Discussion Lincoln's political generals

Booner

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Banks was a Republican. He’d left the Democrats in the mid 50s over the Kansas-Nebraska business and was one of the founding leaders of the Republican Party. There is no evidence I’m aware of that he was chosen to shore up support from a party, especially the Dems
Butler also joined the Republican Party, but that took place after he was removed from Command at New Orleans, where Banks replaced him.
 

jackt62

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Banks was a Republican. He’d left the Democrats in the mid 50s over the Kansas-Nebraska business and was one of the founding leaders of the Republican Party. There is no evidence I’m aware of that he was chosen to shore up support from a party, especially the Dems

Yes, you are correct about Banks. I stand corrected.
 

James N.

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I think I'm wrong about Hunter. Not sure why I had in my head he was a political appointee.
There are several likely possibilities: First, although he may have been a major at the outbreak of the war, he owed his influence to the fact that for some reason it was he who drew the assignment to escort the newly-elected President Lincoln from his home in Springfield to Washington and was with him through the dubious escapade of traveling the last leg of the journey clandestinely by night. This service endeared him to the President who kept him around for a while early in the war as an aide. After various small commands in the West he showed up at Vicksburg looking over Grant's shoulder as an emissary of Stanton, although he got on well with and was liked by Grant. Possibly best remembered militarily for his victory over Grumble Jones at Piedmont, his action on the battlefield there was far overshadowed by his subsequent brutality towards noted Virginians, many of whom were his own relatives, since he was himself a Virginian. On rather flimsy excuses he torched VMI and the home of Governor Letcher in Lexington, then continued his depredations around Harper's Ferry, burning the homes of several civilians including widows with young children. In these and other of his wartime actions he acted far more in the manner of a political rather that a professional officer, earning the unflattering sobriquet Black Dave.
 
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James N.

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What was the political angle on Black Jack Logan?
In early 1861 Logan was a Democratic politician representing part of southern Illinois known as Little Egypt because its chief town and center of commerce was the mudhole river port Cairo. This part of Illinois, because of the trade on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers had strong ties and sympathies with the South. Nevertheless, while Logan was stumping the state in favor of mobilization, despite initial skepticism from former Whigs and Republicans alike, speaking in Galena he made a tremendous impression on former Whig and Army Captain U. S. Grant who afterward championed Logan's cause and rise once he proved himself to be a competent leader in the field.
 
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Ole Miss

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What was the political angle on Black Jack Logan?
Logan was a prominent democrat who campaigned for Lincoln's re-election in the fall of 1864 back home in Illinois. Additional, he may well have been the best political appointment to the Union army as a general.
Regards
David
 

leftyhunter

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Having the benefit of hindsight, were any of Lincoln's political generals that important to the war effort from a political point of view? Many if not most of his political generals were subpar commanders, so looking back on what happened historically, was any of their political support so necessary and powerful to outweigh appointing a professional soldier in their place?

Some quick names that come to mind include Butler, Fremont, Banks, Sigel and Hunter.

Perhaps asked another way, looking back, would the Union cause have been just fine without the political contributions of these generals, or does history understate just how important their non-military contributions were to the effort?
Interestingly enough the ACW was not the last American War to feature political generals I.e.former Confederate General Wheeler who technically commanded US troops in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
Arguably WW1 was the first major American War that had an all professional military officer corps.
Has others have stated political generals were a mixed bag but certainly some brought valuable military skills such has Curtis and Logan and Butler brought administrative skills while others such has Spiegel , helped spur Union Army recruitment.
Leftyhunter
 

MikeyB

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Interestingly enough the ACW was not the last American War to feature political generals I.e.former Confederate General Wheeler who technically commanded US troops in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
Arguably WW1 was the first major American War that had an all professional military officer corps.
Has others have stated political generals were a mixed bag but certainly some brought valuable military skills such has Curtis and Logan and Butler brought administrative skills while others such has Spiegel , helped spur Union Army recruitment.
Leftyhunter

Did the term USV persist after the Spanish-American war?
 

leftyhunter

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Did the term USV persist after the Spanish-American war?
Not to my understanding. In WW1 most US troops were members of the US Army and Marines. Their officers were not appointed by the governor nor could the enlisted men vote for their officers.
By WW1 their was the National Guard but they were still under US Army Command when mobilized by then President Wilson.
Leftyhunter
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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subsequent brutality towards noted Virginians, many of whom were his own relatives, since he was himself a Virginian. On rather flimsy excuses he torched VMI and the home of Governor Letcher in Lexington, then continued his depredations around Harper's Ferry, burning the homes of several civilians including widows with young children. In these and other of his wartime actions he acted far more in the manner of a political rather that a professional officer, earning the unflattering sobriquet Black Dave.
Black Dave was not a Virginian, although of partial descent from Virginians.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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Yes and no. During World War One the "USV" was dropped. However, "USR" started to be used (United States Reserves) as well was "USNG" (United States National Guard).
The USNG preceded the NA by several years, and was a general replacement for the Militia. The USAR developed in fits and starts until after WW1. The National Army was similar to the USV in that it caught most of the volunteers and draftees. Officers in the NA only held rank for the duration of the war, unless transferred to another service after the war, or previously held rank. Many regular officers held much higher rank in the NA during thr war.
 

NedBaldwin

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Having the benefit of hindsight, were any of Lincoln's political generals that important to the war effort from a political point of view? Many if not most of his political generals were subpar commanders, so looking back on what happened historically, was any of their political support so necessary and powerful to outweigh appointing a professional soldier in their place?

Some quick names that come to mind include Butler, Fremont, Banks, Sigel and Hunter.

Perhaps asked another way, looking back, would the Union cause have been just fine without the political contributions of these generals, or does history understate just how important their non-military contributions were to the effort?

Perhaps I can ask a different question. Of all of Lincoln's political generals, who do you think was most essential to the war effort, off the battlefield?

To me, we first need to define "political general". It often seems like just a slur people toss at generals they dont like.
Then what are the supposed "political contributions"?
And "off battlefield" could describe a lot of stuff like administration, logistics, supplies, transport, recruitment, reconstruction.
So these arent simple quesitons
 

leftyhunter

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To me, we first need to define "political general". It often seems like just a slur people toss at generals they dont like.
Then what are the supposed "political contributions"?
And "off battlefield" could describe a lot of stuff like administration, logistics, supplies, transport, recruitment, reconstruction.
So these arent simple quesitons
Hi Ned,
While I certainly can't speak for @MikeyB a reasonable definition would be simply anointing a politician who has no military experience in exchange for their political support and or their ability to recruit men in their respective political districts.
Where it gets a bit more complicated is in the case of someone like Samuel Curtis who is an elected congressmen but did graduate West Point and did command two regiments in the Mexican-American War.
One could argue can that Curtis regardless of his occupation would be qualified to at least be a Colonel in the ACW some there was a severe shortage of graduates of recognized military academies.
Leftyhunter
 

Bruce Vail

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In early 1861 Logan was a Democratic politician representing part of southern Illinois known as Little Egypt because its chief town and center of commerce was the mudhole river port Cairo. This part of Illinois, because of the trade on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers had strong ties and sympathies with the South. Nevertheless, while Logan was stumping the state in favor of mobilization, despite initial skepticism from former Whigs and Republicans alike, speaking in Galena he made a tremendous impression on former Whig and Army Captain U. S. Grant who afterward championed Logan's cause and rise once he proved himself to be a competent leader in the field.

Grant was a former Whig? I have read elsewhere that later in life he described himslef as a former Democrat.
 

rbasin

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In early 1861 Logan was a Democratic politician representing part of southern Illinois known as Little Egypt because its chief town and center of commerce was the mudhole river port Cairo. This part of Illinois, because of the trade on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers had strong ties and sympathies with the South. Nevertheless, while Logan was stumping the state in favor of mobilization, despite initial skepticism from former Whigs and Republicans alike, speaking in Galena he made a tremendous impression on former Whig and Army Captain U. S. Grant who afterward championed Logan's cause and rise once he proved himself to be a competent leader in the field.
He was awful after the war to some of his fellow soldiers.
 

NedBaldwin

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Hi Ned,
While I certainly can't speak for @MikeyB a reasonable definition would be simply anointing a politician who has no military experience in exchange for their political support and or their ability to recruit men in their respective political districts.
Where it gets a bit more complicated is in the case of someone like Samuel Curtis who is an elected congressmen but did graduate West Point and did command two regiments in the Mexican-American War.
One could argue can that Curtis regardless of his occupation would be qualified to at least be a Colonel in the ACW some there was a severe shortage of graduates of recognized military academies.
Leftyhunter
Ok , lets break it down...

"anointing a politician"
Actively in office? Formerly in office? Someone who had sought office?
(Hooker ran for state office in California but lost; Schurz also ran for state office and failed; I don't think Sigel ever tried )

"who has no military experience"

How do we define military experience? What kind of experience counts?
Many of the men we are talking about (McClernand, Banks, Butler) had been in their State Militia .
Lincoln appointed Butler as a general in the USV in May 1861, at which time he was a Brigadier General of the Massachusetts militia, commanding the force occupying Baltimore Maryland. Schurz and Sigel had both served in Germany during the revolution; Fremont had been in the US Army in the 40s.

"in exchange for their political support and or their ability to recruit men in their respective political districts."
- Who was that true of ? Maybe the Illinois Dems like McClernand and Logan. But were Banks or Butler needed for their political support or to recruit men from Massachusetts? Is there really any indication that was the motivation for their appointments?
 

leftyhunter

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Ok , lets break it down...

"anointing a politician"
Actively in office? Formerly in office? Someone who had sought office?
(Hooker ran for state office in California but lost; Schurz also ran for state office and failed; I don't think Sigel ever tried )

"who has no military experience"

How do we define military experience? What kind of experience counts?
Many of the men we are talking about (McClernand, Banks, Butler) had been in their State Militia .
Lincoln appointed Butler as a general in the USV in May 1861, at which time he was a Brigadier General of the Massachusetts militia, commanding the force occupying Baltimore Maryland. Schurz and Sigel had both served in Germany during the revolution; Fremont had been in the US Army in the 40s.

"in exchange for their political support and or their ability to recruit men in their respective political districts."
- Who was that true of ? Maybe the Illinois Dems like McClernand and Logan. But were Banks or Butler needed for their political support or to recruit men from Massachusetts? Is there really any indication that was the motivation for their appointments?
By anoint I mean just taking a serving or influential former politician and giving them a military commission just because they have power and influence I.e. they can encourage a large group of people in a presidential election to vote based on their recommendation.
If a politician does have former military training and or experience then said politicians would be political generals if their commission is based not on their experiences but on their political power. An example would be if a politician graduated West Point decades before the ACW and only served as leutenant but due to their power and prestige are appointment as a general.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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Ok , lets break it down...

"anointing a politician"
Actively in office? Formerly in office? Someone who had sought office?
(Hooker ran for state office in California but lost; Schurz also ran for state office and failed; I don't think Sigel ever tried )

"who has no military experience"

How do we define military experience? What kind of experience counts?
Many of the men we are talking about (McClernand, Banks, Butler) had been in their State Militia .
Lincoln appointed Butler as a general in the USV in May 1861, at which time he was a Brigadier General of the Massachusetts militia, commanding the force occupying Baltimore Maryland. Schurz and Sigel had both served in Germany during the revolution; Fremont had been in the US Army in the 40s.

"in exchange for their political support and or their ability to recruit men in their respective political districts."
- Who was that true of ? Maybe the Illinois Dems like McClernand and Logan. But were Banks or Butler needed for their political support or to recruit men from Massachusetts? Is there really any indication that was the motivation for their appointments?
Butler would be a political general as compared to say Curtis.
Butler never attended a formal miltary academy vs Curtis graduated from West Point.
Butler never saw active military service vs Curtis led two regiments during the Mexican-American War.
The Massachusetts State Militia was not necessarily a real army but may of been more of a social club. Curtis served in the US Army albeit briefly and commanded US Volunteers during the Mexican-American War. So yes quite a difference. On the other hand Butler was an able administrator and Butler early in the ACW started to emancipate slaves.
Leftyhunter
 

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