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1864 February 20: Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War

February 22, 2014

The following is from the February 20, 1864, issue of The Polk County Press.  This is the first time we have heard much about the Committee on the Conduct of the War.

The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was a U. S. Congressional committee created to handle issues related to the Civil War. It was established on December 9, 1861, at the instigation of Senator Zachariah Chandler (Michigan) following the embarrassing Union defeat at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, and continued until May 1865. Its purpose was to investigate such matters as illicit trade with the Confederate states, medical treatment of wounded soldiers, military contracts, and the causes of Union battle losses. The Committee was also involved in supporting the war effort through various means, including endorsing emancipation and the use of black soldiers. The Committee favored the appointment of generals who were known to be aggressive fighters, and it often ended up endorsing incompetent but politically loyal generals. It was chaired throughout by Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio and became identified with the Radical Republicans, who wanted more aggressive war policies than those of Abraham Lincoln.

War Committee.

The committee on the conduct of the war just authorized to be appointed, consists of Senators Wade, of Ohio, Chandler, of Michigan, and Harding, of Oregon; and Representatives Gooch, of Massachusetts, Julian, of Indiana, Odell, of New York, and Blair, of Missouri.  This committee is similar to the one heretofore in existence, the only difference being in the substitution of Harding and Loan in the place of ex-congressmen Andrew Johnson and Covode.  The new one, in addition to its duty of inquiring into the conduct of the war, is instructed to examine into all contracts and engagements with any department of the government, and is authorized to sit during the recess of congress, at any place which may be deemed proper.  Besides this, every facility is provided for a thorough investigation.

 1. Following are the members of Congress listed in this article:

  • Benjamin F. Wade (1800-1878), a U.S. Senator from Ohio from 1851-1869. After the War he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican vice presidential nomination in 1868.
  • Zachariah Chandler (1813-1879), a U.S. Senator from Michigan from 1857-1875. He was appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Ulysses Grant, serving 1875-1877; chairman of the Republican National Executive Committee, 1868-1876; again elected in 1879 to the United States Senate to fill a vacancy and served from February 1879 until his death on November 1, 1879.
  • Benjamin Franklin Harding (1823-1899) was a U.S. Senator from Oregon from 1861 to 1865. He held several territorial positions in Oregon before being senator.
  • Daniel Wheelwright Gooch (1820-1891) was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts. He was first elected to fill the vacancy  caused by the resignation of Nathaniel P. Banks and served from January 31, 1858, to September 1, 1865 when he resigned. He was again elected to Congress and served from 1873-1875.
  • George Washington Julian (1817-1899) was a U.S. Representative from Indiana from 1861 to 1871. After the War he was an unsuccessful candidate for Vice President of the United States as a Liberal Republican in 1872, and was appointed by President Cleveland surveyor general of New Mexico (1885-1889).
  • Moses Fowler Odell (1818-1866) was a U.S. Representative from New York from 1861 to 1865.
  • Francis P. Blair, Jr. (1821-1875) was a U.S. Representative from Missouri and served intermittently from 1857 to 1864, and a U.S. Senator from Missouri from 1871-1873. He resigned in July 1862 to become a colonel in the Union Army.
  • Benjamin Franklin Loan (1819-1881), who was a U.S. Representative from Missouri, 1863-1869. He served as a Union brigadier general from 1861-1863.
  • Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), a Representative and a Senator from Tennessee and a Vice President and 17th President of the United States.
  • John Covode (1808-1871), a U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania from 1855 to 1870.
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