The Army of Northern Virginia: Lee's Army in the American Civil War, 1861-1865

By Philip Katcher | Go to book overview

The Peninsula Campaign

Lincoln's call for a Union advance in the spring of 1862 led General George B. McClellan to suggest a war-winning campaign for his Army of the Potomac. However, events on the Virginia Peninsula proved McClellan to be anything but a war-winning general.

Before Jackson had begun his attempt to take western Virginia in the spring of 1862, much of it had already fallen into Union hands. The Union general who got the credit for this was a well-known soldier, George B. McClellan, who had been an excellent student at West Point, served as an observer in the Crimean War in Russia, and wrote texts on military work. In the late 1850s he had resigned his commission to go into railroads, the hottest new commercial field of the time. When war broke out, however, he was quickly commissioned a brigadier-general of volunteers and, in June and July 1861, led forces into western Virginia. With his successes there-the one bright spot in an otherwise fairly dismal war effort-he was soon called to Washington, D.C., promoted to major-general, and given command of all Union forces. McClellan proved to be a fine organizer, giving some dispirited unit members furloughs, getting new uniforms and equipment, and having the men out drilling all hours. His love of dress parades and full reviews bonded the men together, and after some months he'd built an army that had largely recovered its pride after the defeat at Manassas the previous July.

McClellan had some real problems with command, however, which would soon make themselves known. He was terribly vain, with his success and position going to his head to the point where he was often politically unwise. He once ignored President Lincoln during an unexpected visit, going upstairs to bed instead. He was, in a modern phrase, soft on the Southern rebels and slavery, instead being as conservative as they were, although, Northern-born, staying in the U.S. Army. He was slow beyond belief. Apparently not terribly brave personally, he seemed to fear committing his forces to action where they, too,

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The Army of Northern Virginia: Lee's Army in the American Civil War, 1861-1865
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Key to Maps 6
  • Foreword 7
  • Introduction 8
  • Part I - Creating the Machine 9
  • Background to War 11
  • Recruitment and Training 27
  • Nature of the War 43
  • Logistics 63
  • Part II - The Years of Attack 81
  • The First Manassas Campaign 83
  • Jackson's Valley Campaign 101
  • The Peninsula Campaign 119
  • The Second Manassas Campaign 139
  • The 1862 Maryland Campaign 155
  • Fredericksburg 173
  • Chancellorsville 191
  • Gettysburg 209
  • Part III - The Nature of the Army 229
  • Robert E. Lee 231
  • The Senior Command Structure 245
  • The Rank and File 259
  • The Army and the State Authorities 273
  • Part IV - The Years of Defense 285
  • The Winter of 1863-64 287
  • The Wilderness to Cold Harbor 301
  • Cold Harbor to Petersburg 315
  • The Final Campaign 329
  • Bibliography 345
  • Index 348
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