Thus, small forward movements in Centennial doctrine, tiny concessions to opposing views, tend to miss the broad readership set in its ways, raised on that historiography hardened by 1965.
When a Centennialist like John Waugh tests the boundaries of doctrine in his election account saying that McClellan would not have made peace by any means, it passes over the heads of other Centennialists who blurb his dust jackets; over the heads of his mass market readers; and over the heads of new authors working in those venerable traditions established by American Heritage so long ago.
Personally, standing outside this much-lauded award-winning school of thought, I would have guessed that reading Southern letters and diaries might cast light on the events of 1864. The Rebel reactions to McClellan's nomination are uniformly dour. But the Centennialists seem to use these sources to scavenge battle anecdotes only.
Likewise, a reasonably attentive review of Governor McClellan's New Jersey days would have revealed a principled intractability fiery enough to incinerate all bridges to his political sponsors.
Understanding Governor McClellan the way I do, it is not possible for me to envision a Democratic lever long enough or strong enough to move peace onto President McClellan's agenda in 1864/65.
Lately, the less rote historian has tended to split the difference with me on 1864. Thus, McClellan personally was for "unconditional surrender" but one doubts his ability to resist party pressure from the doves. I find this thin stuff in light of GBM's political dealings during wartime and after.
We cannot blame a contemporary Southerner for holding views uninformed by McClellan's wartime political dealings and post-war political career. The following is from Faith, Valor, and Devotion: The Civil War Letters of William Porcher DuBose. I would say, if you are an historian today and presenting these views and conclusions - those of an 1864 soldier - as your own, you are slacking. Seriously so!
DuBose splits the difference:
I regret the absence of any battle-related anecdote here but would ask the Centennialist to read that sentence again anyway.
October 8, 1864
[...] With regard to the condition of things at the North, after McClellan's letter of acceptance I began to think his election would probably be less desirable than that of Lincoln.
There is no doubt that he is sincerely & honestly for the Union at all hazards, by war if no other means. We have nothing therefore to hope from him; he is no more our friend than Lincoln is. But if there is nothing to hope from him, there is something to hope from his party which may control him when it gets into power. And the change cannot hurt us; it may benefit us, therefore I am for McClellan. I think Lincoln will be elected but it is by no means certain.If we cannot transcend this analysis after 150 years, then we don't need history, or more precisely, Centennial history.