GENERAL MCCLELLAN AND THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM
SUBMITTED TO MR. KEN FRANK
SMALL GROUP 7
MISSION COMMAND PAPER
CPT CHRIS KOLBOSKY
AMEDD CENTER AND SCHOOL, FT. SAM HOUSTON, TX
03 FEBRUARY 2014
Building a movement always challenges the status quo. Leaders must act, they must willingly risk the things they love and unfortunately, many leaders are frozen by the lethargy of indecision i. Union General George B. McClellan, who was meticulous in his planning and preparations, was also known for not aggressively challenging his opponents on a fast-moving battlefield environment. He chronically overestimated the strength of the enemy and was reluctant to apply principles of mass, frequently leaving large portions of his army unengaged at decisive points ii. At no time was this more evident during the only battle of the Civil War in which McClellan led his troops from start to finish. His performance during the bloody Battle of Antietam blunted General Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Maryland, but also allowed him to eke out a precarious tactical draw and avoid destruction despite being grossly outnumbered on the battlefield iii. His missteps challenged the principles of building cohesive teams thru mutual trust, creating shared understanding, and above all, accepting prudent risks.
As a result, McClellan’s leadership skills during battles were highly questioned by President Abraham Lincoln, who eventually removed him from command iv. President Lincoln was violently opposed to appointing McClelland commander of the Union Army prior to the Battle of Antietam. The President knew of McClellan’s opposition to his policies, anti-slavery in general. Not appointing him at this critical juncture would have been met with hostility and mistrust v. Although Lincoln well understood the danger inherent in McClellan’s hostility to his own government and policies, he also knew McClellan was the only general to get the Union
Citations: 4. Bernard Cornwell. The Bloody Ground. (Harper Collins Publishers, 1996), 350. 5. Keith D. Dickson. The Civil War for Dummies. (Wiley Publishing Inc. 2001), 158 – 159. 6. Shelby Foote. The Civil War: A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville. (Random House Inc. 1958), 696. 7. Webb Garrison. Civil War Tales: Unusual, Interesting Stories of the Turbulent Era When Americans Waged War on Americans. (Rutlege Hill Press, 1988), 134.