The Saturday Question

Courtesy of TF Smith, here’s the initial Saturday Question … or questions …

There are a couple I’ve always seen as thought-provoking, which all stem from McClellan’s illness in the winter of 1861-62, and then his service on the Peninsula in 1862.

Question 1: Mac dies of whatever it was he had; who replaces him as 1-A) general-in-chief; and 1-B) CG of the Army of the Potomac (and 1-C, does the Peninsula campaign go forward?)

Question 2: Mac doesn’t die, but Lincoln decides to replace him as GiC; who gets the job, and how does that choice impact the rest of the war?

13 thoughts on “The Saturday Question

  1. TF Smith May 7, 2011 / 10:05 am

    Thank you, doctor; I appreciate the interest.

    I’ll offer my own, just to get it started. Fire away.

    1-A) The (more or less) historical choices are Halleck or Hitchcock; however, given that this happens earlier than Halleck’s historical call to the east, and Hitchock’s decision to serve, I think the choice in the winter of 1861-62 has to come from elsewhere, presumably from the East. Wool was senior, but does not seem to have excited a lot of enthusiasm; Dix and Cadwallader are equally senior and Dix, certainly, has the administrative experience, but both seem longshots. My choice would be JKF Mansfield; a regular, well-regarded by Scott, apolitical, certainly a fighter (albeit benefitting from a spur from the CinC at times, and, based on his pre-war post as inspector general, certainly familiar with the institutionl side of the army.

    1-B) McDowell was senior, I think, and got the I Corps, but I expect no one wanted to see him back at the Army level of command, despite having organized a corps-sized operation for First Bull Run; my choice is EV Sumner; a regular, a fighter (albeit one who would need a REALLY strong chief of staff, and Marcy would not cut it; I’d suggest Humphreys); and, with his experience in Kansas, someone who might have demonstrated a deeper understanding of the political side of the conflict than he would otherwise be credited for; also has a good relationship with Lincoln.

    1-C) My guess is no; Sumner strikes me as someone who would prefer to fight it out, river line by river line, with Johnston from the Rappahannock to the James.

    2) My choice here is, again, JKF Mansfield; with Mac off to the Pensinsula with the the Army of the Potomac, Mansfield would be, I think, better able to handle the higher command than anyone else.

    So, thoughts?

  2. James F. Epperson May 7, 2011 / 2:34 pm

    Halleck would have gotten the G-in-C post, IMO. Seniority would have determined the AotP post.

    • Ned Baldwin May 7, 2011 / 8:49 pm

      The next most senior officers in the AotP in the winter of 61-62 were Dix and Banks.

      • Ray O'Hara May 7, 2011 / 9:43 pm

        Seniority meant little to Lincoln, he jumped generals over their senior many a time.

        • Ned Baldwin May 7, 2011 / 10:38 pm

          Agreed, and he would have found a way around seniority in this case also.

  3. Ray O'Hara May 7, 2011 / 2:57 pm

    I’d imagine one of the long service regulars like Sumner or Heintzleman who got Corps would have gotten the nod.

    one thing to remember is they’d be facing the unaggressive Joe Johnston and that the campaign most likely follows the modern Rte 1 corridor.

    the big consideration isn’t the change in strategy and the like but rather not having Lil’Mac basically creating the AoP. Whatever his shortcomings as a combat leader {which were many} he was above first rate when it came to preparing an army and that part can’t be downplayed

  4. Ned Baldwin May 7, 2011 / 8:38 pm

    1-A) I think no one would be picked for general-in-chief, just as no one replaced McClellan when he was relieved of the role in April.

    1-B) Probably Wool for Army of the Potomac.

    1-C) Hard to say about the Peninsula campaign, but since Wool had been commander at Ft. Monroe maybe he would favor a campaign in that direction.

    2) Does Lincoln have to replace him with some one?
    If someone had to be picked, at that time I suppose it would be among Halleck, Hitchcock or Wool. We know the impact on the rest of the war that Halleck had. I dont think Wool or Hitchcock would have lasted very long in the job due to age and health reasons.

  5. TF Smith May 8, 2011 / 10:42 am

    All –

    Thanks for the responses; I’m curious why no one thinks Mansfield would have been a good choice, or even in the running?

    He had laid out the Washington defenses in 1861, had the IG’s experience for a decade pre-war, and certainly was willing to fight – I can think of far worse choices.

    • Ned Baldwin May 8, 2011 / 1:24 pm

      In your first post you said that Wool “does not seem to have excited a lot of enthusiasm”. I guess I feel that way about Mansfield. Was he a “fighter”? GW Cullum wrote that Mansfield was “cautious by nature … he counseled prudence and delay”. In the winter of 61-62 he had a small command at Newport News in Wool’s department. So I didnt see him as high on Lincoln’s list to come back to Washington, be promoted and put in charge of the army.

  6. TF Smith May 8, 2011 / 6:30 pm

    Well, he was certainly a fighter at Antietam with the XII Corps…

    According to the sketch in Warner, he deserves credit for “promptly” seizing and fortifying the south bank of the Potomac in 1861.


    • Ned Baldwin May 9, 2011 / 5:16 am

      How can you tell? He was mortally wounded before the XII corps was fully engaged.

  7. Ned Baldwin May 9, 2011 / 7:42 am

    Just realized that there is a general we are overlooking: Hunter. He had the seniority and the connection to Lincoln. Granted he was out in Kansas, but if we are going to consider that Halleck could be called to DC earlier than he actually was, then why not Hunter?

  8. TF Smith May 9, 2011 / 9:45 am

    Ned – True, but given that he was leading from the front, had – at least according to Catton – actively sought a combat command, and generally seems to be an “Old Army” type along the lines of Sumner or CF Smith (as opposed to Dixon Miles), “fighter” seems appropriate.

    Hunter would be out of left field; he’d certainly have brought the emancipation issue forward very early…

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