Nick Name: The Young Napoleon, Little Mac
Birthday: December 3, 1826
Died At Age: 58
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: George Brinton McClellan
Born Country: United States
Born in: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Famous as: Soldier
Spouse/Ex-: Mary McClellan
father: George McClellan
mother: Mary Brinton McClellan
children: George B. McClellan, George B. McClellan Jr., Jr., Mary May McClellan
Died on: October 29, 1885
place of death: City of Orange, New Jersey, United States
U.S. State: Pennsylvania
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
Founder/Co-Founder: Army of the Potomac
education: United States Military Academy
George B. McClellan was an American soldier, political leader, railroad executive and civil engineer. McClellan began his military career as a second lieutenant and served in the 'Mexican-American War.' He later quit the army to work in railroads, but re-joined the army as a major general during the 'American Civil War.' He played an important role in organizing union forces during the initial phase of the ‘American Civil War,’ but he was criticised for his repeated failures to aggressively go after Confederate army. His 'Peninsula Campaign' failed after the 'Seven Days Battle' and he lost the 'Battle of Antietam' against ‘Confederate troops.’ As a result of this, President Lincoln removed him from command in November 1862. In 1864, the Democratic Party nominated him for the presidency against Abraham Lincoln. He later served as governor of New Jersey.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on December 3, 1826, into an affluent Scottish family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, George Brinton McClellan was one of the five children born to Dr. George McClellan, a prominent British surgeon who established the 'Jefferson Medical College; and Elizabeth Sophia Steinmetz Brinton McClellan, a Pennsylvania Dutch.
He had two sisters, Frederica and Mary, and three brothers John, George, and Arthur.
He attended the 'University of Pennsylvania' to study law but did not graduate. Two years later, in 1842, he decided to join the army.
With his father's recommendation to President John Tyler, McClellan was selected to West Point despite not attaining the eligible age of 16 years.
He graduated from West Point in 1846 with a second rank in his class.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Army Corps of Engineers
McClellan was drafted as a brevet second lieutenant in the 'Army Corps of Engineers,' and his first assignment was the 'Mexican-American War' (1846-48) in which he served as an engineering officer. Despite contracting malaria and dysentery during the war, he displayed fine skills during combat. He was promoted to captain for his bravery at Chapultepec.
His experiences in combat shaped his military and political career, as he learned the strategies organization, discipline, and training.
Post the war, McClellan returned to ‘West Point’ and served as an engineer for three years. He was then sent to the western frontier.
In 1852, he published a translated version of the bayonet tactics manual.
In 1853, he was ordered to design an appropriate route for the transcontinental railroad under the 'Pacific Railroad' surveys.
Impressed by his intelligence and mastery in French, the-then U.S. secretary of war, Jefferson Davis, sent him to Europe as an official observer of the European troops in the 'Crimean War' in 1855.
He used the Russian model to design a horse saddle, which eventually came to be known as "McClellan Saddle." The 'U.S. War Department' adopted the saddle and continued to be the U.S. horse cavalry's standard issue equipment until 'World War II.' It is still used for ceremonies.
McClellan quit the army in 1857 and served as chief engineer and vice president of the 'Illinois Central Railroad' and assisted Ohio and Mississippi recover from the financial crisis (Panic of 1857). By 1860, he was promoted as president of the ‘Ohio and Mississippi River Railroad.’
Dissatisfied with civilian employment, he continued to study classical military strategy and decided to re-join the army during the 'Utah War.' Around the same time, he developed interest in politics and supported the 1860 presidential campaign of Democrat Stephen A. Douglas.
Continue Reading Below
Re-joining the Army
McClellan returned to the army during the outbreak of the 'American Civil War' in 1861. On April 23, 1861, he was drafted as a major general of volunteers and assumed duties of the Ohio militia.
He served as commander of the 'Department of Ohio' and was responsible for the defence of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, western Pennsylvania, western Virginia, and Missouri. He became a major general in the American Army in May 1861.
McClellan was nicknamed "The Young Napoleon" after winning a series of small combats in western Virginia.
His first assignment was to disperse small units of armed forces across the Ohio River into western Virginia to fragment Confederate divisions. After the loss of Union at the 'First Battle of Bull Run,' President Abraham Lincoln appointed him as commander of the 'Army of the Potomac.'
Along with Jacob Cox, McClellan moved to Columbus to inspect Ohio's weapons and other supplies to equip all the state's militia units. Despite the lack of equipment, Ohio Governor William Dennison decided to revive the militia system and establish units to be sent to the capital Columbus. Dennison entrusted McClellan to command the units and ordered him to devise a professional force.
His excellent marshalling skills turned the troops into a solid fighting unit, and by November 1861, the troops had fortified the capital, Washington, D.C.
McClellan was appointed the general-in-chief of the Union Army in November 1861. Despite having a massive force, he was hesitant to attack the Confederate army, as he suspected the Confederate army to be superior to that of the Union.
The inactivity annoyed President Abraham Lincoln and the newly appointed Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton. In January 1862, the 'Army of the Potomac' was ordered to move south into the Confederate territory.
McClellan was removed from his service in March 1862 and was instructed to focus on southern advance.
Continue Reading Below
McClellan started his amphibious 'Peninsula Campaign' in March 1862. His 'Army of the Potomac' marched east toward the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. He was initially successful in landing and marching his army toward Richmond.
He, however, allowed the massive force of Confederate defenders, under General Joseph E. Johnston, to withdraw into the city defences so that he could have time to receive reinforcements.
After some minor combats, General Robert E. Lee took the Confederate army under his command. McClellan thought that the Confederates had a larger army than his and hence stopped his march on the city to wait for the reinforcements.
In the 'Seven Days Battles,' General Lee attacked the 'Army of the Potomac.'
President Lincoln declined to send more reinforcements and ordered the 'Army of the Potomac' to withdraw. McClellan was removed from the command of the 'Army of the Potomac' but was reappointed after the defeat of the Union at the 'Second Battle of Bull Run.'
Battle of Antietam
General Lee attacked the North during the 'Maryland Campaign' in September 1862, and McClellan was asked to stop the Confederate march, which resulted in the 'Battle of Antietam' on September 17, 1862, at Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland. His Army successfully breached the Confederate lines. He stopped keeping a portion of his Army in reserve and let Lee enter Virginia.
It is interesting to note, McClellan had the copies of the Confederate battle plans, but still nobody won the ‘Battle of Antietam.’
President Lincoln removed McClellan from command of the 'Army of the Potomac' in November 1862, as he believed that he wasted an opportunity to crush the 'Army of Northern Virginia.' He would never receive another military command.
McClellan, who was now a critic of Lincoln, ran against him in the Presidential election of 1864 representing the 'Democratic Party.' He lost the election and resigned his commission.
He then lived in Europe for several years and returned to the U.S. in 1870. He supervised the construction of a floating battery in New York.
In 1870, He was appointed the chief of New York's department of docks and served as president of the 'Atlantic and Great Western Railroad.'
Service as Governor & Later Years
From 1878 to 1881, McClellan served as governor of New Jersey. As the governor, he reformed the administration and military programs of the state.
In his final years, he wrote a memoir, 'McClellan's Own Story,' which was published posthumously in 1887.
Personal Life & Death
During his peacetime service, McClellan met Mary Ellen Marcy, the daughter of one of his former commanders. The eventually fell in love and got married.
They had two children: Mary "May" McClellan and George B. McClellan Jr.
McClellan died due to a heart attack on October 29, 1885.