When U.S. forces departed Iraq on 15 December 2011 to return to the U.S., they did so much as General George B. McClellan had left the Peninsula to return to Washington, D.C. on 20 August 1862. The U.S. had lost a great deal of blood and treasure with little to show for its expenditure. This thesis addresses several aspects of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign and the 2003 Iraq invasion as well as the contemporary doctrine concerning risk. There were many contributing factors to the Army of the Potomac culminating in 1862 and U.S. failures in Iraq in 2003. A major contributing factor was reluctance for leaders at the strategic, operational, and tactical level to take risk. During the execution of these campaigns, as uncertainty clouded the theaters, the common characteristic among leaders was their greater appreciation of what might be lost than what could be gained, and taking counsel of their fears, they sidestepped hazard, but also opportunity, and opened the U.S. to greater risks. The 1862 Peninsular Campaign illuminates problems still with us despite 150 years of vast changes in the conduct of war. There are obvious differences between then and now, but there is an unsettling similarity. The culmination in 1862, and culmination during the post 9/11 campaigns, resulted from inadequate responses to risk aversion by the government and military leaders, when faced with uncertainty.
CHAPTER 1 * Thesis * CHAPTER 2 * Context of the Peninsula Campaign * The Strategic Environment in 1862 * McClellan's Background * Geography * The Plan * CHAPTER 3 * Execution * Lincoln and Stanton * Goldsborough and Missroon * McClellan * CHAPTER 4 * Contemporary Example * CHAPTER 5 * Synthesis / Conclusion
On 4 April 1862, 35-year-old Major General George B. McClellan and his Army of the Potomac stepped off from Fort Monroe, Virginia towards Richmond, Virginia; he did so with the largest army ever assembled in North America up to that time. It had 121,000 soldiers, 14,592 animals, 1,150 wagons, 74 ambulances, and 44 artillery batteries.1 A European advisor remarked that it resembled "the stride of a giant."2 Equally remarkable, 113 steamers, 188 schooners, and 88 barges floated McClellan's army from the outskirts of Washington, D.C. to Fort Monroe to establish its initial staging area.3 As one Confederate officer noted, "the thick clouds of trouble were gathering."4 McClellan's Army was four times the size of the Confederate force directly to his front, and backed by a nation possessing economic, technological, and demographic superiority over its opponent. Despite this tremendous combat power, McClellan's 1862 Peninsula Campaign ended in abject failure. The Army of the Potomac culminated eight miles from its intended objective, the Confederate capital of Richmond, even though it faced a weaker force commanded by an untried general. After six months and at the cost of 15,849 men,5 McClellan abandoned the campaign. The Army of the Potomac fell back to defend its own capital, and ultimately the Union interior itself, after the Confederate victory at Second Bull Run and subsequent invasion of Maryland. How, given so many advantages, did operational stalemate, followed by strategic crisis, result in so short a time?