The Hero of the Day. — Sketch of the Life and Services of Major General John Pope.

Civil War

August 31, 1862, The New York Herald

This sterling officer, whose series of military operations and brilliant victories in the West have been the theme of praise and comment from press and public, is comparatively a young men, being under forty years of age, having been born in Kentucky, March 10, 1923. His parents early settled at Kaskaskia, Illinois, from which State he was appointed to West Point in 1838. His father, Hon. N. Pope, was for a long period United States District Judge of Illinois, a sound and talented lawyer, high toned and honored member of society, and eminently worthy of such a son as is the subject of this sketch. After a scholastic term of four years at the military institution, young Pope graduated in June, 1842. In his class we find the names of Generals Rosecrans, Seth Williams, Doubleday, and may others of the Union army, and Rains, G. W. Smith, Lovell, Van Dorn, Longstreet and others in the rebel ranks. In July, 1842, the subject of our sketch was appointed Second Lieutenant of Topographical Engineers. In August, 1846, he joined General Taylor’s army in Mexico, during its advance upon Monterey, and was brevetted first lieutenant for gallant and meritorious conduct in that battle. As first lieutenant he marched with his companions through the malarious regions of Central Mexico, and was an active participant in the severely fought and dearly bought battle of Buena Vista, where he was again brevetted captain for highly gallant and meritorious conduct. For his gallantry in this engagement, and other distinguished services during the war, he was also presented with a magnificent sword by the State of Illinois.

In 1849 he conducted the exploring expedition which first laid open the fertile regions of Minnesota, and demonstrated the practicability of navigating the Red River of the North with steamers, for which services he received a vote of thanks from the Territorial Legislature of Minnesota. This labor accomplished, we next find him serving in New Mexico as topographical engineer, until 1853, when he was assigned to the command of one of the expeditions to survey a route for the proposed Pacific Railroad. So thoroughly and successfully did he accomplish this work that the War Department, in its annual report of 1854, paid him the compliment of an extended and honorable notice. From 1854 until 1859 he was engaged in scientific explorations on the Plains and in the Rocky Mountains, among the more important of which were the experiments, by means of artesian wells, for supplying the vast country with pure water. His contributions to the various branches of science during these years have made his name widely known throughout this country and Europe. He returned from the Plains in 1859, and shortly after married a daughter of Hon. V. B. Horton, member of Congress from Ohio.

At the first inception of our civil disturbances he took strong grounds against secession, being one of the few regular army officers who did so, and was arrested and ordered to be tried by President Buchanan for a lecture delivered in Cincinnati early in February, 1861, strongly denouncing the semi-treasonable course of the administration. On the call for three years volunteers he was made a brigadier general by President Lincoln, and for several months commanded in North Missouri, and there inaugurated a policy against the guerilla warfare then being carried on in that part of the country, which policy would have speedily quieted that section, and which, though set aside by General Fremont, was afterwards put in force by General Halleck. On the 13th of December last he surprised and captured nearly two thousand rebel recruits from Price’s army, at Blackwater, which caused the rapid and panic stricken retreat of the rebel army from the Osage. He personally conducted the successful movements against the rebels at Shawnee Mound. So complete and rapid were these operations that all of Central Missouri was cleared of Price forces and restored to quiet within ten days. It will be remembered that this success was the first our arms had met with since the disaster at Bull Run, and all will remember the thrill of joy that permeated and pervaded the great loyal heart of the nation when it was promulgated in the public prints.

On the 23d of February last General Pope reached Commerce, Missouri, with a small guard — the nucleus around which afterwards gathered the army that reduced New Madrid and Island No. 10 — and in six days thereafter marched upon New Madrid with a well appointed and organized force. This army that had assembled, without organization, from the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, was poorly equipped and drilled, and worse supplied with the necessaries for a tedious campaign; but with herculean labor he placed them upon a fine war footing and marched them though the Great Mingo, or “Nigger Wool” swamp, in the direction of the field of his operations, at a season of the year when the enemy believed such a feat utterly impossible. But he succeeded, and before the enemy were scarcely aware of it he appeared before New Madrid; and although the place contained a force of ten or twelve thousand men, and was well intrenched, besides being finely defended by river rebel gunboats, he took it, and all the heavy guns, field artillery, baggage and supplies of the enemy, on the 13th of March. On the 4th of March he was appointed a major general of volunteers. His achievements in capturing Island No. 10, with eighty pieces of heavy artillery and five thousand prisoners, is well known to all our readers. The carrying out of Colonel Bissel’s suggestion of the military canal to open a new communication between the Mississippi river, above and below Island No. 10, has already made his name famous in this war.

Finding, on his arrival at Fort Pillow, that the same delays in its capture would occur that had been experienced at Island No. 10, and knowing the critical condition of affairs at Corinth, he telegraphed the facts to General Halleck, and was immediately ordered up the Tennessee, arriving at Pittsburg Landing, with his whole force, well equipped and supplied, within five days from the time he received the order, and was at once assigned to the command of the left wing of the army, which was immediately thrown forward in the advance towards Corinth. He made several feints and attacks to draw the rebels out of their position, the one at Farmington being the most prominent, until the final evacuation of the rebel stronghold at Corinth. He was then sent in pursuit of the flying rebels, and it was under his command that Colonel Elliott, of the Iowa cavalry, destroyed a portion of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad at Boonesville, to impede their flight. The following is a selection from General Pope’s official despatch, bearing date June 1, 1862: —

‘He (Col. Elliott) destroyed the track in many places, both south and north of the town, blew up the culvert, destroyed the switch and track, burned up the depot and locomotives, and a train of twenty-six cars loaded with supplies of every kind; destroyed ten thousand stand of small arms, three pieces of artillery, and a great quantity of clothing and ammunition, and paroled two thousand prisoners, which he could not keep with his cavalry. The enemy had heard of his movements, and had a train of box cars and flat cars, with flying artillery and five thousand infantry, running up and down the road to prevent him from reaching it. The whole road was lined with pickets for several days. Colonel Elliott’s command subsisted upon meat alone, such as they could find in the country.

The rebels in the Southwest being scattered and demoralized, General Pope was offered a new field in which to operate. By a special call from the President he was ordered to Washington, and on the 26th of June was appointed to the command of the Army of Virginia, which embraced the then four separate corps under Major Generals Fremont, Banks, McDowell, and Brigadier General Sturgis. He was also, at about the same time, appointed to the vacant brigadier generalship of the United States regular army, vacated by the appointment of Brigadier General Wool to a major generalship. Jackson raids in this part of Virginia had somewhat disorganized the before mentioned forces, and General Pope at once set about reorganizing, and consolidating these commands. He soon commenced vigorous movements on the rebels for […..] the 19th of July he directed General […..] to send out a cavalry expedition to destroy a portion of the Virginia Central Railroad and the rebel telegraph line, &c., which expedition resulted in a complete success. He also, on the 22d of July, directed another dash at the railroad at a different point. On this occasion our troops defeated the rebel cavalry near Carmel Church on the road to Richmond, destroyed the telegraph line to Gordonsville and burned the rebel camp, together with six car loads of corn to be used as supplies. Subsequently our troops repulsed an attack made by General Stuart cavalry, who were driven across the North Anna River as far as Hanover Junction. On the 25th he directed General Gibson, with a body of infantry, artillery and cavalry, to conduct a reconnoissance in the direction of Gordonsville. The part went within two miles of Orange Court House, where a short skirmish took place and several prisoners were taken who reported the rebels to have lost five killed and several wounded. By this reconnoissance the position of the rebel Generals Jackson, Robertson and Ewell were discovered. The expedition was carried out without the loss of a single man on our side. On the 26th of July one portion of an advance corps of his army drove out Robertson’s rebel cavalry from Madison Court House. This was accomplished without loss to our forces. On the 29th General Pope entered on the field, and located his headquarters at Warrenton, Va. From this point the army gradually advanced towards Richmond, the cavalry under the direction of General hatch actively scouting and making the country too hot for spies or guerillas. On the 2d of August the reconnoitering column crossed the Rapidan, pushed forward to Orange Court House, took possession of the town then in the possession of the rebel cavalry under Robertson. Eleven of the rebels were killed and fifty-two taken prisoners, among whom were a major, two captains and two lieutenants. The Union loss was but two killed and three wounded. The rebels left their wounded behind. The railroad track and telegraph lines between Orange Court House and Gordonsville were destroyed. Another party shortly after destroyed Frederick Hall Station and the railroad line for several miles between Richmond and Gordonsville. On the 9th of August the famous battle of Cedar Mountain was fought by General Banks’ corps of General Pope’s army. The severity of the contest, and the bravery with which it was fought, are still fresh in our reader’s minds. We need but allude to it. The rebels retreated under cover of the darkness of the night of the 11th, and General Pope took possession of the ground formerly held by them. General Pope followed up the battle by pursuing the rebels across the Rapidan with his cavalry and a small infantry force, occasionally engaging them. He next pushed on his whole army to the Rapidan, General Sigel’s corps driving back the rebels every time they attempted to cross that river. The rebels, under General Lee, in strong force, next began to move on General Pope in front, while Jackson attempted to outflank him. He however managed to defeat their plans for time, by organizing a fighting retreat, during which General Sigel’s corps acted brilliantly. At last, however, Jackson succeeded in getting into his rear, and Pope was surrounded. But he has brilliantly released himself from the difficulty by cutting his way through the rebels and forming a junction with Burnside and McClellan. To him properly belongs a great share of the praise, for no plans from headquarters could have achieved so glorious a result, except by the bravery of General Pope and the officers and men under him.

During Pope’s administration of his new department he has made himself remarkable by the energy of his movements and the determination evinced in his general orders. The rebels really became frightened of him, and denounced him by general order, in which they declared that if he or any of his officers were taken prisoners, they would be treated as common felons. Instead of being cowed by such an announcement, it only added vigor to his already vigorous plans, the result of which is yet to be determined, although there can be no doubt of final success.