Bold, brash, and full of ambition, George Brinton McClellan seemed destined for greatness when he assumed command of all the Union armies before he was 35. It was not to be. Ultimately deemed a failure on the battlefield by Abraham Lincoln, he was finally dismissed from command following the bloody battle of Antietam. To better understand this fascinating, however flawed, character, Ethan S. Rafuse considers the broad and complicated political climate of the earlier 19th century. Rather than blaming McClellan for the Union’s military losses, Rafuse attempts to understand his political thinking as it affected his wartime strategy. As a result, Rafuse sheds light not only on McClellan’s conduct on the battlefields of 1861-62 but also on United States politics and culture in the years leading up to the Civil War.
In this book the author goes to some lengths to plumb the depths of McClellan's personal politics, and then puts this understanding in the context of Union high strategy and civil-military affairs through the duration of McClellan's command. The conclusion is that whatever Lil' Mac's virtues were as a general, and Rafuse is ready to pay due credit, the reality is that McClellan was so out of sorts with the administration's politics that he had to be removed, even if the timing was not exactly oppertune and the Lincoln administration was sometimes its own worst enemy. If there is a downside to this book it's that the author is on the staff of the Army's Command & General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, and this work sometimes has all the snap and sparkle of staff history.read more
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