A while back, I created a web page with some of my views on controversial topics of American Civil War history. The first topic talks about my view of the efficiency of Army of Potomac Corps commanders in both 1864 and 1865. One of the most controversial changes was on April 1, 1865, when General Phil Sheridan relieved General Warren of command of the V corps. To this day, the correctness of this decision is debated by civil war buffs.
The website http://www.beyondthecrater.com has a number blog entries covering both sides of the controversy. What is especially interesting is reading the blog entry covering messages between various Union generals on May 30th and April 1st.
My view is that Generals Grant, Meade and Sheridan had every right to relieve Warren. In my view, Grant didn’t trust Warren to do the right thing in a crisis. The messages captured in the Official Records clearly indicate that Generals Grant and Meade were attempting to micro-manage Warren’s actions. If Grant had confidence in Warren, I believe that he would have given Warren general directions to work with Sheridan in order to turn the Confederate left and cut the South Side Railroad. A commanders lack of confidence in a subordinate should be enough to justify removing a person from such an important role.
Whether Warren was a competent corp commander or not, really is quite a different discussion. Even if he was actually the best corps commander in the world, if he didn’t have the confidence of his boss, relieving him of command, was the right thing to do. No commander should be saddled with a subordinate that he can’t trust in a crisis.