Question of the Week for May 5, 2014

150 years ago today, the battle of the Wilderness commenced 17 miles west of the city of Fredericksburg, Va. The Army of the Potomac, commanded by George Gordon Meade crossed into the Wilderness of Spotsylvania and Orange Counties accompanied by Ulysses S. Grant and the independent 9th Army Corps under Ambrose Burnside. Because Burnside technically outranked Meade by date of promotion, Burnside’s corps acted under the direct orders of Grant, which muddles the new chain of command.

Do you believe that Grant should have reassigned the 9th Corps commander prior to the outset of the campaign, or should the 9th Corps have been placed under Meade’s control? (If you relieve Burnside, who do you place command of the corps?)

9th Corps commander Major General Ambrose E. Burnside
9th Corps commander Major General Ambrose E. Burnside

1 Response to Question of the Week for May 5, 2014

  1. One might argue that keeping Burnside, rather than muddling the chain of command, actually clarified it in a sense. I think that many (especially Meade) felt that Grant’s hovering over Meade’s shoulder rendered the latter irrelevant; it certainly took away the independence of his command. This would be all the more true if Grant had replaced Burnside and merged the IX Corps into the Army of the Potomac; the result would be Grant as a de facto commander of the Army of the Potomac (shoving Meade into exactly the same position that Grant hated after Shiloh). But by keeping IX Corps separate, Grant’s position over both forces conferred upon Meade more standing as commander in his own right. (Of course, Burnside’s choices which led to the Crater disaster likely caused Grant to regret the arrangement.)

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