James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
or manuvred him out of Manassas, or raised the Confederate blockade of the lower Potomac or taken Norfolk.1 Any one of these movements attempted in the autumn of 1861 would have satisfied the country and maintained their confidence, as well as the Presidents, in McClellan; and this would have been an asset of great value. But he was no fighter and at this time could not have handled 100,000 men. It is doubtful if any other general in the Union army could have done so. Long after the war, Grant referred to the vast and cruel responsibility devolving upon McClellan at the outset and added, If McClellan had gone into the war as Sherman, Thomas or Meade, had fought his way along and up, I have no reason to suppose that he would not have won as high a distinction as any of us.2 In McClellans army was Colonel William T. Sherman, who in 1864 led an army of 100,000 with great ability; but at this time he told the President that his extreme desire was to serve in a subordinate capacity and in no event to be left in a superior command.3 To march, manuvre, feed and fight to the best advantage an army of 100,000 comes near being the highest executive achievement of which man is capable.4 Joseph E. Johnston quiet and sad5 thought that he could now conduct 60,000 in an offensive campaign, but he had had the invaluable experience of commanding half that number at Bull Run.
If McClellan had shown modesty, so striking a characteristic
Note 1. During October the Confederates had blocked the navigation of the Potomac by planting batteries on the Virginia side twenty or thirty miles down the river. Webb 13, 168 et seq.; Ropes I, 181, 222; N. & H., IV, 450. [back]