The bottleneck that had prevented Federal troops from getting to Washington in late April was now a distant memory, as soldiers were now pouring into the capital. Among them were the 11th New York Fire Zouaves, dressed in unique short gray jackets and bloused light blue trousers. The Zouave uniforms were patterned after those worn by French forces in North Africa. Because the men were New York firefighters, they wore red caps and red firefighter shirts.
Commanding the 11th was Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth, a 24-year-old law student under President Abraham Lincoln and a close personal friend of the first family (he had accompanied the Lincolns on the trip from Springfield to Washington in February). As the Zouaves paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue, Lincoln’s secretary John Hay noted that they “were in a pretty complete state of don’t care a damn, modified by an affectionate and respectful deference to their Colonel.” Ellsworth and his men were quartered in the War Department building.
On the 3rd, President Lincoln issued a proclamation “Increasing the Size of the Army and Navy.” This call included:
- Requesting 42,034 men to provide army service for three years or until the war ended
- Increasing the Regular Army from 16,367 to 22,714 men in eight infantry regiments, and one cavalry and artillery regiment each
- Requesting another 18,000 men to join the navy for at least one year but not more than three
These calls would increase military strength to 156,861 in the army and 25,000 in the navy. Secretary of War Simon Cameron notified each state governor of his quota of men needed for service. Protests ensued over having to serve three years, leading to several compromises made in the service duration. The notion of each state providing a quota of troops demonstrated the Federal deference to state rights that had been in place since the nation’s founding. The Regular Army would never reach the number that Lincoln requested; the bulk of the Federal Army would consist of volunteers in this war.
In addition, General Orders No. 14 from the adjutant general created the Military Department of the Ohio, to be led by 34-year-old Major General George B. McClellan. The department was to be composed of volunteers from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri Unionists. The order parenthetically stated that the department would soon be divided into several other departments. Moreover, Kentucky furnished 14 army companies for the U.S.
On the 9th, General Orders No. 19 expanded McClellan’s department “to embrace so much of Western Virginia and Pennsylvania as lies north of the Great Kanawha, north and west of the Greenbriar, thence northward to the southwest corner of Maryland, thence along the Western Maryland line to the Pennsylvania line.” McClellan had not yet received word of his new command before it was being expanded. Young McClellan was the now the second-ranking officer in the U.S. Army, behind only General-in-Chief Winfield Scott.
That same day, President and Mrs. Lincoln attended a musical performance by the 71st New York Regimental Band at the Washington Navy Yard. Commander John A. Dahlgren, commandant of the yard, fulfilled Lincoln’s request to demonstrate the new 11-inch smoothbore gun at the Anacostia River.
By this time, some 20,000 troops were stationed in Washington. The states had exceeded their quotas for three-year enlistments, and Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase estimated that Washington would soon have 35,000 troops on hand. As the ranks swelled, talk increased in the capital of launching an offensive into Virginia. The army seemed to rule over all, as former Attorney General Edwin M. Stanton wrote to former President James Buchanan: “General Scott seems to have carte blanche. He is, in fact, the Government, and if his health continues, vigorous measures are anticipated.” This, along with the Maryland government’s support for the U.S., prompted secessionist forces in that state to relocate to Virginia.
On the 14th, William T. Sherman accepted a commission to command the 13th U.S. Infantry (Regulars). On the 16th, John A. Dix received a commission as major general of volunteers. This was the first such commission given by President Lincoln, making Dix the ranking volunteer officer of the war. On the 17th, Joseph Hooker accepted a commission as brigadier general of volunteers and took command of Washington’s defenses.
Colonel William H. Loring, commanding the Federal Department of New Mexico, was ordered to send troops from his command to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, under Brevet Lieutenant Edward R.S. Canby. However, news reached Washington that Loring had resigned his commission to join the Confederacy. Orders were modified promoting Canby to colonel and giving him command of Loring’s department.
On the 24th, former Federal Captain Ulysses S. Grant wrote to Colonel Lorenzo Thomas, adjutant general of the Federal army: “Sir: Having served for 15 years in the regular army, including four years at West Point, and feeling it the duty of every one who has been educated at the Government expense to offer their services for the support of that Government, I have the honor, very respectfully, to tender my services, until the close of the war, in such capacity as may be offered… A letter addressed to me at Springfield, Illinois, will reach me.” The letter was not filed properly, and Grant received no response.
The War Department issued a general order requiring every army chaplain to be “a regularly ordained minister of some Christian denomination.” This order prompted a rabbi to resign and another to be denied an appointment. The requirement was soon rescinded due to protests. The War Department provided for a 24-man brass band for every infantry or artillery regiment, and a 16-man band for every cavalry regiment.
Near month’s end, the Department of the Northeastern Virginia was carved out of the Department of the East. This would consist of an Army of Northeastern Virginia, based at Alexandria. General-in-Chief Scott recommended Colonel Joseph K.F. Mansfield, commander of the Department of Washington, to lead this new army, but Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase used his political connections to grant fellow Ohioan Irvin McDowell the command. Scott did not object to this, but he did take issue with the fact that Colonel Mansfield had been passed over by a major. This was settled by granting McDowell a major general’s commission.
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