Ambrose Burnside (1824-1881) was a U.S. military officer, railroad executive and politician best known for serving as a Union general during the Civil War (1861-65). Burnside first saw combat in the Civil War at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. He later led an expeditionary force in North Carolina and then served during the Maryland Campaign at the Battle of Antietam. Although he was reluctant to take the post, in November 1862 Burnside was placed in charge of the Union Army of the Potomac. He was removed from command in January 1863 after the devastating Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Burnside next held a departmental command in Ohio and then participated in the defense of Knoxville in the fall of 1863. He would later resign from duty in the wake of his unit’s failure during the Battle of the Crater in July 1864. After the Civil War Burnside worked as a railroad director and later served as a U.S. senator and governor of Rhode Island. He died in 1881 at the age of 57.
Ambrose Burnside: Early Life
Ambrose E. Burnside was born in Liberty, Indiana, on May 23, 1824. The son of a court clerk and farmer, Burnside spent his youth working as a tailor before his father helped secure him an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1843. Burnside was successful in his studies but struggled to adjust to the strict nature of military life and was nearly dismissed after accumulating several demerits. Despite this, his academic record saw him finish 18th out of 38 in his class in 1847.
Burnside was commissioned as an artillery officer, and his unit served on garrison duty during the Mexican-American War (1846-48). He next served on the western frontier and was wounded in the neck by an arrow during fighting against the Apache in 1849. In 1852 he was stationed at Ford Adams in Newport, Rhode Island. During this time he met and wed Mary Richmond Bishop, a local woman from Providence.
Burnside resigned from the army in 1853 and began designing a new kind of breech-loading carbine rifle—an idea he had developed during his time on the frontier. This “Burnside carbine” initially failed as a business venture, and Burnside was forced to sell his patent to cover his debts. Despite this, the gun would later find widespread use as a cavalry weapon during the Civil War. Burnside next served as a general in the Rhode Island militia, and then as a treasurer for the Illinois Central Railroad, which was operated by his former West Point classmate and friend George McClellan.
Ambrose Burnside: Civil War Service
Burnside helped organize a regiment of Rhode Island militiamen at the start of the Civil War in 1861, and his unit was one of the first to arrive in Washington, D.C. Burnside served in the early Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) as a colonel, and was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers shortly thereafter.
In September 1861 Burnside was placed in charge of an expeditionary force in North Carolina, and for the next several months he oversaw a series of raids and amphibious attacks on the southern coastline. Burnside claimed Roanoke Island and the town of New Bern, North Carolina, with relative ease, and his campaign helped establish a long-lasting base of operations for the Union blockade of the Atlantic coast. Burnside’s successes earned him a promotion to major general of volunteers, and the bulk of his force was transferred back to George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. During this time Burnside—known as an exceedingly modest man—twice turned down an opportunity to succeed McClellan as head of Union forces.
Burnside’s next major combat operation came as a corps commander during the Maryland Campaign in September 1862. At the Battle of Antietam, Burnside’s ineffectiveness in rallying his troops across a stone bridge—later known as “Burnside’s Bridge”—resulted in a delayed Union attack, and the battle ended as a tactical draw.
Ambrose Burnside: Command of the Army of the Potomac
In November 1862 Burnside was ordered to take charge of the Army of the Potomac after McClellan was relieved from duty. He reluctantly accepted and immediately ordered a bold advance toward the Confederate capital of Richmond. Burnside met with heavy delays in crossing the Rappahannock River, which allowed General Robert E. Lee to assemble his Army of Northern Virginia outside the town of Fredericksburg. In the ensuing Battle of Fredericksburg, Burnside’s forces made a series of failed frontal assaults against Lee’s nearly impregnable defenses, resulting in a decisive Confederate victory and almost 13,000 Union casualties.
Burnside attempted to rally his demoralized army for a second offensive, but the plan—later known as the Mud March—was thwarted by heavy rains and failed to materialize. Believing that his officers had been insubordinate during the campaign, Burnside asked Lincoln to either relieve several generals from duty or accept his resignation. Lincoln chose to remove Burnside from command, replacing him with General Joseph Hooker in January 1863.
Ambrose Burnside: Later Civil War Service
Burnside was subsequently assigned to command of the Department of the Ohio in March 1863. The area was known for harboring antiwar sentiment, and Burnside caused a minor controversy when he arrested a politician named Clement Vallandigham on charges of sedition. Burnside next participated in the Knoxville Campaign in the fall of 1863. He outmaneuvered Confederate General James Longstreet and was able to successfully hold the city of Knoxville, Tennessee, until he was reinforced by General William T. Sherman.
In the spring of 1864 Burnside regained control of his old corps and participated in Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign at the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House. At the Siege of Petersburg in July of 1864, Burnside played a crucial role in an audacious plan to dig a mine under the Confederate position and then detonate explosives to create a gap in the defensive lines. The plan was poorly managed, and Burnside’s force sustained 3,800 casualties.
In the wake of what became known as the Battle of the Crater, Burnside was placed on leave. He remained absent from the army until April 1865, when he tendered his resignation shortly after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
Ambrose Burnside: Later Life
After the war Burnside went on to a distinguished civilian career, serving as the director of several railways as well as the first president of the National Rifle Association. He served as the governor of Rhode Island from 1866 to 1869, and in 1874 he was elected as a U.S. senator. Burnside would serve in Congress until his death in 1881 at the age of 57.
Great Beards in American History
Those of us based in the U.S. are getting ready for this week’s Independence Day celebrations by buying way too many hamburgers and hot dogs, gathering a stockpile of fireworks, and picking up a keg or two. The Fourth of July is a time when many of us throw parties to celebrate the nation’s freedoms alongside friends and family and enjoy an evening of watching things explode.
It’s also a chance to reflect on the countless men and women throughout history who worked tirelessly to make America a better place. Some fought to free us or keep us free, while others made a mission of chronicling the splendor America has to offer. This year, The Beard Club would like to pay tribute to a few major players in U.S. history who helped define the country while sporting some truly historic facial hair. Let’s look back into our nation’s past to remember the patriots who helped make this land great—and did it while looking awesome.
About Maj. General Ambrose Burnside (USA), Governor, U.S. Senator
Ambrose Everett Burnside (May 23, 1824 – September 13, 1881) was an American soldier, railroad executive, inventor, industrialist, and politician from Rhode Island, serving as governor and a U.S. Senator. As a Union Army general in the American Civil War, he conducted successful campaigns in North Carolina and East Tennessee but was defeated in the disastrous Battle of Fredericksburg and Battle of the Crater. His distinctive style of facial hair is now known as sideburns, derived from his last name.
Burnside was born in Liberty, Indiana, the fourth of nine children of Edghill and Pamela (or Pamilia) Brown Burnside, a family of Scottish origin. His great-great-grandfather Robert Burnside (1725) was born in Scotland and settled in the Province of South Carolina. His father, a native of South Carolina, was a slave owner who freed his slaves when he relocated to Indiana. Ambrose attended Liberty Seminary as a young boy, but his education was interrupted when his mother died in 1841 he was apprenticed to a local tailor, eventually becoming a partner in the business. His interest in military affairs and his father's political connections obtained an appointment to the United States Military Academy in 1843. He graduated in 1847, ranking 18th in a class of 38, and was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Artillery. He traveled to Veracruz for the Mexican-American War but arrived after hostilities ceased and performed mostly garrison duty around Mexico City.
At the close of the war, Lt. Burnside served two years on the western frontier, serving under Captain Braxton Bragg in the 3rd U.S. Artillery, a light artillery unit that had been converted to cavalry duty, protecting the Western mail routes through Nevada to California. In 1849, he was wounded by an arrow in his neck during a skirmish against Apaches in Las Vegas, New Mexico. In 1852, he was assigned to Fort Adams, Newport, Rhode Island, and, while there, he married Mary Richmond Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, on April 27. The marriage, which lasted until Burnside's death, was childless.
In 1853, Burnside resigned his commission in the United States Army, although maintaining a position in the state militia, and devoted his time and energy to the manufacture of the famous rifle that bears his name, the Burnside carbine. The Secretary of War under President James Buchanan, John B. Floyd, contracted with the Burnside Arms Company to equip a large portion of the Army with his carbine and induced him to establish extensive factories for its manufacture. The Bristol Rifle Works were no sooner complete than another gunmaker allegedly bribed Floyd to break his $100,000 contract with Burnside. Burnside ran as a Democrat for one of the Congressional seats in Rhode Island in 1858 and was defeated in a landslide. The burdens of the campaign and the destruction by fire of his factory contributed to his financial ruin, and he was forced to assign his firearm patents to others. He went west in search of employment and became treasurer of the Illinois Central Railroad, where he worked for, and became friendly with, one of his future commanding officers, George B. McClellan.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Burnside was a brigadier general in the Rhode Island Militia. He raised a regiment, the 1st Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry, and was appointed its colonel on May 2, 1861. Within a month, he ascended to brigade command in the Department of Northeast Virginia. He commanded the brigade without distinction at the First Battle of Bull Run in July, committing his troops piecemeal, and took over division command temporarily for wounded Brig. Gen. David Hunter. After his 90-day regiment was mustered out of service, he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on August 6, and was assigned to train provisional brigades in the nascent Army of the Potomac.
Burnside commanded the Coast Division, or North Carolina Expeditionary Force—three brigades assembled in Annapolis, Maryland, which formed the nucleus for his future IX Corps𠅊nd the Department of North Carolina, from September 1861 until July 1862. He conducted a successful amphibious campaign that closed over 80% of the North Carolina sea coast to Confederate shipping for the remainder of the war. For his successes at the battles of Roanoke Island and New Bern, the first significant Union victories in the Eastern Theater, he was promoted to major general on March 18. In July, his forces were transported north to Newport News, Virginia, and became the IX Corps of the Army of the Potomac.
Following Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's failure in the Peninsula Campaign, Burnside was offered command of the Army of the Potomac. Refusing this opportunityuse of his loyalty to McClellan and because he understood his own lack of military experience— he detached part of his corps in support of Maj. Gen. John Pope's Army of Virginia in the Northern Virginia Campaign. Telegrams extremely critical of Pope's abilities as a commander from Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter that he received at this time and forwarded on to his superiors in concurrence would later play a significant role in Porter's court-martial, in which Burnside would appear as a star witness.
Burnside again declined command following Pope's debacle at Second Bull Run.
Burnside was given command of the "Right Wing" of the Army of the Potomac (the I Corps and IX Corps) at the start of the Maryland Campaign for the Battle of South Mountain, but McClellan separated the two corps at the Battle of Antietam, placing them on opposite ends of the Union battle line, returning Burnside to command of just the IX Corps. Implicitly refusing to give up his higher authority, Burnside treated first Maj. Gen. Jesse L. Reno (killed at South Mountain) and then Brig. Gen. Jacob D. Cox as the corps commander, funneling orders to the corps through them. This cumbersome arrangement contributed to his slowness in attacking and crossing what is now called "Burnside's Bridge" on the southern flank of the Union line.
Burnside did not perform adequate reconnaissance of the area, and instead of taking advantage of several easy fording sites out of range of the enemy, his troops were forced into repeated assaults across the narrow bridge which was dominated by Confederate sharpshooters on high ground. By noon, McClellan was losing patience. He sent a succession of couriers to motivate Burnside to move forward. He ordered one aide, "Tell him if it costs 10,000 men he must go now." He increased the pressure by sending his inspector general to confront Burnside, who reacted indignantly: "McClellan appears to think I am not trying my best to carry this bridge you are the third or fourth one who has been to me this morning with similar orders." The delay allowed Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill's Confederate division to come up from Harpers Ferry and repulse the Union breakthrough. McClellan refused Burnside's requests for reinforcements, and the battle ended in a tactical stalemate.
McClellan was removed after failing to pursue General Robert E. Lee's retreat from Antietam, and Burnside was assigned to command the Army of the Potomac on November 7, 1862. He reluctantly obeyed this order, the third such in his brief career. President Abraham Lincoln pressured Burnside to take aggressive action and on November 14 approved his plan to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. This plan led to a humiliating and costly Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13. His advance upon Fredericksburg was rapid, but planning in marshaling pontoon bridges for crossing the Rappahannock River and his own reluctance to deploy portions of his army across fording points later delayed the attack. This allowed Gen. Lee to concentrate along Marye's Heights just west of town and easily repulse the Union attacks. Assaults south of town, which were supposed to be the main avenue of attack, were also mismanaged, and initial Union breakthroughs went unsupported. Upset by the failure of his plan and by the enormous casualties of his repeated, futile frontal assaults, Burnside declared that he would lead an assault by his old corps. His corps commanders talked him out of it, but relations between the commander and his subordinates were strained. Accepting full blame, he offered to retire from the U.S. Army, but this was refused.
In January 1863, Burnside launched a second offensive against Lee, but it bogged down in winter rains before it accomplished anything and has been derisively called the Mud March. In its wake, he asked that several officers, who were openly insubordinate, be relieved of duty and court-martialed he also offered to resign. Lincoln chose the latter option on January 26 and replaced him with Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, one of the officers who had conspired against Burnside.
Lincoln was unwilling to lose Burnside from the Army and assigned him to command the Department of the Ohio and his old IX Corps. In Ohio, Burnside issued his controversial General Order Number 38, making it a crime to express any kind of opposition to the war. Burnside used it to arrest former Ohio congressman and candidate for governor of Ohio, Clement Vallandigham, a prominent leader in the copperhead peace movement, and try him in a military court (despite the fact that he was a civilian). Burnside also dealt with Confederate raiders such as John Hunt Morgan.
In the Knoxville Campaign, Burnside advanced to Knoxville, Tennessee, first bypassing the Confederate-held Cumberland Gap. After occupying Knoxville unopposed, he sent troops back to the Cumberland Gap. Brig. Gen. John W. Frazer, the Confederate commander, refused to surrender in the face of two Union brigades and Burnside arrived with a third, forcing the surrender of Frazer and 2,300 Confederates. After Union Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans was defeated at the Battle of Chickamauga, Burnside was pursued by Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, against whose troops he had battled at Marye's Heights. Burnside skillfully outmaneuvered Longstreet at the Battle of Campbell's Station and was able to reach his entrenchments and safety in Knoxville, where he was briefly besieged until the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Fort Sanders outside the city. Tying down Longstreet's corps at Knoxville contributed to Gen. Braxton Bragg's defeat by Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Chattanooga. Troops under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman marched to Burnside's aid, but the siege had already been lifted Longstreet withdrew, eventually returning to Virginia.
Burnside was ordered to take the IX Corps back to the Eastern Theater, where, in Annapolis, Maryland, he built it up to a strength of over 21,000 effectives. The IX Corps fought in the Overland Campaign of May 1864 as an independent command, reporting initially to Grant his corps was not assigned to the Army of the Potomac because Burnside outranked its commander, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, who had been a division commander under Burnside at Fredericksburg. This cumbersome arrangement was rectified on May 24 just before the Battle of North Anna, when Burnside agreed to waive his precedence of rank and was placed under Meade's direct command.
Burnside fought at the battles of Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, where he did not perform in a distinguished manner, attacking piecemeal and appearing reluctant to commit his troops to the frontal assaults that characterized these battles. After North Anna and Cold Harbor, he took his place in the siege lines at Petersburg.
As the two armies faced the stalemate of trench warfare at Petersburg in July 1864, Burnside agreed to a plan suggested by a regiment of Pennsylvania coal miners in his corps: dig a mine under a fort in the Confederate entrenchments and ignite explosives there to achieve a surprise breakthrough. The fort was destroyed on July 30 in what is known as the Battle of the Crater. Because of interference from Meade, Burnside was ordered, only hours before the infantry attack, not to use his division of black troops, which had been specially trained for this mission. He was forced to use untrained white troops instead. He could not decide which division to choose as a replacement, so he had his three subordinate commanders draw lots. The division chosen by chance was that commanded by Brig. Gen. James H. Ledlie, who failed to brief the men on what was expected of them and was reported during the battle to be drunk well behind the lines, providing no leadership. Ledlie's men entered the huge crater instead of going around it, becoming trapped, and were subjected to murderous fire from Confederates around the rim, resulting in high casualties.
Burnside was relieved of command on August 14 and sent on leave by Grant Meade never recalled him to duty. A court of inquiry later placed the blame for the Crater fiasco on Burnside and his subordinates. In December, Burnside met with President Lincoln and General Grant about his future. He was contemplating resignation, but Lincoln and Grant requested that he remain in the Army. At the end of the interview, Burnside wrote, "I was not informed of any duty upon which I am to be placed." He finally resigned his commission on April 15, 1865.
After his resignation, Burnside was employed in numerous railroad and industrial directorships, including the presidencies of the Cincinnati and Martinsville Railroad, the Indianapolis and Vincennes Railroad, the Cairo and Vincennes Railroad, and the Rhode Island Locomotive Works. He was elected to three one-year terms as Governor of Rhode Island (May 1866 to May 1869). He was commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic veterans' association from 1871 to 1872. At its inception in 1871, the National Rifle Association chose him as its first president.
During a visit to Europe in 1870, Burnside attempted to mediate between the French and the Germans in the Franco-Prussian War. In 1874 he was elected as U.S. Senator from Rhode Island, was re-elected in 1880, and served until his death in 1881. During that time, Burnside, who had been a Democrat before the war, ran as a Republican, playing a prominent role in military affairs as well as serving as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in 1881.
Burnside died suddenly of a heart attack on September 13, 1881 at Bristol, Rhode Island, and is buried in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island. An equestrian statue in his honor was erected in the late 19th century in Burnside Park in Providence.
Personally, Burnside was always very popular𠅋oth in the army and in politics. He made friends easily, smiled a lot, and remembered everyone's name. His professional military reputation, however, was less positive, and he was known for being obstinate, unimaginative, and unsuited both intellectually and emotionally for high command. Grant stated that he was "unfitted" for the command of an army, and that no one knew this better than Burnside. Knowing his capabilities, he twice refused command of the Army of the Potomac, only accepting when told that the command would otherwise go to Joseph Hooker. Jeffry D. Wert described Burnside's relief after Fredericksburg in a passage that sums up his military career:
He had been the most unfortunate commander of the Army, a general who had been cursed by succeeding its most popular leader and a man who believed he was unfit for the post. His tenure had been marked by bitter animosity among his subordinates and a fearful, if not needless, sacrifice of life. A firm patriot, he lacked the power of personality and will to direct recalcitrant generals. He had been willing to fight the enemy, but the terrible slope before Marye's Heights stands as his legacy.
– Jeffry D. Wert, The Sword of Lincoln
Bruce Catton summarized Burnside:
. Burnside had repeatedly demonstrated that it had been a military tragedy to give him a rank higher than colonel. One reason might have been that, with all his deficiencies, Burnside never had any angles of his own to play he was a simple, honest, loyal soldier, doing his best even if that best was not very good, never scheming or conniving or backbiting. Also, he was modest in an army many of whose generals were insufferable prima donnas, Burnside never mistook himself for Napoleon. Physically he was impressive: tall, just a little stout, wearing what was probably the most artistic and awe-inspiring set of whiskers in all that bewhiskered Army. He customarily wore a high, bell-crowned felt hat with the brim turned down and a double-breasted, knee-length frock coat, belted at the waist𠅊 costume which, unfortunately, is apt to strike the modern eye as being very much like that of a beefy city cop of the 1880s.
– Bruce Catton, Mr. Lincoln's Army
Burnside was noted for his unusual facial hair, joining strips of hair in front of his ears to his mustache but with chin clean-shaven the word burnsides was coined to describe this style. The syllables were later reversed to give sideburns.
Burnside Street in Portland, Oregon, is named for General Burnside, as is Burnside residence hall at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston.
Burnside was portrayed by Alex Hyde-White in Ronald F. Maxwell's 2003 film Gods and Generals, which includes the Battle of Fredericksburg.
Learning the trade, Burnside elected to utilize his father's political connections in 1843, to obtain an appointment to the US Military Academy. He did so despite his pacifist Quaker upbringing. Enrolling at West Point, his classmates included Orlando B. Willcox, Ambrose P. Hill, John Gibbon, Romeyn Ayres, and Henry Heth. While there he proved a middling student and graduated four years later ranked 18th in a class of 38. Commissioned as a brevet second lieutenant, Burnside received an assignment to the 2nd US Artillery.
Ambrose E. Burnside
Ambrose Everett Burnside began his military career of varied success after graduating 18th in a class of 47 from the United States Military Academy in 1847. He received a brevet second lieutenant position in the 2nd Artillery, and served during the Mexican-American War mostly on garrison duty in Mexico City. After the war, he briefly served in garrison duty in the southwestern United States, and resigned his commission in 1853. He set to work on a breech-loading rifle, which eventually failed, was appointed as a major general of the Rhode Island militia, and received a nomination to Congress.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Burnside organized the 1st Rhode Island Infantry, which was one of the first units to arrive in Washington and offer the capitol protection. At the battle of First Manassas, Burnside commanded a brigade of infantry, and was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers on August 6, 1861 for his actions.
In September of 1861, Burnside was given command of three brigades known as the North Carolina Expeditionary Force, and launched an attack against the North Carolina coast. His force was successful in achieving a foothold in North Carolina, resulting in Burnside’s promotion to major general of volunteers on March 18, 1862. At the battle of Antietam, Union General George B. McClellan gave Burnside command of the IX Corps as well as the I Corps. During the battle, however, while in charge of the IX Corps, Burnside’s overly precise orders caused confusion and delays, which led to great difficulties in capturing what became known as “Burnside’s Bridge.”
After McClellan’s failure to follow General Robert E. Lee following the battle of Antietam, Burnside was made commander of the Army of the Potomac on November 7, 1862. Burnside decided to attempt a rapid approach to Richmond, leading to a very costly Union defeat on December 13 at the Battle of Fredericksburg, during which the Union army received 13,000 casualties after making numerous assaults against impregnable Confederate positions. This Union debacle, combined with a second failed attempt which became known as the “Mud March,” caused Burnside to be relieved of command, and Joseph Hooker was given command of the Army of the Potomac.
In March of 1863, Burnside was given command of the Department of the Ohio. During his command, he arrested ex-Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham for making seditious comments, an act which drew Burnside some criticism. In autumn of 1863, Burnside successfully commanded his troops against Confederate General James L. Longstreet. Burnside was able to outmaneuver Longstreet, and successfully held on to the city of Knoxville until Union reinforcements under William T. Sherman arrived and forced Longstreet to retreat.
After his successful defense of Knoxville, Burnside was ordered to take command of the IX Corps in support of the Army of the Potomac. He participated in much of the Overland Campaign under the direction of General Ulysses S. Grant, including the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, North Anna, and Cold Harbor. During the siege of Petersburg, Burnside commanded troops in the battle of the Crater, during which a Union mine dug under Confederate positions was filled with explosives and detonated, creating a fifty yard gap in the Confederate lines. Burnside failed to exploit the gap in time, which resulted in the loss of Union soldiers. After this failure, Burnside resigned his commission on April 15, 1865.
After the war, Burnside briefly served as Senator from the state of Rhode Island. The distinctive facial hair he wore throughout most of his life led to the identification of that form of facial hair by the modern name, sideburns, created from his last name.
Ambrose Everett Burnside
Commanded a brigade at First Manassas and later succeeded McClellan as the head of the Army of the Potomac. He was removed by Lincoln after Fredericksburg. Ambrose Burnside generally knew his limits, but despite that was promoted beyond his capability.
He was born in Indiana, went to seminary for a while, then West Point (class of 1847) and served in Mexico. He saw no action, only garrison duty. Against the Indians it was different: he was wounded in 1849 in the New Mexico Territory. He resigned in 1853 to make his fortune by inventing a breech-loading carbine. The Army wouldn't buy it and he went bankrupt trying. (His creditors had to be happy with the patent, which made them millions during the Civil War, when the Army was happy to have the gun.) He moved to Illinois and became treasurer of the Illinois Central.
He dropped that in 1861, raising and becoming Colonel of the 1st Rhode Island. He was acting as brigade commander at First Manassas, and didn't show much insight, leading a series of piecemeal attacks rather than concentrating for an overwhelming one in the important early stages of the battle. He and his men were mustered out in August 1861 (their enlistments had run out) but four days later he was a Brigadier General and in charge of an independent force.
Burnside was in charge of the North Carolina expedition, and grabbed (against light opposition) bases on Roanoke Island, and the port of New Bern. He wasn't brilliant, and there wasn't the strength to press inland, but he certainly helped the Union blockade. Success anywhere, anyhow, was enough for promotion and he pinned up his second star, and Lincoln offered him command of the Army of the Potomac. Burnside wisely declined, letting John Pope have a turn. When Pope proved incompetent, Lincoln made Burnside the same offer, but it was again declined.
Instead Burnside was given oversight of two Corps (I and IX) during the Antietam campaign. At the actual battle they were on opposite ends of the Union line, and he stationed himself with IX Corps, which made slow progress crossing the Antietam Creek. Burnside, the professional soldier, saw a bridge and apparently assumed the creek was to deep to ford. Successive attacks across the bridge failed, while he could simply have pushed across the stream and flanked the few Confederate defenders. (He also detached men from the main effort, scattering his forces.) He finally cleared the bridge and seemed to be pushing through into Lee's rear, unopposed, but he'd waited too long. A.P. Hill's Light Division slammed into Burnside's flank and sent the Union troops reeling.
With McClellan removed after the battle, Lincoln told Burnside to take command. He was still hesitant but felt he could not refuse an order. He stole a march on Lee and attacked Fredericksburg, again after delays actually crossing the river. The delays meant Lee could concentrate, and the Army of the Potomac paid heavily for it, in their most one-sided defeat. Having tricked Lee once in December 1862, Burnside tried it again in January 1863. This time it turned into the "Mud March" and Lee hardly needed to respond while Union soldiers drowned in mud. Burnside was sacked after saying he wanted out and also wanted a batch of officers court-martialed.
July 30, 1863
HDQRS. SIXTH DIVISION, SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Maj. Gen. STEPHEN A. HURLBUT,
Commanding Sixteenth Army Corps:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your communication of 29th instant, with copy of Brigadier-General Dodge’s telegram.
Colonel Waring’s command was, on the 27th instant, 6 miles northwest of Paris, Tenn., and a portion of his cavalry were in Paris, but found no enemy there. I believe his command is now at Feliciana, near the State line. Inclosed please find my instructions just sent to him.
The Kentucky election, occurring on next Monday, is also of importance. Lucien Anderson, the Union candidate for Congress, was at Columbus yesterday. The rebel sympathizers will struggle to elect disloyal men and, after mature consideration, I felt compelled to issue the inclosed explanatory order, as an addition to your Special Orders, No, 159, which had already been published and widely circulated.
Very respectfully, general, your obedient servant,
HDQRS. SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Memphis, Tenn., July 14, 1863.
In so much of the State of Kentucky as is within the District of Columbus it is ordered:
1st. That no person be permitted to be a candidate for office who is not avowedly and unconditionally for the Union and the suppression of the rebellion.
2d. That no person shall exercise the privilege of an elector and vote at said elections who is not avowedly and unconditionally for the Union and the suppression of the rebellion.
3d. The military authorities in said District of Columbus will see to it that this order is carried out. Judges of elections will be governed by the principles herein set forth, and will demand evidence upon oaths in such cases as may be in doubt, and allow no person to exercise the franchise of voting who does not take the oath required.
By order of Maj. Gen. S.A. Hurlbut:
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF COLUMBUS,
SIXTH DIVISION, SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
The above orders of the general commanding corps are communicated to the civil and military authorities for their information. Military officers making arrests for violation of these orders will be governed by the circular from office of Commissary-General of Prisoners, dated Washington, May 11, 1863.
By order of Brigadier-General Asboth:
HDQRS. 6TH DIV., SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
That no further doubt may exist as to the intent and meaning of Special Orders, No. 159, dated Headquarters Sixteenth Army Corps, July 14, 1863, it is ordered that no person shall be permitted to be voted for or be a candidate for office who has been or is now under arrest or bonds, by proper authority, for uttering disloyal language or sentiments.
County judges within this district are hereby ordered to appoint as judges and clerks of the ensuing August election only such persons as are avowedly and unconditionally for the Union and the suppression of the rebellion, and are further ordered to revoke and recall any appointments of judges and clerks already made who are now such loyal persons.
Judges and clerks of elections are hereby ordered not to place the name of any person upon the poll-books to be voted for at said election who is not avowedly and unconditionally for the Union and the suppression of the rebellion, or who may be opposed to furnishing men and money for the suppression of the rebellion.
The following oath is prescribed, and will be administered by judges of elections to voters and to such candidates as reside within this district:
I do solemnly swear that I have never entered the service of the so-called Confederate States that I have not been engaged in the service of the so-called provisional government of Kentucky, either in a civil or military capacity that I have never, either directly or indirectly, aided the rebellion against the Government of the United States or the State of Kentucky that I am unconditionally for the Union and the suppression of the rebellion, and am willing to furnish men and money for the vigorous prosecution of the war against the rebellion league known as the Confederate States. So help me God.
Any voter, judge or clerk of election, or other person, who may evade, neglect, or refuse compliance with the provisions of this order, will be arrested and sent before a military commission as soon as the facts are substantiated.
By order of Brigadier-General Asboth:
A battery of artillery and two train-loads of cavalry are between Falmouth and Cynthiana. I think it will be well to let them go on to Nicholasville, to go from there to Richmond or Hickman Bridge, as you may like. What have you done with Gilbert’s cavalry? The cavalry that is on its way is part of Wolford’s brigade. The Forty-fifth Ohio belongs to the same brigade, and has just arrived at Paris. Will it not be well to order it to Nicholasville also, or do you think it would be better for the whole force to get off the trains at Paris, and move toward Irvine? I don’t think they can overtake Sanders, but by making a junction with Gilbert’s cavalry at Richmond, or near there, they can, with the battery, keep the enemy from coming on the Big Hill road from Irvine. Colonel Ross might march direct from Paris to Richmond at his leisure, and meet Wolford’s and Gilbert’s cavalry there. Answer.
GENERAL: Received dispatch from Sanders, dated 6.40 p.m. yesterday nothing since. He had then just got a force across Red River, on the Irvine road had only 1 man wounded and had captured 15 prisoners. After leaving Winchester, the rain had made the road so difficult that the artillery could with difficulty get along the heaviest pieces were left with a guard, and instructions to come along as fast as possible. Enemy had abandoned a number of wagons on the road. Sanders’ force, sent to Paris, lost its way, and has not yet arrived. Have ordered the Fifth East Tennessee and what is at Paris, with battery, to Richmond, and will send there those that are on trains now. Enemy who was at Paris went in direction of Mount Sterling.
Maj. Gen. AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY POST,
SIR: About 2 o’clock yesterday the telegraph operator at Winchester arrived here and informed me that the rebels occupied Winchester he did not know in what force, as he did not wait to ascertain, being afraid of capture. No official information had been received of any immediate danger at this point, but, in view of the proximity of the enemy, immediate steps were taken to meet him, should he venture to cut the railroad here.
About 4 p.m. the rebel advance drove in our pickets, but were immediately engaged by about 100 men of the Twenty-third Michigan and one piece of artillery of Henshaw’s battery. This force held the enemy until re-enforced by another company of the Twenty-third Michigan and one piece of von Sehlen’s (Fifteenth Indiana) battery. Our whole force might have been concentrated in the front at once, but it was feared they would, by leaving a sufficient force to engage our troops on the Winchester pike, flank us on the Maysville pike, and burn the large trestle-work bridge of the Kentucky Central Railroad, which was doubtless their sold object in visiting us. In view of this contingency, I kept every approach to the bridges strongly guarded by the companies of the Twenty-third Michigan not engaged in front, and the detachment of the One hundred and eighteenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry and two pieces of the Fifteenth Indiana Battery. A little after 6 o’clock the enemy broke, and disappeared in great disorder back on the Winchester pike. Capt. G. Reid was sent to follow them up with about a dozen of his scouts — all that were present — which they did for a distance of 2 miles. I subsequently learned that the enemy left the Winchester pike about 6 miles from Paris, and took a dirt road which led to the Mount Sterling pike. During the night following, Colonels Maltby and Ross arrived from Winchester, bringing with them some prisoners taken at that place. The number of the enemy engaged with my force was counted by a Union farmer he states that he counted 375 before they attempted to “trade horses with him,” and that 15 or 20 passed afterward. I have about 175 men and two pieces of artillery engaged. The enemy was mounted, and for a time fired briskly, but the artillery threw him into, and kept him in, disorder, until he fled. The enemy’s known loss is 1 wounded severely casualties on our side, none.
In closing this report, I deem it proper to mention the valuable assistance rendered me by Brigadier-General Burbridge, who, although he did not assume command, yet I was aided by his advice and plans for defense, and he took charge of the execution of the most important and dangerous part of it himself.
I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieutenant-Colonel 118th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Comdg. Post.
GENERAL: The Forty-fifth Ohio have arrived from Winchester. They report the main rebel force, 2,000 strong, with eight pieces of artillery, as having retreated on the Irvine road. Colonel Sanders is in pursuit. They retreated after being driven back by us, finding the place too strong for them. Colonel Ross captured 1 captain and 15 men, near Paris. They are waiting for the force that crossed Stoner Creek. I will have the party pursued. Where shall the prisoners be sent?
Maj. Gen. GEORGE L. HARTSUFF.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF EAST TENNESSEE,
Brig. Gen. W. PRESTON, Abingdon, Va.:
GENERAL: The major-general commanding directs me to inform you of his intention to march next Sunday morning (August 2) on the enemy now stationed on Louisa and Beaver Creeks. You will please hold 600 infantry at your command, your two batteries and 1,000 cavalry in readiness to march at any moment. The main force of the expedition will be furnished from other brigades, to whom you will furnish the necessary transportation for 80,000 rations, 400,000 rounds of ammunition for small-arms, and 3,000 rounds for artillery.
You will please inform these headquarters of the latest and most reliable information received relative to the position of the enemy at the above-mentioned points.
At Saltville are two Napoleon guns, fully equipped. The major general commanding proposes to borrow them, for the time of the expedition, of Maj. Gen. Sam. Jones, and furnish him in their place with four 6-pounder guns. You will please make the necessary arrangements with General Jones to that effect.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Sir Charles James Napier
Charles Napier was best known for his exploits in India prior to and during British rule there. Going by Napier’s portrait, he had a bushy “English” mustache, a type in which long whiskers are pulled right and left under the nose.
General Order No. 38
General Order No. 38 sought to eliminate open support for the Confederacy in the Department of Ohio during the American Civil War.
In April 1863, General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Department of Ohio, issued General Order No. 38. Burnside placed his headquarters in Cincinnati. Located on the Ohio River, just north of the slave state of Kentucky, Cincinnati had a number of residents sympathetic to the Confederacy. Burnside hoped to intimidate Confederate sympathizers with General Order No. 38.
Burnside also declared that, in certain cases, violations of General Order No. 38 could result in death.
Most Peace Democrats in Ohio objected to General Order No. 38. Clement Vallandigham, the best known Peace Democrat in the state, helped organize a rally for the Democratic Party at Mount Vernon, Ohio, on May 1, 1863. Peace Democrats Vallandigham, Samuel Cox, and George Pendleton all delivered speeches denouncing General Order No. 38. Vallandigham was so opposed to the order that he allegedly said that he "despised it, spit upon it, trampled it under his feet." He also supposedly encouraged his fellow Peace Democrats to openly resist Burnside. Vallandigham went on to chastise President Abraham Lincoln for not seeking a peaceable and immediate end to the Civil War and for allowing General Burnside to thwart citizen rights under a free government.
In attendance at the Mount Vernon rally were two army officers under Burnside's command. They reported to Burnside that Vallandigham had violated General Order No. 38. The general ordered his immediate arrest. On May 5, 1863, a company of soldiers arrested Vallandigham at his home in Dayton and brought him to Cincinnati to stand trial.
Burnside charged Vallandigham with the following crimes:
A military tribunal heard the case, and Vallandigham offered no serious defense against the charges. He contended that military courts had no jurisdiction over his case. The tribunal found Vallandigham guilty and sentenced him to remain in a United States prison for the remainder of the war.
Vallandigham's attorney, George Pugh, appealed the tribunal's decision to Humphrey Leavitt, a judge on the federal circuit court. Pugh, like his client, claimed that the military court did not have proper jurisdiction in this case and violated Vallandigham's constitutional rights. Judge Leavitt rejected Vallandigham's argument. He agreed with General Burnside that military authority was necessary during a time of war to ensure that opponents to the United States Constitution did not succeed in overthrowing the Constitution and the rights that it guaranteed United States citizens.
As a result of Leavitt's decision, authorities were required to send Vallandigham to federal prison. President Lincoln feared that Peace Democrats across the Union might rise up to prevent Vallandigham's detention. The president commuted Vallandigham's sentence to exile in the Confederacy. On May 25, Burnside sent Vallandigham into Confederate lines.
Some historians have viewed General Order No. 38 as Burnside's personal attack on Vallandigham. While Burnside clearly objected to his views, the general was not personally targeting Vallandigham. Numerous Ohioans, especially those with family members living in or economic ties to Confederate states, openly objected to the war. Other Union military commanders issued similar orders. Burnside attempted to restrain all Confederate sympathizers residing in the Department of Ohio with General Order 38.
Critics of General Order No.38 commonly argued that this and several other actions by the Union government violated Americans' civil liberties, including the writ of habeas corpus and freedom of speech. The Union's actions clearly restricted freedoms that most Americans held dear in the 1860s and many hold dear still today, yet Union officials sought to preserve the Union, even if that meant a temporary suspension of these fundamental rights.
Burnside, Ambrose E. (1824–1881)
Ambrose E. Burnside was a major general in the Union army during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Instantly recognizable for his bushy sideburns (the term itself is derived from reversing his last name), Burnside was one of four men to command the Army of the Potomac in Virginia. Offered the job twice previously—following George B. McClellan ‘s failed Peninsula Campaign in 1862 and following the Second Battle of Manassas later that summer—he turned it down, citing his own lack of experience and encouraging his peers and, subsequently, historians to question his self-confidence. When he did take command of the army, he led it into disaster at the Battle of Fredericksburg (1862), perhaps the Union’s most lopsided defeat of the war. After his corps was badly defeated at the Battle of the Crater (1864) he went home on a leave of absence from which he was never called back to duty. Burnside’s dismal reputation is probably unfair, however. He was an innovative engineer but an unlucky general who was often made a scapegoat for larger failures.
Ambrose Everett Burnside was born May 23, 1824, near Liberty, Indiana, and finished near the middle of his class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1847. After serving garrison duty in the Mexican War (1846–1848) and two years on the western frontier, he resigned his commission in 1853, settled in Rhode Island, and was issued a patent for the breech-loading Burnside carbine. The weapon, however, proved popular only after Burnside had gone bankrupt attempting to manufacture it. While treasurer of the Illinois Central Railroad, he worked for McClellan, a friend from West Point.
Burnside began his service in the Civil War as colonel of the 1st Rhode Island Infantry, but after the First Battle of Manassas (1861), he was made a brigadier general. In charge of what would later become the Army of the Potomac’s Ninth Corps, he battled gale-force winds, seasickness, and knee-deep swamps to seize and occupy Roanoke Island and the North Carolina sounds, victories that helped to solidify the Union navy’s blockade of the Atlantic coast.
Several months later, in July 1862, Burnside’s corps joined the Army of the Potomac and, after Second Manassas, he refused command of the army for the second time, partly out of loyalty to his old friend McClellan. At the Battle of Antietam on September 17, Burnside’s supposed delay in attacking from the left flank infuriated McClellan. (In fact, McClellan tried to excuse his own uncoordinated assaults by exaggerating the amount of time it took Burnside to make his attack.) In the meantime, McClellan’s refusal to pursue Confederate commander Robert E. Lee aggressively after the battle incensed U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, who replaced his commander with Burnside. His attack on Fredericksburg in December was suitably aggressive, but it was also a disastrous loss for Union forces that involved repeated frontal assaults on heavily fortified Confederate lines. By the end of the battle, Burnside was intensely frustrated and offered to personally lead a final charge before being dissuaded by his subordinates. The engagement’s failure was due in part to misunderstandings with Major General William B. Franklin, who had commanded the Union left subversion by Franklin’s generals led to Burnside’s removal early in 1863. But this came only after a disastrous, rain-soaked retreat known as the “Mud March,” during which nearby Confederate pickets held up signs that mockingly read, “This Way to Richmond.”
As commander of the Department of the Ohio in May 1863, Burnside attempted to impose military discipline on the civilian population by arresting Ohio’s outspoken antiwar politician, Clement L. Vallandigham, on charges of sympathizing with the enemy. Vallandigham’s conviction by military tribunal marked a low point both in Burnside’s career and in the Lincoln administration, which supported the arrest and the attendant suspension of habeas corpus. (Vallandigham, a Democrat, would be nominated for Ohio governor in 1864 while in exile in North Carolina.) That summer of 1863 Burnside liberated East Tennessee from Confederate control, but after the Union defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga, Major General William Rosecrans unfairly blamed Burnside for not coming to his aid, although he could only have done so by abandoning East Tennessee.
Burnside returned to Virginia and led the Ninth Corps through the Overland Campaign and into the siege of Petersburg in the spring of 1864. After the entrenched Union and Confederate forces fought to a stalemate outside the city, Burnside encouraged the remarkable idea of excavating a 511-foot-long mine that would end twenty to thirty feet beneath a Confederate artillery battery at Colquitt’s Salient. After nearly a month of digging, the mine was packed with explosives and detonated, after which the Ninth Corps assaulted the Confederate lines. Incompetent generals in the leading division compromised the attack, however, and when Union general-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant called off the operation, Burnside’s men became trapped in the explosion’s crater, serving as easy targets for what a Confederate general later described as a “turkey shoot.” Afterward, Grant issued Burnside a leave of absence and never called him back to duty.
Although Burnside has been lampooned as a particularly poor general, that reputation is not fully deserved. He tended to give his subordinates too much latitude, a policy that succeeded so long as those subordinates were experienced professionals, but the amateurs who rose to the top through battlefield attrition required a tighter rein than he was accustomed to administering. The worst charges against him, however, have been filed by those who found him to be a convenient scapegoat for themselves or their allies.