aariediger
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Early War Union Command: How can we make it better?

Mon Mar 04, 2013 7:48 am

As we all look forward to AACW 2, I think we should take another look at one of the main parts of this game: the Union’s early war command struggles. Basically, there are some generals like Banks and Burnside that should have some reason to take the field, Grant should not be able to get an army command so quickly, and McClellan should actually be the most desirable commander for the Army of the Potomac. Mind you, we don’t have to make him great, just better than your other options. Right now, the player has little incentive to ever let McClellan, Banks, Fremont, or Burnside see the field. I think we should change that.

The first thing we should do is look at the situation in the west. In many ways, Halleck was the “army” commander in the west, with Buell, Grant, and Pope acting as corps commanders. To better simulate this, I think all three of those should start with two stars, and relatively high seniority. Also, Halleck should see a small bump in his ratings, so he doesn’t totally trash his corps commanders’ ratings. A simple boost to 2-0-1 with the same abilities should be adequate.

Now, the eastern theater. Firstly, I think that the recruitment trait needs to be reworked. Right now, the player has little reason to use any of the recruiting generals in command of troops, because they lose their bonus conscripts, and most of the leaders with this trait are poor field commanders as well. If the trait was reworked so instead of having to be in a large city, they had to be in command of a corps or army, it might work better. This way, you might actually use Banks, Burnside, Sigel, and McClernand to command troops. Next:

A list of commanders who did and did not totally get their butt handed to them in the Eastern Theater.

Did

Burnside
Hooker
McDowell
Pope
Banks
Fremont
Sigel

Didn't

Grant
Meade
McClellan

This is the first bit of evidence I will use to construct a case for building a better McClellan. While certainly not the greatest Northern commander, he was at the very least more competent than some of the other ilk that Lincoln put in command of his armies. I think that the following three star generals: McDowell, Fremont, Banks, and Butler, should all have 2-0-1 ratings, and should all have high seniority. Right now, an event puts McClellan at the head of an army and forces the player to deal with him, which doesn’t even work because most players will “game” the system, and move McClellan out of the range of his corps commanders anyway. Instead, I think the player should choose to use McClellan. The first part of this plan is to make the alternative choices really bad (see the above), and make the player wait longer to get a hold of Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan (the last two already take a while, and slowing down Grant a little helps too.) The second part is to make McClellan look at least a little bit appealing. Currently, McClellan is an appalling 1-1-2 commander that you shouldn’t let anywhere near the front line. Here’s what I would propose:

Troop Trainer – Turned a mass of green conscripts and volunteers into the spectacular weapon that came to be known as the Army of the Potomac.

Charismatic – He was the most popular commander the AoP ever had, by far. Not only this, but he was very good at boosting the spirits of his men after defeats: in the wake of Bull Run, after the Seven Days, and after 2nd Manassas. In each case, he restored moral and order quickly.

Poor Spy Network – Constantly overestimated enemy strength. Combined with the fact that the South has several leaders with the ‘deceiver’ trait, and you have a recipe for some very poor intelligence.

Engineer – McClellan finished second in his class at the Point, and as such earned the right to choose which branch to serve with. He became an engineer. He served with distension in Mexico, earning brevet promotions to first Lieutenant, and then Captain. He observed the Siege of Sevastopol in the Crimean war, and after leaving the army, was head engineer for the Illinois Central. As the conflict was starting, McClellan was very highly sought after, as he was “chalk full of ‘big war science’.” He was responsible for the fortifications built around Washington, and made good use of field fortifications and siege guns in his peninsula campaign.

Defensive Rating 1 – McClellan preformed very poorly while fighting on the defensive. He was pushed back by an inferior force under Lee, and forced to abandon his campaign against Richmond. While he did inflict approximately 26,000 Confederate casualties during Fair Oaks and the Seven Days combined, and suffered 21,000 in turn, this relative success was due to artillery, entrenchments, and fighting spirit of the Army of the Potomac, not any maneuvering by McClellan. He allowed the enemy to attack his forces in detail, and was lucky to have avoided destruction. His decision to change his base of supply and therefore his line of retreat probably saved his army, as Lee was in position to cut him off from the rail line running to West Point. A defensive rating of 1 means that a player must be very cautious in advancing McClellan, using his engineer skills to entrench early and often, and making sure he has enough big guns available to beat off any attackers.

Offensive Rating 3 – McClellan did much better in offensive actions during the war. Rich Mountain was a well executed plan that bypassed the main Rebel position under Garnett at Laurel Hill, flanked, defeated, and captured the force guarding his rear, and forced Garnett to retreat from his entrenchments without an assault (he was later killed during the rear guard action.) This victory secured West Virginia for the Union, and propelled McClellan to bigger and better things. Later, on the Peninsula, McClellan pursued Johnston after the withdrawal from Yorktown, ordering Franklin’s corps to attempt to cutoff the Rebel retreat by way of an amphibious action at Eltham’s Landing while the main army ran into their rear guard at Williamsburg. The fighting was sporadic and inconclusive, and Johnston got away. McClellan’s last attack during the Peninsula Campaign was sending Porter’s corps to Hanover. They threw back the few Rebels who they encountered, and opened the way for McDowell’s corps to link up with McClellan. But, that didn’t happen. Banks was routed in the Valley, and Lincoln and Staunton held McDowell back in case Jackson moved against Washington. This was the last action before Johnston and Lee’s counter-offensive. McClellan fought two other offensive battles during the war. In the Maryland Campaign, McClellan punched through Lee’s screening elements at South Mountain. Then, he met Lee at Antietam. He surveyed the field, and decided the best place to strike was on Lee’s left with Hooker’s corps. McClellan, while obviously not destroying Lee outright, did still manage to seriously damage the Army of Northern Virginia and end their campaign, the same thing Lee had done to McClellan on the peninsula. McClellan seems to have fared best when things go according to plan. This is perhaps why he fought better when attacking compared to being forced to react to the enemy as a defender. A 3 offensive rating makes McClellan an attractive option for the player to conduct some semblance of a campaign in the eastern theater in the early war years, compared to the current strategy of basically hunkering down in the east until 63’-64’ and waiting for the better commanders of the late war.

Strategic Rating 2 – McClellan was never accused of acting to fast. Ever. However, in game terms, strategic rating simply deals with the tendency to lead attacks against the enemy. In his term as commander of the Army of the Potomac, McClellan launched four offensive actions: the pursuit of Johnston after Yorktown, the drive north to Hanover to link up with McDowell, the attacks at South Mountain to cross over the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the attacks on Lee at Antietam. If McClellan’s campaigns began in March of 1862, and ended in October with his replacement, that works out to eight months, or 16 game turns, in which he was active at least 4 times. If we remove one opportunity for each major action’s aftermath (one turn where cohesion would be too low to consider an attack anyway), and there were three major actions (Seven Pines, Seven Days, Antietam) than we have 4 confirmed activations in 13 opportunities, or 31%. This matches up pretty well with a 2 Rating, which would mean being active 33% of the time. A 2 Strategy McClellan, combined with the 3 Offensive Rating, should allow the Northern player to attempt campaigns against Richmond in the early years of the war.

To sum it up, I think McClellan should be rated 2-3-1 with Troop Trainer, Charismatic, Poor Spy, and Engineer. This would make him a useful commander, but not an over powering one. Due to his poor defensive rating, you will need to be cautious with him to prevent his army from being overrun. While competent offensively, he will only be able to attack every third turn or so, which should still be very frustrating for the player. However, given that the other Union early war commanders are so poor, McClellan should still have a part in the Union war effort for quite some time.

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Mon Mar 04, 2013 8:48 am

Agree completely. I've always thought McClellan has been unfairly maligned by both many mainstream historians and especially by any civil war games I've played.

He wasn't a bad general at all, was even quite good in many ways, just wasn't the sort of aggressive attacker that Lincoln wanted.

Of course I'm also strongly of the opinion that Grant, Sherman and Sheridan are ridiculously overrated on the whole, both in AACW and in general.

Apparently I'm just a contrarian.

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Chuske
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Mon Mar 04, 2013 12:04 pm

Very interesting post and really important discussion as the early war is not really that well simulated, that said the game is fun and IMHO by far the best strategic ACW game I've played.

I agree with a lot of what you say but think off rating might be better at 2. Yes George should be rated better most certainly and maybe McDowell rated slightly worse but I don't think George deserves and offense rating of 3 purely on the basis of his failure to win battles from overwhelming positions such as Antietam where he had the chance to win the war there and then but failed to commit all his troops, while Lee fought well he didnt win as much as Mac lost it. Also remember Mac was in charge of AotP from after Bull Run until Antietam so he was active a bit less than you say but as you rightly say he attacked 4 times in 1 campaign season although a lot of prodding was needed by Lincoln!

I'd vote for McClellan to be a 2-2-1 and McDowell maybe reduced to 2-1-1 but that could well be open to debate as I can't remember how he performed as a corps commander after Bull Run.

The key difference early war was how green the troops were and I don't think the current game captures this well. If the 1st Bull run victory had been won by the experienced troops of a year later the Rebs would have been at the gates of Washington but in 61 they were too confused and tired to followup the victory, same at Shiloh for the Union army under Grant. Kirby Smiths big victory at battle of Richmond, KY was also in part due to the opposing troops being green. Also early war defeated armies and their generals tended to retreat and return to base to lick their wounds and wheres later armies and generals did not particularly those under Grant & Sherman.

My suggestion is to allow divisions from the get go but have troops in pool early war mostly green with poor performnace and tendency to retreat and victorious troops tending not to followup victories. You could then train your armies up with generals like lil Mac to get them effective fighting forces for the 62 campaigns. Other features nice to see is some way to replicate MTSG that happened with Johnston & Beauregard at 1st Bull Run. This would allow more spread out defence and prevent early war mega stack tactics. Having divisions from the start would stop all the messy early war stacks but the troop quality would limit usefulness of large battles in 61.

As for overated generals I'd say Grant was slightly overated particularly tactically (think of the overland campiagn which was sound strategically but some of the battles there eg Cold Harbour and his early assaults on Vicksburg were foolish) but he was a genius strategically and just refused to give up until he achieved victory. That said Lee is also prone to the odd big blunder such as Pickett's charge, so no general was perfect. So I'd not change Grant's rating as his strategic genius and determination made up for his occaisional tactical error. Sherman I have a lot of respect for.
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Mon Mar 04, 2013 12:16 pm

I'd also have to agree about McClellan. In civil war terms, it's all about the career stats rather than the quick, single season abilities that show through. While some generals like Hood or Pope were great at winning small engagements, few generals could handle the massive responsibilities of army command throughout entire campaigns, let alone win them. Time and time again, the north learned that it wasn't the failure of Union leadership so much as it was them just being outclassed by Lee. McClellan also basically built the Army of the Potomac, the army that would be used over the war to finally wear down the eastern rebel armies. Without his understanding of logistics and training, it's highly probable that the war in the east would have gone on for a lot longer.

I'm no expert on AACW game stats, but it does seem like he should be one of the generals who gets a second look at in terms of abilities. He might not have been a Jackson, Grant or Lee, but he certainly did amazing things with building an army from the ground up, and leading troops in campaigns where many other generals fared far worse.

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Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:48 pm

Well, I guess I don’t think Grant and Sherman are over rated at all. Grant managed to successfully capture three full armies, and no other general on either side even captured one ( Johnston did surrender his forces to Sherman, but that was the war ending, not any tactical/operational maneuvering from Sherman.) Sherman’s drive to Atlanta, outflanking and pushing back Johnston without assaulting his entrenchments, was brilliant. Bevin Alexander has written some books that discuss Sherman’s genius (among other things.)

aariediger
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Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:50 pm

Well, I guess I don’t think Grant and Sherman are over rated at all. Grant managed to successfully capture three full armies, and no other general on either side even captured one ( Johnston did surrender his forces to Sherman, but that was the war ending, not any tactical/operational maneuvering from Sherman.) Sherman’s drive to Atlanta, outflanking and pushing back Johnston without assaulting his entrenchments, was brilliant. Bevin Alexander has written some books that discuss Sherman’s genius (among other things.)

As far as giving McClellan a 3 offensive rating, I don’t think a 1 or a 2 would allow you to manage to seriously hurt Lee, considering he has a 5 defensive rating, and that defensive fire is considerably stronger than offensive fire. Maybe, maybe not. I guess 2-2-1 would still be pretty good, but I was kind of figuring Mac should be at least a little bit better than Burnside, who I consider the worst northern commander. His attack over rather than around the bridge at Antietam, combined with the absolute disaster at Fredericksburg, and then the Mud March, I don’t know how anyone gives him an above average attack rating (considering 1 is average.) I think he should get a 0, maybe even a negative number.

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Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:15 am

I really like the idea of Halleck being forced into being the Union army commander out west initially, it perfectly captures the command situation. I think Halleck would need his seniority boosted to pull this off though, he would have to be right behind McClellan at the top.

I agree that McClellan should get a boost in strategic rating but giving McClellan a relatively bad defensive rating vs a relatively good defensive rating might skew things a bit- McClellan's primary problem as an army commander was that he was far too hands off and basically left everything on the field of battle to his subordinates. The game does a good job of reflecting this by allowing an army commander to affect the ratings of his corps commanders but if you give McClellan a high offensive rating and a relatively low defensive rating it creates the opposite of reality- the likes of Bull Sumner and Burnside might get a boost at Antietam while Fitz John Porter gets stung at Mechanicsville and Gaines Mill. McClellan's two primary defensive failures (splitting his army unevenly across the Chickahominy leading to Seven Pines and then not correcting this mistake which led to the Seven Days) are really things that come down to the player controlling him. Because the idea is that McClellan will almost always be in an army command, I think the key thing is to examine how his ratings affect the ratings of his corps commanders- essentially left alone by the army chief, McClellan's corps commanders generally shined on the defensive (Bull Sumner taking the initiative to cross the Chickahominy at Seven Pines, Porter at Mechanicsville and Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill in general) but came up short in just about every offensive action.

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Tue Mar 05, 2013 7:21 pm

aariediger wrote:Strategic Rating 2 – McClellan was never accused of acting to fast. Ever. However, in game terms, strategic rating simply deals with the tendency to lead attacks against the enemy. In his term as commander of the Army of the Potomac, McClellan launched four offensive actions: the pursuit of Johnston after Yorktown, the drive north to Hanover to link up with McDowell, the attacks at South Mountain to cross over the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the attacks on Lee at Antietam. If McClellan’s campaigns began in March of 1862, and ended in October with his replacement, that works out to eight months, or 16 game turns, in which he was active at least 4 times. If we remove one opportunity for each major action’s aftermath (one turn where cohesion would be too low to consider an attack anyway), and there were three major actions (Seven Pines, Seven Days, Antietam) than we have 4 confirmed activations in 13 opportunities, or 31%. This matches up pretty well with a 2 Rating, which would mean being active 33% of the time. A 2 Strategy McClellan, combined with the 3 Offensive Rating, should allow the Northern player to attempt campaigns against Richmond in the early years of the war.


But the game already simulates his activity in 62. He is active by event EVERY TURN almost entire half of 62. That simulates his lack of action in 61, and loads of action in 62. As for the strategic part of his command, he always failed to properly asses the situation, even when he had all the intel he he needed (before Sharpsburg).

If his strategic rating is increased, slow mover is a must.

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Tue Mar 05, 2013 7:33 pm

The game design has to solve a issue with the tactics of appointing McClellan head of AoP and moving his headquarters to Boston. Corps should have a penalty when out of command range. And upon forming a corps, it should have a penalty for a turn to prevent constant change in corps command (using the active commander every turn).

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Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:03 pm

I guess I would eliminate those scripted activations in the latter half of 1862 if his strategic rating got bumped to 2. As far as the tactic of moving him out of range of his corps, that is what we’re trying to combat by making McClellan just good enough to keep at the front line with his corps.

And I do realize that his corps commanders did better defensively, but we already have a way to show that: the defensive ratings of the individual commanders. Remember, offensive and defensive ratings can only help, not hurt, corps commanders. Fitz-John Porter is already a good defender, and Sumner, Keyes, and the rest all have at least a 1. And after all, those ratings only come into play when they are the commanding general, if McClellan’s around it doesn’t matter anyway.

I think it is hard to argue that McClellan should get a defensive rating higher than 1, I don’t think it’s so hard to build a case for him having a 2 or 3 offensive rating. He did well in all his offensive actions: Rich Mountain, the pursuit after Yorktown, the drive north to link up with McDowell, the various attacks at South Mountain, and Antietam. At Antietam, he accomplished the exact same thing that Lee did in the Seven Days: stop the enemy invasion, inflict a lot of casualties but still taking more than the defender, and blow an opportunity to destroy the enemy army and win the war. It was the exact same thing. But we look at Lee’s victory in a much different light than McClellan’s.

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Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:39 pm

Yes we do look Lee's and McClellan victories in different light because Lee was outnumbered, outgunned and not entreched at Sharpsburg. Mac had all this advantages at Seven days battles. Mac could be 2/2/1, but he must be a slow mover, and this trait should pass to subordinate corps. In fact most traits should be passed to corps since the army stack doesn't do much combat anyway. This would prevent CSA players putting Lee a big corps commander the entire war.

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Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:05 am

According to Sears in The Gates of Richmond, McClellan had 104,000 men during the Seven Days, Lee 92,000. Longstreet writes in From Manassas to Appomattox that when the Army of Northern Virginia concentrated together at Fredericktown on September 9th they had 61,000 and that McClellan had 87,000 at Antietam on September 17th. Again, McClellan has an advantage in numbers, but not overwhelmingly so. He still managed to put one heck of a hurt on Lee’s army, the 10,000 they lost that day was more than any other day in the war.

It of course makes sense that both McClellan and Lee took more casualties as attackers than as defenders in the Seven Days and Antietam, that fact holds true for almost every battle in the war. There were really only two solutions, and Grant and Sherman employed them. The first is to cut off the enemy’s retreat, so even though you lose more men in the attack itself, you force the enemy to surrender. Grant did this at Fort Donaldson, Vicksburg, and the Overland Campaign.

The other way is to simply avoid the enemy’s entrenchments by going around them, forcing them to retreat without even needing to attack. Sherman did that to Johnston all the way to Atlanta. Anyone who thinks that Johnston conducted a smart campaign is wrong: there is no way he could have fought and won that Jomini grand battle that his defenders claim he was setting up. Instead, Sherman had driven all the way to the outskirts of Atlanta at a fraction of the cost that Lee would extract from Grant in the Overland Campaign. This isn’t to say that Grant is a worse commander than Sherman, I’m sure Grant would have preferred to march around Lee and taken Petersburg at little cost, however Lee wouldn’t let that happen, and stepped in front of Grant every step of the way.

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Wed Mar 06, 2013 4:31 am

I think his strategic rating should stay at one, because as stated he is already active by event. I don't think the events should be removed to balance with a higher strategic rating. This would remove the historical situation of Lincoln basically needing to FORCE McClellan to take offensive action by a direct order. Isn't that what the events represent?

However, I think you're right about his offensive rating. His offence shouldn't be so horrible in the game, and even if we increase his offense value we don't need to worry about him becoming to good because his poor strategic rating is bad enough to compensate.

So I suggest something in between. I suggest 1-2-2 with the traits mentioned initially.

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Wed Mar 06, 2013 4:37 am

The battle of Rich Mountain is a bit hard to find historical data about simply because it was not large, but from what I remember MClellan did decent until time came to follow up his victory. Then he basically froze. His subordinate, the controversial Rosecrans is the one who deserves credit for the tactical victory, I think.

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Wed Mar 06, 2013 6:02 am

I think an argument could be made that McClellan's attacks at South Mountain and Antietam could be considered examples of why his offensive rating should be kept as low as possible- while McClellan's initial plans for those battles were certainly sound (and technically, McClellan's successes here could again be considered items more under the players control in maneuvering a superior force into position to engage a numerically weaker enemy), his failure to actually see those plans executed properly is the main reason why Lee's army wasn't destroyed. McClellan could certainly plan good battles but he couldn't actually fight them very well- we can point to the failures of Franklin, Sumner and/or Burnside but one man is responsible for allowing those men to fail so spectacularly.

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Rich Mountain

Wed Mar 06, 2013 7:26 am

[ATTACH]21905[/ATTACH]
Basically, Garnett was in command of about 5,300 rebels in West Virginia. McClellan had somewhere around 11,000 men, and was assigned to kick Garnett out of West Virginia. The Confederates had a strong position at Laurel Hill, on the road leading from Philippi to Beverly. McClellan decided to split his force, sending a brigade under Morris directly on Garnett’s position, while McClellan and the other three brigades approached Beverly from the road heading east from Buckhannon. Morris was assigned to “amuse” Garnett while McClellan got in his rear. Upon reaching Beverly, they ran into 1,300 Confederates. A loyal farmer offered his services as a guide, and a plan was formed. Rosecrans would attack the enemy’s left flank from behind, and when heavily engaged, McClellan would bring up the rest of the men and shatter the disrupted defenders with a direct assault. In the event, Rosecrans was spotted, and didn’t end up attacking the rear as planned. McClellan was counting on Rosecrans sufficiently distracting the defenders so his attack could succeed. Instead, McClellan decided not to assault the trenches. Rosecrans did manage to break the enemy’s flank after a time, and in the aftermath perhaps only a third or so of the 1,300 men managed to escape. Garnett abandoned his position at Laurel Hill, and Morris drove hard after them, hitting their rear guard near Corrick’s Ford, where Garnett was killed. This battle would win control West Virginia for the North, although Lee would try, and fail, to take it back later that same year. By then, though, McClellan was in Washington, trying to put back together the Northeastern Virginia Army in the wake of Bull Run.
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Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:06 pm

The conduct of the battle shows a lack of initiative on the part of the attacking commander. No plan survives first contact with the enemy. He needed to do something not just sit or call off his portion of the attack. Either reinforce the attack or maneuver his forces to divide the enemy fire. Had Rosecrans been repulsed, what then?

The engagement sends up big red flags for me.

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Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:29 am

Aariediger:

The plan looks beautiful on the map, it is true. But I think ol'choctaw is correct. When reality differed from the plan, McClellan messed up. He did win. That's important. But he also showed as a small force commander the same poisonous tendancies that ruined his campaigns later.

By the way, where did you get the map and info?

I think he was what the game would consider a two star leader at the time of this battle, at least in terms of the size of his force. So maybe his two star ratings can be better than his three star ratings. I think the ratings you suggested for his three star would be better for his two star.

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Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:49 am

What happened was one of Rosecrans couriers was captured, and Pegram knew something was going on around his left. He detached a small group of about 350 men to throw up a defensive line. However, this still left 950 with the main line of resistance. Also, although the attack was supposed to start at ten, the climb was much more difficult than expected, and Rosecrans didn’t get into action until 2:30.

Now look at things from McClellan’s point of view. He doesn’t know exactly what is going on for sure, only that Rosecrans is not in the enemy’s rear. He also knows that the route to where ever Rosecrans is, takes at least four hours to get there. He can also see that the majority of the Rebels are still in their entrenchments, and don’t seem to be too concerned with the firefight going on to their left. So what could he do?

1. He could march his two brigades to the sound of the guns, but the earliest he could get there would be 6:30. In the mean time, Pegram is free to march the rest of his men to his left to mass against Rosecrans, and would have about four hours to fight him alone. By the time McClellan was able to join Rosecrans, the issue would likely have already been decided, and there would only be a couple hours left of daylight anyway.

2. He could carry out his assault as previously planned. However, the trenches were still full of gray hats, and that could spell heavy casualties for his two brigades. Rosecrans was counting on this assault to take the pressure off his men. However, because the enemy still had not yet moved many men off of the line, it wasn’t very likely Rosecrans was meeting much resistance. This was true, Rosecrans had over 1,800 men to face the 350 Confederates, and he would end up routing them.

3. He could wait. If Pegram moved part of his force away to join the fight with Rosecrans, McClellan could storm his entrenchments at a moment’s notice, and break his army in two. If instead he kept all his men in the trenches, McClellan would sit and wait for Rosecrans to break his flank.

McClellan chose the last option. In addition, his topographical officer found a position to mount guns so as to bring the entrenchments under enfilading fire. If neither he nor Rosecrans could finish them off today, he would shell them out of their trenches tomorrow. In the event, Pegram kept the rest of his men with him, McClellan held off on the assault, Rosecrans broke their flank, and the Rebels fled. In the pursuit that followed, Pegram and around 600 officers and men surrendered. And as stated before, Garnett retreated from Laurel Hill, Morris caught him at Corrick’s Ford, where Garnett was killed and his force dispersed.

I think he made a pretty good decision, given the situation. As far as 2/3 star ratings, well, even before this battle, he was second in rank only to Winfield Scott himself. I guess I view McClellan as a more popular, slower, Northern version of Bragg. Both were politically supported, were great trainers of soldiers, tended to retreat after battle win lose or draw, were very poor defensively, and all right on the offensive side. Bragg is 5-3-1 backed up with crappy abilities, and I think McClellan should be 2-3-1 with good abilities. A 3 offensive army commander is hard to find, Bragg comes to mind, but other than that I think maybe Thomas? is the only other one I can think of. I think some of the army commanders who did decently on the attacking side deserve a 3, like Bragg, McClellan, and probably Albert Sydney Johnston too.

Oh, and I got the info from the book The Young Napoleon, and the map was modified from one taken from this website: http://www.mikalac.com/civ/map/wvmap.html

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Thu Mar 07, 2013 5:23 am

aariediger wrote:What happened was one of Rosecrans couriers was captured, and Pegram knew something was going on around his left. He detached a small group of about 350 men to throw up a defensive line. However, this still left 950 with the main line of resistance. Also, although the attack was supposed to start at ten, the climb was much more difficult than expected, and Rosecrans didn’t get into action until 2:30.

Now look at things from McClellan’s point of view. He doesn’t know exactly what is going on for sure, only that Rosecrans is not in the enemy’s rear. He also knows that the route to where ever Rosecrans is, takes at least four hours to get there. He can also see that the majority of the Rebels are still in their entrenchments, and don’t seem to be too concerned with the firefight going on to their left. So what could he do?

1. He could march his two brigades to the sound of the guns, but the earliest he could get there would be 6:30. In the mean time, Pegram is free to march the rest of his men to his left to mass against Rosecrans, and would have about four hours to fight him alone. By the time McClellan was able to join Rosecrans, the issue would likely have already been decided, and there would only be a couple hours left of daylight anyway.

2. He could carry out his assault as previously planned. However, the trenches were still full of gray hats, and that could spell heavy casualties for his two brigades. Rosecrans was counting on this assault to take the pressure off his men. However, because the enemy still had not yet moved many men off of the line, it wasn’t very likely Rosecrans was meeting much resistance. This was true, Rosecrans had over 1,800 men to face the 350 Confederates, and he would end up routing them.

3. He could wait. If Pegram moved part of his force away to join the fight with Rosecrans, McClellan could storm his entrenchments at a moment’s notice, and break his army in two. If instead he kept all his men in the trenches, McClellan would sit and wait for Rosecrans to break his flank.

McClellan chose the last option. In addition, his topographical officer found a position to mount guns so as to bring the entrenchments under enfilading fire. If neither he nor Rosecrans could finish them off today, he would shell them out of their trenches tomorrow. In the event, Pegram kept the rest of his men with him, McClellan held off on the assault, Rosecrans broke their flank, and the Rebels fled. In the pursuit that followed, Pegram and around 600 officers and men surrendered. And as stated before, Garnett retreated from Laurel Hill, Morris caught him at Corrick’s Ford, where Garnett was killed and his force dispersed.

I think he made a pretty good decision, given the situation. As far as 2/3 star ratings, well, even before this battle, he was second in rank only to Winfield Scott himself. I guess I view McClellan as a more popular, slower, Northern version of Bragg. Both were politically supported, were great trainers of soldiers, tended to retreat after battle win lose or draw, were very poor defensively, and all right on the offensive side. Bragg is 5-3-1 backed up with crappy abilities, and I think McClellan should be 2-3-1 with good abilities. A 3 offensive army commander is hard to find, Bragg comes to mind, but other than that I think maybe Thomas? is the only other one I can think of. I think some of the army commanders who did decently on the attacking side deserve a 3, like Bragg, McClellan, and probably Albert Sydney Johnston too.

Oh, and I got the info from the book The Young Napoleon, and the map was modified from one taken from this website: http://www.mikalac.com/civ/map/wvmap.html


I don't feel like Mac deserves a 3 offensively. I think defensively he deserves a two, and the 1 off is appropriate. Is there any thought to separating strategic rating into two categories. My current understanding is that strategic rating not only determines activity, but also factors slightly into other things, like time to entrench and stuff (I think I could be wrong though). Is there any possibility that a general has 4 categories instead of three? Activity rating, strategic rating, def and off rating? I think Mac was sound strategically, but his activity was atrocious.

aariediger
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Thu Mar 07, 2013 6:56 pm

Well, I don’t think you can split it up. I mean, I understand what an “activity” rating would do as that would basically be what we have now, but what would “strategy” account for? You have to personally plan and carry out the war, the relative strategic prowess of your generals is solely determined by your own ability.

I don’t see how anyone can look at McClellan’s battlefield record and come up with a reason he should have a 2 defensively. He was terrible! He very well could have lost his army in the Seven Days. I also don’t see why a 2 or 3 offensive rating is so out of the question. McDowell, Burnside, Buell, Pope, and Hooker all have Offensive ratings of 2, and all of them were fired after their first battle in overall command. I think McClellan did better attacking than any of these commanders, so I'm okay with giving him a 3, or a 2 if we drop all their attack ratings to 1.

B0rn_C0nfused
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Thu Mar 07, 2013 8:01 pm

aariediger wrote:Well, I don’t think you can split it up. I mean, I understand what an “activity” rating would do as that would basically be what we have now, but what would “strategy” account for? You have to personally plan and carry out the war, the relative strategic prowess of your generals is solely determined by your own ability.

I don’t see how anyone can look at McClellan’s battlefield record and come up with a reason he should have a 2 defensively. He was terrible! He very well could have lost his army in the Seven Days. I also don’t see why a 2 or 3 offensive rating is so out of the question. McDowell, Burnside, Buell, Pope, and Hooker all have Offensive ratings of 2, and all of them were fired after their first battle in overall command. I think McClellan did better attacking than any of these commanders, so I'm okay with giving him a 3, or a 2 if we drop all their attack ratings to 1.


Outside of Rich Mountain, which was a very small battle early in the war I don't see any victories for him on offense. I do see some defensive competence, especially during the seven days battles.

aariediger
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Thu Mar 07, 2013 9:55 pm

Besides Rich Mountain, he had success at Hanover, South Mountain, and Antietam. The only offensive action that didn’t achieve what he set out to do was his pursuit of Johnston after Yorktown.
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McClellan planned to cut-off the Rebel retreat by way of an amphibious action at Eltham’s Landing (also known as West Point) with Franklin’s corps, while he pursued them directly with the main body. However, amphibious assaults are hard to pull off in the spur of the moment, and though McClellan caught their rear guard at Williamsburg, Franklin couldn’t get into the blocking position fast enough, and Johnston got away.

On the other hand, I don’t know how you look at the Seven Days as a reason for touting McClellan as a good defensive general. He allowed his forces to be attacked in detail, and the only reason Lee didn’t bag his whole army was the solid entrenchments his subordinates threw up at every opportunity. While Lee did lose a lot of men, that is simply the nature of attacks in the Civil War. In nearly every battle, the attacker suffered more casualties than the defender, regardless of who won.
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After Yorktown.jpg

Canon
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Thu Mar 07, 2013 11:01 pm

^ You set Seven Days as a defensive blunder but Antietam and South Mountain as successful attacks? McClellan was bad in major engagements, no other way of putting it. Ideal for a C-of-C role doing administrative and organizational tasks, but as a fighter? Just bad once the bullets started flying.

B0rn_C0nfused
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Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:43 am

aariediger wrote:Besides Rich Mountain, he had success at Hanover, South Mountain, and Antietam. The only offensive action that didn’t achieve what he set out to do was his pursuit of Johnston after Yorktown.
[ATTACH]21878[/ATTACH]
McClellan planned to cut-off the Rebel retreat by way of an amphibious action at Eltham’s Landing with Franklin’s corps, while he pursued them directly with the main body. However, amphibious assaults are hard to pull off as a spur of the moment thing, and though McClellan caught their rear guard at Williamsburg, Franklin couldn’t get into the blocking position fast enough, and Johnston got away.

On the other hand, I don’t know how you look at the Seven Days as a reason for touting McClellan as a good defensive general. He allowed his forces to be attacked in detail, and the only reason Lee didn’t bag his whole army was the solid entrenchments his subordinates threw up at every opportunity. While Lee did lose a lot of men, that is simply the nature of attacks in the Civil War. In nearly every battle, the attacker suffered more casualties than the defender, regardless of who won.


First off, wasn't Hanover part of the Gettysburg campaign? What did Mac have to do with that?

Secondly, at south mountain Mac had the 28,000-18,000 numbers advantage, and Lee bought precious time, casualties were pretty even I think.

Antietam, John Bell Hood or my dead great grandma (bless her soul) could have done better than Mac did there. Didn't he have lee outnumbered more than 2:1?

Also I should note, I never said Mac was a "good" defensive general, I said competent, those are two very different distinctions. I don't see a defensive rating of "2" being good. 3 might not even be considered "good".

As a side not there were plenty of battles were the attacker lost less than the defender.

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Fri Mar 08, 2013 2:38 am

aariediger wrote:McDowell, Burnside, Buell, Pope, and Hooker all have Offensive ratings of 2, and all of them were fired after their first battle in overall command. I think McClellan did better attacking than any of these commanders


Outside of maybe Buell, all those officers shared the same common trait as McClellan- they came up with good initial battle/campaign plans but then lost control when things started to go against their plans. In the case of Burnside, one could at least make the argument that he remained committed and engaged once his army went into battle (most of the casualties at Fredericksburg resulted from Burnside turning what was supposed to a diversion into the main assault because his chief subordinate who should have led the main assault refused to support Meade's initial breakthrough). Even in a ghastly defeat Burnside displayed more offensive flair and initiative by modifying his original plan than McClellan did in his supposed victories. In Hooker's case, there's no denying that he dropped the ball once the battle actually began at Chancellorsville but taking into account his prior service (including playing a key role in most of McClellan's victories) and his subsequent service, its fair to say he is accurately rated as an army commander if not a bit under valued.

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Fri Mar 08, 2013 2:42 am

I still think 1-2-2 are better stats. As you stated, he was at least as good an attacker as Buell, Burnsides, and Pope, though I guess that is not saying much. But his attacking ability was almost totally countered by his inactivity. I think the game could show this pretty well by giving him decent combat stats but a horrible strategic rating.

aariediger
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Fri Mar 08, 2013 2:58 am

Ah, well, you and I are talking about different Hanovers. The battle of Hanover Courthouse was part of the Peninsula Campaign.

Following the pursuit after Yorktown, McClellan sent Porter’s corps north to Hanover county Virginia, so that he could link up with McDowell’s corps in Fredericksburg. They drove back what Rebels they found, and won a brief fight, taking 397 casualties versus 930 inflicted. (http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/va013.htm). But, it didn’t matter. Banks was routed in the Valley at Winchester, and Lincoln and Staunton held McDowell back in case Jackson tried to take the Capital. This was the last action before Johnston and Lee’s counter-offensive.

Anyway, you can see the battle on the map I posted. Up in the top left hand corner, you can see Porter’s corps and Hanover Courthouse.

Looking at the Maryland Campaign, I think he did an okay job. At South Mountain, he lost less men than the screening force, and although they bought some time for Lee to consolidate his forces a bit, Lee was still in a spectacularly vulnerable position when McClellan got to Sharpsburg two days later. He had his back to the Potomac, and a mistake could mean losing the war right then and there. If South Mountain was really such a successful delaying action, then Lee should have had enough time to slip south of the Potomac where he would be safe. He didn’t, so I think South Mountain was a northern victory, both tactically and strategically.

Longstreet writes in From Manassas to Appomattox that when the Army of Northern Virginia concentrated together at Fredericktown on September 9th they had 61,000 and that McClellan had 87,000 at Antietam on September 17th.

McClellan did have a sizable advantage in numbers at Antietam, but not overwhelmingly so. A lot of sources will claim Lee had only 37,000 or so at the battle, but this is usually is post-fixed with the term “engaged.” This smaller total doesn’t include some of the brigades that didn’t fight in the battle, or any of the cavalry. Longstreet gives aggregate totals for both sides. It also makes it easier to understand how Lee could somehow have something like 80,000 men at Fredericksburg less than three months after the bloodiest day in his army’s history.
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At Antietam, McClellan’s plan was fairly strait forward. He would cross Antietam Creek at the Upper Bridge, the only of the three out of the range of southern cannon, with four corps. The idea was to strike Lee’s left flank with three corps, (Hooker, Mansfield, and Sumner, approximately half of his army), and to exploit the breakthrough with Franklin’s corps. At the same time, he would conduct a diversion at the lower bridge with Burnside’s Corps. The only part of his army not scheduled to be engaged was Porter’s corps, which had just been roughed up at 2nd Manassas two weeks earlier.

That doesn’t sound that bad. So, what happened? Well, a lot of things. Although the assault on the left started well, it bogged down after both Mansfield and Hooker were gunned down. Sumner continued the attack, but was unable to achieve a breakthrough for Franklin to exploit. Burnside had a very hard time trying to capture the lower bridge, and until his men were across, they could be bottled up by a small force. When they did finally make it across, Hill’s division came up and forced them back.
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Antietam.jpg

B0rn_C0nfused
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Fri Mar 08, 2013 3:09 am

aariediger wrote:Ah, well, you and I are talking about different Hanovers. The battle of Hanover Courthouse was part of the Peninsula Campaign.

Following the pursuit after Yorktown, McClellan sent Porter’s corps north to Hanover county Virginia, so that he could link up with McDowell’s corps in Fredericksburg. They drove back what Rebels they found, and won a brief fight, casualties were 397 Union, 930 Confederate (http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/va013.htm). But, it didn’t matter. Banks was routed in the Valley at Winchester, and Lincoln and Staunton held McDowell back in case Jackson tried to take the Capital. This was the last action before Johnston and Lee’s counter-offensive.

Anyway, you can see the battle on the map I posted. Up in the top left hand corner, you can see Porter’s corps and Hanover Courthouse.

Looking at the Maryland Campaign, I think he did an okay job. At South Mountain, he lost less men than the screening force, and although they bought some time for Lee to consolidate his forces a bit, Lee was still in a spectacularly vulnerable position when McClellan got to Sharpsburg two days later. He had his back to the Potomac, and a mistake could mean losing the war right then and there. If South Mountain was really such a successful delaying action, then Lee should have had enough time to slip south of the Potomac where he would be safe. He didn’t, so I think South Mountain was a northern victory, both tactically and strategically.


McClellan did have a sizable advantage in numbers at Antietam, but not overwhelmingly so. A lot of sources will claim Lee had only 37,000 or so at the battle, but this is usually is post-fixed with the term “engaged.” This smaller total doesn’t include some of the brigades that didn’t fight in the battle, or any of the cavalry. Longstreet gives aggregate totals for both sides. It also makes it easier to understand how Lee could somehow have something like 80,000 men at Fredericksburg less than three months after the bloodiest day in his army’s history.
[ATTACH]21879[/ATTACH]

At Antietam, McClellan’s plan was fairly strait forward. He would cross Antietam Creek at the Upper Bridge, the only of the three out of the range of southern cannon, with four corps. The idea was to strike Lee’s left flank with three corps, (Hooker, Mansfield, and Sumner, approximately half of his army), and to exploit the breakthrough with Franklin’s corps. At the same time, he would conduct a diversion at the lower bridge with Burnside’s Corps. The only part of his army not scheduled to be engaged was Porter’s corps, which had just been roughed up at 2nd Manassas two weeks earlier.

That doesn’t sound that bad. So, what happened? Well, a lot of things. Although the assault on the left started well, it bogged down after both Mansfield and Hooker were gunned down. Sumner continued the attack, but was unable to achieve a breakthrough for Franklin to exploit. Burnside had a very hard time trying to capture the lower bridge, and until his men were across, they could be bottled up by a small force. When they did finally make it across, Hill’s division came up and forced them back.


I think your estimate is far too high for southern troops at Antietam. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_number_of_troops_in_the_Battle_of_Antietam the source quoted for the answer seems to be scholarly.

I believe the reason Lee has was able to have so many troops later, was a concentration of troops that weren't in Maryland, and I believe there were still a considerable number at Harper's Ferry. I don't believe there were 60,000 Southern troops at Antietam.

Also the Union outnumbered the rebels 3:1 at Hanover courthouse. I would say what occurred was par for the course.

aariediger
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Fri Mar 08, 2013 3:12 am

I understand Burnside showed some initiative to modify his plan in the middle of battle, but when your new plan is to assault entrenchments head on one brigade at a time, you don’t win any points in my book. I do, however, like Hooker and the way he is treated in game as a decent general that just happened to be fighting practically a military genius like Lee.

Back to McDowell, Burnside, Fremont, and Banks: Why do we think they were so much more active than McClellan? They all kind of dragged their feet when it came time to move or attack, and although McClellan was slow, was he so much worse than the rest of these guys that he is the only one of the bunch to get a 1 strategy rating?

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