Abraham Lincoln takes personal command at the army after McClellan Refuses to attack Richmond

The title says it all what will happen if Lincoln did that, Remember Abe is an experienced officer that fought in the indian wars i think. what would happen? Would he lead the union to disaster?
 
That would be like the CEO of an energy company deciding to oversee the day-to-day operations of a nuclear power plant. Anyone who has worked in management knows the key to good management is delegating.

It was well understood even before the Civil War that it takes a very special person to command an army, given the recent advances in industry and logistics. McClellan was selected to command because he had a rare combination of skills that allowed him to organize and command an army according to these new advances (called "Big War Science" at the time). Despite his disappointing performance, he got his job back and nearly got it back a third time because it became obvious just how rare his skillset was. Lincoln knew he was not and could not be the person to command armies, and that he already had an enormously important job to do himself.
 
Lincoln then would have lost and maybe been impeachmed for destroying an army due to incompetence.

now 1864 Lincoln. He might actually have enough experience to a decent job leading an army .althorugh the need isn't there expect for earlys raid.
 
The thing is that Mac was one of the few to have seen what large scale industrialized war could be like. Lincoln was in contrast an incredible lawyer and politician but not a military man. If he's playing soldier in Virginia he's not in DC conducting the much more crucial task of corraling Congress and coordinating with the state governors.
 
McClellan had a surprisingly sophisticated intelligence apparatus which was nonetheless consistently feeding him bad information, exaggerating the enemy strength by a factor of two or more. While he made a few straight up blunders (he surely should have moved sooner and should have followed up after the victory at Antietam, for example), a lot of what he's blamed for is failing to do things which might have actually worked out but which would have been suicidal if the intelligence was accurate. As I've never seen anybody make a case for him being responsible in any way for the intelligence failures, a significant amount of the criticism of him seems inappropriate (and for that matter, despite the confederates not being as strong as McClellan feared, greater aggressiveness by the generals who followed him sometimes produced outcomes like Fredericksburg). So I think for most values of X, replacing McClellan with X earlier than when McClellan was actually fired is probably at least as likely to produce an additional Union disaster as to produce an additional Union victory.
 
Also there is the problem of how will he get to the army near Richmond? Because going by sea might be too dangerous as the confederacy might try and trow all of it's navy against him.

But he wouldn't be a good commander, not at that point anyhow the army would end up being badly hurt and he would lose a lot of trust, not eough to lose the war just enough for Lincoln to maybe lose reelection.

But if it's 1864 and he takes command of the army? I reckon he would do a half decent job of it and might even save his life.
 
Lincoln knew his limitations and strengths. He knew 'militia captain who would have fought if things had gone bad' was very limited compared to real soldiers with Mexican War and Indian Wars experience. He might have replaced McClellan sooner, but he'd never have thought he himself was field commander material.
 
I'm not certain if this is a joke or not. The CSA had no navy.
I meant that it would be dangerous for Lincoln to go down there, if he went with a good escort it would be fine, but if he went on just a ship he could be vulnerable to a raid even by the small Confederate navy.
 
Actually he did play a role in planning the capture of Norfolk and lead a reconnaissance of the beach chosen for the landing of troops. though I can't renumber if he went onshore. A book was recently published about it.
 
Lincoln knew his limitations and strengths. He knew 'militia captain who would have fought if things had gone bad' was very limited compared to real soldiers with Mexican War and Indian Wars experience.
During one of his first cabinet meetings Lincoln even made a remark in this regard. The last time a head of state with limited military knowledge took command of troops in the field was Tsar Alexander I during the Battle of Austerlitz, and Lincoln would've known how that played out.
 
During one of his first cabinet meetings Lincoln even made a remark in this regard. The last time a head of state with limited military knowledge took command of troops in the field was Tsar Alexander I during the Battle of Austerlitz, and Lincoln would've known how that played out.

Actually, that would have been Emperor Napoleon III and Emperor Franz-Jozef during the 1859 Italian War. Both bungled their jobs as army commanders and theatre commanders devising overall strategy but Napoleon was saved by his competent corps commanders while Franz-Jozef was not so lucky.

With this being just 3 years ago, I think it would be far more likely to resonance with Lincoln than Austerlitz 57 years ago. Especially since Czar Alexander subsequently accompanied his army in 1813/1814 and continued usurping command whenever he felt like it yet still achieved ultimate success.
 
To answer the proposed suggestion, Lincoln was a pretty good strategist in the sense that he had a lot of common sense and often recognised what the best strategy would be, e.g. simultaneous advancing armies, keeping pressure on the rebels, following up victory with a pursuit etc.

What he lacked was practical knowledge of generalship, e.g. the practical things of leading men in war. Leading soldiers in war was difficult and as the numbers increased, it became exponentially more difficult. Which is why there are so many stories of generals who are slow, hesitant, missing opportunities and generally showing less initiative than required. The combination of crushing responsibility and administrative inertia is hardly unique to the ACW.

Moving armies about was a huge undertaking of itself and required a lot of administrative effort. Coupled with the slow speed of marching and poor communications, this meant that armies were not very responsive. Any decision once made could not be changed easily. This made it many generals (not just during the ACW but in any war) hesitant and careful lest they make a mistake and get their army in a dangerous position. It took great mental composure to accept that burden and act with decisiveness. Which is why history is filled with examples of competent subordinate commanders who “freeze” when promoted to ultimate command and why generals who can independently command armies are so rare.

Lincoln would have failed as an army commander because he wouldn’t know how to manoeuvre his forces and because he wouldn’t know how to deploy them on the battlefield or how to read the ebb and flow of battle. Assuming he actually had the military talent for this (which is different from reading about it and understanding why things happened during a battle) it would have taken too long for him to develop it before his reputation would have been destroyed after a couple of defeats at the hands of General Lee.

Napoleon III would probably be the best real-world example of this. A man with an illustrious uncle, who was exposed to military men all his life, and knew just enough to talk the talk but wasn’t actually a soldier by nature or profession. When he assumed army command in 1859 in Italy against the Austrians, he probably knew as much about campaigning as any amateur soldier would. While not devoid of basic strategic competence, he was unable to translate that into a coherent strategy for the Franco-Italian forces or effectively command his army when fighting the Austrians at Solferino. He didn’t give concise orders, assign troops to tasks or effectively commit reserves, the things a good army commander is supposed to do. Lincoln would have floundered likewise.
 
Also there is the problem of how will he get to the army near Richmond? Because going by sea might be too dangerous as the confederacy might try and trow all of it's navy against him.

But he wouldn't be a good commander, not at that point anyhow the army would end up being badly hurt and he would lose a lot of trust, not eough to lose the war just enough for Lincoln to maybe lose reelection.

But if it's 1864 and he takes command of the army? I reckon he would do a half decent job of it and might even save his life.
What CSN? That's a none factor. The best they could do is block the James River leading to Richmond. At no time was Lincoln competent to take tactical command of an army. By 1862 Lincoln was able to grasp grand strategy, and the economics of war. His understanding of Anaconda Plan, and that securing the Mississippi were the keys to victory show the ability of his mind to learn things. However politics, which are the higher function of a head of State was his genius.
 
Last edited:
Top