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1863 January 28: General Burnside Resigns

January 28, 2013

The lead story from The Prescott Journal of January 28, 1863, is the resignation of General Ambrose E. Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Following his disastrous defeat in the Battle of Fredericksburg at the tail-end of 1862, General Burnside was desperate to restore his reputation and the morale of the Army of the Potomac.  So in January 1863 he launched a second offensive against Confederate General Robert E. Lee.  This explains the small articles we have been seeing lately about the Army of the Potomac on the move and crossing the Rappahannock.  This offensive became known as the Mud March because the winter rains bogged down the army before it could actually accomplish anything.  In its wake, Burnside asked that several officers, who were openly insubordinate, be relieved of duty and court martialed; he also offered to resign.  Lincoln chose to accept his resignation and on January 26 he replaced him with General Joseph Hooker, one of those insubordinate officers.  Lincoln, unwilling to let Burnside go completely, assigned him to command the Department of the Ohio.


Ambrose E. Burnside, from the Library of Congress (see footnote 1)

Ambrose E. Burnside, from the Library of Congress (see footnote 1)

We announce with regret this morning that the President has accepted the resignation of gen. Burnside. We believe there is no man in the army in whom the country has greater confidence an in Burnside, and but few enjoy it to as great an extent. every loyal citizen will regret his withdrawal from command at this period.

Assuming the command of the army with hesitation, and having, owing to circumstances beyond his control, met with defeat in his first and only engagement, he has ever since sought to be relieved of the responsible position, and he has at last succeeded.  The admirable temper of his farewell address is characteristic of the man.  His injunctions to the army will not pass unheeded.  “May God be with you and grant you continued success until the rebellion is crushed,” is worthy of the noble soldier.

In Burnside’s successor, Gen. Hooker, we have great faith.  He has been tried upon the filed, and if the mantle must fall from the former’s shoulders, we know of no one on whom it could more appropriately rest.—St. Paul Union.

Gen. Hooker takes Command.

January 26, 1863

This morning Burnside resigned over the command of the army to Gen. Hooker.  As soon as the change was known the principal officer waited on Burnside and took leave of him with regret.  Burnside issued a parting address to the arm.

The following is the address of General Burnside to the army.


By direction of the President of the United States, the Commanding General this day transfers the command of this army to Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker.  The short time that he has directed your movements have not been fruitful in victories, nor any considerable advancement in our lines, but it has again demonstrated an amount of courage patience and endurance that under more favorable circumstances, would have accomplished great results.  Continue to exercise these virtues.  Be true in the devotion to your country and the principles you have sworn to maintain.  Give to the brave and skillful General, who has long been indentified [sic] with your organization, and who is now to command you, your full and cordial support and co-operation, and you will deserve success.

Your General in taking an affectionate leave of the army from which he separates with so much regret, may be pardoned if he bids an especial farewell to his long and tried associates of the 9th corps.

His prayers are that God may be with you and grant you continued success until the rebellion is crushed.

Signed by command of
Major General A. E. BURNSIDE.

1.  This photograph, taken sometime during the Civil War by the [Mathew] Brady National Photographic Art Gallery in Washington, D.C., is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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