McClellan and Failure: A Study of Civil War Fear, Incompetence and Worse

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In the eyes of many historians, Union General George B. McClellan single-handedly did more damage to the Union war effort than any other individual—including Confederate commander Robert E. Lee. McClellan's success in the Mexican War along with his prestigious position as president of the Eastern Division of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad had left him well positioned to enter the Union Army when hostilities began. Originally a major general in command of the Ohio Volunteers, McClellan attained the same rank in the regular Army three weeks after the beginning of the Civil War. Promoting his own ideas and career regardless of the consequences, McClellan spent his Civil War command defying his superiors and attempting to avoid battle, eventually becoming a thorn in the side of President Lincoln and the Union cause. Removed from command on November 5, 1862, McClellan's overly cautious attitude nevertheless permeated the Army of the Potomac for years.

From West Point to Antietam, this volume examines his Army career. The main focus of the work is McClellan's Civil War service and the ways in which the man and his decisions affected the course of the war. The Union Army's invasion of northern Virginia, the Peninsula Campaign and the Second Battle of Bull Run are examined in detail with special emphasis on the roles which McClellan played—or did not play. Through a combination of incompetence and paranoia, McClellan managed to throw away numerous chances at a Union victory and, consequently, a quicker end to the war. Excerpts from McClellan's orders and correspondence provide a contemporary picture and firsthand motives for his actions. An appendix examines the treatment given McClellan by various historians. Assorted maps and an index are also included.

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Editorial Reviews

Blue & Gray Magazine
Civil War News
well written...I would suggest reading his work...well-presented
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786428946
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 222
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward H. Bonekemper, III is a visiting lecturer in military history at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He lives in Willow Street, Pennsylvania.

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  • Posted February 3, 2009

    Bonekemper's McClelland

    Edward H. Bonekemper's unflinchingly critical appraisal of "Little Mac's" atrocious performance during the first two years of our Civil War thoroughly delighted me and reinforced my view of this seemingly incompetent General.Mclelland seems to have been a lying, traitorous coward. His conduct on the Peninsula and in support of Pope was desoicable. But, for what he did (or didn't do) on 18 September 1862 at Antietam and in the weeks following, he should be forever damned. His inaction likely prolonged the great tragedy of our Civil War and created divisions that are not yet healed.<BR/>In all his books ("How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War", "A ictor,Not a Butch:US Grant's Military Genius,"Grant and Lee") Bonekemper has an unequivocal agends, that is delightfully not all together fair and balanced, and he goes about proving his point vigorously with meticulous research, excellent writing and uncompromising logic. In this book about "Little Mac" he details his conclusions with an extensive Appendix, chapter of Notes and a large comprehensive Bibliography.<BR/>I enthusiastically encourage anyone interested in the Civil War, but especially the casual reader, to find this book and enjoy the writings of Ed Bonekemper.

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