Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Receipt of Rafuse McClellan's War


I received Ethan Refuse's McClellan's War today, but it hardly seems fair to jump right into his anti-Sears arguments, or to present what I perceive to be his approach which is to present arguments that refute Sears when a couple of people have just posted pro-Sears assertions on this thread. Pro-Sears people who pop into this thread (without reading earlier notes) are going to be at a disadvantage, for the thread started with Sears, i.e., Sears' To the Gates of Richmond. That book along with his biography George B. McClellan, the Young Napoleon established Sears as the McClellan expert for many years. Sears wrote The Young Napoleon in 1988 and To The Gates of Richmond in 1992. Do his arguments still hold up?

We find that there has been a turning away from Sears by more recent historians. The people writing about McClellan today, at least the ones I've encountered, don't seem to be taking the negative Sears view about McClellan that was so popular 20 years ago. There are just too many reasons not to. As to an enumeration of those reasons, I'm a long way from being an expert but Thomas Rowland is one. He has addressed Sears arguments in his George B. McClellan & Civil War History, in the Shadow of Grant and Sherman, published in 1998.

It wasn't as though there was no one else out there presenting a view different from Sears. Rowland referenced the article "On the McClellan Go Around" by Joseph Harsh which criticizes anti-McClellan views on McClellan circa 1970. And Rowena Reed wrote Combined Operations in the Civil War in 1978. In it she examines McClellan's Peninsula campaign and finds his Joint-Operation plans quite good.

And then just today I received McClellan's War by Ethan Rafuse, published in 2005. I'm fairly new to McClellan but it seems to me that the Sears view has been effectively superseded; so anyone popping into this thread with Sears-type assertions is going to be saying something awkward whether he realizes it or not. Does anyone agree with Sears at this point? Probably, but on this thread they are mostly, if they have been following the mounting evidence against Sears, quiet.

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