Summary List of Famous Union Civil War Generals during the American Civil War
There were many important Union generals during the American Civil War. Some, like Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, George Mclellan and Joshua Chamberlain are household names. Others are less well known but are still important, as the northern generals were the commanders that led the troops and helped decide the ultimate outcome of most civil war battles. Here is a list of important union generals, along with links to more information and articles about each one.
List of Union Generals
Ulysses S. Grant
General William Tecumseh Sherman
Winfield Scott Hancock
William Starke Rosecrans
Articles Featuring Union Generals From History Net Magazines
Lincoln’s Political Generals
Lincoln’s Political Generals, by David Work
University of Illinois Press, 2009
Abraham Lincoln made his share of mistakes as commander in chief during the Civil War, but did his politically motivated appointments of nonmilitary men as Union generals help or hinder the war effort? The battlefield failures of the likes of Nathaniel Banks, Benjamin Butler and John Charles Fremont have been documented as part of larger studies, but David Work’s Lincoln’s Political Generals is the first book dedicated solely to examining who these men were, how they were appointed, what their responsibilities were, how they performed and how they influenced the president and the war itself.
Lincoln was quite aware of the strange dynamic created by the need for political generals and supposedly even joked about it one time. When a brigadier general was captured along with some horses and mules, he apparently said: “I don’t care so much for brigadiers; I can make them. But horses and mules cost money.” At the outbreak of the war, Lincoln was indeed besieged by requests for officer appointments, and Work shows that because of the lack of trained, professional officers in the Army, this became both a military and political necessity for him. Lincoln adeptly appointed Republicans, Democrats and men of particular ethnic backgrounds to secure the support of their respective constituencies and thereby unite the North behind the war effort.
Work looks at 16 political generals who fought for the Union—eight Republicans and eight Democrats, including two Germans and two Irishmen—and follows them over all four years to show the effects of Lincoln’s policy. While some of these men are well known today, a number remain relatively obscure—the raw ground Work covers alone makes this a worthy addition to anyone’s library.
Lincoln’s Political Generals will appeal to enthusiasts of Civil War military history, since more than half the book examines how these political generals performed on the battlefield. This includes not only famous failures such as Franz Sigel’s 1861 loss at Wilson’s Creek, Banks’ 1864 Red River Campaign and Daniel Sickles’ incompetency at Gettysburg, but also the lesser-known successes of men such as John A. Logan during the Atlanta Campaign, James S. Wadsworth at Gettysburg and Francis P. Blair Jr. at Vicksburg. As Work shows, political generals who began the war subordinate to professional officers learned to become competent and victorious commanders themselves. Conversely, the “citizen generals” who were given immediate command of their own forces proved incredibly inept and detrimental, even dangerous, to the war effort.
But Work’s book is more than just battlefield history. He also examines how political generals affected the quasi-civil administration of military districts during and after the war; how their particular policies toward slavery and raising black soldiers affected Lincoln’s own policy; and, most pertinent to Lincoln himself, how they exerted their own political influence to support the president and the Union. (After Lincoln’s 1864 reelection, he removed a number of his political generals whose inadequate performance he had been tolerating in order to secure the votes of their constituencies.) The last three chapters covering these topics are in fact the most interesting and enlightening of the book, examining topics generally skimmed in typical war histories.
By Jeffry D. Wert