John F. Marszalek
When the Civil War exploded at Fort Sumter in 1861, the United States Army was a minuscule force, scattered throughout the continental United States and hardly prepared for the awesome conflict that faced it. Under the leadership of its aging commanding general, Winfield Scott, the hero of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, the army looked back to past glory more than it anticipated future challenges. The 1861 resignations of Southern officers, many of whom Scott had favored in the prewar years, resulted in an immediate leadership crisis.
The search for competent leaders to command the suddenly expanded army became the major problem of the Union military effort far into the Civil War. No soldier in the nation, not even the venerable Winfield Scott himself, had ever led a unit the size of the Civil War armies or fought in a conflict this gigantic.
The literature about the new Union army leaders is extensive. The initial work, memoirs and biographies, was self-serving in tone and content, although there were also some critical writings. Eventually, however, more objective accounts appeared, and most of the major individuals had either a memoir or biography in print. In recent years, the historical profession, responding to the centennial and 125th anniversary celebrations of the war, has produced a spate of excellent biographies, most of which have become the definitive interpretations of their subjects.
Several books feature short biographical sketches of the leading military figures of the Civil War years. Among older books are Gamaliel Bradford, UnionPortraits