"I'm feeling fine, I just can't go any further.
Everything is fine where we are, let's not do anything rash.
Would anyone care for some beans while we sit here quietly in the mud?
Fools rush in where smart people fear to tread."
--Someone other than George B. McClellan
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1826. George McClellan graduated second in his class at West Point in 1846. After serving in the Mexican War, he went abroad to study European military tactics and organization and was an observer during the Crimean War. He developed as reputation as a scholar of military organization and gained the nickname "the Young Napoleon" due to his European influences.
After making another name for himself with the development of the "McClellan Saddle" for use by the United States cavalry, he resigned his military commission to take a high ranking position with the Illinois Central Railroad.
The outbreak of the American Civil War brought McClellan back into the military fold. He was appointed major general and given command of the Department of the Ohio. There he managed a successful campaign in western Virginia before being summoned to Washington to take command of the main Union Army in the east. In November of 1861, he replaced Winfield Scott as general-in-chief of the Army with pressure to move against Richmond and end the war.
McClellan's campaign began in April of 1862 and was the largest campaign of the war. For three months McClellan and the Army of the Potomac inched its way closer to Richmond. Beginning on June 25th, Robert E. Lee's smaller Army of Northern Virginia engaged McClellan in the Seven Days' Battles, ending in McClellan's retreat. Following the retreat, McClellan was too slow in sending reinforcements to General John Pope at the Second Battle of Bull Run, resulting in another Lee victory.
After the Confederate Army invaded Maryland in September of 1862, McClellan was again turned to for leadership. Outnumbering Lee's forces 90,000 to 19,000 and having gained a blueprint of Lee's battle plan, McClellan inexplicably delayed a day before moving. The delay allowed Lee to obtain reinforcements and knowledge that his battle plans had become known by the enemy. The resulting Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest single day of fighting in the war and McClellan came out of it with only a draw, despite his vastly superior force. Soon after, Abraham Lincoln ordered McClellan relieved of his command.
Lincoln accused McClellan of being affected by "the slows," i.e. being too afraid of losing to risk winning. McClellan was said by many to be deluded into always thinking he was outnumbered, regardless of what his intelligence told him. He was also said to have believed Lincoln and the government were conspiring to see him defeated and that the only way to overcome their plot was to move cautiously and rely only on his own intuition.
In 1864, a strange chain of events set McClellan up as the Democratic candidate for president. While Lincoln was forming a Union Party consisting of Republicans and "War Democrats," McClellan's opposition to Lincoln pushed him into the political arena in opposition to his former commander-in-chief. While he supported the war and considered himself a War Democrat, his support came from those Democrats who believed in "peace at any price" and McClellan was defeated in one of the most lopsided elections in American history.
In the years after the war, McClellan made out rather well as a engineering consultant. His only public service after the war was as governor of New Jersey from 1878 - 1881. He traveled widely and died more or less comfortably in his sleep in 1885.