Masterly Inactivity

Posted: 6/8/2012
Author: Laura June Davis

Good afternoon! This Frank Leslie cartoon parodies the extended military standoff between Union General George B. McClellan’s Army of Potomac and Confederate General P.G.T  Beauregard’s Army of the Shenandoah during the fall and winter of 1861.

Entitled “Masterly Inactivity” or “Six Months on the Potomac,” this satirical illustration depicts the two regal generals in reclined repose across the Potomac River from one another. While the two foes inspect each other via excessively long telescopes, their troops are engaged in a variety of leisure activities (social visits, weddings, athletic games, and a mock battle of rock throwing) instead of a formal military campaign. In actuality, the reason that two armies were not engaging in formal combat was because the two generals were focusing on drill and training rather than combat. McClellan’s singular focus on training would lead him to ignore executive orders and result in his removal from command in March of 1862—shortly after launching the Peninsula Campaign.


Image Credit: Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, February 1, 1862.

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