By: Hruday Patel
Major General Ambrose E. Burnside
* May 23, 1824 - Ambrose E. Burnside is born near Liberty, Indiana. * July 1, 1847 - Ambrose E. Burnside graduates from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point at the eighteenth rank out of forty-seven students, and is commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 2nd Artillery. * November 1, 1853 - Ambrose E. Burnside resigns his commission in the U.S. Army and organizes Bristol Rifle Works in order to manufacture his invention, the Burnside carbine. * April 16, 1861 – During the beginning of the American Civil War, Ambrose E. Burnside is commissioned colonel of the 1st Rhode Island Volunteers. * July 21, 1861 - Ambrose E. Burnside leads his 1st Rhode Island Volunteers in the First Battle of Manassas. * August 6, 1861 - Ambrose E. Burnside is appointed brigadier general of U.S. Volunteers, after the First Battle of Manassas. * February 8, 1862 - Brigadier General Ambrose E. Burnside captures Roanoke Island, North Carolina. * March 14, 1862 - Brigadier General Ambrose E. Burnside captures Newbern, North Carolina. * March 18, 1862 - Ambrose E. Burnside is promoted to major general. * September 17, 1862 - Union Major General Ambrose E. Burnside commands the Army of Potomac's Ninth Corps at the Battle of Antietam. He is criticized by his commander, George B. McClellan, for being too slow to attack. * November 8, 1862 - Union Major General Ambrose E. Burnside accepts command of the Army of the Potomac after twice declining the promotion. * December 13, 1862 - Confederate general Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia crush Union general Ambrose E. Burnside and the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Fredericksburg in one of the most lopsided defeats of the war. * January 25, 1863- U.S. president Abraham Lincoln replaces Burnside with Joseph Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac. * March 16, 1863- Union general Ambrose E. Burnside is assigned command of the Department of the Ohio. * September 2, 1863- Union Major General Ambrose E. Burnside liberates the city of Knoxville, Tennessee, from Confederate control. * April 25, 1864- Union Major General Ambrose E. Burnside leads a reorganized and reinforced Ninth Corps from fighting in Tennessee back to the Army of the Potomac in Virginia. * July 30, 1864- Union Major General Ambrose E. Burnside leads the Ninth Corps to defeat at the Battle of the Crater outside Petersburg, Virginia. After the battle, Burnside is effectively relieved of his command. * April 15, 1865- Union Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, once commander of the Army of the Potomac, resigns his volunteer commission. * April 4, 1866- Ambrose E. Burnside is elected governor of Rhode Island and serves three one-year terms. * March 5, 1875- Ambrose E. Burnside begins his first term in the U.S. Senate representing Rhode Island. * June 8, 1880- Ambrose E. Burnside is reelected to the U.S. Senate representing Rhode Island. * September 13, 1881- Ambrose E. Burnside dies of heart disease in Bristol, Rhode Island.
Strengths and Triumph
Ambrose E. Burnside began his relatively successful military career after graduating from the United States Military Academy in the year 1847. Out of his class of forty-seven students Burnside graduated eighteenth of his class. After graduation Burnside received a brevet second lieutenant position in the second Artillery, and served in the Mexican-American War. After resigning his commission and settling in Rhode Island, to work on his breech-loading Burnside Carbine. After Fort Sumter was attacked Burnside, who was then living in Rhode Island, raised the First Rhode Island Regiment. His speedy response to Lincoln's call for volunteers, and his splendid personality, endeared him to the president and they became close friends. Burnside began his service in the Civil War as a Colonel of the First Rhode Island Regiment. However, after displaying his leadership at the Battle of Manassas by successfully putting pressure the confederate lines, Burnside was promoted to Brigadier General. Although Burnside and his own soldiers did not believe in his ability to command an army Burnside was offered the opportunity to command the Army of Potomac twice, both of which he declined. These promotions were a result of General Burnside’s success in the capture of Fort Macon from the confederates. In order to capture the Confederate owned fort organized a plan in which the army would take a coastal approach. General Burnside’s strength in organization and execution of preset plans led to him being acknowledged as a national hero, while the capture of Fort Macon can be recognized as his greatest triumph in his military career. After the Battle of Fredericksburg and successfully liberating Knoxville, Tennessee of the Confederacy Burnside was reassigned to the Department of the Ohio. After resignation from Burnside’s volunteer service in the war, he was elected as Governor of Rhode Island three times and, later, served in the senate.
Weaknesses and Failures
Although Major General Burnside did display success and accomplishment throughout his military career he was right to believe that that he was unfit to command an army. Burnside's exemplary reputation as a military commander, up to the capture of Fort Macon, began to erode at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia were invading Maryland in a bold thrust into Union territory. McClellan discovered the plan and intercepted Lee just outside Sharpsburg. The old stone bridge was being held by a thin line of three hundred and fifty Georgia sharpshooters under the command of Colonel Henry L. Benning, perched on a ridge with a clear line of fire. Burnside had received orders to take Lee's right. The one hundred twenty-five foot bridge lay directly in the path. Burnside repeatedly threw his men against the bridge in the face of deadly Confederate fire, in spite of the fact that Antietam Creek could have been forded nearby in any number of places. The bridge was eventually taken, but not without an obscene number of Union casualties. Antietam Creek ran red with their blood and the bridge has been known as "Burnside Bridge" ever since. The unrelenting number of Union casualties expresses the Commander’s lack of problem solving and understanding of certain defensive situations. Although General Burnside’s failure at the Battle at Antietam was a colossal one his biggest failure occurred at the Battle of Fredericksburg after being appointed the new commander of the army of Potomac by President Lincoln. Unfortunately when Burnside took command of the Union Army, he also inherited those commanders who remained loyal to McClellan. All of which wished to see Burnside fail and be replaced with one of their own number. It only took one battle to make their wish come true. During the Battle of Fredericksburg, in December 1862, the North lost twelve thousand men and the Army of the Potomac was nearly destroyed. Burnside offered his resignation as commander and it was accepted. Future Duty
Because of Major General Burnside’s disbelief in his own ability to be successful as a commander and his countless acts of failures as a commander Major General Burnside should not be assigned anymore military duty involving the command of a large group of soldiers. If Major General Burnside were to be assigned any military duty it would be a similar position as his low rank position as colonel of the First Rhode Island Regiment.