Hooker’s Corps Commanders (Part II)

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series The Chancellorsville Campaign
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When Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker took command of the Army of the Potomac he changed some of his corps commanders to reflect his personal bias. Several either resigned or were reassigned. In their place, he promoted a number of division commanders to the corps command level.

General John SedgwickMaj. Gen. John Sedgwick was a division commander who had commanded first the II Corps, then the IX Corps and finally, the VI Corps of the army. His troops affectionately called him “Uncle John”.

Sedgwick was yet another West Pointer, having graduated in 1837. During the years leading up to the outbreak of the war, he fought in the Seminole Wars, the Mexican War  the Utah War against the Mormons and various Indian Wars. At the start of the Civil War, Sedgwick was serving as a colonel and Assistant Inspector General of the Military Department of Washington.

He missed the early fighting due to the outbreak of a cholera epidemic. Promoted to brigadier general on August 31, 1861, he commanded a brigade in the Army of the Potomac, then his own division, which was designated the 2nd division of the II Corps for the Peninsula Campaign. In Virginia, he fought at Yorktown and Seven Pines and was wounded in the arm and leg at the Battle of Glendale. He was promoted to major general on July 4, 1862.

At the Battle of AntietamII Corps commander Maj. Gen. Edwin V. Sumner impulsively sent Sedgwick’s division in a mass assault without proper reconnaissance. His division was engaged by Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson from three sides, resulting in 2,200 casualties. Sedgwick himself was hit by three bullets, in the wrist, leg, and shoulder, and was out of action until after the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard was the young 32-year old commander of the XI Corps. General Oliver O. HowardHoward had graduated from West Point in 1854 after first graduating from Bowdoin College at the age of 19. His only antebellum service was in Florida during the Seminole Wars.

At the outbreak of the war, he commanded the 3rd Maine Infantry regiment and at First Manassas he was in temporary command of a brigade. After the Union defeat, he was promoted to brigadier general and given permanent command of a brigade.

On June 1, 1862, while commanding a Union brigade in the Fair Oaks, Howard was wounded twice in his right arm, which was subsequently amputated. He received the Medal of Honor in 1893 for his heroism at Fair Oaks. Returning to duty for the Battle of Antietam, he led a division.

In November 1862, Howard was promoted to major general and in April 1863 he was given command of the XI Corps, replacing Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel. The corps was composed largely of German immigrants, many of whom spoke no English, the soldiers were resentful of their new leader and openly called for Sigel’s reinstatement.

General Henry W. SlocumThe Union XII Corps was commanded by Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum. The 35-year old New Yorker was a 1848 graduate of West Point. Slocum only active fighting, like Howard’s, was during the Seminole Wars. In fact, by 1856 he was out of the army and was admitted to the New York State bar in 1858.

At the start of the war, Slocum was appointed colonel of the 27th New York Infantry which he led at First Manassas where he was wounded. In August 1861, he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers and commanded a brigade during the Peninsula Campaign and a division at the Seven Days Battles, distinguishing himself at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill.

On July 25, 1862, Slocum was appointed major general of volunteer, the second youngest man in the Army to achieve that rank. He led his division  covering the retreat of Maj. Gen. John Pope after the Second Battle of Bull Run.

At Crampton’s Gap during the Battle of South Mountain, he and his subordinate officers overrode their indecisive corps commander, Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin, assaulting the enemy line behind a stone wall and routing it.

On October 20, 1862, he assumed command of the XII Corps after its commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph K. Mansfield, was killed at the Battle of Antietam, a battle where Slocum’s division was kept in reserve. He led the corps in the Battle of Fredericksburg, where he fortunately arrived too late on the scene to see any real action in that Union catastrophe.

We have already met Maj. Gen. George Stoneman who commanded the Union Cavalry General George StonemanCorps. Stoneman was an 1846 graduate of West Point who was initially a dragoon. Mostly, he saw service in the West before the outbreak of the war.

At the start of the war, Stoneman was stationed in Texas where he refused to surrender to Confederate authorities there. He escaped to the North with most of his command. Stoneman served in cavalry from the beginning of the war but Maj. Gen. George McClellan had little appreciation for the use of cavalry in large formations, relegating it to assignment in small units to infantry brigades.

After the Peninsula, Stoneman was an infantry commander, commanding a division in the II Corps and the III Corps. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Stoneman commanded the III Corps. He was promoted to major general of volunteers on November 29, 1862.

Following Fredericksburg, a new commanding general took over the Army of the Potomac: Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker. Hooker had a better understanding of the strategic value of a centralized Cavalry Corps and he named Stoneman to lead it. The centralized corps could undertake long raids into enemy territory, destroying supplies, and gathering intelligence about the enemy forces. They were no longer subject to the commanders of small infantry units.

 

 

 

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