Crisis of Command in the Army of the Potomac

Sheridan’s Search for an Effective General

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About the Book

With the ascendancy of Ulysses S. Grant in late 1863, the command tone of the United States Army underwent a dramatic change. While Grant’s predecessor George McClellan had been overly cautious about committing troops and resources to fight the South, Grant held the philosophy that a war fought for total ends required total means.
Philip Sheridan set about reorganizing the army to reflect Grant’s new style. During the last six months of the war, he relieved three generals of their commands because of their inability to follow his orders precisely. William Averell, Alfred Torbert and Gouverneur Warren found themselves and their careers casualties of Sheridan’s intense determination to bring an end to the hostilities.
Only Ranald S. Mackenzie managed to survive Sheridan’s search for effective leaders, proving himself the ideal subordinate.

About the Author(s)

Journalist Jay W. Simson is a member of the Western Ohio Civil War Roundtable, and has previously written on naval strategies of the Civil War. He lives in Van Wert, Ohio.

Bibliographic Details

Jay W. Simson
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 245
Bibliographic Info: 12 photos, maps, notes, bibliography index
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3653-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2071-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction and Acknowledgments      1

Prologue: Sheridan Takes Command      5

Part I: William Woods Averell The Man Who Preferred Mountains


1. Averell’s Background      19

2. The Battle of Kelly’s Ford      24

3. The Chancellorsville Campaign      29

4. Redemption in the Mountains      37

5. Averell and Sheridan      41

6. Fisher’s Hill      48

7. Sheridan Sacks Averell      53

Part II: Alfred Thomas Archimedes Torbert The Man Who Was Promoted Too Far

8. Commissioned by Both Sides      61

9. Torbert in the Overland Campaign and at Trevilian Station      68

10. Chief of Cavalry      74

11. Failure at Milford      79

12. Hesitation at Tom’s Brook      84

13. The Battle of Cedar Creek      89

14. Flunking the Final Exam at Gordonsville      97

Part III: Gouverneur Kemble Warren The Man Who Suffered from Combat Fatigue

15. The Master Engineer, Cartographer and Teacher      105

16. Showing the Spark at Second Manassas/Bull Run      111

17. The Hero at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg      118

18. A Strong Performance at Bristoe Station      125

19. Moral Courage at Mine Run      129

20. The Long Hard Grind of the Overland Campaign      137

21. On the Road to Five Forks      149

22. Broken Hero at the Fatal Victory of Five Forks      154

23. The Court of Inquiry      161

Part IV: Ranald Slidell Mackenzie The Man Who Proved the Rule

24. The Most Promising Young Officer in the Army      171

25. The Perpetual Punisher      176

26. Mackenzie at Five Forks      181

27. The Pursuit to Appomattox      187

28. The Most Tragic One of Them All      192

29. Sheridan’s Troubleshooter      201

Epilogue: The Method Behind Sheridan’s Madness      211

Notes      223

Bibliography      227

Index      233

Book Reviews & Awards

“a solid look at an under-discussed topic”—TOCWOC-A Civil War Blog.