The answers to yesterday's N. B. Buford quiz

You have been hanging on the edges of your seats for the answers to those N.B. Buford questions raised yesterday, no doubt, and Eric Wittenberg has graciously allowed me to excerpt bits of his email to me on the subject. (He has been researching the Buford family for a new book.)

So little is known about this putative Stanton supremo that I want to run Eric's information at length. I'll interleave my own comments.

Query: What were NBB's Illinois connections?

EW: "... after N. B. graduated from West Point in 1827, he spent a number of years serving in various posts and positions, mostly associated with engineering. He ended up in Rock Island, Illinois. When his stepmother died in Kentucky in 1833 due to one of the cholera epidemics, his father, John Buford, Sr., decided to pick up his family and relocate it to Rock Island on the recommendation of his son, N. B. That's how his father ended up in Illinois, and how other members of the Buford family, including John, Sr.'s brother Charles, ended up in Rock Island. John, Jr. spent much of his youth in Rock Island, and was appointed to West Point from Illinois, and not from Kentucky. He dropped the Jr. after his father's death in 1849."

"When N. B. settled in Rock Island, he left the army. He got involved in business, and he and his father ended up starting what became a very successful store called Buford and Son. Later, after his father died, N. B. got involved in railroading, and was so engaged with the coming of war."

DR: Great stuff. Now I need to look at the family's politicking in Illinois and the connections they made. Eric notes that "the Bufords were Democrats, out of the Jacksonian mold. "

Query: Why did the vetting process for appointing Napoleon Buford commander of the AoP (in March 1862) involve Orville Browning?

EW: "Orville Browning was very close friends with N. B. Buford. Browning was also a powerful Republican Senator from Illinois, meaning that he was particularly close to Lincoln. He was also a member of the Radical wing of the Republican Party, meaning that he was well- connected politically."

"In other words, Stanton had to make certain that N. B. Buford was politically acceptable to the party leadership, which he was. Browning provided a good sounding board for seeing whether anyone would pass muster with the Radicals." [The Buford's family reputation as Democrats also] "probably has a lot to do with why Stanton would have vetted N. B. with Orville Browning."

"I have accounts of both John Buford and N. B. socializing with Browning in Washington, D. C., including New Year's Eve 1861-62."

DR: I was obsessing on Browning as Lincoln friend to the detriment of the obvious - Browning's status as early war Radical ringleader. I should mention here also that he was also a key anti-McClellan activist at the time that Buford was presented to him as an alternative.

By the way, parties tell an amazing story. Follow the parties closely, my friends. When I present the social calendars of McClellan's corps commanders prior to their appointments people are surprised - especially people who view Union military advancement as meritocratic.

Query: Is it true that Grant hated or despised him?

EW: "... true ..." "Being well-connected politically, N. B. had a tendency to shoot off his mouth, including criticizing Grant in public. In return, Grant banished N. B. to the backwater of the war, Helena, Arkansas, and also blocked N. B.'s promotion to major general repeatedly until the very end of the war, when it no longer mattered. That way, N. B. was prevented from holding any position of responsibility other than as an administrator. The roots of this conflict lay in N. B.'s service under Grant as far back as the Battle of Belmont, wherein N. B. blundered and nearly cost Grant the battle."

DR: Lamers, in his Rosecrans bio, similarly characterizes Grant as hating Rosecrans for public criticism of USG.

Query: What about his supporting player status in the ascendancy of Pope in the West?

DR: Eric had no comment on this. It's important, I think, to keep in mind Gideon Welles' stated opinion that Halleck and Pope had a pact for mutual advancement and that it was Pope who spent his political capital to make Halleck general-in-chief. I was (am) wondering whether Buford fit into these self-promotional plans, as he played the ground role in Pope's famous amphibious victory at Island No. 10.

Keep it tuned to this, your all Napoleon Buford all the time website.


Postscript 3:29 p.m. William Keene writes,

There is a letter from Grant to Lincoln, dated February 9,1863, which contains a remark that I found suprising since I had not expected Grant would use this kind of language in writing to Lincoln. The letter was about promotions and the remark is: "I see the name of N.B. Buford for Maj. Gen. He would scarcely make a respectable Hospital nurse if put in petticoats, and certainly is unfit for any other Military position. He has always been a dead weight to carry becoming more burthensome with his increased rank."