Question of the Week: 10/14-10/20/19

In your opinion, who was the best “army organizer” during the Civil War?

(This does not automatically imply the person successfully handled the force in the field.)

12 Responses to Question of the Week: 10/14-10/20/19

  1. George Brinton McClellan turned the Army of the Potomac from an undisciplined mob (1st Bull Run) into the superb fighting machine that Grant used to force Lee into surrender (Appomattox) and end the Civil War for all intents and purposes.

    1. That army was fundamentally different when Grant took it over due to losses and the infusion of conscripts, etc. So .I’d give him/Meade some credit for adapting it to the unprecedented continuous combat from May 5 – June 18

      1. I think you are correct. It occurs to me that Hancock, Sedgwick & Meade as Corps commanders were the force behind shaping the combat capability of the A.o.P. The revolving door of army commanders did not provide the constancy to profoundly affect the structure of the army.

  2. The right answer to the question as posed is, of course, George McClellan. However, his actions were straight out of the manual. It was the team of William Stark Rosecrans & George Thomas that organized an army with a winning record while also revolutionizing how that army fought. The integration of signals, map making, intelligence gathering, combat engineering & mounted infantry armed with repeating rifles into their operations was unpresidented. The army they organized won battles & turned their one reverse into a tactical setback by smashing their opponent at Missionary Ridge. More than just winning battles, their army took & held territory that the Confederacy could not live without. That is my definition of successful origination.

    1. An excellent point about organizing an army in a far different sense than taking inexperienced recruits and making them a disciplined, capable fighting force.

    1. That’s a valid point about Hooker, who elevated the cavalry from its role under McClellan as a glorified HQ escort and roster of couriers. The much-maligned John Pope actually took some steps in that direction but was gone before it went further and Burnside was just a bad interlude.

      1. It can be said that Hooker’s lasting contribution to the organization of the army was to assign Dan Butterfield to design Corps badges. The rational, easily visible & universal Corps, division & brigade flags he devised was a game changer. Not only did it make identification among a sea of identically clad soldiers dimple, but it created a focal point for unit morale. When Hooker’s Corps arrived in Chattanooga, the obvious better mouse trap was immediately adopted by Sherman’s army group.

  3. Robert E. Lee obviously… haha. He shifted regiments into same-state brigades. Got the Confederate artillery better organized and weeded out the officer ranks a bit. He then managed to keep it together and fighting for a good 3 years.

    Halleck also organized the Union military in the West. His work got things headed in the right direction in the Mississippi Valley, middle Tennessee, and the Trans-Mississippi. He is the man who told Grant where he was going and with what.

  4. These are all good nominees. One I haven’t seen yet, but want to throw in, is both Sherman and Johnston for the refit and reorganization of their respective forces in the winter of 1863-64.

    1. I believe that the cross fertilization between the Armies of the Cumberland, Tennessee & Potomac at Chattanooga was a little discussed turning point in the war. Each army had fought singular campaigns under very different commanders. Coming together under first Grant & then Sherman who both demanded a high level of cooperation created an atmosphere where good ideas would be shared. A highly visible example of that was the adoption of Dan Butterfield’s Corps flag system by the AoT & AoC. The AoP Signalists shared their technique for acting as artillery spotters. The resulting amalgam of lessons learned under disparate conditions made Sherman’s army group unstoppable.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!