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I am a lifelong student of military history with particular interest in the Battle of Antietam. I work for the federal government in Washington DC and have two teenagers who I love very much. I currently volunteer at the battlefield and devote much time to the study of this battle and the Maryland Campaign. I enjoy collecting notable contemporary quotations by and about the men of Antietam. These words often add a degree of color and character not found elsewhere in their stories. A feature of this blog is the presentation of some of these quotes. My perspective comes from a 28 year career in the U.S. Army. Travels took me to World War II battlefields in Europe and the Pacific where American valor ended the tyranny of Nazism and Empire. But our country faced its own greatest challenge 80 years earlier during the Civil War. And it was the critical late summer of 1862, when Robert E. Lee launched the Maryland Campaign that fortune could have gone either way. It is an incredible story of drama, carnage, bravery, and missed opportunities that culminated around the fields and woodlots of peaceful Sharpsburg MD. So join me as I make this journey South from the North Woods.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Union Generals Nine Months After Antietam...

At Antietam, I talk to many folks who are either on their way to or from Gettysburg when they visit us. I am frequently asked if the generals that I discuss in my talks about Antietam were also at Gettysburg. That line of questioning got me to thinking. While this is ostensibly an Antietam blog, I thought that in honor of the 146th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, I would move the clock forward nine months or so and say a little about the generals of Antietam and where they were when Lee’s army again swept north toward the town of Gettysburg. Today, we will talk about the Army of the Potomac. Many were still in the Army, often promoted to higher positions. Some had died or were recovering from their wounds. Others had been reassigned or were gone from the Army, victims of politics or their own scheming.

George McClellan
, commander of the Army of the Potomac at Antietam was relieved of his command on November 7, 1862. In late June of 1863, McClellan then living in New York City travelled to Albany and assisted Governor Seymour in organizing New York militia that were being sent to Pennsylvania.

First Corps commander, Joseph Hooker, wounded at the Battle of Antietam was commanding the Army of the Potomac when Lee began his invasion in June of 1863. Defeated at Chancellorsville a month earlier, Hooker was damaged goods by this time. Not given the freedom of action by Halleck to use the Harpers Ferry garrison in his plans, Hooker requested to be relieved of command. His request was granted and on June 28th, just three days before the Battle of Gettysburg. George Meade, who commanded the Pennsylvania Reserves in the First Corps under Hooker at Antietam, was elevated to command of the Army of the Potomac. At Gettysburg, John Reynolds would command the First Corps. During the Maryland campaign, Reynolds, against the will of George McClellan, was detached from the Army of the Potomac to organize the Pennsylvania militia He is the only Union Corps Commander at Gettysburg who was not present at Antietam on September 17, 1862. Of the other two Antietam division commanders in the First Corps, Abner Doubleday would command another First Corps division at the start of the battle of Gettysburg, and assume command of the Corps upon the death of Reynolds. James Ricketts who was seriously wounded at Antietam would not return to an active command until March of 1864 when he would command a division of Sedgwick’s Sixth Corps. In the meantime, Ricketts served on the court martial of Fitz John Porter and performed other light duty.

Second Corps commander, Edwin Vose Sumner would not live to see the Battle of Gettysburg. Elevated to Grand Division commander when Burnside assumed command of the Army after McClellan’s relief, Sumner had no desire to serve under Joseph Hooker when the latter assumed command of the Army of the Potomac in January of 1863. Assigned to the Department of the Missouri, Sumner was on his way to St. Louis when he died of a heart attack on March 21, 1863 in his hometown of Syracuse New York. At Gettysburg, Winfield Scott Hancock commanded the Second Corps. He would begin his association with the Second Corps on September 17, 1862 when he assumed command of Israel Richardson’s division when the latter was mortally wounded. Before this, Hancock was a brigade commander in Smith’s Division of Franklin’s Sixth Corps. Of the other Antietam division commanders, John Sedgwick would recover from his wounds and command the Sixth Corps at Gettysburg. William French would be later reassigned to command of the Harpers Ferry garrison at the beginning of the Gettysburg campaign.

Fitz-John Porter, commander of the Fifth Corps, was essentially under indictment throughout the Maryland Campaign for his supposed disobedience of John Pope’s orders to attack in the Second Battle of Manassas. McClellan persuaded Lincoln to retain Porter until after the battle but he was relieved of his command and arrested on November 25, 1862. Porter was found guilty of disobedience and misconduct in a speedy court martial on January 10, 1863. He was dismissed from the Army on January 21, 1863. George Sykes, who at Antietam commanded the division of regulars would move up to command the Fifth Corps during at the battle of Gettysburg. The other division commander at Antietam was George Morell. He was closely identified with Fitz-John Porter and testified on Porter’s behalf at his court martial. This would cost him dearly and as a result, Morell would lose his command in December of 1862. He would receive no other important assignment for the duration of the war.

William Franklin, commander of the Sixth Corps at Antietam, would be elevated to the command of a Grand Division during the Fredericksburg campaign. Franklin would scheme with other officers against Burnside after the battle. Burnside would blame him for the failure of the attack at Fredericksburg, and succeed in having him relieved of command. During the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign, Franklin was home in York, Pennsylvania, and assisted state authorities in developing plans for the defense of the region against an expected enemy attack. John Sedgwick would assume command of the Sixth Corps after recovering from his Antietam wounds and from Chancellorsville on, lead the corps until his death on May 9, 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House. Division commanders Henry Slocum, and William F. Smith would have very different careers from each other. During the Maryland Campaign, Slocum commanded the division of the Sixth Corps that captured Crampton’s Gap on September 14th 1862. He would go on to command the Twelfth Corps at Gettysburg. Smith would be promoted to command the Sixth Corps during the Fredericksburg campaign, but his penchant for intrigue and plotting against Burnside after the battle would cost him. Relieved of corps command and reverting to the rank of brigadier general, Smith commanded a division-sized force of militia within the Department of the Susquehanna during the critical days of the Gettysburg Campaign.

The Ninth Corps and its commander Ambrose Burnside would not see action at Gettysburg. Burnside, elevated to command of the Army of the Potomac after the Battle of Antietam would himself be relieved of command after the Battle of Fredericksburg. He would be assigned to command the Department of Ohio, an area that included Kentucky and eastern Tennessee. Burnside would be serving there during the Gettysburg campaign. In the summer of 1863, the Ninth Corps under the command of Major General John G. Parke participated in the investment and capture of the city of Vicksburg. Parke served as Burnside’s chief of staff at Antietam. Of the four Antietam division commanders Isaac P. Rodman was wounded there and died on September 30, 1862. The other Ninth Corp’s division commanders would head west but none would serve with the Ninth Corps at Vicksburg. During the Battle of Gettysburg, Samuel Sturgis would command a division in the Army of the Ohio. Orlando Willcox and Jacob Cox would command military districts in Burnside’s Department the Ohio. Willcox would command the District of Indiana and Michigan. Cox would command the District of Ohio.

For much of the spring and summer of 1862, Nathaniel Banks commanded the Twelfth Corps. In early September, McClellan placed Banks in command of the Washington defenses and assigned command of the Twelfth Corps to fellow West Pointer Major General Joseph Mansfield on September 15, 1862. Mansfield, in command for just two days was mortally wounded within minutes of arriving on the battlefield. His senior division commander Alpheus Williams succeeded him. Williams had led the corps in the interim between the relief of Banks and the arrival of Mansfield on September 15th and would hold the command again until October 20, 1862 when Henry Slocum assumed command. At Gettysburg, Slocum would be temporarily elevated to command of the “right wing” of the Army of the Potomac and Williams would find himself again in temporary command of the Twelfth Corps. George Greene, the other division commander at Antietam would revert to command of his brigade. His heroic stand at Culp’s Hill during the battle of Gettysburg would contribute significantly to Union success there.

The Third and Eleventh Corps were not present at the Battle of Antietam. McClellan left them in the fortifications around Washington during the Maryland Campaign but both fought at Gettysburg. There, the commander of the Eleventh Corps was Oliver Otis Howard. At Antietam, Howard commanded the Philadelphia Brigade in Sedgwick’s Division of Sumner’s Corps. Other Potomac officers at Antietam would see their stars continue to rise. Brigade commanders John Gibbon, John Caldwell, and Samuel Crawford would command divisions at Gettysburg. Regimental commanders would move up to brigade command. Countless other Union officers and men, survivors and veterans of not just the Maryland Campaign, but of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville as well would make another stand at the small Pennsylvania crossroads town of Gettysburg. Another invasion. Another battle.

NOTE: Command assignments were verified in Civil War High Commands edited by John H. and David J. Eicher (Stanford University Press, 2001)

2 comments:

  1. Jim
    Excellent post. Of the 81 brigade, division, and corps commanders present in the AOP at Antietam, only 22 (or just 27%) were still with the army at Gettysburg, most in different capacities. Those were:

    *Abner Doubleday
    *J. William Hofmann (in command of the 56th PA at Gettysburg, though a brigade commander at Antietam)
    *Marsena Patrick (as provost marshall)
    *John Gibbon
    *George Meade
    *John Caldwell
    *John Brooke
    *John Sedgwick
    *Oliver Howard
    *James Barnes
    *George Sykes
    *Gouverneur Warren
    *Andrew Humphreys
    *Henry Slocum
    *Alfred Torbert
    *Joseph Bartlett
    *John Newton
    *Winfield Hancock
    *Alpheus Williams
    *Samuel Crawford
    *George Greene
    *Alfred Pleasonton

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  2. John

    Thank you
    In the short period of nine months, that was tremendous turbulence in the leadership ranks. Imagine an organization today where 73% of the top leaders are gone in nine months. The AOP was a very durable organization indeed.

    Jim

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