Now that you have had a chance to learn more about our presenters for the Seventh Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium, over the coming weeks we will be introducing you to their topics on this year’s theme, Fallen Leaders. First up, Dan Welch previews his presentation on John Pope.
Maj. Gen. John Pope. It is a name that will forever be synonymous with the Federal defeat on the plains of Manassas in August 1862. But Pope’s fall from grace in the eyes of those heading the Federal war effort, men with names of Lincoln, Stanton, and others had begun earlier than the Union army’s retreat towards the Washington, D.C. defenses on the first of September 1862.
Pope had experienced a meteoric rise in the Federal army following the start of the American Civil War. Beginning his professional military career by attending West Point, upon graduation in 1842, he had been commissioned and assigned to the Corps of Topographical Engineers. Like many of his peers, he went to war with Zachary Taylor in the second half of the 1840s. Breveted twice during the Mexican American War, Pope returned to topographical details and assignments in the army following the conflict. His duties included surveying, river navigation, and lighthouse construction. These assignments took him to Minnesota and New Mexico, and the Red River Valley among numerous other locales. During this period, however, Pope witnessed the same glacial rate of promotions in the US Regular Army that had defined it during periods of peace. He also worked through the lack of emotions felt and motivations to fight that combat veterans like himself had experienced during the Mexican American War. With the election of Lincoln in November 1860, though, all of that was about to change. Continue reading