General George McClellan’s Leadership Essay

General George McClellan was the Union Army’s foremost commanding officer in the early portion of the American Civil War. Because of how the Union ground forces was doing under his leading. McClellan was regarded as an uneffective general. if non a failure. As a consequence of how he commanded the Union ground forces and prosecuted the war. he was replaced by President Abraham Lincoln until he found a much more abler leader in General Ulysses S. Grant who carried the Union to number triumph which led to the eventual resignation of the Confederacy and the terminal of the civil war in 1865.

This survey intends to look if General McClellan has been reasonably “judged” by historiographers and if his incompetency was valid. In his book. George B. McClellan and Civil War History. Thomas Rowland efforts to give an impartial position of McClellan. Based on other histories he has read from other historiographers who discussed McClellan. history has non been so sort to the hapless general.

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McClellan had served as one of the benchmarks on how contemporary American generals would take action such as the instance of General Norman Schwarzkopf during Operation Desert Shield/Storm and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell in response to the problems in the former Yugoslavia. The ground why McClellan was brought up in comparing him with these two modern-day opposite numbers was both about made the same errors he did in being indecisive or hovering in taking the proper class of action when they were confronting a similar state of affairs as he did ( Rowland. 1998. p. 10 ) .

McClellan had a superior ground forces at his disposal compared to the rabble forces of the Confederacy. yet his issues led them to be mismanaged and what could hold been triumphs for the Union in the early conflicts ended up in licking. Another illation Rowland made was that one of the grounds why McClellan was likely non effectual was he had psychological jobs that would explicate why he was non an effectual commanding officer and it was instead unfortunate for him since his opposite number on the opposing side was General Robert E. Lee who was doubtless one of the best generals the Confederacy had among its ranks.

One historiographer pointed out that McClellan: “Alternating between tantrums of ‘arrogant assurance and wretched penance. ’ the grownup McClellan revealed an indulgent crust displayed by those who are ‘congenially incapable’ of admiting authorization because it would “make them experience inferior ( cited in Rowland. 1998 ) . ‘” If one were to establish McClellan’s leading on this instance. it would look that McClellan’s psychological issues was the root cause for his incomptence. Rowland would travel on and recite other defects McClellan had as told by other historiographers.

McClellan had inclinations of being vain. unstable. undisciplined. dishonest and had a messianic composite. Besides being incompetent. he was even said to hold jobs with authorization. peculiarly with President Lincoln who was his commander-in-chief. Some even went to the extent of comparing McClellan to Napoleon non in footings of glare but in footings of amour propre and self-importance. a trait both commanding officers appear to possess and this dated manner back in his childhood and someway carried over throught his life from his plebe yearss at West Point to his assorted military posters as he rose through the ranks ( 17-18 ) .

Besides these issues. he besides exhibited a inclination to be cautious in footings of the tactics and schemes he employed which proved to be uneffective when faced with a extremely competent enemy commanding officer in Lee who had a really distinguished military calling every bit good as holding combat experience from the Mexican War that made him an even more capable commanding officer besides other low-level generals such as Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. J. E. B. Stuart and James Longstreet. to call a few.

Because of his evident incompetency and despite holding a apparently superior ground forces at his disposal. he squandered the opportunity to give the Union an early triumph and made it easy for the Confederates to win. therefore protracting the war to four old ages. In one book. Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. written by James McPherson. McClellan is depicted more kindly. Where other historiographers depicted McClellan as holding issues with authorization since his plebe yearss at West Point. McPherson saw him otherwise.

McClellan graduated 2nd in his category at the academy in 1846 and served with differentiation in the Mexican War and was one of the few foreign military officers who were perceivers in the Crimean War. During his suspension in civilian life. he was a director in a railway company where he was considered an exceeding director ( 12-13 ) . Clearly. one can see at that place appears to be some kind of disagreement in the manner McPherson depicts McClellan compared to Rowland and others. Contrary to picturing McClellan as a debatable commanding officer counterpart his subsidiaries. McPherson depicted him as person who was magnetic and a capable incentive of his military personnels.

In a missive to his married woman. McClellan said that “I ne’er heard such yelling… I can see every oculus glitter. ” ( cited in McPherson. 2002 ) It can be inferred here that McClellan was barely the adult male who had a psychological job. the kind that would non let him to presume bid of the Army of the Potomac when the Civil War broke out. But subsequently. McPherson would take a different bend when McClellan assumed bid and this was following the licking of the Union ground forces in the Battle of Bull Run.

Whereas authors like Rowland found McClellan to hold psychological issues. McPherson depicted McClellan as a superb officer confronting what was likely the most ambitious commnand of his life and it was the sort of challenge that he could non run into and this finally resulted in his eventual alleviation as the war went on. McClellan. as McPherson saw it. was a perfectionist about to the point though it may non be in the same line of thought as Rowland and others that he had a instance of obsessional compulsive behaviour. “He was a perfectionist in a profession where nil could of all time be perfect.

His ground forces was perpetually about ready to travel. but could non make so until the last Equus caballus was shoed and the last soldier to the full equipped. ” ( cited in McPherson 2002 ) Despite his different attack with other historiographers. there are some facets where McPherson agrees with them – that McClellan was excessively cautious and tended to be on the defensive most of the clip. This was manifested partially by his obsessive-compulsive behaviour and his inclination to overrate the strength and capablenesss of the Confederate forces on the history they were led by more capable commanding officers such as Lee. Jackson. Longstreet. etc.

This led him to hold dissensions with hiws low-level commanding officers. taking to their lickings. Because of his attitude. some speculated that McClellan might hold understandings towards the Confederacy owing to his ties with Democrats ( 13-15 ) . But in equity to McClellan. he was non ever a also-ran. He did so hit a triumph for the Union and that was at Antietam in 1862. Despite this triumph. it was a really dearly-won one as the Union ground forces suffered heavy casualties in this conflict. Beyond that. McClellan’s bid of the Union ground forces was blue and he was finally relieved and replaced by a more capable commanding officer in Grant.

What made Grant different from McClellan. and this is what all civil war historiographers agree upon. particularly Rowland and McPherson. was that Grant was the antonym of McClellan in the sense that Grant was a risk-taker like his Confederate opposite number Lee. What made Grant willing to take hazards was that he was non afraid to neglect. Because it was portion of acquisition and his initial lickings made him wiser in subsequent conflicts and this was proved clip and once more. Allow did endure some lickings when he took bid but despite these reverses. he was non relieved.

He learned from his errors and redeemed himself in other brushs and this mattered the most and he finally led the Union to triumph and presided over Lee’s resignation at Appomatox Courthouse in 1865. In decision. history has non been so sort to George McClellan. Had he been decisive and willing to take hazards. the war could hold been over the minute it started and history could hold judged him otherwise. But it turned out that his personality was his undoing and this cost him non merely his calling but the behavior of the war which had to run for four old ages.

If it is any confort for McClellan. his evident incompetency ( for deficiency of a better term ) proved to be a approval in camouflage for future American military leaders. He would frequently be referred to or invoked whenever his contemporary opposite numbers were about to do the same errors he did and whenever they would believe about him. they would wholly make a complete bend about and rectify it. thereby winning their wars and avoid being placed in the same topographic point as McClellan on being one of the ( unluckily ) worst American military leaders in history.

In a instead rough sense of sarcasm. McClellan’s errors provided lessons for his hereafter opposite numbers to larn and better on and it was instead fortunate for McClellan that he have lost conflicts but his replacings did win the war but unluckily for him. he could non partake of that triumph because he was non involved in it. References Rowland. T. ( 1998 ) . George B. McClellan and Civil War History. Kent. Ohio: Kent State University Press. McPherson. J. ( 2002 ) . Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. New York: Oxford University Press.


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