Friday, December 9, 2016

Union General Gouverneur Warren by Donald R. Jermann


The Battle of Five Forks
Union General Gouverneur Warren describes Union General Warren's fall from grace at the Battle of Five Forks, Virginia. Shortly before the end of the Civil War, General Phil Sheridan relieved Warren from command. General Warren spent the next fifteen years requesting a board of inquiry, which he hoped would vindicate his conduct.

Three-fourths of Jermann's book is dedicated to testimony given in the Court of Inquiry. Warren died before the Court concluded that Sheridan was justified in removing Warren.

The first part of Union General Gouverneur Warren is devoted to an examination of events leading to the Battle of Five Forks, Virginia and the actions of Warren's Fifth Army Corps in the engagement.

General Gouverneur Warren
At the heart of Sheridan's displeasure and his reason for removing Warren was the late arrival of Warren's troops. Whether he was justified in this action is the key question Warren sought to address in the Court of Inquiry. Another related, but critical, issue is whether Warren was competent to command an army corps. General U. S. Grant's assessment was that after Warren received a an order he would consider "how the balance of the army should be engaged so as to properly cooperate with him." When Warren decided to execute an order, "he would go in with one division, holding the others in reserve until he superintend their movements in person." In Grant's view Warren could "accomplish anything that could be done with a small command."

Jermann cites two deficiencies that Warren had as a leader.
Warren was far smarter than average, knew it, and acted accordingly. Consequently, when receiving an order, he tended to believe that he had a better assessment of the situation, and modified it. When executing an order, he tended to believe that he could do it better than his subordinates and hence was reluctant to delegate authority.
Grant's evaluation suggests that Warren was a victim of Peter Principle in that he was promoted beyond his capability. However, this conclusion is rooted in Warren's inability to delegate authority.

General Phil Sheridan
In my opinion, Warren demonstrated the behavior of a "typical engineer." Being afflicted with the same career choice and traits, I believe that Warren was more a victim of these handicaps than the size of his command. He probably micromanaged all of his commands.

Captain Jermann's military career enhances the value of his examination of Warren's performance at Five Forks. This is worthy addition to his other books: Civil War Orders Gone Awry and Fitz-John Porter, Scapegoat of Second Manassas. Captain Donald R. Jermann served more than thirty-two years on active duty in the Navy covering World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He also served as a senior executive in the Department of Defense and lives in Laurel, Maryland.


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