Oliver Howard

Oliver Howard

Esteemed member "Douglas E. Weirich"

I too cannot grab the material where I read this information; but, the stories you related sound familiar. OOH was a deeply religious man, and perhaps quite severe in his manner. However, I have read that his convictions were quite genuine, and the result was that he gained the respect of many in his lifetime. One of those was Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce', who he befriended after having to hunt him down. I believe that Howard went west with an attitude that was focused on bringing the natives to bay; however, after having to deal with Joseph, and seeing the great sincerity of the man (and his own convictions), he later worked to try and right some of the wrongs which were committed. Joseph seems to have appreciated these efforts; though, he died with rather low opinion of white society (this was well deserved, it you read how we treated this man).

Anyway, what I am saying (in a long winded manner) is that there is much reason to believe that Howard maintained his position in the army for the personal respect he commanded, rather than his military prowess. Afterall, if Joseph had had another days march in him, Howard would have had yet another terrible military lesson taught to him.

Esteemed member AEHOUSE@aol.com contributes:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

A few editions back, someone posed a question as to why, after having bungled things at C'ville and G'burg, O.O. Howard was continued in responsible positions of command throughout the war, while many other commanders with better battlefield records were set aside.

I can't quote a reference for this, but somewhere stuck back in a dusty corner of the gray matter is information/opinion once shared with me about Howard. The gist of it was that he was admired and liked by most of his peers, and deeply respected for his piety even among the Philistines and hard-living men with whom he served. I recall a story about dirty jokes being hushed when he appeared, and liquor being quickly downed and set aside when he approached a headquarters; I also recall that his fellow senior officers used to tell "Howard jokes" at his expense, and so on, but I can't recall ever reading even a single reference to his possible relief being discussed.

I'd love to hear from any of you Howard students who can second (or debunk) these impressions.


Esteemed member DZouave5@aol.com contributes: In a message dated 96-11-21 14:10:21 EST, Douglas E. Weirich writes of Gen. Howard:

<< OOH was a deeply religious man, and perhaps quite severe in his manner. However, I have read that his convictions were quite genuine, and the result was that he gained the respect of many in his lifetime.

One does see favorable opinions of Howard, as in the diary of Col. Charles Wainwright, for instance. But others were unimpressed. Writing home after Fredericksburg Major Henry L. Abbott of the 20th Mass. described Howard as "a most conscientious man, but a very poor general." On Dec.17 Abbott noted, "That conscientious donkey, Howard, after keeping our brigade shivering & freezing for an hour yesterday afternoon, listening to a sermon & benediction from him, proposed...three cheers for Burnside. Several men in a new regiment, the 127th Penn., gave a mockery of 3 cheers. Not a man in the other regiments opened their mouths, except to mutter three cheers for McClellan."

Recent studies of the Nez Perce War have taken a more negative view of Howard's role in the outbreak of the crisis, some believing that his fervent Christianity helped to alienate the Indian leaders, and anger the younger Nez Perces who saw their way of life being eroded by those who would "convert" them as well as deny them their ancestral lands.

Brian Pohanka

Esteemed member DPowell334@aol.com contributes:

Howard at GB:

Specifically on July 1, I would blame Howard and the Senior leadership of the corps -Schurz and Barlow, specifically - for the failures of 11th corps, not so much the men.

Howard failed to post the 11th corps in any sort of a defensive line, failed to heed warnings about the approach of the CSA 2nd Corps, and and failed to commit his reserves to action in any useful fashion.

For their part, Schurz and Barlow took up too much of an advanced line. Barlow posted his Division very poorly, with both brigades massed around Blocher;s Knoll and left both his flanks exposed. Once Doles Confederates moved to hit Barlow's flank, Schurz made no effort to interfere with that movement, even though it was made across the divisional front of the 3rd Division, led at the moment by it's senior brigadier - Schimmmelfennig. Essentially, all 5 of the Union 11 Corps brigades in action that day fought their battles peicemeal, without support of the rest of the corps. Perhaps the most telling statistic is that while the Union troops lost almost 4000 men defending, they inflicted less than 1000 losses on those CSA troops which attacked them. This left the Union 1 Corps to fight the bulk of the CSA troops, including Heth, Pender, and virtually all of Rodes' divisions.

Howard, as senior commander on the field, was responsible for fighting the two Union Corps as a unit. Instead, the 11th Corps poor deployment meant that it offered almost no support to the 1st Corps. By restricting the Union 11th Corps to the Almshouse line, and by retiring those elements of the 1st Corps up around Oak Hill to the Seminery Ridge line, Howard could have shortened his defensive frontage, created sufficient reserves, and left most troops in mutually supporting positions.

Dave Powell

As usuual Mr. Powell you have hit the nail on the head with this one. I will state however, that Shurz's order from Howard were to extend the 1st Corps line to Oak Hill. This was not possible by the time he reached the field and he did the best he could. In defense of Schurz, his orders to Barlow were to refuse his right and place it in line with Kryzanowski. We all know what happened.

Schurz states in his memoirs that almost as soon as Barlow reached his new position he saw the attack forming. He then gave the order for the 3rd div to reconnect with the 1st Corps. I have no idea what he was thinking here. Although from the tone of the writing it seens he was concerned with the enitre corps being flanked which by now it already was. All the pieces were in place for disaster.

Dave I like your thoughts on redeployment. I don't think however that Howard had the intellectual stature to see the big picture here. He saw the entire field on his "ride" and still choose this as the place to fight.

Mike VanHuss

Esteemed member DShultz180@aol.com contributes:

I've read seceral accounts of Howard seemingly trying to gain approval from Meade early on July 2nd re:<<

I have just a few years completing research on Federal arty during the Gettysburg Campaign, and if there is one thing I learned while working through my studies, it was that Howard performed as well as others within the given situation; on all three days.

As far as the morning of July 2nd goes. It was Howard who (at about 3:00 a.m.) ordered Osborn to detach batteries from Cemetery Hill to cover an exposed gap in the rear of the Federal line. The batteries were one section of Napoleons from Heckman's Battery K, facing Spangler's (Spring) Meadows,from said farmyard east of the pike. Bancroft's entire (Napoleons) 4th U.S., Battery G on the Baltimore pike between the Spangler and N. Leightner farms (covering a gap of about200 yards). Two Napoleons from Hall's 2nd Maine, placed on the p (half-battery) from Dilger; placed on the pike south of the gatehouse,( north of Hall) facing the gap at left enfilade.

The placing of these batteries to oppose Spangler's Spring was crucial, for at the time many thought the Confederate attack would come from the north-northeast. The gun line was noticed when Meade sent Hunt to the Spangler farm to check out the gap; that worried Slocum. Hunt was going to plug it with batteries from Ransom or Fitzhugh's reserve brigades. Seeing the batteries (that had not been there on his and Meade's earlier reconnointer), Hunt inquired who placed them. Osborn answered,it was done on Howard's orders. Meade and Hunt both commended Howard for his action. (The guns were removed when portions of Robert Fitzhugh's Reserve Artillery Brigade relieved them at about 8:00 a.m. (does not sound like Meade bereated Howard here) When did it happen?

The rest of the morning was spent by Howard fortifing his position atop the hill. A good portion of his day was wasted when he had to take time to oversee that his batteries had ammunition, commissary substance and material. Thus, because Hancock had orderedall of Osborns XI Corps artytrains off the Taneytown Road.

I do agree however, while Meade, Hunt, and Howard rode about the field at 1:00 a.m., Howard continuiously blamed Doubleday for the outcome of July 1st .

The point is, Howard had no reason to blame anyone, including himself. He picked up where Reynolds and Buford before him had left off. He successfully defended the heights south of town. That is fact. It was Howard who allowed Doubleday to fight his fight on Seminary Ridge while he allowed his own people (Barlow in particular) to place their troops north of town. Howard's failure if there is one, lay in delegating authoriety to Barlow; and allowing him to place his people father north than what Howard had expected.

Howard made sure that Cemetery Hill was secured before anyting. Not one of his units was moved through Gettysburg on July 1st until batteries had been placed on the hill. This started with Dilger, followed by Wheeler, then Weidrich. This was a continuation of Reynolds' plan.

Aside from being the most educated, and possibly the best engineer and mathmatician in the entire army, Howard was equally brave on a battlefield. Unlike the excited Hancock, Howard was calm and collected. He did not excite easily; allowing his subordinants to excecute his orders with little interference.

Again, this is not a defense. I am simply stating that comparing his actions to Hancock and Longsteet in a certin situation is rediculess. You cannont compare differant situations to eachother and then rate who did better. Howard did OK within HIS given situation. (in my opinion)

What accounts have you read that indicate early on July 2nd, Howard sought redemption from Meade.?