Online Primary Sources for American History: The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War Reports

Not long after the disastrous (from the Union’s viewpoint) first Battle of Bull Run, the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was established. Peopled by abolitionist Radical Republicans who chafed at the slow pace of the war, it conducted 272 hearings into the shortcomings of the army, calling before it various commanding generals throughout the course of the war. Its findings were released over the course of the war years. To say that Lincoln’s relations with this highly partisan committee were less than friendly is an understatement. The 1863 report, in three parts, delves into: the Army of the Potomac; Bull Run and Ball’s Bluff; and the western theater of operations. The 1864 report investigates The Fort Pillow Massacre (the wholesale slaughter of surrending black Union troops by Confederate soldiers), and the condition of returned prisoners. The 1865 report dealt with the testimonies of Generals Sherman and Thomas before the committee. And the 1866 volume, called “Supplemental Report,” contained the testimonies of additional generals, among them Sheridan. Additional information can be found at: U.S. Senate Historical Office; Bruce Tap. “Amateurs at War: Abraham Lincoln and the Committee on the Conduct of the War,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, 23(#2, Summer 2002); Brian Holden Reid. “Historians and the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, 1861-1865,” Civil War History, 38(#4, 1992); William Pierson. “The Committee on the Conduct of the Civil War,” American Historical Review, 23(#3, 1918); Committee on the Conduct of the War (Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History); and Brian Holden Reid. “General McClellan and the Politicans,” Parameters, (September 1987).


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