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John Pope (March 16, 1822 – September 23, 1892) was a career United States Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War. He had a brief but successful career in the Western Theater, but he is best known for his defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Runmarker in the East. After the Civil War, he resumed a successful military career in the Indian Wars.

Early life

Pope was born in Louisville, Kentuckymarker, the son of Nathaniel Pope, a prominent Federal judge in early Illinois Territory and a friend of lawyer Abraham Lincoln. He was the brother-in-law of Manning Force and second cousin-in-law of Mary Todd Lincoln. He graduated from the United States Military Academymarker in 1842, and was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the Topographical Engineers. He served in Floridamarker and then helped survey the northeastern border between the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker. He fought under Zachary Taylor in the Battle of Monterrey and Battle of Buena Vistamarker during the Mexican-American War, for which he was appointed a brevet first lieutenant and captain, respectively. After the war Pope worked as a surveyor in Minnesota. In 1850 he demonstrated the navigability of the Red Rivermarker. He served as the chief engineer of the Department of New Mexico from 1851 to 1853 and spent the remainder of the antebellum years surveying a route for the Pacific Railroad.

Civil War

Pope was serving on lighthouse duty when Abraham Lincoln was elected and he was one of four officers selected to escort the president-elect to Washington, D.C.marker He offered to serve Lincoln as an aide, but on June 14, 1861, he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers (date of rank effective May 17, 1861) and was ordered to Illinois to recruit volunteers.

In the Western Department of Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont, Pope assumed command of the District of North and Central Missouri in July, with operational control along a portion the Mississippi River. He had an uncomfortable relationship with Frémont and politicked behind the scenes to get him removed from command. Frémont was convinced that Pope had treacherous intentions toward him, demonstrated by his lack of action in following Frémont's offensive plans in Missouri. Historian Allan Nevins wrote, "Actually, incompetence and timidity offer a better explanation of Pope than treachery, though he certainly showed an insubordinate spirit." Pope eventually forced the Confederates under Sterling Price to retreat southward, taking 1,200 prisoners in a minor action at Blackwater, Missourimarker, on December 18. Pope, who established a reputation as a braggart early in the war, was able to generate significant press interest in his minor victory, which brought him to the attention of Frémont's replacement, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck.

Halleck appointed Pope to command the Army of the Mississippi (and the District of the Mississippi, Department of the Missouri) on February 23, 1862. Given 25,000 men, he was ordered to clear Confederate obstacles on the Mississippi River. He made a surprise march on New Madrid, Missouri, and captured it on March 14. He then orchestrated a campaign to capture Island No. 10, a strongly fortified post garrisoned by 12,000 men and 58 guns. Pope's engineers cut a channel that allowed him to bypass the island, then, assisted by the gunboats of Captain Andrew H. Foote, he landed his men on the opposite shore, which isolated the defenders. The island garrison surrendered on April 7, 1862, freeing Union navigation of the Mississippi as far south as Memphismarker.

Pope's outstanding performance on the Mississippi earned him a promotion to major general, dated as of March 21, 1862. During the Siege of Corinthmarker, he commanded the left wing of Halleck's army, but he was soon summoned to the East by Lincoln. After the collapse of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign, Pope was appointed to command the Army of Virginia, assembled from scattered forces in the Shenandoah Valleymarker and Northern Virginia. This promotion infuriated Frémont, who resigned his commission.

Pope brought an attitude of self assurance that was offensive to the eastern soldiers under his command. He issued an astonishing message to his new army on July 14, 1862, that included the following:

General John Pope
Despite this bravado, and despite receiving units from McClellan's Army of the Potomac that swelled the Army of Virginia to 70,000 men, Pope's aggressiveness exceeded his strategic capabilities, particularly since he was now facing Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Lee, sensing that Pope was indecisive, split his smaller (55,000 man) army, sending Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson with 24,000 men as a diversion to Cedar Mountainmarker, where Jackson defeated Pope's subordinate, Nathaniel Banks. As Lee advanced upon Pope with the remainder of his army, Jackson's swung around to the north and captured Pope's main supply base at Manassas Stationmarker. Confused and unable to locate the main Confederate force, Pope walked into a trap in the Second Battle of Bull Runmarker. His men withstood a combined attack by Jackson and Lee on August 29, 1862, but on the following day Maj. Gen. James Longstreet launched a surprise flanking attack and the Union Army was soundly defeated and forced to retreat. Pope compounded his unpopularity with the Army by blaming his defeat on disobedience by Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, who was found guilty by court-martial and disgraced.

Pope himself was relieved of command on September 12, 1862, and his army was merged into the Army of the Potomac under McClellan. He spent the remainder of the war in the Department of the Northwest in Minnesotamarker, dealing with the Dakota War of 1862. His months campaigning in the West paid career dividends because he was assigned to command the Military Division of the Missouri (subsequently named the Department of the Missouri) on January 30, 1865, and received a brevet promotion to major general in the regular army on March 13, 1865, for his service at Island No. 10.


In April 1867, Pope was named governor of the Reconstruction Third Military District and made his headquarters in Atlantamarker, issuing orders that allowed African Americans to serve on juries, ordered Mayor James Williams to remain in office another year, postponing elections, and banned city advertising in newspapers that did not favor Reconstruction. President Andrew Johnson removed him from command December 28, 1867, replacing him with George G. Meade.

Pope returned to the West and served with distinction in the Apache Wars. He made political enemies in Washington recommending that the reservation system would be better administered by the military than the corrupt Indian Bureau. He engendered controversy by calling for better and more humane treatment of Native Americans.

Pope's reputation suffered a serious blow in 1879 when a Board of Inquiry led by Maj. Gen. John Schofield concluded that Fitz John Porter had been unfairly convicted and that it was Pope himself who bore most of the responsibility for the loss at the Second Battle of Bull Run. The report characterized Pope as being reckless and dangerously uninformed about the events on the battle, and credited Porter's perceived disobedience with saving the army from complete ruin.

John Pope was promoted to major general in 1882 and retired in 1886. He died at the Ohio Soldiers' Home near Sandusky, Ohiomarker. He is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missourimarker.

See also


  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville, Random House, 1958, ISBN 0-394-49517-9.
  • Frederiksen, John C., "John Pope", Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T., eds., W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, ISBN 0-393-04758-X.
  • Nevins, Allan, The War for the Union, Vol. I: The Improvised War 1861 – 1862, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959, ISBN 0-684-10426-1.
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1964, ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.


  1. Frederiksen, pp. 1541-43.
  2. Eicher, pp. 433-34.
  3. Warner, pp. 376-77.
  4. Nevins, p. 378.
  5. Foote, p. 529.
  6. Atlanta city directory website, timeline of Atlanta history.

Further reading

  • Ellis, Richard M., General Pope and U.S. Indian Policy. Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1970. ISBN 0-8263-0191-6.
  • Pope, John (posthumous). The Military Memoirs of General John Pope, University of North Carolina Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8078-2444-5.
  • Ropes, John Codman, The Army in the Civil War, Vol. IV: The Army under Pope, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1881.
  • Strother, David Hunter and Cecil D. Elby, ed. A Virginia Yankee in the Civil War. University of North Carolina Press, 1961, ISBN 0-8078-4757-7.

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