Union corps commands - a dissent

Reader Will Keene had objections to the corps commander posts presented here. The comments below are his with my interleavings in blue.

I found your "analysis" on Corps commander turnover
very disappointing. Examples:

- You give two date spans for the I Corps during which it was officially designated as I Corps, but the organization continued under McDowell throughout the time from April to September 1862, just under a different names. Thus there was continuity during this period and not the discontinuity you show.
I followed the dates given in Commanders of Army Corps, Divisions, and Brigades; Dyer's Compendium; and Eicher's & Eicher's Civil War High Commands. I didn't cherry-pick them from among the three sources - all three provide the same dates at the root of which are Army decisions on the matter. From the Army's point of view the Army of the Department of the Rappahannock did not equal I Corps, AoP. Keeping McDowell for that period as I Corps commander does not lower the number of changes of command but would extend the "life" of the I Corps to 733 days. That would increase the stability picture slightly by making the average corps tenure 61 days at a cost of violating the Army's view of the heritage of the corps. Can we agree that 61 days of command remains a cruel joke?

- Stating in your final entry of the series that there were 12 changes of command in the I Corps is technically true but tells us nothing about the nature of those command changes.
In many cases I don't understand the nature of those changes. However, the number 12 I view as atrocious.

You provided more information earlier in the series but chose to not analyze that information, instead preferring summary statistics without context.
I don't have the context to analyze the data - I present it here so that enterprising readers can get cracking on their own analyses. You have started on this yourself.

In the case of the I Corps there were only 4 permanent commanders: McDowell, Hooker, Reynolds, and Newton. Meade, Wadsworth and Doubleday (senior Division commanders) filled in during the temporary incapacity or absence of the regular commander. Thus your summary statistics makes it appear as if there were more commanders than there actually were. The changes from Hooker to Reynolds and Reynolds to Newton were due to casualties in battle, not anything to do with decisions eminating from high command in Washington.
I don't understand the concept of "permanent" commanders, where this comes from or why it matters. A change of command for two days is a change of command - to use a Wadsworthian example. A temporary command is paralyzing to the unit as no major decisions can be made nor plans drawn up; additionally however much the division commanders socialize, the temp corps commander is a stranger to the division commanders managerially unless this is his second temp incumbency.

Across all data I found only three instances of incumbency lasting for a few days. Given that the senior division commander would naturally assume corps command in the commander's absence, I don't know why orders for temporary command - if that's what thses were - needed to be issued unless the new (temp?) appointee lacked rank to command a corps. In which case, more stress on cohesion.

Incapacity and absence also create turmoil, whatever the circumstances.
- Likewise with the III Corps there were only four main commanders, with one temporary commander. Since that temporary commander had to step in on multiple occasions for a few days while the main commander was absent, it appears as if there were more instability in command than really was the case.
I disagree with this concept of "more instability than really was the case." I have been the temporary commander of units. I have been subject to temporary commanders. In the case of III Corps, it was not a case of a few days absence while the troops lolled in winter quarters. E&E count nine of these instances.
- I find it shocking that you would not see the difference between what was called the V Corps from '13 Mar 62 - 4 Apr 62' and what was called the V Corps from '18 May 62 - 28 Jun 65'. Two entirely different entities yet you treat them as the same thing.
I treat them exactly as the Army listed them - I made no personal exceptions to the Army's classification system, otherwise the whole analysis would fall into question.
- Again, most of the change in command in the IX Corps was temporary changes, such as Schurz briefly taking command on July 1 while Howard commanded all Corps present at Gettysburg.
I don't think temporary is stabilizing. The onus is on anyone to explain why temporary changes are not detrimental. As a former brigade and division staff officer, I assure you they matter, especially under stress such as combat.

- Like points made above, most of the turnover in the XII Corps is the result of Williams stepping in during the temporary absence of the commander. Banks (not included in your count because you seemed to have not grasped the history of the entity), Mansfield, Slocum and (temporarily) Williams were the only commanders of this Corps until merged into the XX Corps.
I did not name the commanders (making up the Eicher's XII Corps count of nine command changes in this post), so how could anyone possibly know if I included or excluded Banks?

Let me repeat that there is a heavy burden of proof on anyone who claims that three people can change places nine times and not destabilize a unit.
So, for you to conclude based on this superficial data that "The illustration we have here is of the destructive incompetence of Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck." makes the writings of Sears and McPherson looks good by comparison.
This destructive incompetence conclusion is a throwaway line that deserves a separate post and should not have appeared where it did. Where it is now, it bears the hallmarks of overreaching that mark the histories of Sears and McPherson.

We can agree that Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck can't be saddled with changes due to combat losses - so here the data perhaps should be refined. But these men knew that combat losses would be a tax levied on top of other changes made in the command system. At the end of it all, they were responsible for creating the conditions that would win the war, for the stability of commands. Every permanent corps change made by or requested by the army or department commander required higher approval.

The data, raw as it was, incomplete as it was, preliminary as it now is, seems to me to point to managerial failure on a grand scale. Further, it seems to me to be unique to Lincoln, Stanton, Halleck, and this war. Material for a future post, perhaps.

If temporary assignments should not be counted as changes - if a serious case can be made why this should be so, let it be made. It is fair criticism to require that battlefield replacements not be charged to the competence of Lincoln, Stanton, or Halleck. It is possible, through these adjustments, to arrive at better turnover rates, but in no case do we arrive at decent corps commander turnover rates, not even by the abysmal standards of Vietnam.