Banks

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#1
All I know is he was beaten in the Valley ("Commissary Banks") and Red River was not a success. So quick question: Was Banks really bad and incompetent, or merely mediocre, who was beaten by some good foes (Jackson)? Did he ever grow with experience?
 

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Mar 2, 2019
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#3
Here are some examples of how the men under him felt about him from some of my research of the 14h Iowa in the Red River Expedition:

The day of the battle at Mansfield April 8, 1864, wagon trains got in the way of the troops. The veteran regiments in the back couldn't move forward to fight, and the retreating soldiers couldn't retreat because the road was blocked. One soldier wrote about Banks to the Wisconsin State Journal afterward, “The idea of fighting a large battle with wagon trains, I don’t think ever originated with any other man.” The Union lost that battle.

The next day, at Pleasant Hill, Banks began a retreat. He sent the survivors from the cavalry and the 13th Corps, several batteries, and at least part of the Corps D’Afrique back to Grand Ecore with the wagon trains. His reasoning was there was little to no food or water at Pleasant Hill. He left about seven brigades there but told people there was not going to be a battle. The rebels did attack at 5 p.m, but the Union troops fought until the rebels retreated. They planned to go out onto the battlefield that night to take care of the dead and wounded, but instead Banks ordered them all to join the retreat to Grand Ecore. The dead were left on the battlefield, and the 400 wounded all became prisoners (and half of those died). The brigades who had just fought for several hours were ordered to move out silently, leaving their fallen friends, and to defend the rear of the retreating army. They learned later that the rebels had retreated at least 6 miles at the end of the day.

Colonel John Scott of the 32d Iowa wrote that Banks "gave to a brilliant victory all the moral results of a defeat. ...[T]he Thirty-second Iowa Infantry blushes to place upon its banner the name of a field where its dead and wounded were cruelly abandoned to an enemy, who, many hours afterward, humbly asked leave to care for his own!"

An anonymous letter dated May 19, 1864, and published in the Burlington (Iowa) Weekly Hawk-Eye said—
Gen. Banks, as a military genius, is not very highly appreciated by the officers and men of this department, and especially the men of this expedition, who say they believe that if he had had twice as large an army as he had, lie would have gotten them all “gobbled” [captured]. And their eyes fairly flash with indignation when they tell of being compelled by orders to retreat from a retreating foe, which they say was the case at Pleasant Hill, and which was corroborated by some of our men who were taken prisoner in the fight and afterwards escaped, who said that the rebels retreated eighteen miles before they halted their columns."

At the completion of Banks's retreat from the Red River in May, Colonel William T. Shaw, commander of the Second Brigade of the Third Division of the 16th Army Corps wrote in a letter to his hometown paper, "I am candid when I say that I think I could capture [Banks's] whole army with 500 men, so demoralized are they by his Union sentiments and policy." (Among grievances already described, the men resented being used to confiscate cotton.)

Shaw was dismissed from the army in October for expressing his opinions publicly, and many were sure that Banks forced the dismissal.
 

Ole Miss

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#4
From what I learned while attending the Baton Rouge CWRT Symposium---highly recommend to all---Banks was successful in capturing Port Hudson in spite of himself. He held a vast advantage in troops, adequate supplies and the Confederates inability to provide the garrison any assistance at all yet did not take the defenses until after Vicksburg fell.

I believe it is obvious that if Banks had a smidge of military ability he would never have been transferred from the Shenandoah Valley to replace Benjamin Butler as the Commander of the Gulf. Lincoln had to keep all his "political generals" until the fall elections of 1864 so he placed them in the least important positions away from the real war.
Regards
David
 
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#6
He held a vast advantage in troops, adequate supplies and the Confederates inability to provide the garrison any assistance at all yet did not take the defenses until after Vicksburg fell.
Sieges tend to go like that. Just like Banks, Grant at Vicksburg held a vast advantage in troops, adequate supplies and the Confederates inability to provide the garrison any assistance, yet took weeks to take the defenses. Both locations gave up when their supplies had dwindled and they realized there was no hope of rescue.

I believe it is obvious that if Banks had a smidge of military ability he would never have been transferred from the Shenandoah Valley to replace Benjamin Butler as the Commander of the Gulf. Lincoln had to keep all his "political generals" until the fall elections of 1864 so he placed them in the least important positions away from the real war.
Quite the opposite is true. Commanding New Orleans and the lower Mississippi in early 1863 was considered one of the more important positions at the time. At the start of 1863 Lincoln and Halleck made opening the river a top goal of the US and assigned Grant up-river and Banks down-river to do it. New Orleans was an important city, the Department of the Gulf covered a large geography, the mission he was given was considered high priority, and by spring of 1863 he had the 4th largest force in the US army under his command (after Hooker, Grant and Rosecrans).
 
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#7
All I know is he was beaten in the Valley ("Commissary Banks") and Red River was not a success. So quick question: Was Banks really bad and incompetent, or merely mediocre, who was beaten by some good foes (Jackson)? Did he ever grow with experience?
Beaten by good foes. He lost the Battle of Winchester to a top set of Confederate commanders (Jackson, Ewell, Taylor) who had about double his numbers.
 
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#8
Banks had been Speaker of the House in 1856 - 1857. He was very political but then if you look at both sides you see a lot Generals who had been politicians before the war.
 

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