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George McClellan, The US General and Leader Essay


Introduction: The Man, Who Won at Losing

Being a leader is often viewed as the ultimate goal by a number of people; however, taking leadership means accepting a lot of responsibilities. Leaders are not resistant to making mistakes, and the case of General McClellan is a graphic example of that. The very persona of General McClellan is often viewed as controversial due to his infamous retreat in the course of the Peninsula Campaign and his role in the Civil War; however, he still should be considered a nominee for the title of the greatest generals of the United States, since, being a scapegoat for the most part, he managed to take victory at the Battle of South Mountain and literally destroy General Lee’s troops during the Battle of Antietam, which makes him one of the most underrated historic personalities of the century and one of the leaders to look up to.

The Napoleon of Ohio

First and most obvious, George McClellan doubtlessly was a professional strategist. Despite the few misfortunes, which he had on several occasions, a number of his endeavors to design a perfect winning approach were crowned with success. The Ohio Campaign and the so-called Anaconda Plan happened to be a major success, which gave McClellan the title of the “Napoleon of the present war” (Arnold and Wiener 131).

The Crash and the Following Demise: The Peninsula Campaign

It would be pointless to turn a blind eye to the fact that the Peninsula Campaign led to a series of retreats and the following defeat of the army. Indeed, in a retrospect, the implications of the actions taken by General McClellan left much to be desired – the campaign was clearly lost; however, to his credit, the effects were not as devastating to the U.S. Army as they could have. Whether it was by a mere stroke of luck or due to McClellan’s tactic skills, the army left the field with little to no battle scars (Rafuse 474).

Transformative Leadership at Its Best

In fact, some good did come out of the general’s strategic mistakes – as the existing records show, the rumors about his misfortunes were spread especially widely among the enemies in order to have them unprepared to face McClellan’s tactical genius. More to the pint, McClellan may not have been the best strategist ever, yet he was, probably, the first general to consider enhancement of trustworthy relationships with soldiers. To be more exact, McClellan can be viewed as the first leader to consider the principle of the transformative leadership approach, i.e., influencing the soldiers’ battle enthusiasm by setting an example of his own. McClellan put incredible trust into each and every of his soldiers, and they responded with devotion: “The moment for action has arrived, and I know that I can trust in you to save our country” (Regan, Newton and Pluskat 41).

Guided by Devotion

In a way, the fact that McClellan still continued pursuing his goal of being an excellent governor of army and generating perfect strategies for triumphing in the battles despite the shunning that he received for his early mistakes is very fascinating. It would have been much easier to thrown down the arms and accept the stigma of a failure, yet McClellan never even considered retreating as an option – like a powerful machine, he led his troops to victory despite knowing that he would, probably, not receive the credit for it. The fact that he selflessly devoted his life to bringing victory to the country is what makes him a hero.

Conclusion: Shunned, Yet Not Forgotten

Even though General McClellan made a major failure at the very start of his career in the U.S. army, he still should be considered a hero worth making an example of. Not only did he continue to provide his services to the United States Army, taking a number of challenging tasks and completing them, but also never raised the issue concerning his reputation as a poor leader.

Works Cited

Arnold, James J. and Roberta Wiener. American Civil War: The Essential Reference Guide. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. 2011. Print.

Rafuse, Ethan S. McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. 2005. Print.

Regan, Timothy J., ‎David C. Newton and Kenneth J. Pluskat. The Lost Civil War Diaries: The Diaries of Corporal Timothy J. Regan. Bloomington, IN: Trafford Publishing. 2003. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, June 16). George McClellan, The US General and Leader. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/george-mcclellan-the-us-general-and-leader/

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"George McClellan, The US General and Leader." IvyPanda, 16 June 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/george-mcclellan-the-us-general-and-leader/.

1. IvyPanda. "George McClellan, The US General and Leader." June 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/george-mcclellan-the-us-general-and-leader/.


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IvyPanda. "George McClellan, The US General and Leader." June 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/george-mcclellan-the-us-general-and-leader/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "George McClellan, The US General and Leader." June 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/george-mcclellan-the-us-general-and-leader/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'George McClellan, The US General and Leader'. 16 June.

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