Facts about George McClellan

George McClellan died at 58 years old
Best known as: The Civil War general Lincoln replaced in 1862


George McClellan Biography

Name at birth: George Brinton McClellan

George B. McClellan was the leader of the Union army during the Civil War until President Abraham Lincoln relieved him of command in 1862 for his hesitancy on the battlefield. From a respected Philadelphia family, McClellan graduated second in his class from West Point in 1846, and distinguished himself during the U.S.-Mexican War the next year, both as a gallant soldier and an inventive engineer. He served as an instructor at West Point (1848-51), but left the army in 1857 to go into the railroad business. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, McClellan was made a major general in command of the Ohio Volunteers. His early successes in western Virginia brought him national recognition as “Young Napoleon,” and he succeeded Winfield Scott as General in Chief of the Army in November of 1861. An outstanding administrator, “Little Mac” was beloved by his men, but his relationship with the president and Congress was contentious. Lincoln pushed McClellan to advance against Robert E. Lee, but McClellan was hesitant — Lincoln complained that McClellan had a case of “the slows.” In September of 1862, McClellan fought Lee to a standstill at Antietam Creek, but failed to pursue the Confederates when Lee retreated to Virginia. Throughout October, Lincoln and McClellan argued, until Lincoln finally removed him of command on 5 November 1862. In the presidential election of 1864, McClellan ran as the Democratic candidate against Lincoln and lost. After touring Europe, McClellan returned to New York and served in the Department of Docksand with the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad, and served one term as New Jersey’s governor (1878-81).

Extra credit

As a young officer, George McClellan was an observer during the Crimean War. In that capacity he studied cavalry equipment and eventually designed what came to be called the McClellan saddle, which became standard equipment for decades.


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