"HEROES OF CONTINUAL DEFEAT"
The Army of the Potomac on the Eve of Gettysburg
Dr. Charles Fennell
By the evening of May 6, 1863, the officers and men
of the ill-fated Army of the Potomac knew that the seemingly unbeatable
Army of Northern Virginia had once again defeated them. Any
understanding of the condition of the Army of the Potomac on the eve of
the Battle of Gettysburg must begin on May 6, 1863. The campaign, which
began that spring with such promise, had ended like all the others, in
defeat and disappointment. No army in American history has been more
criticized or afflicted with such bad luck as the Army of the Potomac.
Something always seemed to go wrong which robbed this long-suffering
army of its richly deserved victories.
At the Battle of First Manassas on July 21, 1861,
with the victory in sight the men of the army broke and ran. On the
Peninsula in June of 1862, with spires of Richmond in sight, the Army of
the Potomac was driven from the outskirts of the Confederate capital in
a series of desperate actions known collectively as the Seven Days. In
September of 1862, the army's luck seemed to change when General George
B. McClellan was handed Robert E. Lee's operational order detailing the
location and intention of every unit in the Confederate army. This
golden opportunity was frittered away in the terribly costly Battle of
Antietam on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest single day battle in
American history up to that time.
Again in November of 1862, the Army of the Potomac
seemed on the verge of settling old scores with its Confederate
adversary when 30,000 Union troops arrived at Fredericksburg before the
advance elements of Lee's army could reach that city and contest the
crossing of the Rappahannock River. For the lack of a couple of pontoon
bridges, which were supposed to be there and were not, Lee was able to
concentrate his men on the high ground south and west of Fredericksburg
and repulse repeated Union assaults to break through his defensive
Leadership or Luck?
And finally, in April of 1863, the Army of the
Potomac had again skillfully outmaneuvered General Lee and should have
won an impressive victory, or at the very least should have forced the
Army of Northern Virginia to withdraw to cover its own lines of
communication. However, at the resulting Battle of Chancellorsville in
early May of 1863, Robert E. Lee and the much storied Army of Northern
Virginia would win yet another most impressive victory, their last
victory of any consequence over their ill-fated opponent, the Army of
Even the weather seemed to conspire against the
luckless soldiers in blue. After the Battle of Fredericksburg as General
Ambrose Burnside, perhaps the most unlucky army commander in American
history, attempted to maneuver Lee out of his impregnable position on
the heights behind that city, it rained, turning the roads into a
quagmire. As one veteran remembered, "The condition of the roads
almost passes belief. The army was half buried in mud and liquid muck,
in which the horses and mules sank."  It was
nearly impossible to move under those conditions as another drenched
veteran of Burnsides' now infamous "Mud March" remembered. "The first
day we went just a mile according to some, and a mile and a half
according to others. Be this as it may, for in one day's march we got so
deep in the mud that it took us two days to get out of it." 
And so it was again after the defeat at
Chancellorsville as one veteran recalled, "mud almost as bad as that
in the 'mud march'."  By 4 o'clock on the
afternoon of May 5, 1863, as the Army of Potomac began to recross the
river, it began to rain. As Captain Jonathan Hager recalled, "This
afternoon one of the heaviest & longest continued rainfalls I have
ever seen. The whole country was flooded. Every shelter tent was
swimming and officers & men drenched to the skin."  Captain Collins of the One Hundred and Forty Ninth New
York Infantry remembered that before his unit was across the river "a
furious rain came on, and then a wind bearing the stench from the
battlefield so vile as to be almost unbearable. When the brigade
approached the river the adjacent flats were overflowed and the men
waded in mud and water up to their middle in reaching the pontoon
bridges."  Even the Confederates noted the
intensity of the storm. A member of McLaws division remembered it
"was the hardest rain I have seen in Virginia...."  The deluge threatened to wash away the very bridges
that the Army of the Potomac was using to recross the Rappahannock. That
the bridges remained was largely due to the hard work and skill of men
in the engineering corps. What could go wrong seemed to always go wrong
for the men of the Army of the Potomac. They began to truly believe that
the army was cursed. As one veteran wrote after the Battle of
Chancellorsville, "Call it what you please, demoralization or
discouragement, we care not to ford rivers, sleep standing and fight
running, when sure defeat always awaits such a doomed army." 
Although it was clear to everyone that the army was
retreating, many of the officers and men did not agree with the
movement, or even feel, for that matter, that they had been defeated.
Four out of the six corps commanders of the army opposed withdrawal.  One of these was Major General George G. Meade, soon to
be the next commander of the army. In a letter to his wife he wrote,
"I opposed the withdrawal with all my influence..., but I was
overruled.... General Hooker has disappointed all his friends by failure
to show his fighting qualities at the pinch." 
One of Meade's staff officers, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Webb, who
would command the Philadelphia Brigade that held the now famous Angle
during Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863, best expressed the mood of the
commanders who wanted to continue the fight when he wrote, "Strong in
our position we ought to have invited attack.... We all prayed that the
bridges might be washed away rather than have the order [to retreat]
carried out." 
The men in the ranks were equally convinced that they
had not been defeated and that the victory could still be won. Captain
Henry Young of the 7th Wisconsin wrote in a letter to his wife, "The
men were absolutely astonished at our move for every one felt that we
had the best of the Rebs and could hold our position as the saying is
till 'Hell froze over....'"  A member of the
Eighty-Third Pennsylvania Infantry recalled after taking position on May
3, 1863, that "with the exception of the successful attack of the
enemy upon the Eleventh Corps, the army had met with no reverses that
were calculated to produce any despondency. On the contrary, they were
in the best of spirits and were confident, in case they were attacked,
of decided victory. What was our surprise, then, when we learned on
Monday night that we were going back over the river."  Another battle-hardened veteran of the army perhaps
best expressed the feelings of the rank and file in a letter written on
May 13, 1863, "If all had been in battle and got whipped we would be
satisfied, but to think when all was bright in the prospectus, everyone
so full of victory or death, and we, holding our second line secure, to
think we should lose all and march way back to camp in that terrible
storm, is enough to quench all hopes of victory in the mind of a poor
recruit, the hero of continual defeats." 
These men may well not feel defeated for they had only been lightly
engaged in the recent fighting. Indeed, only four of the seven infantry
corps of the Army of the Potomac had been involved in the heavy fighting
and the newly formed cavalry corps was not even present at
Chancellorsville, having been sent off on a raid to disrupt Lee's lines
of communication with Richmond.
In spite of their rough handling by the Confederates,
even the men who were heavily involved in the fighting seemed to share
the same opinions of their comrades about whether or not they were
defeated. The Chaplain of the Sixtieth New York Infantry recalled that
it was not until Wednesday May 6, that the men of his unit, which had
been involved in some of the hardest fighting, had "the first
intimation that we had been whipped."  The
officers and men of General Daniel Sickles Third Army Corps which had
born the brunt of the fighting around Chancellorsville still believed
that could "bust Lee up."  Despite the
apparently high morale of the men in the ranks and the belief among many
of them that they were actually winning the battle, the inescapable fact
remained, they were retreating once again.
There are two generally accepted explanations for the
continual Union defeats in Virginia: the men who served in the
Confederate armies were better soldiers than their Union counterparts,
and Confederate leadership at all levels of command was superior. These
statements are accepted as articles of faith in the Civil War community
and are largely unchallenged even today. However, when subjected to the
light of the facts, these statements are revealed to be fallacies
founded more on myths not realities. No one doubts that the Confederate
soldier fought with consummate bravery, even reckless abandon, but so
did his Yankee counterpart. The soldiers who crossed the Cornfield and
carried the Sunken Road at Antietam or struggled in front of the
stonewall at the base of Marye's Heights during the Battle of
Fredericksburg or held off Lee's victorious veterans at Chancellorsville
were not cowards. They proved themselves the equal of their southern
countrymen in bravery and fighting skill if not in results. 
If the quality of the soldiers does not explain why
the Army of Northern Virginia always seemed to emerge the victor, then
the answer must be leadership, or lack thereof, on the part of the Army
of the Potomac. In the American Civil War, leaders, both North and
South, would be required to fight a different kind of war. The American
Civil War is considered the first of the modern, total wars, the
harbinger of the total wars of the twentieth century, and, as such,
would witness unprecedented developments in technology and philosophy.
Our family feud was, therefore, as one noted historian claimed, "The
first of the unlimited industrialized wars.... It was the first great
conflict of the steam age, and the aim of the Northern, of Federal,
states was the unconditional surrender - that is, total victory. Its
character was, therefore, that of a crusade, and, because of this..., it
opened a radically new chapter in the history of war." 
Philosophically the Civil War was a war of
conflicting ideas: the seceded southern states were fighting for
independence and the northern states were fighting to preserve the union
of the various states. As these two ideas were incompatible, the
objectives of the belligerents especially those of the North could only
be achieved through total victory. Total victory could only be achieved
by the unconditional surrender of the Southern Confederacy. The Federal
soldier, whether he realized it or not, was fighting, in essence, to
obliterate a nation. To accomplish this goal the North was forced to act
aggressively and eventually required to apply the utmost violence.
The forces released by the industrial revolution
facilitated the application of the utmost violence. Both the North and
South were able to mass-produce weapons and supplies which permitted
them to maintain large field armies by converting their economies to the
production of war materiel or by gaining access to the industrial might
of Europe. In the American Civil War, well-armed armies of unprecedented
size, at least on the American continent, contended for military
supremacy over an area equal to that of the Napoleonic conflicts.
Furthermore, the American conflict was modern because
of the new technology and weapons employed to fight it: the railroad,
the telegraph, steam-driven ironclad warships, the machine gun,
electrically exploded torpedoes, wire entanglements, railway guns, and
breech-loading repeating rifles. The single most important technological
development, however, was the practical use of rifled weapons, which
revolutionized the tactics that governed how men fought.  The American Civil War was the first war in history
in which both sides used predominantly rifled weapons. The rifle caused
a tactical revolt; revolution in warfare by increasing the range,
accuracy, and, when combined with breech-loading repeating weapons, the
rate of small arms fire. As a result, unprecedented firepower dominated
the battlefields in America.
The increased range and rate of small arms fire
forced several vital changes in tactics which, in time, forced combat
officers in the Civil War to change the way they fought battles.
Battlefield formations became progressively more spread out and armies
were forced to form for battle much farther apart. Therefore, battles
were less decisive and the defeated army was usually able to keep its
adversary at a safe distance while it made its escape. Actions that in
the past had been decided by a final shock delivered by massed
formations of infantry or cavalry, which usually destroyed or seriously
crippled the defeated army, were, henceforth, decided by firepower
delivered by infantry formations standing behind stonewalls or trenches.
Simply put, the bullet, not the bayonet, would decide the victor on
battlefields of the American Civil War. 
The most important single change caused by the rifle
was that it increased the power of the defender by at least three to
one. There were two principal reasons for this development: first the
unprecedented volume of firepower on the battlefield literally compelled
men to seek shelter; and, second, since the attacker was forced to form
for the attack farther away from the defenders, he was subjected to
small arms fire for longer periods of time during an attack. In short,
fewer men in the assaulting force made it to the point of impact.
Furthermore, the extended range of an infantryman armed with a rifle
compelled artillery to remain at distances that rendered it relatively
impotent as an offensive weapon. Likewise, cavalry, which in the past
had usually decided the battle by delivering a thundering charge which
broke the opponents line and forced him to flee from the field, was
unable to deliver an effective charge against a line of infantry armed
with a rifled musket. In essence, the technology had advanced beyond the
tactical theory producing a revolution in military operations that made
the defense the dominate form of warfare.
Although the rifle had greatly increased the power of
the defense, in the Civil War tactical theory emphasized operating
offensively. Military theory, which was taught at West Point and
reiterated in the tactical manuals of the period, strongly recommended
the tactical offensive; the concept that field fortifications should be
vigorously assaulted; a high regard for use of the bayonet both
offensively and defensively; and dependence on the traditional,
close-order formations.  These tactical theories
were confirmed during the Mexican War in which American military forces,
despite the fact that they were outnumbered and operating offensively in
enemy territory, won all of the major engagements. Therefore, it is not
surprising that Civil War military leaders, both professional and
nonprofessional, based their operations on these outmoded tactical
theories. Given the tactical revolution brought about by the rifle and
the fact that it is always more difficult to operate offensively in the
enemy's territory, it would seem that the men who commanded the Army of
the Potomac had a more difficult task than their Southern counterparts.
The fact that the Confederates forces were fighting on the defensive in
their own territory better explains why they usually won the encounters.
Even Robert E. Lee failed to win one on the road in the American Civil
The first man to command the troops assembling around
Washington, D. C., which would eventually be formed into the Army of the
Potomac, was Winfield Scott. General Scott was the most experienced
soldier in America at that time. His military career spanned three major
American wars, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War.
Ulysses S. Grant as a young cadet at West Point believed that, "With
his commanding figure, his quite colossal size and showy uniform, I
thought him the finest specimen of manhood my eyes had ever beheld, and
the most to be envied."  At 6'5" Scott was an
impressive physical specimen for his day. However, he had been born in
1786 and was older than the constitution he was now called upon to
defend. To his 6'5" frame he had added 350 pounds of girth. He had
dropsy, vertigo, and had to be lifted onto his horse by means of a winch
like a Medieval knight in armor. He had trouble riding, walked with
difficulty and fell asleep during meetings. Simply put, although General
Scott was the most experienced soldier in America, he was physically
incapable of commanding an army in the field. 
Although incapable of leading the army himself, the
aged general in chief had a vast knowledge of the army's personnel and
he knew which of the younger officers were the most promising. To lead
the new army Scott's first choice was fellow Virginian Robert E. Lee.
Lee was officially offered command of the Union forces assembling in
defense of the Union on April 18, 1861, by Francis Blair, Sr., formerly
editor of The Congressional Globe and acting as President
Lincoln's agent in this matter. Lee declined Blair's offer explaining
that, "If the Union is dissolved and the government disrupted, I
shall return to my native state and share the miseries of my people and
save in defense will draw my sword on none." 
How different the history of the American Civil War might have been had
Lee accepted the command of the forces assembling in defense of the
Union. Perhaps the biggest "what if" of all. Although Robert E. Lee
declined the command of the Union army, he had a profound influence on
its development. In 1805, the great Napoleon had said, "A man has his
day in war as in other things; I myself shall be good for it another six
years, after which, even I will have to stop."  By this Napoleon believed that his opponents would
learn from their constant defeats and would eventually be able to use
his methods of warfare to defeat him. So it was that Robert E. Lee would
be the best teacher the Army of the Potomac would ever have.
With Lee out of the picture, Lincoln appointed Irvin
McDowell to command the army on May 14, 1861, at the suggestion of
Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase. Political considerations
seemed to be Chase's primary motivation concerning the appointment of
McDowell who like Chase was an Ohioan. McDowell was born in Columbus,
Ohio, and was educated in France prior to his appointment to West Point.
He graduated in the middle of the Class of 1838, twenty-second of
forty-four graduates. Pierre Gustave T. Beauregard who, as fate would
have it, would be his adversary in the coming battle of First Manassas
was second in the same class. The appointment of McDowell, however,
seemed to be justified by his previous military career. He taught
tactics at the Academy from 1841 to 1845, served as an aide-de-camp to
General Wool in the Mexican War earning a brevet for gallant conduct at
the Battle of Buena Vista. The one thing he lacked was command
experience, but then again so did everyone else. In twenty-three years
in the army he had never commanded as much as a squad in the field. Most
of his military career had been spent in doing in staff work.
McDowell was the first in a long line of Union
commanders who was expected to take the offensive with an army of
inexperienced recruits, many of whom did not know their left foot from
their right, a necessity in the linear tactics of the time in which
commands were prefaced by left and right. Realizing the difficulties
involved in the conduct of offensive operations in unfriendly territory,
McDowell expected to be given the time to transform his men into well
drilled soldiers. Unfortunately, time was one thing McDowell did not
have due to the fact that Lincoln's call for volunteers was for only
three months. The three months would expire for most of the troops at
the end of July, 1861. Therefore, when Lincoln ordered him to advance
and disperse the Confederate forces assembled around Manassas Junction
in northern Virginia, McDowell protested the order that he advance
arguing that his men were green and inexperienced. Lincoln replied,
"You are green it is true; but they are green also; you are green
together."  In this matter Lincoln was
primarily motivated by political considerations which demanded a Union
advance on Richmond the Confederate capital. This was the first time
that political considerations would dictate the operations of the
officers and men of the Army of the Potomac and it would most certainly
not be the last. Furthermore, due to his lack of military training and
experience, Lincoln did not fully appreciate the difficulties involved
in conducting offensive operations in enemy territory.
McDowell, in obedience to Lincoln's wishes, began his
advance in mid July. His plan was well conceived. He would maneuver
around the Confederate forces that had taken a strong defensive position
behind the Bull Run River and drive them back on Richmond. Although his
plan was well conceived, his inexperienced troops were not up to the
task of executing it. With victory in sight they broke and ran for the
safety of Washington just over twenty miles away.
The Union defeat at First Bull Run (the Confederates
called it First Manassas) convinced the Lincoln administration that more
time would be needed to train and reorganize Union forces in the East.
In addition, Lincoln was convinced that McDowell was not the man for the
job. Therefore, a new commander was appointed to accomplish the mission
of reorganizing Union forces and at the same time leading them to
victory over the victorious Confederates now just outside of Washington
itself. This task was given to George B. McClellan, perhaps the most
controversial of all the Union generals in the American Civil War.
Little Mac, as his men affectionately called him, came highly
recommended with a most impressive resume. He had graduated second out
of fifty-nine in his class at West Point in 1846. This class was one of
the most distinguished at the Academy, contributing twenty general
officers to the Union and Confederate armies. After graduation McClellan
was posted to the elite Corps of Engineers serving in this capacity as
an aide to Winfield Scott in Mexico where he received two brevets for
his zeal, bravery, and engineering skill. After the Mexican War his
accomplishments were many and varied. He served as an instructor at West
Point; as a member of the Red River expedition; in various geological
surveys; and as a member of the American Military Commission to the
Crimean War. He translated a French manual on bayonet drill into
English, invented a saddle which was still used by the American army at
the beginning of World War Two, and served as chief engineer of the
Illinois Central Railroad after resigning his commission in 1857. In
1861, McClellan had conducted one of the few successful military
campaigns for the Union in western Virginia. 
McClellan's strengths were his great organization
skills, his keen strategic insight and his ability to motivate soldiers.
One historian characterized him as, "a fine organizer and trainer of
troops; and his men, sensing that he identified himself with them,
idolized him."  Indeed no commander of the
Army of the Potomac would command the love of the men more than
McClellan. As Colonel Wainwright remembered during McClellan's last
review of the First Corps in November of 1862, after being relieved by
President Lincoln, "...there was hardly a dry eye in the ranks. Very
many men wept like children, while others could be seen gazing after him
in mute grief one may say almost despair, as a mourner looks down into
the grave of a dearly loved friend."  His most
important contribution to final Union victory was that he made soldiers
of the men who flocked to defend the Union after the initial defeat at
Bull Run. He taught them how to fight and made them proud of themselves,
and, for this, they never forgot him.
McClellan's biggest problem was his conduct in
battle. Although confident and energetic in preparations, he became
hesitant and lethargic once the battle started. He magnified the
obstacles in his path, especially the size of the army opposing him. He
made excuses and refused to move until everything was just right. Once
the action commenced, he stayed well to the rear and seemingly made a
conscience effort to avoid getting a view of the fighting. He created
one of the finest armies in American history, and then, could not bring
himself to lead it into battle. As Napoleon once said, a general who
could not look on a battlefield with dry eyes would cause many of men to
be killed needlessly. Napoleon's observation seems to fit McClellan
By the fall of 1862, an army of over 150,000 men was
assembled in Washington under McClellan's command; the largest army ever
assembled on the continent up to that time in American history. It was
well equipped, supplied, and organized. All that needed to be done was
to move against the Confederate forces in northern Virginia and win the
war. McClellan proposed to use Union seapower to move his army behind
the main Confederate positions in northern Virginia and take Richmond
from the southeast. By doing so, he would avoid having to cross the
numerous rivers north of Richmond behind which the smaller Confederate
forces could make a stand. The plan was strategically brilliant, as
brilliant and well conceived as MacArthur's Inchon landing in the Korean
War. McClellan would have probably enjoyed similar success if he had
moved quickly once his forces were landed. However, a month's delay at
Yorktown robbed the Union forces of any advantage they had gained by
their flanking maneuver.
Two other factors conspired to rob McClellan's army
of final victory; Lincoln and Robert E. Lee. Lincoln decided to withhold
reinforcements from McClellan in a vain attempt to trap Confederate
forces commanded by General Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley.
When McClellan was informed that McDowell's Corps, which he believed had
been promised to him, was to be withheld and sent to the Valley, he
angrily wrote his wife, "Heaven save a country governed by such
counsels!... I get more sick of them every day - for every day brings
with it only additional proofs of their hypocrisy, knavery &
Having been denied the use of McDowell's men,
McClellan prepared to lay siege to Richmond. This is just what the
Confederate authorities feared most, a battle of attrition with the
Union forces, a battle they could not hope to win given the superior
manpower resources of the North. Their new commander, Robert E. Lee,
having been reinforced by Jackson's forces which had escaped the vain
attempts of the union forces to trap them, seized the initiative and
drove the Army of the Potomac from the outskirts of Richmond in a series
of bloody encounters collectively known as the Seven Days. The Federals
would never be so close to the Confederate capital again until 1864 and
the cost of getting there would be much higher in terms of human loss.
After his defeat on the Peninsula, McClellan was
ordered to transfer his men to the newly created Army of Virginia under
the command of John Pope. Pope had been successful in the West,
specifically in the reduction of the Confederate defenses on Island No.
10 baring navigation of the Mississippi River. Pope has been described
as pugnacious, confident, and conceited. Much of his so called military
reputation he could attribute to his own braggadocio and the good
publicity he received from the press.  Pope was
from Illinois where his father was a district judge and Pope hoped that
his political connections would secure him a high position in the Union
armies. It was his military successes, however, that caught Lincoln's
attention. After his failure to trap Jackson's forces in the Valley,
Lincoln decided to unify all the Union forces around Washington into one
army. He selected Pope to be the commander of this new army, the Army of
Virginia. One of Pope's first official acts upon taking command was to
have unfortunate effects. On July 14, 1862, he issued his now famous
proclamation to the officers and men of the Army of Virginia. In it Pope
proclaimed that, "I have come to you from the West, where we have
always seen the backs of our enemies; from an army whose business it has
been to seek the adversary and to beat him when he was found; whose
policy has been attack and not defense.... Let us study the probable
lines of retreat of our opponents, and leave our own to take care of
themselves. Let us look before us and not behind. Success and glory are
in the advance, disaster and shame lurk in the rear."  No one who knew him doubted that Pope was a good
talker. However, nothing he ever said had more unfortunate consequences
than this proclamation. It alienated the officers and men under his
command, as well as those forces of McClellan's Army of the Potomac soon
to be transferred to his command.
Pope's proclamation added insult to injury and it was
not well received by the Union soldiers in the East. General Fritz John
Porter, whose Fifth Army Corps had done the bulk of the fighting and
dying on the Peninsula, wrote regarding the proclamation, "I regret
to see that General Pope has not improved since his youth and has now
written himself down as what the military world has long known, an
ass.  Marsena Patrick, soon to be Provost
Marshal of the Army of the Potomac, commented, "I suppose we shall
soon move, as Pope has published his Address to the Army of Virginia,
which seems to me, very windy & somewhat insolent." Latter, in
reference to one of Pope's orders, he complained, "This order of
General Pope's has demoralized the Army & Satan has been let
loose."  Rufus Dawes of the Six Wisconsin
Volunteer Infantry was also offended. He wrote, "General Pope's
bombastic proclamation has not tended to increase confidence, indeed the
effect is exactly the contrary."  General
Samuel Sturgis, who after the war commanded the Seventh Cavalry but
found it convenient to leave the field direction of the unit to his
second in command, George Armstrong Custer, best summed up the feelings
of the soldiers in the East when he bluntly stated, "I don't care for
John Pope one pinch of owl dung."  Given the
feeling of his officers and men, coupled with his own mismanagement, it
is not surprising that General Pope promptly went out and lost the
Second Battle of Manassas, affording General Lee his first opportunity
to take his army across the Potomac.
After the debacle at Second Bull Run, Lincoln turned
once again to McClellan to reorganize the two principle armies in the
East that had been recently defeated. As Lincoln explained, "I must
have McClellan to reorganize this army and bring it out of chaos....
McClellan has the army with him."  When word
came that he had replaced Pope, one soldier remembered, "such a
hurrah as the Army... had never before heard... The effect of this man's
presence upon the Army of the Potomac - in sunshine or rain, in darkness
or daylight, in victory or defeat - was electric."  However, McClellan did not have much time to get the
job done for Robert E. Lee was at that time moving his army into
Maryland. Little Mac performed miracles and did perhaps his greatest
service to the cause by quickly reorganizing the Union forces in the
Washington area. In less than two weeks he had the Army of the Potomac,
augmented by Pope's now defunct Army of Virginia, reorganized and in
pursuit of Lee's forces in Maryland. The result was the bloody Battle of
Antietam on September 17, 1862. This battle, McClellan's last, was the
bloodiest single day battle in American history up to that time and
seems to contradict those who believed that McClellan would not fight.
With Lee's retreat and McClellan's lack of pursuit, Lincoln relieved him
of command for the last time.
As McClellan's replacement, Lincoln chose Ambrose
Burnside. All things considered, Burnside seemed a logical choice. He
was the only one of the corps commanders at that time who had any
experience in independent command, having successfully directed
operations along the North Carolina coast earlier in the war. The only
criticism of his generalship up to the time he was given command of the
Army of the Potomac had been that he had hesitated in crossing Antietam
Creek. This, his critics argued, had allowed Lee to move men from in
front of Burnside's forces to other more threatened parts of the field.
In spite of his lackluster performance at Antietam, there were a number
of factors in Burnside's favor. He was a friend of McClellan, who was
still very popular among the officers and men of the Army of the
Potomac, and he was without political ambitions. His contemporaries
commented favorably on his honesty and intelligence. Jacob D. Cox, who
served under him at Antietam, remarked that he admired, "his
sincerity and truthfulness, his unselfish generosity, and his devoted
patriotism."  Indeed, it was hard to find
anyone who did not like Burnside.
Modern historians, however, have not been so kind.
They present Burnside as a slow-witted, stubborn incompetent.  Although it is true that he was not a military
genius, he was, however, a competent and successful soldier in the fall
of 1862. Furthermore, he knew his limitations. After being offered
command of the army for the second time, he frankly stated that he was
not "competent to command such a large army as this," and then promptly
proceeded to prove it at the upcoming Battle of Fredericksburg.
Burnside's plan was excellent, perhaps even brilliant. He proposed to
move the army from around Warrenton, Virginia, where McClellan had left
it, to Fredericksburg. Once there he would cross the swollen
Rappahannock River on pontoons which he had ordered to been assembled
there. Once across the river he would march directly on Richmond forcing
Lee to retreat to defend the Confederate capital. The key was to do all
of this quickly. At first things went according to plan. General Summer
arrived opposite Fredericksburg with 30,000 Union troops well before Lee
was able to react. However, once he got to Fredericksburg, there were no
pontoons to be found and Burnside refused to allow Summer to cross the
Rappahannock without them. While waiting for the pontoons to arrive, the
Confederates were able to take up strong defensive positions on the
heights behind the city. Perhaps still smarting from the criticism of
not crossing Antietam Creek sooner and knowing that President Lincoln
expected action, Burnside crossed the Rappahannock in the only major
action of the war involving a contested river crossing. Once across, he
then proceeded to assault Lee's formidable defenses. The results were
one of the most futile and costly actions of the entire war, as
thousands of Union soldiers were cut down in front of a stone wall at
the base of Marye's Heights. When compared to the Union assaults on
Marye's Heights, Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg pales in significance.
The lopsided battle of Fredericksburg proved that Burnside was right; he
was incapable of commanding an army the size of the Army of the
To replace Burnside Lincoln selected Fighting Joe
Hooker. Although his nom de guerre embarrassed him, Hooker had earned
it. He had commanded troops in every major campaign of the Army of the
Potomac. Moreover, they had seen considerable fighting. In every battle
in which he had been engaged in the fighting, he had either conducted a
frontal assault or had repulsed one. His men suffered accordingly. As
one man who served under him remarked, "We are to have hard marching
and hard fighting for when Old Joe fights he will win a splendid victory
or suffer a terrible defeat."  Hooker himself
had been wounded in the bloody cornfield at Antietam.
Joseph Hooker was a graduate of West Point, capable,
inspiring, and intelligent. He exuded confidence and was an engaging
conversationalist, especially when the topic Joseph Hooker was Joe
Hooker. He allegedly drank too much. In contrast to Burnside, he was
terribly ambitious and so had courted favor among prominent members of
Congress. In spite of his obvious shortcomings, he appeared to be just
what Lincoln was looking for - a general who did not mind to fight.
Hooker's first task was to reorganized the dispirited
Army of the Potomac. In the restoration of the army's morale and spirit,
he was an outstanding success. Believing that an army's well being is
directly connected to its stomach, Hooker ordered the diet of the men
improved. Bakeries were constructed, fresh vegetables were distributed,
and regular rations of whiskey were issued. Working through the medical
director of the army, Jonathan Letterman, whose advice Hooker wisely
followed, sanitation was improved as well as the general health of the
soldiers. He instituted a regular system of furloughs and a reward
system for regiments with outstanding records. His most famous measure,
however, was the standardization of the corps badge of each unit. From
now on, a unit could be identified at a distance, and, if any unit
preformed badly in the future, everyone would know it. 
In addition to improving morale, Hooker completed the
organization of the Army of the Potomac begun by General McClellan.
Specifically he created an effective cavalry corps. Up until Hooker's
tenure as commander of the Army of the Potomac, Union cavalry had been
scattered among the various infantry corps. Their primary function, it
seems, was to guard the infantry camps and rear areas. Cavalry's primary
function in the Civil War was to gather information about the enemy and
to deny information to them. In order for cavalry to be effective, it
must be concentrated. McClellan did not understand this. So therefore,
in the first half of the war, the cavalrymen of the Army of the Potomac
were completely out preformed by their Southern counterparts commanded
by the aggressive and very capable James Ewell Brown Stuart. Coupled
with the fact that most of the battles were fought in Virginia, Lee was
much better informed than his Union counterparts. This same phenomenon
can be seen in World War Two in France in 1940. The Germans concentrated
their available armor and the British and French scattered their armor
among their infantry units. The end result was the fall of France.
Having created an effective cavalry corps, Hooker promptly sent it off
on a wild goose chase to threaten Lee's line of communications with
Richmond during the Chancellorsville campaign. Thus, the cavalry were
not available to inform General Hooker of Lee's movements and this had
Under Hooker, Chief of Staff Daniel Butterfield
commissioned Marsena Patrick, Provost Marshal General of the Army, to
improve the army's information gathering system. Patrick selected
Colonel George H. Sharpe for the job and had him appointed deputy
provost marshal general. Sharpe created the Bureau of Military
Information staffed with agents who worked behind the Confederate lines
in order to gather information that was then sent directly to him. With
the appointment of Sharpe, the creation of a cavalry corps, and the use
of Professor Lowe's observation balloons, Hooker was the best-informed
Union general to take the field against Robert E. Lee.
By the end of April 1863, Hooker had created the
largest, best organized and best equipped army in American history. Now
all he had to do was lead it against Robert E. Lee defeat the Army of
Northern Virginia. Hooker's plan was quite simple, really. He would
threaten Lee's line of supply by executing a wide turning movement to
the west with most of his army. Once across the Rappahannock River, the
Army of the Potomac would be in the rear of Lee's army still opposite
Fredericksburg. Lee would, therefore, be forced to retreat to cover his
lines of communications and Richmond. It was that simple. "My plans
are perfect, and when I get started, may God have mercy on General Lee
for I will have none."  Thus spoke Fighting
Joe Hooker. Brave words. However, words do not win battles, guts and
good leadership do. Everything initially went according to Hooker's plan
except Lee did not retreat as expected. Instead, Lee attacked and won
what proved to be his last major victory of the war. One military
authority called Chancellorsville "the perfect battle."  Perfect, of course, from General Lee's
The great victory at Chancellorsville enabled Lee to
again take the war north of the Potomac River. As the Union veterans
trudged northward in pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia, they
would experience yet another change in command: their eighth in less
than two years. On June 28, 1863, Lincoln ordered General George Gordon
Meade to assume command of the Army of the Potomac. He would be the last
commander the Army of the Potomac would have. Few commanders have taken
command under more difficult circumstances, but Meade seemed, like all
the others before him, to be qualified for the job. As a member of the
West Point class of 1835, Meade graduated eighteenth in a class of
fifty-five. In 1836, Meade resigned his commission, but, on the eve of
the Mexican War, he re-enlisted and was appointed to the corps of
topographic engineers. During the war, Meade received a brevet for
meritorious and gallant conduct. In the years between the Mexican War
and the Civil War, Meade constructed lighthouses, improved harbors, and
conducted geodetic surveys as a member of the Corps of Topographic
On August 31, 1861, Captain Meade was promoted to
brigadier general and given command of a brigade in the Pennsylvania
Reserves. Leading this unit from his home state, he was wounded in two
places at the battle of Glendale in 1862. In the battles of Antietam,
Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, he preformed with distinction,
earning a reputation as a highly competent and skillful officer. At
Fredericksburg, he gained the only Union success in a battle that was
regarded as the worst fiasco in the history of the Army of the Potomac.
At Chancellorsville, although his Fifth Army Corps was not heavily
engaged, he impressed his fellow corps commanders by his repeated pleas
for Hooker to resume the offensive. 
Most general officers and others closely associated
with the high command of the Army of the Potomac were glad to hear of
the change in command and considered Meade the right choice. Alpheus
Williams best summarized the feelings of the army's general officers in
a letter to his daughter written on June 29, 1863. "I am no military
genius, but if I had commanded the Army of the Potomac at
Chancellorsville I would have wagered my life on being in Richmond in
ten days. All we are suffering now in shame and mortification and in the
great risk of losing the whole fortunes of the war is the legitimate
result of the weakness (Hooker) which characterized that campaign....
now with a gentleman and a soldier in command I have renewed confidence
that we shall at least do enough to preserve our honor and the safety of
the Republic."  General Marsena Patrick
recorded in his diary, "Gen. Hooker has been relieved from Command
[sic] and Gen. Meade placed over the Army of the Potomac. Of course this
has caused great commotion, but as yet I have heard no regret."  Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, the chief of the First
Army Corps artillery, wrote, "General George G. Meade was my
candidate for Hooker's successor immediately after Chancellorsville, I
believing him to have the longest and clearest head of any general
officer in this army."  Theodore Lyman who
served on Meade's staff remembered that "...he is not Napoleon, is a
thorough soldier, and a mighty clear-headed man; and one who does not
move unless he knows where and how many his men are; where and how many
his enemy's men are; and what sort of country he has to go through. I
never saw a man in my life who was so characterized by straightforward
truthfulness as he is." 
Others outside the army's high command also commented
favorably on the choice of Meade as Hooker's successor. Frederick Law
Olmstead of the United States Sanitary Commission remembered Meade as
having a "most soldierly and veteran-like appearance; a grave stern
countenance-somewhat Oriental in its dignified expression, yet American
in his race horse gauntness. He is simple, direct, deliberate and
thoughtful in manner and speech and general address.... He is a
gentleman and an old soldier."  Meade was a
careful, calculating soldier who was also a native Pennsylvanian. These
were the qualities that recommended him to the Lincoln
However well known Meade was to the general officers,
he was not well known to the rank and file of the army. Many viewed the
new change in command with some misgivings. A member of the One Hundred
and Forty-ninth New York expressed the feeling "that they were to be
led again to disaster and slaughter by an inexperienced officer."
 Edward Geary, the son of General John White Geary
who commanded a division of the Twelfth Army Corps, wrote his mother,
"Gen. Hooker was relieved to-day and Gen. Meade had taken command.
The change is not agreeable [sic] to the army."  Many it seemed hoped McClellan would return to
command. As one soldier explained, "General Meade was not
particularly well known except as commander of the 5th Corps, and it was
supposed, by some, that his Command would be temporary, and that he
would be replaced by General McClellan, and it was even rumored that the
latter was actually in command."  McClellan's
name still had not lost its magic to the men of the Army of the
While some viewed the appointment of Meade as a
mistake, others viewed the change of command with indifference. Elisha
Hunt Rhodes recalled, "General Hooker has been relieved and Gen.
George G. Meade of Penn. assigned to the command of the Army of the
Potomac. What does it all mean? Well, it is none of our affairs and we
obey orders and march out into the road." 
Thus spoke a true veteran. A member of the Eleventh New Jersey
concurred. "The army," he explained, "knew Meade as the
commander of the Fifth Corps, but it had become accustomed to sudden
changes, and it excited but little concern." 
Sudden changes indeed but coming at a time when the fate of the nation
hung in the balance as another soldier observed. "Again was the
patriotism, intense loyalty, superb discipline and morale of the gallant
old army to be put to the its greatest test, for no severer strain can
be put upon a marching column, and that in the face of a bold and
aggressive the enemy, already on an offensive campaign, than to relieve
its head and commander. But the Army of the Potomac was getting used to
this sort of thing, and there was scarcely a ripple upon the smooth wave
of such an esprit de corps."  In spite of the
constant and unexpected changes in command, the majority of the rank and
file of the Army of the Potomac seemed to have become oblivious.
As General Meade settled into command, he could count
on a solid, if unspectacular, group of corps commanders. Most of them
had experience in commanding a corps in combat before the Gettysburg
campaign. The three who did not, Generals Winfield Scott Hancock, Alfred
Pleasonton, and George Sykes, had all seen combat at lower levels of
command and had conducted themselves with distinction. Hancock, called
the superb, was the consummate combat officer. He got his men shot. At
every level, brigade, division and corps, his units suffered among the
highest casualties in the Union armies, most of them while he was in
command. His old division suffered higher losses than any other
division, east or west.  The Second Army Corps,
that he commanded at Gettysburg and in Grant's Overland Campaign in
1864, suffered the greatest number of casualties in the war for an army
corps in the Union armies.  In Hancock, the Union
may have found its Stonewall Jackson. He could be relied on to get
involved in the fighting.
George Sykes was another without corps level command
experience before the Gettysburg Campaign. He received command of the
Fifth Army Corps when General Meade received command of the army. Sykes
was the true professional, remaining in the regular army while most West
Point graduates entered the volunteer ranks to receive quick promotions.
As a major he commanded the brigade of regulars at First Bull Run,
covering the retreat of the McDowell's army as the Confederates drove
the volunteers from the field in disarray. His history then is the
history of the division composed of units from the regular army, known
to students of the war as Sykes Division. He was considered a brave and
efficient officer by the men who served under him.  Sykes could be relied on to do his duty, no more, no
less. After the Gettysburg Campaign, Meade found him lacking in
aggressiveness and he was transferred to the Department of Kansas where
he served out the war.
Alfred Pleasonton, the newly appointed commander of
the cavalry corps, was also without previous experience commanding a
corps in battle. Pleasonton graduated from West Point in 1844, seventh
in his class. It was a small class. He was appointed to the dragoons and
served with them against the Sioux and in the Florida Indian wars. When
the Civil War began, he entered the cavalry and was perceived, due
mostly to his courting of the newspapers, as a brave and aggressive
officer. A biographer has described him as, "active and
energetic," exuding, "self-confidence and a get-things-done
attitude."  He was small, compact, cocky, and
believed that cavalry could do anything that infantry could do, only
better. Most who knew him were aware of his ambition to advance himself
by any means. One soldier commented that Pleasonton, "is pure and
simple a newspaper humbug.... He does nothing save with a view to a
newspaper paragraph." 
Although Pleasonton was perhaps the least capable of
Meade's corps, his subordinates were among the best combat officers in
the Army of the Potomac. These men, for the most part, were
battle-tested veterans of recognized ability to led men in combat. The
best of them were John Buford who led the First Cavalry Division and
David McMurtrie Gregg commanding the Second Cavalry Division. Both were
West Point educated, self-reliant, brave, and highly respected by their
peers and subordinates. One officer declared Buford, "... the best
cavalry general we had.... rough in his exterior, never looking to his
own comfort, untiring on the march and in the supervision of all the
militia of his command, quiet and unassuming in his manners"  Gregg's conduct in action prompted similar praise.
The cavalry division commanders, including General
Judson Kilpatrick, newly appointed to command the Third Cavalry
Division, could count on eight brigade commanders who had seen combat
and were, as a group, perhaps the most aggressive bunch of commanders in
the entire army. The most famous, or infamous, depending on your point
of view, was General George Armstrong Custer, the youngest general in
the Battle of Gettysburg at twenty-three. His daring exploits are
legend. As a group, the commanders of the Union cavalry formed the
youngest command structure in the Army of the Potomac.
Of the men who had experience at commanding a corps,
General John Fulton Reynolds, another Pennsylvanian, was considered the
best. Reynolds graduated in the middle of the West Point class of 1841,
and was appointed to the artillery. He received two brevets for bravery
in the Mexican War and was Commandant of Cadets at West Point when the
war began. In 1861, he was made Lieutenant Colonel of the Fourteenth U.
S. Infantry, and later, in August, Brigadier General of Volunteers. As
such he commanded a brigade in the Pennsylvania Reserves in the
Peninsula Campaign and was captured as the Union forces were overrun.
Returning to the army after he was exchanged, Reynolds commanded a
division in the Second Battle of Bull Run and led the First Army Corps
at Fredericksburg. At Fredericksburg his corps achieved the only Union
success of the battle as one of his divisions, commanded by General
Meade, pierced Stonewall Jackson's line. Even though his men were only
slightly engaged in the Battle of Chancellorsville and he had commanded
a corps in only one battle of note, Lincoln sounded him out as a
possible replacement for General Hooker as commander of the Army of the
Potomac.  Although he was not offered command of
the Army of the Potomac, he had the confidence and respect of his men
and Abraham Lincoln. Edwin Coddington, a recognized authority on the
Battle of Gettysburg, said of Reynolds, "He was a first class
fighting man, universally respected and admired. If the fates had
decreed other than they did, he might have gone down in history as one
of the greatest generals of the Civil War." 
Reynolds men would have agreed with Coddington's
assessment. As one of them wrote after the Battle of Gettysburg, "In
our estimation, and I believe in the opinion of the authorities in
Washington, the gov [sic] in his loss has lost one of its ablest
generals."  Another soldier commented that,
"all recognized in him one of the ablest and most skillful commanders
in the Army of the Potomac...."  Reynolds
was idolized by his men because he took care of them and literally led from
the front. It was this admirable characteristic that resulted in his
death at Gettysburg. Reynolds is the Stonewall Jackson of the Battle of
Gettysburg, the most lamented general officer casualty of the battle.
His death also provides students of the battle with one of the first
"what ifs." What if Reynolds had lived? "Had he lived to guide and
encourage his troops," argued one of his men, "though the first day's
fight against vast odds might not have been entirely successful, it
would certainly have been more brilliant in achievement."  Another commented, "...had he lived the results of
that days battle would have been differrent." 
Things, most certainly, would have been different.
While Reynolds is considered the best of Meade's
corps commanders, Howard, who assumed command on the field at Gettysburg
after Reynolds' death, is most probably the worst. Concerning Howard,
one historian had the following to say:
... Howard should consider himself lucky to hold any
command at all, much less that of a corps. Not only had he allowed his
troops to be surprised at Chancellorsville; his performances at
Gettysburg and Chattanooga had at best been mediocre. He is a poor
tactician, unenterprising, and so ostentaciously pious that the troops
call him Old Prayer Book. In fact, he had seriously contemplated
entering the ministry after graduation from West Point in 1850, [This is
a mistake. Howard graduated fourth in the class of 1854, a class in
which Robert E. Lee's son, George Washington Custis Lee, was first.] had
become a Methodist lay preacher, a strict teatotler, and blushes
whenever anyone curses or takes the Lord's name in vain, a trait that
causes some of his fellow generals to employ such language as
frequently, and as extravagantly as possible whenever he is around. 
In his favor, Howard was intelligent, brave (he had
been wounded in the Peninsula Campaign), loyal, and completely dedicated
to duty. He just could not command men in battle. In fact, almost every
battle he had been involved in had resulted in catastrophe for his men
as well as the Army of the Potomac. At the battle of First Bull Run, his
brigade suffered by far the highest casualties, at the battle of
Antietam his brigade was overrun in the West Woods as part of Sedgwick's
Division, and at the battle of Chancellorsville the rout of his corps
was what ultimately decided the battle. Despite his singular lack of
success on the battlefield, Howard kept receiving promotions, finally
receiving command of Grant's old army, the Army of the Tennessee in
1864. "His ... career," wrote one authority, "must constitute
one of the the great paradoxes of American military history; no officer
entrusted with field direction of troops has ever equaled howard's
record for surviving so many tactical errors in judgment and disregard
of orders, emerging later not only with increased rank, but on one
occasion [at Gettysburg] with the thanks of Congress."  As Ambrose Bierce, a soldier who have served under
Howard in the Atlanta campaign, said after the war, "Howard was the
consummate master of the unnecessary defeat."
The most interesting and controversial of the corps
commanders of the Army of the Potomac was General Daniel E. Sickles. He
was also the only corps commander involved in the Battle of Gettysburg
on either side who was not a West Point graduate. Sickles was the
quintessential evil in the military, a politician in high command. One
officer remarked when he heard a rumor that Sickles was being considered
for the command of the Army of the Potomac, "If God gives us General
Sickles to lead us I shall cry with vexation & sorrow and pled to be
delivered."  Indeed, Sickles was a Tammany
Hall Democrat from New York with no combat experience before the war, a
consummate politician turned ardent warrior. He was flamboyant,
decisive, and confrontational. During his first term in Congress,
Sickles confronted and publicly executed Philip Barton Key who was
having an affair with his wife. Sickles was acquitted on the grounds of
temporary insanity, the first such defense in American jurisprudence to
result in an acquittal. Pleading the "unwritten law" seems to have been
the idea of one of his defense attorneys, Edwin Stanton.
With his political career in a shambles, Sickles
turned his talents to the military. When the war came, he threw his
support behind the Lincoln administration and the Union. He raised a
brigade despite opposition from the authorities in New York and was,
accordingly, appointed a brigadier general. Sickles led his brigade, the
Excelsior Brigade, with distinction on the Peninsula and in November of
1862, received a second star. He commanded a division at Antietam and
Fredericksburg and when Hooker was elevated to army command, Sickles
received the command of the Third Army Corps. At the Battle of
Chancellorsville he displayed reckless bravery and aggressiveness,
qualities sadly lacking, some thought, in the other corps commanders.
Sickles would be the only officer of general rank to receive the
Congressional Medal of Honor for his conduct in the battle of
Gettysburg. As a commander, he was energetic, compact, confident, and
combined, as one biographer has said, "good looks with an air of
subdued violence." 
General Regis De Trobriand, who served under Sickles
in the war and knew him as a politician in New York, presents perhaps
the best assessment of this interesting and significant character.
Sickles was one of the striking figures of this war.
More as a man than as a general officer; in many ways a typical
American. He was gifted in a high degree with a multiplicity of
faculties which has given rise to the saying that a Yankee is ready for
everything. Still young he has tried many things and always with
success. At the bar, in politics, in diplomacy, in the legislature, in
arms. He has been a lawyer and politician in New York, Secretary of
Legation in London, member of the Legislature in Albany, representative
in the House of Representatives at Washington, general in Virginia,
envoy extraordinary to Bogota. And in all these positions he has
acquitted himself well. He has quick perception, an energetic will,
prompt and supple intelligence, an active temperament. Naturally
ambitious, he brings to the service of his ambition a clear view, a
practical judgement, and a deep knowledge of political tactics. When he
has determined on anything, he prepares the way, assembles his forces,
and marches directly to the assault. Obstacles do not discourage him, but
he never attempts the impossible, and as he has many strings to his bow,
if one breaks, he will replace it with another. 
The other two corps commanders of the Army of the
Potomac, Generals Henry W. Slocum commanding Twelfth Army Corps and John
Sedgwick commanding Sixth Army Corps, are almost unknown to students of
the battle. As one authority said, "Henry Warner Slocum was one of
those numerous important Union generals who were deservedly prominent in
their time but whose fame has paled with the passing of time."  The same could be said of Sedgwick. Slocum graduated
West Point seventh in the class of 1852 and was assigned to the
artillery. He resigned his commission in 1856 and opened a successful
law practice in Syracuse, New York. When the war began he was appointed
colonel of the Twenty-seventh New York Infantry, leading this unit in
the Battle of First Bull Run, where he was seriously wounded. After
returning to the Army of the Potomac, his advance was rapid. He served
on the Peninsula as a division commander and, in September of 1862, with
the death of General Mansfield, he was given command of the Twelfth Army
Corps. After the Battle of Chancellorsville, one year after he commanded
a division, he was, in fact, the senior corps commander of the Army of
the Potomac and, as such, ranked both Meade and Reynolds.
Slocum never lost a gun or a flag, a record none of
the other corps commanders could match. A colleague described him as,
"modest, resolute, sagacious, brave." 
Another called him, "cool, deliberate, self-poised," amid the
crash of battle.  He was dedicated, loyal,
unassuming, with a keen eye for detail. He took care of his men and was
personally brave. Slocum was a solid performer who could be counted on
in a crisis.
General Sedgwick, another Union general whose
importance paled over the years, commanded the Sixth Army Corps. Called
"Uncle John" by his men, no Union Corps commander was more popular with
his men than Sedgwick. Sedgwick graduated from West Point near the middle
of the class of 1837, but ahead of General Joe Hooker. He hen served in
various garrisons on the frontier and received two brevets for
meritorious gallant service in the war with Mexico. On the eve of the
Civil war, he was posted to the First Cavalry commanded by Robert E.
Lee. With the defection of Southern officers, he commanded this unit
until August of 1861, when he was promoted to brigadier general. As a
division commander, he was wounded at the battle of Glendale on June 30,
1862, and again at the battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. At the
battle of Antietam, Sedgwick was wounded three times before he was
carried unconscious from the field. Returning to the army in time for
the Chancellorsville campaign, he was given command the Sixth Army Corps.
Perhaps his greatest achievement was the storming of Marye's Heights on
May 3, 1863. Marye's Heights was where the Army of the Potomac was
slaughtered the previous December during the battle of Fredericksburg,
and, even though the heights were only lightly held, the storming of
them was never forgotten by the men of the Sixth Army Corps or the Army
of the Potomac for that matter. As the men of the Sixth Army Corps
marched to Gettysburg, they could count on a commander who was
experienced, personally brave, and beloved by his men.
The high command of the Army of the Potomac on the
eve of Gettysburg consisted of men with a wealth of combat experience.
However, their ability to lead men in battle varied with the individual.
The most capable were Hancock, Reynolds, and Meade, not necessarily in
that order. The least capable were Howard, Sykes, and Pleasonton. Of
this group three would be casualties at Gettysburg (Reynolds killed, and
Hancock and Sickles wounded). Sedgwick would be killed in action at
Spotsylvania Court House. They averaged just under forty one years of
age, were physically fit, and personally brave. Like the men.
The lack of continuity in the high command of the
Army of the Potomac was offset somewhat by a highly talented and
professional general staff. The Chief of Staff was Major General
Butterfield, who received his position when Hooker was given command of
the army. Only 32 years old he already had an enviable record with the
Army of the Potomac. Despite his lack of a West Point education, he had
risen to the rank of Major General by November of 1862. At the battle of
Gaines's Mill in June of 1862, he had been wounded while leading his
brigade, an action for which he will be awarded the Congressional Medal
of Honor. Although Meade would have preferred another officer as Chief
of Staff, he was forced to retain Butterfield. Butterfield rendered good
and efficient service during the Gettysburg Campaign and was severely
wounded in the performance of his duties on July 3, 1863. 
The other top staff officers of the Army of the
Potomac were all West Point graduates. The Chief Engineer was General
Gouverneur Kemble Warren, another Hooker appointee. Warren was appointed
to West Point at the age of sixteen, graduating second in his class in
1850. By 1863 he had extensive combat experience, having participated as
a line officer in all the major battles of the Army of the Potomac. A
biographer said that "Warren possessed an eye for ground as good as
any in the Army of Potomac..."  A testament to
his good and efficient service during the battle of Gettysburg stands on
Little Round Top to this day.
Another highly qualified and efficient staff officer
was General Henry Hunt, the Chief of Artillery. As one authority of the
battle stated that, "Hunt was a splendid soldier who had won great
fame as an artillerist at Malvern Hill, Antietam, and Fredericksburg,
and he well merited the position of Chief of Artillery."  Hunt was arguably the finest artillery commander of
the war. With him watching over the artillery, Meade would not have to
be concerned how this important arm would perform in the upcoming
The other three staff officers of general rank had
been in their positions for quite some time. General Rufus Ingalls, was
the only quartermaster general the Army of the Potomac ever had,
receiving his appointment in 1861. Another who was present at the
creation of the army was General Seth Williams. Williams was appointed
the adjutant general of the Army of the Potomac in September of 1861,
"performing his duties in an eminently satisfactory manner on the
successive staffs of such opposed personalities as George B. McClellan,
Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker, and George G. Meade."  When General Grant assumed overall command of the
Union war effort in 1864, Williams was selected to be his inspector
general. Marsena Patrick had the least seniority of the three receiving
his appointment as provost marshal general in October of 1862. Until
that time General Patrick commanded a combat brigade in the First Army
Corps. Although his performance as a general of brigade was one of
"competence rather than brilliance," he had successfully preformed the
duties as military governor of Fredericksburg in 1862.  This, coupled with his known penchant for discipline
and order, recommended him for the post as chief policeman of the Army
of the Potomac.
These men, along with Captain Lemuel B. Norton, chief
signal officer, Lieutenant John R. Edie, acting chief ordinance officer,
and Doctor Jonathan Letterman, medical director, provided a continuity
and efficiency that made the constant changes in the commander of the
army less disastrous than they might have been. Anyone wishing to
understand these men's importance in the outcome of the battle of
Gettysburg should compare their performance to their Confederate
counterparts, and it seems clear that the staff of the Army of the
Potomac was a significant source of strength.
The men in charge of the divisions and brigades, the
fighting units, were also experienced. All of them had seen combat at
one level of command or another before the battle of Gettysburg. On the
eve of that historic confrontation, the Army of the Potomac contained
twenty-two combat divisions, nineteen infantry and three cavalry. Of the
men commanding the infantry divisions, only four were major generals, a
rank usually associated with division command in the Civil War. The rest
were brigadier generals. Eleven of these individuals were West Point
graduates but only two, Francis Barlow and Romeyn Ayers, had not
commanded a division before Gettysburg. The oldest of the division
commanders was James Barnes at sixty-one, and the youngest was Francis
Barlow at twenty-eight. Barnes had been a classmate of Robert E. Lee,
graduating fifth in the class. Barlow was a lawyer who had displayed
courage and initiative in previous battles. Both of these men would be
wounded in the upcoming battle. The leaders of the cavalry divisions
were all West Point graduates and only one, Judson Kilpatrick, was
commanding a division for the first time.
Under these division commanders were fifty-one
infantry and eight cavalry brigade commanders. Twenty-five of the
infantry brigades were commanded by brigadier generals, which is where
the rank originated. Brigadier generals command brigades. Over half,
however, were commanded by the senior colonel. Only fifteen of these men
leading the infantry brigades of the Army of the Potomac in the battle
of Gettysburg were West Point graduates. Most of them had risen through
the ranks, starting out as regimental commanders. The oldest was George
Sears Greene, a crusty old West Pointer at sixty-two, who had graduated
second in the class of 1823, and the youngest was John Rutter Brooke at
twenty-four years of age. Nearly one in four of these men had never
commanded a brigade in battle before. However, given their extensive
combat experience one would expect that they knew what to do and how to
do it. Three brigadier generals and five colonels commanded the eight
brigades of cavalry. Three had never led a brigade in combat before the
Gettysburg campaign and two of these had only recently, as of June 29,
1863, been promoted to the rank of brigadier general. Elon Farnsworth
was promoted from captain to general and George Armstrong Custer was
elevated from lieutenant to general, going as it were from the outhouse
to the penthouse. The other of these famous boy generals, Wesley
Merritt, had commanded a brigade as a captain in Stoneman's raid during
the Chancellorsville campaign. He too was now elevated to the rank of
brigadier general. Despite their seeming lack of experience at that
level of command, the men leading the brigades of the Army of the
Potomac would distinguish themselves in the confrontation to come.
Although the organization and leadership of the Army
of the Potomac was sound as they prepared to meet the Army of Northern
Virginia, what about the men the ranks who had to do the bulk of the
fighting and dying? One would expect after a year of defeats and
disappointments, and, now with the retrograde movement north, that the
morale of the men in the Army of Potomac would be very low. Surprisingly
the morale of the men remained high and even improved as they pursued
the Army of Northern Virginia through Maryland and into Pennsylvania.
Nothing improves a soldier's morale better than good home cooking and
pretty women. The longer a soldier remains in the army the more the
definition of good home cooking and pretty women changes, and, for many
of the men in the ranks, they had been in the army for well over a
The common soldiers noted the contrast between worn
torn and desolate Virginia and the rich, heretofore, untouched lands of
Maryland and Pennsylvania. As a member of the Ninety-Seventh New York
Infantry recalled, "Green fields of richest venue; fields of wheat,
corn and other grain, mingled with those of clover and timothy of
luxuriant growth, on either side met our gaze."  A veteran of the Sixth Wisconsin of the famous Iron
Brigade wrote simply on the evening of June 30, 1863, "We have
marched through some beautiful country. It is refreshing to get out of
the barren desert of Virginia into this land of thrift and plenty."
 The chaplain of the Sixtieth New York
specifically remembered the farms in Maryland, "There are some
splendid farms in this part of the country, and it is noted, I should
say, for its magnificent barns and out-buildings. In fact, our route,
since we crossed the Potomac, had been through a fine agricultural
country. From Frederick to the Maryland line, may be found some to be
finest wheat farms in the land."  Another
soldier remembered the prosperous looking farms in Pennsylvania, "The
country about Littlestown and Southern Pennsylvania through which the
army passed is populated by people of German descent, and has the
unusual Dutch characteristics; barns better than the houses and horses
better kept than the women and children. It had a thrifty and prosperous
look,..."  Robert McAllister also recalled as
he passed through "a great many little towns and a most magnificent
country under a high state of cultivation," what impact the change of
scenery had on the men. On June 30, 1863, he wrote, "as a general
thing, the troops are in good spirits and in good health. The country is
healthygood water, pure air, very differrent from Virginia. We
seem to breathe another atmosphere, and the men seem to be perfectly
In addition to the change in environment, the
officers and men of the Army of the Potomac also noticed a change in the
attitude of the inhabitants that also had a positive impact on the men's
morale. "Coming as the men had from the pine barrens, and the
disloyal portion of lower Virginia," recalled one veteran, "it
was a great change, and the courage and loyalty of the Union army was
renewed. Up to this time the Army of the Potomac had been surrounded by
persons in sympathy with its opponent; now the tables were turned and it
was privileged to act the part of the conquering hero; and it rather
liked it."  A member of the Iron Brigade
remembered a similar feeling that was invoked by a group of school
children as they watched the soldiers march through Poolesville. "One
cannot imagine," he wrote, "without experience, the cheerful
feeling such a sight induces among those who have not for months
witnessed this feature of civilization." 
Elisha Hunt Rhodes of the Second Rhode Island Infantry felt so
rejuvenated by the march north that despite hard marching in the rain
without cover, he could still exclaim with enthusiasm, "But Hurrah!
'It is all for the Union.'"  Thus, the men of
the Army of the Potomac were marching north to fight on their own
territory and they were looking forward to it.
The march of the men of the Army of the Potomac
through Maryland and Pennsylvania as Captain George Collins, a member of
the Twelfth Army Corps, recalled, "was more of a parade than a
march."  As the men of the Twelfth Corps
passed through Frederick City Maryland with "flags flying, bands and
drum corps playing, and the men marching in cadence step," hundreds
of people, especially women waving handkerchiefs, saluted the column.
 A member of the First Corps also remembered the
men and women who came out to greet and cheer the soldiers, "and
occasionally to offer a goblet of cold water, with something of the
staff of life, was refreshing, and acted like a charm upon the feelings
of the army."  Regis De Trobriand, commanding
a brigade in the Third Army Corps, recalled being welcomed as
liberators. At Frederick he recalled, "our march was almost
triumphal. All the houses were draped; all the women were at the
windows, waving their handkerchiefs; all the men were at their doors,
waving their hats." 
Therefore, on the eve of the battle of Gettysburg,
the Army of the Potomac was spoiling for a fight. With the appointment
of General Meade to command of the army, the last piece of the puzzle
was in place; consistent, competent leadership at the army level. The
Army of the Potomac would never have another change in commanders for
the remainder of the war. The high command of the army, although lacking
an outstanding performer, was capable and experienced. Furthermore, the
Army of the Potomac on the eve of the battle of Gettysburg was as well
organized and equipped as any army in American history. The officers and
men knew what was expected of them, and they were ready to do their
duty, their skills having been forged in the crucible of battle.
The Army of the Potomac on the eve of the Battle of
Gettysburg was the finest army on the planet, bar none, and, although
they did not realize it at the time, the Union soldiers, as they marched
to Gettysburg, were on the road to Appomattox. They would be heroes of
continuous defeats no longer.
1 Thomson, Howard and Ranch, William,
History of the Bucktails, p. 243.
2 Amos Judson, History of the
Eighty-Third Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers (Reprint: Dayton
Ohio:Morningside, 1988), p. 111.
3 Mason Whiting Tyler,
Recollections of the Civil War, ed. William S. Tyler (New York:
G. P. Putnam Sons, 1912), p. 91.
4 Jonathan Hager memoir,
Alderman Library, University of Virginia; See also, Stephan W. Sears,
Chancellorsville, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996), pp.
5 George, Collins, Memoirs of the
149th Regt. N. Y. Inft. (Syracuse: Published by the Author, 1891),
6 John L. G. Wood to aunt, May
10, Georgia Department of Archives and History. Also quoted in
Stephen W. Sears, Chancellorsville (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company,
1996), p. 428.
7 Robert Goldthwaite Carter, Four
Brothers in Blue (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979), p. 264.
Italics are in the original.
8 Meade remembered the count as four to
two. Those in favor of staying and fighting it out were Generals
Reynolds, Meade, Slocum, and Howard. Generals Sickles and Couch were for
retreating. Couch was only for retreating if Hooker remained in command;
otherwise he was for advancing. General Slocum could not be located and
did not arrive until after the meeting had ended, but indicated later
that he was in favor of staying. The vote of the five corps commanders
present was actually three to two. See Ernest B. Furgurson,
Chancellorsville 1863 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), pp.
304-305. Also Sears, Chancellorsville, pp. 420-423. Meade,
Life and Letters, vol. 1, pp. 373-374.
9 George Meade, The Life and
Letters of General George Gordon Meade, vol. 1 (New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1913; Reprinted Baltimore: Butternut and Blue, 1994),
p. 372. The italics are in the original cited here from the reprinted
10 Alexander S. Webb to
father, May 12, Webb Papers, Yale University Library
11 Henry F. Young to his wife,
May 13, 1863, State Historical Society of Wisconsin; See also Sears,
Chancellorsville, pp. 431-434 for a good assessment of the
feelings of the rank and file of the Army of the Potomac regarding
Hooker's orders to re-cross the Rappahannock River.
12 Judson, Eighty-Third
Pennsylvania, p. 114. This unit would fight beside the Twentieth
Maine Infantry on Little Round Top on July 2, 1863.
13 Carter, Brothers In Blue,
14 Richard Eddy, History of the
Sixtieth Regiment New York State Volunteers, (Philadelphia: J. Fagan
and Son, 1864), p. 248.
15 See David Craft, History of
the One Hundred Forty-First Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers,
(Towanda, Pennsylvania: Reporter-Journal Printing Company, 1885.
Reprinted in 1991 by Butternut and Blue), p. 96. Gilbert Adams Hays,
Under the Red Patch: Story of the Sixty Third Regiment Pennsylvania
Volunteers 1861 1864, (Pittsburgh: Press of Market Review publishing
Company, 1908), p. 183. Kate M. Scott, History of the One Hundred and
Fifth Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, (Philadelphia: New
World-Publishing Company, 1877), Reprinted in 1993 by Butternut and
Blue, p. 76.
16 For a good example of the myth
that the Confederate soldier was superior to his Union counterpart,
consult the works of Douglas Southall Freeman or Shelby Foote.
17 J. F. C. Fuller, A Military
History of the Western World, vol. 3. (New York: Da Capo Press,
1957), p. 6. Other noted historians who share Fuller's conclusions about
the American Civil War are Bruce Catton, David Donald, and T. Harry
18 Rifling simply defined means that
spiral grooves are cut inside the barrel of the weapon which, when the
projectile is discharged will cause it to spin, greatly increasing the
range and accuracy of the weapon. To grip the rifling properly, the
projectile had to fit the inside of the barrel tightly thus reducing the
rate of fire as the bullet literally had to be hammered in - a major
drawback. The smoothbore musket although less accurate had a much higher
rate of fire. In the 1850's the rifle began to replace the musket as the
standard infantry weapon. This was made possible by the development of a
hollow-based oblong bullet called a minie ball after one of its'
inventors, Captain Claude Entienne Minie of the French army. The minie
ball could be inserted into a rifled musket as easily as a round ball
could be inserted into a smoothbore musket. The difference, however, was
that when the rifled musket was discharged, the gases expanded the
hollow base of the minie ball into the rifling of the barrel thereby
increasing the distance and accuracy of the weapon. For this tactical
revolution see, Grady McWhiney and Perry D. Jamieson, Attack and Die:
Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage (Alabama: The
University of Alabama Press, 1982) and Edward Hagerman, The American
Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare (Indianapolis: Indiana
University Press, 1988.
19 For the tactical revolution
brought about by the rifled musket see, John Carroll and Colin Baxter,
ed. The American Military Tradition, "The American Civil War: The
First Modern War," by Charles C. Fennell, Jr. (Wilmington: Scholarly
Resources Inc 1993), pp. 63-93; John K Mahon, "Civil War Assault
Tactics." Military Affairs (Summer 1961), pp. 57-67; Edward
Hagerman, "From Jomini to Denis Hart Mahon: The Evolution of Trench
Warfare and the American Civil War." Civil War History (September,
1964), pp. 197-220; Edward Hagerman, The American Civil War and The
Origins of Modern Warfare, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1988); Grady McWhiney and Perry D. Jamieson, Attack and Die: Civil
War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage, (Birmingham: The
University of Alabama Press, 1982).
20 Grady McWhiney and Perry
Jamieson, Attack and Die: Civil War Tactics and the Southern
Heritage, (Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 1982), pp.
21 Ulysses S. Grant, Personal
Memoirs of U. S. Grant and Selected Letters 1839-1865, (New York:
The Library of America Press, 1990), p. 33.
22 T. Harry Williams, Lincoln and
his Generals, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952), p. 3. Although
dated, Williams' descriptions of the major command figures in the Union
armies are still interesting and useful. Williams' thesis is quite
simple, Lincoln was the best general in the American Civil War.
23 Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee,
(New York: Scribner's Sons, 1961), pp. 109-110.
24 Vincent J. Esposito and John
Robert Efting, A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic
Wars. (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1964). Map Series 107.
25 Williams, Lincoln and His
Generals, p. 21.
26 Ezra J. Warner, Generals in
Blue, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981), pp.
290-292. See Also Register of Graduates and Former Cadets of the
United States Military Academy, (West Point, New York: Association
of Graduates, USMA, 1990), pp. 270-271. Hereafter cited as Register of
27 Williams, Lincoln and his
Generals, p. 27.
28 Wainwright, Diary of
Battle, p. 125.
29 Stephen W. Sears, George B.
McClellan: The Young Napoleon (New York: Ticknor & Fields:
1988), p. 190.
30 In May of 1864, the Army of the
Potomac would lose approximately two thousand men a day for a month in
their overland march on Richmond from the north. By June of that year,
the Union forces had suffered about sixty thousand casualties, and they
were about as close to the Confederate capital as McClellan had been in
31 Williams, Lincoln and His
Generals, p. 120.
32 O.R. XI 1, Pt.3, pp.
33 Porter to J.C.G. Kennedy, July
17, 1862, Porter Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society. For a
thorough analysis of the effect and purpose of Pope's proclamation, see,
John J. Hennessy, Return to Manassas, (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1993), pp. 12-17.
34 David S. Sparks, ed. Inside
Lincoln's Army: The Diary of General Massena Rudolf Patrick. Provost
Marshal General. Army of the Potomac, (New York: Thomas Yoseloff,
1964), pp. 108-110.
35 Rufus R. Dawes, Service with
the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, (Dayton, Ohio: Press of Morningside
Bookshop, 1984), p. 51.
36 Hennessy, Return to Bull
Run, p. 82.
37 David Donald, Lincoln,
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), p. 371.
38 Bruce Catton, The American
Heritage Picture History of the Civil War, (New York: American
Heritage Publishing Co, Inc., 1960), p. 225.
39 Jacob D. Cox, Military
Reminiscences of the Civil War. Vol 1, (New York: Charles Scribners
Sons, 1900), p. 264. For a well reasoned analysis of Burnside, see, D.
Scott Hartwig's comments in Edward J. Stackpole, The Fredericksburg
Campaign, (Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1991), pp. 285-292.
40 Edward J. Stackpole, The
Fredericksburg Campaign. (Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1991), pp.
41 Stephen Sears,
Chancellorsville, (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996), p.
56. The quote is found in a letter of Captain Henry F. Young of the 7th
Wisconsin to his wife.
42 See John Hennessy, "We Shall
Make Richmond Howl: The Army of the Potomac on the Eve of
Chancellorsville, "in Gary Gallagher, Ed., Chancellorsville, The
Battle and Its Aftermath, (Chapel Hill: The University of North
Carolina Press, 1996).
43 Sears, Chancellorsville p.
44 R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N.
Dupuy, The Compact History of the Civil War, (New York: Collier
Books, 1962), p. 196.
45 Edwin Coddington, The
Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, (New York: Charles
Scribners Sons, 1968), pp. 213-214.
46 Williams, Cannon's Mouth, p.
47 Sparks, ed., Inside Lincoln's
Army, p. 265.
48 Nevins, ed., Diary of
Battle, p. 227.
49 George G. Agassiz, Meade's
Headquarters 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore H. Lyman from the
Wilderness to Appomattox, (Salem, New Hampshire: Ayer Company,
publishers, Inc., 1970), p. 25.
50 Coddington, Gettysburg, pp.
51 George Collins, Memoirs of the
One Hundred and Forty-Ninth New York, (Syracuse, New York: Published
by the author, 1891), p. 129.
52 James P. Brady, ed., Hurrah
for the Artillery: Knap's Independent Battery "E". Pennsylvania Light
Artillery, (Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1962), p. 246.
53 Richard Eddy, History of the
Sixtieth Regiment New York State Volunteers, (Philadelphia: By the
author, 1864), p. 257.
54 Robert Hunt Rhodes, ed., All
for the Union: The Civil War Diary and Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes
(New York: Orion Books, 1985), p. 115.
55 Thomas D. Marbaker, History of
the Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers. (Hightstown, New Jersey,
Longstreet House, 1990), p. 91.
56 Carter, Four Brothers in
Blue, p. 293.
57 William F. Fox, Regimental
Losses in the Civil War. (Dayton: Press of Morningside Bookshop,
1985), p. 115.
58 Ibid., p. 67.
59 Pfanz, The Second Day,
60 Edward Longacre, The Cavalry
at Gettysburg, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986), p.
61 Worthington Chancey Ford, A
Cycle of Adams Letters. 1861-1865, 2 vols. (Boston, 1920), p. 8.
62 Wainwright, Diary of
Battle p. 309.
63 Longacre, The Cavalry in the
Gettysburg Campaign, p. 50.
64 See Coddington, Gettysburg
Campaign, p. 37, There seems to be some question whether or not
Lincoln actually offered Reynolds command of the Army of the Potomac,
However most authorities agree that he at least sounded him out on the
66 Mary W. Thomas and Richard A.
Sauers, ed. The Civil War Letters of First Lieutenant James B.
Thomas, (Baltimore: Butternut and Blue, 1995), p. 174.
67 Thomas Chamberlin, History of
the One Hundred and Fiftieth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. Second
Regiment. Bucktail Brigade, (Baltimore: Butternut and Blue, 1986),
68 Ibid, pp. 118-119.
69 Thomas and Sauers, Letters of
James Thomas, p. 174.
70 Albert Casteel, Decision in
the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864, (Lawrence: University of
Kansas Press, 1992), p. 98.
71 Warner, Generals in Blue,
72 Coddington, Gettysbug, p. 37.
73 W. A. Swanberg, Sickles the
Incredible, (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1956), p. 5.
74 Regis De Trobriand, Four Years
with the Potomac Army, (Boston: Ticknor and Company, 1889), p.
75 Pfanz, Second Day, p.
76 New York Monuments Commission for
the Battlefields of Gettysburg and Chattanooga. In Memoriam, Henly
Warner Slocum, 1826-1894 (Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, Printers,
1904), p. 35.
77 Ibid, p. 53.
78 For an assessment of
Butterfield's performance of his duties, see Pfanz, Second Day,
p. 14; Coddington, Gettysbug, pp. 218-219. Also see. Warner,
Generals in Blue, pp. 62-63.
79 Warner, Generals in Blue,
80 Coddington, Gettysbug, pp.
81 Warner, Generals in Blue,
82 Sparks, ed., Inside Lincoln's
Army, p. 17. Warner, Generals in Blue, pp. 361-362.
83 Issac Hall, History of the
Ninety-Seventh Regiment New York Volunteers ("Conkling Rifles") in the
War for the Union (Utica, New York: Press of L. C. Childs &
Sons, 1890; Reprinted in 1991 by Butternut and Blue, Baltimore,
Maryland), p. 131.
84 Rufus Dawes, Service with the
Sixth Wisconsin (Dayton, Ohio: Press of Morningside Bookshop, 1984),
85 Richard Eddy, History of the
Sixtieth Regiment New York State Volunteers, (Philadelphia:
Published by the Author, 1864), pp. 158-159.
86 Collins, One Hundred and
Forty-Ninth New York, pp. 131-132.
87 James I. Robertson, Jr., The
War Letters of General Robert McAllister (New Brusnwick, New Jersey:
Rutgers University Press, 1965), p. 330.
88 Collins, pp. 130-131.
89 Curtis, Twenty-Fourth
Michigan, p. 150.
90 Robert Hunt Rhodes, ed., All
for the Union: The Civil War Diary and Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes
(New York: Orion Books, 1985), p. 114.
91 Collins, pp. 130-131.
92 Ibid., p. 130.
93 Hall, The Ninety-Seventh New
York, pp. 131-132.