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“All Manner of Schemes and Rascalities”

“All Manner of Schemes and Rascalities”

The Politics of Promotion in the Union Army

(p.81) “All Manner of Schemes and Rascalities”
This Distracted and Anarchical People
Timothy J. Orr
Fordham University Press

This essay will examine how northern partisanship tainted the promotion of Union officers and how these detrimental effects on partisan politics challenge the reigning paradigm that the North's two-party system offered it a decisive advantage. In 1958 David Potter and others argued that the North's two-party system benefited its war effort because action taken by the “loyal opposition” subdued harsh measures enacted by a paranoid Republican administration. The records of the adjutant generals’ offices of the various northern states, however, do not uphold this paradigm and reveal that the North's two-party system created conflict, not muted it. The North's two-party system compelled rival groups to engage in fierce confrontations that nearly unraveled the Union military affairs. In this case, partisan confrontations corrupted the promotion of Union officers. In almost every Union regiment, the politics of promotion became dishonest and often limited the meritocracy of combat service. Northern governors retained the authority to commission officers from second lieutenant to colonel, which in some states meant thousands of commissions. Throughout the war, northern applicants for officers’ positions tapped their partisan associations to advance in rank, retarding the development of an effective Union Army.

Keywords:   Union Army, David Potter, Two Party-System, Partisanship, Partisan politics

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