The Grand Army Shuffle

Before we embark on our own spring campaign of posts on the brutal 1864 spring campaign, it would be beneficial to discuss some fundamental changes that were taking place in the Army of the Potomac. On March 9th, President Lincoln himself handed Ulysses S. Grant his commission as Lieutenant General in command of all Union armies. Grant decided to make his headquarters in the field, rather than in Washington, and Major General George Meade, still in command of the Army of the Potomac, found this to be a rather awkward, uncomfortable, and even difficult arrangement.

On March 26th, 1864, The New York Times ran an article titled “The Army of the Potomac and its Reorganization.” The article focused on the consolidation of the army’s five corps into three with a separate cavalry corps. The First and Third Corps would be disbanded an their units distributed among the Second, Fifth and Sixth Corps. This consolidation was necessary to simplify the command structure and to maintain the fighting strength of individual brigades, divisions and corps, but it must have been quite difficult initially. Some officers found themselves suddenly without a command, and brigades were formed with regiments that previously had not gone into combat together.

Ever since their arrival in Arlington, VA about August 30, 1862, our friends in the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry had been in the Second Brigade of the Third Division of the Second Corps along with two other regiments, the 108th New York and the 130th Pennsylvania. The men of 130th Pennsylvania enlisted for nine months service and they were mustered out May 21st, 1863. At Gettysburg, the Second Brigade consisted of four regiments—14th Connecticut, 1st Delaware, 12th New Jersey, 108th New York—and a battalion of the 10th New York.

But these five units would not escape the massive shuffling of the army in March 1864. Col. Thomas Smyth, a volunteer soldier who had risen through the ranks to command their brigade, was transferred to a brigade in the First Division. The old Second Brigade, Third Division was incorporated into the Third Brigade, Second Division, under the command of Col. Samuel Carroll, who was a West Point trained professional soldier. This new home for the Fourteenth consisted of nine units: 14th Connecticut, 1st Delaware, 14th Indiana, 12th New Jersey, 10th New York (Battalion), 108th New York, 4th Ohio, 8th Ohio, and the 7th West Virginia.

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