previous next


The armies of the United States in the Civil War

By the provisions of the Constitution, the President of the United States is commanderin-chief of the army and navy. During the Civil War, this function was exercised in no small degree by President Lincoln. As Secretaries of War, he had in his cabinet Simon Cameron, from March 4, 1861, to January 14, 1862; and Edward M. Stanton, who served from January 15, 1862, throughout Lincoln's administration, and also under Johnson until May 28, 1868, except for a short interval during which he was suspended. There were four generals-in-chief of the armies: Brevet Lieutenant-General Scott, Major-Generals McClellan and Halleck, and Lieutenant-General Grant. The last named has been considered in previous pages of this volume, but the lives and services of the other three are summarized below, in addition to the treatment received in other volumes. (consult Index.) This is true of all the army leaders not separately described in the pages that follow. The Index will refer to treatment in other volumes.

Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott

was born near Petersburg, Virginia, June 13, 1786. After being graduated from William and Mary College, he studied law, was admitted to the bar, and then entered the army at the age of twenty-two. His career was one of bravery and incident. He was captured by the British, but exchanged in 1813, fought in the battle of Lundy's Lane, and was severely wounded. After the close of the war he was raised to the rank of major-general, and in 1841 succeeded General Macomb as commander of the United States army. In the war with Mexico, he won great fame and was nominated by the Whigs for President in 1852; but he carried only four States. In 1855, Congress revived the rank of lieutenant-general and conferred it by brevet upon Scott, the appointment being dated March 29, 1847, the day of his brilliant capture of Vera Cruz. It was evident that his age and infirmities would prevent his taking any active part in the Civil War, and on November 1, 1861, he was retired from the chief command of the army of the United States. He wrote an autobiography, and made a European trip in 1864, dying May 29, 1866, at West Point, New York.

Major-General Henry Wager Halleck

(U. S.M. A. 1839) was born in Westernville, New York, January 16, 1815. He served in California and on the Pacific coast during the Mexican War. He retired from the army with the rank of captain in 1854 to practise law, but after the outbreak of the Civil War reentered the regular service, with the grade of major-general. He was in command of the Department of Missouri (afterward Department of Mississippi) from November 19, 1861, to July 11, 1862, when he became general-in-chief of all the armies. Grant succeeded him, March 9, 1864, and Halleck was his chief-of-staff until the close of the war. He continued in the army as head, successively, of the Military Division of the James, the Department of the Pacific, and Department of the South until his death at Louisville, Kentucky, January 9, 1872.

Major-General George Brinton McClellan

(U. S.M. A. 1846) was born in Philadelphia, December 3, 1826. He served in the Engineer Corps during the Mexican War, distinguished himself by gallant service, and reached the rank of captain in 1855, having been so brevetted in 1847. He became assistant instructor in practical engineering at West Point, later accompanied the Red River exploring expedition, and was sent on a secret mission to Santo Domingo. During the Crimean War, he was one of a commission of three appointed by Congress to study and report upon the whole art of European warfare. He remained some time with the British forces. McClellan's report was a model of comprehensive accuracy and conciseness, and showed him to be a master of siege-tactics. In 1857, McClellan resigned his army commission to devote himself to the practice of engineering. He became vice-president of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, and later president of the Eastern Division of the Ohio and Missouri Railroad. He made his home in Cincinnati until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he tendered his services to his country and was made major-general of volunteers, April 21, 1861. The Department of the Ohio was constituted, and McClellan took command, May 13th, his appointment as major-general dating from the following day. He drove the Confederates from northwestern Virginia and saved that section to the Union, an accomplishment of the most vital importance, since, in the event of the establishment of the Confederacy, the Union territory would have been contracted at

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: