John Pope (1822-1892)

John Pope (March 18, 1822 - September 23, 1892) was a career Army officer and general in the American Civil War, the only army commander operating against the Army of Northern Virginia to earn the personal animosity of Robert E. Lee.

Pope was born at Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Nathaniel Pope, a prominent figure in early Illinois Territory. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1842, and joined the Topographical Engineers. After serving in Florida and helping survey the northeastern boundary line between the United States and Canada, he fought in the Battle of Monterrey and Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican-American War, earning two brevets.

His Civil War-era assignments included: captain, Topographical Engineers (since July 1, 1856); brigadier general, USV June 14, 1861, (to rank from May 17); commanding District of North Missouri, Western Department (July 29-October 1861); commanding 2nd Division, Army of Southwest Missouri, Western Department (October-November 9, 1861); commanding 2nd Division, Army of Southwest Missouri, Department of the Missouri (November 9-December 186 1); commanding District of Central Missouri, Department of the Missouri (December 1861-February 18, 1862); commanding Army of the Mississippi (February 23-june 26, 1862); major general, USV (March 21, 1862); commanding Army of Virginia (June 26-September 2 1862); brigadier general, USA (July 14, 1862); and commanding Department of the Northwest (September 16-November 28, 1862 and February 13, 1863-February 13, 1865).

Soon after the beginning of the Civil War, having served in the escort of Lincoln to the Washington inaugural ceremonies, he was appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers. He served as mustering officer at Chicago and then under the command of Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont, Pope assumed command of the District of North and Central Missouri, with operational control along a portion the Mississippi River, and forced the Confederates to retreat southward.

Under the command of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, he cooperated with Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote in taking New Madrid, Missouri, and Island No. 10 in the advance on Memphis. He then led one of the three field armies (the Army of the Mississippi) serving under Henry W. Halleck in a painfully slow advance on Corinth, Mississippi, winning a promotion to Major General.

After the collapse of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign in 1862, Pope headed the newly formed Army of Virginia. Three departments were merged into his newly formed Army of Virginia. His former commander, Fremont, refused to be one of his corps commanders and was relieved. Pope was then advanced to a brigadier generalship in the regular establishment.

He brought an attitude of self assurance that was offensive to the eastern soldiers under his command. He issued an astonishing message to his new army on July 14, 1862, praising the western armies and disparaging the efforts of the eastern forces up to that time:

"Let us understand each other. I have come to you from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies; from an army whose business it has been to seek the adversary and to beat him when he was found; whose policy has been attack and not defense. In but one instance has the enemy been able to place our Western armies in defensive attitude. I presume that I have been called here to pursue the same system and to lead you against the enemy. It is my purpose to do so, and that speedily. I am sure you long for an opportunity to win the distinction you are capable of achieving. That opportunity I shall endeavor to give you. Meantime I desire you to dismiss from your minds certain phrases, which I am sorry to find so much in vogue amongst you. I hear constantly of 'taking strong positions and holding them,' of 'lines of retreat,' and of 'bases of supplies.' Let us discard such ideas. The strongest position a soldier should desire to occupy is one from which he can most easily advance against the enemy. Let us study the probable lines of retreat of our opponents, and leave our own to take care of themselves. Let us look before us, and not behind. Success and glory are in the advance, disaster and shame lurk in the rear. Let us act on this understanding, and it is safe to predict that your banners shall be inscribed with many a glorious deed and that your names will be dear to your countrymen forever."

In bombastic fashion he declared his headquarters would be in the saddle. This led to a quip that he didn't know his headquarters from his hindquarters.

His proposals on how to deal with the secessionist population raised the ire of his opponents, especially Lee. Part of Pope's command was defeated at Cedar Mountain. Later that month his command and parts of McClellan's Army of the Potomac fought at Second Bull Run. Pope had no idea of the true situation on the field and was routed.

Blaming the defeat upon his subordinates, he came into conflict with those officers who were McClellan partisans. He charged Fitz John Porter with disobedience of orders in failing to launch an attack which was in fact impossible. Nonetheless Porter was cashiered, but Pope also lost his command on September 21 1862, and the Army of Virginia was merged into the Army of the Potomac ten days later. While there was recognition of a lack of support from McClellan and his officers, Lincoln felt he had little choice but to give the consolidated command to McClellan in the face of the Confederate invasion of Maryland.

Pope then spent most of the balance of the war commanding the Department of the Northwest and dealing with the Sioux uprising. He performed his job ably and in 1865 was brevetted a regular army major general for Island #10.

Following the Civil War, General Pope served with distinction in the Indian Wars. Mustered out of the volunteers on September 1, 1866, he held departmental commands in the regular army, mostly in the West, until his 1886 retirement. Four years later he was named a full major general.

He died on September 23, 1892, at the Ohio Soldiers' Home near Sandusky, Ohio.