The Armies Of The United States In The Civil War
By the provisions of the Constitution, the President of the United States is commander-in-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 described in other portions of this website, but the lives and services of the other three are summarized below, in addition to the treatment received on other pages of the website.
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 I 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 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 practice 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 this point into a neck but little more than one hundred miles in width. After this success, McClellan was placed, July 25, 1861, at the head of the newly created District (afterward Department) of the Potomac, and began the organization and training of the army of that name. From November 5, 1861 to March 11th of the following year, he was general-in-chief of the armies of the United States, and after the latter date continued in command of the Army of the Potomac until November 9, 1862, when he was replaced by Major-General A. E. Burnside. He took no further part in the war. His removal was due to dissatisfaction with his methods that gradually developed among President Lincoln and his advisers. The failure of the army to capture Richmond in the Peninsula campaign, and the non-pursuit of Lee immediately after Antietam were the chief reasons. As the nominee of the Democratic party, he was defeated for the presidency in 1864, and his resignation s accepted on November 8th. He now spent several years abroad, returning to live in New Jersey, of which State he became governor in 1877. Aside from his military abilities, McClellan was a man of fine tastes in literature and art, and also took an active interest in promoting the manufacturing industries of the State. He wrote his autobiography, and several works of a military nature. His death occurred October 29, 1885, at Orange.
The following links are to pages that briefly describe the various armies of the United States with a short biography of the major players in each army.
Army of the Potomac
Army of the Tennessee
Army of the Ohio and Army of the Cumberland
Army of the Ohio
Army of the Mississippi
Army of Virginia
Army of the Southwest
Army of West Virginia
Department of Virginia and North Carolina, Army of the James
Army and Department of the Gulf
Army of Georgia
Army of the Shenandoah
Army of the Frontier
Army of the Mountain Department
Source: "Photographic History of the Civil War"
This Page last updated 12/30/05
Union Corps Information from Fox's Regimental losses provide data on the various corps