The Internet is a wonderful place. I’ve wondered, on several occasions, which general finished in what ranking at West Point. Turns out, General George Washington Cullum kept a list, and a hundred and some years later, Bill Thayer put it on the web. With short biographies accompanying the name of each graduate, this is a terrific resource for anyone interested in West Point history.
Cullums Register is an index to all the graduates of the Military Academy at West Point, in sequential order, class by class, and within each class, in the final order of merit they achieved as cadets — or at least from 1818 to 1978, when the Register dropped the order of merit. Each entry consists of a complete summary of the graduates official military career, and any synopsis of his civilian achievements that the editors managed to assemble. The overall numerical order of the entry of a graduate has come to be called his “Cullum number”, and commonly serves as an identifier.
The Register was first conceived by Gen. George Washington Cullum Class of 1833, ranking 3d in his Class; Superintendent of the Academy in 1864‑1866; his own Cullum number is 709. He started with a sort of draft version in 1850, then published it in its final form in a third edition, in three volumes, in 1891.
via Cullums Register.
In researching one of my Podcast topics, I was directed to The Class of 1846, by John C. Waugh, for a quote I needed to verify. As expected, our fabulous library system quickly delivered me a copy. I got the quote I needed, but a quick flip-through reveals a well-written, charming series of vignettes for some of the war’s most famous figures. (Most famous but not best-loved – this was the class of McClellan and Stonewall, remember.)
Sadly, I got caught up with Sam Watkins instead, and my hold is about to expire. I’ve added it to my wish list, though – my library doesn’t feel complete without it.
(The title for this post is an in-joke with my board-game playing friends: Whenever my best laid plans gang aft agley, I turn into a trickster whose sole purpose is to ruin their plans and frustrate them.)
This Disunion article turns into an explanation of how Dennis Mahan’s teachings of Jomini’s Napoleonic tactics made for a standard generalship of the West Pointers in the war, but it starts with this:
The Civil War’s first year was one marked by inactivity and battlefield frustration. There was just one major battle, at Bull Run, and only a handful of minor engagements, most of them semi-guerrilla fighting in and around Missouri.
Yet as the leading Union generals in the field refused to directly engage Confederate troops, President Lincoln began to display an almost intuitive understanding of the aggressive military strategy that would win the war, a wisdom that would lead him to bring in new generals and push for more aggressive engagements in 1862. How did Lincoln, a lawyer by training with no military background to speak of — get the nature of the conflict so right, and his seasoned generals get it so wrong?
While I agree that Lincoln “understood the aggressive military strategy that would win the war” – that sheer force of numbers meant the North would prevail – I take issue with some of his early pushing attempts. Lincoln famously ordered movements of McClellan and Burnside, with these orders published and circulated, of more use to the Confederate planners than the Union leaders. He eventually speed-dated his way to Grant, but his learning curve through military strategy helped rein him in enough to let Grant go about his business unmolested.