Was the writing already on the wall? A look at the composition of the Army of Northeastern Virginia at First Bull Run/ Manassas. [Part Four]

Hussar Yeomanry

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This is Part Four:

It continues from Part Three https://www.civilwartalk.com/threads/was-the-writing-already-on-the-wall-a-look-at-the-composition-of-the-army-of-northeastern-virginia-at-first-bull-run-manassas-part-three.153549/

Part Two can be found here https://www.civilwartalk.com/thread...a-at-first-bull-run-manassas-part-two.153437/

Part One can be found here https://www.civilwartalk.com/thread...n-virginia-at-first-bull-run-manassas.153357/


Having previously looked at quantity we now have to look at the much more subjective issue of quality.

First, the commanders for this is an army that can only find space to assign William T Sherman – yes that William T Sherman – a brigade command. Therefore logically its Divisional and Army command should be as the colossi themselves.

They aren't.

I don't think anyone can object to that statement and to begin with I will look at Sherman's line of command. He reports to the First Division Commander who is Brigadier General Daniel Tyler. Tyler of course reports to McDowell. Personally and for competence as displayed by their future actions I would argue Sherman should have the army, McDowell the division and Tyler the brigade.


After all I personally believe McDowell to be a solid C+, B- kind of commander. Kind of sort of adequate in a push but absolutely devoid of that spark that makes a great general. I do accept he is in an appalling position and he comes very close to winning at First Bull Run but his future performance will be... uninspiring.


As to the five Divisional Commanders... well... Tyler will have at best a mixed war. Heavily blamed for the loss at Bull Run he will however get another Divisional Command. This time at the siege of Corinth. There he seems to just about do well enough to come back east and command troops at Harpers Ferry... which Jackson captures during the Antietam campaign. He does not get any future commands though this may be a little harsh on him for he was a subordinate commander at Harpers Ferry.

Colonel Hunter commands the Second Division and for the rest of the war will mainly have administrative roles (Frequently as the ranking officer on various Courts of Inquiry/ Court Martial's). He does occasionally get secondary field commands but his performance in these is mixed at best and frequently controversial (Advocating arming slaves, his Scorched Earth policy in the valley).

Colonel S P Heintzelman has the Third Division. He will at least gain Corps Command in the AoP but this is done over McClellan's head and Heintzelman will be relieved after Second Bull Run and a minor injury at Glendale. After these series of fairly average performances he commanded Washington's defences but does seem to have had the best post Bull Run career of any of the Divisional commanders.

(Brigadier General) T Runyon has the Fourth (Reserve) Division. He is a New Jersey Militiaman entirely leading men from New Jersey and will never receive a commission in the US volunteers. Neither will he ever see any action.

Colonel Dixon S Miles of the Fifth Division will go on to match his poor performance at Bull Run where he is claimed to be drunk with later failures. Indeed he will initially be in command at Harpers Ferry when it is surrendered to Jackson (the largest surrender of Union troops of the war) though he will not live to see this happen. He was mortally wounded just before from what some claim was a deliberate act by his own side... and again there are allegations that during the 'siege' he was drunk.


So, not exactly a stellar cast of Divisional Commanders.


Why were they chosen? We can only speculate. Seniority? Expediency? Runyon certainly seems to be a case of the latter. Politics? I can't prove this but wouldn't be surprised. A mix of the above? While they are men whose loyalty is not in doubt they would not be my first choice commanders.


The Brigade Commanders are however a very different breed.


William. T. Sherman – enough said.

Israel Richardson will become one of the most promising divisional commanders in the AoP and destined for bigger things when he is killed at the Sunken Lane at Antietam.

Oliver Otis Howard will get Corps Command in the AoP and indeed effectively Army command out west. It will be a mixed performance but at times he will shine.

Erasmus Keyes will get Corps Command in the AoP – admittedly not very successfully, especially as he may have alienated both McClellan and his later commander General Dix.

Robert Schenck is a political appointee. Pure and simple. With no prior military experience but a leading supporter of Lincoln he will go on to meet Stonewall Jackson again. It will not go well.

Andrew Porter will become a Brigadier General and Provost Martial of the AoP and this is a position he retains until after Antietam. I cannot tell precisely when he loses this position but it looks like he may have been one of the casualties when Hooker reorganised the army as by Gettysburg he has certainly gone. He then receives some minor administrative duties before mustering out of the army in 1864 due to health reasons.

Ambrose E Burnside. Books could and have been written about this man. I see no reason to repeat them.

William B Franklin will get Corps Command in the AoP but will suffer in the furore around Porter's Court Martial and will be blamed by Burnside for his failure at Fredericksburg. Reassigned to the Trans-Mississippi he will find himself caught up in the Red River debacle. He will be wounded during it and later captured by the Confederates. Despite escaping and being U.S. Grant's choice for Cavalry Corps Commander of the AoP rather than Sheridan he will never have a major command again.

Orlando B Wilcox will rise through the AoP to very briefly get Corps Command at Fredericksburg. He will later get Divisional Command in Grant's Overland Campaign. He will be present at Petersburg and will get a reasonable if unexceptional reputation as a commander.

L. Blenker and T A. Davis are the Brigade Commanders in the uncommitted Fifth Division


In other words its a very mixed bag but compared with most of the Divisional Commanders a vast improvement. There is also definitely some real talent here.


Regimental Commanders will include A.H. Terry, A. McCook, H. W. Slocum, G. Sykes.

Whilst commanding artillery batteries will be Henry Hunt, R.B Ayres, C. Griffin, J. B. Ricketts


All these will be heard from again and I may well have missed some which means that amidst this very uneven army there are some very competent individuals. Possibly in the wrong places but definitely there.

(In Part Five which will probably be the last part we will look at the even more subjective topic of the quality of the troops and unlike this part I think it will be far more controversial/ argued with)

Your thoughts?
 

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67th Tigers

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You should remember that militia officers are in service.

McDowell was on Scott's staff as a major, and was basically chosen because he was friendly to Scott. He was jumped to BG in the regular army, vice the intended Robert E Lee as a second choice.

BG's Tyler and Runyon hold militia Commissions, of CT and NJ respectively. These expired shortly thereafter. They were selected by their states. BG Schenck was a friend of Lincoln's and was made a BG(V) on Lincoln's say so. The Ohio Militia had selected their full complement of officers (MG McClellan, and BG's Morris, Schleick and Cox), and two of those were soon dropped (Schleick was fired by McClellan for incompetence, and Morris was "services no longer required" by McClellan at the end of his 90 days). Schenck had been promised a cabinet post by Lincoln, then when he couldn't get him that a senate seat and finally Lincoln asked Schenck what he wanted, and he asked for a generals star. Schenck was one of the first BG(V) appointed (5th June). His complete lack of any military training meant they kept him away from a division.

The army filled out the other posts with regular colonels as much as possible. The creation of the new regiments allowed the army to select who they considered to be the most talented officers in the army. Regulations stated that regulars always outranks militia and volunteers of the same rank, so the three most senior were made division commanders. In the three divisions that were to attack, it was made sure that the regular colonels were there, ready to make over (as Andrew Porter had to). They were:

Miles - existing Colonel of the 2nd Infantry
Hunter - made Colonel of the 6th Cavalry
Keyes - made Colonel of the 11th Infantry
Franklin - made Colonel of the 12th Infantry
WT Sherman - made Colonel of the 13th Infantry
Andrew Porter - made Colonel of the 16th Infantry
Heintzelman - made Colonel of the 17th Infantry

Finally, the remaining brigades were just filled by the senior volunteer officer present:

Richardson - Col of 2nd Michigan
Burnside - Col of 1st Rhode Island
Willcox - Col of 1st Michigan
Howard - Col of 3rd Maine
Blenker - Col of 8th NY
Davis - Col of 16th NY

It was the best they could do within the restrictions of the system.

It's also worth looking at the Dept of Pennsylvania, operating against the Shenandoah:

Commanding - MG(Penn Militia) Patterson
Chief of Staff - Col FJ Porter, 15th Infantry

1st Division - MG (Penn Militia) Geo Cadwalader
2nd Division - MG (Penn Militia) WH Keim
3rd Division - MG (NY Militia) CW Sandford

1st Bde - Col Geo Thomas, 2nd Cavalry
2nd Bde - BG (Penn Militia) GC Wynkoop
3rd Bde - BG (Penn Militia) EC Williams
4th Bde - Col Longnecker, 9th Pennsylvania (vice Col Miles, 2nd Inf, assigned to division above)
5th Bde - BG (Penn Militia) JS Negey
6th Bde - Col Abercrombie, 7th Infantry
7th Bde - Col Stone, 14th Infantry
8th Bde - Acting BG (NY Militia) Butterfield, Col of 12th NY State Militia

They're clearly far worse off.
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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Thank you. That is a very concise look at the process, one I was still grasping to entirely understand - though I had at least noticed Tyler's service/ commission with Connecticut militia - even if I hadnt realised its significance.

And yes Patterson is clearly worse off.
 

Andy Cardinal

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Not related to Bull Run, I had not realized that Grant had thought of Franklin to command the cavalry.
 

67th Tigers

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Not related to Bull Run, I had not realized that Grant had thought of Franklin to command the cavalry.
It was a while ago I looked at this, but when Grant floated the idea up to Halleck the reply came back:

"Genl. Franklin would not give satisfaction. The President ordered him to be tried for negligence & disobedience of orders when here before, but Genl McClellan assumed the responsibility of his repeated delays in obeying orders."
 

Carronade

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First, thank you for another interesting post and an interesting series.

I think the first thing this reminds us of is that hindsight is 20/20. Men who were chosen for command in the first months of the war ultimately amassed records that ranged from brilliant to disastrous, with most somewhere in between, but who could know in August 1861?
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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First, thank you for another interesting post and an interesting series.

I think the first thing this reminds us of is that hindsight is 20/20. Men who were chosen for command in the first months of the war ultimately amassed records that ranged from brilliant to disastrous, with most somewhere in between, but who could know in August 1861?
Thank you for your words. (There is one more part in the late stage of being put together that thanks to the participation/ assistance of a forum regular may be the most interesting part of all). I also have some interesting things to say - or at least I think they are interesting - when I look at the opposing army.

And yes its all hindsight. It can be nothing else but I am finding the process of putting together an army of c.35,000 from pretty much scratch fascinating. What they got right... and what they got wrong. Certainly I would not have wanted to be the one doing so.
 

67th Tigers

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BTW, Heintzelman was one of McClellan's picks for corps command. His picks were, in order of seniority:

BG Sumner
BG McDowell
Col Heintzelman, 17th Inf
Col Andrew Porter, 16th Inf
Col FJ Porter, 15th Inf
Col Franklin, 12th Inf
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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BTW, Heintzelman was one of McClellan's picks for corps command. His picks were, in order of seniority:

BG Sumner
BG McDowell
Col Heintzelman, 17th Inf
Col Andrew Porter, 16th Inf
Col FJ Porter, 15th Inf
Col Franklin, 12th Inf
Really? Are you sure about McDowell? I thought the two did not get on.

On the other hand I do like the difference between this list and the 4 that Lincoln chose:

Keyes, Heintzelman, Franklin and McDowell - though Lincoln claimed that the reason why he went over McClellan's head is that McClellan wouldnt give him his choices. Therefore is this a list McClellan created after the fact? [Not trying to be argumentative, just interested in the answer for the only specific source I have on this is not the best - Swinton!]
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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William T. Sherman didn't even establish his reputation yet and in one instance he actually ran away during a battle and almost committed suicide.
Very few people had. We are after all looking at in hindsight.

And in danger of getting off topic as to the rest I assume you are talking about Shiloh when you say he ran away. Yes he went with his Division when it collapsed but then he rallied it and brought (much of) it back into the fight.

Further while he definitely suffered from paranoia and depression at times - especially after his brief command in Kentucky - I have never seen any suggestion he became suicidal.
 

67th Tigers

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Really? Are you sure about McDowell? I thought the two did not get on.

On the other hand I do like the difference between this list and the 4 that Lincoln chose:

Keyes, Heintzelman, Franklin and McDowell - though Lincoln claimed that the reason why he went over McClellan's head is that McClellan wouldnt give him his choices. Therefore is this a list McClellan created after the fact? [Not trying to be argumentative, just interested in the answer for the only specific source I have on this is not the best - Swinton!]
This is discussed in Beatie's Army of the Potomac Vol 2, although I no longer possess a copy so can't quote.
 

Saphroneth

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Keyes, Heintzelman, Franklin and McDowell - though Lincoln claimed that the reason why he went over McClellan's head is that McClellan wouldnt give him his choices.
Interestingly the time when Lincoln selected those corps commanders was during a dispute over what the best option would be for the Army of the Potomac to take the offensive in the spring. A vote of the division commanders had been called for and McClellan's option (the Urbanna plan) had won that (8th March), and a few days later Lincoln called for a vote of the corps commanders.
Oddly enough the people who had the minority opinion in the Urbanna vote were the ones who got elevated to corps command in the interim. A coincidence, I'm sure...

That's how the Peninsular operation came about, by the way - the corps commanders agreed with a waterborne movement but substituted in the Peninsular for the Urbanna plan, as things had changed in the interim. Since Lincoln appears to have preferred an overland movement, it's anyone's guess why he forgot one of the most important rules of politics - don't call a vote when you're unsure of the result!

(This reliance on councils of war with votes is interesting, and probably another symptom of the nature of the Union army. It tends to promote the idea of the commander as "just one among many" as he can be outvoted...)
 


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