Major General George B. McClellan


George McClellan (1826‒85) was one of four generals during the American Civil War to hold the post of general in chief of the armies of the United States, the others being Winfield Scott, Henry Halleck, and Ulysses S. Grant. McClellan was born in Philadelphia, graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1846, and served in the engineer corps during the Mexican War (1846‒48). He left the army in 1857 to work in the railroad industry, but returned when the Civil War broke out. After scoring successes in driving the Confederates from the region that would become the state of West Virginia, in November 1861 he replaced Scott as general in chief. In March 1862 he was placed in command of the Army of the Potomac. In that capacity he played the leading role in turning the army into a well-organized and disciplined fighting force. He came into increasing conflict with President Abraham Lincoln, however, over his reluctance to actually use this force in going on the offensive against the Confederacy and was relieved of command in November 1862. In the presidential elections of 1864 he ran as the Democratic candidate against Lincoln, but lost in a landslide, winning only 21 electoral votes (the states of New Jersey, Kentucky, and Delaware) compared with Lincoln’s 212. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Last updated: March 22, 2016