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Friday, July 22, 2016

Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard, A Hero of Our Civil War

Anyone familiar with Civil War literature should be familiar with Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard.  Usually, you hear of him as the commander of the routed XI Corps at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.  He is usually portrayed as a prudish excessively religious fuddy-duddy.

He was in fact a hero beyond the imagination of most of us.  At Seven Pines/Fair Oaks, on June 1, 1862, he commanded a brigade of Richardson's division of II Corps, which Lt. Col. William F Fox of the 107th New York, wounded at Antietam/Sharpsburg, Chancellorsville, and Resaca declared the division of the war most generous with its blood.  (Actually, that honor goes to Mott's division of II Corps, into which orders consolidated two divisions of II Corps at Spotsylvania.)

In the collision between Howard's brigade and Mahone's Confederate brigade on June 1, 1862, Howard suffered wounds to his right arm that resulted in its amputation.  Command of the brigade devolved upon another great soldier and a great lawyer as well, Col. Francis Channing Barlow of the 61st New York, who would command Richardson's division of II Corps later in the war.  Still another extraordinary soldier, Nelson A. Miles, an officer on Howard's staff, took command of the brigade's 81st Pennsylvania during the battle.  Opposite these Federals, Brig. Gen. William Mahone of Mahone's brigade, Col. Cullen A. Battle of the 3rd Alabama, Col. John R. Chambliss of the 41st Virginia, and Col. David A. Wsisiger of the 12th Virginia  received their baptisms of fire (against infantry--they had been under naval gunfire on May 15, 1862 at the First Battle of Drewry's Bluff.)

Imagine having lost your right arm and going back into combat.  Yet that is what General Howard did.  He went on to fight at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Atlanta Campaign, and the March through Georgia and into the Carolinas.  Afterward he led the Freedman's Bureau and helped found Howard University.  Then he put on his uniform again and participated in the Indian Wars.

Howard risked life and limb as often as a modern day veteral serving multiple tours of duty in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.  How many can say the same--especially afting losing a right arm?