Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Little Mac"

George B. McClellan, the two-time commander of the Union Army of the Potomac and Presidential candidate was a colorful, yet arrogant individual. Called the Little Napoleon, he always was finely attired and was very prim and proper. He was a man of organization, quick to train and often unwilling to fight. He was the man who after the Battle of Antietam proclaimed the army had won a great victory and driven the enemy back to Virginia.

McClellan was relieved of command after the failed Peninsular Campaign, but was brought back after the debacle of the Second Battle of Bull Run. In response to the return of Little Mac, Lincoln told his secretary, John Hay, "We must use what tools we have. There is no man in the Army who can man these fortifications and lick these troops of ours into shape half as well as he. If he can't fight himself, he excels in making others ready to fight." 

A great joy spread through the Army of the Potomac when the soldiers heard that Little Mac was back in command. McClellan's joy would again be short-lived, as his habit of over-estimating the enemy's strength and failing to fully commit to battle would ultimately lead to lost opportunities and more problems with the administration. Lincoln accused McClellan of having, "...a case of the slows..."

Why a post about McClellan today? Today is a significant day in the lore of the Little Napoleon. It was on November 13, 1861, after becoming frustrated with McClellan's failure to attack Confederate forces near Washington, and after the Union loss at the Battle of Ball's Bluff, that Lincoln sought to have a meeting with McClellan. Lincoln went to visit McClellan at his home. Lincoln, however, was snubbed by McClellan. After waiting on the general for nearly a half hour, Lincoln was told by one of McClellan's servants that the general had gone to bed. 
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