“I have come to you from the West,” declared Major General John Pope, as he addressed his new Army of Virginia. The new commander continued, “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.” Pope hoped to lead this new army to victory and to effectively smother the flames of resistance in northern Virginia. To achieve his goal, he utilized the policies and strategies he previously used while serving in northeastern Missouri. This analysis will look primarily at counter-insurgency policies Pope implemented in Missouri and how they were applied to the equally unstable, yet vastly different, region of northern Virginia.
When John Pope arrived in Washington, DC on June 24, 1862, he had an impressive military record. Not only was he a Class of 1842 graduate of the United States Military Academy, Pope served in the U.S. Army as an engineer, including experience in the Mexican War. By 1862, he successfully captured the Confederate strongholds, as well as their respective garrisons, along the Mississippi River at Island No. 10 and New Madrid, Missouri. His use of combined-arms was also praised by the Union high command, which earned him a field promotion in the spring of 1862. It was not only his combat experience that piqued the interest of the Lincoln Administration, though.
Unlike many other commanders, Pope also had a unique early-war experience in counter-insurgency operations, specifically during his tenure as commander of the District of North and Central Missouri in 1861. According to Pope himself in his post-war memoirs, Missouri was incredibly unstable: “no laws were observed or executed and the people thus left without a government and inflamed with enmity … Such was the situation in North Missouri when I entered that district.” Soon after crossing into Missouri from Illinois on July 17, he developed a plan with a simple, yet complicated, backbone – make the civilians responsible.
The strategic situation in Northern Missouri was complex. The Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad line split the district north-south and was a major line of supply and communication for the Department of the West. “Lawless parties of marauders” ran rampant through the region and attacked the vital lines of communication, specifically the Hannibal and St. Joseph. To quell these marauders, Pope believed he needed to make the population along the railroad line “directly responsible” for their actions by paying for the cost of destruction. More importantly, the actions of insurgents would result in punishment “laid upon the shoulders of their friends and relatives.” In addition, the area along the railroad would be divided into administrative divisions, which would then be led by civilians, who were also completely responsible for what happens in their division. To make his authority known across the entire region, Pope extended this order to the rest of the district one week later. His well-conceived plan to show dominance over insurgency, though, would soon backfire in an unexpected way.
Instead of treating non-combatants and innocent civilians with respect, Pope’s troops went overboard. According to the civilians, many were arrested, homes searched and seized, and property confiscated and stolen – all without probable cause. The abuses throughout the district forced Department of the West commander John C. Fremont to intervene. He declared martial law throughout the state. Though both the residents of the district and Fremont believed Pope’s policies were out-of-line, Pope himself felt that he had the situation under control, with the exception of Marion County, where guerrillas still pounced in night raids. Pope later described his ill feelings toward Fremont’s declaration, “Instantly small detachments of troops appeared everywhere, accompanied by that necessary evil of martial law, the provost marshal.” To him, the provost marshals were “like the lice of Egypt,” because they “soon infested every place and tormented everybody.” Pope was bitter. When he finally made his way east to command the Army of Virginia the next year, he wanted to prove that his policies could work.
To be continued …
 John Pope, The Military Memoirs of General John Pope, edited by Peter Cozzens and Robert I. Girardi (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 18.
 Ibid., 19.
 Daniel E. Sutherland, A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2008), 21.
 Pope, The Military Memoirs of General John Pope, 25.