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Who Do You . . . Hate??

A few months ago I was asked by Tamela Baker, the editor at America’s Civil War, to put together an article on the “Generals We Love to Hate”. The idea was to choose six generals (the number she estimated could be accomodated in the proscribed word-length) that students of the Civil War hate and explain why this was the case. Her specific vision was expressed this way:

Civil War buffs love to blame particular generals for lost battles and campaigns—McClellan, Bragg, McDowell, etc. Why do we like to hate them so much, and do they deserve it? Pick a couple from each side and examine what made them pariahs—and whether hindsight should rehabilitate their Images. Pick three from each side, 500 or so words on each, and a 500-word intro for about 3,500 words.

As soon as I accepted the assignment, it was clear that there were two approaches I could take to the subject: choose the six generals *I* hate or the six generals I believe are most hated by students of the Civil War. The fact that George McClellan appears first in the article and Henry Halleck does not appear at all should be enough for informed readers to realise which approach I took on this. I also followed Tamela’s direction to include generals from both the North and South. Not surprisingly, it proved much, much easier to identify hated Yankees than hated Rebels and I ended up with four from the North and two from the South on my list.

Anyway, I just finished my final revisions on the essay, so it should be appearing fairly soon. Thus, I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to reveal too much of my list or reasoning right now. Still, I was wondering: What do the folks in the blogosphere who follow Civil Warriors think about this question? So, I throw it out to you. Take either or both of the approaches to the question. Who do you think are the most hated generals? Or, who do you hate? Why? Should be fun to compare what you have to say with my list when it comes out.

Comments (13) to “Who Do You . . . Hate??”

  1. Just a quick run down on who comes first to my mind.

    Union – McClellan, so many excuses and so many missed chances and such arrogance!

    McClernand – little ability, cost lives with his mistakes and always looking to advance himself at the cost of others.

    Halleck – in over his head on so many levels.

    Confederate – Everyone’s favorite Bragg

    Forrest – This is just personal, he was so good and such a pain in the backside in the West!

    Hood – If he had stayed a division or even a corp commander his reputation would be very high – but what he did to the Army of Tennessee was criminal.

  2. Ha, Bob! You have three of my six!

  3. Lil’Mac, he’s probably number 1 on everybody’s list

    Lee, overrated, the Great Gray Fraud. he was butcher, he was great against 3rd rate talent, but he was matched by Meade ond overmatched by Grantand they act like he was Napoleon.

    Bragg, a real life Captain Queeg.

    Bishop Polk, a mutinous incompetent

    Halleck, a two faced back-stabber, he reminds me of Wormtongue in the LoTR trilogy

    Thomas Woods, he knew he was ruining Rosecrans at Chickamauga but he was upset at being scolded earlier in the day and so he deliberately invited disaster in revenge.

  4. Glenn Robertson questions the story about Wood, Ray, and I *really* disagree with you on Lee.

    But between you and Bob, you have identified four of my six.

  5. Judah Benjamin a true terrorist.

  6. Union:

    Mac, Halleck, and one of the “Killer B’s” (Burnside, Buell, Butler, Banks)—probably Butler

    CSA:

    Bragg, Longstreet, Hood

    I am reminded of my corollary to Brooks Simpson’s comment that an historian should not fall in love w/ dead people: It is equally bad to hate them.

  7. I think Burnside inspires more pity than hatred, Jim. But you called one of the others on my list.

    Of course, I don’t fall in love with or hate any of these Civil War commanders (I can even make the case for Halleck); thus I approached the question by providing my sense of what the sentiment is among Civil War enthusiasts generally.

  8. OK, here is my guess at Ethan’s list:

    McClellan
    Butler
    McClernand
    Sheridan (this is a pure guess)

    Bragg
    Hood

  9. For decades we heard of Grant the Butcher because of the misrepresented Cold Harbor.

    While Lee skates on Malvern Hill and Pickett’s Charge. The former is blamed on Magruder and the later is sold as a moment of great courage and glory.

    KLee always couched his orders in terms that would allow him to blame his subordinates , “It is hoped”, “If it can be can be done” and that allowed him to blame the officer tasked with carrying them out, like Magruder at Malvern “why did you attack?’ uh, you ordered it Mr Lee is why he attacked. or Ewell on July 1st, “take the hill if it can be done without bringing on a major engagement” well it clearly would have brought on a major fight to grab the hill.

    what others see as giving discretion I see as dodging responsibility.

    “Why didn’t you throw yourself upon them like Jackson would have done?” he scolded A.P.Hill on the North Anna but had Hill done so he imo would have been thrased by dug in Union troops and Federal arty across the river where it could fire with ease but not be assaulted , whenever the day went against the ANV Lee was well positioned to shift the blame.

    Also Stuart during the Pennsylvania Campaign, it was Lee who authorized Stuart’s raid and then Lee’s movement North that got the AoP moving and kept it between Lee and Stuart, the mistake was all on Lee for approving a move he never should have and it was done so out of contempt for the AoP.

    That’s why I have a dislike for Lee

    Lil’Mac is one of the few historical figures I can say I hate

  10. I cannot believe that NO ONE has mentioned ANY Trans-Mississippi figures, specifically Thomas Ewing, Jr. who issued the infamous General Order no. 11. Ewing would be on a most hated list locally (Kansas City). While I can’t HATE any one of these guys, one can substitute a profound lack of respect for their ability or lack thereof. Here’s my list of T-M figures:

    1) William Quantrill (CSA): Although Quantrill never earned more than a Colonel’s commission, he deserves no. 1 on any “most-hated” list.

    2) Thomas Ewing, Jr. (USA). General Orders no. 11. That pretty much says it all.

    3) Theophilus Holmes (CSA): Holmes screwed up everything he touched, culminating with his disastrous leadership during the Helena Campaign. HIS OWN MEN called him Granny Holmes.

    4) Sterling Price (CSA): I’ve never been quite able to figure out why Price was so loved–he was so incompetent.

    5) Henry Halleck (USA): Halleck’s meddling proved disastrous in many instances, and he put politics and his own advancement before what was best for the country.

    6) Thomas Hindman (CSA): Bill Shea makes a good case that Hindman was actually one of the better generals of the entire war, but he was ruthless in his means.

    7) John Schofield (USA): Schofield comes across as a whiner more often than not, and he is often working behind the scenes to undermine other Federal generals (with Halleck’s connivance). Rarely has a person risen so high with so little to recommend him.

    8) Franz Sigel (USA): I don’t think this one needs to be explained.

  11. Correction: Banks and McClernand both served in the Trans-Mississippi, and Halleck was in charge of the Dept of the Missouri. But McClernand is more associated with Grant in the Western Theater and Halleck is more associated with his time in Washington, DC. Banks via his association with the Red River campaign would qualify.

  12. Concerning Sigel, I learned more reasons to despise him by reading one of Scott Patchan’s Shenandoah books. It was Sigel who dropped the ball and let Early raid north, not Hunter.

  13. I’m surprised no one mentioned William T. Sherman. Being a Georgia native, I know a lot of haters of the so-called Merchant of Terror. I also hear that historians who “dare” defend Sherman often find themselves the victims of vitriolic e-mails, letters, and phone calls. Perhaps he is excluded because the word “love” never enters the love-to-hate equation.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I’m actually a fan of ol’ Cump.