Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mother of Miscalculation

While literally at the outskirts of the Confederate capitol of Richmond Virginia, and upon hearing that Robert E. Lee would be replacing General Joe Johnston (wounded on May 31, 1982), Union General George McClellan had this to say:

"I prefer Lee to Johnston. The former is too cautious and weak under grave responsibility. Personally brave and energetic to a fault, he yet is wanting in moral firmness when pressed by heavy responsibility, and is likely to be timid and irresolute in action."

Like mine about last Sunday's T-Jack performance, McClellan's prediction about Lee's behavior could not have been more off. Less than a month later, Lee launched a series of bold attacks that, over a seven day period, drove McClellan east and south of Richmond. Ultimately the Army of the Potomac found itself cornered against the James River, albeit protected by gunboats.

Further evidence there was nothing timid about Lee, he then left McClellan there and took his Army of Northern Virginia north to threaten D.C., which forced McClellan to abandon his peninsula campaign and come to its defense. Following another bold ass-whuppin' at the "second battle of Manassas," Lee crossed the Potomac on Sept. 3 and invaded the north, which ended in defeat for him at Antietam, largely because McClellan had Lee's battle plans in his possession (they had been mislaid and discovered by a Union officer wrapped around some cigars).

Antietam remains to this day the single bloodiest day in American military history (including both sides). That's what it took to defeat Lee. And, although he retreated back to Virginia, Lee wasn't done humiliating Union commanders, like at Fredericksburg in December, and Chancellorsville the following Spring.

Lee proved to be the exact opposite of McClellan's perception. Perhaps that is why, three years later at the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee was still around while McClellan had long since been cashiered.

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