What’s in a Name?

12 01 2007

Interesting.  I’ve received not one comment regarding the misspelling of McDowell’s name on his headstone.

A note regarding the Union OOB:  I can’t find any documentation of the existence of a Union Army of Northeastern Virginia.  This is the name typically used for McDowell’s army at Bull Run.  The Department of Northeastern Virginia was created on 5/28/1861 from part of the Department of the East with boundaries enclosing Virginia east of the Allegheny Mountains and north of the James River with the exception of a sixty mile radius around Fort Monroe.  It was commanded by McDowell until 7/25/1861 when it was attached to the Military Division of the Potomac; it was merged with the Department of the Potomac on 8/17/1861 (see Eicher and Eicher, Civil War High Commands, p 837).  But none of the reports or correspondence from First Bull Run reference an Army of Northeastern Virginia – instead they refer to the Department or simply “McDowell’s Corps.”  The moniker appears to be an after the fact creation, and that is the story I’m sticking with unless you can prove otherwise!



5 responses

19 01 2007
David Woodbury

Don’t feel bad, Harry. I only got two comments when I wrote about McDowell’s headstone about a year ago — http://obab.blogspot.com/search?q=mcdowell — and neither of them were about the misspelling.

I wrote to the photographer who uploaded that headstone photo to the Find-a-Grave site, Wesley Leiser, and asked his permission to use his photo on my blog. That led to some interesting correspondence — his mother was a McDowell, and he grew up being told that he was related to the general. But after years of researching his family tree, he could make no connection, and finally gave up.

No one seems troubled enough to bother getting the government to replace the stone, though actual descendants may be unaware of it.



19 01 2007
David Woodbury

RE: “But none of the reports or correspondence from First Bull Run reference an Army of Northeastern Virginia – instead they refer to the Department or simply “McDowell’s Corps.” The moniker appears to be an after the fact creation, and that is the story I’m sticking with unless you can prove otherwise!”

It’s not much, but when A. Porter submitted Ambrose Burnside’s report, he refers to Burnside’s command as the Second Brigade, Second Division, Army of Northeastern Virginia. Series I, vol. 2, p. 395.



19 01 2007
Harry Smeltzer


Thanks for the comments. Your blog entry first alerted me to the headstone gaff, and also fed my nascent interest in BR1. McDowell is a fascinating character, all the more so because of the lack of papers on him. In Johnston’s Bull Run: Its Strategy and Tactics, the author mentioned the existence of McDowell’s papers, saying that they were in the hands of the family and that he was supposed to get a look at them but the arrangements fell through. This is the only time I’ve even heard of their existence – usually we are told they suffered the same fate as those of George Thomas. This is something I need to check out a little more, maybe find out where Johnston’s papers are located.

I admit to being a little unsure of just how I should use photos. I realize that period photos are in the public domain, but newer photos on the web I’m not certain about. I try to give attribution, like on the McDowell tombstone. Any suggestions or advice is welcome.

As for the report of Porter: that’s Andrew Porter, First Brigade commander of Hunter’s Division who took over command of the division when Hunter was wounded. He does mention the name of the army, but this cover letter to Burnside’s report was not written until August 19, while Burnside’s report itself was sent form “Hdqrs. Second Brigade, Second Division, Major [!!!] General McDowell’s Column” and dated July 24. Porter’s own report on page 383 refers to the “First Brigade, Second Division, of the Army”. It was written on July 25. If anything, this probably supports the ex post facto origins of the Army of Northeastern Virginia.

Once again David, thanks for the interest.


19 01 2007
More on the Army of Northeastern Virginia « Bull Runnings

[…] on the Army of Northeastern Virginia In response to my post about the origin of the name Army of Northeastern Virginia, blogger David Woodbury […]


25 10 2008
More on the so-called “Army of Northeastern Virginia” « Bull Runnings

[…] report that he uses “Army N. E. Va” in the closing.  As I’ve discussed here and here, I’ve never been able to find any documentation creating or formally recognizing an […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: