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The Art of Leadership and Command: A Study of McClellan and Lee and Their Contemporaries (1861-1865)

The Art of Leadership and Command: A Study of McClellan and Lee and Their Contemporaries (1861-1865)

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The Art of Leadership and Command: A Study of McClellan and Lee and Their Contemporaries (1861-1865)

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Oct 8, 2018


They say he was slow-yet McClellan assumed command and in two weeks combined two different forces into one, marched on Lee, and defeated him at Antietam. They say he was not a fighter. Antietam is the bloodiest day in American History. History has not treated General George McClellan kindly, but there is another side to the story-the soldiers' side. No US general of the Civil War was adored more by his troops than McClellan, and with good reason. He gave them confidence and success. He was more respected by his celebrated opponent Robert E. Lee than any other Union general. Rarely do we hear the soldiers' view of the McClellan story because he was such a politically polarizing figure even before he was relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac in 1862. McClellan's difficult personality and his political disagreements with the Union's power structure have dimmed the military reputation he deserves. Mr. Gibson's book examines how McClellan stacks up militarily; as he fought one of the great captains of warfare, Robert E. Lee, in one of the most important battles in American history, Antietam, the true birth of American freedom!

Oct 8, 2018

Sobre el autor

John Gibson is a bestselling conservative author who appears frequently on Fox News Channel and has his own national radio program, reaching about two million listeners on ninety stations each week. He lives in New York City.

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The Art of Leadership and Command - John Gibson

The Art of Leadership and Command

A Study of McClellan and Lee and Their Contemporaries (1861-1865)

John Gibson

Copyright © 2018 John Gibson

All rights reserved

First Edition

Page Publishing, Inc

New York, NY

First originally published by Page Publishing, Inc 2018

ISBN 978-1-64298-643-3 (Paperback)

ISBN 978-1-64350-458-2 (Hardcover)

ISBN 978-1-64298-645-7 (Digital)

Printed in the United States of America

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10




To my children, Shenandoah and Jonathan, who enjoy the freedom this country offers because of the sacrifice and dedication of those who gave their last full measure of devotion to provide a future where we all can share equally in the benefits bestowed upon us by our forefathers. I wish to thank my friend and editor Joseph Brophy, without whose guidance and support this book would never have reached fruition. Also, deepest thanks to Bonnie Hubbard for proofreading, editing, and inspiring. Finally, to my respected friend Gary Gallagher, my most profound appreciation and gratitude for encouragement.



Ulysses S. Grant made the famous remark, McClellan, to me, is one of the mysteries of the war. In his characteristic manner, this blunt and straightforward soldier came directly to the core of the truth of George Brinton McClellan. There is some great mystery shrouding the story of a brilliant soldier whose great potential came to so little result. It is the purpose of this book to lay bare the threads of history and uncover the mystery of George McClellan, who raised one of the greatest armies this nation has ever seen and trained raw recruits into battle-hardened veterans, whose morale and discipline has never been equaled in this nation’s history. No American army has ever had higher morale than the Army of the Potomac under the leadership of George McClellan. The equipment and organization of McClellan’s army was unparalleled in history, with lethal firepower that, from prepared positions, could destroy any approaching enemy. McClellan realized from the beginning of the war the destructive effects of modern weapons from entrenched positions, lessons other generals still had not learned until Kennesaw Mountain or Cold Harbor—late in the war.

This book is written with unabashed compassion for the viewpoint of the common foot soldier. The opinions of politicians and people of power and influence are viewed with great skepticism and are examined in that light. The feelings and thoughts of the common foot soldier who served in combat and sometimes died for his beliefs are upheld as honest and truthful, inasmuch as these men had no reason to contort history for their own purposes. Politicians can be swayed by self-interest and their view of public opinion. Historians view the past through the mores of their own culture and often speak primarily to their colleagues. The common soldier simply speaks from his own experiences and conditions. These men were merely expressing their viewpoint—the way they actually saw things on the battlefield.

Most of what we hear about George McClellan comes from the point of view of his political enemies as they remained in power long after McClellan retired to a quiet private life. When McClellan ran for president in 1864, the half-truths and outright lies were no different from those that pervade the political elections of the twenty-first century. History is written by the winners: Abraham Lincoln has the whole Republican Party to defend his actions. McClellan’s supporters are all long dead (as they are his soldiers). Military students and history buffs have been brainwashed by the wealth of negative material regarding George McClellan, and everything we read is through a whitewash of criticism. But let us now go back 150 years and learn the opinion of his soldiers, for this man was undefeatable!

Robert E. Lee has always been viewed as the marble man, a commander without flaw. Modern historians question this assessment, assuming there must be a reason why Lee could not win the war. His intimate associate and rival McClellan held an unconventional opinion of Lee’s abilities. Who was right, McClellan or Lee?


North South

Federal Confederate

Blue Gray

Union Seccesh

Yankees Rebels

Generals Generals

U. S. Grant R. E. Lee

Geo. McClellan T. J. Jackson (Stonewall)

W. T. Sherman Joseph Johnston

Henry Halleck James Longstreet

Geo. G. Meade A. P. Hill

Geo. Thomas PGT Beauregard

President President

Abraham Lincoln Jefferson Davis

Armies Armies

Army of the Potomac (McClellan) Army of Northern Virginia (Lee)

Army of the Tennessee (Grant) Army of Tennessee (Bragg, Johnston)

Army of the Cumberland (Rosecrans, Thomas)


Potomac. river dividing the country north and south

Mississippi. river dividing the country east and west

green. troops with no battle experience

siege train. a collection of large cannons so heavy they can destroy the heaviest fort (The shells of these weapons are so large a railroad is necessary to keep them in supply.)

supply train. a collection of supply wagons and horses or mules operating independently of the railroad

flank. the extreme end of a military force. (A military position is usually described as the left flank, center, and right flank.)

enfilade. to bring the entire firepower of your line against the flank of an enemy line

fusillade. continuous outpouring of firepower

sage or sagacious. a wise person or concept

nemesis. archrival or enemy

sobriquet. a nickname one earns

Note: All numbers are taken from Great Battles of the Civil War by John McDonald or West Point Atlas of American Wars, unless otherwise noted. Numbers for chapter 8 are from Decision in the West by A. Castel. Numbers in chapter 5 are from Turning Points of the Civil War by James A. Rawley.

Further Reading

Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Caesar, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Sun Tzu.

Main Characters

1. McClellan and his friends and rivals: A.P. Hill(CSA), T.J. Jackson(CSA), Burnside(USA), Rosecrans(USA).

2. Abraham Lincoln, his in-law John Pope and Chief of Staff, Henry Halleck.

3. R.E.Lee, the incomparable(CSA)

4. Grant and his friends W.T. Sherman(USA) and James Longstreet (CSA)

5. The wives, Mary Todd Lincoln, Mrs.R.E. Lee, Ellen McClellan, Mrs. U. S. Grant

6. Hooker, Meade and Thomas (USA)


The Meaning of Antietam

As the smoke cleared from the battlefield of Antietam, September 17, 1862, the bloodiest and most glorious day in American history had come to its horrific climax. The military strategies and the human suffering would pale in significance to the proclamation, which would follow on the heels of the first great Union victory of the war. Abraham Lincoln had been searching for a victory that would lend authority to the emancipation of the large black population still toiling in the rebellious Southern states. Realizing that the issue of emancipation was key in isolating the Southern states from potential European allies, Lincoln was anxious to play this card before complete military ruin made the gesture futile.

Also, the maxim, Divide and conquer, was not lost upon Abraham Lincoln. The benefit of dividing the Southern population was clear for anyone to see when the white population of the North outnumbered that of the South by 4–1. Ulysses S. Grant was intelligent enough to understand the mathematics of the situation. While suffering temporary setbacks in the West, he never seemed overly concerned with the eventual outcome of the war. In the Eastern Theater of Operations, between the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic coast, the Union Armies suffered a series of stinging defeats at the hands of aggressive rebel commanders. Southern arms were close to dividing the young nation in two and plunging an entire race into hopelessness.

Lincoln had come to the presidency on the platform that the institution of slavery would not be attacked in the states where it already legally existed. However, as the rebellion spread and Confederate victories gave the new Southern government credibility at home and abroad, the emancipation of the slaves became the lever in an attempt to break the moral virtue of the Southern cause in the eyes of the world.

The freedom of the slaves had never been the Union war aim. Indeed, Lincoln would have issued the proclamation much earlier had he not feared the nation would rise against him north, south, east and west. If the war was not fought for the freedom of the enslaved black people, as we’ve been so often told in this century (probably to gain the belated good will of the freed people), then what was the cause of the most costly, deadly war ever fought by the American people?

If you asked a Northern soldier why he was wearing Federal blue in 1862, he would probably say it was to preserve the Union. The sectionalism that had built up in the country over the preceding half century was such that neither side would give in to the other. Leaving the Union was an act of rebellion, pure and simple; it was war. As John Bowers states in his book, Chickamauga and Chattanooga, describing the soldiers at the battle of Stones River:

On the Union side, the young soldiers came from … homes and communities that were similar to those who fought on the other side. Some of these Northern youths could show a surprising hostility toward blacks, not so dissimilar to that shown by their opponents in gray. (This is not so surprising to any black person in the twenty-first century.) A number of them said, nigger. They were not firebrands of liberation; they weren’t wading into the slaughter to free slaves and make Democracy work. Any number of reasons, misted over by time, made those farm boys from Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois slough through the Tennessee mud to disembowel the Seccess. There had been an insurrection, some criminal mischief by the Southerners and they were coming to get them. The Northern boys (and Southern) were also in it to get away from home, to have some adventure, and wear a uniform and shoot a gun.

Service in the South was universal, with 80 percent of the available male population serving. With no medals awarded during the war, every soldier was considered a hero. A Southern soldier would tell you he was fighting for freedom from an overbearing northern partner that was dooming the South to second-class economic dependence. Also, he was fighting to protect his home, family, and loved ones from an invading army (probably the only real reason for a soldier to fight). Quoting Bowers, The Tennessean’s were fighting for their land. Some crazed Yankee from Indiana was eating their corn and stealing their pigs: no one was more inspired in the entire battle. Both sides were probably right in their logic and reasoning; both were equally willing to lay down their young lives to preserve America the way they viewed it.

The true cause, however, lay in the power struggle that had developed between North and South over control of the direction the young nation was growing. The South saw themselves losing their rights as the nation expanded and realized their views would soon be of little consequence in a continent wide nation of emerging immigrants.

The day of the South was rapidly drawing to a close. Their uncompromising attitude and arrogance on many issues, including slavery, slowly alienated them from friends overseas and in the North. Slavery was a thing of the past. Only in the American South and in Portugal, Brazil, and Cuba did slavery succeed in retaining a foothold on Western culture. By the time of the American Civil War, slavery had been outlawed around the world. Even in Russia, the serfs were freed by the time the war climaxed. No matter how the South looked at it, they were carrying around political dead weight. No one was going to rush to the aid of such an ignoble cause. The only possibility of shedding this dead weight was a more enlightened policy toward the black populace of their new nation. Arrogance, however, stifled this line of thought, while Southern victories bolstered the notion that independence could be won on the battlefield. By the end of the war, however, Confederate commanders were petitioning the government for black troops to be used in combat and several regiments of noncombat troops were raised.

The relationship of the blacks and whites in the prewar South was somewhat different than what we commonly imagine here in the twenty-first century. Living in a rural setting with no telephones and police protection miles or days away, the people of the rural South had to live in a common peace. John Brown’s attempt at insurrection was a total and dismal failure. The singular instance of Nat Turner’s rebellion in Virginia was a short-lived reign of terrifying criminal rampage that went unsupported by most of the black community. Other than these incidents, no record of slave uprising exists, although many were prematurely exposed. While brutality is, undeniably, a product of slavery, most white Southerners, at least in the border states, attempted to distance themselves from such practice in order to gain the good will of their property. Blacks fought on both sides in this war. There were freemen and slaves in both the North and South. U. S. Grant, the great northern general, didn’t free his slaves until the Thirteenth Amendment forced him to do so. The fact is that blacks were not allowed in the Northern armies until after the battle of Antietam had changed the direction of the war. The irony of the Civil War is, for whatever reason the white people of America were fighting, the deciding edge would go to the side that enlisted the greatest amount of help from the very people they had been oppressing.

Antietam was the day that changed America forever. It could not have been possible except for the skill and loyalty of one man, George B. McClellan. By the time McClellan faced Robert E. Lee at the battle of Antietam, the two were old enemies. They had faced each other twice before in West Virginia and at the Battle of the Seven Days. To face the genius of Robert E. Lee, one of history’s greatest warriors, and not be carried off on your shield was a feat in itself. But George McClellan could actually boast of beating Lee in West Virginia and fighting to a bloody stalemate at the Seven Days, where Lee’s intention was to destroy him.

Militarily, McClellan always treated Lee with respect. The relation of master and student was natural; as Lee had been an administrator at West Point, where nearly all the professional Civil War leaders were educated. Also, Lee had been McClellan’s superior on Scott’s staff in Mexico. It was possibly this respect which allowed McClellan to survive and succeed where many generals failed.

Also McClellan had observed the great European style of warfare during the Crimean War. This experience gave young McClellan fresh concepts, which were not commonly part of American tactical doctrine. Leaders like Stonewall Jackson still encouraged their troops to give the enemy cold steel, whereas McClellan was a devotee to large artillery preparation and siege warfare. At Antietam, McClellan brought huge rifled Parrott Guns, which from a central location could reach almost any area of the battlefield with devastating effect.

George McClellan’s archrival at Antietam was one of the greatest generals of all time. With an army that was almost always lacking in equipment, replacements, and supplies, Robert E. Lee dominated the Civil War by winning battles where he was commonly outnumbered 2–1. Few leaders in history can compare with the accomplishments of R. E. Lee. With little but the inspiration of his genius, the Army of Northern Virginia marched to the threshold of victory against a nation four times its strength, and which outclassed it in every category except cotton and pride.

The North had more factories, railroads, ships, and men than the South. The North was expanding and would soon include Oregon and Nevada as new states. The South, isolated and economically dependent on tobacco and cotton, couldn’t have had less chance of ultimate victory. Wars in the past had been decided by a huge battle with victory going to the most courageous. But this was to be a new type of warfare, where events on the battlefield mattered little compared to the reality of economic mathematics. Time and again, American armies would clash with results of enormous causalities. For the first time, armies were equipped with rifles instead of inaccurate muskets. Horrific casualties resulted as lines of men exchanged fire at close range, often in open fields. At Gettysburg Pickett charged nearly a mile across open ground and suffered the consequence.

In Europe, any one of these bloodbaths would have resulted in a settled peace. In America, however, a dozen such battles were fought, with neither side reaching the peace table. Two percent of the population would eventually perish in the conflict (5 percent of the Southern population), and before the war was over, the world would see a new genius of warfare, Ulysses S. Grant, unleash a new type of warfare: Total War.

However, in the autumn of 1862, the Confederate forces were on the move from Kentucky to Maryland. Union armies were being struck down one after another. While most battles were bloody stalemates, in almost every case the Union forces would have to withdraw or take time to reorganize and receive troops or appoint new commanders.

From these defeats, only one general stood out from the others in his ability to confront the Southern generals—the organizer and creator of the huge Northern Army of the Potomac, George McClellan. Having been removed from command after the aborted Peninsular Campaign, he was recalled in order to face the threat of the Southern invasion of Maryland.

And so Lee met McClellan at Antietam in the most costly and momentous day in American history. As the dust settled and the Southern army retreated across the Potomac, America had changed irretrievably. The architect of victory, beloved by his troops, was acclaimed savior of the Union. Lincoln himself admitted to McClellan that he was the most able Union commander. How is it that seven weeks later, this skillful and loyal general was relieved of his command to be replaced by incompetent commanders, who in the next six months would lose two great battles at a cost of 30,000 US casualties, and bring the nation to near ruin? The answer is one of the great scandals in American history.

He whose generals are able and not interfered with by the sovereign will be victorious.

—Sun Tzu

McClellan, give us McClellan.

—Union soldiers, Pennsylvania Reserve Division, Washington, DC, June 1863

Chapter 1

George McClellan, the American Napoleon (December 1826–December 1861)

Early in the 1800s, the American dream was in its infancy. No one knew exactly how that child would grow and turn out as an adult. Could a nation founded on such lofty principals as liberty and justice for all and the right to the pursuit of happiness really survive in the cold, hard world? No one knew it yet, but that child would be severely tested before it reached maturity. What these words meant would be debated in fire and blood in an event that would define this nation and words like equality, liberty, and justice for all. In the years between 1800 and 1830, a number of men and women were born who would become forever famous in American history: Abraham Lincoln, R. E. Lee, Harriet Becher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and another name which played a major role but is little known in America, George B. McClellan. Most Americans don’t know that McClellan won the most significant battle of the war and, in 1864, offered America an alternative to war by running for president on a peace ticket.

There is a saying that history is written by the side that wins, as the winners always want to believe they are right and the other side is wrong. However, as our view of history matures, we realize that truth is rarely on one side or the other. For a full understanding of history, we must admit our faults as well as our strengths. The story of George McClellan is well worth the study, as all these factors come into play, shedding light on a pivotal moment in American history where truth, honesty, justice, malice, deceit, and destruction all play their part in America’s greatest tragedy, the American Civil War.

On a bright winter day, December 3, 1826, young George Brinton (his mother’s maiden name) was born to Doctor George and Elizabeth McClellan, prominent citizens of Philadelphia. He was the middle of three sons and two daughters. The eldest, Frederica, wrote of him:

He’s the brightest, merriest, most unselfish of boys…fond of books & study- also fun & frolic & always the ‘soul of honor’.

This last description of young McClellan could well be said to describe his entire life. If Abe Lincoln was born in a log cabin and studied by the light of a log fire, then George Brinton McClellan was his exact opposite. Wellborn and educated, he was a child with the proverbial silver spoon. A Harvard graduate administrated his first private school, and at ten, he had a private tutor. …A magnificent classical scholar & an excellent teacher. We were obliged to converse in Latin & French; at an early age I became a good scholar in the classics… wrote McClellan.

Professor Schiffer, a Jewish German, gave young George his first appreciation and regard for all cultures and an idealistic outlook. By the age of fifteen, he was accomplished in several languages, including French, and had a complete education by the academic standards of the day. In

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