Reading American Civil War High Command

Reading the Day-by-Day Chronology

This Chronology has been compiled primarily to support a study of the evolution of higher military organisations and commanders of the American Civil War. 

The Chronology records changes in each major military organisation, and changes of commanders in the context of the wider events of the war.

It also lists the promotions and other important changes of status involving General Officers of the Confederate and Union armies.

The Timeline begins in detail on 1 January 1861 and ends on 31 August 1865, with brief summaries added for the end of 1860 and from September to December 1865.

Every day of the American Civil War is individually listed, to the following format.

The first line lists the Month, Date, Year and Day:

May 3 1862 Saturday

Then, significant Battles, Events, and Incidents of the day are listed:

Yorktown, VA

Ongoing Major Campaigns are listed next:

Peninsula Campaign – Siege of Yorktown
Corinth Campaign
Confederate Evacuation of New Mexico

Then, Events are described by Location, in this order:

Events or actions in overseas or maritime locations
Events or actions in the USA not specific to a state or territory
Events or actions in the CSA not specific to a state or territory
Events or actions in US and CS states or territories in alphabetical order

For example,

Arkansas. Incident at Batesville.
Georgia. Incidents at Lookout Creek and Watkins Ferry.
Virginia. Martial law was declared in southwestern Virginia.
Virginia. Confederate General Joseph Eggleston Johnston ordered Major-General John Bankhead Magruder to abandon the defences of Yorktown and to fall back towards new defences being built around Richmond… etc.

Note: The term “incident” is used as a very broad term to refer to a range of events; it does not necessarily indicate or imply a military clash of arms. It may refer to a departure, arrival, encounter, occupation, reconnaissance, political or civil incident, or other event or noted circumstance. “Incidents”, especially if they are military engagements, may be described in more detail within the longer text that follows, but more frequently they are not elaborated further. They can be considered of minor importance to the general conduct of the war, albeit of local interest. The same incident may be mentioned more than once under different names or variant spellings of names, or by both a local and by a more general name. Expeditions and Reconnaissances may be described by their destination, or their departure point or by waymarks – or even all three – and might be duplicated within a state or across more than one state.

Then, there may follow a more detailed account of battles, raids, operations, expeditions, reconnaissances, etc. These longer passages may include major strategic or political events and decisions, changes in military organisations, planning and decisions, and important interactions between or involving individuals. Wherever possible, the Union or Confederate allegiance of individuals, and their full name is noted the first time they are mentioned on a particular day. Subsequently, they would typically only be mentioned by surname on the same day

Events and incidents outside the specific area and scope of the Civil War (e.g. military operations against Native Americans and naval operations) are included in many cases to reflect the wider context of events across the continent.

Then, Changes in Military Organisation for the Union, with the biographies of commanders:

For example,

USA: Brigadier-General James Gilpatrick Blunt arrived to command the Department of Kansas.

Blunt, James Gilpatrick / Maine / Born 21 July 1826 Trenton, Maine / Died Washington, District of Columbia 27 July 1881
Colonel Kansas Militia 1856 / Private Kansas Infantry / Lieutenant-Colonel 3rd Kansas Infantry July 1861 / Brigadier-General USV 14 April 1862 to rank from 8 April 1862 / Major-General USV 16 March 1863 to rank from 29 November 1862 / Mustered Out USV 29 July 1865
Department of Kansas 2 May 1862-19 September 1862 / Army of Kansas 16 August 1862-19 September 1862 / Kansas Division Army of the Border 19 September 1862-12 October 1862 / 1st Division Army of the Frontier 12 October 1862-20 November 1862 / District of Kansas 2 November 1862-9 June 1863 / Army of the Frontier 20 November 1862-29 December 1862 / District of the Frontier 9 June 1863-6 January 1864 / District of the Frontier Arkansas 6 January 1864-22 February 1864 / District of the Frontier 23 February 1864-17 April 1864 / District of the Upper Arkansas 2 August 1864-14 October 1864 / District of South Kansas 10 October 1864-31 October 1864 / 1st Division Army of the Border 14 October 1864-8 November 1864 / District of South Kansas 22 November 1864-3 June 1865

Then, Changes in Military Personnel at General and equivalent grades, with an indented summary biography, for the Union:

USA: William Tecumseh Sherman promoted Major-General USV 3 May 1862 to rank from 1 May 1862

Sherman, William Tecumseh / Ohio / Born 8 February 1820 Lancaster, Ohio / Died New York, New York 14 February 1891
USMA 1 July 1840 6/42 Artillery / Cadet USMA 1 July 1836 / 2nd Lieutenant USA 3rd US Artillery 1 July 1840 / 1st Lieutenant USA 30 November 1841 / Captain USA Assistant Commissary of Subsistence 27 September 1850 / Resigned USA 6 September 1853 / Major-General California Militia 1856-1857 / Colonel USA 13th US Infantry 14 May 1861 / Brigadier-General USV 3 August 1861 to rank from 17 May 1861 / Major-General USV 3 May 1862 to rank from 1 May 1862 / Brigadier-General USA 4 August 1863 to rank from 4 July 1863 / Mustered Out USV 12 August 1864 / Major-General USA 12 August 1864 / Lieutenant-General USA 25 July 1866 / General USA 4 March 1869 / General-in-Chief of the US Army 4 March 1869-1 November 1883 / Retired USA 8 February 1884 / Brevet Captain USA 30 May 1848 Brevet General USA 13 February 1868 Withdrawn / WIA First Bull Run 21 July 1861 WIA Shiloh 6 April 1862
3rd Brigade 1st Division Department of Northeastern Virginia 30 June 1861-17 August 1861 / Sherman’s Brigade Army of the Potomac 17 August 1861-28 August 1861 / Department of the Cumberland 6 October 1861-9 November 1861 / District of Cairo 14 February 1862-11 March 1862 / 5th Division Army of the Tennessee 1 March 1862-11 July 1862 / 5th Division District of Memphis 21 July 1862-26 October 1862 / District of Memphis 26 October 1862-25 November 1862 / Right Wing XIII Corps Tennessee 27 November 1862-22 December 1862 / XV Corps Tennessee 22 December 1862-4 January 1863 / II Corps Mississippi 4 January 1863-12 January 1863 / XV Corps Tennessee 12 January 1863-29 October 1863 / Department of the Tennessee 17 October 1863-12 March 1864 / Army of the Tennessee 24 October 1863-26 March 1864 / Military Division of the Mississippi 18 March 1864-6 August 1866 / Military Division of the Missouri 6 August 1866-16 March 1869 / Military Division of the Atlantic 12 February 1868-12 February 1868 / General-in-Chief 4 March 1869-1 November 1883

Then, Changes in Military Organisation for the Confederacy, with the biographies of commanders:

For example,

CSA: III Corps (Northern Virginia) was established in the Army of Northern Virginia.

CSA: Lieutenant-General Ambrose Powell Hill assumed command of III Corps (Northern Virginia).

Hill, Ambrose Powell / Virginia / Born 9 November 1825 Culpeper, Virginia / KIA Petersburg, Virginia 2 April 1865
USMA 1 July 1847 15 /38 Artillery / Cadet USMA 1 July 1842 / 1st US Artillery 1 July 1847 / 2nd Lieutenant USA 28 August 1847 / 1st Lieutenant USA 4 September 1851 / Resigned USA 1 March 1861 / Colonel PACS 13th Virginia Infantry 22 May 1861 / Colonel Provisional Army of Virginia 15 June 1861 / Brigadier-General PACS 24 February 1862 to rank from 26 February 1862 / Major-General PACS 26 May 1862 / Lieutenant-General PACS 23 May 1863 to rank from 24 May 1863 / Brevet 2nd Lieutenant USA 1 July 1847 / WIA Chancellorsville 2 May 1863
1st Brigade 3rd Division Army of the Potomac 21 February 1862-14 March 1862 / 1st Brigade 3rd Division Army of Northern Virginia 14 March 1862-27 May 1862 / 2nd Division I Corps Army of Northern Virginia 27 May 1862-27 July 1862 / Hill’s Light Division II Corps Army of Northern Virginia 27 July 1862-2 May 1863 / II Corps Northern Virginia 2 May 1863-2 May 1863 / II Corps Northern Virginia 6 May 1863-10 May 1863 / III Corps Northern Virginia 30 May 1863-7 May 1864 / III Corps Northern Virginia 21 May 1864-2 April 1865

Then Changes in Military Personnel at General and equivalent grades, with an indented summary biography, for the Confederacy:

USA: Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss promoted Major-General USV 13 March 1863 to rank from 29 November 1862.

Prentiss, Benjamin Mayberry / Virginia / Born 23 November 1819 Belleville, Virginia / Died Bethany, Missouri 8 February 1901
1st Lieutenant Illinois Militia 1844 / 1st Lieutenant USV 1st Illinois Infantry 18 June 1846 / Captain USV 14 September 1846 / Mustered Out USV 17 June 1847 / Brigadier-General Illinois Militia 1861 / Captain USV 10th Illinois Infantry 29 April 1861 / Colonel USV 29 April 1861 / Brigadier-General USV 9 August 1861 to rank from 17 May 1861 / Major-General USV 13 March 1863 to rank from 29 November 1862 / Resigned USV 28 October 1863 / CIA Shiloh 6 April 1862 Exchanged 15 August 1862
District of Ironton 15 August 1861-1 September 1861 / District of North Missouri 26 November 1861-26 December 1861 / 6th Division Army of the Tennessee 26 March 1862-6 April 1862 / District of Eastern Arkansas 14 February 1863-3 August 1863

CSA: Brigadier-General Robert Augustus Toombs resigned to resume his political career.

Toombs, Robert Augustus / Georgia / Born 2 July 1810 Wilkes, Georgia / Died Washington, Georgia 15 December 1885
Captain USV Georgia Infantry 1836-1837 / Brigadier-General PACS 19 July 1861 / Resigned PACS 4 March 1863 / Colonel 3rd Cavalry Georgia Militia 4 August 1861 / Brigadier-General Inspector-General and Chief of Staff Georgia Militia 6 February 1864-December 1864 / No Record of Parole / WIA Antietam 17 September 1862
3rd Brigade 2nd Division Army of the Potomac 22 October 1861-16 November 1861 / District of Aquia 22 October 1861-22 March 1862/ 2nd Brigade 4th Division Army of the Potomac 16 November 1861-14 January 1862 / 3rd Brigade 2nd Division Army of the Potomac 14 January 1862-5 February 1862 / 3rd Brigade 1st Division Army of the Potomac 5 February 1862-14 March 1862 / Toombs’ Brigade D R Jones’ Division Army of Northern Virginia 14 March 1862-April 1862 / D R Jones’ Division Army of Northern Virginia April 1862-May 1862 / 1st Brigade 1st Division Right Wing Army of Northern Virginia May 1862-3 July 1862 / 1st Brigade 2nd Division I Corps Army of Northern Virginia 3 July 1862-30 August 1862 / 1st Brigade D R Jones’ Division I Corps Army of Northern Virginia 30 August 1862-17 September 1862

Note: Whenever an officer is named in the Organisation Section, their Biography is added for information.

Further information about territorial and field organisations can be found in the Organisations pages.

Compact Commander Biographies can be found in the Commanders pages.

Naval information can be found in the Navies pages.

Reading the Union Organisations and Confederate Organisations

This Resource has been compiled primarily to support the study of the evolution of Higher Military Organisations of the American Civil War.

The Chronology allows major military reorganisations and changes of command to be identified sequentially. To achieve that aim, each Day’s Chronology includes a Structural Chart of each Military Division, Department, District, Sub-District, Army, Army Corps, and their equivalents.

Commanders are listed against each command, but not their current rank. In many cases, there were delays between the date of appointment and the date of “arrival” to command. Arrival can mean either an arrival in person to assume command or a date on which an appointment comes into force where a commander is already present or is serving in an interim or temporary capacity and is appointed permanently. Where a commander is appointed but never arrives to assume a significant command their name is not listed but this will be noted in the Timeline. Where there is a temporary or interim commander their name is listed until the substantive commander “arrives” to command. Where (as in the case of a fatality or incapacitation) the command changes on a day, the replacement commander is listed.

This format makes it possible to follow the changing scope and size of the military organisations of the Union and the Confederacy, and also to identify quickly the status and hierarchical relationships of individuals within the structure. It also permits reference to the status of the command structure on any specific date.

Reading the Organisation Tables

The Organisation Table is structured to demonstrate the hierarchy of command. Where commands are subordinated, they are indented below their parent command.

The Political Hierarchy, with specific responsibility for military affairs, for example:

Commander in Chief: President Abraham Lincoln
Vice-President: Hannibal Hamlin
Secretary of War: Edwin McMasters Stanton
Secretary of the Navy: Gideon Welles

For the Union only, the US Navy structure and hierarchy, for example:

North Atlantic Blockading Squadron : Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron: Samuel Francis Du Pont
West Gulf Blockading Squadron: Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut

The Senior Commanding General:

General–in-Chief: Henry Wager Halleck

The Highest Level of Territorial Commands is a Military Division, where these exist: usually to coordinate the operations of more than one Department at a grand strategic level:

Military Division of the Mississippi: Ulysses Simpson Grant

The next Level of Territorial Command is usually a Department; these exist to direct and organise operations at a strategic level:

Department of the Cumberland: George Henry Thomas

Within a Department, there may be one or more subordinate Districts; these exist to direct and organise operations at a regional level:

District of Nashville: Lovell Harrison Rousseau

Within a District, there may be one or more subordinate Sub-Districts; these exist to direct and organise operations at a specific post or local level:

Sub-District of Columbus: Isaac Ferdinand Quinby

Field forces of a larger size – or with strategic significance – are generally referred to as Armies; typically, but not necessarily, they are subordinated to a Department and commanded by the Department commander:

Army of the Cumberland: George Henry Thomas

Within an Army or a Department, there may be one or more permanently constituted parts of an Army or other groups of large formations. From 1862 these were often termed Army Corps or Corps, and they are listed with their parent organisation in brackets.

The use of Roman numerals to designate Army Corps is a modern convention used for clarity and convenience. At the time of the Civil War these forces were referred to typically in words, e.g. Eighteenth Corps – or informally by their commander’s name e.g. Slocum’s Corps:

IV Corps (Cumberland): Gordon Granger

XI Corps (Cumberland): Oliver Otis Howard….

For example:

Department of the Ohio: John Gray Foster

  • District of the Clinch: Orlando Bolivar Willcox
  • District of Western Kentucky: Jeremiah Tilford Boyle
  • District of Kentucky: Jacob Ammen
  • District of Middle Tennessee: Jacob Ammen
  • Army of the Ohio: John Gray Foster
    • IX Corps (Ohio): Ambrose Everett Burnside
    • XXIII Corps (Ohio): Jacob Dolson Cox

There are some anomalies where a particular territorial or field command is not subordinated to a higher level of hierarchy but reports directly to the War Department. These can be identified by reading the indentation of their line.

Status of Command

The command status of any particular organisation is not listed if the officer has been appointed and deemed to have assumed and to hold a command. However, if that status is in some way interim or not substantive the following terms may be used:

Assumed: a commander was appointed or arrived take command;

Arrived: a commander previously appointed  arrives to assume command;

Awaited: a commander appointed but not yet arrived to assume command or, if present, not yet formally assumed command;

Interim: a new commander has been appointed but not yet arrived to assume command and the current or incumbent commander remains in post interim pending their arrival;

Retained: a current commander retains command after an organisation or an equivalent renamed organisation is transferred to a new parent command;

Temporary: the commander is appointed temporarily to command in the absence of the incumbent or current commander, or awaiting the appointment of a new commander, or commanding on an interim basis pending confirmation of their own appointment.

Reading the Union and Confederate Generals Lists

This Resource makes it possible to identify on a day-by-day basis, the current grade, rank, and order of seniority of the general officers of each side. The accuracy of these records is as sound and reliable as possible but the complexity of this topic means that there may be some anomalies especially where two individuals are appointed on the same date.

The Union Generals list is in grade order as follows, and then by rank order (date) within each grade:

Lieutenant-General USA
Major-General USA
Major-General USV
Brigadier-General USV
Brigadier-General USA
Brigadier-General USA (Staff)

Note: where an officer holds rank in both the US Army and US Volunteers, they are listed under both lists with asterisks or brackets to indicate.

The Confederate Generals list is in grade order as follows, and then by rank order (date) within each grade:

General ACSA or PACS
Lieutenant-General PACS
Major-General PACS
Brigadier-General ACSA or PACS

Note: Officers with a grade in the ACSA are listed with precedence over officers with grades in the PACS.

Reading the General Lists

Officers who are active are in standard font, with their grade and ranking dates.

If an officer holds a General grade in both the US Regular Army and the US Volunteers, both are listed with asterisks or brackets to indicate.

The reason for their interruption or end is listed; this may be one of KIA (killed in action), DOW (died of wounds), Died (of non-combat causes), Resigned, Retired, Commission Expired, Mustered Out, Discharged, or one of several other reasons, etc.

For example, a Union Seniority List may include entries such as:

Union Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

Major-General USA

George Brinton McClellan
John Charles Frémont
Henry Wager Halleck

Major-General USV

John Adams Dix
Nathaniel Prentiss Banks
Benjamin Franklin Butler
David Hunter
Edwin Denison Morgan

Brigadier-General USA

John Ellis Wool
William Selby Harney
Edwin Vose Sumner
Joseph King Fenno Mansfield
Irvin McDowell
Robert Anderson
William Starke Rosecrans
Philip St George Cooke

Brigadier-General USV

Samuel Peter Heintzelman
Erasmus Darwin Keyes

etc…

And, for example, a Confederate Seniority List may include entries such as:

Confederate Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

General ACSA/PACS

Samuel Cooper
Robert Edward Lee
Joseph Eggleston Johnston
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
Braxton Bragg

Lieutenant-General PACS

James Longstreet
Edmund Kirby Smith
Leonidas Polk
Theophilus Hunter Holmes
William Joseph Hardee
Thomas Jonathan Jackson
John Clifford Pemberton

Major-General PACS

Earl Van Dorn
Benjamin Huger
John Bankhead Magruder
Mansfield Lovell
Richard Stoddert Ewell
William Wing Loring
Sterling Price
etc…

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