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?
 
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Jun 27, 2017
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.
First of all when McClelland began the Peninsular Campaign the defenses facing him were so miniscule that he could have ordered his army to abandon all their rifles and attack with tree limbs and overwhelmed the miniscule defenses in front of him and easily strolled into Richmond.

Secondly possessing Lee's complete order of battle, knowing himself to be anywhere from 3 to 4 times stronger than Lee, his approach was so lackadaisical that you could easily imagine it to be a peacetime maneuver. Even at the last moment again knowing his great numerical advantage he is unable to order a simultaneous assault from one end of the battlefield to another. Had there been any doubt as to the actual numerical relationships it might have been excusable, but in actual fact there was not doubt as to how many troops he had and how many he faced. A simultaneous attack along the line would have crushed Lee. Period.
 

Saphroneth

Major
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Feb 18, 2017
First of all when McClelland began the Peninsular Campaign the defenses facing him were so miniscule that he could have ordered his army to abandon all their rifles and attack with tree limbs and overwhelmed the miniscule defenses in front of him and easily strolled into Richmond.
This is completely false, but in order to go into details, would you mind giving me a date? I can assume April 5 (the day his army reached Yorktown) if you want, or I can go earlier or later.

Secondly possessing Lee's complete order of battle, knowing himself to be anywhere from 3 to 4 times stronger than Lee, his approach was so lackadaisical that you could easily imagine it to be a peacetime maneuver. Even at the last moment again knowing his great numerical advantage he is unable to order a simultaneous assault from one end of the battlefield to another. Had there been any doubt as to the actual numerical relationships it might have been excusable, but in actual fact there was not doubt as to how many troops he had and how many he faced. A simultaneous attack along the line would have crushed Lee. Period.

He did not possess Lee's complete order of battle.
He had no confirmation of Lee's strength (though he did have estimates from a variety of sources)
He was not "anywhere from 3 to 4 times stronger than Lee" - and if he'd had Lee's complete order of battle he'd have known they had about the same number of regiments.

McClellan did in fact order a simultaneous assault. The problem is Burnside, who took over three hours to capture a bridge and then another few hours to get his troops over it.

However, you seem to imply that McClellan was so much stronger that the only reason Lee survived was that the assaults were not "simultaneous". Can you clarify how that would work - that is, how a simultaneous assault by 1st, 2nd, 9th and 12th Corps (say) would have crushed Lee flat, but individual corps assaults by 1st, 2nd, 9th and 12th let Lee survive?
 

Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
So here's the estimates on strength for Lee and McClellan at Antietam, normalized to the same scale.

Companies on the field at Antietam:
McClellan 2039, Lee ~1930 (this is because 1 brigade each of cavalry and infantry were not present, for Lee, and for McClellan two divisions of infantry were still marching to the field plus one brigade of cavalry was elsewhere)

Campaign start PFD of forces which were at Antietam:
Lee 74,000-84,000 (based on post Second Bull Run ORBAT), McClellan ~85,000-90,000 (adding back South Mountain casualties and allowing for units which joined his army at odd times)

Effectives on the field:
Lee ~47,000 (based on going unit by unit), McClellan ~52,000-57,000 (based on known straggling from 1st Corps)



The actual Special Order 191, meanwhile, contains very little information on how strong the Confederates are. It gives:

- Jackson's "command"
- Longstreet's "command"
- McLaws and Anderson's "divisions"
- Walker's "division"
- DH Hill's "division"

It is not certain that these are all the forces in the area, though any part of the force which is not mentioned above would not be operating as part of Lee's unitary army.


If McClellan assumes that each "command" is two divisions strong, he could be facing eight divisions; if each division is the same strength as a Federal one there would be 24 inf brigades. This would be dangerously incorrect, as there were actually 40 inf brigades in Lee's army.
McClellan's actual assessment of enemy strength going into the Maryland Campaign (or something close to it, a Pinkerton ORBAT) was that there was:

Longstreet's command (23,300)
Jackson's command (24,800)
DH Hill's two divisions (15,500)
Stuart (6,400)
Jenkins and Ransom. (3,400)
Artillery (6,000)
46 other regiments that could not be placed certainly in any given command (18,400) -

So obviously McClellan can tell that there are four divisions on SO 191 aside from Jackson's Command and Longstreet's Command. Two of these he can line up with two of DH Hill's divisions, and the other two are unknown and may be some of those 46 other regiments (with the rest either being genuine errors or part of commands previously mentioned).

The actual situation is that:
- DH Hill brought three divisions, not two (his own, Walker and McLaws)
- Anderson was not part of any of those three commands
- And some troops were left at Richmond

But SO 191 doesn't clarify that.

McClellan cannot use SO 191 to tell how strong Lee is with any certainty, though he can use it to tell that Lee's army itself doesn't have any components that are threatening Washington directly.
 

rbasin

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He had alot of democratic friends. Lincoln knew how to get rid of political opponents.

Had he been replaced by Pope in the summer of 1862, I think he'd have had another command.
 

Saphroneth

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He had alot of democratic friends. Lincoln knew how to get rid of political opponents.

Had he been replaced by Pope in the summer of 1862, I think he'd have had another command.
He was, functionally speaking. His entire army was assigned to Pope.
It's just that Pope pretty much immediately broke the army...
 

Saphroneth

Major
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Feb 18, 2017
Broke is a bit harsh. My opinion on Pope had definitely changed recently. He was put into a no win situation by Lincoln.
Pope's defeat and the manner of it is attributable entirely to his complete loss of focus on possible enemy intention or movements in the last week of August.

He pretty much completely disregarded any sense of where Longstreet was, or what Longstreet could be doing, for several days (and rejected any information, evidence or argument to the contrary). As late as the last day of Second Bull Run he is launching more and more offensives against Jackson, not believing word that Longstreet was loitering to his left despite the fact that ample time had elapsed for Longstreet to arrive.
At the same time, his movements against Jackson before 2BR itself were based on the idea that Jackson would stay there and that all he had to do was to bring his army to converge upon the point Jackson was currently at. When Jackson had moved on then Pope's movements did not produce a useful effect.
Finally, of course, he was expecting his subordinate commanders to obey orders that he had not actually issued, which isn't a great sign.

By the end of Second Bull Run, the number of men that had passed through Pope's army was about 88,900 effectives; by the same measure the force that passed through Lee's army before the arrival of DH Hill's reinforcement column was 61,300. Simply by sending McDowell's corps to block the Bull Run mountains he could have focused on Jackson's ~28,000 with ~64,000.

As for "broke", by the end of the Second Bull Run campaign the morale of the army was in tatters. A fairly sizable chunk of the combined force had been broken on the field; you had soldiers writing that they pray they have the courage to desert if it met another such reverse. The men would fight, but they'd fight expecting to lose, and to be driven from the field. A brigade commander remarked that there was a general feeling that the Confederacy would soon be recognized, and that they deserve recognition.


I'm sure there were constraints on Pope's command, but the outcome he produced from the situation was significantly worse than what could have been achieved.
 

rbasin

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Not disagreeing, but what would have been a victory for Pope? Pope fully expected to be superceded by Halleck in the field (not sure where he got that), while Halleck told Mac he would take command when the armies combined.

Did Lincoln expect Pope to replace Mac? This always seems to be another military blunder by Lincoln.
 

Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
Not disagreeing, but what would have been a victory for Pope? Pope fully expected to be superceded by Halleck in the field (not sure where he got that), while Halleck told Mac he would take command when the armies combined.

Did Lincoln expect Pope to replace Mac? This always seems to be another military blunder by Lincoln.



I can think of at least one way for Pope to have issued reasonable orders which would have actually resulted in a good chance of his catching Jackson, but aside from that the objective of the movement from the Peninsula to northern Virginia was to combine the armies.

As for what Halleck told McClellan, this was probably superseded by the end of August. There was a clarifying statement which said that McClellan commanded that portion of his command that had not been forwarded to Pope, and of course his whole command was going to be forwarded to Pope.

ATL_2BR.jpg
 

James N.

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That map (gameboard!) looks like "Pope's" expecting Jackson to sit still and be surrounded, not a very likely thing to happen in "real life!"
 

Saphroneth

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That map (gameboard!) looks like "Pope's" expecting Jackson to sit still and be surrounded, not a very likely thing to happen in "real life!"
It's actually a difference from what Pope originally planned, which was Pope expecting Jackson to sit there at Manassas and be attacked.


What I started with was this:


2BR.jpg


These are the actual positions on the night of the 27th. (Banks not shown.)


I've used the later number for 1st and 11th because otherwise it gets even more confusing.


I then decided to see how Pope could construct a manoeuvre scheme with a good chance of catching Jackson.

Proposed logic for Pope:

Jackson is at Manassas Junction and destroying the stores. It's too late to stop him.
I know however that there are Union forces meant to be arriving in Washington, who I want to join me ASAP.

Jackson is either moving northwest (towards Groveton), northeast (towards Washington), or north (to Centreville), or he's staying in position. If he's staying in position then I can hammer him, but I do not necessarily expect he will do this.

I want to block Manassas Gap and prevent the union of Jackson and Longstreet.

Consequently:
1st Corps is responsible for blocking the line of the Bull Run mountains - all three divisions. One of these divisions (Reynolds) is to go towards Aldie, one to block Manassas Gap itself (Ricketts), and one to reinforce wherever needed plus provide insurance against Jackson turning on 1st Corps (King).
11th Corps is to move in the early morning to Groveton, and then cover the line of the Warrenton Turnpike.
9th Corps is to follow 11th to Groveton.
Hooker is to march on Manassas Junction, and then move to Centreville.
Kearny is to march on Manassas Junction, and then move to Centreville.
5th Corps is to move to Manassas Junction.
I will send my disposable cavalry forwards to Manassas Junction, and then in all three directions that Jackson could have gone:
- One third is to head towards Groveton. If Jackson or most of Jackson is heading in that direction then he will be bringing on an engagement with 9th and 11th Corps, and I will have Kearny redirect accordingly to instead hit Jackson from the southeast. Porter will also be redirected in a similar way; Hooker will move to Centreville before being redirected.
- One third is to head towards Centreville. If Jackson or most of Jackson is heading in that direction then I will have 9th and 11th Corps move towards the Stone Bridge and Sudley Springs, ready to follow up if Jackson is planning on moving northwest from there.
- One third is to head towards Washington. If Jackson or most of Jackson is heading in that direction then I will have 9th and 11th Corps move towards the Stone Bridge and Sudley Springs, and turn Kearny/Hooker east from Centreville. In addition however if Jackson is not heading towards Washington then this brigade is to guide in all available Union troops in Washington. They are to march towards Chantilly.


This manoeuvre structure:
- blocks off Longstreet from uniting with Jackson.
- allows for the possibility of Jackson moving north/northeast (to Centreville), northwest (to Groveton) or east (to Washington), in addition to staying still.


Now, what Jackson actually did on the 28th was to move towards Groveton. Given that, I felt that since 11th Corps was at Gainesville (and thus closer to Groveton than Jackson) they would likely reach Groveton at some point while Jackson was partly or wholly still south of the Warrenton turnpike. This would bring on a general engagement between Jackson and the Union 9th and 11th Corps, with Kearny and Porter coming up from the south and Hooker moving to Centreville before being redirected.

Thus, this diagram:


ATL_2BR.jpg



What holds Jackson in place for Hooker/Porter/Kearny to come in around him in this case is the ongoing engagement between Jackson and 9th/11th Corps. I expect this to be about 24,000 effectives (Jackson) vs. 19,000* (Sigel and Reno) and thus to be able to hold Jackson in place; he certainly can't ignore it, especially since he has to fight his way past Sigel to get out to the north.

* the Kanawha detachments are 2900 extra effectives on top of that

Now, what this may result in is that Jackson does get away, marching through Sudley Springs and north to Aldie before the Union can catch him. But that is the worst case for this setup, and what it results in is that the Union 2nd and 6th Corps can unite with the rest of Pope's army.
 
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Florida Rebel

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No doubt about it, anyone (soldiers, coaches, politicians and other leaders )who think they're the absolute best, will rarely, if ever, agree to being a #2 or #3 somewhere else. George McClellan, of course, would be no different.

What about George Meade? Knowing how badly he and all AoP soldiers were treated by Grant, what made him stay and work under Grant?
 

Saphroneth

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No doubt about it, anyone (soldiers, coaches, politicians and other leaders )who think they're the absolute best, will rarely, if ever, agree to being a #2 or #3 somewhere else. George McClellan, of course, would be no different.
Well, McClellan ranks just about everyone except Grant. I've wondered whether it'd have made sense for him to be put in command of the Dept. of Virginia and NC, though - he was definitely able to run a siege.


What about George Meade? Knowing how badly he and all AoP soldiers were treated by Grant, what made him stay and work under Grant?
To resign is a pretty big deal. Meade's diary and letters seems to suggest that he was personally treated fairly well by Grant, or he shows no particular bitterness at least except the extent to which the newspapers ascribe things he knew he had done to Grant (or vice versa if they're mistakes).
 

Zack

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No doubt about it, anyone (soldiers, coaches, politicians and other leaders )who think they're the absolute best, will rarely, if ever, agree to being a #2 or #3 somewhere else. George McClellan, of course, would be no different.

What about George Meade? Knowing how badly he and all AoP soldiers were treated by Grant, what made him stay and work under Grant?

At least at the outset of the campaign, Meade actually did offer to resign.

Excerpted from Grant's Memoirs (emphasis mine):
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4367/4367-h/4367-h.htm

"On the 10th I visited the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac at Brandy Station; then returned to Washington, and pushed west at once to make my arrangements for turning over the commands there and giving general directions for the preparations to be made for the spring campaign.

It had been my intention before this to remain in the West, even if I was made lieutenant-general; but when I got to Washington and saw the situation it was plain that here was the point for the commanding general to be. No one else could, probably, resist the pressure that would be brought to bear upon him to desist from his own plans and pursue others. I determined, therefore, before I started back to have Sherman advanced to my late position, McPherson to Sherman's in command of the department, and Logan to the command of McPherson's corps. These changes were all made on my recommendation and without hesitation. My commission as lieutenant-general was given to me on the 9th of March, 1864. On the following day, as already stated, I visited General Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac, at his headquarters at Brandy Station, north of the Rapidan. I had known General Meade slightly in the Mexican war, but had not met him since until this visit. I was a stranger to most of the Army of the Potomac, I might say to all except the officers of the regular army who had served in the Mexican war. There had been some changes ordered in the organization of that army before my promotion. One was the consolidation of five corps into three, thus throwing some officers of rank out of important commands. Meade evidently thought that I might want to make still one more change not yet ordered. He said to me that I might want an officer who had served with me in the West, mentioning Sherman specially, to take his place. If so, he begged me not to hesitate about making the change. He urged that the work before us was of such vast importance to the whole nation that the feeling or wishes of no one person should stand in the way of selecting the right men for all positions. For himself, he would serve to the best of his ability wherever placed. I assured him that I had no thought of substituting any one for him. As to Sherman, he could not be spared from the West.

This incident gave me even a more favorable opinion of Meade than did his great victory at Gettysburg the July before. It is men who wait to be selected, and not those who seek, from whom we may always expect the most efficient service.


Meade's position afterwards proved embarrassing to me if not to him. He was commanding an army and, for nearly a year previous to my taking command of all the armies, was in supreme command of the Army of the Potomac—except from the authorities at Washington. All other general officers occupying similar positions were independent in their commands so far as any one present with them was concerned. I tried to make General Meade's position as nearly as possible what it would have been if I had been in Washington or any other place away from his command. I therefore gave all orders for the movements of the Army of the Potomac to Meade to have them executed. To avoid the necessity of having to give orders direct, I established my headquarters near his, unless there were reasons for locating them elsewhere. This sometimes happened, and I had on occasions to give orders direct to the troops affected. On the 11th I returned to Washington and, on the day after, orders were published by the War Department placing me in command of all the armies. I had left Washington the night before to return to my old command in the West and to meet Sherman whom I had telegraphed to join me in Nashville."

As for Meade, he wrote the following in a series of letters to his wife:
https://books.google.com/books?id=j...&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=snippet&q=march 14&f=false

March 8, 1864: "Grant is to be in Washington to-night, and as he is to be commander in chief and responsible for the doings of the Army of the Potomac, he may desire to have his own man in command, particularly as I understand he is indoctrinated with the notion of the superiority of Western armies, and that the failure of the Army of the Potomac to accomplish anything is due to their commanders."

March 10, 1864: "To-day Lieutenant General Grant arrived here. He has been very civil, and said nothing about superseding me."

March 14, 1864: "I think I told you I was very much pleased with General Grant. In the views he expressed to me he showed much more capacity and character than I had expected. I spoke to him very plainly about my position, offered to vacate the command of the Army of the Potomac, in case he had a preference for any other. This he declined in a complimentary speech, but indicated to me his intention, when in this part of the country, of being with my army. So that you may look now for the Army of the Potomac putting laurels on the brows of another rather than your husband."

March 16, 1864: "As I told you, I was much pleased with Grant, and most agreeably disappointed in his evidence of mind and character. You may rest assured he is not an ordinary man."

It took me a few reads of this March 16 letter to realize Meade meant he was expecting Grant to be less able than he proved to be, and was thus his belief was disappointed. IE he's using it to mean, "fail to fulfill the expectations of someone." His expectations were low, and were disappointed by Grant's competence.

In these letters, Meade's primary concern is efforts to discredit him for his role at the Battle of Gettysburg (emphasis his in both):

March 18, 1864: "You need not think I apprehend any trouble about my being relieved. I don't think I have at any time been in any danger. It would be almost a farce to relieve the man who fought the battle of Gettysburg, nine months after the battle, not for retreating, not for ordering a retreat, but for preparing an order, which was never issued; for such is hte last and most serious charge against me."

March 22, 1864: "Grant is emphatically an executive man, whose only place is in the field. One object in coming here is to avoid Washington and its entourage. I intend to give him heartiest co-operation, and so far as I am able do just the same when he is present that I would do were he absent."

March 24, 1864: "Grant arrived to-day. I met him at the depot near my headquarters and accompanied him to Culpeper, where I spent several hours and returned. He was as affable as ever, and seems not at all disposed to interfere with my army in any details."

March 26, 1864: "The weather has been so unpropitious that no inspection has been practicable by General Grant. I spent several hours with him yesterday. He appears very friendly, and at once adopts all my suggestions. I believe Grant is honest and fair, and I have no doubt he will give me full credit for anything I may do, and if I don't deserve any, I don't desire it."

March 27, 1864: "You do not do Grant justice, and I am sorry to see it. You do not make a distinction between his own acts and those forced on him by the Government, Congress and public opinion. If left to himself, I have no doubt Grant would have let me alone; but placed in the position he holds, and with the expectations formed of him, if operations on a great scale are to be carried on here, he could not well have kept aloof. As yet he has indicated no purpose to interfere with me; on the contrary, acts promptly on all my suggestions, and seems desirous of making his stay here only the means of strengthening and increasing my forces. God knows I shall hail his advent with delight if it results in carrying on operations in the manner I have always desired they should be carried on. Cheerfully will I give him all credit if he can bring the war to a close."
 

Zack

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And skipping ahead a little -

A letter from Grant to Stanton
May 13, 1864 - "General Meade has more than met my most sanguine expectations. He and Sherman are the fittest officers for large commands I have come in contact with. If their services can be rewarded by promotion to the ranks of major-generals in the regular army the honor would be worthily bestowed, and I would feel personally gratified. I would not like to see one of these promotions at this time without seeing both."

Meade to wife:
May 15, 1864 - "General Grant showed me a despatch he had written to the War Department, speaking in complimentary terms of my services, and asking I be made a major general in the regular army. I told him I was obliged to him for his good opinion, but that I asked and expected nothing from the Government, and that I did not myself attach any importance to being in the regular army, so long as I held an equal rank in the volunteer service."

June 1, 1864 - "The papers are giving Grant all the credit of what they call successes; I hope they remember this if anything goes wrong."

June 5, 1864 - "I think Grant has had his eyes opened, and is willing to admit now that Virginia and Lee's army is not Tennessee and Bragg's army. Whether the people will ever realize this fact remains to be seen."

August 24, 1864 - "I see you have heard of the promotion of Sherman, Hancock, and Sheridan, and noted the absence of my name. I cannot tell you how i felt when I first heard this, but I determined to keep quiet till I could obtain some explanation from General Grant. To-day was the first time I have seen him since I learned the intelligence. On my asking him the reason of my name being omitted when those recommended at the same time had been appointed, he answered it was his act; that he had asked for the immediate appointment of the others, but had not asked for mine; and the reason he had not asked for mine was, that if Sherman and myself had been appointed on the same day, I would rank him, and he wished Sherman to rank me. That neither his opinion nor that of the President and Secretary had changed with regard to me; that it was still a settled thing that I was to have the vacancy; and that he proposed to have me appointed, when I should be assigned to the command of the Middle Division, which he said he would have done before now, but for the peculiar position Sheridan was placed in, having to fall back, and if superseded now, it would be construed into a disapproval of his course, which was not the case. Of course to all this I had nothing to say. My object was to ascertain whether any fault was found with me, or whether any change of opinion had taken place since the last time he had assured me I was to be appointed when the others were. As he had disclaimed any such reasons, I did not care to know why I had been left out. I never expected, nor did I much care about, the appointment except to prove to the ignorant public that they had been imposed upon by a lying press. Nothing more was said upon the subject. The whole substance of the explanation was that he desired to advance his favorites, Sherman and Sheridan. I was left out because it would interfere with Sherman's rank to have me in, and Hancock was brought in because he could not appoint Sheridan before Hancock, not having recommended him when he did Hancock. Of course I could say nothing to this explanation. It would not do for me to claim promotion or express dissatisfaction at not receiving it. I had the right to ask why, after telling me I had been recommended, and would be appointed, I found I was not, but when the above explanation was made, however unjust I may have deemed such reasoning to be, I could take no notice of it, and could not with propriety complain. It is the same old story, an inability to appreciate the sensitiveness of a man of character and honor. Grant really thinks he is one of my best friends, and can't conceive why I should complain of a little delay in giving me what he tells me I am certainly to have. It is rather hard to have denied me the vindication which the Government might give to my course, by conferring a promotion that I have the positive evidence it, the Government, has acknowledged I merited and should have. However, I suppose this, like all else, must be borne with patience."

October 19, 1864 - "I saw General Grant to-day, and we had a laugh over the ridiculous cannard of my being relieved. He then told me he was asked in Washington if it was true, it being reported at the same time that he had resigned. These foolish reports were doubtless gotten up for political purposes and to affect the elections."

October 23, 1864 - "The idea that I hang on Grant, like the Old Man of the Sea, and am retained in command in spite of that officer's desire to be rid of me solely on the ground of 'fancied political necessity,' is most amusing. I had not seen the article when I was with Grant, or I should have called his attention to it. After all, it is probably not worth while to notice it."

Grant and Meade exchanged messages during this time in which Grant expressed his sorrow for the baseless attacks against Meade mentioned above.

October 31, 1864 - "I have reason to believe you are in error in imputing any sympathy on the part of Grant with my detractors. It is true he has not exerted himself to silence or contradict them, but this arises from a very different cause. Grant is very phlegmatic, and holds in great contempt newspaper criticism, and thinks, as long as a man is sustained by his own conscience, his superiors, and the Government, that it is not worth his while to trouble himself about the newspapers. At the same time, he has always expressed himself in the manner in which he did in the telegram I sent you. Differently constituted, with more sensitiveness in his nature, I don't doubt that he would before now have taken some action, either in his official dispatches, or in some other way given publicity to such opinions of my service as would set at rest these idle stories."

November 17, 1864 - "Grant is not a mighty genius, but he is a good soldier, of great force of character, honest and upright, of pure purposes, I think, without political aspirations, certainly not influenced by them. His prominent quality is unflinching tenacity of purpose, which blinds him to opposition and obstacles—certainly a great quality in a commander, when controlled by judgment, but a dangerous one otherwise. Grant is not without his faults and weaknesses. Among these is a want of sensibility, an almost too confident and sanguine disposition, and particularly a simple and guileless disposition, which is apt to put him, unknown to himself, under the influence of those who should not influence him, and desire to do so only for their own purposes. Take him all in all, he is, in my judgment, the best man the war has yet produced. When I say this, I refer more particularly to those I have come in contact with, and do not include Sherman, about whom I know nothing but what I see in the papers. I like Grant, and our relations have been very friendly. He has always in words expressed himself most kindly towards me, and I believe does feel so; but his acts, from causes alluded to above, have not been so; but I acquit him of any actual intention of injustice. His coming here has resulted virtually in setting me aside, almost as effectually as if I had been relieved. To be sure, I saw this plainly before he came. He did not see it then, and he don't see it now; there is the difference between us. I over-sensitive, and he deficient in sensibility. There are many things in Grant that call for my warmest admiration, and but few that I feel called on to condemn. He has been greatly over-rated; but I should be really sorry to see him, through a reaction, under-estimated. Let all this be confidential between us. Grant will make use of me or any one else to carry out his views, but he will always do justice to others, though he may often be slow in doing so, and let slip opportunities presenting themselves, because he does not see they are opportunities. Early in the campaign he recommended me strongly for appointment as major general in the regular army, recommending Sherman at the same time. Yet he has not only had Sherman made, but has now permitted them to make Sheridan, who was not dreamed of at the time I was recommended. Still he did not appreciate that this was injustice to me; but when I called his attention to it, and explained how I thought it was unjust, he readily and frankly acknowledged I was right."
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
President Lincoln could not run the war department without Edwin Stanton. If Stanton tired of McClellan, then George McClellan had to go. But Lincoln was even more dependent on William Seward, because Seward knew the government the Republican party and New York. If Seward did not trust McClellan and thought there was no reason to help McClellan become an even more formidable opponent, McClellan had to remain on the sidelines.
That contrasts with Grant. By early 1864, Stanton and Seward probably were comfortable with an alternative Lincoln emerging in Grant. There were political and physical contingencies that could impair Lincoln's ability to win again, and having an alternative was prudent.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
First of all when McClelland began the Peninsular Campaign the defenses facing him were so miniscule that he could have ordered his army to abandon all their rifles and attack with tree limbs and overwhelmed the miniscule defenses in front of him and easily strolled into Richmond.
So I thought I'd look into the specifics of this and how we know this is false. I'm going to assume the 5th April, which is the day McClellan made contact at Yorktown.


The first building block is a late April/early May report which lists the strengths by regiment of just about every single unit in the entire Confederate army. The category of this report is not clear, and it is an end-of-the-siege report (and we do know there was sickness in the trenches so this would diminish the numbers) but if we assume it is effectives (i.e. JE Johnston's usual category of strength) and ignore the sickness in the trenches we have a rough basis to work from.

The second thing to do is to track which units had arrived at Yorktown by the 5th April. By doing this by regiment and cross-referencing with the aforementioned report we can get a list.

For the 5th, that list is:

Regiment
TypeEffectives
5th LAInf
744​
10th LAInf
595​
15th VAInf
476​
Noland BattalionInf
162​
GarrettArt
50​
YoungArt
57​
16th GAInf
488​
24th GAInf
660​
2nd LAInf
782​
10th GAInf
582​
32nd VA (1 coy)Inf
29​
52nd Va MilInf
30​
68th Va MilInf
20​
115th Va MilInf
40​
Old Dom RiflesInf
60​
Allen's battalionArt
500​
Companies ArtArt
121​
3rd VAInf
550​
13th NCInf
575​
14th NCInf
625​
9th ALInf
550​
10th ALInf
550​
11th ALInf
656​
19th MSInf
800​
StanardArt
60​
8th ALInf
800​
14th ALInf
700​
14th LAInf
750​
MaconArt
60​
2nd FLInf
530​
2nd MS BattalionInf
360​
13th ALInf
474​
26th ALInf
283​
6th GAInf
703​
23rd GAInf
370​
19 batteries, YorktownArt
1151​
46th VAInf
356​
9th VA MillInf
29​
21st VA MillInf
39​
61st Va MillInf
201​
Det CavCav
18​
Det East ShoreInf
58​
Matthews Lt DrCav
40​
ArmisteadArt
46​
Heavy ArtArt
332​
PendletonArt
720​
Magruder's cavCav
990​
Wise and Hampton cavalryCav
700​


Or, in total:

Type total_effectives
Inf 14627
Art 3097
Cav 1748


Now, this totals to 17,700 infantry and artillery effectives, plus the cavalry. As against this, McClellan has five divisions (around 45,000-50,000 effectives as a rough figure); the defenders are in a heavily fortified position which is mostly covered in front by a river (which is too deep to wade except in a few specific places, and is poorly bridged), and the gap is largely occupied by a star fort (that's Yorktown) and a set of redoubts.

This is a challenge which is not entirely insurmountable, given foreknowledge of the structure of the defences to identify weak points. It is not, however, an easy target, and I'm at a loss to find an example of a similar defence being taken frontally in the war; it's certainly not miniscule.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Since it's a useful comparative, I thought I'd look at the strength at Vicksburg. In both cases the "clock" will start on the day when contact is made, which is the 5th of April at Yorktown and the 18th of May at Vicksburg.

First two days

On the first day, in both cases, the commanders made contact but no serious attack was made. McClellan did order an assault, but these orders were refused by his wing commanders.
On the second day, Grant launched a serious attack; McClellan did not. Grant's attack was beaten back with heavy casualties (over 900) and made no progress.

We can thus view the Vicksburg defences as being at least sufficient to fend off an assault.

Defenders

Counting troops who arrived at Yorktown on the 6th, the total number of men in the defences was
Type total_effectives
1: Inf 19427
2: Art 3257
3: Legion 594
4: Cav 1748

For 25,026 men all told, so 25,000 effectives. Note that this is indeed effectives.
It includes the men who were at Gloucester Point (who numbered about 1,000) and so the Warwick line proper was about 24,000 men as effectives.


The May 26 inspection report for Vicksburg includes a column for "number of guns" for each brigade, which is similar to the PFD total also given (and is thus effectives). This comes to 17,239, though it does not count the Mississippi State Troops (one regiment and one battalion present) and it does not count Higgins' Command (which was defending the river frontage, so can be discounted).
This is also after the assaults, which caused less than 1,000 casualties to the Confederates by most estimates. I thus estimate that no more than 19,000 men were actively defending Vicksburg's landward perimeter as effectives.


Density of the line

At Vicksburg, there was no convenient river and the whole of the landward perimeter was liable to assault; this landward perimeter was at least six and a half miles long by one count. This puts the defenders stretched at about 3,000 men per mile.

At Yorktown, the river canalized the possible locations of attack in many places. Ignoring this however the defences (from Yorktown to past the last viable crossing point at Lees Mill) were six to eight miles in length, leading to a density again of about 3,000 men per mile (up to 4,000 if the shorter figure is correct) and the canalization of possible attack points improves the density.

Thus the conclusion is that by the 6th of April the defences at Yorktown were already at least as dense as the ones at Vicksburg, even before considering the addition of a wide and largely unfordable river.



Subsequent attack timing.


The second attack at Vicksburg took place on the 22nd, i.e. day five. No such attack took place at Yorktown (it would have been April 10, though rain got in the way).
This second attack at Vicksburg was not successful either, despite engineering preparations.

The second prepared attack at Yorktown was April 16, and was a misfire (i.e. the conditions for the assault to be a success vanished before the assault proper was made owing to a preliminary attack, and so the assault was called off). After this McClellan focused on siege work and regular approaches, and forced the abandonment of Yorktown around day 30.

Grant did not launch a third assault once reinforced, though by the middle of June he had 77,000 men PDF by one count. This suggests that well established defences can fend off attacks by an enemy outnumbering the defenders roughly 4:1; Grant instead focused on siege work and regular approaches, and forced the surrender of Vicksburg around day 45.



I know of no instance in the whole war where a defended position similar to Yorktown is punched through frontally, though I would be grateful to hear of one!
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
So I thought I'd look into the specifics of this and how we know this is false. I'm going to assume the 5th April, which is the day McClellan made contact at Yorktown.


The first building block is a late April/early May report which lists the strengths by regiment of just about every single unit in the entire Confederate army. The category of this report is not clear, and it is an end-of-the-siege report (and we do know there was sickness in the trenches so this would diminish the numbers) but if we assume it is effectives (i.e. JE Johnston's usual category of strength) and ignore the sickness in the trenches we have a rough basis to work from.

The second thing to do is to track which units had arrived at Yorktown by the 5th April. By doing this by regiment and cross-referencing with the aforementioned report we can get a list.

For the 5th, that list is:

Regiment
TypeEffectives
5th LAInf
744​
10th LAInf
595​
15th VAInf
476​
Noland BattalionInf
162​
GarrettArt
50​
YoungArt
57​
16th GAInf
488​
24th GAInf
660​
2nd LAInf
782​
10th GAInf
582​
32nd VA (1 coy)Inf
29​
52nd Va MilInf
30​
68th Va MilInf
20​
115th Va MilInf
40​
Old Dom RiflesInf
60​
Allen's battalionArt
500​
Companies ArtArt
121​
3rd VAInf
550​
13th NCInf
575​
14th NCInf
625​
9th ALInf
550​
10th ALInf
550​
11th ALInf
656​
19th MSInf
800​
StanardArt
60​
8th ALInf
800​
14th ALInf
700​
14th LAInf
750​
MaconArt
60​
2nd FLInf
530​
2nd MS BattalionInf
360​
13th ALInf
474​
26th ALInf
283​
6th GAInf
703​
23rd GAInf
370​
19 batteries, YorktownArt
1151​
46th VAInf
356​
9th VA MillInf
29​
21st VA MillInf
39​
61st Va MillInf
201​
Det CavCav
18​
Det East ShoreInf
58​
Matthews Lt DrCav
40​
ArmisteadArt
46​
Heavy ArtArt
332​
PendletonArt
720​
Magruder's cavCav
990​
Wise and Hampton cavalryCav
700​


Or, in total:

Type total_effectives
Inf 14627
Art 3097
Cav 1748


Now, this totals to 17,700 infantry and artillery effectives, plus the cavalry. As against this, McClellan has five divisions (around 45,000-50,000 effectives as a rough figure); the defenders are in a heavily fortified position which is mostly covered in front by a river (which is too deep to wade except in a few specific places, and is poorly bridged), and the gap is largely occupied by a star fort (that's Yorktown) and a set of redoubts.

This is a challenge which is not entirely insurmountable, given foreknowledge of the structure of the defences to identify weak points. It is not, however, an easy target, and I'm at a loss to find an example of a similar defence being taken frontally in the war; it's certainly not miniscule.
Basically the Confed had a defensive line with essentially no artillery. They actually put tree trunks in place to look like artillery. Had McC done any real reconnaisance he would have known that and realized that the defenses were essentially useless against any attack, especially as he had an abundance of the same.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Basically the Confed had a defensive line with essentially no artillery. They actually put tree trunks in place to look like artillery. Had McC done any real reconnaisance he would have known that and realized that the defenses were essentially useless against any attack, especially as he had an abundance of the same.
There's three points to address here.


Logs
Firstly, the "Quaker guns" thing isn't at Yorktown. That happened back around Washington in 1861 at Munson's Hill and in early 1862 at Centreville, and when it happened then McClellan's intelligence organization actually did detect it.

At Yorktown my understanding is that there was plenty of artillery, indeed that Yorktown itself (for example) had dozens of guns. Do you have a citation to the contrary?

The chief of artillery's report (Cabell's) says that when contact was made:


"Heavy Guns" mounted at Gloucester Point, Yorktown, Redoubt 4 (near Yorktown) and at Mulberry Island.

Battery at the rightmost side of the line (Minor's Farm) - supported by gunboat Teazer
Young's battery and "a portion" of Roemer's Battery

Lees Mill:
a 12 lber and a Parrott at the right redoubt
Batteries under Sands, Garrett and Read (3 guns each) in the remaining positions. Total 11 guns.

Dam number one: one gun battery (Lt Nelson)

Wynns Mill: Macon's, Maurin's, Hudnall's and "a portion" of Southall's. Total 15 guns plus the portion of Southall's.

1 gun from Hudnall's and one from Southall's at the "upper" dam
Batteries of Smith, Armistead, Richard, Page, plus the "remainder" of Nelson's and Southall's at redoubts 4 and 5.

No mention is made of where the rest of Roemer's battery was, I should point out, and I haven't gone through to check if he missed any batteries. But it is clear from this that there were plentiful guns at all the possibly vulnerable points, except perhaps for Dam Number One/Garrow Ridge - but that wasn't even found for several days, because it is not somewhere where there is a main road leading there. It was not a pre-war crossing point, unlike Lees Mill and Wynns Mill.


Also worth pointing out there were 3,100 gunners in the line on the 5th. At a normal slate of 20 effectives per gun that would be 155 guns.




Real reconnaisance
Secondly, McClellan did do "real" reconnaisance. The details of this are:

- On the 5th of April when he first reached the line, he ordered both his columns (Keyes leading the left and Porter leading the right) to attack at full strength (indeed, he told one column to go in with the bayonet if need be). However, when they approached these commanders found that there was plentiful artillery which bombarded them as they approached and prevented them from getting closer.
Obviously real artillery barrages can't be produced by fake cannon!
- On the evening of the 5th April, three recces in force were ordered out.
- These patrols got moving on the 6th.
One from Hancock's brigade accompanied by Lt Merrill of the engineers was ordered to march across the Warwick line "left to right" and provoke responses. Another from Burns' brigade accompanied by Lt Comstock went right to left. These two patrols actually crossed each other in from of Wynn's Mill and kept going. The third patrol was Barnard and Lt McAlester who went forward under cover to recce the ravines in front of Yorktown proper.
These patrols were often shelled. Here's from a recce by the 22nd MA of Wynns Mill (one of the other "possible" crossing points of the Warwick).
As soon as we came in sight, they opened a most terrific fire of shot and shell, having the range completely. By careful observations we were enabled to avoid a great deal, by ordering the men to lie down just before their shells exploded and then rise up and move rapidly forward. But for such precautions our casualties would have been much greater.
- Comstock was sent on another set of recces starting on the 8th (and taking until the 11th) to determine if there is a viable attack point. This process resulted in a report sent to McClellan on the 14th identifying the one weak point on the line, Garrow Ridge, and McClellan planned to cross there on the 16th with a full assault but a screw-up meant that the enemy was alerted.


An attack supported by artillery
The third issue is that to support an attack with artillery it's not enough to push batteries up close, especially not when the enemy has works.
When Smith reaches Lee's Mill on the 5th he sees the Confederate fortifications and puts Wheeler's battery into position to duel with them. It is many rebel guns against 6 Federal ones, and the rebel ones are entrenched (less vulnerable) and have the advantage of being ranged (so they don't need to find the range to target). The Federal guns have to deploy in the open, whilst under fire. It is of no surprise that the Federal guns are rapidly knocked out and Smith has to withdraw them.

To defeat entrenched positions with artillery what you need to do is to dig in heavy siege batteries which can bombard the enemy from outside their own range. This is something McClellan initially wanted to avoid because it would take weeks, but because he is a capable commander he made sure that he retained the option to do so.
After the screw up on the 16th he ordered the siege artillery landed, and digging them in took about two weeks.
 
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