger and much less capable than the veterans.
 
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CanadianCanuck

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I did a speculative thread on this with the information we have at hand a while back. In essence, the conclusion I arrived at was that if McClellan hadn't been dismissed, he probably persists in a fruitless pursuit of Lee until his supply line gets too long and then goes to Fredericksburg. In doing so, Lee either moves his army in front of the Union force, or falls back behind the North Anna River. In either scenario, McClellan runs up against Lee's entrenched army and he hesitates. The result of that will be Lincoln sacking McClellan, either at the end of November, or at the end of December.

There is no realistic way for McClellan's command to last into 1863 based on his performance from history. The big difference would be whether Burnside refuses command and Hooker takes over or not.
 
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cake1979

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However, in November the numbers really do allow for overwhelming Longstreet. Longstreet has ca. 23,400 effectives at Culpeper, and Walker and elm. Hood are a days march away with ca. 7,500. McClellan has ca. 60,000 effectives bearing down on Longstreet with ca. 35,000 effectives screening Jackson.
Which sounds a lot like the morning of September 16th at Antietam, considering that Lee’s army was missing Jackson, Walker, McLaws and Hill. McClellan has at least twice as many troops; probably something like 50,000 effectives. Even after Jackson’s arrival, Lee has little more than half as many men as the AotP. Thank goodness that fog finally lifted. Otherwise Mac may have never sent everyone piecemeal across the creek.

George McClellan was an amazing motivator and administrator, probably the best of the entire war. As a fighter he ranked somewhere around Rosecrans and Joe Johnston.
 

UKMarkw

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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.
Apologies, that was supposed to be a funny comment (lead balloon)
 
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Saphroneth

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Which sounds a lot like the morning of September 16th at Antietam, considering that Lee’s army was missing Jackson, Walker, McLaws and Hill. McClellan has at least twice as many troops; probably something like 50,000 effectives.
But on the morning of the 16th McClellan's army wasn't all closed up. It depends what time you're calling "the morning", basically, and you have to count the same for both sides.
Via 67th:


The rebels had the following in line at Antietam at dawn of the 16th:

DH Hill: 7,773 infantry effectives and 21 guns
DR Jones: 3,810 infantry and 4 guns
Hood+Evans: 3,111 infantry and 22 guns
Stuart's cavalry: ca. 4,500 cavalry and 4 guns
Reserve artillery on the field: 87 guns

= 14,694 infantry. 4,500 cavalry and 138 guns

However, Ewell's division (under Lawton) had gone into camp the night before close the Shepherdstown. Jackson's division (under JR Jones) had marched through the night to catch up, and rather than stopping they pushed through until dawn, which saw them at Boteler's Ford. They went straight across and were counted at ca. 1,600 infantry who had kept up. Ewell's division were rested and crossed with 4,401 infantry and 15 guns. Jackson's artillery (21 guns) and much of the rest of his division will straggle in during the day.

Add 6,001 infantry and 15 guns available in the rear at dawn.

Walker's division also marched during the night, in the rear of Jackson's division, but Walker finding that his division had straggled to pieces during the night halted at Shepherdstown and allowed his men to rest whilst the rest of the division came in. By noon he was upto ca. 3,764 infantry and 12 guns, and probably had collected some stragglers from Jackson, and then crossed the Potomac.

Anderson, McLaws and AP Hill don't arrive on the 16th.

For the Union their dispositions at dawn are:

On the field
1st Corps: 8,600 infantry and 46 guns around the Pry House to the Pry (upper) Bridge
Richardson's division and Sykes' division: ca. 6,700 infantry and 30 guns at the Porter (middle) bridge
Artillery Reserve: say 42 guns (42 guns engaged overall, haven't tracked batteries)
Cavalry: ca. 2,500 and 22 guns

At Keedysville etc.
Sedgwick's and French's divisions of 11,117 infantry and 30 guns

At Boonsboro etc.
12th Corps: 7,239 infantry and 22 guns

At Appletown etc.
9th Corps: 11,714 infantry and 32 guns

Hence the decision to send 12th Corps to support 1st makes sense, there was a road to the Pry Bridge.

At noon on the 16th (i.e. after the fog lifted at 1100 hrs), McClellan had around 26,417 infantry, 2,500 cavalry and 170 guns at the area of the Porter Bridge, facing ca. 24,459 infantry, 4,500 cavalry and 186 guns. He has two corps marching to the field (9th and 12th) within range to come into action by nightfall if he goes "straight up the guns" which will give him another 18,953 infantry and 54 guns. Franklin with 3 divisions is pushing down the Pleasant Valley at the rear of McLaws. Morell and Humphreys are en route from Washington and are one and two days forced march away respectively.



So at dawn of the 16th McClellan has ca. 16,000 infantry and 2,500 cavalry facing Lee's 15,000 infantry and 4,500 cavalry in line. As you move the time point later in the day both sides reinforce, with Lee coming up to 21,000 infantry by the time any fighting could begin.

Parity is not a good situation to be in when launching an attack straight up the middle, especially when both sides remember Malvern Hill...
 
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