Benjamin F. Cooling’s Counter-Thrust is about the Civil War Union Army of the Potomac while it was under the command of General George B. McClellan during the summer of 1862.
General McClellan and President Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet did not see eye to eye on how to fight the war. General McClellan was slow and methodical, which drove Lincoln mad - Lincoln said that McClellan had a bad case of the “slows.” Lincoln wanted him to speed up his movements and defeat the Confederates as quickly as possible. The president and his cabinet, though, had to be careful with McClellan since he enjoyed the favor of his troops.
Counter-Thrust is the newest addition to the “Great Campaigns of the Civil War” series published by the University of Nebraska Press. Cooling examines the different campaign styles of George B. McClellan and Robert E. Lee, who was more of a risk taker. McClellan also always overestimated how many troops his opponent actually had, and erring on the side of caution lost him many advantages that fell his way - like coming across Lee’s Special Order 191. He did not take advantage of this and other events which could have ended the war sooner. President Lincoln became fed up with McClellan, especially after not pursuing Lee after the horrible Battle of Antietam, when he could have destroyed him. He removed him at last and promoted General Ambrose Burnside to command the Army of the Potomac.
Cooling not only covers the Peninsula campaign and the Battle of Antietam; he also covers the Battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run (or Second Manassas), and other lesser battles. Cooling includes quotes from newspaper accounts of the period and the diaries of soldiers and others. There are nine black-and-white photos and thirteen maps that are clear and readable. There is a bibliography, endnotes, a bibliographical essay, and an index. This book is highly recommended to those interested in the Civil War, especially the Army of the Potomac and its summer of 1862 campaigns.
Benjamin Franklin Cooling is a professor of national security studies and former associate dean of academic programs at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University, Washington, D.C. He is the author of USS Olympia: Herald of Empire (2000), Fort Donnelson’s Legacy (1997), Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington (1995), Symbol, Sword and Shield (1991), Forts Henry and Donnelson (1988), and other books.