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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Look into the mind of "Little Mac", not always a pretty picture, but interesting as heck!!, April 17, 2007
This review is from: The Civil War Papers Of George B. Mcclellan: Selected Correspondence, 1860-1865 (Quality Paperbacks Series) (Paperback)
Stephen W. Sears has edited and annotated this remarkable selection of the wartime papers of Major General George W. McClellan.

As the caption says, this book offers a look into McClellan's mind and the picture that emerges is myriad.
On the one hand this was a man who possessed great charm and charisma and enormous ability as a professional soldier. But his soldierly qualities were those of the desk general, the organizer. He was the perfect man to build an army and to make it ready to fight. He created the Army of the Pototmac, and did so superbly. He should get the credit for that, more than he usually does, for it was an impressive achiement.
On the other hand, McClellan was definitely not the right man to lead the army he made into battle. His record as a general in the field is abysmally bad.

McClellan had it all when he came to washington in september 1861. He was eagerly awaited as the man who would save the Union and lead its armies to triumph over the rebel forces. He had the confidence, the friendship, the trust and goodwill of the Lincoln administration, of Congress, of the army and of the people and he lost it all.

He lost it because of his arrogance and boastfulness, his meanness and vindictiveness, his manias of persecution and paranoia, his fear of failure, his constant and overestimating of his adversary's strength, his overblown self-importance, his penchant for naming generals who were as slow and cautious as himself (Sumner, Heintzelmann, Fitz-John Porter, William Franklin).... It is all there in his own words.
His failure, as this book shows, stems from a lack of moral courage, wariness of his reputation, a paralyzing sense of responsability and a genuine reluctance of exposing his men to the possibility of death and wounds. Again: it is all there in his own words.

He could have ended the war on at least two occasions: he could have hurled his army at Richmond in june 1862, by smashing his mighty army through Johnston's defenses and he could have ended the rebellion by destroying Lee's army at Antietam, if he had used his entire army against the Confederates instead of hesitatingly feeding is piece-meal into the fight, and leaving half of them in reserve.

McClellan came out of the war as he came in to it: with a great reputation, admired and revered by many Americans. His ultimate failure as a general, nor his unsuccessful bid for the Presidency in 1864, did much to change that. He went on to become Governor of New Jersey and in the year of his death, 1885, he was the guest of honour and the main speaker at the anniversary reunion on the battlefield of Antietam.
The old soldiers gathered there, both from the North and from the South, saluted and cheered him. I find this hard to understand. They should have hanged him on the spot. Had I been there, I would have cursed him and pelted him with rotten fruit, at the very least. The former Union soldiers had reason enough to hang him because of his shockingly bad generalship, which resulted in prolonging the war and getting so many of their comrades maimed or killed. McClellan's cautiousness cost the South daerly too: his timid and slow campaigns ruined any chance of ending the rebellion soon, which resulted in the war going on till the South was ruined, gutted and utterly defeated. McClellan's way of war, in the end, necessitated Sherman's way of war.

"McClellan is to of the greates mysteries of the war", U. S. Grant noted in his Personal Memoirs. Grant's remark has become one of the most famous quotes on Major General George Brinton McClellan. On I once came across another perfect phrase about McClellan. A fellow reviewer called him "an egotistical crank who would unfailingly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory". These two remarks sum up McClellan's poor reputation. The mystery endures: how could a man of such ability prove such a failure? Read it for yourself. It is all there, in his own words.
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