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.