Monday, February 11, 2008

Briefly - "Campaign in Western Virginia"

In 1863, in the spirit of defending his wartime actions against critics, George McClellan penned his Report on the Organization and Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac. To this report was appended a brief account of his 1861 Western Virginia campaign. This year Mark S. Phillips Publishing has reprinted this volume with some added materials [reproductions or scans of selected letter and telegraphic communications; an index; and an afterword by Tim McKinney, a frequent writer of West Virginia Civil War history].

McClellan's account doesn't differ significantly from the standard modern view of the campaign. While he probably doesn't give subordinates (esp. Kelley, Cox, and Rosecrans) the praise they deserve for overcoming so quickly the steep learning curve attached to the handling of brigade and division-sized units, the only truly unfair note is struck in his assessment of Rosecrans's actions at Rich Mountain. There are some interesting contradictions that remain unclear, but it's possible they stemmed from changing circumstances the general passed by without note. While the report isn't annotated, McKinney does provide some background and general commentary in the afterword. For researchers, Campaign for Western Virginia is an essential primary account of an important early war campaign from a high command point of view.

[Campaign in Western Virginia by George B. McClellan (Mark S. Phillips, 2008) Softcover, index, supplementary materials, afterword. 74 pages. ISBN: 978-0-9667246-3-9 $8.95]

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