General McClellan - Plainfield - Sec

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					                                         General George McClellan

                                  Mark Levenson – Plainfield High School

Grade Level: Middle / High School

New Jersey Social Studies Content Standards: 6.1-A-2; 6.1-A-3; 6.1-A-8; 6.3-G-1

Lesson Summary: Students act as historical “jurists” in deciding General McClellan’s place in history.
Students synthesize, analyze and evaluate McClellan’s role in the Civil War.

Suggested Time Frame: One or two 40-minute periods depending on class size.

Students will be able to:
   Analyze and synthesize primary source documents about General McClellan.
   Evaluate General McClellan as a commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Civil War, 1860-1865
Historical Contrasts
           Union                   Essential Historical            Confederacy
  Constitutional-Republic     1. What is the structure of     Constitutional-Republic
                              the government?
     Abraham Lincoln                                            Jefferson Davis
     Military Leaders        2. Who or what group/s are         Military Leaders
     White Male Citizens     the major players?                 White Male Citizens

     Declaration of          3. What documents, values,         Sovereignty of states’
      Independence            attitudes, or beliefs define        rights.
     U.S Constitution        or support these major             preservation of
                              players?                            slavery.
                                                                 Confederate

Historical Background:

General George B. McClellan is one of the more interesting characters of the Civil War. Even more interesting
is the colorful personality struggle between McClellan and Abraham Lincoln.

1861—July 27, McClellan is made head of the Division of the Potomac.
He trains, equips, and readies his troops for action.
Viewed as a hero, the press begins calling him the “Young Napoleon.”
1861—November, McCellan replaces General Winfield Scott as general-in-chief.
1862—March, McClellan retains control of the Army of the Potomac but is removed from supreme command.
1862—April – July, McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign ends after the Seven Days Battles.
McClellan blames his defeat on lack of support from Washington.
1862—August, Most of his troops are reassigned to the Army of Virginia under John Pope.
1862—September 2, After Pope’s defeat at Second Manassas, the army is returned to McClellan.
1862—September 17, McClellan stops Lee’s northern invasion at Antietam, Maryland.
1862—November 9, McClellan is removed from command after failing to pursue Lee.
1864—McClellan becomes the Democratic candidate for president and resigns from the army.

Key Terms:

        Abraham Lincoln
        George McClellan
        Winfield Scott
        Antietem
        Army of the Potomac
        Secretary of War Edwin Stanton

Do Now: Picture Prompt—students free respond to the following picture

Critical Thinking Questions:

      I.     What biases are present in the primary source documents?
      II.    Whose arguments do you ultimately agree with, and why?
      III.   Taken as a whole what conclusions can you make about Lincoln, McClellan, and their views of how
             the war should be fought?

Anticipatory Set:

        Discussion—what are reasons to fire an employee?

       I.      Completion of the “Do Now” activity.
       II.     Review of the “Anticipatory Set”.
       III.    Instructions: Students will be a jury in the case of George McClellan v Abraham Lincoln.
               George has been fired as General of the Army of the Potomac. Using Primary Sources, decide
               whether you agree with Lincoln or McClellan.
       IV.     Divide students into 7 pairs and divide the classroom into 7 stations.
       V.      At each station, place a folder with one of the attached primary sources inside.
       VI.     Students take 5-10 minutes to examine the source. After a predetermined amount of time,
               teacher says “ROTATE” and partners move to next station.
       VII.    Repeat until all students have seen all documents.
       VIII.   Students come back to full class.
               a. Option 1—discuss results and have “jury verdict” in class
               b. Option 2—assign verdict and OPINION either in class or for homework
       IX.     Closure: Discuss with students what they would do if they had been leader of the Army. What
               if they had been Lincoln? Tell students that Lincoln had virtually NO military experience. Does
               that change their point of view?

Extension Activities:

     Have students research the methods of Ulysses S. Grant and determine how they differentiated with those
      of McClellan.


     Walk through the “lab” as students are examining documents. Ask them what they are considering when
      looking at the documents. Evaluate arguments at the conclusion of the lesson.

Suggested Homework:

     None specific, although students may complete the extension activity.


     10 Manila folders, Primary sources (attached)
EXHIBIT A—Message from Lincoln to McClellan

Executive Mansion
Washington, Feb. 3, 1862

Major General McClellan

My dear Sir: You and I have distinct, and different plans for a movement of the Army of the Potomac -- yours
to be down the Chesapeake, up the Rappahannock to Urbana, and across land to the terminus of the Railroad on
the York River --, mine to move directly to a point on the Railroad South West of Manassas.

If you will give me satisfactory answers to the following questions, I shall gladly yield my plan to yours.

1st. Does not your plan involve a greatly larger expenditure of time, and money than mine?

2nd. Wherein is a victory more certain by your plan than mine?

3rd. Wherein is a victory more valuable by your plan than mine?

4th. In fact, would it not be less valuable, in this, that it would break no great line of the enemie's
communications, while mine would?

5th. In case of disaster, would not a safe retreat be more difficult by your plan than by mine?

Yours truly

   1. Who is the speaker?
   2. What is the tone of the speakers “voice”?
   3. Is there bias evident?
                     EXHIBIT B—Letter from Mary Todd Lincoln to her Husband

My dear husband,

I have waited in vain to hear from you, yet as you are not given to letter writing, will be charitable
enough to impute your silence, to the right cause. Strangers come up from Washington and tell me you
are well which satisfies me very much. Your name is on every lip and many prayers and good wishes are
daily put up for your welfare. And McClellan and his slowness are as vehemently discussed, allowing this
beautiful weather to pass away, is disheartening the North-

Dear little Taddie is well and enjoying himself very much. Mrs. Anderson and myself called on yesterday
to see Gen. Scott—He looks well, although complaining of rheumatism. A day or two since I had one of
my severe attacks—if it had not been for Lizzy Heckley, I do not know what I should have done. Some of
these periods will launch me away. All the distinguished in the land have tried how polite and attentive
they could be to me since I came up, and many say they would worship you if you would put a fighting
general in the place of McClellan. This would be splendid weather for an engagement.

I have had two suits of clothes made for Taddie which will come to 26 dollars—have to get some fur
outside wrappings for the coachman’s carriage trappings. Lizzy Heckley wants me to loan her 30 dollars,
so I will have to ask for a check of $100—which will soon be made use of for these articles. I must send
you Taddie’s tooth. I want to leave here for Boston on Thursday and if you will send the check by
Tuesday, will be much obliged.

One line to say that we are occasionally remembered, will be gratefully received by yours very truly


   1. Who is the speaker?
   2. Who do you think she speaks for when she says “many say they would worship you”?
   3. What does this tell you about Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln in regards to military affairs?
                               EXHIBIT C—POLITICAL CARTOON

1. Who are the figures in the cartoon?
2. Why are they represented like this?
3. What is the artist trying to say with this cartoon?
                            EXHIBIT D—POLITICAL CARTOON 2

1. Who are the two main figures in the cartoon?
2. What does the caption “Little Mac’s Union Squeeze” mean?
3. How does the artist portray Abe Lincoln? Why?
4. Who are the people in the background? What are they doing?
                               EXHIBIT E—McClellan to his troops in Harper’s Weekly

Excerpt from Harper’s Weekly, March 29 1862
THE following is an extract from an Order of the Day issued by General McClellan from Fairfax Court House on 14th instant:
For a long time I have kept you inactive, but not without a purpose. You were to be disciplined, armed, and instructed. The formidable
artillery you now have had to be created. Other armies were to move and accomplish Certain results. I have held you back that you might
give the death-blow to the rebellion that has distracted our once happy country.
The patience you have shown, and your confidence in your General, are worth a dozen victories. These preliminary results are now
accomplished. I feel that the patient labors of many months have produced their fruit. The Army of the Potomac is now a real army,
magnificent in material, admirable in discipline and instruction, and excellently equipped and armed. Your commanders are all that I could
wish. The moment for action has arrived, and I know that I can trust in you to save our country. As I ride through your ranks I see in your
faces the sure prestige of victory will do whatever I ask
of you. The period of inaction has passed. I will bring you now face to face with the rebels, and only pray that God may defend the right!

    1. What are McClellan’s reasons for remaining inactive?
    2. Find a Timeline of battles of the Civil War. Look at the date of the newspaper. Do any battles coincide
         with this message? What does this tell you?
                              EXHIBIT F—Letter from McClellan to Lincoln

Savage Station, June 28, 1862--12.20 a.m.

I now know the full history of the day. On this side of the river (the right bank) we repulsed several
strong attacks. On the left bank our men did all that men could do, all that soldiers could accomplish, but
they were overwhelmed by vastly superior numbers, even after I brought my last reserves into action.
The loss on both sides is terrible. I believe it will prove to be the most desperate battle of the war.

The sad remnants of my men behave as men. Those battalions who fought most bravely and suffered
most are still in the best order. My regulars were superb, and I count upon what are left to turn another
battle, in company with their gallant comrades of the volunteers. Had I 20,000 or even 10,000 fresh
troops to use to-morrow 1 could take Richmond, but I have not a man in reserve, and shall be glad to
cover my retreat and save the material and personnel of the army.

If we have lost the day we have yet preserved our honor, and no one need blush for the Army of the
Potomac. I have lost this battle because my force was too small.

I again repeat that I am not responsible for this, and I say it with the earnestness of a general who feels in
his heart the loss of every brave man who has been needlessly sacrificed to-day. I still hope to retrieve our
fortunes, but to do this the Government must view the matter in the same earnest light that I do. You
must send me very large re-enforcements, and send them at once. I shall draw back to this side of
Chickahominy, and think I can withdraw all our material. Please understand that in this battle we have
lost nothing but men, and those the best we have.

In addition to what I have already said, I only wish to say to the President that I think he is wrong in
regarding me as ungenerous when I said that my force was too weak. I merely intimated a truth which to-
day has been too plainly proved. If, at this instant, I could dispose of 10,000 fresh men, I could gain a
victory to-morrow. I know that a few thousand more men would have changed this battle from a defeat
to a victory. As it is, the Government must not and cannot hold me responsible for the result.

I feel too earnestly to-night. I have seen too many dead and wounded comrades to feel otherwise than that
the Government has not sustained this army. If you do not do so now the game is lost.

If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or to any other persons in

You have done your best to sacrifice this army.


   1. Who is the speaker?
   2. What is the explanation for the course of events?
   3. Who is blamed for the issue at hand?


WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON CITY, October 24 [25?], 1862.


I have just read your despatch about sore-tongued and fatigued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the
horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anything?



EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, October 27, 1862, 12.10


Yours of yesterday received. Most certainly I intend no injustice to any, and if I have done any I deeply regret
it. To be told, after more than five weeks' total inaction of the army, and during which period we have sent to
the army every fresh horse we possibly could, amounting in the whole to 7918, that the cavalry horses were too
much fatigued to move, presents a very cheerless, almost hopeless, prospect for the future, and it may have
forced something of impatience in my despatch. If not recruited and rested then, when could they ever be? I
suppose the river is rising, and I am glad to believe you are crossing.


   1. Who is the speaker?
   2. What is the tone of the speaker in the first telegraph?
   3. What is the tone of the speaker in the second telegraph?