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Essay: The Differences and Similarities Between General George B. McClellan and General Stonewall Jackson

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  • Published: 1 February 2018*
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  • Words: 805 (approx)
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“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make them your friend”. These famous words were once said by Abraham Lincoln during the revolutionary Civil War. This war between the North and South, Unions and Confederates, equality and slavery was one of the most brutal wars in American history but without it, America would never be in the state it is today. However, behind this great war were generals of both the North and South and two of the most important generals included General George B. McClellan a.k.a Little Mac of the North and Thomas Jonathan Jackson also known as Stonewall Jackson from the South. Both these generals had different lives from the moment they were born to their time serving in the army but they were also similar in a way that is beyond imaginable. General McClellan and General Stonewall Jackson were different because they has different early lives before the war and had different methods in battle. Although, they were also similar because both the generals strongly believed in their cause and were respected by their men.

Foremost, General McClellan and General Stonewall Jackson were different due to their distinctive early lives. Little Mac was a studious boy who ranked second in class upon his graduation at West Point in 1846. As expected, he was born into an affluent family. On the other hand, Stonewall Jackson’s father had died when Jackson was of young age and his mother had suffered great debt. As a result, Jackson and his siblings were sent off to different relatives. While McClellan had lived a somewhat lavish life, Jackson had to learn the true meaning of hardwork and that nothing is truly given but instead earned. This is one of the reasons why Stonewall Jackson never drank, gambled or smoked. Moving on, before the battle, both generals had different jobs. While Little Mac became the chief engineer for constructing the Illinois Central Railroad, Stonewall Jackson spent ten years as a professor of artillery tactics natural philosophy until he was accepted as a colonel in the Confederate Army in 1861.

Furthermore, General George B. McClellan and General Stonewall Jackson both had different military tactics during the Civil War. During the Peninsula Campaign led by McClellan, he landed over 120,000 men on the coast and proceeded them east towards Richmond. He played an amphibious maneuver but had failed due to his indecisiveness. Another similar case was during the Battle of Antietam in which once reaching the Confederate lines, he had stalled, allowing Lee to retreat to Virginia, and resulting in a tactical draw. Thus, Little Mac was removed from command by Lincoln in November 1862. On the other hand, the Shenandoah Campaign led by Stonewall Jackson contained a force of 15,000 to 18,000 Confederate soldiers which outmaneuvered over 60,000 Unionists, causing many Union generals to admire Stonewall. Another instance was during the Battle of Chancellorsville in which Lee and Jackson had defeated an army of 130,000 Union soldiers with 60,000 of their own. Jackson had taken the cautious but stealthy move of taking 28,000 troops 15 miles to Hooker’s exposed flank while Lee had attacked in front. However, soon after Jackson had been accidentally shot by one of his own me, and had died later due to his amputated arm making him vulnerable to pneumonia. Therefore, while McClellan made ambitious decisions, he had lacked in self-confidence and had often overestimated the amount of Confederate troops while Stonewall made cautious decisions but did not fail in delivery. McClellan played offense and Stonewall played defense but they were both ovation worthy generals who played a large role in victories of their sides.

In defiance of the many differences of both the generals, both General McClellan and General Stonewall Jackson had many similarities because they were both deeply admired by their men and fought for what they believed in. Little Mac was loved by each and every one of his soldiers, despite the fact that he was controlling. Similarly, Stonewall Jackson was greatly respected by his men but often out of fear because he was extremely demanding. Also, both generals were given nicknames by their men. McClellan was given the nickname Little Mac due to his short stature while Thomas Jackson was given the nickname Stonewall when closing a gap with his troops during the Battle of Manassas Junction like a stone wall.

Therefore, regardless of the many differences between General George B. McClellan and General Stonewall Jackson from having polar opposite early lives and different battle strategies, they were similar because of their love for their cause and admiration from their respective men. Yes, McClellan fought for the North and Jackson fought for the South, but they still fought for what they believed in and did not slack at any moment. Whether victory or failure, both generals fought hard and played a large role in the Civil War.  

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