Saturday, February 2, 2013

The North's General George McClellan ... and underestimating the South's Robert E. Lee

Confederate General Robert E. Lee (left)
and Union General George B. McClellan (right)
As the Civil War ramped up in 1862, Union General George B. McClellan was glad that Robert E. Lee replaced the wounded Joseph Johnston as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, one of the major Confederate forces in the Civil War. McClellan had known both Lee and Johnston when all three men served in the U.S. Army prior to the war. McClellan believed that Lee would be a less formidable foe compared to Johnston.

“I prefer Lee to Johnston – the former is too cautious & weak under grave responsibility – personally brave & energetic to a fault, he yet is wanting in moral firmness when pressed by heavy responsibility & is likely to be timid and irresolute in action,” wrote McClellan to U. S. President Abraham Lincoln.

Although Lee had a bit of experience as a field commander earlier in the war, he was serving as an adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis when the appointment was made. At that time, approximately 105,000 Union troops under McClellan were advancing on the Confederacy’s capital city – Richmond, Virginia – which was defended by approximately 60,000 men. After assuming command of the Confederate Army, Lee initiated a series of surprise attacks and major counter-offensives that kept McClellan off guard and ended the threat to Richmond. For much of the rest of the war, Lee often out-maneuvered larger Union forces, proving much of McClellan’s judgment of him to be far from accurate.

No comments: