Some readers may question why a Civil War blog would focus on the 11th Corps of the Army of the Potomac. The men who served in the corps don’t naturally stand out as heroic or noteworthy. There are no well-known units in its ranks, like the 20th Maine or the Iron Brigade. In the short time the 11th Corps existed it seemed like the “red-headed step-child” of the Army of the Potomac. Its nicknames were not heroic – “the German Corps”, “Howard’s Coward’s”, “the flying Dutchmen”.

Perhaps that’s what has attracted me, as a historian, to these men and their service. Were they truly the awful soldiers such as they were often portrayed? Were they the victims of propaganda (both anti- and pro-11th Corps? As part of another project, I began looking at the 11th Corps and the first day at Gettysburg. The path since then has led me to the second and third days at Gettysburg, back to Chancellorsville, ahead to the fall of 1863 when the corps was broken up, back to the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862 and then forward to 2nd Bull Run (that’s right, the Yankee part of me refuses to call it Manassas) when they weren’t even the 11th Corps.

This blog will focus on the 11th Corps during the Chancellorsville and Gettysburg campaigns; however, by necessity and the sometime seeming randomness of historical research, it will visit the Shenandoah Valley in 1862 and 1864, Pope’s Virginia campaign, and even Tennessee, Georgia, coastal Carolina and who knows where else. Topics may range from private soldiers to generals, regiments and brigades, campaign and battle anecdotes, even basic statistical analysis. I’m sure controversy will find its way into a few blog entries as well, but my intent is to be unbiased and provide a digital history, such as it may be, of these men and the reputation they earned.

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5 Responses to Introduction

  1. seth ski says:

    the 11th corps was a victim of cicumstance in the army of the potomac. yes, they were routed at chancellorsville, and had retreated at gettysburg, but they were heroic and brave as much as the other five corps that made up the army. chancellorsville was indeed humiliating for hooker and his army. the 11th corps just had the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when jackson executed his famous flanking attack. reports were sent by sentries about the sightings of confederate troop movement but were not taken seriously. the 11th corps was in country that was little known about even by confederate commanding officers. hence the name the wilderness. gettysburg was its own beast. one the first day the confederates actually out numbered the federals on the field. a very rare occasion that happened in the war. between buford’s cavalry division and and the 1st corps and then the 11th corps, they were still out numbered almost 2 to 1. the 11th corps did fall back only after it was overwelmed by two confederate corps bearing down on them. they fell back through town and regrouped on hills on the outskirts of town. very little known fact is that gen. howard actually is partially responsible for regrouping his men on culp’s hill and cemetary hill and that howard and gen hancock actually got into a brief argument on who was in command of the field while gen. meade was still on his way to gettysburg. the confederates did not pursue the running northerners off the hills and hence the next two days of battle. howard’s 11th corps had beaten back repeative attacks from early’s division, ewell’s corps for the next two days of the battle. to me, after studying civil war history my entire life, the 11th corps played a major role in saving the hills and the battle for the north at gettysburg.

    • 11thcorps says:

      Thanks for making the first comment on my blog and for your thoughts on the 11th Corps. I’ll have more posts related to Chancellorsville and Gettysburg which will expand on many of the items you’ve mentioned. I will state two things here: the 11th Corps was generally considered to have been put on the right flank at Chancellorsville because Hooker did not trust them; however, their performance at 2nd Bull Run (as Pope’s 1st Corps) did not, in my opinion, warrant that distrust. Second, considering the 11th’s reputation I was surprised Meade had them at Emmitsburg as one of the closest units to the Confederates, but Meade did not expect to fight at Gettysburg and he trusted Reynolds to command that wing of the army. Reynolds’ death was the “game-changer” that put Howard in command.

      As I mentioned in my most recent post, I believe that collective memory has condemned the 11th Corps. When enough veterans repeated the story that the “Dutch” ran at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg the general public believed it and, I think, continue to believe it. The truth, however, is never that simple.

  2. seth ski says:

    it is so nice to be able to find a site where you can talk about the civil war. i have been looking for one now for some time. thank you for establishing this page, and i hope more people will join. i do agree with you that maybe the 11th corps might should have not been in the order of march that they were at gettysburg. the 1st corps yes, but the 11th should have been about where the sixth corps was. the early death of reynolds did not help matters either with the constant changing of circumstances. yes, the army of the potomac was prejudice against the men in the 11th. but, the army of the potomac in my opinion, was a political army. in my opinion there is another corps that performed even more poorly than the 11th did, and thats the 3rd corps. hooker, sickles, and many other officers were there because of politics. let us not forget that the 11th was transfered to the army of the tennessee and performed very well as a unit and gen sherman passed up gen logan for howard as commander of the army after mcpherson was killed in front of atlanta. the battle of wauhatchie comes to mind also.

  3. Thanks for leaving a comment over at TOCWOC. As a German-American, I’m extremely interested to see where this blog leads you. Have you read Christian Keller’s look at the role Chancellorsville played in the slower assimilation of German-Americans into mainstream American culture? I posted about it a few years back, and it’s an excellent book.

    • 11thcorps says:

      I’ve heard mixed reviews on Keller’s book, but that has never stopped me from either reading books or watching movies before. I’ve yet to read his book, but it’s on my to-do list once I find a copy. If I recall correctly, his thesis was controversial, but that makes for good reading when the argument is well reasoned whether one agrees or disagrees. Thanks for reciprocating with a post over here!

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