OO Howard poor reputation

111thNYSV

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Jul 23, 2019
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Rochester NY
Pardon my question here as it probably has already been answered. Why wasn't OO Howard taken out of corps command? I have heard and read lots of historians and they don't seem to have a favorable opinion of his performance or his personality. Seems to me that if he was really that bad, wouldn't he get replaced?
 

JeffFromSyracuse

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Howard's an interesting case, and there's a lot of evidence that he really improved between 1863-1865. After all, he commanded one of Sherman's wings (commanding two corps) in the March to the Sea and the Carolinas.

Howard didn't have a good showing at Chancellorsville for sure, and the mismatch between his values and that of many of his troops has been frequently discussed. His performance at Gettysburg was better - he technically was in command of the I AND XI Corps, so the collapse of his own Corps wasn't his fault at a tactical level, and he was instrumental in setting up the fall back position that became the anchor of the position.

And in a way, he was sort of relieved. He was shipped out of the AoP and his corps was partially broken up (1 Division of the XI Corps sent to the Carolina coast, 2 Divisions sent to Chattanooga).
 
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major bill

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His post Civil War career was fairly good. He fought in the Indian Wars ending up being a major general. He was
superintendent at West Point and founded or helped establish two colleges. He was well-known for his fund raising for charitable causes.
 
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Sherman seemed to think well of him and made him commander of the Army of the Tennessee. If fact Sherman said some positive statements about General Howard's performance as Corps commander.
So what qualities did Sherman prize in him? Was Howard someone who got into political maneuvering, or like George Thomas, did he plod along doing his duty? I can see where having a steady, if not brilliant, subordinate who did not go around stabbing people in the proverbial back, would be someone to hold on to.
 

JeffFromSyracuse

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So what qualities did Sherman prize in him? Was Howard someone who got into political maneuvering, or like George Thomas, did he plod along doing his duty? I can see where having a steady, if not brilliant, subordinate who did not go around stabbing people in the proverbial back, would be someone to hold on to.
Sort of alluded to it in my above post, but Howard would be a fascinating case study for the idea of “improvement.” The lens of viewing officers in the Civil War seems to be built around “good” or “bad”, but Howard seems to cover both those spectrums.

Don’t know how you’d go about creating an evaluation like this, though.
 
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Agreed. I would like to see that case study. Not every horse in the stable needs to be a race horse. There are a lot of different needs that have to be filled and it would be interesting to see where Howard falls on a spectrum.
 

jackt62

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New York City
Howard's reputation is heavily based on the flank attack that shattered the Union XI Corps at Chancellorsville. Why Howard did not do more to protect his flank under the circumstances is a question indeed, given the fact that Howard had already achieved a respectable military reputation and which resulted in the loss of an arm at the battle of Fair Oaks. But aside from Chancellorsville, Howard generally revitalized his career afterwards (despite the collapse of the XI Corps at Gettysburg, Howard's role in centering a defensive position at Cemetery Hill was critical), especially in the western command where Sherman granted Howard command of the AoT after McPherson's death in battle. Howard led the army through the Georgia March and towards war's end was put in charge of the Freedmen's Bureau, the organization that was responsible for the well being of the newly freed slaves. Howard was known as a deeply religious man (the "Christian General"), and had the backing of the Radical Republican contingent in Congress, which certainly did much to bolster his career in the army and post-war.
 

Saint Jude

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I have studied Howard for almost fifty years, and I have long thought that he is currently one of the most misunderstood and underrated of all the Civil War generals. I'm working on a biography of him and had hoped to have it finished by now, but circumstances have prevented thus far. I don't plan to publish it, but I will send a pdf copy to anyone who is interested. The Civil War part of it is basically done except for the March to the Sea and after.
 

mofederal

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Southeast Missouri
I am just not a fan of Howard, and I will never will be, he was a great excuse maker, and he should have been sacked after Chancellorsville. He fought poorly at Gettysburg, and I suspect he had very few fans in the Army of the Potomac. He was no real fighter. Howard later led an Army that was made up of first rate soldiers. Among them was John Logan, who was a better Corps commander than Howard and I suspect he as far above Howard as a fighting soldier.
 

Irishtom29

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Kent, Washington
In his book on Ezra Church Earl Hess wrote that Howard was popular with the soldiers of the Army of the Tennessee. Howard liked the 4th Corps and western soldiers and I reckon they returned the favor.

I think many who know the western theater probably have a higher opinion of Howard than eastern centric folks.
 
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infomanpa

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Feb 18, 2017
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Pennsylvania
I have studied Howard for almost fifty years, and I have long thought that he is currently one of the most misunderstood and underrated of all the Civil War generals. I'm working on a biography of him and had hoped to have it finished by now, but circumstances have prevented thus far. I don't plan to publish it, but I will send a pdf copy to anyone who is interested. The Civil War part of it is basically done except for the March to the Sea and after.
I am basically in agreement. I believe that his reputation was primarily tarnished by 2 things: 1. His association with the Germans of the Eleventh Corps and 2. His religious/Republican beliefs
 

DanSBHawk

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Wisconsin
Howard later led an Army that was made up of first rate soldiers. Among them was John Logan, who was a better Corps commander than Howard and I suspect he as far above Howard as a fighting soldier.
I agree that Logan deserved command of the Army of the Tennessee, but to be fair to Howard, that decision was made in conversations between Sherman and Thomas. Thomas had an extreme dislike for Logan, and so Howard became the default choice.
 

Fairfield

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I don't see that his reputation was tarnished by his religious/Republican beliefs. IMO General Howard's commitment to freed slaves was genuine. He was personally responsible for the establishment of black settlements at Williamsburg (ME) and Brownville (ME). The general also brought to Leeds (his Maine home) one George Washington Kemp whose wife and children Howard tracked down to Lynchburg, VA in order to reunite the Kemp family.
 

Irishtom29

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I agree that Logan deserved command of the Army of the Tennessee, but to be fair to Howard, that decision was made in conversations between Sherman and Thomas. Thomas had an extreme dislike for Logan, and so Howard became the default choice.

I think Sherman also thought Logan wasn't up to the administrative work.
 

A. Roy

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I don't see that his reputation was tarnished by his religious/Republican beliefs. IMO General Howard's commitment to freed slaves was genuine.

Tarnished might not be the right word. Because he was a religious abolitionist and head of the Freedmen's Bureau, he was hated by enemies of emancipation and reconstruction. Maybe still hated now by some for similar reasons.

R
 
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