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 Ulysses S. Grant led the Union Army during the later years of the civil war, and later became the President of The United States. Learn more about Ulysses S. Grant
General George Mcclellan led the Army of the Potomac during the early years of the civil war and also ran for President against Abraham Lincoln. Learn more about George Mcclellan
Starting as a Major and ending as a Brigadier General, Robert Anderson is best known for surrendering Fort Sumter, the first engagement of the Civil War. Learn more about Robert Anderson
General Nathaniel Banks was a hapless leader of the Union Army, suffering one defeat after another. Learn more about Nathaniel Banks
General William Tecumseh Sherman
General William Tecumseh Sherman fought in many battles and his best known for taking Atlanta followed by his brutal by effective “march to the sea.” Learn more about William Tecumseh Sherman
General George Armstrong Custer was a United States Army officer who served in the civil war and Indian wars, meeting his famous demise at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Read more about George Custer
Winfield Scott Hancock
General Winfield Scott Hancock was a US Army officer for his entire career and eventually a nominee for the office of President of the US in 1880. Read more about Winfield Scott Hancock
Though there is a myth saying that Abner Doubleday was the inventor of baseball, he never said that he did. Read more about Abner Doubleday
General Ambrose Burnside Ambrose, besides being a soldier, was an industrialist, railroad executive and an inventor. Read more about Ambrose Burnside
General Arthur Macarthur was one of five men to ever be promoted to the rank of a five star general of the army. Read more about Arthur Macarthur
General Benjamin Butler was not only a soldier but also a lawyer and eventually a politician for the state of Massachusetts. Read more about Benjamin Butler
General Daniel Sickles was a Union general during the Civil War as well as a controversial politician. Read more about Daniel Sickles
General George Gordon Meade was a civil engineer and an army officer before serving as a Union general during the Civil War. He was successful in defeating General Lee but was criticized for not pursuing the Confederate Army when in his grasp. He became a commissioner of Fairmont Park in Philadelphia until his death. He died from a combination of pneumonia and old wounds and now rests at the Laurel Hill Cemetery. Read more about George Meade
General George Thomas served as an army officer throughout his career and a Union general at the time of the American Civil War. Read more about George Thomas
General Irvin Mcdowell was an army officer who is better known for the defeat at First Battle of Bull Run. McDowell had at his disposal the army of Northeastern Virginia which unfortunately was inexperienced and not ready. He launched his attack due to pressure from Washington and though the strategy was imaginative, his troops were not ready to carry it out. McDowell died in 1885 and was buried at the San Francisco National Cemetery. Read more about Irvin Mcdowell
General John Buford was an officer of the Union Cavalry during the Civil War and one of his most important roles took place at Gettysburg. Read more about John Buford
General John Pope was a general for the Union during the Civil War and a career army officer. He is mostly known for the defeat at Second Battle of Bull Run in the east, after which he was sent to Minnesota. Read more about John Pope
General John Reynolds was an army officer and a general during the Civil War. He was a very respected senior commander and is known for committing the Army of the Potomac to Gettysburg. Reynolds was killed early in that same battle. He was buried in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1863. Read more about John Reynolds
General Joseph Hooker was a major general for the Union during the Civil War and a career army officer. Read more about Joseph Hooker
General Joshua Chamberlain was a college professor and eventually a brigadier general and brevet major general for the Union army leading, among others, the 20th Maine Brigade. Read more about Joshua Chamberlain
General Philip Sheridan was a Union general and an army officer throughout his career. He is known for his association with Ulysses S. Grant and for his fast assent to major general. Read more about Philip Sheridan
General Oliver Howard was a Union general in the Civil War and a career army officer. He suffered defeats at Gettysburg and Chancellorsville but at Western Theater his reputation was restored. Read more about Oliver Howard
William Starke Rosecrans
General William Starke Rosecrans was not only a general for the Union during the Civil War, but also a coal and oil company executive, an inventor, a politician and a diplomat.. Read more about William Starke Rosecrans
For a list of southern civil war generals, please see our confederate generals page. For a list of all important generals from the civil war, please see our civil war generals page.
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.
January – February 1863Emancipation causes a stir both North and South, and a section of Virginia prepares to secede—from Virginia January 1 – The Emancipation Proclamation takes effect—as does the Homestead Act, signed into law the previous May. The first recorded homestead claim is by Union Army scout Daniel Freeman, near Beatrice, Nebraska Territory. 3 – Federals win …
Lincoln’s midtermsEvery president faces a shift in Congress after two years, but this halftime show was especially dangerous.
Teacher, Preacher, Soldier, SpyHow the headmaster of a Washington boys' school became a Rebel spy—and tried to kidnap Lincoln
Hard War on the Southern PlainsThis story about Sherman's post-Civil War Indian campaign just won a top award from Army Historical Foundation
Julian Scott Civil War PainterCurator Michael McAfee talks about artist Julian Scott and 51st New York Infantry at Antietam.
Battlefields&Beyond: New York CityHarold Holzer's Top 13 Civil War Sites in NYC.
Field Notes – July 2012The original painting (left) next to the Mary Todd fake. (images courtesy of Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum)The Lady and the scamp Is she or isn’t she? That question has been answered with a resounding “no”: The portrait purported to be of Mary Todd Lincoln that hung in the governor’s mansion in Springfield, Ill., for …
Wild West – June 2012 – Table of ContentsThe June 2012 issue of Wild West features stories about Libbie Custer's enduring love for her "Boy General," the "Arapaho Five" at the Little Bighorn, plural marriage among the Plains Indians, Kansas' lethal innkeepers the Bloody Benders, and the long-gone California grizzlies.
Interview With Historian Paul HedrenIn his new book After Custer, Paul Hedren draws on his extensive knowledge of the Great Sioux War to paint a picture of changing life on the Prairie in the wake of the Little Bighorn.
Ambrose Bierce and America’s First Great War StoriesAuthor and Civil War veteran Ambrose Bierce wrote of an ugly war, not the romanticized version found in most writings by his fellow veterans. His war was waged deep within the conscience of the individual solider and was often cloaked in supernaturalism.
Battlefields And Beyond: Battle Of South MountainJune Issue Extra: Lee’s first invasion of Union territory was turned back at the Battle of South Mountain
Major General Adelbert Ames: Forgotten Man of the 20th MaineJune Issue Extra: Adelbert Ames preceded Joshua Chamberlain as colonel of the 20th Maine
1862: May and JuneLincoln urges farmers to go west, McClellan stalls and a new Rebel commander takes over May 3 – Confederate General Joseph Johnston orders troops to evacuate Norfolk, Va. Evacuation is completed May 10, and on May 11, the crew of the CSS Virginia burn the ship because it is too heavy to flee up the …
Emory Upton and the Shaping of the U.S. ArmyHow one soldier’s combat experiences and study of the world's great military powers led to a tactical revolution
‘John Brown’s Body’ – Stephen Vincent Benet and Civil War Memory'John Brown's Body' by Stephen Vincent Benet, published in 1928, remains a vibrant tapestry of America's diversity and its unity, its 15,000 lines re-imagining the Civil War as Lincoln understood it.
MHQ Reviews: Cain at GettysburgHistorynet Image MHQ Home Page Cain at Gettysburg By Ralph Peters. 432 pp. Forge, 2012. $25.99. Reviewed by Noah Andre Trudeau I confess to being a fan of Civil War fiction involving real battles. Over the years I’ve come to recognize three types. One alters some aspect of the engagement that changes the outcome, then …
Sherman’s Folly at ShilohBefore one of the Civil War’s most brutal battles, one of its finest generals ignored signs of danger—and paid a steep price
Union at ShilohA letter from Pvt. William Christie, 1st Minnesota Battery, to his father. Christie’s battery lost three men killed and six men wounded. I supposed you have heard of the great battle on the 6th and 7th of this month. You will be proud to know that we were in the front of the battle, and …
Confederates at ShilohOn April 6, 1862, following the first day of fighting, General Ulysses Grant ordered Union gunboats on the Tennessee River to fire broadsides all through the night, in an effort to unnerve the enemy. John S. Cockerill of the 70th Ohio, Buckland’s Brigade, recalled of that long, rainy night: “Wandering along the beach among the …
Book Review: Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road from Sand Creek, by Louis KraftWith this new biography Louis Kraft establishes himself as the authority on Indian wars figure Ned Wynkoop.
Letter from Wild West – April 2012Red Cloud often gets third billing—behind Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse—in the annals of Sioux history, but that is selling short his historic contributions, says R. Eli Paul, editor of the great chief's autobiography
Eyewitness Account: The Battle of ShilohUnion Lieutenant William M. Reid recounts the Battle of Shiloh. PLUS: Three other accounts of the battle.
Ron Maxwell Interview – ‘Gods and Generals’ Extended Director’s CutA HistoryNet exclusive interview with director Ron Maxwell about the extended director's cut of his film Gods and Generals, now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Wild West – February 2012 – Table of ContentsThe February 2012 issue of Wild West features stories about the Homestead Act of 1862, Prohibition cowboy Richard "Two-Gun" Hart, Arizona's and New Mexico's respective statehood centennials, the conflicting stories of a Fort Laramie hanging, and the Battle of the Hot Springs (Ark.) Gamblers.
In Time of War – 150 years agoJanuary 1 – The Lincoln administration releases Confederate emissaries James Mason and John Slidell from Fort Warren in Boston Harbor, ending the Trent Affair. The diplomats continued their voyage to Europe, on an unsuccessful mission to win support for the Confederacy from Britain and France. – Stonewall Jackson begins the Romney Campaign near Winchester, Va. …
Wild West – December 2011 – Table of ContentsThe December 2011 issue of Wild West features stories about the iconic photo of the infamous Fort Worth Five, the aftermath of Lt. Col. George Custer's 1868 victory over Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, Wounded Knee reporter Teresa Dean, the controversial 1886 death of black Mormon sheepherder Gobo Fango, and West Pointer turned white renegade Thomas Twiss.
Wild West Discussion – December 2011How do you rate the performance of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer at the November 27, 1868, Battle of the Washita (near present-day Cheyenne, Okla.), including the way he handled the loss of Major Joel Elliott and his small party of volunteers?
Wounds from the Washita: The Major Elliott AffairThe death of popular 7th U.S. Cavalry officer Major Joel Elliott at the 1868 Battle of the Washita—and Lt. Col. George Custer's response to it—spawned disunity within the ill-starred unit
Book Review: Historic Photos of Heroes of the Old West, by Mike Cox, and Historic Photos of Outlaws of the Old West, by Larry JohnsonMike Cox honors the heroes of the Old West and Larry Johnson the outlaws of the Old West in these two entries from Turner Publishing's Historic Photos series.
Unfinished Railroad Cut at Second ManassasA railroad to nowhere gave Confederates a tactical advantage at Second Manassas.
‘I Am Well and Hearty’ – Walt Whitman’s Brother in the Civil WarWalt Whitman has the reputation as a Civil War writer, but it was his younger brother, George Washington Whitman, who saw the war up close and personal as a member of Company K, 51st New York Volunteer Infantry.
Wild West – October 2011 – Letters from ReadersIn the October issue of Wild West, readers bend our ears about Baseball in the West.
The War List: Overrated Civil War OfficersHistorian Gary W. Gallagher picks Union and Confederate officers whose hype doesn't match reality.
Misrepresented ‘Monster’ Major Marcus RenoThe major is often badmouthed as the villain of the Little Bighorn, but eyewitnesses insisted Reno was no coward—and he was in fact exonerated "What do you do when you’re branded, and know you’re a man?’ That question comes up in the theme song of the 1965–66 NBC-TV Western Branded, starring Chuck Connors as Jason …
The Ultimate Political Action CommitteeA congressional war panel proves too many cooks can poison the pot By any standard, Ball’s Bluff was a fiasco. What began as a raid in October 1861 escalated into an unintended battle for Leesburg, Va. The Yankees so badly mismanaged the assault that the Union commander, Colonel Edward D. Baker, would almost certainly have …
What a difference a day makesConfederate soldiers under the command of Gen. Robert E. Lee camp on the outskirts of Hagerstown, Maryland, in September of 1862. Image courtesy of World History Group archive. War seemed far away to the editors of a Maryland weekly newspaper–until the Battle of Antietam rocked their world On September 17, 1862, a new edition of …
Who Was the Youngest Civil War GeneralTrivia buffs beware: Galusha Pennypacker’s claim to being the Civil War’s youngest general doesn’t hold up
Irvin McDowell’s Best Laid PlansThe orderly advance of Union troops at the start of the battle would become a distant memory in the hellish retreat that followed the fighting. Picture credit: Frank Leslie'sThe ‘unexpected’ Rebels he met at Bull Run weren’t unexpected at all In the early summer of 1861, few people North or South believed the Confederate David …
McClellan’s War-Winning StrategyThe "young Napoleon" had a viable plan to beat the Confederacy. What went wrong?
Union Cavalry Escapes from Besieged Harpers FerryIn September 1862 some 1,600 Union cavalrymen seemingly trapped at Harpers Ferry carried out one of the Civil War's most successful missions of stealth and deception.
Wild West – June 2011 – Table of ContentsThe June 2011 issue of Wild West features stories about Major Marcus Reno's role at the Little Bighorn, baseball in the West, jailbreak artist William "Idaho Bill" Sloan, Colorado huntress and taxidermist Martha Maxwell, and a low-down dirty shooting at Fort Worth's Palais Royal Saloon.
Baseball in the WestNew Yorker Alexander Cartwright brought the game to the frontier during the California Gold Rush, making it truly the national pastime.
Interview With Author John KosterNo survivors with George Armstrong Custer at the Little Bighorn in June 1876? John Koster, author of Custer Survivor, says otherwise.
Triumph at Kasserine PassHow the U.S. Army wrung victory from one of their worst defeats
Where is General George MeadeHow Union General George G. Meade became the Rodney Dangerfield of the Civil War
Walmart Withdraws from Wilderness BattlefieldPreservationists win Wilderness battle Rather than face what would likely have been an image-bruising court fight, Walmart has abandoned plans to build a retail supercenter on the doorstep of the Wilderness battlefield in central Virginia. “This project has been controversial, and consequently it’s been the subject of a lot of internal discussion and debate,” Walmart …
Stonewall Jackson at Harpers FerryJackson, Johnston and conflicting interests The fate of strategic Harpers Ferry hung on the leadership styles of two Southern commanders Confederate Battery at Harper's Ferry. Courtesy of the Harper's Ferry National Historic Park. Ten weeks before earning the sobriquet “Stonewall” on Henry Hill at the First Battle of Manassas, Thomas Jonathan Jackson was standing like …
Building the Army of the PotomacStephen Sears writes of how the Army of the Potomac's politically appointed generals and short-term volunteer troops nearly unhinged Lincoln’s plans in 1861 to win the Civil War.
Robert E. Lee Takes ChargeGeneral George McClellan thought he was timid. Newspapers called him ‘Granny Lee.’ But once in command, the General Robert E. Lee attacked quickly and boldly.
Last Chance for Peace: Fort Sumter at 150For months the Confederates trained dozens of guns on Fort Sumter. But no one seemed eager for war.
Ten Civil War ClassicsThe country’s bloodiest war has been captured in novels, memoirs, and battle narratives. Here are 10 classics
Black Jack John Logan Goes to WarUnlike most politicians, John Logan played a pivotal role on the battlefield.
Gideon Welles Blockades Charleston HarborThe one-way voyage of the Stone Fleet: An aging armada sets course to become an obstacle There may not have been a less impressive fleet in the entire history of the American Navy. The ships were old, long past their glory days, stripped of almost everything valuable and useful, permeated with the blood, oil and …
Union Spy in Confederate TerritoryUnion agent Pryce Lewis had his share of close calls
The Calamities of Calamity JaneLate in life Calamity Jane, the legendary frontierswoman, lived in a world of saloons, dance halls and brothels. Actually, it wasn't so different from her younger days.
Survivors Remember Shiloh7 Lives Altered by Shiloh: Two Fateful Days Can Make Reputations, Shatter Families, and Shape Destinies
Pre Civil War Peace ConferenceAs secession fever spreads through the South, political patriarchs try to avert war—-but at what price?
10 Battles That Shaped AmericaAmerica was born of war, and the following 10 battles helped forge the nation and forever change world history.
Gen. George McClellan at Second ManassasGeneral Disobedience: ‘Little Mac’ let John Pope twist in the wind;
With response from Prof. Ethan S. Rafuse
Was Secession LegalSoutherners insisted they could legally bolt from the Union. Northerners swore they could not. War would settle the matter for good. Over the centuries, various excuses have been employed for starting wars. Wars have been fought over land or honor. Wars have been fought over soccer (in the case of the conflict between Honduras and …
Civil War Times – October 2010 – Table of ContentsFeaturesThe Holiday's Are Coming Soon - Subscribe Today! ‘Until Every Negro Has Been Slaughtered’ Why did Rebels execute USCTs at Petersburg? By Kevin M. Levin Mad as a Hatter Crazy Boston Corbett shot down John Wilkes Booth By Eric Niderost Loose Cannon Charlie Smithgall’s remarkable artillery collection Cemetery Hill’s Forgotten Savior Union General John Buford’s …
The Last Waltz: Prelude to the Siege of VicksburgIn August 1863 astonished Vicksburg revelers watch a convoy of Federal gunboats successfully pass the town's batteries, thanks to the keen observations and ingenuity of Union admiral David Porter.
Bloody Field at Champion’s HillAfter three months of frustration, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in May 1863 succeeded in getting his army onto the east bank of the Mississippi River in the rear of the fortress city of Vicksburg. In a lightning campaign Grant’s army defeated Confederate detachments at Port Gibson on May 1, Raymond on May 12, and Jackson on May 14, neutralizing the Mississippi capital as a Confederate base for the relief of Vicksburg. Then he turned toward Vicksburg itself.
Wild West Discussion – October 2010George Custer and David Crockett each died dramatically in battle—exactly how remains open to debate—at the Little Bighorn and the Alamo, respectively. Those might be the two most memorable deaths in the West, but what other Western endings do you find the most curious, interesting, ironic or simply the best?
True Causes of the Civil WarIrreconcilable Differences Simmering animosities between North and South signaled an American apocalypse Any man who takes it upon himself to explain the causes of the Civil War deserves whatever grief comes his way, regardless of his good intentions. Having acknowledged that, let me also say I have long believed there is no more concise or …
Murder in the Civil WarGetting away with murder The battlefield claimed many a brave officer, but there were a few others who met not-quite-so-honorable ends The death toll among general officers during the Civil War was staggering. Because military necessity often placed a general officer at the head of the army, generals were killed leading hopeless charges (Lewis A. …
Lee’s Unwritten MemoirWhy didn’t Robert E. Lee write his memoirs?
Is General Stanley A. McChrystal more like General John Pope or George McClellan?MSNBC's Keith Olbermann compares President Obama's predicament with General McChrystal to Lincoln's decision about General John Pope.
Glen Swanson – Art of the WestGlen Swanson, sculptor and avid Custeriana collector, has created a sculpture of Custer as he appeared on the eve of his Last Stand on the Little Bighorn.
Letter from Wild West – August 2010Cheyenne Indians are often overlooked in the chronicles of the 19th century Indian wars, despite having engaged in almost as many fights as the heralded Sioux warriors.
‘The Roar and Rattle': McClellan’s Missed Opportunities at AntietamThe Battle of Antietam resulted in more pivotal changes, across a broader spectrum of events—military, political, diplomatic, societal—than any other battle of the war. Yet if evaluated in purely military terms, it was not decisive at all.
MHQ Summer 2010 Table of ContentsThe Summer 2010 issue of MHQ features articles about looted art throughout history, the bombing of Guernica, the Battle of Antietam, U.S Navy in the Korean War, the Emperor Julian, and the O'Brien brothers during the American War of Independence.
Wild West Discussion – June 2010How do you grade the Battle of the Little Bighorn performances of Lt. Col. George Custer, Major Marcus Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen on the following grading scale: A-plus (superhero), A (hero), B (almost a hero), C (half hero, half villain), D (mostly a villain), F (failure/supervillain/Lex Luthor of the 7th Cavalry)?
Interview with Author Mark Lee GardnerMark Lee Gardner, author, historian and general renaissance man of the West, has written a dual biography of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.
Emmitsburg Road Preservation CampaignCivil War Preservation Trust announces latest campaign Fundraising has begun for the preservation of a crucial two-acre parcel on the Gettysburg battlefield. The property, originally part of the historic Philip Snyder farm, lies along the Emmitsburg Road and is entirely surrounded by Gettysburg National Military Park. It has been a top land acquisition priority for …
Irvin McDowell: The Most Unpopular Man in AmericaTwo words came to define McDowell’s military prowess for the general’s most critical
superiors: ‘Bull’ and ‘Run’
Andrew Johnson ImpeachedBehind the scenes in the case of a president on trial.
Lincoln’s Political GeneralsLincoln’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 …
‘A White Man’s War’William T. Sherman’s adamant refusal to field African-American troops amounted to outright insubordination
Who kept U.S. Grant sober?John Rawlins used his brains and blue language to keep his boss in check.
Why Doesn’t Grant Get the Love?: December 2009/January 2010Ulysses S. Grant has occupied dramatically different positions in the American pantheon. His imposing stature between the end of the Civil War and the early years of the 20th century cannot be disputed.
Murder and Mayhem Ride the Rails – Union Soldiers Rampage in VirginiaSmoke and fire filled the skies south of Petersburg in December 1864 as the Army of the Potomac’s V Corps targeted the Weldon Railroad. During a raid along this vital supply line linking southeastern Virginia with North Carolina, liquor-fueled Federals went on a rampage in a corner of the Old Dominion that thus far had …
Digging deeply into the earthworks at PetersburgIn the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications & Confederate Defeat by Earl J. Hess University of North Carolina Press, 2009 New biographies that focus on Civil War–era figures inevitably face the dilemma of how to interpret race, politics and equality in light of our own changing attitudes. No Civil War figure can possibly live up …
Six Weeks in the Saddle with Brig. Gen. John BufordUnion Brigadier General John Buford's troopers kept their carbines warm harassing Robert E. Lee's army during the 1863 Gettysburg campaign.
Hanging Captain GordonNathaniel Gordon was the only American sent to the gallows for slave traiding.
Here’s evidence that Abraham Lincoln was as good as his wordsKaplan has done a service to Lincoln scholars and general readers alike by reconstructing Lincoln's self-education, and showing how the books he read and reread may have shaped his mind.
A not-so-prim dissection of the war from across the pondAmerica’s Civil War: The Operational Battlefield 1861-1863 by Brian Holden Reid Prometheus Books, 2008 One can read extensively in Civil War historiography and not once come across the word “puerile.” Yet Brian Holden Reid, professor of American history and military institutions at King’s College in London, uses it twice in 11 pages—an unmistakable sign that …
Interview with Author-Playwright Louis KraftAuthor/Playwright Louis Kraft turns his attention to Indian agent Ned Wynkoop, portraying him onstage.
The Cowboy Brigade’s Roosevelt Inaugural InvasionIn March 1905, Seth Bullock, onetime Deadwood sheriff, brought rough-and-ready Westerners to Washington, D.C., to ride in Teddy Roosevelt's inaugural parade.
Did Robert E. Lee Doom Himself at Gettysburg?By blindly relying on poor intelligence and saying far too little to his generals, Lee may have sealed the Rebels’ fate.
Medicine Bill Comstock – Saga of the Leatherstocking ScoutMedicine Bill Comstock, descendant of James Fenimore Cooper, brought his uncle's mythical Natty Bumppo to life on the Great Plains as a hunter, trapper and cultural go-between.
Interview with George Custer Expert James DonovanJames Donovan, author and George Custer expert, covers new ground in the story of the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn in his new book A Terrible Glory.
Key Third Winchester Site Saved: April/May 2009Third Winchester, the bloodiest battle to take place in the Shenandoah Valley, will likely draw more visitors than ever now that a larger portion of the battlefield is being preserved
Grant and Lee: MIA in New York: April/May 2009Visitors to the New-York Historical Society’s ongoing exhibit on Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee will likely be intrigued by the first artifacts they see: artwork created by the legendary commanders themselves long before they were famous.
Let the Chips Fall Where They Will: April/May 2009Historians interested in the Confederacy navigate in perilous interpretive waters.
Daily Quiz for March 16, 2009This Tammany Hall politician went through several scandals during his career including escorting a known prostitute, Fanny White, into the chambers of the New York state Assembly and taking her with h
Mothers of the Lost CauseAn army of determined Southern women buried the dead but kept
the mythic Confederate legacy of the Lost Cause alive
Fighting Dick and his Fighting MenOn a bleak hillside overlooking the battleground of Sailor’s Creek, General Robert E. Lee watched as hundreds of his men fled through the fields and wooded ravines below. “Men without guns, many without hats,” one witness recalled, “all mingled with teamsters riding their mules with dangling traces.” A relentless barrage of Union attacks on the …
Decision at The Battle of Five Forks – 1865The headstrong Gen. Philip Sheridan (left) had little patience for the careful battle tactics of Gen. Gouverneur Warren (right) and replaced him at Five Forks. But in 1880 Sheridan would be forced to justify his actions before a court of inquiry in New York. Photograph: Library of Congress Did Philip Sheridan forever tarnish a major …
Shiloh’s False HeroIn exchange for waving a white flag, Benjamin Prentiss
was hailed as the savior of the “Hornets’ Nest”
Letters from the Front – Correspondence Spanning Two Centuries of American WarCorrespondence from a two-century span of American wars, from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror. Several feature audio recordings, including Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., reading the letter he wrote home about his experiences as a POW in World War II.
Ox Hill Battlefield: Honoring Second Bull Run’s Bloody PostscriptThe Battle of Ox Hill or Chantilly, in Virginia, has been commemorated with a new battlefield park along Rt. 608. The Sept. 1, 1862, battle was fought in a rainstorm and resulted in the death of Union generals Philip Kearny and Isaac Stevens.
Daily Quiz for October 25, 2008As commander of the Army of the West during the Mexican War, he captured Santa Fe in August 1846 without a shot being fired.
Union General Daniel SicklesOn two separate battlefields, Union General Daniel Sickles carelessly exposed his men -- and the entire army -- to possible defeat. Only the quick actions of other Federal officers managed to compensate for Sickles' errors and keep his mistakes from becoming disasters. It was life as usual for 'Devil Dan.'
Victorio’s WarFor Apache chief Victorio, the decision to make war on the United States was a matter of rights and spirituality. Known as the "greatest Indian general" ever, he terrorized settlers and the army, surpassing Geronimo's feats and ferocity.
Ask MHQ – Did Confederate Generals Consider Attacking Washington?Did Confederate generals ever consider a direct attack on Washington during the Civil War? Noted author Steven A. Sears answers that question for a Military History Quarterly reader.
When Railroad Guns RuledFor 85 years, railroad guns were regarded as the ultimate weapon, large enough to do substantial damage but movable to wherever railroad tracks could go. Unparalleled bunker busters, they also terrorized civilians by firing on cities from afar.
Stumbling in Sherman’s PathStandard histories of Major General William T. Sherman’s celebrated March to the Sea invariably portray the Confederacy’s response as inconsequential. Such broad generalizations may assuage wounded Southern pride, but they also rewrite history.
The 9 Lives of General John Brown GordonIndestructible Confederate general John B. Gordon survived multiple wounds and serious illnesses during the Civil War. From First Manassas to Appomattox, he proved nothing could keep a good man down.
Daily Quiz for June 12, 2008This general commanded the Army of the Potomac in its disastrous assault on Lee`s positions at Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862.
Feeling the Past at GettysburgThe presence of the past can be felt at the Gettysburg battlefield, where so many Civil War soldiers laid down their lives.
Belva Lockwood: ‘I cannot vote, but can be voted for’Belva Lockwood was the first woman to become a candidate for the American presidency. Her 1884 campaign stimulated media attention and social controversy.
Reimaginining the SouthA Southerner learns the skeleton in her family closet wore a coat of Union blue.
‘A Stupid Old Useless Fool’William Nelson Pendleton was far more effective behind a pulpit than he was as Robert E. Lee's chief of artillery in the Army of Northern Virginia.
Table of Contents – March 2008 – America’s Civil WarSubscribe toAmerica’s Civil Warmagazine today! FEATURES My 15 Minutes Out of the AtticBy Robert Lee Hodge From the cover of Confederates in the Attic to a “Primetime Live” television feature, a reenactor discovered the fleeting nature of fame. The Magic of New Old PhotographsClaude Levet takes reenactors back 145 years by using wet-plate collodion photography, …
Coming Apart From the Inside: How Internal Strife Brought Down the ConfederacyPoliticians and generals on the Confederate side have long been lionized as noble warriors who heroically fought for an honorable cause that had little chance of succeeding. In reality, the Confederate leadership was rife with infighting.
Daily Quiz for November 4, 2007He said "I am not a Virginian, but an American."
The Union’s Bloody Miscue at Spotsylvania’s MuleshoeUlysses S. Grant's human battering ram assaults failed to break Robert E. Lee's position at the Muleshoe despite twenty hours of fighting at the Bloody Angle.
The Worst Battlefield Blunders: Five Battles That Ended BadlyBattlefield blunders can be as decisive as brilliant tactics. Five of the worst military blunders came at the battles of Gallipoli, Fredericksburg, Dien Bien Phu, Adwa, and Little Bighorn.
Sculpting a Scapegoat: Ambrose Burnside at AntietamA fresh examination of Major General Ambrose Burnside's actions at the Battle of Antietam suggests he was made into a scapegoat for others' failings.
Grenade!: The Little-Known Weapon of the Civil WarGrenades were used in the Civil War from Vicksburg to Petersburg, but they were often as dangerous to their users as to their targets.
Daily Quiz for August 15, 2007This general commanded the Army of the Potomac during the Battle of Chancellorsville:
Table of Contents – September 2007 – Civil War TimesSubscribe toCivil War Timesmagazine today! FEATURES The Fierce Pride of the Texas Brigade By Susannah U. Bruce Duty, honor and a fervent desire to preserve the storied reputation of the Lone Star State are what drove Robert E. Lee’s favorite shock troops. The Birth of Photojournalism By Kevin Morrow How pioneering Civil War cameramen such …
William J. Palmer: Forgotten Union General of America’s Civil WarWilliam J. Palmer raised the Anderson Troop, a mounted contingent of elite scouts, then recruited the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry before being sent on spying missions that landed him in a Richmond prison.
Unraveling the Myths of Burnside BridgeIt is clear that Union general Ambrose Burnside’s failures at Antietam cannot be written off to ineptness or petty insubordination, but what really did happen at "Burnside's Bridge?"
Table of Contents – September 2007 – America’s Civil WarSubscribe toAmerica’s Civil Warmagazine today! FEATURES America’s Bloodiest DayGeorge McClellan’s lucky find of Robert E. Lee’s Special Orders No. 191 led to a fight near Antietam Creek on what became the bloodiest day in American history—September 17, 1862. Battle of Antietam: Union Surgeons and Civilian Volunteers Help the WoundedBy John H. NelsonThousands of men were …
William T. Sherman’s First Campaign of DestructionBefore Gen. Willliam T. Sherman made Georgia howl, he burned a path through Mississippi, waging a war of destruction that left Southern civilians just enough for survival but not enough to support Confederate military activity.
Kit Carson’s Rescue RideThe Mexican War was over. The Santa Fe Trail, that 909-mile road of commerce which had become the pathway for military invasion, was once again bustling with trade caravans. The necessity of supplying the new American military outposts in New Mexico added to this traffic. The 1848 discovery of gold in California also led to …
Intelligence: The Secret War Within America’s Civil WarSpies, slaves, fake deserters, signal towers, and newspapers were all sources of intelligence Union and Confederate commanders used to peer into the enemy's plans.
Fighting and Dying for the Colors at GettysburgNearly two months after the battle of Gettysburg 24-year-old Isaac Dunsten of the 105th Pennsylvania Infantry lay on officers’ row at Camp Letterman, the large tent hospital established just east of the town. On July 2, 1863, the second day of the battle, a bullet had shattered the lieutenant’s right thigh. A splint was applied …
Load the Hopper and Turn the Crank: Rapid-Fire Guns of the Civil WarRapid-fire weapons like the Gatling gun and the Coffee Mill gun were Civil War novelties, technology that was ahead of its time.
Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig: World War I’s Worst GeneralVisiting the Somme battlefield in northern France is largely a matter of going from one Commonwealth Graves Commission cemetery to another. The graveyards are everywhere, some of them very small, comprising only a handful of white Portland marble stones, many bearing the inscription, A Soldier of the Great War / Known unto God. One sees …
American Indian Sharpshooters at the Battle of the CraterLieutenant Freeman S. Bowley was fighting for his life in the man-made hellhole that was the Petersburg Crater when he noticed that the former slaves in his company of the 30th United States Colored Troops were not the only men of color wearing Union blue and dodging Confederate Minié balls on the stifling hot morning …
John Singleton Mosby’s RevengeA ragged line of Union soldiers stood in a field along Goose Creek in Rectortown, Virginia, on November 6, 1864. They jostled, chatted and joked with each other, pleased to be outdoors on a brisk autumn day. As prisoners of war these 27 Yankees had been confined to a brick store building in the village, …
Survivor Frank Finkel’s Lasting StandMany men claimed to have been survivors of Custer's command at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but Frank Finkel was the genuine article.
Custer’s Last Stand Still Stands UpThe Battle of the Little Bighorn is like a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle on the south-central Montana landscape - the stuff of legend and historical gamesmanship.
Burning High Bridge: The South’s Last HopeIn the final week of the war in Virginia, small villages, crossroads and railroad depots previously untouched by the fighting took on enormous importance as Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant sought to bring General Robert E. Lee to bay and the Confederate chieftain struggled to escape a Federal encirclement. Among the most important of these …
Ulysses S. Grant: The ‘Unconditional Surrender ContinuesFor most general officers, a headline-making victory accompanied by the abject surrender of an entire enemy army, such as Ulysses “Unconditional Surrender” Grant accomplished at Fort Donelson in February 1862, would have been quite enough for one career. But Grant would make the most of two more opportunities for practicing the “art of surrender,” starting …
Letters From Readers — February 2007 Civil War Times MagazineLongstreet vs. JacksonJeffry Wert’s cover story “Lee’s Best Subordinate” in the August 2006 issue is in my opinion wrong. James Longstreet was not Lee’s best general. Longstreet was a failure when given independent command. His conduct at the Battle of Seven Pines, in which he was in charge of 30,000 troops and provided the primary …
Letters from Readers — January 2007 America’s Civil WarFiring the First Shot Regarding the July issue, I especially liked Dana Shoaf’s editorial about the Wisler house and J.D. Petruzzi’s fine article on the first shot at Gettysburg. Like countless others, I’ve risked life and limb to climb the steep little road berm to pay my respects to the 8th Illinois marker. I couldn’t …
Ulysses S. Grant: The Myth of ‘Unconditional Surrender Begins at Fort DonelsonIn January 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met in secret near Casablanca, Morocco, for their second wartime summit meeting. At the final press conference on January 24, Roosevelt announced to the world that the Allies would not stop until they had the “unconditional surrender” of Germany, Italy and Japan. It was an impulsive …
General Bragg’s Impossible Dream: Take KentuckyThe 1862 invasion of Kentucky had great promise, but disappointing results.
By Frank van der Linden
Battle of Cold Harbor: The Folly and HorrorThe blame for a broad command failure that led to 7,000 unnecessary Union casualties in a single hour applies to more than just the commander in chief.
By Robert N. Thompson
Letter from November 2006 America’s Civil War Magazine“Tin can on a shingle,” some Union soldiers would say upon seeing Monitor; “Cheesebox on a raft,” quipped other Yankees. Both are fine descriptions with a homespun American flavor and culinary twist that work well and conjure up an apt image for John Ericsson’s vessel. But boxes and tin cans were far too rustic references …
America’s Civil War: Why the Irish Fought for the UnionThe Irish experience in the Civil War has probably received more attention — and celebration — than that of any other ethnic group. Mention of the Irish commonly conjures up images of the Irish Brigade’s doomed charge at Fredericksburg, of Father William Corby granting absolution before Gettysburg, or possibly the mourning wolfhound at the base …
Battle of Gettysburg: General George Sears Greene at Culp’s HillGeneral George Sears Greene led way on Culp's Hill on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.