McDowell: Good Man Born To Bad Luck (The Baltimore Sun)

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McDowell: Good Man Born To Bad Luck (The Baltimore Sun)

  1. 1. McDowell: good man 'born to bad luck' - Baltimore Sun Page 1 of 1 Advertisement You are here: Sun Home → Collections → Civil War FIND MORE STORIES ABOUT McDowell: good man 'born to bad luck' Profile: The Union commander at Bull Run was a well-studied tactician with little battlefield experience Civil War First Bull Run/ Manassas FEATURED ARTICLES August 01, 1999 | By Jacqueline Durett | Jacqueline Durett,Special to the Sun A top general commanded at 1st Union commander Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell achieved quite a bit of notoriety during the Civil War -- but his fame Manassas came from a trail of bad luck and rumors that began when he lost the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. August 2, 2001 Amid a Union rush to find army leaders after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, Maj. Irvin McDowell, 42, was Beauregard takes war's center stage appointed brigadier general May 14, 1861. He had been held in high esteem by both President Abraham Lincoln and August 1, 1999 Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott. the Army's commanding officer. McDowell initiates a well-planned McDowell, who was born Oct. 15, 1818, in Columbus, Ohio, was raised and educated in France, where he received battle military training. He came back to the United States to attend West Point, graduating in 1838. July 29, 2001 Advertisement "He had been a well-studied tactician," affirmed Jim Burgess, museum technician at the Manassas National Battlefield Park in Manassas, Va. With Wool in Mexico From 1841 to 1845, McDowell was an instructor at West Point, teaching tactics to many men who would later be his foes on the Civil War's battlefields. He then served on Brig. Gen. John E. Wool's staff during the Mexican War and received a temporary, or brevet, promotion to captain for gallantry at Buena Vista. During the interwar years he was in the adjutant general's department. But McDowell's rise in the Civil War came not only from his ability, but from his association with Scott, who had known him since his graduation from West Point. McDowell had been serving in Washington with Scott at the time of his appointment. "General Scott had an effect on McDowell's promotion to brigadier general," said Don Wilson of the Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center at the Central Community Library in Manassas. "They seemed to have had a close relationship." McDowell was not perceived as the most polished of gentlemen, despite his impressive physical stature. A young officer of engineers did not describe him in a positive light after having had dinner with him; he said McDowell was "fully six feet tall, deep chested, strong limbed, clear-eyed, and in every respect a fine and impressive soldier, but at dinner he was such a Gargantuan feeder and so absorbed in the dishes before him that he had but little time for conversation." Those who had fostered McDowell's military advancement noted this strong physical nature and personality, and projected success for him in the war. He is described by Brevet Maj. Gen. James B. Fry, who at Bull Run served as captain and adjutant general on McDowell's staff, as possessing "great physical powers -- full of energy and patriotism [and] outspoken in his opinions -- he was chosen for advancement on account of his record, his ability, and his vigor." 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Next Index by Keyword | Index by Date | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1999-08-01/news/9908100446_1_irvin-mcdowell-civil-war-bull 3/26/2010
  2. 2. McDowell: good man 'born to bad luck' - Baltimore Sun - Page 2 Page 1 of 1 Advertisement You are here: Sun Home → Collections → Civil War FIND MORE STORIES ABOUT McDowell: good man 'born to bad luck' Profile: The Union commander at Bull Run was a well-studied tactician with little battlefield experience Civil War First Bull Run/ Manassas FEATURED ARTICLES August 01, 1999 | By Jacqueline Durett | Jacqueline Durett,Special to the Sun (Page 2 of 4) A top general commanded at 1st Manassas Historian Bruce Catton, though, writes that McDowell's early career in the war wasn't as easy as it sounds: "[Maj. August 2, 2001 Gen. John] Pope made McDowell his first lieutenant and leaned on him heavily, but cursed him behind his back." Beauregard takes war's center stage McDowell's Civil War-era ranking rises and falls, reaching its peak at Bull Run, where he commanded all Union August 1, 1999 armies south of the Potomac. His assignment at the onset of the war was modest; he had been a major since 1856. McDowell initiates a well-planned battle Heading for Bull Run July 29, 2001 Advertisement But on May 14, 1861, McDowell was promoted to brigadier general and given the responsibility for commanding all Union troops south of the Potomac, despite the fact that in 23 years of service he had never commanded units of any size on the battlefield, Wilson said. He was subsequently given his first order, which became the Battle of Bull Run. Adding to the strain on McDowell, preparations were rushed because men enlisted on three-month terms were about to be discharged. The force that McDowell would engage in battle was based at Manassas, the part of the "Alexandria line" where the Orange and Alexandria Railroad met the Manassas Gap Railroad. Bull Run, three miles north of Manassas, was the line of defense. In preparation for the battle, McDowell commanded 5,000 fewer troops than the 40,000 he had hoped to have. Burgess said, "It was the first time an army of that size had been commanded in the region." McDowell had a plan of action centered on the Bull Run stream and an attack on Confederate Brig. Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard's flank. He was supposed to carry out his plan on July 8. But because of what Fry calls "government machinery [that] worked slowly and jealously," the rest of the troops did not get to him until July 16. For the battle he commanded five divisions. McDowell was hopeful. 'Born to bad luck' According to author Herman Hattaway, he invited newspaper correspondents to accompany the army. In addition, Hattaway wrote, "Large numbers of other citizens and assorted dignitaries also helped themselves to what they considered an open invitation." But, as Burgess said, "McDowell was the sort of unfortunate person to be the wrong person in the right place." Catton agrees, writing, "McDowell, a good man and a capable general, was one of those soldiers born to bad luck." This negative assessment comes from the fact that the Confederates were able to drive back McDowell's advance, leaving Union forces, in Fry's words "greatly depressed." Prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Next Index by Keyword | Index by Date | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1999-08-01/news/9908100446_1_irvin-mcdowell-civil-war-bull/2 3/26/2010
  3. 3. McDowell: good man 'born to bad luck' - Baltimore Sun - Page 3 Page 1 of 1 Advertisement You are here: Sun Home → Collections FEATURED ARTICLES McDowell: good man 'born to bad luck' Profile: The Union commander at Bull Run was a well-studied tactician with little battlefield experience A top general commanded at 1st Manassas First Bull Run/ Manassas August 2, 2001 August 01, 1999 | By Jacqueline Durett | Jacqueline Durett,Special to the Sun Beauregard takes war's center stage August 1, 1999 (Page 3 of 4) McDowell initiates a well-planned Hattaway wrote that "the ill-functioning federal army awkwardly used 2 1/2 days to march some 20 miles." battle The federal army met even more trouble when Confederate Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's troops in the lower July 29, 2001 Shenandoah Valley reinforced Beauregard at Bull Run. There were more Confederates than McDowell's men could handle. Meanwhile, McDowell received no help from Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson, who failed in his assignment to prevent Johnston's forces from leaving the Shenandoah Valley. According to Fry, "Admitting that he might have done more to detain Johnston, bad strategy was probably more to blame for the result than any action or lack of action on Patterson's part." Advertisement During July 19 and 20, McDowell examined the Confederate position on the eastern flank where he had initially proposed to attack and decided that an attack wasn't feasible there. While McDowell was engaged in his reconnaissance, one of his division commanders exceeded his orders and got into a losing battle at Blackburn's Ford on the eastern flank of the Confederate line. On July 21, McDowell received word that a brigade had left Winchester, Va., on July 18 to attack his men. When McDowell received the dispatch, he was already fighting those very men. More chaos ensued when McDowell and his men were visited by official and unofficial visitors bringing random supplies to troops with no regard for the dangerous situation of the battlefield. Despite the confusion, McDowell formulated a new plan of attack. He tuned to an attack on the western flank where he intended "if possible, destroy the railroad leading from Manassas to the Valley of Virginia, where the enemy has a large force." But this plan ultimately failed when Brig. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and the rest of the Confederate troops from the Shenandoah Valley arrived on the western flank. Wilson thinks that McDowell may have deferred too many times to the will of his subordinates, mostly because of his inexperience. Still, Wilson points out, the Dictionary of American Biography maintained that McDowell, despite his misteps, "came within inches of success." About the end of Bull Run, Fry wrote, "McDowell accepted the situation [and] the army, a disorganized mass, with some creditable exceptions, drifted as the men pleased away from the scene of action." Prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Next Index by Keyword | Index by Date | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1999-08-01/news/9908100446_1_irvin-mcdowell-civil-war-bull/3 3/26/2010
  4. 4. McDowell: good man 'born to bad luck' - Baltimore Sun - Page 2 Page 1 of 1 Advertisement You are here: Sun Home → Collections → Civil War FIND MORE STORIES ABOUT McDowell: good man 'born to bad luck' Profile: The Union commander at Bull Run was a well-studied tactician with little battlefield experience Civil War First Bull Run/ Manassas FEATURED ARTICLES August 01, 1999 | By Jacqueline Durett | Jacqueline Durett,Special to the Sun (Page 2 of 4) A top general commanded at 1st Manassas Historian Bruce Catton, though, writes that McDowell's early career in the war wasn't as easy as it sounds: "[Maj. August 2, 2001 Gen. John] Pope made McDowell his first lieutenant and leaned on him heavily, but cursed him behind his back." Beauregard takes war's center stage McDowell's Civil War-era ranking rises and falls, reaching its peak at Bull Run, where he commanded all Union August 1, 1999 armies south of the Potomac. His assignment at the onset of the war was modest; he had been a major since 1856. McDowell initiates a well-planned battle Heading for Bull Run July 29, 2001 Advertisement But on May 14, 1861, McDowell was promoted to brigadier general and given the responsibility for commanding all Union troops south of the Potomac, despite the fact that in 23 years of service he had never commanded units of any size on the battlefield, Wilson said. He was subsequently given his first order, which became the Battle of Bull Run. Adding to the strain on McDowell, preparations were rushed because men enlisted on three-month terms were about to be discharged. The force that McDowell would engage in battle was based at Manassas, the part of the "Alexandria line" where the Orange and Alexandria Railroad met the Manassas Gap Railroad. Bull Run, three miles north of Manassas, was the line of defense. In preparation for the battle, McDowell commanded 5,000 fewer troops than the 40,000 he had hoped to have. Burgess said, "It was the first time an army of that size had been commanded in the region." McDowell had a plan of action centered on the Bull Run stream and an attack on Confederate Brig. Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard's flank. He was supposed to carry out his plan on July 8. But because of what Fry calls "government machinery [that] worked slowly and jealously," the rest of the troops did not get to him until July 16. For the battle he commanded five divisions. McDowell was hopeful. 'Born to bad luck' According to author Herman Hattaway, he invited newspaper correspondents to accompany the army. In addition, Hattaway wrote, "Large numbers of other citizens and assorted dignitaries also helped themselves to what they considered an open invitation." But, as Burgess said, "McDowell was the sort of unfortunate person to be the wrong person in the right place." Catton agrees, writing, "McDowell, a good man and a capable general, was one of those soldiers born to bad luck." This negative assessment comes from the fact that the Confederates were able to drive back McDowell's advance, leaving Union forces, in Fry's words "greatly depressed." Prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Next Index by Keyword | Index by Date | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1999-08-01/news/9908100446_1_irvin-mcdowell-civil-war-bull/2 3/26/2010

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