MG Ambrose E. Burnside: An Analysis of Mission Command Essay

MG Ambrose E. Burnside: An Analysis of Mission Command Essay

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A Southern refugee once reflected, and referred to the Army of the Potomac as the “greatest army in the planet.” Although this is a clear exaggeration, from a Southern perspective following the Battle of Antietam, this was not too far off. Relative to the Army of Northern Virginia, the Federal army was vastly larger, in better spirits, and strategically in better positions. To direct this army of great potential, President Lincoln appointed the reluctant Major General Ambrose Everett Burnside. Almost immediately after receiving command, Burnside adopted a plan; the objective was Richmond. He was convinced that a victory at Richmond would cripple the Confederate’s ability to carry on; whether this would have been true is debatable. What is not arguable however, is Burnside’s neglect of a small city by the name of Fredericksburg, which lied directly in his path. He inherited every advantage a military leader of the time could hope for; however, every one of these advantages was dissolved with his disregard of mission command. The Army of the Potomac’s loss at the Battle of Fredericksburg was a direct result of General Burnside’s failure at conducting the commander’s activities of understanding, describing, leading, and assessing.
General Burnside’s “Campaign to Richmond” led the Army of the Potomac to the far side of the Rappahannock River, opposite of Fredericksburg, on the 19th of November 1862. Burnside envisioned pontoon boats stretching twice across the river to allow for a swift and continuous passage of his army. This is where Burnside’s problems began. The pontoon boats arrived several days later and Confederate scouts in the city were able to report the Army of the Potomac’s location. Within days, General Lee’s Rebel f...


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...n from the grave mistakes of the commanders of the past and become prepared to carry out these activities when we are called to do so.



Works Cited

Brockenbrough, Judith White, Diary of a Southern Refugee, During the War, The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries. Richmond: Randolph and English (1889): 174.
Burnside, Ambrose Everett, “Memoir of Ambrose Everett Burnside.” Army of the Potomac, The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries. New York: Tribune Association (1863): 15-26.
Palfrey, Francis Winthrop, The Army in the Civil War: The Antietam and Fredericksburg. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1885.
Stackpole, Edward J., The Fredericksburg Campaign. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1991.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), Ser. I, 19 (1).

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