STAINING ONE'S HONOR
General Warren Seeks to Clear His Name

     Major General Gouverneur K. Warren sat at his headquarters in Petersburg, Virginia wondering just what the nature of his abrupt removal from command of the 5th Corps meant. He was taken completely by surprise when Major General Phillip Sheridan rode up to him at Five Forks sending him to the commanding general for orders, watching stunned as Major General Charles Griffin took command, just as equally shocked.

     In the slow movements toward closing in on the Southside Railroad, mostly due to heavy weather for several days previous, Sheridan driven back towards Dinwiddie Court House, sought infantry support and was rather miserable when he learned that he could not have Horatio Wright's 6th Army Corps.

     Warren had already been in trouble, not characteristically fitting in with General Grant's personal choices of leadership. He was a cautious commander, often times questioned orders and offered alternatives not being sought after by his superiors. Gouverneur K. Warren did not play the politics well and he would pay dearly for it.

     A verbal order had been sent out to Sheridan's headquarters at Dinwiddie Court House about noon on the 1st of April by the mouth of Colonel Orville Babcock giving him express authority to relieve Warren should the 5th Corps not perform to his expectation. Although at the time, Sheridan considered the authority a bit harsh to consider, events that day would later give the cavalry commander the fuel to do it anyway.

     General Warren had in fact delivered one of the most complete Federal Victories in the field at Five Forks, despite that it took one lost division under Major General William Crawford to completely surround the Confederates, he, marching in on their rear.

     The costly error in Warren's performance here could only have been that he personally rode off to find General Crawford's division himself, instead of sending staff officers after him. Sheridan while he was engaged and pressing the center of the line, sought after Warren but all efforts to locate him had failed.

     The loss of face and loss of honor had been the terrible cost. One that had been responsible for taking the lives of many soldiers after the war, yet Warren was determined to have his name cleared. Seeking a lawyer and evidence to prove the negligence that both Grant and Sheridan had alleged, consumed the remainder of his life. Correspondence which passed from attorney to the former cavalry commander was met with responses of a war being a long time in the past and written orders lost, misplaced and not found. It was deemed by the Grant Administration that a court of inquiry on behalf of General Warren would be damaging to the good of the country and was denied, none the less, Warren persisted.

     Finally in the year 1879, a court convened by order of President Rutherford B. Hayes, of Brevet Major General Christopher C. Auger, John Newton, and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Loomis L. Langdon as recorder. The findings of this court found Major General Warren completed exonerated of all charges alleged.

     The findings of these proceedings were later published by order of President Chester Arthur in November 1881. The standard under these circumstances would have allowed General Warren to collect his retirement, back pay, and all damages brought forth to his good name. Before this opportunity came to pass however, the former 5th Army Corps commander would pass into eternity in August of 1882, never repeating the benefits of all his hard work.

Daniel Moran
© 2001

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a new feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff.
He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwar2.com