The McClellan monument was the first monument erected in Washington by the Society of the Army of the Potomac. The location that was eventually chosen had been the site of a Union Camp in the summer of 1861 when McClellan arrived in Washington, and therefore, was a fitting selection. The selection served to appease those in the Society of the Army of the Potomac, who had grumbled that the best spots in the capital had been preempted by statues of lesser men.
Rejecting all four of the original models submitted to the McClellan Statue Commission, the Commission issued a terse statement, saying, “No model submitted upon the competition is satisfactory.” The following month, the Commission decided “to invite some sculptor to submit a model for the McClellan equestrian statue, and to have no further competition.” Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a member of the Advisory Committee, undoubtedly was instrumental in commissioning his former pupil, Frederick MacMonnies, who was at that time residing in Paris, to design the equestrian monument of General McClellan.
The statue of McClellan sits high above street-level and well above the line of sight of passersby. The pedestal includes bronze escutcheons bearing the names of McClellan’s battles: Yorktown, Gaines Mill, Williamsburg, Antietam, South Mountain, Fair Oaks, Malvern Hill. Also included in the base are massed cannons, flags, munitions, and wreaths, and four large eagles supporting massive garlands of oak and laurel.