Pleasonton Alfred 182497

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Alfred Pleasonton (see Plate G2) was born in Washington, DC on 7 July 1824. Graduated in the West Point class of 1844, he was assigned to the dragoons. He earned a first lieutenant's brevet for gallantry in the Mexican War, and also served in Florida and on the frontier. He gained staff experience as an adjutant under Gen. William S.Harney. In 1861 he was a captain in the 2nd Dragoons (redesignated the 2nd Cavalry), and commanded the regiment as it marched from Utah to Washington that fall.

Promoted major on 15 February 1862, Pleasonton distinguished himself in the Peninsula campaign, and was made a brigadier-general of volunteers on 18 July 1862. He was given command of a cavalry division in the Andetam campaign, leading it at Fredericksburg (13 December 1862) and Chancellorsville (1-6 May 1863). He was given command of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac on 7 June 1863, with promotion to major-general on 22 June.

Pleasonton was regarded with some suspicion by his peers. Colonel Charles R.Lowell, 2nd Massachusetts, said of him: "I can't call any cavalry officer good who can't see the truth and tell the truth. With an infantry officer this is not so essential, but cavalry are the eyes and ears of the army and ought to see and hear and tell truly; and yet it is the universal opinion that P's own reputation and P's late promotions are bolstered up by systematic lying." Captain Charles Francis Adams Jr, 1st Massachusetts, wrote to his mother that "Pleasonton is the bete noire of all cavalry officers... He is pure and simple a newspaper humbug. You always see his name in the papers, but to us who have served under him he is notorious as a bully and a toady... Yet mean and contemptible as Pleasonton is. he is always in at Head Quarters."

However, Pleasonton was well respected by at least some of the army's commanders. In a letter to his wife on 18 August 1862, McClellan said: "I am glad to inform you that your friend Pleasonton has done splendidly. 1 placed him in command of the rear guard. The little fellow [Pleasonton] brightened up very much this morning when he came to report. I looked very sternly at him & told him that I had a very serious complaint to make against him. He looked rather wild, injured, & disgusted & wished to know what it was. I replied that he had entirely disappointed me, that he had not created a single stampede, nor called for any reinforcements. That such heinous conduct was something I did not at all look for, 8c that if it was persisted in, I must send him to Pope. The little fellow began to grin 8c was well pleased. He is a most excellent soldier 8c has performed a very important duty most admirably."

Pleasonton led the cavalry in its first successful large operation of the war, surprising J.E.B.Stuart at Brandy Station (9 June 1863), in which action the Union cavalry was said to have come of age. However, his work in the Gettysburg campaign

Western Horseman

was lackluster. He disapproved of the "Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid" against Ric hmond in February 1864, something that Grant thought was a good idea. As Grant had in mind for Philip Sheridan to command the cavalry in the East, this disagreement was the spur for Pleasonton's relief from command and reassignment to the Department of the Missouri.

There he performed well enough against the Confederate "Missouri Raid" in October 1864. Breveted major-general at the end of the war, he still reverted to his regular rank of major, 2nd US Cavalry. In 1866 Pleasonton was offered a lieutenant-colonelcy in the 20th US Infantry, but declined it. Since this resulted in his being subordinate to Col. TJ.H.Wood, who had graduated from West Point a year after Pleasonton and was lower on the list of volunteer major-generals, and to Lt.Col. I.N.Palmer, who graduated two years after Pleasonton and had only been breveted major-general, Pleasonton resigned. Although he applied for retirement at his volunteer rank, this was refused. He held some minor Federal posts, but in 1888 he was placed on the retired list as a major. He died in Washington on 17 February 1897, and is buried in the Congressional Cemetery there.

POPE, John (1822-92)

John Pope (see Plate Bl) was born into a distinguished family in Louisville, Kentucky, on 16 March 1822. After graduating from West Point in 1842, he was twice breveted in the Mexican War. Commissioned a captain in the Corps of Topographical Engineers in 1856, he was named a brigadier-general of volunteers on 14 June 1861.

Another view of Pleasonton while at Falmouth, Virginia, astride the horse he brought with him from Utah in 1861. He rode the same mount in the Peninsula campaign as a major commanding the 2nd US Cavalry.

OPPOSITE John Pope was brought to take command on the Virginia front after several successful campaigns in the West, but right away struck the wrong note with both his men and the enemy. Neither were unhappy to see him sent back West, this time to fight the Sioux uprising in Minnesota, after the disaster of Second Bull Run in 1862. John Gibbon, who commanded a brigade in his army, later wrote that "General Pope was lacking in that sort of independence of character which not only prompts but enables an army commander to do on the spot that which he knows the exigencies require, independent of orders received from superiors at a distance and ignorant of the situation."

OPPOSITE BELOW Pope looks slightly more soldierly in an engraving from Harper's Weekly, 13 September 1862. Again, the process has reversed the portrait from left to right.

Pope led the forces that opened the upper Mississippi River just above Memphis, capturing Madrid and Island No. 10. Promoted to major-general on 22 March 1862, he commanded the left wing of the army that besieged Corinth, Mississippi. Because of these successes he was called to Washington to command a new Army of Virginia, made up of troops around Washington and in the Shenandoah Valley.

Colonel David Strother met Pope in June 1862, and described him in his diary: "He is a stout man of medium height, prepossessing manners and appearance. He is young and alert... ." Later he added: "He reads character and talks like a keen, cool man of the world, kindly withal... Pope is a much cleverer man than I took him for." Two months later Strother wrote: "Pope is a bright, dashing man, self-confident and clearheaded. He has a good memory and has been a topographical engineer. I observe that he is wonderfully quick to seize all information on this subject. He remembers it all if once told and wants new details. Whether his mind grasps general subjects with capacity and clearness I have not had an opportunity to judge. He is irascible and impulsive in his judgments of men, but in his pleasant moods, jolly, humorous, and clever in conversation."

Named a brigadier-general in the regular army with effect from 14 July 1862, Pope issued a series of orders, the first telling his new command, "I have come to you from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies... ." Having irritated his own troops, he made the enemy even madder by calling for his troops to live off the resources of Virginia's citizens, and authorizing them to inflict capital punishment on any guerrillas who had sworn an oath of allegiance to the USA and were later captured in arms against the government. Lee determined to decisively beat Pope's army, which he did in the Second Bull Run (Manassas) campaign of August 1862. Many of Pope's own generals were highly critical of him, both before and after Second Manassas.

Pope's army was afterwards merged into the Army of the Potomac, and he was sent to command the Department of the Northwest. He served well there during the Sioux uprising in Minnesota in 1863. Staying in the army after the war, he became a major-general on 26 October 1882 and held various departmental commands until his retirement in 1886. He died in Sanduskv,

Alfred Vitz
Fitz John Porter was tall, striking, a perfect-looking soldier, but lacked the political instincts needed to survive. He foolishly committed to paper criticisms of his superior officer, John Pope, which would come back to haunt him.

Ohio, on 23 September 1892, and is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery, St Louis.

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