General George B. McClellan:
A Critical Analysis
There is perhaps no other military leader connected with the American Civil War that
created so much interest and caused so much controversy as George B. McClellan.
His ability to organize and build a military was among the best in history. However, his
ability to lead and fight has always been seriously questioned. Because his legacy was
so widespread, we will look at and compare the timeframe from his appointment to
General of the Army of the Potomac/General in Chief to his relief from command by
President Lincoln. The authors we will compare are; James McPherson, Stuart Sifakis,
and Ethan S. Rafuse. We will analyze how they viewed McClellan on the issues listed
1. James McPherson’s view of McClellan as planner and as a leader.
2. Stuart Sifakis’ view of McClellan’s organizational, training, and leadership skills.
3. Ethan Rafuse’s view of McClellan as an organizer and leader, with respect to the
political climate of that era.
We will consider the sources these authors used in order to form their analysis of
McClellan’s career. The sources they used help create their opinion. This critical
analysis will focus on these three issues.
James McPherson’s view of McClellan as a planner and leader
General George B. McClellan was one of the most intriguing figures of the U.S. Civil
War. His hand print on the war was felt throughout its duration. James McPherson also
saw the complexity of McClellan and gave both a positive and negative view of his
legacy. McPherson agreed with most scholars that General McClellan’s planning and
training skills were some of the best of that era. When McClellan took over the Army of
the Potomac from McDowell in July 1861, he found an undisciplined, untrained unit.
McClellan wrote:” I found no Army to command, only a mere collection of regiments
cowering on the banks of the Potomac, some perfectly...