"Happiness Is Not My Companion": The Life of General G.K. Warren

"Happiness Is Not My Companion": The Life of General G.K. Warren

"Happiness Is Not My Companion": The Life of General G.K. Warren

"Happiness Is Not My Companion": The Life of General G.K. Warren

Synopsis

Happiness Is Not My Companion"
The Life of General G. K. Warren

David M. Jordan

The valorous but troubled career of the Civil War general, best known for his quick action to defend Little Round Top and avert a Union defeat at Gettysburg.

Gouverneur K. Warren, a brilliant student at West Point and a topographical engineer, earned early acclaim for his explorations of the Nebraska Territory and the Black Hills in the 1850s. With the start of the Civil War, Warren moved from teacher at West Point to lieutenant colonel of a New York regiment and was soon a rising star in the Army of the Potomac. His fast action at Little Round Top, bringing Federal troops to an undefended position before the Confederates could seize it, helped to save the Battle of Gettysburg. For his service at Bristoe Station and Mine Run, he was awarded command of the Fifth Corps for the 1864 Virginia campaign.

Warren's peculiarities of temperament and personality put a cloud over his service at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and cost him the confidence of his superiors, Grant and Meade. He was summarily relieved of his command by Philip Sheridan after winning the Battle of Five Forks, just eight days before Appomattox. Warren continued as an engineer of distinction in the Army after the war, but he was determined to clear his name before a board of inquiry, which conducted an exhaustive investigation into the battle, Warren's conduct, and Sheridan's arbitrary action. However, the findings of the court vindicating Warren were not made public until shortly after his death.

For this major biography of Gouverneur Warren, David M. Jordan utilizes Warren's own voluminous collection of letters, papers, orders, and other items saved by his family, as well as the letters and writings of such contemporaries as his aide and brother-in-law Washington Roebling, Andrew Humphreys, Winfield Hancock, George Gordon Meade, and Ulysses S. Grant. Jordan presents a vivid account of t

Excerpt

Warren? Warren? Who was Gouverneur K. Warren? His is not a name that resounds in the history of the American Civil War, but it seems to turn up all the time. One of the workhorses of the Army of the Potomac, he never commanded it, but his name pops up in the battles from Big Bethel to Five Forks, from the beginning of the war to almost its very end. Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, Bristoe Station, the Wilderness, Hatcher’s Run—it is difficult to discuss a battle fought by the Federal army in the east without running into Warren’s name in connection with it.

Sometimes Warren’s name becomes very prominent indeed. Focus on July 2, 1863, the second day of the mammoth battle of Gettysburg. Longstreet has moved his Confederate corps around to the left of the Union lines, to throw two divisions upon Little Round Top, the capture of which will require Meade’s army to retreat, because that height, in rebel hands, will dominate the Union line along Cemetery Ridge. Gouverneur K. Warren, the chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac, rides to the top of Little Round Top and finds that it is unoccupied by any force but a couple of signal corpsmen. On his own responsibility, he pushes troops up the hill. Arriving just in time, they save Little Round Top for the Union and Gettysburg for the Army of the Potomac. Without the quick eye and quicker action of G. K. Warren, the battle of Gettysburg would probably have ended on the late afternoon of July 2, 1863, resulting in an ignominious retreat by Meade’s army. What reaction that would have caused in the body politic over which Abraham Lincoln presided is obviously a matter of speculation, but it would certainly have been serious, coming on the heels of the disasters at Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg, so close and threatening to the capital, where weariness with the war and defeatism were widespread.

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