How to become a corps commander: Sumner

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 Sumner's corps appointment from Taaffe. Where I previously compared these to the material in Beatie’s Army of the Potomac I am here adding some general material from Rafuse's McClellan's War, in part because Beatie says little about Sumner in his first two volumes. I have then added material from my own private research as before.

My research into Sumner's political activity is incomplete, so if the material seems paltry regrets, regrets.

Sumner took a "long climb up the military ladder" * "promoted to brigadier general … thanks to his friendship with both Scott and the president" * "basically nonpartisan."

"T. Harry Williams asserts that the split within the Army of the Potomac into rival factions was rooted in partisan politics, with McClellan's Democratic 'pets' clashing with Republican, pro-emancipation senior officers [corps commanders - DR]. [...] As Bruce Tap has pointed out, this distorts the views of McDowell, Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes. Although these men enjoyed the support of the Radicals, it was their independence from McClellan and a perception that their resentment toward him could be exploited, rather than a belief that they were sympathetic to emancipation, that attracted the attention of the Radicals."

Like Scott, Sumner is a Whig: he is also an abolitionist * Sumner writes President-elect Lincoln to inform him, casually, that he and David Hunter will accompany him to Washington; in that letter he gives Lincoln some Rebellion analysis and advice, the tone suggesting this is not their first correspondence (12/17/61, Lincoln Papers) * Sumner writes the president elect to recommend Missouri's E. Bates for the position of Secretary of War - Bates eventually becomes attorney general (1/20/61, Lincoln Papers) * Sumner escorts the president-elect to D.C. (2/19/61-2/19/23) * Arriving in the capital, Sumner stays in the White House to set up security * Within a month of their arrival, Lincoln nominates Sumner to BG rank on 3/12/61 * Sumner was a cousin of Republican Sen. Charles Sumner.

See also:
How to become a corps commander: Taaffe
How to become a corps commander: Heintzelman
How to become a corps commander: Keyes
Future: How to become a corps commander: McDowell

Understanding Keyes and Company
Pinkerton on the corps commanders
Doubleday (on the corps commanders?)