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 the higher military organisations and officers of the American Civil War. 

The Chronology records each major military reorganisation, and changes of command 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 on January 1st 1861 and ends on August 31st 1865, with brief summaries added for 1860 and 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 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 but not specific to a state or territory
Events or actions in the CSA but not specific to a state or territory
Events or actions in individual 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, military reorganisations, or plans 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.

Changes in Military Organisation for the Union:

For example,

USA: The Department of Kansas was re-established independently from Department of the Mississippi, comprising Kansas, Dakota Territory, Nebraska Territory, Indian Territory and Colorado Territory (except for Fort Garland).

USA: Brigadier-General James Gilpatrick Blunt was appointed to command the Department of Kansas, arriving on May 5th 1862.

Blunt, James Gilpatrick / Maine / Born 21 July 1826 Trenton, Maine / Lieutenant-Colonel 3rd Kansas July 1861 / Brigadier-General USV April 14 1862 to rank from April 8 1862 / Major-General USV March 16 1863 to rank from 29 November 1862 Mustered out USV July 29 1865 / Died 27 July 1881 / 2 May 1862 – 19 September 1862 Department of Kansas, 16 August 1862 – 19 September 1862 Army of Kansas, 20 November 1862 – 28 December 1862 Army of the Frontier, 9 June 1863 – 5 January 1864 District of the Frontier, 6 January 1864 – 22 February 1864 District of the Frontier Arkansas, 23 February 1864 – 18 May 1864 District of the Frontier, 2 August 1864 – 13 October 1864 District of the Upper Arkansas, 10 October 1864 – 30 October 1864 District of South Kansas, 22 November 1864 – 3 June 1865 District of South Kansas

USA: The District of Southeast Missouri was subordinated to the operational command of the Army of the Southwest….

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, backdated to 1st May 1862.

Sherman, William Tecumseh / Ohio / Born 8 February 1820 Lancaster, Ohio / USMA 1840 6/42 Artillery / 2nd Lieutenant USA 3rd US Artillery 1 July 1840 / 1st Lieutenant USA 3rd US Artillery 30 November 1841 / Captain USA Staff 27 September 1850 Resigned USA 6 September 1853 / Colonel USA 13th US Infantry 14 May 1861 / Brigadier-General USV August 3 1861 to rank from May 17 1861 / Major-General USV May 3 1862 to rank from May 1 1862 / Brigadier-General USA August 4 1863 to rank from July 4 1863 / Major-General USA August 12 1864 / Lieutenant-General USA 25 July 1866 General USA 4 March 1869 General-in-Chief of the US Army 8 March 1869 Retired USA 8 February 1884 / Died 14 February 1891 / 6 October 1861 – 8 November 1861 Department of the Cumberland, 14 February 1862 – 11 March 1862 District of Cairo, 26 October 1862 – 24 November 1862 District of Memphis, 27 November 1862 – 21 December 1862 Right Wing XIII Corps Tennessee, 18 December 1862 – 3 January 1863 XV Corps Tennessee, 4 January 1863 – 11 January 1863 II Corps Mississippi, 12 January 1863 – 28 October 1863 XV Corps Tennessee , 17 October 1863 – 25 March 1864 Department of the Tennessee, 24 October 1863 – 25 March 1864 Army of the Tennessee, 18 March 1864 Military Division of the Mississippi

Then, Changes in Military Organisation for the Confederacy:

For example,

CSA: The District of Abingdon was established in the Department of Southwestern Virginia, comprising the counties of Lee, Buchanan, Wise, McDowell and Wyoming in Virginia.

CSA: Brigadier-General Humphrey Marshall assumed command of the District of Abingdon.

Marshall, Humphrey / Kentucky / Born 13 January 1812 Frankfort, Kentucky / USMA 1832 42 /45 Mounted Rifles / Resigned USA 30 April 1833 / Colonel USV 1st Kentucky Cavalry 9 June 1846 Mustered out USV 7 July 1847 / Brigadier-General PACS 30 October 1861 Resigned PACS 16 June 1862 Reappointed / Brigadier-General PACS 20 June 1862 to rank from 30 October 1861 Resigned PACS 17 June 1863 / Died 28 March 1872 / 1 November 1861 – 8 March 1862 Army of Eastern Kentucky, 2 May 1862 – 8 May 1863 District of Abingdon

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

CSA: Brigadier-General Samuel Read Anderson resigned….

Anderson, Samuel Read / Virginia Tennessee / Born 17 February 1804 Bedford, Virginia / Lieutenant-Colonel USV 1st Tennessee 1847-1848 / Major-General Tennessee 9 May 1861 / Brigadier-General PACS 9 July 1861 Resigned PACS 10 May 1862 Reappointed / Brigadier-General PACS 19 November 1864 to rank from 7 November 1864 Paroled 10 May 1865 / Died 2 January 1883

Whenever an officer is named in the Organisation Section, their compact Commander 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 and 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 USN: Flag Officer Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough USN
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron USN: Flag Officer Samuel Francis Du Pont USN
West Gulf Blockading Squadron USN: Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut USN

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
Brigadier-General USA
Major-General USV
Brigadier-General USV
Non-General Officers commanding territorial or field commands

Note: where an officer holds rank in both the US Army and US Volunteers, they are listed with the US Army ranking holding precedence; for example, an officer who is Major-General USV and Brigadier-General USA will be listed under the US Army Regular grade.

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
Non-General Officers commanding territorial or field commands

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.

If an officer commands one of the listed territorial or field commands, this is listed after their grade and ranking dates.

Those whose service has ended or is otherwise interrupted are in italic font.

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:

Lieutenant-General USA Ulysses Simpson Grant March 4 1864 to rank from March 2 1864 Major-General USV 16 February 1862 General-in-Chief
Major-General USA Winfield Scott 5 July 1841 to rank from 25 June 1841 Retired 1 November 1861
Brigadier-General USA Edwin Vose Sumner 16 March 1861 Major-General USV 16 July 1862 to rank from 5 May 1862 Died 21 March 1863
Brigadier-General USA Irvin McDowell 14 May 1861 Major-General USV 16 March 1862 to rank from 14 March 1862 Department of the Pacific

Major-General USV John Adams Dix 16 May 1861 Department of the East
Major-General USV Edwin Denison Morgan 28 September 1861 Resigned 1 January 1863
Brigadier-General USV Nathaniel Lyon 17 May 1861 KIA 10 August 1861
Brigadier-General USV Jacob Dolson Cox 17 May 1861 XXIII Corps Ohio temporary

Brigadier-General USV Andrew Porter 6 August 1861 to rank from 17 May 1861 Mustered out 4 April 1864
Brigadier-General USV Thomas West Sherman 6 August 1861 to rank from 17 May 1861 Defences of New Orleans

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

General ACSA Albert Sidney Johnston 31 August 1861 to rank from 30 May 1861 KIA 6 April 1862
General ACSA Robert Edward Lee 31 August 1861 to rank from 14 June 1861 Department of Northern Virginia & Army of Northern Virginia

Lieutenant-General PACS James Longstreet 10 October 1862 to rank from 9 October 1862
Lieutenant-General PACS Leonidas Polk 10 October 1862 KIA 14 June 1864
Major-General PACS Earl Van Dorn 19 September 1861 Died 7 May 1863
Major-General PACS George Bibb Crittenden 9 November 1861 Resigned 23 October 1862
Major-General PACS William Wing Loring 15 February 1862 to rank from 17 February 1862

Major-General PACS Sterling Price 6 March 1862 Army of Missouri
Brigadier-General PACS Alexander Robert Lawton 13 April 1861 Quartermaster-General
Brigadier-General PACS Milledge Luke Bonham 23 April 1861 Resigned 29 January 1862
Brigadier-General PACS Benjamin McCulloch 11 May 1861 KIA 7 March 1862

 

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