Leadership Crisis in the Army of the Potomac

January 23, 1863

General Ambrose Burnside proposes  General Orders No. 8 in which many of his top generals were to be dismissed: :

I. General Joseph Hooker, major-general of volunteers and brigadier general U.S. Army, having been guilty of unjust and unnecessary criticisms of the actions of his superior officers, and of the authorities, and having, by the general tone of his conversation, endeavored to create distrust in the minds of officers who have associated with him, and having, by omissions and otherwise, made reports and statements which were calculated to create incorrect impressions, and for habitually speaking is disparaging terms of other officers, is hereby dismissed the service of the United States as a man unfit to hold an important commission during a crisis like the present, when so much patience, charity, consideration and patriotism are due from every soldier in the field.  This order is issued subject to the approval of the President of the United States.

II. Brig. Gen. W.T. H. Brooks, commanding First Division, Sixth Army Corps, for complaining of the policy of the Government, and for using language tending to demoralize his command, is, subject to the approval of the President, dismissed from the military service of the United States.

III.  Brig. Gen. John Newton, commanding Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, and Brig. Gen. John Cochrane, commanding First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, for going to the President of the Untied States with criticisms upon the plans of their commanding officer, are, subject to the approval of the President, dismissed from the military service of the United States.

IV. It being evident that the following-named officers can be of no further service to this army, they are hereby relieved from duty, and will report, in person, without delay, to the Adjutant-General, U.S. Army; Maj. Gen. W. B. Franklin, commanding left grand division; Maj. Gen. W.F. Smith, commanding Sixth Corps; Brig. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis, commanding Second Division, Ninth Corps; Brig. Gen. Edward Ferrero, commanding Second Brigade, Second Division, Third Division, Sixth Corps; Lieut. Col. J.H. Taylor, assistant adjutant-general, right grand division.”

Burnside biographer William Marvel wrote that what the general did “was prepare for Lincoln’s consideration those very orders Halleck had implied would be forthcoming if he requested them.  At least in the case of the dismissals, courts-martial would have been in order, and eight senior subordinates constituted a significant element of opposition, so Lincoln would of course be shocked.  In fact it seems Burnside hoped to shock him — to propose technically difficult terms — but those terms would have been necessary for him to continue in command.  If the president wanted him to remain, the removal of those men was a reasonable expectation.

At the president’s request, Burnside heads for Washington.

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Published in: on January 23, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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