George McClellan 1826–1885
Born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Fresh from action in the West that had helped secure both Kentucky and western Virginia for the Union, George McClellan was President Lincoln’s choice in July 1861 to take charge of the army in the East following its disastrous rout at the Battle of First Bull Run. Although McClellan proved masterful in reorganizing, training, and restoring morale to the command he would name the Army of the Potomac, his penchant for overestimating the strength of the enemy and underrating his own army’s preparedness undermined his effectiveness. McClellan’s procrastinations and inflated demands for more troops—combined with the failure of his Peninsula Campaign against Richmond in June 1861 and the indecisive outcome of the Battle of Antietam—exhausted the president’s patience. Lincoln relieved McClellan of his command after he failed to pursue General Robert E. Lee’s army in the fall of 1862.