Why didn't McClellan get another assignment?

MikeyB

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Sep 13, 2018
Other army commanders of the East were given second chances and allowed to continue to serve the Union (Burnside, Hooker, McDowell, even Pope). Why not McClellan? Was Lincoln viewing him as a political threat even in 1862? Or he just had enough of this guy and didn't think he could use him in another theater or in an administrative capacity? Or did he ask and McClellan refused anything else as being below him?
 

Zack

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McClellan was gone from West Virginia in mid July the campaign including the battle of Carnifex Ferry and Lee withdrawing from Sewell Mt lasted until late October. Rosecrans in turn was replaced by Fremont the first Republican candidate and an early emancipationist.

I'm writing purely about his part of the campaign, which was Laurel Hill (July 7-11), Rich Mountain (July 11), and Corrick’s Ford (July 13). McClellan set out to take personal command in West Virginia on June 20, arriving in Grafton the 23rd; he was called to Washington on July 22 and arrived on July 26.

https://emergingcivilwar.com/2016/0...estern-virginia-campaign-of-july-1861-part-i/
https://emergingcivilwar.com/2016/0...stern-virginia-campaign-of-july-1861-part-ii/
https://emergingcivilwar.com/2016/0...tern-virginia-campaign-of-july-1861-part-iii/
https://emergingcivilwar.com/2016/0...stern-virginia-campaign-of-july-1861-part-iv/
 

Jamieva

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it was easy for Burnside to go back to corps command as he never wanted army command and didn’t have an ego. Little Mac was uber possessive of the AotP as being his army that he built.
McDowell was given command of a corps that was basically equal in the size to the army he commanded at first bull run when it was parked at Fredericksburg.
Hooker curried political favor in Dc which helped him move back into a command position and he performed well in the west before he was removed again.
 

67th Tigers

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When McClellan was removed, it was rumoured he was to be offered a western command, such as his old Army of the Ohio (vice Buell). If memory serves he looked forward to the reassignment there.
 

67th Tigers

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McClellan himself was an observer of the Crimean War and seems to have been deeply impacted by the Siege of Sevastopol. Stephen Sears mentions in his history of the Peninsula Campaign how McClellan conducted the Siege of Yorktown in accordance with the doctrines he learned at Sevastopol, with an emphasis on bringing up big guns to pound the defenders into submission. He even sent letters to Ellen requesting books on the Siege of Sevastopol as he sat before Yorktown.

McClellan wasn't at Sebastopol. They (the observers) arrived after it fell, and were deeply impressed with the works, but especially the effect of the English heavy rifled guns.

There was no "siege" of Yorktown. Once the Corps Commanders pushed him into the Peninsula approach, McClellan planned was to bypass the Yorktown leaving the siege train and some artillery to reduce it (which had been estimated to take six weeks) whilst pushing on rapidly. As the Warwick River was flooded, there was no way to bypass the fort. McClellan searched about ten days for some way to assault the line (i.e. to get over the river to assault the enemy defences), but settled down on the evening of the 16th to reduce Yorktown proper with siege artillery allowing him to punch a hole through the gap between the head of the Warwick, and Yorktown proper. This work took about two weeks, and six infantry divisions were preparing to assault once the bombardment knocked out the ca. 100 guns sweeping the Yorktown approaches.
 

67th Tigers

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McClellan questioned Lincoln‘s authority to attack Slavery. Pro slavery officers start to get purged. Loyalties questioned. He was on his way out before Antietam. Election year postponed the inevitable. Lincoln had no reason to keep him.

I might have missed this. Was this before or after he recommended compensated emancipation in the border states?
 

67th Tigers

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To what extent was the successful western Virginia campaign a product of McClellan's expertise and command, or that of Rosecrans, the nominal on-site commander? Or for that matter, blunders by forces under Confederate command?
McClellan was juggling nominally four active columns at the time of Rich Mountain. The one he was personally with was the decisive one. Of all the generals in WV at that time, McClellan is far above the others in terms of ability. Of McClellan's subordinate generals, only Rosecrans and Cox will survive more than a few months in service before being removed.

Rosecrans gets highlighted because he led one of the turning columns at Rich Mountain, but it was the unsuccessful one. The decision at Rich Mountain was when Lt Poe of the engineers figured he could cut a road and get artillery overlooking the rebel camp.
 

Zack

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McClellan wasn't at Sebastopol. They (the observers) arrived after it fell, and were deeply impressed with the works, but especially the effect of the English heavy rifled guns.

There was no "siege" of Yorktown. Once the Corps Commanders pushed him into the Peninsula approach, McClellan planned was to bypass the Yorktown leaving the siege train and some artillery to reduce it (which had been estimated to take six weeks) whilst pushing on rapidly. As the Warwick River was flooded, there was no way to bypass the fort. McClellan searched about ten days for some way to assault the line (i.e. to get over the river to assault the enemy defences), but settled down on the evening of the 16th to reduce Yorktown proper with siege artillery allowing him to punch a hole through the gap between the head of the Warwick, and Yorktown proper. This work took about two weeks, and six infantry divisions were preparing to assault once the bombardment knocked out the ca. 100 guns sweeping the Yorktown approaches.

I think we're saying the same thing. McClellan was impacted by his observations of the - I guess I should have clarified - aftermath of the Siege of Sevastopol. On April 23, 1862, while before Yorktown, he wrote to Ellen (quoted in his autobiography):
Screen Shot 2021-06-30 at 6.01.36 PM.png
Screen Shot 2021-06-30 at 6.01.51 PM.png
 

mofederal

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McClellan had a lot of enemies by the time he was relieved, and I am not so sure he had many vocal backers. I think he could have trained men, but I think he had little fight left in him. I think even his men in the AoP had lost faith in him.
 
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First of all I am no fan of Lil Mac. He had the perfect opportunity to end the war during the Peninsular Campaign and REPEATEDLY failed to do so. Later at Antietam as a result of the luckiest fluke in the entire history of warfare (the Lost Order) yet failed utterly to do so.

Unfortunately we all have to give the devil his due. McClelland not once but twice out of nothing created the AoP and honed it into a fighting machine. Imagine how much better things would have turned out had Lincoln been able to understand this and once McC had done his work, simply turned into someone able to use that fine weapon as it should have been used.

In many way McC reminds me of George Marshall of WWII. He not only created the armies that defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, but he also created the overwhelming majority of the leadership cadre that directed these armies. I have often wondered how he would have fared had FDR been willing to part with his presence in DC and give him a field command.
 

Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
First of all I am no fan of Lil Mac. He had the perfect opportunity to end the war during the Peninsular Campaign and REPEATEDLY failed to do so. Later at Antietam as a result of the luckiest fluke in the entire history of warfare (the Lost Order) yet failed utterly to do so.
Would you mind terribly being specific about the opportunities in question, on the Peninsula? I do like discussing specific situations.

I can however point out that far from being the luckiest fluke in the entire history of warfare, the lost order is a captured dispatch and movement order; much the same thing happened on at least four occasions in the previous month.

August 18: Pope's cavalry captures Lee's order to Stuart which outlines his campaign plans and contains positions and strengths (per Pope)
August 22: Stuart's cavalry captures Pope's dispatch book, containing “[d]etailed data as to his strength, dispositions, and designs; and referencing expected reinforcements and identifying their whereabouts.”
August 28 (morning): Jackson captures Pope's marching orders for that very same day.
August 28 (same day): AP Hill captures Pope's orders to McDowell "ordering the formation of his line of battle", apparently including some of the very same orders Jackson captured.

Special Order 191 is not nothing, but it is not the luckiest fluke in the previous month let alone in the entire history of warfare. It is a movement order that is several days old when captured (it's actually expired) and contains no data on strengths.
What McClellan does is first verify it with observations from the front (while his main body gets through the Frederick bottleneck) and then pushes ahead to the South Mountain gaps. That is the main thing he can do in exploitation of the information in SO 191.
He could have pushed 6th Corps ahead faster, but he was with his main body (it's kind of a rule that the problem arises wherever McClellan isn't). So it's hard to call this "failed utterly"; one could say McClellan should have been with the 6th Corps column to push them ahead faster, but the question which arises is what would have happened back on the National Road.

Events after the 14th bear increasingly little resemblance to the content of SO 191.
 

David Moore

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Location
Washington, DC
I'm writing purely about his part of the campaign, which was Laurel Hill (July 7-11), Rich Mountain (July 11), and Corrick’s Ford (July 13). McClellan set out to take personal command in West Virginia on June 20, arriving in Grafton the 23rd; he was called to Washington on July 22 and arrived on July 26.

https://emergingcivilwar.com/2016/0...estern-virginia-campaign-of-july-1861-part-i/
https://emergingcivilwar.com/2016/0...stern-virginia-campaign-of-july-1861-part-ii/
https://emergingcivilwar.com/2016/0...tern-virginia-campaign-of-july-1861-part-iii/
https://emergingcivilwar.com/2016/0...stern-virginia-campaign-of-july-1861-part-iv/
I get that but so many people think the WV campaign ended once McClellan left. That is if they even know about the Campaign. There was a lot more after mid July including fighting in very rugged country and the appearance of RE Lee
 

uaskme

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Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
Where? I see McClellan recommending compensated emancipation in the border states, but "A declaration of radical views, especially upon slavery, will rapidly disintegrate our present armies." is largely a statement of fact.
You must not of read the rest of it. It might be fact but it was against Lincoln’s War Policy. The overwhelming number of War Democrats embraced the EP as a War Measure. “The disintegration of our present armies” essentially didn’t happen. Federals, recruited and Forced over 180K Negro Replacements. Buying German and Irish Immigrants got too expensive. War was taking a harder Turn. McClellan refused Lincoln’s Policy. Questioning his Commander In Chief authority.
 

Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
You must not of read the rest of it. It might be fact but it was against Lincoln’s War Policy. The overwhelming number of War Democrats embraced the EP as a War Measure. “The disintegration of our present armies” essentially didn’t happen. Federals, recruited and Forced over 180K Negro Replacements. Buying German and Irish Immigrants got too expensive. War was taking a harder Turn. McClellan refused Lincoln’s Policy. Questioning his Commander In Chief authority.
In what respect did McClellan refuse any policy of Lincoln's that had already been set out? The Emancipation Proclamation does not yet exist as of July 7; McClellan is offering his opinion on what the policy should be, because no such policy yet exists.

McClellan's argument (as you can see if you read the Harrisons Landing letter) is that the President already has the authority under existing law to do what needs to be done, and that a policy should be laid out:

The time has come when the Government must determine upon a civil and military policy covering the whole ground of our national trouble. The responsibility of determining, declaring, and supporting such civil and military policy, and of directing the whole course of national affairs in regard to the rebellion, must now be assumed and exercised by you, or our cause will be lost. The Constitution gives you power sufficient even for the present terrible exigency.

He says what he thinks should not be done, which is what gets most of the attention, but then he says what he thinks should be done:

Slaves, contraband under the act of Congress, seeking military protection, should receive it. The right of the Government to appropriate permanently to its own service claims to slave labor should be asserted, and the right of the owner to compensation therefor should be recognized. This principle might be extended, upon grounds of military necessity and security, to all the slaves of a particular State, thus working manumission in such State; and in Missouri, perhaps in Western Virginia also, and possibly even in Maryland, the expediency of such a measure is only a question of time. A system of policy thus constitutional, and pervaded by the influences of Christianity and freedom, would receive the support of almost all truly loyal men, would deeply impress the rebel masses and all foreign nations, and it might be humbly hoped that it would commend itself to the favor of the Almighty.

What McClellan is outlining here is that:
- Slaves belonging to rebels (contraband under the act of Congress) who seek out the US armies (seeking military protection) should be given that military protection.
- The Government should appropriate permanently claims to slave labour (The right of the Government to appropriate permanently to its own service claims to slave labor should be asserted), in entire states (all the slaves of a particular state) and thereby work manumission in a state, naming specifically Missouri, West Virginia and Maryland which were all slave states entirely under Union control.



Note that this hypothetical policy provides for the freeing of all slaves. If they are under the ownership of Rebels, then they are contraband under the act of Congress; if they are under the ownership of Unionists, then they can be appropriated to Government use and subsequently manumitted.

It's not a perfect system, but in some important respects (the fate of slaves in Maryland and Missouri, for example) it is explicitly more pro-emancipation than the system in the Emancipation Proclamation.

The first way in which it is flawed is that it does not outline an explicit path to freedom for the slaves of Confederates, though I can see how in practice (since Contrabands were US government property by the 1861 Confiscation Act and it was illegal to return them to their owners according to the 1862 Act Prohibiting the Return of Slaves) they could simply be manumitted - as Federal property the Union government gets to decide what to do with them.
The second way in which it is flawed is that it is a system of compensated emancipation for pro-union slave owners (i.e. slave owners get money in return for losing their slaves), but it is worth realizing that uncompensated emancipation was quite a fringe position in 1862 while compensated emancipation had worked on a large scale in the British Empire about 25 years ago.


Given that among the most recent governmental measure on slavery was Lincoln countermanding Hunter's order freeing all slaves in his department, and given that the passage of the 1862 Confiscation Act a week or so later occasioned significant debate in the Union government about whether you even could confiscate slaves, the Harrisons Landing letter in some important respects is as much "please set a consistent policy, here's one you could do which would free slaves without breaking the constitution or making new laws" as objecting to anything Lincoln's already done.
 

James N.

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it was easy for Burnside to go back to corps command as he never wanted army command and didn’t have an ego. Little Mac was uber possessive of the AotP as being his army that he built.
McDowell was given command of a corps that was basically equal in the size to the army he commanded at first bull run when it was parked at Fredericksburg.
Hooker curried political favor in Dc which helped him move back into a command position and he performed well in the west before he was removed again.
I believe Burnside's "ego" shows up at the beginning of the Overland Campaign before he and his 9th Corps were assigned directly to Meade's command as a part of the AotP instead of continuing being handled with kid gloves by reporting directly to and receiving orders from Grant. I've mentioned it before to criticism from others here, but according to Edward Steere in his The Wilderness Campaign Burnside basically ignored orders from above when he led his corps into the fight on the second day of the battle.

Actually, it was Hooker who asked to be replaced when he saw the incompetent but politically-favored Oliver O. Howard promoted to command of the AotT element of Sherman's army before the fall of Atlanta. Too bad for him - Henry Slocum replaced Hooker at the head of the Twentieth Corps and by circumstance it was Slocum who had the opportunity to lead the first Federal elements into the abandoned city!
 

Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
I believe Burnside's "ego" shows up at the beginning of the Overland Campaign before he and his 9th Corps were assigned directly to Meade's command as a part of the AotP instead of continuing being handled with kid gloves by reporting directly to and receiving orders from Grant. I've mentioned it before to criticism from others here, but according to Edward Steere in his The Wilderness Campaign Burnside basically ignored orders from above when he led his corps into the fight on the second day of the battle.
Burnside did rank Meade, being an early 1862 MG. Meade would have been ranked by any of the Peninsular division commanders (having been a brigadier at the time all the DCs were promoted to MG), and Burnside ranked some of the Peninsular corps commanders (not Sumner though).

Seniority and rank does exist for a reason; it is intended to make it clear which general is in command during any unusual situation. It is normally expected that seniority will apply absent a formal structure to the contrary, and Burnside is junior to (LG) Grant but senior to (MG) Meade, and not in a position subordinate to Meade.

Thus if the two of them are interacting then it's Meade who has to take Burnside's orders, or they are independent of one another.

This would be different if Meade had already become a Major-General in the Regular Army, which happened 18 August. After that point Meade is senior to Burnside.


What this means is that if Burnside is told to do something by Grant, or by Meade after Burnside is assigned to the AotP, then they are legitimate orders from a superior officer higher in the chain of command. If Burnside is told to do something by Meade before Burnside is assigned to the AotP, then they are "suggestions" at most.

Whether Burnside should have followed Meade's suggestions is another matter, of course, but he would be legally justified in ignoring them in favour of either whatever Grant told him last or his own initiative given the situation.
 

David Moore

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Washington, DC
McClellan was juggling nominally four active columns at the time of Rich Mountain. The one he was personally with was the decisive one. Of all the generals in WV at that time, McClellan is far above the others in terms of ability. Of McClellan's subordinate generals, only Rosecrans and Cox will survive more than a few months in service before being removed.

Rosecrans gets highlighted because he led one of the turning columns at Rich Mountain, but it was the unsuccessful one. The decision at Rich Mountain was when Lt Poe of the engineers figured he could cut a road and get artillery overlooking the rebel camp.
Rosecrans is also known for facing Lee at Sewell Mountain. The post McClelkan aspect of the campaign involved marching and fighting in rugged mountainous terrain. He also had to administer western Virginia. His role was much more than Rich Mountain for which most observers then and now give him credit. I know you don’t. Fremont replaced Rosecrans almost surely for political reasons. If it were to be a short war he would have been well placed to be nominated instead of Lincoln in 1864. Of course it wasn’t a short war but Fremont remained a political factor in 1864.
 

67th Tigers

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Nov 10, 2006
I believe Burnside's "ego" shows up at the beginning of the Overland Campaign before he and his 9th Corps were assigned directly to Meade's command as a part of the AotP instead of continuing being handled with kid gloves by reporting directly to and receiving orders from Grant. I've mentioned it before to criticism from others here, but according to Edward Steere in his The Wilderness Campaign Burnside basically ignored orders from above when he led his corps into the fight on the second day of the battle.

The War Department had not assigned Burnside and his 9th Corps to the Army of the Potomac. Thus, Meade had no legal authority to issue an order to Burnside. In reality, Burnside was quite accommodating and welcomed his eventual assignment to the AoP.

The 9th Corps was at Annapolis before the Overland Campaign and slated for an amphibious operation against Fort Fisher. Lincoln did not want to send them to Virginia, but agreed that it might be necessary for them to temporarily move to Manassas Junction to support Grant, block a rumoured movement by Longstreet in the Shenandoah and reinforce Grant if necessary. Grant called for him and the first sign of the enemy, and Burnside force-marched his corps to Grant.

The problems on the second day of the Wilderness are largely to do with the man who piloted 9th Corps to their destination, Comstock, getting lost. Since they approached from the wrong direction, on arrive they formed the line perpendicular to the line of march, which should have been correct, but it wasn't.
 
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