Thursday, September 11, 2008

G.F.R. Henderson On General John Pope

On the same day General McClellan was entrusted with the defence of Washington, and Pope, permitted to resign, was soon afterwards relegated to an obscure command against the Indians of the North-west. His errors had been flagrant. He can hardly be charged with want of energy, but his energy was spasmodic; on the field of battle he was strangely indolent, and yet he distrusted the reports of others.

But more fatal than his neglect of personal reconnaissance was his power of self-deception. He was absolutely incapable of putting himself in his enemy's place, and time after time he acted on the supposition that Lee and Jackson would do exactly what he most wished them to do. When his supplies were destroyed, he concentrated at Manassas Junction, convinced that Jackson would remain to be overwhelmed. When he found Jackson near Sudley Springs, and Thoroughfare Gap open, he rushed forward to attack him, convinced that Longstreet could not be up for eight-and-forty hours. When he sought shelter at Centreville, he told Halleck not to be uneasy, convinced that Lee would knock his head against his fortified position. Before the engagement at Chantilly he had made up his mind to attack the enemy the next morning. A few hours later he reported that his troops were utterly untrustworthy, although 20,000 of them, under Franklin and Sumner, had not yet seen the enemy.

In other respects his want of prudence had thwarted his best endeavours. His cavalry at the beginning of the campaign was effectively employed. But so extravagant were his demands on the mounted arm, that before the battle of Manassas half his regiments were dismounted. It is true that the troopers were still indifferent horsemen and bad horse-masters, but it was the fault of the commander that the unfortunate animals had no rest, that brigades were sent to do the work of patrols, and that little heed was paid to the physical wants of man and beast.

As a tactician Pope was incapable. As a strategist he lacked imagination, except in his dispatches. His horizon was limited, and he measured the capacity of his adversaries by his own. He was familiar with the campaign in the Valley, with the operations in the Peninsula, and Cedar Run should have enlightened him as to Jackson's daring. But he had no conception that his adversaries would cheerfully accept great risks to achieve great ends; he had never dreamt of a general who would deliberately divide his army, or of one who would make fifty-six miles in two marches.


Trooper York said...

He had his headquarters in his saddle, and his brains as well.

Trooper York said...

Imagine what would have happened if we had the likes of Pope in our army now!

Trooper York said...

My favorite Civil war generals:

South: Patrick Clebourne

North: Benjamin Butler

That's just the way I roll.