Major General Oliver Otis Howard’s performance at Gettysburg may best be described as mixed. While his management of the battle on the afternoon of July 1st left much to be desired, it may be argued that no Federal officer could have won that fight, under the same circumstances. On the following two days, he behaved competently enough, if unspectacularly. Howard’s most important contribution to the success at Gettysburg was in ensuring that vital Cemetery Hill remained in Union hands, and for that, if nothing else, he deserves some recognition. The government evidently agreed, including Howard among the handful of officers who received the official Thanks of Congress after the victory. When the 11th Corps was sent west in the autumn of 1863, Howard went with it, continuing in command until the following spring when the 11th was consolidated with the 12th and other units to form the new 20th Corps. As Gen. Hooker was to command the 20th, Howard took over the Army of the Cumberland’s 4th Corps, leading it in the early stages of Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. After the death Gen. James McPherson in July, Sherman selected Howard to lead the Army of the Tennessee, propelling him into the top tier of Federal generals. Howard finished the war in that post. After the war, Howard headed the Freedman’s Bureau, where he championed the rights of former slaves. He served for nine years in that capacity. During this period, he also famously founded Howard University in Washington, DC. In 1874, he returned to active military service, conducting operations in the Northwest against the Native Americans. His best-known campaign was against the Nez Perce. After holding a number of posts, including a brief stint as superintendent of West Point, he retired in 1894. Howard died in 1909 at age 78. He is buried in Burlington, Vermont. Although Howard had an active and variegated post-war career, he is best remembered as the commander of the hard-luck 11th Corps at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. At the former battle, he contributed materially to the defeat that overtook his corps on May 2nd, and did little to defend the performance of his troops afterward. We have already discussed his Gettysburg activities in some depth. The general’s legacy may best be described as that of a very brave soldier who suffered for his country, who meant well, often tried hard, and frequently came up short. Ezra Warner, in Generals in Blue, says of Howard: “His … career must constitute one of the great paradoxes of American military history: no officer entrusted with the field direction of troops has ever equaled Howard’s record for surviving so many tactical errors of judgment and disregard of orders, emerging later not only with increased rank, but on one occasion with the thanks of Congress.” Warner’s verdict might be a little harsh, but not overly so. Howard is on the far left of this photograph of William T. Sherman and his top ranking generals. From left to right are: Howard, John A. Logan, William B. Hazen, Sherman, Jefferson C. Davis, Henry W. Slocum, Joseph Mower, Francis P. Blair Jr. This image was taken by Matthew Brady circa 1865. It is courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Stuart Dempsey is our host for a series on the Eleventh Army Corps during the Battle of Gettysburg. Stuart had two relatives in the Eleventh Corps (73rd Ohio Infantry Regiment) and both were killed/mortally wounded at Gettysburg. They are both buried in the National Cemetery. Stuart has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide since 2004.
In addition to tours at Gettysburg National Military Park, Stuart also conducts tours at other historic sites in North America and Europe. He invites you to have a look at his website: www.battlegroundhistorytours.com.
Previous entries in the Eleventh Corps series can be found here.
In today’s post, Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Stuart Dempsey presents the casualties and describes the reputation of the unit, and concludes his series on the Eleventh Corps at Gettysburg.
To email Licensed Battlefield Guide Stuart Dempsey, please click here to reveal his address.
This map shows the location of where our Eleventh Corps at Gettysburg videos were produced. Videos #1-#133 were shown in our previous Eleventh Corps posts. Video #134 was taken near the summit of East Cemetery Hill. Video #135 was taken in the National Cemetery near the Soldiers’ National Monument. This map was created facing north at approximately 6:30 AM on Saturday, January 21, 2012.
Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Stuart Dempsey is the host for our Eleventh Corps series. He is standing on East Cemetery Hill near the Baltimore Pike/Baltimore Street. The following monuments are in the background from left to right: Howard Equestrian statue, Wiedrich’s Battery, 73rd Pennsylvania, Rickett’s Battery, Howard Headquarters marker, 7th West Virginia, Carroll’s Brigade marker, 14th Indiana, and Hancock Equestrian statue. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 1:45 PM on Monday, December 19, 2011.
In Video #134 (Videos #1-#133 were shown in our previous Eleventh Corps posts) Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Stuart Dempsey is standing on East Cemetery Hill. Stuart presents the losses of the corps at Gettysburg, its reputation after the battle, and its performance during the rest of the war. This view was taken facing southeast at approximately 1:45 PM on Monday, December 19, 2011.
Licensed Battlefield Guide Stuart Dempsey is standing in the National Cemetery by the Soldiers’ National Monument (dedicated in 1869). This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 1:45 PM on Monday, December 19, 2011.
In Video #135 Licensed Battlefield Guide Stuart Dempsey is standing in the National Cemetery near the Soldiers’ National Monument. He concludes his series on the Eleventh Corps at Gettysburg. This view was taken facing northeast at approximately 1:45 PM on Monday, December 19, 2011.
There are not yet any histories of the Eleventh Corps that are in print. Here is the autobiography of Oliver O. Howard, who commanded the Eleventh Corps at Gettysburg. For ordering information, click here.
To see other posts by Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides, click here.