- Oliver O. Howard
Oliver Otis Howard
Portrait of Oliver O. Howard by Mathew Brady, during the Civil War
Born November 8, 1830
Died October 26, 1909(aged 78)
Place of burial Lake View Cemetery, Burlington, Vermont Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1854–94 Rank Major General Commands held XI Corps
Army of the Tennessee
United States Military Academy
Battles/wars Awards Thanks of Congress
Medal of Honor
Other work President, Howard University
Oliver Otis Howard (November 8, 1830 – October 26, 1909) was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War. He was a corps commander noted for suffering two humiliating defeats, at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, but he recovered from the setbacks while posted in the Western Theater, and served there successfully as a corps and army commander.
Known as the "Christian general" because he tried to base his policy decisions on his deep religious piety, he was given charge of the Freedmen's Bureau in mid 1865, with the mission of integrating the freed slaves into Southern society and politics during the second phase of the Reconstruction Era. Howard took charge of labor policy, setting up a system that required free slaves to work on former plantation land under pay scales fixed by the Bureau, on terms negotiated by the Bureau with white land owners. Howard's Bureau was primarily responsible for the legal affairs of the Freedmen. He attempted to protect the Negros from hostile conditions, but lacked adequate power, and was repeatedly frustrated by President Andrew Johnson. Howard's allies, the Radical Republicans, won control of Congress in the 1866 elections and imposed Radical Reconstruction in, with the result that Freedmen were given the vote. With the help and advice of the Bureau, they joined Republican coalitions along with Carpetbaggers and Scalawags to take political control of most of the southern states. Howard was also a leader in promoting higher education for Freedmen, most notably in the founding of Howard University in Washington and serving as its president 1867–73.
After 1874, Howard commanded troops in the West, conducting a famous campaign against the Nez Perce tribe. Utley (1987) concludes that his leadership against the Apaches in 1872, against the Nez Perce in 1877, the Bannocks and Paiutes in 1878, and against the Sheepeaters in 1879 all add up to an impressive record, although he was outshone by George Custer and Nelson Miles.
Howard was born in Leeds, Maine, the son of Rowland Bailey Howard and Eliza Otis Howard. Rowland, a farmer, died when Oliver was 9 years old. Oliver attended Monmouth Academy in Monmouth, North Yarmouth Academy in Yarmouth, Kents Hill School in Readfield, and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1850 at the age of 19. He then attended the United States Military Academy, graduating in 1854, fourth in his class of 46 cadets, as a brevet second lieutenant of ordnance. He served at the Watervliet Arsenal near Troy, New York, and was the temporary commander of the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta, Maine. In 1855, he married Elizabeth Anne Waite, with whom he would have seven children. In 1857 he was transferred to Florida for the Seminole Wars. It was in Florida that he experienced a conversion to evangelical Christianity and considered resigning from the Army to become a minister. His religious proclivities would later earn him the nickname "the Christian general." Howard returned to West Point in September 1857 to become an instructor of mathematics and the following year he was promoted to first lieutenant. As the Civil War began with the surrender of Fort Sumter, thoughts of the Ministry were put aside and he decided to remain in the service of his country.
Howard was appointed colonel of the 3rd Maine Infantry regiment and temporarily commanded a brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run. He was promoted to brigadier general effective September 3, 1861, and given permanent command of his brigade. He then joined Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac for the Peninsula Campaign.
On June 1, 1862, while commanding a Union brigade in the Fair Oaks, Howard was wounded twice in his right arm, which was subsequently amputated. (He received the Medal of Honor in 1893 for his heroism at Fair Oaks.) Brig. Gen. Philip Kearny, who had lost his left arm, visited Howard and joked that they would be able to shop for gloves together. Howard recovered quickly enough to rejoin the army for the Battle of Antietam, in which he rose to division command in the II Corps. He was promoted to major general in November 1862 and assumed command of the XI Corps the following April. In that role, he replaced Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel. Since the corps was composed largely of German immigrants, many of whom spoke no English, the soldiers were resentful of their new leader and openly called for Sigel's reinstatement.
At the Battle of Chancellorsville, Howard suffered the first of two significant military setbacks, which together led to his occasional nickname, "Uh-Oh Howard". On May 2, 1863, his corps was on the right flank of the Union line, northwest of the crossroads of Chancellorsville. Robert E. Lee and Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson created an audacious plan in which Jackson's entire corps would march secretly around the Union flank and attack it. Howard was warned by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, now commanding the Army of the Potomac, that his flank was "in the air", not anchored by a natural obstacle, such as a river, and that Confederate forces might be on the move in his direction. Howard failed to heed the warning and Jackson struck before dark, routing the XI Corps and causing a serious disruption to the Union plan.
At the Battle of Gettysburg, the XI Corps, still chastened by its humiliation in May, arrived on the field in the afternoon of July 1, 1863. Poor positioning of the defensive line by one of Howard's subordinate division commanders, Brig. Gen. Francis C. Barlow, was exploited by the Confederate Corps of Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell and once again the XI Corps was routed, forcing it to retreat through the streets of Gettysburg, leaving many prisoners behind. On Cemetery Hill, south of town, Howard quarreled with Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock about who was in command of the defense. Hancock had been sent by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade with written orders to take command, but Howard insisted that he was the ranking general present. Eventually he relented. Controversy centers on three points: 1) Howard's choice of Cemetery Hill as the key to defense; 2) the timing of Howard's mid-afternoon order to abandon positions north and west of town; and 3) Howard's reluctance to recognize that Hancock, his junior, had superseded him. Carpenter (1963) holds that Howard alone and wisely selected Cemetery Hill, that the order to withdraw was probably a sound one, and that the conflict between Howard and Hancock might have been avoided had Meade himself gotten onto the field.
Howard started circulating the story that his corps' failure had actually been triggered by the collapse of Maj. Gen. Abner Doubleday's I Corps to the west, but this excuse was never accepted at the time or by history—the reverse was actually true—and the reputation of the XI Corps was ruined. Some argue that Howard should get some credit for the eventual success at Gettysburg because he wisely stationed one of his divisions (Maj. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr) on Cemetery Hill as a reserve and critical backup defensive line. For the remainder of the three-day battle, the corps remained on the defensive around Cemetery Hill, withstanding assaults by Maj. Gen. Jubal Early on July 2, and participating at the margin of the defense against Pickett's Charge on July 3.
Howard and his corps were transferred to the Western Theater to become part of the Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee. In the Battles for Chattanooga, the corps joined the impulsive assault that captured Missionary Ridge and forced the retreat of Gen. Braxton Bragg. In July 1864, following the death of Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson, Howard became commander of the Army of the Tennessee, fought in the Atlanta Campaign, and led the right wing of Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's famous March to the Sea, through Georgia and then the Carolinas. Sherman, having favored Howard over John A. Logan for command of the Army of the Tennessee after McPherson's death, asked Howard to allow Logan to lead the army in the May 1865 Grand Review in Washington. Howard agreed when Sherman appealed to him as a Christian gentleman.
From May 1865 to July 1874, General Howard was commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau (the Army's Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands), where he played a major role in the Reconstruction era, and had charge of integrating the Freedman (freed slaves) into American society. Howard devised far-reaching programs and guidelines including social welfare in the form of rations, schooling, courts, and medical care. Howard often clashed with President Andrew Johnson, who strongly dislike the welfare aspects of the Freedman's Bureau, and especially tried to return political power to Southern whites. However, Howard had the support of the Radical Republicans in Congress. When the Radical Republicans gained power in 1867, they gave blacks the right to vote in the South and set up new elections, which the Republican coalition of Freedmen, Carpetbaggers, and Scalawags won (except in Virginia). The Bureau was very active in helping blacks organize themselves politically, and therefore it became a target of partisan hostility.
The limited ideological framework of General Howard and his aides encouraged their attempt at radical reconstruction of southern society without realizing the need for essential legislation. They thought that the elimination of all statutory inequalities, for instance, Black court testimony, was enough to assure protection. Southern states pretended compliance on the point to end the threat of the Freedmen's Bureau courts' system.
He was placed in command of the Department of the Columbia in 1874, went west to Washington Territory's Fort Vancouver, where he fought in the Indian Wars, particularly against the Nez Perce, with the resultant surrender of Chief Joseph. In Chief Joseph's famous 1879 Washington, D.C., speech, he claimed, "If General Howard had given me plenty of time to gather up my stock and treated Too-hool-hool-suit as a man should be treated, there would have been no war." Subsequently, Howard was superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1881–82. He served as commander of the Department of the Platte from 1882 to 1884. In 1891, his final command was of the Department of the East at Fort Columbus on Governors Island in New York Harbor, encompassing the states east of the Mississippi River. He retired from the United States Army at that posting in 1894 with the rank of major general.
General Howard is also remembered for playing a role in founding Howard University, which was incorporated by Congress in 1867. The school is nonsectarian and is open to both sexes without regard to race. On November 20, 1866, ten members, including Howard, of various socially concerned groups of the time met in Washington, D.C., to discuss plans for a theological seminary to train colored ministers. Interest was sufficient, however, in creating an educational institute for areas other than the ministry. The result was the Howard Normal and Theological Institute for the Education of Preachers and Teachers. On January 8, 1867, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the institution to Howard University. Howard served as president from 1869 to 1874. He was quoted in saying "The opposition to Negro education made itself felt everywhere in a combination not to allow the freedmen any room or building in which a school might be taught. In 1865, 1866, and 1877 mobs of the baser classes at intervals and in all parts of the South occasionally burned school buildings and churches used as schools, flogged teachers or drove them away, and in a number of instances murdered them." He also founded Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, in 1895, for the education of the "mountain whites."
Death and memorialization
A bust of Howard designed by artist James E. Kelly is on display at Howard University. An impressive equestrian statue is on East Cemetery Hill on the Gettysburg Battlefield. A dormitory at Bowdoin College is named for Howard.
The Oliver O. Howard Relief Corps of the Grand Army of the Republic provided funds to help destitute former Union soldiers and to support worthy public causes. It contributed money and the design for the State Flag of Utah in 1922. An Army Reserve Center was named after him in Auburn, Maine, and is still used today by several U.S. Army Reserve units.
Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, Delaware, is named in his honor, as is Howard County, Nebraska and the Howard School of Academics and Technology, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The General O.O. Howard House, located on Officer's Row within the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site was built in 1878 upon General Howard's order at a cost of $6,938.20. Completed in 1879, the building suffered a fire in 1986 and was left vacant until renovated by the City of Vancouver in 1998. The building serves as the headquarters of the Fort Vancouver National Trust.
Howard was the author of numerous books after the war, including Donald's School Days (1878), Nez Perce Joseph (1881), General Taylor (1892), Isabella of Castile (1894), Autobiography (1907), and My Life and Experiences among Our Hostile Indians (1907).
In popular media
James Whitmore portrayed General Howard in the 1975 television film, I Will Fight No More Forever, about the U.S. Army campaign against the Nez Perce and the surrender of Chief Joseph in 1877.
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Brigadier General, U.S. Volunteers. Place and date: At Fair Oaks, Va., June 1, 1862. Entered service at: Maine. Born: November 8, 1830, Leeds, Maine. Date of issue: March 29, 1893.
Led the 61st New York Infantry in a charge in which he was twice severely wounded in the right arm, necessitating amputation.
- List of American Civil War Medal of Honor recipients: G–L
- List of American Civil War generals
- Sherman's March (2007, documentary)
- Charles Henry Howard (brother)
- ^ David Thomson, "Oliver Otis Howard: Reassessing the Legacy of the 'Christian General'," American Nineteenth Century History 10 (September 2009), 273–98.
- ^ Robert M. Utley, "Oliver Otis Howard," New Mexico Historical Review 62, no. 1 (Winter 1987): 55-63.
- ^ Tagg, p. 121.
- ^ Warner, p. 237; Oliver Otis Howard, In the Beginning, Bowdoin Orient website.
- ^ Kent's Hill Notables, Rootsweb.
- ^ Cimbala, pp. 1008-10.
- ^ Eicher, p. 306.
- ^ John A. Carpenter, "General O. O. Howard at Gettysburg," Civil War History, September 1963, 261-76.
- ^ John Cox, and LaWanda Cox, "General O. O. Howard and the 'Misrepresented Bureau,'" Journal of Southern History, Nov 1953, Vol. 19 Issue 4, pp 427-456
- ^ James Oakes, "A Failure of Vision: The Collapse of the Freedmen's Bureau Courts," Civil War History 25, no. 1 (March 1979): 66-76.
- ^ "Brief History". Howard University. http://www.howard.edu/explore/History.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-19.
- ^ Moore, Robert B. Reconstruction the promise and betrayal of democracy. New York, N.Y: CIBC, 1983.
- ^ National Historic Landmark Nomination by Flavia W. Rutkosky and Robin Bodo, January 5, 2004.
- ^ Nebraska Association of County Officials website
- ^ Bafus, Wanda (2006). Vancouver Barracks and a Walk up Main Street, Vancouver Usa. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0615195288.
- Carpenter, John A. "General O. O. Howard at Gettysburg." Civil War History. September 1963.
- Cimbala, Paul A. "Oliver Otis Howard." In Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, edited by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. ISBN 0-393-04758-X.
- Cox, John, and LaWanda Cox. "General O. O. Howard and the 'Misrepresented Bureau'." Journal of Southern History 19, no. 3 (November 1953): 427-56.
- Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
- McFeely, William S. Yankee Stepfather: General O.O. Howard and the Freedmen. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968. ISBN 978-0-300-00315-4.
- Tagg, Larry. The Generals of Gettysburg, Campbell, CA: Savas Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1-882810-30-9.
- Thomson, David. "Oliver Otis Howard: Reassessing the Legacy of the 'Christian General'." American Nineteenth Century History, 10 (September 2009), 273–98.
- Utley, Robert M. "Oliver Otis Howard." New Mexico Historical Review 62, no. 1 (Winter 1987): 55-63.
- Howard, Oliver O. "Lincoln's Monument in the Mountains". National Magazine, June 1905 (with photos)
- "Oliver O. Howard". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=513. Retrieved 2007-11-06.
- "Oliver Otis Howard -". General in the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Indian Wars. Biography by Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission. http://www.ochcom.org/howard/. Retrieved 2007-11-06.
- "Howard Memorial at Gettysburg". HOWARD, Maj Gen Oliver O Memorial at Gettysburg Nat'l Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. DC Memorials. 2007-11-02. http://www.dcmemorials.com/index_indiv0007060.htm. Retrieved 2007-11-06.
- Oliver Otis Howard and Lincoln Memorial University (PDF)
- Texts on Wikisource:
Military offices Preceded by
Commander of the II Corps
January 26, 1863 - February 5, 1863
Darius N. Couch
Commander of the IV Corps
April 10, 1864 - July 27, 1864
David S. Stanley
Commander of the XI Corps
April 2, 1863 - July 1, 1863
Commander of the XI Corps
July 1, 1863 - September 25, 1863
Army of the Cumberland
Army of the Potomac
Commander of the XI Corps (Army of the Cumberland)
September 25, 1863 - January 21, 1864
Commander of the XI Corps (Army of the Cumberland)
February 25, 1864 - April 10, 1864
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