The Potomac River flows past Washington DC. The first battle of the Civil War was fought not far from the national capital at Bull Run. The demoralization of Union forces after this battle left Washington in an undefended state that came close to disaster, but the Union benefited from the failure of the Confederacy to follow up.
Congress was quick to rectify its mistake. On July 25, 1861, not long after Congress had authorized the induction of volunteers, the Division of the Potomac was created and placed under the command of Gen. George B. McClellan. It`s immediate purpose was to defend the approaches to the Potomac and hence Washington.
The forces that McClellan inherited were "a collection of undisciplined, ill officered, and uninstructed men." McClellan started with a force of 37,000, of whom many were nearing the end of their enlistment period. Within four months, he had increased the number to 77,000 men available for active duty, and the count was growing.
Turning the volunteers into an effective fighting army was a challenge. McClellan was forbidden to take regular officers and put them in charge of volunteers, and the politically appointed volunteer officers were of low military quality. Nevertheless, McClellan eventually created a trained force that could hold its own against the Confederates.
He was nevertheless cautious, and his caution was supplemented with that of Congress, who held back troops for the defense of Washington against Stonewall Jackson`s smaller force. The Army of the Potomac fought its way to the James River after the Seven Days Battles, but Washington lost patience with McClellan and demoted him below Pope.
In 1864 and 1865, when Meade in command of the Army of the Potomac but receiving orders from General Grant, the Army was able to complete the work outlined and begun by McClellan in 1862.
- - - Books You May Like Include: ----
Glory Road by Bruce Catton.
This is volume II of Bruce Catton's work on the Army of the Potomac. The critical months between the autumn of 1862 and midsummer 1863 is the focus o...
Gettysburg--The Second Day by Harry W. Pfanz.
The second day's fighting at Gettysburg--the assault of the Army of Northern Virginia against the Army of the Potomac on 2 July 1863--was probably the...
The Secret War for the Union: The Untold Story of Military Intelligence in the Civil War by Edwin C. Fishel.
It's rare for a modern writer to make a genuinely new discovery about the Civil War, but former intelligence officer Edwin C. Fishel pulls it off in T...
The Passing of Armies: An Account Of The Final Campaign Of The Army Of The Potomac by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.
An unlikely hero to the Army of the Potomac, college professor Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain led the 20th Maine Division in all the fiercest battles of ...
Not War But Murder: Cold Harbor 1864 by Ernest B. Furgurson.
Ernest Furgurson, author of Ashes of Glory and Chancellorsville 1863, brings his talents to a pivotal and often neglected Civil War battlethe fierce,...