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Army of the Potomac

        By the consolidation of the Department of Washington and the Department of Northeastern Virginia, July 25, 1861, the Military District of the Potomac was constituted and placed under command of Major-General George B. McClellan. On August 15, 1861, the Department, or Army of the Potomac was created from it, and as such it was known thereafter. Major-General McClellan assumed command of this army August 20, 1861. As then constituted, it was organized in fourteen brigades composed largely of the troops (regular army and volunteer) of the Department of Northeastern Virginia, under Brigadier-General Irvin McDowell, and new organizations. Most of these brigades had artillery and some of them cavalry. McClellan immediately applied his military knowledge to remodeling the army, and in October a new organization was announced. The division was now the unit, and there were fourteen, including one stationed at Baltimore. There were also one provisional brigade, a provost-guard, a cavalry command, and a cavalry reserve. During the winter of 1861-62, the Army of the Potomac was thoroughly drilled. A new organization was announced in March, 1862, and this the army retained, except while Burnside created the grand division, until it was discontinued, June 28, 1865. The corps were the units, and their number varied from time to time. There were also the provost-guard, the guard for general headquarters, a full artillery, and cavalry reserve. A cavalry division was formed in July, 1862, and reorganized as a cavalry corps in February, 1863. The successive commanders of the Potomac were :
        Major-General George B. McClellan to November 9, 1862; Major-General A. E. Burnside to January 26, 1863; Major-General Joseph Hooker to June 28, 1863, being succeeded by Major-General George G. Meade, who remained at its head until it was discontinued, June 28, 1865, except for a short interval in January, 1865, when Major-General John G. Parke was in temporary command.
        Major-General Ambrose Everett Burnside (U.S.M.A.1847) was born in Liberty, Indiana, May 23, 1824. He served in the artillery with the rank of , resigned his commission, in 1853, to take up the manufacture of a breech-loading rifle which he had invented. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was an officer of the Illinois Central Railroad Company. For gallant service at Bull Run he was made brigadier-general of volunteers, and in March, 1862, major-general of volunteers. He organized an expeditionary corps in December, 186.1, and this was merged in the Department of North Carolina, of which Burnside was the head from January to July, 1862. He captured Roanoke Island and occupied New Berne. From these troops and others was organized, July 22, 1862, the Ninth Corps, with Burnside at its head. He served under McClellan at South Mountain, and at Antietam, where he commanded the left wing, and succeeded him in the command of the Army of the Potomac. Later, Major-General Burnside was assigned to command of the Department of the Ohio. Burn-side and the Ninth Corps were with Grant in the Virginia campaign of 1864. Major-General Burnside resigned his commission at the close of the war and resumed his career as a railroad projector and manager. He was governor of Rhode Island from 1866 to 1869, and senator from 1875 until his death, which occurred September 3, 1881, at Bristol, Rhode Island.
        Major-General Joseph Hooker (U.S.M.A.1837) was born in Hadley, Massachusetts, November 13, 1814. He entered the artillery and was brevetted lieutenant-colonel for distinguished Mexican War. He resigned his commission in 1853. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was living in California as a farmer and civil engineer. He tendered his services to the Government and was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers. In March, 1862, he was made a division commander in the Army of the Potomac, with a promotion to major-general of volunteers in May. An appointment as brigadier-general of the regular army followed the battle of Antietam, in which he was wounded. In September, 1862 he rose to corps commander, and was at the head of the Center Grand Division in Burn-side's organization. He was commander of the Army of the Potomac from January 26, 1863, to June 28th. Later, he exhibited great gallantry as corps commander at Lookout Mountain, and in the Atlanta campaign. On October 1, 1864, he was placed at the head of the Northern Department, and served at the head of other departments until he was retired, as the result of a paralytic stroke, with full rank of major-general, in October, 1868. His death occurred at Garden City, New York, October 31, 1879.
        Major-General George Gordon Meade (U.S.M.A.1835) was born in Cadiz, Spain, December 31, 1815, while his father was American naval agent at that city. He saw service in the Seminole War, and then resigned in 1836 to take up the practice of civil engineering. He reentered the army and served with the Topographical Engineer Corps during the Mexican War. He was afterward employed on river and harbor improvements, lighthouse construction, and the survey of the Great Lakes, until the Civil War broke out, when he was commissioned brigadier-general of volunteers and put in command of a brigade in the Pennsylvania Reserve in the Army of the Potomac. Later, he commanded the First and Fifth corps and was made general commanding of the army, June 28, 1863. He was in chief command at Gettysburg. On August 18, 1864, he received a commission as major-general in the regular army, and served therein until his death, in Philadelphia, November 6, 1872.
Source: "Photographic History of the Civil War"

This Page last updated 03/21/04


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