In his new book Commanding the Army of the Potomac, Stephen Taaffe breaks with Centennial doctrine – in three out of four cases - to suggest that there was more than date of rank behind Lincoln’s appointment of McClellan’s corps commanders.
I have abstracted all relevant comments on events leading to Keyes' corps appointment from Taafe and compared these to the material in volume one of Beatie’s Army of the Potomac to show the perils of ignoring Beatie (which Taafe has done – see his bibliography). I have then added material from my own private research. Beatie will have more to say on this in his third volume, which covers the period of the appointments.
Keyes “owed his ascent through the military hierarchy” based on his relationship with Scott * He was a well-known Republican * He corresponded with Chase * He was “more than willing to use his connetions to advance his career” [Taaffe does not delineate those connections]
From V1, AOP: Scott directs Keyes to meet with Seward on the relief of Ft. Pickens * Seward directs Keyes to make a plan with Meigs and present it to Lincoln * Keyes presents his plan to Seward and Lincoln * Lincoln orders Keyes, Meigs, and Porter to relieve Ft. Pickens * Meigs writes Seward to urge that Keyes might lead all of "this great army" being mobilized (4/61) * Keyes is assigned to help NY Gov. Edwin Morgan (4/61); Note: Morgan is the third leg of the Seward-Weed stool and is the financial manager of the national Republican Party from Fremont's candidacy until the later Gilded Age - DR * Keyes is relieved as military secretary by Scott on 4/19/61: immediately afterward, he visits Lincoln, Seward, Cameron, and Chase * Breakfasts with Chase after his relief * Morgan offers Keyes a position and Keyes accepts (4/61) * From V2, AOP: McClellan appointed Keyes to brigade command within the AOP based on his Bull Run performance
Keyes is mentioned to Lincoln in connection with a legal matter on 12/9/59 (Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress) * When Washburne warned Lincoln of the inauguration kidnap plot, he
credited the intelligence to a conversation with Keyes (2/3/61, Lincoln Papers) * On 4/1/61, California Republican William Rabe commends Keyes to Lincoln as "a firm Republican." (Lincoln Papers) * A memo on Keyes' service says he "is & has long been a Republican." Lincoln has annotated this with the note that he must check up on Keyes with McDowell. (5/1/61) (Lincoln Papers) Note that Lincoln has already met Keyes several times at this point, starting with the Ft. Pickens relief expedition scheme - so the check up must be for Republican bonafides - DR * Keyes meet privately with Lincoln who invited him to join Meigs and Porter in designing and leading the Fort Pickens relief expedition on 4/3/61 (Lincoln Day by Day) * Meigs and Keyes visit Lincoln privately to discuss Lincoln promoting Keyes and giving him a field command on 6/12/61 (Lincoln Day by Day)
What does it all mean? Additional thoughts here.
How to become a corps commander: Taaffe
How to become a corps commander: Heintzelman
How to become a corps commander: Sumner
How to become a corps commander: McDowell