This weekend marks the 150th anniversary of George B. McClellan’s letter of advice to Abraham Lincoln on how to crush the rebellion. The letter should have not come as a surprise to Lincoln, for McClellan had indicated that he wanted to present his thoughts to the president, and Lincoln had agreed. Nor do I put much stock in the notion that McClellan was out of his depth in presuming to offer advice on politics and policy, for many a Union general (and several Confederate generals, including Robert E. Lee) did precisely that.
So let’s try something a little different. Here’s the text of the letter. Read it. Tell me what you make of McClellan’s reasoning. And yes, tell me what you make of it … not what someone else has told you to make of it. All too often people simply take historians at their word when they could make up their own mind simply by reading the document itself, and I think this is such a case. Then you can offer what you think of the letter in context … but, once more, draw upon your own thinking.