If Abraham Lincoln expected General George B. McClellan to go home and find another railroad to run after he removed him from command of the Army of the Potomac late in 1862, he was very much mistaken. McClellan managed to secure the Democratic nomination for president in 1864 and mounted a spirited camapign against his former boss. The Democratic platform on which McClellan ran called for an immediate armistice and a convention of all the warring parties to "secure peace without further bloodshed." Like many others, McClellan believed that Lincoln's insistence on preserving the Union at all costs was destroying the very thing he hoped to protect.

1864 political cartoon

This cartoon showing George McClellan as Hamlet holding the skull of Abraham Lincoln (Yorick) was published in the New York World during the presidential campaign of 1864.


Although Southerners did not, of course, have any say in the contest, many believed that McClellan would negotiate an end to the conflict favorable to the South and prayed fervently for his election. This song, written by a Confederate composer/lyricist, expresses just such a view.

Ultimately, McClellan's campaign came to nothing. Following the fall of Atlanta in September 1864 and General Philip Sheridan's defeat of the Confederates in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia a month later, the Northern voting public could sense victory in the air and gave Lincoln another chance to do it his way. Although McClellan finally won elective office as governor of New Jersey (1878-1881), he never achieved the success his early career at West Point had predicted.

"Shoddy," first mentioned in the second verse, refers to "a class of people who tried to pass themselves off as being superior by virtue of their (usually ill-gotten) wealth, but were in fact inferior in character and moral worth. This sense of the word was originally applied to those who made fortunes in United States contracts by supplying inferior goods" (from Civil War Wordbook, by Darryl Lyman, Combined Books, Conshohocken, Pa., 1994, p. 153). "Shoddy," which originated in England in the 1830s, was an inferior woolen material made by combining new wool and used woolen fabrics to produce a poor-quality yarn. During the War, many contractors who supplied uniforms to the Federal army cut corners and increased their profits by using shoddy. Uniforms so constructed disintegrated at an alarming rate and introduced a new slang word into the English language.

"McClellan Is the Man"