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CDV, General George B. McClellan

Click to view larger image of CDV, General George B. McClellan (Image1)
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CDV, General George B. McClellan (Image1)
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Item Number: cdv9679
 

 



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General-in-Chief of the U.S. Armies during the Civil War, 1861-62

Democratic Presidential Candidate that was defeated by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864

Governor of New Jersey


(1826-85) Hailed as the "Young Napoleon," McClellan was thought to have of the greatest military minds of his generation. He was born in Philadelphia, the son of a prominent surgeon, Dr. George McClellan, the founder of Jefferson Medical College. One of McClellan's great-grandfathers was General Samuel McClellan of Woodstock, Connecticut, a brigadier general who fought in the Revolutionary War. George Brinton McClellan graduated 2nd in his class of 59 cadets at West Point in 1846, where he was an energetic and ambitious cadet, deeply interested in strategic principles. He was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. His closest friends at the Academy were southerners George Pickett, Dabney Maury, Cadmus Wilcox, and A.P. Hill. After graduation, he served with distinction in the Mexican War, as an engineering officer who was frequently subject to enemy fire, and was appointed a brevet first lieutenant for his services at Contreras, and Churubusco, and to captain for his service at Chapultepec. He performed reconnaissance missions for General Winfield Scott, a close friend of McClellan's father. McClellan's experiences in the Mexican War would shape his military and political life. He learned that flanking movements that were used by General Scott at Cerro Gordo are often better than frontal assaults, and the value of siege operations against Veracruz was another well learned lesson. He witnessed Scott's success in balancing political with military affairs, and his good relations with the civil population as he invaded, enforcing strict discipline on his soldiers to minimize damage to civilian property. In the fall of 1852, McClellan published a manual on bayonet tactics that he had translated from the original French. He also received an assignment to the Department of Texas, with orders to perform a survey of Texas rivers and harbors. In 1853, he participated in the Pacific Railroad surveys, ordered by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, to select an appropriate route for the planned transcontinental railroad. Because of his political connections and his mastery of French, McClellan received the assignment to be an official observer of the European armies in the Crimean War in 1855, as part of the Delafield Commission, led by Richard Delafield. Traveling widely, and interacting with the highest military commands and royal families, McClellan observed the siege of Sevastopol. Upon his return to the United States in 1856, he requested an assignment in Philadelphia to prepare his report, which contained a critical analysis of the siege and a lengthy description of the organization of the European armies. He also wrote a manual on cavalry tactics that was based on Russian cavalry regulations. Capitalizing on his experience with railroad assessment, he became chief engineer and vice president of the Illinois Central Railroad, and then president of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad in 1860. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, McClellan was appointed major general, and he played an important role in raising the Army of the Potomac, and proved to be a brilliant military organizer, administrator, and trainer of men, but as the war developed he proved to be an officer totally lacking in the essential skills and qualities of successful command of large forces in battle. He served as the Commanding General of the United States Army, 1861-62. General McClellan organized, and led the Union Army in the 1862 Virginia Peninsula campaign in southeastern Virginia which was the first large-scale offensive in the Eastern Theater of the war with the capture of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., as their objective. McClellan was somewhat successful against Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, but the emergence of General Robert E. Lee to command the Army of Northern Virginia turned the subsequent Seven Days Battles into a Union defeat, but Lee failed to destroy McClellan's Army of the Potomac, and suffered a bloody repulse at Malvern Hill, Va. General McClellan and President Abraham Lincoln developed a mutual distrust for each other, and McClellan was privately derisive of Lincoln. Lincoln on the other hand accused McClellan of being too cautious in the field and once asked "Little Mac" if he was not going to use his army if he (Lincoln could borrow it). Lincoln removed him from command in November 1862, in the aftermath of the bloody battle of Antietam, Md., fought on September 17, 1862, which was the single bloodiest day in U.S. military history. A contributing factor in this decision was McClellan's failure to pursue Lee's army following the tactically inconclusive, but strategic Union victory at the Battle of Antietam outside of little town of Sharpsburg, Maryland. McClellan went on to become the Democratic Party's nominee in the 1864 presidential election against the incumbent Republican President Lincoln. The effectiveness of his campaign was damaged when General McClellan repudiated his party's platform, which promised an end to the war, and negotiations with the Confederacy. Consequently he was beaten by Lincoln. He later served as the Governor of New Jersey from 1878-81. The concluding chapter of his political career was his strong support in 1884 for President Grover Cleveland. He was interested in the position of Secretary of War in Cleveland's cabinet, but did not get it. McClellan devoted his final years to traveling and writing; producing his memoirs, 'McClellan's Own Story," in which he stridently defended his conduct during the war. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 58 at Orange, New Jersey. He was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Trenton.

Wet plate, albumen carte de visite photograph, mounted to 2 3/8 x 4 card. Seated view in uniform with rank of major general. Artistic pose of "Little Mac" seated with his back to the camera in a profile pose. Back mark: Silsbee, Case & Co., Photographic Artists, 299 1/2 Washington Street, Boston. Case & Getchell, Dec. 3, 1862. Light age toning. Small stains. McClellan was a peacock when it came to the camera, but this view of him is a rather uncommon one.



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