Here is the second volume of Russel H. Beatie’s multi-volume Army of the Potomac. The first volume, subtitled "Birth of Command," was published in 2002. According to the book’s dust jacket, Beatie is using primary sources, and some of them have never been mentioned before to write this history of the Union’s Army of the Potomac. This Army was the Union’s main army that guarded the capital against the Confederates. This Army also attacked the Confederates’ capital of Richmond a few times and eventually took it, but that is getting ahead of what this volume covers.
Beatie’s work might be compared to Bruce Catton’s two-volume set on the Army of the Potomac (1951-53), but Beatie’s work uses a lot of primary sources and documents them well. Beatie’s set will be longer and more extensive than Catton’s and is mainly dealing with the commanders of the Army, whereas Catton is telling the story of the Army and its fight against the Confederates.
In the front part of this volume are photos of the commanders. There are some maps to orient the reader to where things are taking place. Beatie has an extensive bibliography at the end of the volume, and there are many - and sometimes long - footnotes.
This volume is a history book, but the reader will be pleasantly surprised to notice how well the book flows. It is not dry, and compared to strictly academic histories, this one reads very well. Beatie has done well writing to the point where almost anyone can read and understand what he is writing about.
This second volume of Beatie’s is concerned with the time that Major General George B. McClellan was in command of the Army of the Potomac, from September 1861 to February 1862. He discusses McClellan’s early period of command and his realizing that he needed to get General Winfield Scott to retire before his plan to defeat the South could be implemented. When Scott did retire, McClellan was freer to pursue his plans. President Abraham Lincoln, though, became more and more dissatisfied with McClellan, ultimately sacking him as commander. Beatie also discusses where the subordinate generals came from, the different sources from where they were recruited or promoted. Some of these generals were bad choices. He also relates how McClellan’s political enemies wanted him (and other Democrats) out of command positions. They did not trust the Democrats because they were considered pro-slavery and pro-secessionist.
Beatie is presently working on the third volume according to the dust jacket. He has written other books, including Malaria and Mosguitoes (1944), Road to Manassas (1961), Saddles (1981), and of course the first volume of this set on the Army of the Potomac in 2002. This set is a must for any Civil War collection since it deals with the commanders of the Army of the Potomac.