The Evolution of Divisions and Separate Brigades/Early Experiences

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Regularity and due Subordination, being so essentially necessary, to the good Order and Government of an Army, and without it, the whole must soon become a Scene of disorder and confusion. The General finds it indispensably necessary, without waiting any longer for dispatches from the General Continental Congress, immediately, to form the Army into three Grand Divisions, and of dividing each of those Grand Divisions into Brigades.
General George Washington[1]

Revolutionary War[edit]

On 22 July 1775, George Washington, General and Commander in Chief of the American revolutionary forces, ordered the army at Boston to be organized into three divisions. Each division comprised two brigades of approximately equal strength. Major generals commanded the divisions, and most brigades were commanded by brigadiers who were general officers. The division commanders had no staffs, but the brigade commanders had brigade majors to assist them. Brigade majors were officers through whom orders were issued and reports and correspondence transmitted, analogous to regimental adjutants. Initially, both divisions and brigades were administrative commands rather than tactical organizations.2[2]


Divisions and brigades soon evolved into semipermanent tactical, as well as administrative, organizations. Because regiments could not maintain their authorized strengths, Washington made the brigade, consisting of several regiments, the basic tactical and administrative unit for the Continental Army. When organized in 1775 all brigades at Boston had about 2,500 men each. During the war commanders deliberately balanced the strength of the brigades for each campaign. For example, Washington employed brigades of roughly 1,400 officers and enlisted men each at Trenton in December 1776 and at Monmouth in June 1778. At Yorktown in 1781 each of his brigades had approximately 1,000 officers and enlisted men.3[3]


Although the Continental Army was reorganized on several occasions, many brigades had the same regiments assigned over long periods of time. Nevertheless, Washington and other army commanders had the authority to alter regimental assignments. In 1778 he emphatically told his subordinate, Maj. Gen. Charles Lee, that he [Washington] could change it "every day if I choose to do it." But the commander in chief also believed that frequent changes in regimental assignment without apparent cause would be ascribed to "caprice and whim" rather than "stability and judgement [sic]."4[4]

The Continental Army employed a variety of artillery weapons, including field, siege, and garrison guns, but the use of infantry and field artillery as combined arms teams was sporadic. During some campaigns two to four field artillery guns were attached to infantry brigades, and the brigade commander in turn attached the guns to infantry battalions. Harnessing the two arms together increased firepower, provided a means to break up enemy formations, and protected infantry against bayonet charges, as well as offering a psychological advantage. A major problem for the field artillery was to keep up with the infantry on the march because of the rough, broken terrain in colonial America. The key to cross-country travel was the design of light, mobile artillery carriages, but on the battlefield guns were manhandled. Unlike European armies, colonial commanders often used field artillery for siege work because of the shortages of guns, officers, and trained gun crews.5[5]


With the employment of brigades, Congress increased their staff officers. The first such officer was added in May 1777 when Congress authorized a brigade chaplain to care for the religious needs of the men. In January 1778 Washington proposed that an infantry brigade have a quartermaster, forage master, wagon master, and commissary, along with armorers, a traveling forge, and some artificers. The following May,. however, Congress authorized only the brigade quartermaster. Although not provided by Congress, in June 1778 Washington introduced the position of brigade inspector, whose duties included maintaining unit rosters, regulating details (any special tasks assigned to the brigade), and caring for the formation and march of all guards and details. Furthermore, the inspector received the commander's orders and communicated them to brigade and regimental officers; thus the position incorporated duties of the brigade major. Although the brigade inspector assisted in executing brigade maneuvers, he was not in the chain of command. Congress officially authorized the position in February 1779 and made the former brigade major an aide-de-camp to the brigadier. At the same time Congress also provided a second aide for the brigadier.6[6]


In early 1779 Washington directed the appointment of a conductor of military stores for each brigade. Equipped with a portable forge, an ammunition wagon, and a wagon with an arms chest for each regiment in the brigade, the conductor of military stores and his assistants (the latter being furnished by the regiments) cared for its arms. Thus, by the end of the war each infantry brigade comprised several semipermanently assigned infantry regiments and a few attached artillery pieces and their crews. The brigade commander had a staff consisting of two aides, a brigade quartermaster, an inspector, a conductor of military stores, and a chaplain. Infantry brigades were generally known by the names of their commanders, but the more permanent brigades were often known by numerical designations, such as the 1st Maryland and 2d Pennsylvania Brigades.7[7]


Washington assigned infantry brigades to divisions, but the number of brigades assigned to each division varied. Divisions, nevertheless, became quasi-permanent commands, with the same brigades serving in the same divisions for extended periods of time. As this organizational relationship matured, the divisions maneuvered independently and conducted operations away from the main army.8[8]


Washington occasionally expressed theories about the proper organization of divisions and brigades. In January 1777, as the army was about to be reorganized, he told Congress that three full-strength regiments, approximately 700 men each, would be sufficient for a brigade and that three brigades would be adequate for a division. The following year, during similar discussions, Washington explained that the division-brigade-regiment organization was for the sake of order, harmony, and discipline. Each brigade and division would have a general officer as its commander and would be capable of moving either jointly or separately like a "great machine" as the circumstances required. Because of shortages in personnel, at no time during the war did either divisions or brigades adhere to organizational concepts, particularly as far as the number of assigned regiments and brigades was concerned. Nevertheless, both divisions and brigades fulfilled Washington's requirement of being able to operate either jointly or separately when the need arose.9[9]


The basic fighting team used during the Revolutionary War consisted of infantry and artillery, but the Continental Army also used cavalry. Cavalry units were initially mounted militia commands, but in late 1776 Congress authorized a regiment of light dragoons for the Continental Army. That act was soon followed by another, which authorized 3,000 light horsemen to be organized into four regiments. The regiments were never fully manned because of the expense of their special weapons and equipment, their horses, and their training. By 1780 the units were converted into "legionary organizations." In the mid-eighteenth century Europeans had developed small mixed units of cavalry and infantry, known as legions, to overrun or hold an area, gather information, and conduct raids away from the main army. Legions in the Continental Army were to comprise four troops of dragoons and two companies of infantry. They were not large, independent combined arms units capable of defeating the enemy such as the divisions and brigades in the Continental Army.10[10]

Following the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781, the Continental Army dwindled away, and its divisions and brigades slowly disappeared. But the doctrine for their organization endured, and future leaders built upon it in the following century.

Before the new nation ratified the peace with England, Congress asked Washington for his views on the future peacetime military establishment. On 2 May 1783, recognizing his countrymen's fear of standing armies and the expense of maintaining them, he called for a military establishment consisting of a small active force organized on a regimental basis and a larger reserve based on the militia arranged by divisions. His militia division was to consist of two brigades of four infantry regiments each, with each infantry regiment organized into two four-company battalions. Furthermore, Washington recommended that two cavalry troops and two artillery companies be raised for each division. These units were not part of any combined arms concept for divisions, but merely a formula for calculating the number of cavalry and artillery units that would be needed by future armies.11[11]

Eventually the legislature created a military establishment based on standing and reserve forces. In 1784 the Continental Congress set the strength of the standing army at a mere 700 men, and the Regular Army, organized on a regimental basis, grew steadily in the years that followed. In 1792 the new national Congress also provided for a reserve force based upon the state militia, which the federal government could employ under certain conditions within the United States. The militia forces were to consist of all able-bodied white male citizens between the ages of eighteen and forty-five and were to be organized into companies, battalions, regiments, brigades, and divisions. The legislation provided that each brigade consist of four two-battalion infantry regiments. A militia division could also have an artillery company and a cavalry troop, both of which were to be formed from volunteers within the brigades at the discretion of the governors. Major generals and brigadier generals were to command divisions and brigades, respectively, and the only staff officer authorized was the brigade inspector, who was also to serve as the brigade major. The strength of the brigade was to be approximately 2,500 men. Presumably divisional strength would vary, for the law prescribed no set number of brigades in a division.12[12]

As implemented, the militia divisions and brigades were generally paper organizations. Congress provided neither federal supervision nor effective support for them. Furthermore, no provision was made for a militia force that would be available immediately to react in an emergency. Although ineffectual, the system lasted for over one hundred years. In practice, when the federal government called upon the militia, the president asked for a specific number of men from a state and the state organized them into regiments.

Shortly after Congress passed the militia law, it authorized the use of volunteers, a third category of soldiers, for national defense. Volunteers served freely, like soldiers in the Regular Army, but they were not part of any standing or reserve force. Generally, the states raised the volunteers that Congress considered necessary on a regimental basis, and the federal government used the volunteer regiments to form divisions and brigades.13[13]

The Regular Army also experimented with the legion as a combined arms unit in the 1790s. Differing from the legions employed during the Revolutionary War, the Legion of the United States resembled the organizations described by Marshal Maurice de Saxe in 1732 and advocated in the 1780s by Maj. Gen. Frederick Wilhelm von Steuben, formerly the Inspector General of the Continental Army, and Secretary of War Henry Knox. The legion was a field army, combining infantry, cavalry, and artillery into one organization, which totaled 5,120 men. Rather than being subdivided into divisions, brigades, and regiments, the legion consisted of four sublegions, which some consider to be the forerunners of the regimental combat teams of the twentieth century. The Regular Army adopted the legion in 1792, but it was never fully manned. For the campaigns against the Miami Indians in the Northwest Territory between January 1790 and August 1795 the Army employed militia and volunteer units and the Legion of the United States. Its sublegions, however, were not employed extensively. The Army abandoned the legion in 1796 for regimental organizations. Henceforth, the regulars were scattered throughout the country, guarding its frontiers and seacoast and rarely forming organizations above the regimental level.14[14]

War of 1812[edit]

When the second war with England began in 1812, Congress raised forces by expanding the Regular Army, authorizing the use of volunteers, and calling out the militia. In raising the troops both the federal and state governments used regimental organizations, and the Army organized these regiments into ad hoc brigades and divisions, which varied widely in strength. For example, Brig. Gen. Joseph Bloomfield's New York militia brigade assigned to Maj. Gen. Henry Dearborn's force in 1813 counted 1,400 strong; Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott's Regular brigade in 1814 before the Battle of Chippewa fielded 1,300 men; and the Pennsylvania volunteer brigade that crossed the border into Upper Canada in 1814 numbered 413. The strength of the divisions fluctuated just as much. In 1812 the New York quota for militia men was 13,500, which the state organized into two divisions of four brigades each. At the same time, with a quota of 2,500 men, Tennessee organized a division of two infantry regiments plus a nondivisional cavalry regiment. 15[15]

While assembling brigades and divisions in 1813, the question arose as to whether or not Regular Army and militia units should be "brigaded" together. Because the drill and discipline of the regulars differed greatly from that of the militia, each state prescribing its own drill, the general practice was to brigade each category of troops separately. Although Regular, militia, and volunteer brigades served at times in commands that equaled the size of a division, such organizations were frequently called "armies."16[16]

Raising and maintaining troops during the War of 1812 proved to be difficult because of the opposition to the war. As a result, when divisions and brigades took to the field for the various campaigns, they were temporary organizations. Most of the units assigned to them had little training and were poorly equipped, creating largely ineffective fighting forces. One exception was Scott's Regular Army brigade. In the spring of 1814, after establishing a camp near Buffalo, New York, he used French drill regulations to train his men. When the brigade later fought at Chippewa as a well-disciplined force, it prompted the British commander to exclaim, "Those are Regulars, by God!" 17[17]

During the War of 1812, as in the Revolution, Army leaders discussed the organization of brigades and divisions, and their comments sometimes disagreed with the contemporary practice or with the laws then in effect. The Register of the Army published in 1813 stated that a brigade would consist of two regiments and a division of two brigades with but a single staff officer, the brigade major, in each. The laws in force, however, authorized a brigade staff of an inspector, subinspector, quartermaster, wagon master, and chaplain. When a brigadier general commanded a brigade, his brigade major and aides were included in the staff. Major generals continued to command divisions, and their staffs consisted of a quartermaster, judge advocate, and two aides. The official handbook for infantry compiled by William Duane, the Adjutant General, in 1813 called for a brigade in the peace establishment to consist of any number of battalions, but for field service it was not to exceed 4,000 men. A division could have from two to four brigades. During congressional deliberations as to the number of major and brigadier generals needed in 1813 to conduct the war, Secretary of War John Armstrong expressed his belief that a brigade should have only two regiments because the management of 2,000 men in the field was ample duty for a brigadier general. Also, in his opinion, the direction of 4,000 men was a suitable command for a major general. But the lack of trained personnel and the short duration of campaigns in the War of 1812 resulted in ad hoc brigades and divisions that did not approach the combined arms teams of the Revolutionary War. 18[18]

After the War of 1812 the militia units were released from federal service, the volunteers were discharged, and the Regular Army units were eventually reduced to seven infantry and four artillery regiments. Despite the small size of the Army of the United States, Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott in 1819 secured congressional approval for the preparation of a code incorporating the laws, regulations, orders, and practices governing the Army. Having studied foreign armies, particularly the French, he thought such regulations would be useful. In them he introduced a new organization-the army corps. During the Napoleonic wars the French had decentralized their armies for greater mobility and maneuverability. French field armies had consisted of several army corps, which in turn were made up of two or three divisions of infantry or cavalry. Each division comprised two brigades. With this structure, an army could be dispersed over a wide area, but the command mechanism allowed it to concentrate quickly to destroy the enemy. 19[19]

Scott's General Regulations for the United States Army, published in 1821, thus included the new European concepts. Two regiments constituted a brigade, two brigades a division, and two divisions an army corps. Infantry and cavalry were to be brigaded separately. The only staff officer for either the brigade or the division was a "chief of staff," who acted in a manner similar to a brigade inspector or brigade major. The divisions and brigades were to be numbered according to the rank of their commanders. For ease in distinguishing each body of troops in official reports, units were to be identified by their commanders' names.20[20]

Between the War of 1812 and the Mexican War these concepts meant little to the Regular Army. The periodic campaigns against the Indians, using Regular, militia, and volunteer troops, were fought with small bodies of troops, usually of regimental or smaller size. Such constabulary tactics neither influenced the formation of large units in the field nor affected the regulations that governed such organizations. The only alteration in Army Regulations prior to the Mexican War specified that neither the division nor the brigade was to have a fixed staff, with their size and composition varying according to the nature of their service.21[21]

Mexican War[edit]

In the fall of 1845, just before hostilities broke out between the United States and Mexico, Brevet Brig. Gen. Zachary Taylor organized the Regular Army forces that had gathered at Corpus Christi, Texas, numbering about 3,900 men, into three brigades, each consisting of two infantry regiments or their equivalent. The 2d Dragoons and Regular Army field artillery companies supported the brigades. With these forces Taylor fought and won the Battles of Palo Alto (8 May 1846) and Resaca de Palma (9 May 1846).22[22]


After the declaration of war in the spring of 1846, Congress called for 50,000 volunteers. Individual states organized their volunteers into regiments, which the War Department initially planned to brigade, mixing foot and mounted infantry 23[23] in the same units. Two or more volunteer brigades, each consisting of three or more regiments, were to form a division. Under the wartime laws, a brigade was to be authorized at least 3,000 men and a division 6,000. Since Army Regulations called for no fixed staffs, the president was to appoint a quartermaster, commissary, and surgeon for each brigade. Each staff officer was to have an assistant. Congress further provided that the regimental officers of a brigade could employ a chaplain.24[24]

In the late summer of 1846 Taylor organized his army into divisions for a campaign against Monterrey, Mexico. Using the three brigades he had organized in 1845, plus a new brigade, Taylor formed two Regular Army divisions of two brigades each. Each brigade had two infantry regiments; three brigades had a field artillery company attached; and one division had an additional field artillery company and a regiment of dragoons assigned. Because the volunteers did not deploy in any prearranged order, Taylor temporarily brigaded a portion of those who had joined him for instruction and camp service. Others he organized as a volunteer division of two brigades, each containing two 500-man infantry regiments. A regiment of mounted volunteers from Texas completed the division. With these forces Taylor captured Monterrey in September 1846.25[25]

When Taylor took to the field after his victory at Monterrey, he had planned to continue to use divisional organizations. But, since the political leadership in Washington decided to shift the center of operations more directly toward Mexico City, the bulk of Taylor's troops were transferred to a new command under Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott and were replaced by green volunteers. With 5,000 mostly untrained troops, in February 1847 Taylor fought the Battle of Buena Vista, where his inexperienced troops performed well. Buena Vista was particularly a triumph for American artillery, whose mobility allowed it to counter enemy thrusts with intense firepower and close infantry support when and where needed. Infantry and artillery had formed a more effective combined arms team.26[26]

Scott's command against Mexico City, a force of about 12,000 men, was initially organized into two Regular Army infantry brigades and a three-brigade volunteer division. Each brigade was supported by field artillery. After the siege of Vera Cruz Scott organized the Regulars into a division, but before reaching Mexico City he had to reorganize his army anew due primarily to losses by disease and expiring enlistment terms. When more volunteers arrived, he formed his infantry into four divisions of two brigades each, with an artillery company supporting each brigade. He placed elements of three dragoon regiments in a brigade under Col. William S. Harney. Satisfied with his field dispositions, Scott attacked and then entered Mexico City on 13 September. 27[27]

During the course of the war both Taylor and Scott organized ad hoc divisions as combined arms teams. These underwent several reorganizations for a variety of reasons, including a lack of transportation for moving units and supplies, a need to establish and protect lines of communication, and a shortage of personnel to maintain units at some semblance of fighting strength. The war, nevertheless, brought about a new integration of infantry and field artillery within divisions, which operated as independent, maneuverable commands. The stock-trail gun carriage, adopted in 1836, was a technological breakthrough that gave US. field artillery in the Mexican War sufficient mobility and maneuverability for integration of the arms. 28[28]

The revised Army Regulations published in 1857 reflected the changes developed during the course of the war for combining the combat arms. Doctrine called for a division usually to consist of "two or three brigades, either infantry or cavalry, and troops of the other corps in the necessary proportions.."29[29] Each brigade was to consist of two or more regiments. "The troops of the other corps" were artillerymen and engineers, but there was no indication as to what proportion of a division they were to be. A division staff or that of a detached brigade was still minimal-artillery, engineer, and ordnance officers. The regulations changed the system for designating divisions and brigades from being numbered according to the rank of their commanders to being numbered according to their position on the line, although the names of the commanders were still to be used in reports. Finally, the regulations provided that only the War Department could authorize the formation of divisions and brigades during peacetime. In practice, such units would thus remain only wartime expedients.30[30]

Civil War[edit]

The Civil War brought about the first large armies in the nation's history, and both Union and Confederate leaders used brigades, divisions, and army corps as command and control units. After rebel troops fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 militiamen to assist the Regular Army in quelling the rebellion. Shortly thereafter Congress began to expand the Regular Army and call for volunteers. Following the rout of the Union forces at Manassas in July 1861 Congress authorized the first large call for men, 500,000 volunteers to serve three years. To train the new Army Lincoln selected George B. McClellan, a former West Point officer and president of the Eastern Division of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad Company.31[31] McClellan later described the Union troops at Manassas, who were mostly militia, as "a collection of undisciplined, ill-officered, and uninstructed men" instead of an army. The new commander in chief had much to do.32[32]

As the volunteer regiments arrived in the Washington, D.C., area, McClellan began to organize them into what became known as the Army of the Potomac. During the course of the war additional Union armies were formed and served, but the experience of the Army of the Potomac serves as the model to illustrate the difficulties faced by commanders on both sides in organizing their forces. As many of the future leaders of the Army after the war fought with the Army of the Potomac, their experiences had a profound impact on Army organization in the last half of the nineteenth century.

In the Army of the Potomac the largest unit initially was a division, which consisted of three infantry brigades, one cavalry regiment, and four artillery batteries. The division commander did not have a staff, except for his three aides and an assistant adjutant general. The brigade commander, on the other hand, had two aides, a surgeon, a commissary of subsistence, an adjutant general, and a quartermaster.33[33]

McClellan planned to organize the volunteers into brigades, divisions, and army corps. Each army corps, about 25,000 men, was to consist of two or more divisions. He hesitated to implement that organization, however, until his officers gained experience as division commanders. He also delayed the organization of army corps for political reasons. Over one-half of his division commanders were Republicans who were ardent supporters of Lincoln, while McClellan, a political foe of the president, was a Democrat. In March 1862, before the Peninsula campaign began in Virginia, Lincoln, concerned about command and control in combat, directed that McClellan's forces be organized into army corps. McClellan organized the Army of the Potomac on the peninsula into four army corps of three divisions each. The Union forces on the upper Potomac were also placed into an army corps.34[34]

Combat experience brought organizational changes to the Army of the Potomac. Cavalry assigned to divisions within army corps were generally unable to perform army-level missions. In July 1862, after the Peninsula campaign, Brig. Gen. George Stoneman, Chief of Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, shifted cavalry units from the infantry divisions and organized two cavalry brigades for the army, but he left a cavalry squadron 35[35] in each army corps for picket, scout, and outpost duties. Little improvement resulted from having separate cavalry brigades, which were used the same as the cavalry squadrons in the army corps.

In November 1862 Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside took command of the Army of the Potomac and reorganized it into three "grand divisions." He planned for each grand division to move and fight as a heavy column of two corps and a cavalry division, which removed the cavalry from army corps. The grand division commanders, however, were reluctant to use cavalry as an independent force. In February 1863 Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, abolished the grand divisions and reverted to the army corps structure. At the same time the Union cavalry was also reorganized as a separate corps under Stoneman, with approximately 13,000 men divided into three divisions. Each division had two brigades, with each brigade having three to five regiments. Artillery was assigned to the cavalry corps headquarters. The cavalry corps operated as an independent unit thereafter, but the jest "Whoever saw a dead cavalryman?" remained within the Army of the Potomac.36[36] By June 1863 Union cavalry proved equal to the Confederate cavalry. At Brandy Station the Union cavalry corps excelled under the aggressive leadership of Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan in 1864.37[37]

Experience also led to the standardization of field artillery pieces and their massing within the army corps. At Manassas the Union artillery had been assigned to brigades, but when organizing the Army of the Potomac McClellan assigned it to divisions, usually one artillery battalion per division. He also approved a ratio of 2.5 artillery pieces to 1,000 infantrymen, with six artillery pieces of the same caliber, if possible, forming a battery. One of every four batteries was to be a Regular Army unit, the commander of which was to assist the division commander in organizing and training the artillery. Because of the shortage of artillery pieces in 1861, the Union's arsenals were ransacked and guns of various calibers were sent to the troops in the field, causing ammunition and supply problems. But eventually the Army of the Potomac achieved uniformity within its field artillery batteries by using 3-inch or 12-pounder "Napoleon" guns.38[38]

Although standardization of weapons eased some field artillery problems, others remained. With the organization of army corps, half of each corps' divisional artillery was withdrawn to form an Army of the Potomac artillery reserve of three artillery brigades. The army corps had no artillery except that in its divisions, and division commanders were loath to lose control over their guns. By 1863 most commanders recognized that their heavy losses stemmed from frontal infantry assaults on entrenched positions. Rifles, with a maximum range of a thousand yards and an effective range of half that distance in the hands of good marksmen, plus supporting artillery fire presented formidable obstacles to mass attacks. Field artillery could break up the infantry's defensive positions, but with the guns scattered among the corps' divisions the coordination and concentration of artillery fire was difficult to orchestrate.39[39]

After the Union defeat at Chancellorsville in 1863 the field artillery batteries were withdrawn from the divisions of the Army of the Potomac and concentrated in field artillery brigades directly under the corps headquarters. These brigades, with four to six batteries and their own officers and staff, rendered efficient service, which resulted in a reduction in the amount of artillery needed and in the dependence on the army's artillery reserve without any reduction in fire support. The reserve gradually became a place for recuperation and reorganization of battered batteries.40[40]

To be successful, armies in the Civil War needed more than infantry, field artillery, and cavalry. As the Regular Army had few engineer units, volunteer infantry regiments often served as engineers. In the Army of the Potomac these regiments eventually formed a brigade. Army corps in other Union armies also employed infantry as engineers. As the medical, ordnance, signal, and quartermaster department lacked units, their field tasks were performed by personnel assigned to the departments or by soldiers detailed from the line regiments or by hired civilians.41[41]

To coordinate all the activities within an army corps, supporting staffs grew at each level-corps, division, brigade, and regiment. Eventually an adjutant, commissaries of muster and subsistence, and a chief of ordnance comprised the divisional staff. The staff for the brigade included an adjutant, quartermaster, commissary of subsistence, and, when the brigade served as an independent command, an ordnance officer. In addition, general officers continued to have aides as their personal staff. 42[42]

As army corps evolved, the method by which they were designated changed. Initially each Union army corps was designated within an army-Le., I Army Corps, Army of the Potomac-but later the practice of numbering them consecutively without any reference to the army to which they were assigned was adopted. Divisions within army corps were numbered consecutively, as were brigades within divisions. 43[43]

Basically the Army of the Potomac served as the model for all Union forces. In the West army corps were introduced after their organization in the Army of the Potomac. As the war ebbed and flowed commanders organized, consolidated, and discontinued army corps as needed. When regiments were reduced because of attrition, theater commanders added more regiments to the brigades to maintain their strength and that of divisions within the army corps. When the volunteer system broke down, both the Union and Confederate governments turned to draftees, substitutes (men hired to serve in draftees' places), and bounties to maintain their armies. To relieve manpower problems, the Union Army began using blacks in 1862, while the Confederate Congress authorized the enrollment of black troops in March 1865. Small numbers of Negroes had served in past wars, both in integrated and segregated units, but during the Civil War both sides organized segregated regiments. The Union eventually created the XXV Army Corps with Negro enlisted personnel from the X and XVIII Army Corps. 44[44]

With the Confederate Army springing from the same ancestral roots as the Union Army, it was not surprising that both armies used similar patterns of organization. At Bull Run in July 1861, the Confederates employed two provisional army corps made up of brigades without an intervening divisional-level structure. Eventually their army corps consisted of infantry brigades and divisions. Paralleling the Union armies, the field artillery batteries were organized as corps-level units, which were designated battalions rather than brigades. Confederate cavalry employed a divisional rather than a corps structure, but it functioned as an aggressive independent force earlier than Union cavalry. Unlike the Union forces, Southerners rarely numbered their brigades and divisions but used the names of commanders for identification. Army corps were numbered within their respective armies. 45[45]

To help control and identify units on the battlefield, armies traditionally used flags, and Union army corps and their divisions and brigades employed them during the Civil War. The national colors formed the basis of the flag system. Along with distinctive flags, Union corps badges were introduced to identify men and foster esprit de corps. 46[46]

Following the Civil War the War Department disbanded the field armies, along with their army corps, divisions, and brigades. Militia units returned to their states, the volunteers left service, and most of the Regular Army troops returned to scattered posts throughout the South and West. Congress in 1869 set the peacetime Regular establishment at 25 infantry, 10 cavalry, and 5 artillery regiments, but few were ever able to assemble their far-flung companies, troops, and batteries in one place until the end of the century. Field operations usually involved less than a regiment or were conducted by gathering the geographically closest elements of several regiments on a temporary basis. Army Regulations, nevertheless, continued to repeat the ideas for organizing army corps, divisions, and brigades, with the division described as "the fundamental element and basis of organization of every active army." 47[47]

War With Spain[edit]

On 25 April 1898, Congress declared that a state of war existed between the United States and Spain. Even though the USS Maine had been sunk six weeks before, threatening war, the nation had taken only minimal steps toward mobilization. One of these steps, however, was congressional authorization for President William McKinley, when necessary, to organize a new army consisting of the Regular Army and the Volunteer Army of the United States. The regiments of the Volunteer Army were to be raised and officered by the states and eventually included most of their organized militia units. The regulars and volunteers were to be formed into brigades, divisions, and army corps. On 23 April the McKinley administration directed the regulars concentrated at Chickamauga National Park, Georgia, to be organized as an army corps; those at Mobile, Alabama, as an independent division; and those at New Orleans, Louisiana, as a separate brigade. 48[48]

After the declaration of war McKinley revised that arrangement and approved the organization of eight army corps, each of which was to consist of three or more divisions of three brigades each. Each brigade was to have approximately 3,600 officers and enlisted men organized into three regiments and, with three such brigades, each division was to total about 11,000 officers and men. Thus the division was to be about the same size as the division of 1861, but army corps were to be larger. The division staff initially was to have an adjutant general, quartermaster, commissary, surgeon, inspector general, and engineer, with an ordnance officer added later. The brigade staff was identical except that no inspector general or ordnance officer was authorized. 49[49]

The Commanding General of the Army, Maj. Gen. Nelson A. Miles, had planned to expand the Army in an orderly fashion by holding the volunteers in state camps for sixty days. There they would be organized, equipped, and trained for field duty. During that period the War Department was to prepare large training camps and collect the necessary stores to outfit the new army, while McKinley was to appoint the general officers who would command the new brigades, divisions, and army corps. Miles' plan soon went awry. Because of the lack of Regular Army officers to staff state camps and the need to have volunteers and regulars train together, he quickly abandoned it. In mid-May the volunteers were moved to a few large unfinished camps in the South, and when they arrived only seven instead of the eight projected army corps were organized. Two army corps, the IV and V consisted of regulars and volunteers, while the others were made up of volunteers.50[50]

To facilitate command and control, corps and division commanders requested permission to use distinctive Civil War flags and badges for their units. Secretary of War Russell A. Alger, however, disapproved the request because of pressure from Civil War veterans who had been permitted by Congress to wear their distinctive unit insignia and guarded the privilege jealously. The quartermaster general, therefore, had to prepared an entirely new group of heraldic items for the recently organized army corps and their divisions and brigades.51[51]

Before the new army completed its organization and training, it was thrust into combat. About two-thirds of V Army Corps, one dismounted cavalry and two infantry divisions, sailed for Cuba in June 1898. Expeditions also were mounted for Puerto Rico and the Philippine Islands in which partial army corps provided the troops. The war ended in August 1898, and less than two months later the wartime army began to fade away. The War Department disbanded the last army corps on 13 April 1900. Following the war, the Army maintained troops in the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, but those commands did not employ army corps and divisions. 52[52]

During major conflicts of the United States prior to the twentieth century, Army leaders sought to find the best command level at which to merge infantry, cavalry, and artillery into effective, coordinated combat units. Brigades and divisions usually comprised a single arm, while the army corps was the basic combined arms unit. Within the army corps itself, little specialization existed beyond the combat arms. Usually no field units were organized for signal, medical, transportation, military police, engineers, ordnance, or other combat support services. Hired civilians or detailed soldiers provided such support in the field. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, innovations in warfare, especially technological developments, required more sophisticated organizations, both to use the new technology and to integrate it into a larger operational and tactical framework.

Endnotes for Chapter I[edit]

  1. George Washington, The Writings of George Washington From the Original Manuscript Source, 1745-1799, ed., John C. Fitzpatrick, 39 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1931-44), 3:354-55.
  2. 2 Ibid.; Worthington C. Ford, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, 34 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1904-37), 2:103, 191 (hereafter cited as JCC); An Universal Military Dictionary (London: J. Millan, 1779; reprint, Ottawa: Museum Restoration Service, 1969), p. 36. In the initial legislation Congress made brigadiers general officers. Washington nevertheless viewed their function during the war as nothing more than regimental colonels who acted on a larger scale. Regiments of the Continental Army were authorized staff officers, which included adjutants, surgeons, quartermasters, and paymasters.
  3. 3 Washington, Writings, 9:103-04, 12:60-61; Peter Force, ed., American Archives: A Collection of Authentic Records, State Papers, and Letters and Other Notices of Public Affairs, 9 vols. (Washington, D.C.: M. St. Clair & Peter Force, 1839-53), 2:1028; Charles H. Lesser, The Sinews of Independence: Monthly Strength Reports of the Continental Army (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), pp. 43, 72, 208; Robert K. Wright, Jr., The Continental Army (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1983), p. 97. Infantry regiments varied in strength during the war, but were usually authorized approximately 700 officers and enlisted men each.
  4. 4 Washington, Writings, 9:10304, 12:60-61.
  5. 5 Boyd L. Dastrup, King of Battle: A Branch History of the U.S. Army's Field Artillery (Fort Monroe, Va.: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, 1992), pp. 12-31; Wright, Continental Army, pp. 54, 150; William E. Birkhimer, Historical Sketch of the Organization, Administration, Materiel, and Tactics of the Artillery, United States Army (Washington, D.C.: James J. Chapman, 1884), pp. 76-77, 96-97.
  6. 6 Ford, JCC, 8:390-91, 11:542, 13:197-98; Washington, Writings, 10:374, 12:67, 79.
  7. 7 Washington, Writings, 16:101. Lesser's The Sinews of Independence illustrates the point on brigade designations.
  8. 8 Wright, Continental Army, p. 29; Washington, Writings, 3:354-56; James C. Scudieri, "The Continentals: Comparative Analysis of a Late Eighteenth-Century Standing Army," Ph.D. dissertation, City University of New York, 1993. Lesser's The Sinews of Independence illustrates the point about quasi-permanent divisions.
  9. 9 Washington, Writings, 7:49, 10:363.
  10. 10 Ford, JCC, 6:1025, 1045, 18:960; Mary Lee Stubbs and Stanley Russell Connor, Armor Cavalry, Part 1: Regular Army and Army Reserve (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1969), pp. 3-6; Wright, Continental Army, pp. 105-07, 133-34, 160-61; Oliver L. Spaulding, Hoffman Nickerson, and John W. Wright, Warfare (Washington, D.C.: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1925), pp. 554-55.
  11. 11 Washington, Writings, 27:374-98.
  12. 12 Ford, JCC, 3 Jun 1784; John F. Callan, comp., The Military Laws of the United States (Philadelphia: G.W. Childs, 1863), pp. 95-100.
  13. 13 Callan, Military Laws, pp. 122-25. This was the first law authorizing volunteers; the other laws concerning them were enacted during periods of crises. Those printed in this volume cover the period until 1863.
  14. 14 Maurice de Saxe, Reveries on the Art of War, trans., Thomas R. Philipps (Harrisburg, Pa.: Military Service Publishing Co., 1944), pp. 36-38; Frederick Wilhelm von Steuben, A Letter on the Subject of an Established Militia, and Military Arrangements. Addressed to the Inhabitants of the United States (New York: J. McLean and Co., 1784), p. 45; Henry Knox, A Plan for the General Arrangement of the Militia of the United States (1786), published in Political Pamphlets, Jefferson Collection, Library of Congress; John K. Mahon and Romana Danysh, Infantry, Part I: Regular Army (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1972), pp. 12-13; Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army From Its Organization. September 1779 to March 2, 1903, 2 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1903), 1:139-41; Francis Paul Prucha, The Sword of the Republic: The United Army on the Frontier, 1783-1846 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977), pp. 17-24.
  15. 15 Marvin A. Kreidberg and Merton G. Henry, History of Military Mobilization in the United States Army, 1775-1945 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1955), pp. 44-46, hereafter cited as Mobilization; Benson J. Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1869), pp. 366, 742; American State Papers, Military Affairs, 7 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Gales and Seaton, 1834), 1:618; Charles W. Elliott, Winfield Scott: The Soldier and the Man (New York: Macmillan Co., 1937), p. 151.
  16. 16 American State Papers, Military Affairs, 1:495.
  17. 17 Elliott, Winfield Scott, pp. 146-47, 162.
  18. 18 American State Papers, Military Affairs, 1:330, 425; William Duane, A Hand Book for Infantry, 9th ed. (Philadelphia: William Duane, 1814), p. 20; Callan, Military Laws, pp. 136, 213, 219, 228, 240.
  19. 19 American State Papers, Military Affairs, 1:199-200; Elliott, Winfield Scott, pp. 228-29.
  20. 20 General Regulations for the United States Army, 1821, pp. 85-89; Michael Howard, War in European History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), pp. 83-84.
  21. 21 General Regulations for the Army of the United States, 1841, p. 67.
  22. 22 Justin H. Smith, The War With Mexico, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan Co., 1919), 1:143-80 passim; Kreidberg and Henry, Mobilization, pp. 74-75.
  23. 23 Mounted infantry men were dragoons who reached the battlefield on horse but fought as foot soldiers.
  24. 24 Callan, Military Laws, pp. 367-69, 373, 375, and 380; Kreidberg and Henry, Mobilization, p. 73; Mexican War Correspondence (Washington, D.C.: Wendell and van Benthuysen, Printers, 1848), p. 458.
  25. 25 Mexican War Correspondence, pp. 417-19, 498-500; Edward D. Mansfield, The Mexican War: A History of lts Origin (New York: A.S. Barnes and Co., 1850), p. 57.
  26. 26 Mexican War Correspondence, pp. 513-14; John D. Eisenhower, So Far From God: The U.S. War with Mexico 1846-1848 (New York: Random House, 1989), pp. 178-91; Dastrup, King of Battle, pp. 71-78.
  27. 27 R. S. Ripley, The War with Mexico (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1849), pp. 17, 55-56; Mansfield, The Mexican War, pp. 225-27.
  28. 28 Stanley L. Falk, "Artillery for the Land Service: The Development of a System," Military" Affairs 28 (Fall 1964): 97-110.
  29. 29 Regulations of the Army of the United States, 1857, p. 13.
  30. 30 Ibid., pp. 13, 71-73.
  31. 31 George B. McClellan, McClellan's Own Story: The War of the Union (New York: Charles L. Webster and Co., 1887), p. 2; War Department General Orders (WD GO) 49, 1861.
  32. 32 McClellan, McClellan's Own Story, p. 68.
  33. 33 The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Ser. I, 53 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1881-98), 5:11-17, hereafter cited as OR; WD GO 49, 1861.
  34. 34 Robert M. Epstein, "The Creation and Evolution of the Army Corps in the American Civil War," Journal of Military History 55 (Jan 1991): 21-46; OR, 5:11-67 passim. Congress provided for army corps on 17 July 1862.
  35. 35 A cavalry squadron was and still is equivalent to a battalion.
  36. 36 Philip H. Sheridan, Personal Memoirs of P.H. Sheridan, General of the United States Army, 2 vols. (New York: Charles L. Webster & Co., 1888), 1:347.
  37. 37 Ibid.; B. W. Crowninshielf, "Cavalry in Virginia During the War of the Rebellion," Journal of the Military Service Institution 12 (May 1891): 527-51; Kenneth P. Williams, Lincoln Finds a General, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1949), 2:483, 487; OR, 25:471-72; Moses Harris, "The Union Cavalry," Journal of the U.S. Cavalry Association 5 (Mar 1892): 2-16.
  38. 38 Henry J. Hunt, "Our Experience in Artillery Administration," Journal of the Military Service Institution 12 (Mar 1891): 197-224; John C. Tidball, "The Artillery Service in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865," Journal of the Military Service Institution 12 (Jul 1891): 697-733.
  39. 39 OR, 5:67, 471-72; Tidball, "The Artillery Service," pp. 697-733.
  40. 40 Tidball, "The Artillery Service," pp. 697-733.
  41. 41 History and Traditions of the Corps of Engineers, Engineer School Special Text 25-1, (Fort Belvoir, Va.: Engineer School, 1953), p. 29; OR, 15:716-17; Mary C. Gillett, The Army Medical Department, 1818-1865 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1987), pp. 156-57.
  42. 42 WD GOs 12, 79, 1862; 48, 1863; and 31, 193, 1865.
  43. 43 Frederick H. Dyer, A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion (Des Moines, Iowa: Dyer Publishing Company, 1908), pp. 261-69.
  44. 44 See chart Civil War Army Corps based on notes from Dyer and OR, author's notes Civil War; OR, 15: 716-17 and 30, pt. 1, pp. 211-12; George W. Williams, A History of the Negro Troops in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1888; reprint, New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969), pp. 10-58 passim; James 1. Robertson, Jr., Soldiers Blue and Gray (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988), pp. 19-40; Quartermaster General of the Army, comp., Tabular Statements Showing the Names of Commanders of Army Corps, Divisions, and Brigades, United States Army, During the War of 1861 to 1865 (Philadelphia: Burk and McFetrigde, Printers and Lithographers, 1887), XXV Army Corps table.
  45. 45 Crowninshield, "Cavalry in Virginia," pp. 527-51; Tidball, "The Artillery Service," pp. 697-733; Richard J. Sommers, Richmond Redeemed: The Siege at Petersburg (New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1981), pp. XII-XIII.
  46. 46 OR, 11, pt. 3, 33-36; John W. Wike, "The Wearing of Army Corps and Division Insignia in the Union Army," Military Collector and Historian, IV (June 1952): 35-38; Julia Lorrilard Butterfield, ed., A Biographical Memorial of General Daniel Butterfield (New York: Grafton Press, 1904), pp. 116-18.
  47. 47 WD GOs 56, 1866, and 15, 1869; Army Regulations, 1873, pp. 65-66; Troops in Campaign, Regulations for the Army of the United States (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1892), pp. 3-4; Perry D. Jamieson, Crossing the Deadly Ground: United States Army Tactics, 1865-1899 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1994), pp. 123-27.
  48. 48 WD GOs 25 and 30, 1898; Correspondence Relating to the War With Spain, 2 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1902), 1:1.
  49. 49 WD GOs 30, 36, and 96, 1898.
  50. 50 Report of the Maj Gen Commanding the Army, Annual Reports of the War Department, 1898, pp. 7-8, hereafter cited as ARWD; Russell A. Alger, The Spanish-American War (New York: Harper and Co., 1901), pp. 26-27; Harper's Pictorial History of the War With Spain (New York: Harper and Co., 1899), p. 187; Correspondence Relating to the War With Spain, 1:509, 519, 534, 539, and 547; WD GO 30 and 96, 1898.
  51. 51 Letter, V Army Corps to The Adjutant General, U.S. Army, 28 May 1898, no subject, with five endorsements, AGO file 85411, Telegram, III Corps to the Quartermaster General (QMG), U.S. Army, 28 May 1898, no subject, AGO file 3198, Letter, 1st Division, IV Corps, to The Adjutant General, IV Corps, 19 June 1898, no subject, Adjutant General's Office (AGO) file 114100, all in Record Group (hereafter cited as RG) 165, National Archives and Records Administration (hereafter cited as NARA); WD Cir 12, 1883; WD GO 99, 1898.
  52. 52 Report of the Maj Gen of the Army, ARWD, 1898, pp. 499-501; Correspondence Relating to the War With Spain, 2:705-08.
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