|Confederate General Robert E. Lee (left) |
and Union General George B. McClellan (right)
“I prefer Lee to Johnston – the former is too cautious & weak under grave responsibility – personally brave & energetic to a fault, he yet is wanting in moral firmness when pressed by heavy responsibility & is likely to be timid and irresolute in action,” wrote McClellan to U. S. President Abraham Lincoln.
Although Lee had a bit of experience as a field commander earlier in the war, he was serving as an adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis when the appointment was made. At that time, approximately 105,000 Union troops under McClellan were advancing on the Confederacy’s capital city – Richmond, Virginia – which was defended by approximately 60,000 men. After assuming command of the Confederate Army, Lee initiated a series of surprise attacks and major counter-offensives that kept McClellan off guard and ended the threat to Richmond. For much of the rest of the war, Lee often out-maneuvered larger Union forces, proving much of McClellan’s judgment of him to be far from accurate.