McClellan, George Brinton

Life Span
    Full name
    George Brinton McClellan
    Place of Birth
    Burial Place
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Free State
    No. of Siblings
    No. of Spouses
    No. of Children
    George McClellan (father), Elizabeth Steinmetz Brinton (mother), Ellen Marcy (wife, 1860), George Brinton McClellan, Jr. (son), Mary McClellan (daughter)
    University of Pennsylvania
    West Point (US Military Academy)
    Other Occupation
    Civil Engineer
    Political Parties
    US military (Pre-Civil War)
    Union Army

    George Brinton McClellan (American National Biography)

    As commander of the Army of the Potomac, he was perhaps the only man in the country who could have won the war in an afternoon, but he was also one of the few who could have lost it in that span. The accomplishment of denying so formidable an opponent as Lee his goal of crushing the Army of the Potomac in the Seven Days' battles was not without merit, but its credit to McClellan was interred long before the general's bones were laid to rest. … Although on at least two occasions he had the power to reach forth his hand and end the war during the summer of 1862, timidity palsied that hand, and the killing went on for another two and a half years. Ironically, his failure of nerve ensured the adoption and full implementation of the hard war policies he deprecated, including emancipation. His squeamishness for the lives of his soldiers doomed them to added years of combat…Gifted with a brilliant intellect, McClellan also had personal charm and a remarkable ability to win the affection not only of his soldiers but of nearly everyone who came into contact with him…His ability as an organizer and motivator of troops was equally impressive.

    He seemed unable or unwilling to apply his remarkable intelligence in new ways or in the face of unforeseen circumstances. His plans often had much merit to them, but he lacked the tough-mindedness to see them through to victory.
    Steven E. Woodworth, "McClellan, George B," American National Biography Online, February 2000,

    George Brinton McClellan, Election of 1864 (American National Biography)

    McClellan sought and obtained the Democratic party's 1864 presidential nomination, but the convention was dominated by Peace Democrats, or Copperheads, who wrote a platform calling the war a failure and demanding an immediate armistice, with vague reference to a possible, though in reality highly unlikely, future restoration of the Union by peaceful negotiation. McClellan, in his letter accepting the nomination, tried unsuccessfully to distance himself from this extreme position, emphasizing his determination to continue the war until the Union was restored. The people, however, perceived McClellan and the Democrats, not without reason, as the party of peace and disunion. In the event, major Federal victories during the fall of 1864, particularly the capture of Atlanta, made a mockery of the Democratic platform and helped ensure McClellan's defeat by a landslide. Vote totals among soldiers were even more starkly against him, even in the Army of the Potomac that once idolized him.

    On election day, before the results were known, McClellan wrote out his resignation from the army. He could live comfortably on the wealth produced by his stockholdings in the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad. Disgusted with the electoral decision of the American people, he left the country in January 1865 and traveled in Europe for three years.
    Steven E. Woodworth, "McClellan, George B," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
    Date Event
    Three new federal army departments are formed
    In western forces, Union and Confederate forces fight the first planned engagement of the war at Philippi
    Confederate forces evacuate Harpers Ferry and other western Virginia towns along the Potomac
    Advancing Union troops skirmish with retreating Virginia troops at Laurel Hill in western Virginia
    In Washington DC, two French princes join the Union Army on the staff of General McClellan
    Lieutenant General Winfield Scott retires from the Army after fifty-three years service, twenty as general-in-chief
    Major General George B. McClellan is appointed general-in-chief of the U.S. Army, replacing Winfield Scott
    At his Washington D.C. home, General George McClellan snubs the President and Secretary of State
    Brigadier General Charles Pomeroy Stone, USA, arrested in his Washington hotel room and imprisoned
    The public sees for the first time the series of orders by which President Lincoln took full command of the war
    Friends of imprisoned Brigadier General Charles Stone seek aid from the Massachusetts Legislature
    In Virginia, General George McClellan joins his troops at Fort Monroe to begin the advance on Richmond
    President Lincoln creates two new army departments, one directly protecting Washington DC
    On the Virginia Peninsula, the Army of the Potomac advances to besiege Yorktown
    In Virginia, Union artillery outside Yorktown delivers a preliminary barrage on Confederate defenses
    - In eastern Virginia, thousands of Confederate troops make a stealthy withdrawal from Yorktown
    Near Williamsburg, Virginia, forty-thousand pursuing Union troops clash with the Confederate rearguard
    At Eltham's Landing, Confederate units thwart Union attempts to cut off their retreat from Yorktown
    President Lincoln visits General McClellan's headquarters at Fredericksburg, Virginia
    - Largest battle yet in the eastern theater fought at Fair Oaks, Virginia near Richmond
    Battle of Gaines' Mill
    Battle of Antietam
    The War Department decides that Generals Fremont and McClellan outrank General Benjamin Butler
    - In Chicago, the Democratic Party meets for its national nominating convention
    Chicago Style Entry Link
    Cooling, B. Franklin. Counter-Thrust: From the Peninsula to the Antietam. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007. view record
    Hensel, Howard M. The Anatomy of Failure: The Case of Major General George B. McClellan and the Peninsular Campaign. Montgomery, AL: Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, 1985. view record
    Sears, Stephen W. George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1988. view record
    Sears, Stephen W. Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. New Haven: Ticknor & Fields, 1983. view record
    Waugh, John C. The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox : Stonewall Jackson, George McClellan, and Their Brothers. New York: Warner Books, 1994. view record
    Weber, Jennifer L. Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln's Opponents in the North. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. view record
    How to Cite This Page: "McClellan, George Brinton," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,