Restricted What was the cause for President Lincoln's loss of confidence in General McClellan?

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OpnCoronet

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But there is one who is remembered for it more than any other. Preparing for the first Gulf War, Norman Schwarzkopf had already accumulated over 100,000 troops in northern Saudi Arabia and over a thousand tanks, and was waiting for a few more before making his move into Iraq. At a press conference in a tent, a reporter asked about the delay and dared make a reference to our all-time most infamous never-ready general, McClellan. Schwarzkopf pounded the table as he fired back, "I'M NO G** ****ED McCLELLAN!!!"
No American officer would like to be included in a comparison with McClellan, however, if the Shoe fits ..... . I.E., If by waiting a little bit longer, Schwarzenegger had suffered a stunning defeat, .... ?
 
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DanSBHawk

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There is no such tradition, as these were the first corps commanders appointed in US history. Lincoln had a completely free hand in appointing who he wanted.
It was the tradition to consider seniority in appointing commanders, regardless of the level of the command. It's why even a very good subordinate like George Thomas wrote Washington to verify the seniority of Rosecrans.

I'm not aware of any Army commander or Department Head in the war given absolutely free reign to choose division officers or corps commanders. If they had, political generals would probably never have been given a command.

I don't think it's fair to blame the failure of McClellan on his subordinates.
 
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DanSBHawk

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And as well @DanSBHawk, Lincoln had a real fear of exposing Washington City and Wadsworth seemed to be, as the Military Governor of that District, calling for more troops to remain behind.
And McClellan knew that Lincoln had this concern. If he had made the Washington defensive arrangements absolute clear to Lincoln before he left for the Peninsula, perhaps there would have been no interference with troops heading for the Peninsula.

It was a lack of communication and failure to ensure that Lincoln understood the arrangement that caused the problem.
 
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Southern Unionist

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No American officer would like to be included in a comparison with McClellan, however, if the Shoe fits ..... . I.E., If by waiting a little bit longer, Schwarzenegger had suffered a stunning defeat, .... ?
My point was not about Schwarzkopf, but about McClellan's reputation with the West Point crowd.

Schwarzenegger
The Terminator never loses. :wink:
 

War Horse

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In ref.to this post, McClellan did indeed lose his job because of a critical(for McClellan) loss of patienceby Lincoln.

The war was progressing at much too slow a pace for Lincoln, but, he did not often show it by replacing unsuccessful generals, if that had been his criteria, Burnside, Hooker and probably, Meade, would have gotten second chances.

But, Generals who insisted on fighting the war his own way, in contradistinction, to that of his Commander In Chief, had better be successful.

As I have already noted, for politiical reasons, the War was not progressing fast enough for Lincoln, the war was progressing (if too slowly) in the West, because Union authority was being progressively restablished in formerly confederate territory, the same could not be said for the War for the Union, in the East, where the operative word was stalemate.
Stalemate is to kind of a word. How about loss after loss to an inferior force. That’s the point I’ve been attempting to make. McClellan’s obsession with numbers was his undoing. Lee, on the opposite side of the spectrum had so much confidence in his armies ability never concerned himself with the numeric superiority of his opponent.
 

OpnCoronet

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In point of fact, there was No greement, at all, between little mac and Lincoln or the War Dept. as to exactly how many troops the general had or when he received them.

In point of fact, Lincoln only allowed himself to agree to Mc Clellans Ft. Monroe move, only after relentless urging by littl mac and the, only on the assurance from the general that sufficient forces be left behind to safely guard Washington D.C.

Whether McClellan or Lincoln wasmore right than the other is immaterial to the OP. The fact is Lincoln lost confidence in McClellan, because as President and Commander In Chief, he believed McCClellan was not up to the Job, he wanted little mac to accomplish.
 
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Lubliner

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And McClellan knew that Lincoln had this concern. If he had made the Washington defensive arrangements absolute clear to Lincoln before he left for the Peninsula, perhaps there would have been no interference with troops heading for the Peninsula.

It was a lack of communication and failure to ensure that Lincoln understood the arrangement that caused the problem.
I do want to acknowledge this response as the most accurate, to me. When looking through dispatches and correspondence, the movement was performed in a necessary haste, and the irregularities ironed out. This seemed to be done at loading areas with McClellan's free hand and watchful eye. But the eventual breakdown in communication was almost immediate with the landing zones, and McClellan was trying to supervise an army where he wanted to be in twelve places. So the tact in control of these forces appear to have slipped beyond management capability due to communication problems, personality clashes, and political struggles for prominence in the State of Affairs.
Again I thank all who commented, and I now feel I have enough context to re-explore this campaign with a fresher attitude.
Lubliner.
 

67th Tigers

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I do want to acknowledge this response as the most accurate, to me. When looking through dispatches and correspondence, the movement was performed in a necessary haste, and the irregularities ironed out. This seemed to be done at loading areas with McClellan's free hand and watchful eye. But the eventual breakdown in communication was almost immediate with the landing zones, and McClellan was trying to supervise an army where he wanted to be in twelve places. So the tact in control of these forces appear to have slipped beyond management capability due to communication problems, personality clashes, and political struggles for prominence in the State of Affairs.
I have been trying to find time to write a long general reply, but can I point out that on the 27th March the War Board, the body Stanton created to replace the office of GinC, concluded that McClellan's arrangements left Washington secure. There was one voice against, Lorenzo Thomas, the Adjutant-General. Hence Stanton used the lawyers trick of gerrymanding the electorate. He reduced the decision maker to just Thomas, as I pointed out in message 34.

Indeed, the minutes of the 27th meeting continues with, after concluding Washington was unassailable, Meigs presenting the idea that the rebels would give up Richmond and concentrate in the Shenandoah instead. The idea was considered laughable. I've posted the minutes previously.
 

Saphroneth

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The thing about the defensive arrangements is that the argument used to strip McClellan of McDowell is not actually valid. I suspect it was a case of "Lincoln is influenced by whoever spoke to him last" in this case, because functionally (and focusing on Washington specifically) it went something like:

Lincoln - "Make sure Washington is safe by the standards of the corps commanders."
Corps commanders - "The Washington defences itself needs a 15,000 man garrison."
McClellan - "Counting by Present, there's 22,000 troops in Washington itself, I'm going to have some of them moved out because that's more than are needed and it'd help to have troops at Manassas, and replace them with an equal strength of new regiments from New York."
Wadsworth - "If you count only troops under my command I actually have less than 20,000 men, if you count PFD"
And based on that Lincoln authorized the detachment of troops to help defend Washington.

So who was correct?
Well, on 31 March the strength of the Washington District was 20,795 (Present), and the strength of the Alexandria district (that is, the bit directly across the river where some of the capital forts are) was 1,404 Present.

Total: 22,199.


So on the subject of the defence of Washington itself McClellan was correct.

How could McClellan have avoided Lincoln being taken in by this assertion? It's hard to say. It seems as though Lincoln had trouble seeing through the mendacity of the argument Wadsworth presented, which was that the only troops which counted for "defending Washington" were the Washington garrison itself, but even then McClellan left several thousand more troops in Washington than the corps commanders said would be needed.


Lincoln had all the information it should have taken to see that McClellan had fully complied with his instructions. The note by the corps commanders stated that Washington should be safe with a 15,000 direct garrison so long as there was also a covering force of 25,000 men, and Wadsworth's note said that Washington had nearly 20,000 men in it.

Certainly to remove 30,000 troops from McClellan's command is a complete overreaction, and at that point there were actually more troops defending Washington than in McClellan's entire field army.
 
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wausaubob

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George McClellan had done no worse than other commanders, and at Antietam Creek he did better than others. But Lincoln was shifting policy towards a much harder war. The blockade was going to get tighter, soldiers were going to be permitted to liberate slaves, and the southern economy was going to be dismembered. It was going to be impossible for McClellan to fight that kind of war, when he might later want southerners to vote for him. Buell was explicit about it. As the war shifted into 1863, despite all the BS about not recognizing the Confederacy, the war was being fought as if the Confederacy was a foreign adversary. The war was being fought to ruin the Northern Democrats allies. McClellan could not fight that kind of war.
 

67th Tigers

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It is perhaps worthwhile looking at the decision of the Corps Commanders:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

Fairfax Court-House, March 13, 1862.

A council of the generals commanding army corps at the Headquarters Army of the Potomac were of the opinion-

I. That, the enemy having retreated from Manassas to Gordonsville, behind the Rappahannock and Rapidan, it is the opinion of the generals commanding army corps that the operations to be carried on will be best undertaken from Old Point Comfort, between the York and James River, upon Richmond, provided-

1. That the enemy's vessel Merrimac can be neutralized.

2. That the means of transportation sufficient for an immediate transfer of the force to its new base can be ready at Washington and Alexandria to move down the Potomac, and

3. That a naval auxiliary force can be had to silence or aid in silencing the enemy's batteries in York River.

4. That the force to be left to cover Washington shall be such as to give an entire feeling of security for its safety from menace.

Unanimous.

II. If the foregoing cannot be, the army should then be moved against the enemy behind the Rappahannock at the earliest possible moment, and the means for reconstructing bridges, repairing railroads, and stocking them with material sufficient for the supplying the army should at once be collected for both the Orange and Alexandria and the Aquia and Richmond Railroads.

Unanimous.

NOTE.- That, with the forts on the right bank of the Potomac fully garrisoned, and those on the left bank occupied, a covering force in front of the Virginia line of 25,000 men would suffice.

KEYES.

HEINTZELMAN.

McDOWELL.

A total of 40,000 men for the defense of the city would suffice.

SUMNER.
Keyes, Heintzelman and McDowell give their requirement as:

1. Full garrisons for the forts south of the Potomac (i.e. Alexandria),
2. Occupation, but not full garrisons for the forts north of the Potomac,
3. A corps of 25,000 covering.

Sumner just says 40,000 for the lot.

As a point of reference, "fully garrisoning" the entire works, on both banks would take Over a year later, with many extensions to the line and new forts to "fully garrison" the works required 26,725 men. This was in the context of Stanton wanting to strip the Washington defences down to reinforce Hooker. There were found to be 23,205 actually in the defences, leaving ca. 8,600 as a division under Abercrombie covering. An estimate made by Barnard that "fully garrisoning" Washington required 25,000 in October '62 was referenced.

Using the mid-1863 numbers, which are increased over ca. April 1862, and bearing in mind "occupied" meant 1/3rd of "fully garrisoned", the numbers required would be:

Full garrisons for south of the Potomac = 11,795
Occupied fort north of the Potomac = 4,927
Total = 16,722

Thus the conclusion of the Corps Commanders that 15,000 is the number required for Washington is correct. McClellan in fact left more than the requirement at Washington, even if the city guard and cavalry force are (properly) excluded.

In the War Board there was a voice that dissented; Lorenzo Thomas wanted "full garrisons" north of the Potomac as well. When the board met on 27th March it concluded Washington was secure under McClellan's arrangements, and that the wholeof 5th Corps was in position to cover Washington. Hence Stanton asked a different question to Thomas only; was Washington "fully secure". Thomas of course said no. Stanton then went to Lincoln with the opinions of Wadsworth and Thomas only, and asked to grab the 1st Corps, which Lincoln assented to.

The problem wasn't that McClellan didn't explain, he obviously did. Instead, once he was gone he was not able to point out how Stanton had created a lawyers brief that did not conform to the reality of the situation.

What happened afterwards reveals the duplicity. The 1st Corps did not move to reinforce Washington, but instead was sent to Fredericksburg. The Washington defences were very quickly stripped to the bone, with the June '62 return showing only 4,358 there. During the War Boards tenure, Washington's defences were stripped even further than Grant stripped them down in May '64. The entire thing was obviously an excuse to create another separate field army for Lincoln to play with. He (mis)used it trying to chase down Jackson, becoming fixated on a minor element.
 

Saphroneth

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It was going to be impossible for McClellan to fight that kind of war, when he might later want southerners to vote for him.
What do you mean? McClellan doesn't appear to have had any political ambitions at that time.

The type of war McClellan argued for was one he argued for because he thought it was the better way of achieving the stated goals of the Union leadership. I see no particular reason to think he'd have refused to execute offensive action in a war fought with different goals - the man was professional military and only formulated the strategy and policies he did because there weren't any coming from a higher level. (Remember that generals in 1861 got sacked for being too anti slavery.)
 
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Saphroneth

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to ruin peace democrats, not war demokrats
I'm not sure what you mean?
McClellan was a War Democrat. He's practically the definition of the term, in that he was a military officer who prosecuted the war against the Confederacy and was a Democrat.
 

MHB1862

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To go from my point above to a more specific assessment, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the Peninsular operations as of June 1862, and McDowell's troops arriving would have largely averted the Seven Days.
Lincoln thought that he could see an opportunity to trap Jackson's Valley force using McDowell's troops and those of Fremont, and overrode his earlier orders to McDowell (to join McClellan) to instead order him to march into the Valley.
This was based on a lack of understanding of military operations, as what Lincoln did (not for the last time) was to measure the straight-line distance between the Union army and where he wanted it to be, and between the Confederate army and where they would have to pass to thwart his designs, and decided that since the Union army had fewer miles to cover either his designs would work or it would be the fault of the Union army in question.

The problem here is the matter of terrain, in this case the mountains of the Blue Ridge. The Confederate army in this case had a macademized road to march down; the Union army had to cross a mountain range and was naturally slower.
This meant that Jackson's Valley force did exactly what it was meant to. It distracted a large amount of Union troops and kept them from the critical battles of the Seven Days; McDowell was never actually sent to join McClellan, excepting one division only (which was not enough) and in making this decision Lincoln overruled the advice of McClellan, McDowell and even most of his own cabinet; he did not overrule the general in chief because there was no general in chief in the first place.




As for July, after the Seven Days has ended, Lincoln's attitude changes in a way which is hard to understand. Initially he is full of praise for McClellan having survived and promises him vast reinforcements if only McClellan can wait, but after the visit to Harrisons Landing his tune changes a little. Troops sent to reinforce McClellan are gathered at Fort Monroe instead and forbidden to join him; Lincoln tries to calculate whether McClellan is lying to him about the number of troops McClellan has to hand, even though questioning the corps commanders separately during the Harrisons Landing visit led to an agreement with McClellan's numbers.
Probably had a lot to do with the political document Mac handed to him at the Harrison’s Landing meeting. Mac seriously overstepped his bounds and Abe was not likely to forget it.
 
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Saphroneth

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Probably had a lot to do with the political document Mac handed to him at the Harrison’s Landing meeting. Mac seriously overstepped his bounds and Abe was not likely to forget it.
Not really. McClellan asked permission to send Lincoln his thoughts on such subjects, Lincoln approved it, and then McClellan wrote out the thoughts in question.

Or, to put it another way, the man who was still in theory the general-in-chief and in practice the highest ranking general in the Union army secured permission from his commander-in-chief and then wrote out a document which contained suggestions on general military policy.

Perhaps Lincoln had forgotten that he'd given permission.

I suppose it's also possible that Lincoln didn't realize that the question of how the war should be prosecuted was something that would have to be settled for the Union army to have a coherent war policy; at this point, more than a year into the war, one did not yet exist, and it's this that the Harrison's Landing letter is about. McClellan urges Lincoln to set a war policy, and in addition to that lays out his personal views on things that should be part of it.


If the highest-ranking general in the US Army can't suggest things to the President, then surely nobody can...
 

DanSBHawk

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Not really. McClellan asked permission to send Lincoln his thoughts on such subjects, Lincoln approved it, and then McClellan wrote out the thoughts in question.

Or, to put it another way, the man who was still in theory the general-in-chief and in practice the highest ranking general in the Union army secured permission from his commander-in-chief and then wrote out a document which contained suggestions on general military policy.

Perhaps Lincoln had forgotten that he'd given permission.

I suppose it's also possible that Lincoln didn't realize that the question of how the war should be prosecuted was something that would have to be settled for the Union army to have a coherent war policy; at this point, more than a year into the war, one did not yet exist, and it's this that the Harrison's Landing letter is about. McClellan urges Lincoln to set a war policy, and in addition to that lays out his personal views on things that should be part of it.


If the highest-ranking general in the US Army can't suggest things to the President, then surely nobody can...
Permission to submit a letter does not guarantee that the letter is going to be viewed favorably.

All it did was show Lincoln that he had a general who was not only not getting his own job done, but also disagreed with the way Lincoln was doing his.
 
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