Sunday, December 14, 2008
Who should I promote? Robert E. Lee after the death of Thomas J. Jackson
After Stonewall Jackson was killed the Confederate high command had an important decision ot make. The Army of Northern Virginia had entered a state of change after the beloved commander of the Second Corps met his end by a volley fired by his own troops. Lee had six eligiable candiates to replace Jackson and if you look at the list you could form a second army around these guys.
Richard Ewell-->Served with distinction with Jackson in the Valley and the Second Bull Run campaign where he was wounded.
A.P. Hill-->Lee called him his best division commander. This was very difficult for anyone to argue because Hill's division saved the Confederate right at Sharpsburg and despite a questionable performance at Fredricksburg, Hill's division possessed one of the best fighting forces in America. This was due to the strength of Hill as a commander.
John Bell Hood-->Next to Hill he was argulably Lee's best division commander. Hood had smashed the Union line at Gaines Mill and saved the Confederate left at Sharpsburg in 1862.
Richard H. Anderson-->Had one of the best resumes of any of the six commanders. He served with distinction during the Seven Days Campaign, Antietam and Second Bull Run. Anderson also was a very humble man like R.E. Lee.
Lafayette McLaws-->Another division commander and like Hood he served with skill under the commands of James Longstreet and Jackson. Like Hill he fought in every single battle that the Army of Northern Virginia had ever seen.
Jackson died on May 10, 1863 and by May 23rd the gray-bearded Lee had made his decision. He would divide his army into three corps instead of the two that had previously existed. This would make it easier for Lee and his corps commanders to dictate orders and fight battles. Longstreet would remain in command of the First Corps. As successor to Jackson, General Lee decided that Richard Ewell would become the new commander of the Second Corps.
Meanwhile the command of the newly minted Third Corps would fall to A.P. Hill. Many in the army critisized the decision and stated that the army's commander picked Hill because he was a Virginian. Years later Jefferson Davis would put this theory to rest in his memorirs by stating "There had been complaints in certain quarters that Virginia was getting more her fair share of the promotions. But the truth is that A.P. Hill was clearly entitled to the place, both ont he account of his ability as a soldier and the meritorious services he had rendered, that General Lee did not hestiate to to recommend him, and I did not hestiate to make the appointment."
Robertson, James I. General A. P. Hill : The Story of a Confederate Warrior. New York: Random House, 1987.