Posted by: The staff | January 20, 2014

The disgrace of the 11th Corps becomes a tool for discipline


From John Hennessy:

11thCorpsBadgeSometime we do big things here, sometimes small.  This is a small item I came across tonight.  It appears in a letter from “T.A.A.” of the 139th Pennsylvania (Sixth Corps), published in the Pittsburgh Evening Chronicle, May 26, 1863, written just two weeks after the Union defeat at Chancellorsville. It’s evidence of how powerful and pervasive the blame for defeat lay upon the 11th Corps of the Army of the Potomac, a corps that included many regiments composed of recent immigrants. The disdain for the 11th Corps found expression in the 6th Corps in the form of a novel punishment inflicted on ne’er-do-wells.  The letter was written from White Oak Church on May 22, 1863.

 I notice that a new mode of disgracing stragglers and shirkers has been adopted in this portion of the army.  It is by placing a large piece of board in the shape of a crescent, which, by the way, is the badge worn by the 11th corps, upon their backs, and forcing them to walk up and down in front of quarters of the General, or some other public place. This mode of punishment has become so popular that the men belonging to that [11th] corps are ashamed to wear their badges, and nearly all cases have taken them off their caps.” 

By the way, the Pittsburgh Evening Chronicle includes very nice runs of letters relating to both the 139th  and the 155th Pennsylvania.

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Responses

  1. This certainly gives powerful expression to opinions already known. Nicely done, John.

  2. Safe bet that this description was by Sergeant T. A. Armstrong of Company I, which was raised in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh). According to Bates, he was promoted from private, December 8, 1862; wounded at Flint’s Hill, September 21, and at Cedar Creek, Va., October 19, 1864; mustered out with Company, June 21, 1865

  3. The irony of this sentiment coming from members of the VI Corps is that many of they men there were, themselves, of German background and undoubtedly spoke German at home (as well as English). My own ancestors from the 49th Penna. Vol. Inf. (Riegle and Getz) were probably in this category. Their families just came over ~100 years earlier than those of the men in the immigrant half of the XI Corps.

  4. Christian B. Keller’s “Chancellorsville and the Germans” is IMO an excellent and underrated study of the 11th Corps immigrant controversy during and after the battle.


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