What were the differences between McClellan and Burnside in Across Five Aprils?Chapter 8
McClellan had the reputation of being unassertive and overcautious. As the war dragged on, the public and even President Lincoln were becoming frustrated with his hesitancy to move against the Confederate Army in a decisive manner. In the fall of 1862 things came to a head when McClellan finally drove Robert E. Lee out of Maryland in the bloody battle at Antietam but failed to pursue the retreating rebels, thus allowing the remnant of the opposing troops to escape to fight again another day. After Antietam, President Lincoln removed McClellan from his command and turned operations over to Ambrose Burnside.
Burnside turned out to be as rash as McClellan was cautious, undertaking raids with shabby planning and "little probability of success". Burnside "was a stubborn man, determined perhaps to show action and confidence where McClellan had shown hesitancy and uncertainty". At the disastrous engagement at Fredericksburg, he reportedly commanded from a position far from the front lines of battle, and sent "wave after wave of men...up the slopes of a chain of hills from the tops of which the entrenched Confederates mowed the Federals down until the ground was piled high with blue-clad bodies". Rumor had it that he was prepared to send even more young men to senseless death in the futile undertaking, but "was finally dissuaded by officers of lower rank and keener perception" to withdraw (Chapter 8).