From Antietam to Chancellorsville: September 1862 to May 1863

Battle of Antietam

How did McClellan justify his inaction?

By saving every scrap of paper or copy of telegrams sent, McClellan was able to build a case for his nonaction. Even now, over a distance of 150 years, it seems rather weak.

“After a night of anxious deliberation and a full and careful review of the situation and condition of our army, the strength and position of the enemy, I concluded that the success of an attack on the eighteenth was not certain. I am aware of that fact that, under ordinary circumstances a general is expected to risk a battle if he has a reasonable prospect of success; but at this critical juncture I should have had a narrow view of the condition of the country had I been willing to hazard another battle.… At that moment—Virginia lost, Washington menaced, Maryland invaded—the National cause could afford no more risks of defeat.”


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