Sunday, January 13, 2019

John Pope's Take on Joseph Mansfield

     John Pope's personality is often viewed negatively by historians. Quotes from Pope haters can be easily found and are often repeated in Civil War historiography. Sometimes, it reaches the point where one wonders if anyone could have gotten along with him or vice versa.
     Pope's Military Memoirs, edited by Peter Cozzens and Robert I. Girardi, offer an eye-opening look into this divisive general. One quote in particular though caught my attention. It was Pope's description of Joseph Mansfield and his personality, looks, and bravery. Quotes like this are revealing, especially when Pope ties Mansfield's personality traits to his fate at Antietam. The two served together in Mexico, Mansfield as Pope's superior officer. "Pope took to Mansfield at once," wrote Pope's biographer Peter Cozzens. It appears Pope's favorable view of Mansfield remained until his dying day.
Joseph K. F. Mansfield
General Mansfield was of middle height and robust figure. He had a broad and rather ruddy face, with a thick shock of white hair and beard. He was a man of kindly disposition and very just; but, as I have said before, he was rather fussy and fond of meddling with his subordinates, so that, although all of his officers exulted in his behavior in battle and were immensely proud of him for some time after the battle was over, he soon reduced them to their old feeling that he tormented and persecuted them unwarrantably. He was still a comparatively young man when he was killed at Antietam, but I think it may be said of him that his complete recklessness and his apparently irresistible inclination to seek the most exposed and most dangerous places on a field of battle, of necessity deprived him of the power to use his great military abilities and acquirements to the best advantage for the army or the government. He was a gallant soldier and a true and loyal man and will always be remembered with pride and respect by those who knew him in those old days.

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