Jacob Rohrbach Inn (Sharpsburg, Maryland)

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Too Useful to Sacrifice. Reconsidering George B. McClellan’s Generalship in the Maryland Campaign from South Mountain to Antietam – Steve Stotelmyer

June 2nd, 2017 by jacobrohrbach

Steve Stotelmyer

Always interested in local history, especially South Mountain and Antietam, Mr. Stotelmyer was a founding member of the Central Maryland Heritage League in 1989. The league gained a modest amount of success in preserving some of the lands of the South Mountain Battlefield. From 1989 through 1994 Mr. Stotelmyer served as a volunteer at the Antietam National Battlefield. In 1992 he published The Bivouacs of the Dead: The Story of Those Who Died at Antietam and South Mountain, Toomey Press, Baltimore Maryland. From 2000 through 2005 Mr. Stotelmyer served as a part-time volunteer and historical consultant for the South Mountain State Battlefield. Steven currently enjoys being a National Park Service Certified Antietam and South Mountain Tour Guide.

Despite the accepted typecast of the slow, timid, overly cautious general who did not want to fight, there are several aspects of the Maryland campaign that simply do not fit the stereotype of Gen. George B. McClellan. Three days before the battle of Antietam McClellan attacked Lee’s rearguard at the battle of South Mountain. It is a matter of fact that Gen. Robert E. Lee was totally unprepared for the battle that occurred in the passes of South Mountain on September 14, 1862. Three days later at Antietam McClellan attacked Lee once again; it was not the other way around. Furthermore, McClellan attacked an enemy positioned on high ground believing that he was outnumbered; this is not the hallmark of a cowardly general. To this day the battle of Antietam still holds the distinction of being the bloodiest single day of any war fought in our nation’s history. Such events do not indicate a slow, timid, overly cautious commanding general. Clearly, the stereotype is flawed.

Yet, it is exactly the image of the slow, overly cautious and timid McClellan that seems to be permanently branded into the national consciousness. It reasonable to suggest that McClellan, because of the stereotype is perhaps the most misrepresented figure in Civil War history. It is largely overlooked that many of the elements of the stereotype have their origins in the presidential election of 1864 when candidate McClellan ran against the popular incumbent and not in the military ability of the general who led a hastily assembled conglomeration of an army in Maryland in 1862.

On Wednesday, July 19th, Steve will present his Summer Lecture Series talk – Too Useful to Sacrifice. Reconsidering George B. McClellan’s Generalship in the Maryland Campaign from South Mountain to Antietam.  Steve’s presentation is an attempt to dispel some of the misrepresentations of the stereotype. It is his intent to show that it was an aggressive McClellan pursuing Lee in Maryland. In a little under a fortnight this remarkable general turned around one of the greatest crisis in our nation’s history. Despite the popular stereotype, he was anything but slow, overly cautious and timid.

Come join leading historians and Antietam Battlefield Guides as they discuss intriguing topics of the Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Civil War during our Civil War Summer Lecture Series.

These Wednesday evening programs are free and open to the public. They will be held outdoors on the grounds of the Jacob Rohrbach Inn at 7:oo p.m. Feel free to bring a chair or blanket to sit around the event tent. In case of inclement weather talks will be held at the Sharpsburg Christ Reformed United Church of Christ on Main Street. Parking is available on Main and Hall Streets. Check our Facebook page for updates.

 

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