Officer Promotion

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

– Abraham Lincoln

As the war progressed, elections and promotion for political reasons was reduced and was replaced by promotion on the basis of merit. Civilian generals often complained of the “West Point clique” who controlled promotions and reserved the best commands for themselves and their military school peers.

It was often the best available or most well-connected individuals who made it to the highest ranks rather than the best men. Although some of the men were promoted from the old army, the majority came from the general population. Population, nationality and politics played a strong role in who was promoted.

July 22, 1861: the day after the Battle of Bull Run, the Union Congress authorized the creation of military boards to examine officers and remove those that proved to be unqualified. Not until 1862 did the Confederacy create military board to examine officers.

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