How to become a corps commander: Heintzelman

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. Thank heaven for small favors but we have so much farther to travel.

I have abstracted all relevant comments on corps appointment from Taafe and compared these to the material in volume two 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 preliminary private research. Beatie will have more to say on this in his third volume, by the way.

In the one case of Samuel Heintzelman, Taaffe is sticking closely to the Centennial doctrine, as seen below.

Heintzelman was “promoted beyond his ability” * He was “oblivious to the political machinations around him” * He owed his new position in the AoP “to his seniority more than anything else.” * He was “basically non partisan”.

McClellan chose Heintzelman for division command based on his Bull Run performance * McClellan mentioned his choice of Heintzelman (along with McDowell, Franklin) to become corps commander (11/61) * Heintzelman interacted with Lincoln and Seward after the grand review (11/61), noting that he (H) already knew Seward well but that Lincoln said he could now associate H’s face with the name * Chandler received a note from a radical politician recommending Heintzelman as a witness in the forthcoming hearings of the CCW * H met Chandler at Willard’s for a two hour Q&A session behind locked doors in advance of Chandler’s hearings (12/16/61) * H encountered radical Sen. Henry Wilson on the street (1/62) and they took a long walk reviewing the loyalty of other generals in the AOP * H entertained congressional delegations from Maine and Pennsylvania in his home, where they discuss his future career as commander of the AOP or as independent commander of a 50,000 man detachment from McClellan’s army (in his diary, H demurrs) * Stanton, after taking office, pressed Heintzelman on GBM as a corps commander.

H attracted Radical attention early in the war as "the one general" in the AoP who would not return slaves (Bruce Tap, Over Lincoln's Shoulder: The Committe on the Conduct of the War). * H and his wife were guests of Mrs. Lincoln at the White House for an evening party with "a few friends" of the first family on 9/19/61 (Lincoln Day by Day, Morningside Press) * H and his wife were again guests among 100 invited to a White House party on 11/23/61 (ibid) * Lincoln dropped in on a private meeting between Heintzelman and Sen. Chandler on 12/16/61. Among other business, Heintzelman asked Lincoln for a West Point appointment for his son. Lincoln told H to make the application. * Heintzelman recorded Chandler's idea of an independent command for H 12/24/61 (H’s diary) * Heintzelman met with Sen. Chandler for two hours in a private room at Willard's in preparation for the CCW hearings. Heintzelman wrote in his diary that Chandler asked him to keep the meeting quiet. * "Whenever he was in Washington he hunted up Chandler..." (From Lincoln and the Radicals by T. Harry Williams) * Heintzelman testified before the CCW on 12/24/61 criticizing McClellan and promoting the need for corps organization and councils of war (Report of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 1) * Lincoln met with Heintzelman, McDowell and Franklin on 1/10/62 (Bruce Tap) * Heintzelman met with Stanton twice to talk about the need for corps organization – on 2/61 and again 3/8/61 (From Lincoln and the Radicals by T. Harry Williams).


In a discipline that tolerates evaluations of Heintzelman as "nonpartisan" and "oblivious" to politics, it should not take one blogger to point out that something stinks to high heavens.

See also:
How to become a corps commander: Taaffe

How to become a corps commander: Keyes
How to become a corps commander: Sumner
How to become a corps commander: McDowell