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

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67th Tigers

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He was subsequently removed after Antietam for essentially the same reason as on the Peninsula: too slow, made too many demands, had too many excuses.
Lincoln actually stated in September '64 why he removed McClellan, and it's more interesting. Lincoln is on record as calling McClellan the best general he had in December '62, but Lincoln couldn't get him to do what he wanted. Lincoln had been told about with evidence that McClellan was involved in a conspiracy to deliberately prolong the war, and came to believe it around October '62. In context, he was sending to the man who told him for the actual evidence to use in the election campaign. Governor Smith, the man in question, finally wrote to Lincoln in December '64 that the whole thing was a big mistake, and he (Smith) had misinterpreted that Baldy Smith had told him.
 

Joshism

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Let me see if I'm getting this argument straight: McClellan successfully interposed himself between the wings of Lee's army but couldn't capitalize on this advantage because he was relieved of duty on the grounds of alledgedly having failed to interpose himself, which was itself just cover for removing McClellan for alleged involvement in an anti-government conspiracy that turned out not to exist but this wasn't know for over a year?
 

Saphroneth

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McClellan successfully interposed himself between the wings of Lee's army but couldn't capitalize on this advantage because he was relieved of duty on the grounds of alledgedly having failed to interpose himself
Almost. McClellan successfully interposed himself and was then relieved of duty. The grounds as stated at the time varied, and one of those given was basically that he didn't beat Longstreet to Culpeper (because Lincoln thought you could get across a river and along the Loudoun Valley more quickly than you could get from roughly Winchester to Culpeper along a pike road, presumably.)


which was itself just cover for removing McClellan for alleged involvement in an anti-government conspiracy that turned out not to exist but this wasn't know for over a year?
The alleged anti-government conspiracy is attested to at the time - you might note it's a component of 1864 election propoganda that McClellan was trying to let the Rebels win (and indeed it still sometimes surfaces today).
Hay's diary entry for September 25 1864 relates the conspiracy concept, as being something that Lincoln told him on that date but which Lincoln said he'd known about in 1862 and that had been the reason he fired McClellan. It's not impossible that Hay's diary is made up on this, of course, but it's not as if this is a wild conspiracy theory - it's something a primary source said Lincoln believed and told him.


Hay's diary has Lincoln say that he "made a test" to see if McClellan was going to let Lee get away or not, and that he fired McClellan when McClellan let Lee get away.
 
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Ara Oko

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I get the point that Napoleon did, in fact, penetrate Russia deeply. But it's not for me to tell you that this is pretty much the first systematic scorched earth policy.
Lincoln had the capacity to do this, and the tactical nous.
In fact, I don't believe this was ever done on more than small-scale events.
I think Lincoln either just didn't think of it, or dismissed it as too costly.
But he could have destroyed a whole army in detail if he had.
 

Ara Oko

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It's hard to imagine green troops protected most of Washington. I'm shocked. What was Lincoln thinking?
 

Saphroneth

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I get the point that Napoleon did, in fact, penetrate Russia deeply. But it's not for me to tell you that this is pretty much the first systematic scorched earth policy.
It wasn't. It's been a strategy for thousands of years.

Lincoln had the capacity to do this, and the tactical nous.
Not really. Scorching the earth is what you do when the enemy is stronger than you and you want to wear them down either as they besiege a fortification of yours (that they have to take) or as they cross a large distance. Neither of them is present in the American Civil War, at least not in the East - if Lincoln has his armies give up Maryland and scorches the earth then it's quite possible the Confederates will just conclude that, yep, they're independent now and they hold the US capital.
If Lincoln scorches Pennsylvania then suddenly that state might want to join the CSA too...

But he could have destroyed a whole army in detail if he had.
I'm afraid not. There's a reason why scorching the earth isn't the strategy everyone defaults to, and it's because it doesn't work in all situations. It usually requires:

1) The enemy is going to conduct an extended campaign.
2) During that extended campaign he will be relying on living off the land and has no efficient substitute for this method of sustaining himself.
3) Your armies are able to access the territory to be scorched beforehand, have sufficient time to do the scorching, and have sufficient cooperation from the local populace (or have them sufficiently cowed) that they can actually do it.
 
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Saphroneth

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It's hard to imagine green troops protected most of Washington. I'm shocked. What was Lincoln thinking?
"I shouldn't have shut down recruiting troops in spring 1862", probably, if he was self aware enough.

Depends what period you're thinking of though. Remember that troops can be well trained without having actually got any experience, and conversely if they're not well trained then combat experience doesn't actually make them much better - think of the 1991 Gulf War, which was between the veterans of the long and bloody Iran-Iraq war on one side and the "green" troops of the Coalition on the other side.

Fortifications are actually the best place to put green troops (if you can't just leave them at a training camp well behind the lines, anyway). The whole point of a fortification is to multiply the combat power of the troops in it, and the fortifications offer both a psychological boost and physical protection - it's mentally easy to just sit behind a fortification and blaze away at the enemy. Meanwhile if there's not combat actually going on then they can still do their training.

If OTOH you think that only troops who've fought in combat are any good, then the problem you have is how to get troops who've fought in combat. If you swap out the field army for the fortress troops after a few battles, what you then have is your field army troops are bulked out by useless new ones and the enemy's ones aren't - so you lose.



I don't think that's the case though. To me the worst troops are those who've just recently entered service and haven't had time to train, and the best troops are the ones who've spent as long as possible training before getting their first taste of combat. Losing battles generally makes troops worse, while winning makes them better, so that modifies that.
 

Joshism

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McClellan successfully interposed himself and was then relieved of duty. The grounds as stated at the time varied, and one of those given was basically that he didn't beat Longstreet to Culpeper
If McClellan was at Warrenton and Longstreet was at Culpepper how is the AotP interposed between the wings of the ANV?

Hay's diary entry for September 25 1864 relates the conspiracy concept, as being something that Lincoln told him on that date but which Lincoln said he'd known about in 1862 and that had been the reason he fired McClellan.
Hay's diary has Lincoln say that he "made a test" to see if McClellan was going to let Lee get away or not, and that he fired McClellan when McClellan let Lee get away.
So was McClellan fired for the conspiracy or fired for letting Lee get away?

Can we get a quote of the diary entry in question?

It's hard to imagine green troops protected most of Washington. I'm shocked. What was Lincoln thinking?
The Heavy Artillery regiments were very well-drilled, but had spent the war safely behind the Washington fortifications were they were never attacked before being sent to reinforce Grant. Behind stout fortifications such as ringed Washington, with their heavy guns, they would have been fine. Against Lee's veterans on a typical battlefield, and especially attacking any kind of entrenchments, they seem to have been in over their heads.

The Union made mistake by not rotating their units more so the combat experience wasn't so disproportionately distributed.

At the very least it probably would have been better to shift the Heavy Artillery regiments to other areas where they could exchange places with units that had seen more field service, ideally at least limited combat in 1862-1863. Such units would still have less experience than the AotP veterans but would still probably be better suited for a hard campaign than the HA regiments. Admittedly, this may not have been practical due to other constraints - availability of transport and relevant units, plus it depends on the foresight that stripping the Washington defenses is part of the plan from the beginning (at least as a contingency).
 

Saphroneth

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If McClellan was at Warrenton and Longstreet was at Culpepper how is the AotP interposed between the wings of the ANV?
Because Jackson is at Winchester and McClellan was about to move on Culpeper. The route Jackson needs to take to recombine with Longstreet - as Lee's orders of the period make clear - is to go via Swift Run Gap (as Lee was preparing Longstreet to fall back to Gordonsville).
The direct route from Jackson to Longstreet is incredibly easy to block for McClellan's force.


So was McClellan fired for the conspiracy or fired for letting Lee get away?
According to Hay's diary, he was fired for the conspiracy and the "letting Lee get away" was a "test" (though not a very good one).

Can we get a quote of the diary entry in question?
It can be found here:



The Heavy Artillery regiments were very well-drilled, but had spent the war safely behind the Washington fortifications were they were never attacked before being sent to reinforce Grant. Behind stout fortifications such as ringed Washington, with their heavy guns, they would have been fine. Against Lee's veterans on a typical battlefield, and especially attacking any kind of entrenchments, they seem to have been in over their heads.
What other AotP commander are you thinking of that got well-drilled and experienced reinforcements? If Grant's getting well drilled units who haven't faced combat, and other commanders are getting poorly drilled units who haven't faced combat (on the whole) - or their own units back again - then surely Grant's at the very least getting comparable troops to the reinforcements others got.

As for attacking entrenchments being over their heads, it's not like the veterans did any better at that on the whole. Entrenchments are just hard to attack, though attacking previously routed troops is the best-case to do so.
If the heavy artillery regiments were worse at attacking, they could have been used to form a fixing force (in dug trenches of their own, e.g. at Spotsylvania) while the veterans manoeuvred.
(This is actually US Army doctrine from the Mexican-American War, as seen at e.g. Cerro Gordo - the less steady troops, in that case Volunteers, form a base of manoeuvre while the more steady troops (in that case Regulars) do the manoeuvering.)
 
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rbasin

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The corps commanders of the Army of the Potomac, in 1862, concluded that about 40,000 men (PFD, split between the Washington Defences themselves and a covering force) would suffice to defend the capital and the rest would be available for offensive operations.

1862, Peninsular Campaign: McClellan plans to leave something over 50,000 men defending the capital and in the covering force. Lincoln intervenes to up the total men defending the capital and in the covering force to greater than the strength of McClellan's field army; troops get slowly released, but at the crisis point of the Peninsular Campaign in the Seven Days there are over 70,000 men around Washington and in the covering force (amalgamated as Pope's Army of Virginia by that point) and McClellan is forced away from Richmond for want of ~20,000 men to cover his exposed right flank. Those troops had been promised to be sent to him for more than a month.
(He never gets them.)

1862, Antietam: The force defending Washington during the Maryland Campaign is slightly harder to determine, but here:



Forces McClellan brought back from the Peninsula: 81,700 (August 10 strength)
AoV plus defences of Washington, June 30: ~70,000, of which ~5,000 were en route to the Army of the Potomac on that date. (This does not include the Middle Department.) This is 65,000 PFD as the other 5,000 are embraced in the AotP strength.

Reinforcements with Burnside (from his department and another): ~13,500 PFD.

Subsequent new recruits:

This is the hardest one to estimate, but Humphreys (7,000 PFD, 8 regiments) implies ca. 800 PFD per brand new regiment. Sticking with just the inf regiments for now and counting only new arrivals, not those shuffled about:

The Middle Department acquired eleven new regiments (as in, regiments that joined from their state) in August and September.
The Mil Dist of Washington gained eight in August for Defences North of the Potomac, seven in Unassigned Infantry, and seventeen in Whipple's division.
In September, Whipple's division gained one, Casey's provisional brigade gained one, the Defences North of the Potomac gained one and the Unassigned Infantry gained five (though that last group all arrived right at the end of the month so can be ignored). This doesn't count all the temporary militia showing up.

These categories mostly do not overlap with Humphreys Division (though two regiments do)

This means that over the course of August and September the influx of reinforcement regiments exclusive of Humphreys is 11+8+7+17+1+1+1-2, for 44. That amounts to about 35,000 PFD.
Humphreys is 7,000 PFD.

Total before casualties: 42,000 + 13,500 + 65,000 + 81,700 = 202,200
Northern Virginia Campaign casualties ~17,000

Remaining: 185,000 PFD.

With McClellan's approx. strength at Antietam at about 87,000 PFD, it should be clear that the forces left behind to defend Washington were enormous and may well have been larger than McClellan's field army. (Sanity checking confirms this, as there were two entire corps - 3rd and 11th, and 3rd was a really big one - plus the Washington Defences themselves which in late October were about 55,000 strong.)


In 1864, on the other hand, the Washington Defences were drawn down to about 20,000 men PFD (rough number, I've seen smaller). This had an enormous effect on the size of field army the Union could support; you'll also note it's less than the amount the corps commanders considered required...
20k is a huge over estimate. I've read as low as 8k
 

Ara Oko

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I'm inclined to agree the troops should have been rotated with combat troops.
I take the point the artillery was up to the job, but is worthless if you can't occupy the ground gained, and that takes combat troops. No??
 

67th Tigers

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20k is a huge over estimate. I've read as low as 8k
For the Washington defences? In 1864 they were shored up by an aggressive militia callout. Large numbers of "100 day men" replaced the trained soldiers at Washington. The end of June '64 return has 33,289 present in the defences.

The issue vis Early is that policy has always been to keep the northern defences only partially manned, whereas the southern defences were always fully manned.
 
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Saphroneth

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20k is a huge over estimate. I've read as low as 8k
I'm afraid I didn't check my sources and was going from memory. But yes, the Washington defences in 1864 were drawn down to dangerously low levels - I think by the May 1864 report it's down to about 14,000 troops in the forts with only one trained Heavy Artillery regiment, everything else was recently raised Ohio militia.

It's an interesting question to compare two hypotheticals:
"How would McClellan have done in 1862 if the Washington Defences and covering force had been drawn down to only 40,000?"
And
"How would Grant have done in 1864 if the Washington Defences and covering force had only been drawn down to 40,000?"


As an aside and a point of interest, almost on the very day that Lincoln decided to remove McClellan for his slowness McClellan had the 9th Corps march about 24 miles in one day.
 

rbasin

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I'm afraid I didn't check my sources and was going from memory. But yes, the Washington defences in 1864 were drawn down to dangerously low levels - I think by the May 1864 report it's down to about 14,000 troops in the forts with only one trained Heavy Artillery regiment, everything else was recently raised Ohio militia.

It's an interesting question to compare two hypotheticals:
"How would McClellan have done in 1862 if the Washington Defences and covering force had been drawn down to only 40,000?"
And
"How would Grant have done in 1864 if the Washington Defences and covering force had only been drawn down to 40,000?"


As an aside and a point of interest, almost on the very day that Lincoln decided to remove McClellan for his slowness McClellan had the 9th Corps march about 24 miles in one day.
I am figuring that Lincoln tolerated his disdain for McClellan until he didn't need to any more. I think Grant made sure to stay on Lincoln's good side as policy.
 

rbasin

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For the Washington defences? In 1864 they were shored up by an aggressive militia callout. Large numbers of "100 day men" replaced the trained soldiers at Washington. The end of June '64 return has 33,289 present in the defences.

The issue vis Early is that policy has always been to keep the northern defences only partially manned, whereas the southern defences were always fully manned.
Do you have returns say through October?
 
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Ara Oko

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I seem to recall hearing of malitias being dragooned into the regular army at times. Would this be one of those times?
I too had heard that some of the militia guarding Washington were actually pretty good. Were they decent enough to hold off seasoned regulars tho? Given the prepared defences around Washington, I suspect whatever inadequacies the defenders had, preparedness would presumably overcome them to a degree.
 

Saphroneth

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I am figuring that Lincoln tolerated his disdain for McClellan until he didn't need to any more. I think Grant made sure to stay on Lincoln's good side as policy.
The odd thing is that McClellan was generally pretty willing to follow any policy Lincoln expressed - he'd write about it if he felt it was wrong, but he'd also follow it. The problem is that there simply wasn't a coherent policy in the first place in a lot of this period.



I seem to recall hearing of malitias being dragooned into the regular army at times. Would this be one of those times?
The Militia Act allows for militia to be called out for three months at a time. Militia can be compelled to serve, effectively, but only for that period.
What you're probably thinking of is Militia troops being drafted into the Volunteers, which would require them to be Drafted (individually, as I understand it).
The Regulars was a third category, the US Regular army, and was never very big.

I too had heard that some of the militia guarding Washington were actually pretty good. Were they decent enough to hold off seasoned regulars tho? Given the prepared defences around Washington, I suspect whatever inadequacies the defenders had, preparedness would presumably overcome them to a degree.
If they're militia, almost by definition they won't be very good as they won't have served for very long continuously. A nation with a properly firm militia program can produce good militia, but for the most part the US did not have such a program.

For most of the war the Washington defences were manned by Volunteers who were part of the general sign up in July 1861 or July 1862. I think there's a serious concern mostly about the period of Early's attack, because the forces in the Washington defences had been drawn down so far.

The real risk is that the defences north of the Potomac are not as well laid out as they could be, especially early in the war - there are places the defences have no depth.
 

Saphroneth

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So I thought it might be useful to lay out the argument that McClellan would manoeuvre aggressively or go on the offensive.


Firstly, let's consider the question of aggressive manoeuvre. In September 1862, during the Maryland Campaign, McClellan had reason to believe (via a combination of scouting and the famous Special Order 191) that he had the chance to catch Lee divided; what McClellan then did was order his troops forwards as fast as possible, including night marching (which led to the battles of South Mountain and Crampton's Gap).
The main thing that limited how fast troops could be got into action was the terrain itself (the mountain gaps and the single bridge and road out of Frederick, for example, because only so many troops can physically fit down the road at a time - which is why there was a night march, a distinct rarity in the Civil War).

There is no reason I can see why McClellan would not manoeuvre aggressively. He is in supply, he knows where the enemy is and he is not stopped up by a river line (he has a bridge over the Rappahanock at Waterloo, another at Rappahanock Station, and his cavalry is probing the crossings of the Hazel which has several fords).



Secondly, the question of going on the offensive.
Firstly, fix in your mind what you think the ratio of Union to Confederate troops was at Antietam.
Secondly, consider what you think McClellan thought the ratio of Union to Confederate troops was at Antietam.
Now, whatever those two numbers are, McClellan committed 75% of his army to assaults all on the same day against Lee's full - concentrated - army.

As of November 8, 1862, McClellan is aware that Lee's army is split into Longstreet and Jackson. He knows roughly where Longstreet is and he knows roughly where Jackson is, and he knows that it is not possible for Jackson to rejoin Longstreet promptly because the route Jackson would need to take is too long. Meanwhile, McClellan's army is verifiably larger than it was at Antietam.
Therefore, whatever you think the ratio was at Antietam when McClellan launched his attacks, here the ratio is better - perhaps twice as good. There is no reason to think McClellan would not launch attacks.
 
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