Fremont Arrests Frank Blair; More Friendly-Fire in Western Virginia

Sunday, September 15, 1861

In the five months that had passed since Montgomery Meigs co-authored the plans to reinforce Fort Pickens, he had risen in rank from Captain to Brigadier-General. Earning the trust of President Lincoln, he, along with Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, were sent to St. Louis to investigate General Fremont. Secretary Blair’s brother, Col. Frank Blair, had written, detailing why Fremont had to be dismissed.

When Frances Blair, Sr. let slip to Mrs. Fremont that Frank had written Montgomery about General Fremont, word got back to the General who did not take it well.

The two Montgomeries spent a few days in St. Louis and came to the same conclusion: Fremont had to go. General Meigs wrote that “great distress and alarm prevail” throughout Missouri, while in St. Louis, Fremont “does not encourage the men to form regiments for defense.” Montgomery Blair concurred, stating that Fremont seemed “stupefied and almost unconscious and is doing absolutely nothing.”1

Fremont waited until the day after the two Montgomeries left to retaliate against his old friend, Col. Frank Blair. On this date, General Fremont placed Blair under arrest for “insubordination in communicating … with the authorities at Washington; making complaints against and using disrespectful language towards Gen. Fremont, with a view of effecting his removal.”2

In Washington, Lincoln and his Cabinet were again debating over what to do about removing Fremont. It was concluded that they wait and see what Meigs and Blair have to say about the matter when they return.


Floyd Again Asks for Wise to be Removed

The previous night, General Floyd, commanding the Confederate Army of the Kanawha, ordered General Wise to dispatch some of his cavalry to scout out the Turnpike west of their position on Big Sewell Mountain, twenty miles west of Lewisburg. After the retreat from Carnifex Ferry, the Confederate Army had withdrawn from its advanced positions along the Gauley River.

Floyd and Wise were rivals and completely unable to get along. While Wise had sent out his cavalry, Floyd had heard that they had returned, but was not informed about what they had found. The previous day, Floyd told Wise that he could not send his own cavalry as they were too worn out.

Wise replied that his returned troopers were only in camp to feed their horses. He reminded Floyd that there was no forage for cavalry mounts this side of Hawks Nest (his position before being compelled by Floyd to retire to Big Sewell). He also noted that his two companies of cavalry were just as worn out as Floyd’s cavalry.

He agreed to detail twenty-five cavalry scouts, imploring Floyd to do the same. Together, and with a few companies of infantry, they could line both sides of the Turnpike and ambush the Union troops as they advanced.3

General Floyd was having a fairly rough week. The battle at Carnifex Ferry, his first action, had rattled him and gave General Wise a chance to get even more under his skin. It was in this mood that he wrote President Davis.

According to Floyd, the “petty jealousy of General Wise; his utter ignorance of all military rule and discipline; the peculiar contrariness of his character and disposition, are beginning to produce rapidly a disorganization which will prove fatal to the interests of the army if not arrested at once.”

An arrest was exactly what Floyd wished would solve the problem, but admitted that it “would not have cured the evil, for he has around him a set of men extremely like himself, and the demoralization of his corps I incline to think is complete.”

Floyd had said much the same a few week prior, when he wrote Secretary of War LeRoy Walker, hoping to have Wise’s Legion moved to another Department.

In conclusion, Floyd told Davis that it was “impossible for me to conduct a campaign with General Wise attached to my command. His presence with my force is almost as injurious as if he were in the camp of the enemy with his whole command.”4

Sometime after writing to Davis, Floyd decided to give Wise another chance to work in concert with him. What choice was there? Both had appealed to General Lee, 100 miles to the north, but neither could get along with the other. Since President Davis couldn’t fix things immediately, Floyd would have to make the best of it.

  1. Team of Rivals by Dorris Kearns Goodwin. []
  2. New York Times, September 18, 1861. The paper claims that Blair was arrested on the 17th, but it was actually the 15th. []
  3. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 5, p851-852. []
  4. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 51 (part 2), p296-297. []
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Fremont Arrests Frank Blair; More Friendly-Fire in Western Virginia by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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