The Great Debate of 2023: Opening Remarks

Who was the best political general of the Civil War?

By William F.B. Vodrey – debate moderator
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2023, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Memorial Debate at the February 2023 Roundtable meeting was: “Who was the best political general of the Civil War?” Four members made presentations on the topic; the article below was the opening remarks made by the moderator of the debate.


Good evening, everyone, and welcome!

We’re here tonight for the annual Dick Crews Memorial Cleveland Civil War Roundtable Debate, named after my longtime predecessor as moderator. Dick once told me that the debate got its start as a Roundtable tradition because of the difficulty of finding speakers who were willing to travel to Cleveland in January. In moderating again tonight, I stand on the shoulders of giants, including Dick.

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The Great Debate of 2023

Who was the best political general of the Civil War?

The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2023, All Rights Reserved


According to available information, fewer than half of all the generals in the Union army during the Civil War were graduates of West Point. Because of a shortage of men to serve as generals, a number of men who lacked military training were given the rank of general. These generals are referred to as political generals, because they often received their rank due to political connections. Quite a few of these political generals, not surprisingly, proved to be inadequate – or worse. However, some of the political generals were effective and did well for the army in which they served.

The 2023 Dick Crews Memorial Debate posed the question: “Who was the best political general of the Civil War?” Four debaters presented arguments in favor of a political general whom each debater considered the best. The four political generals for whom arguments were presented are Edward Ferrero, John A. Logan, John C. Breckinridge, and Benjamin F. Butler. Below are the texts of those four arguments, along with moderator William Vodrey’s opening remarks.

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The Removal of Joseph Hooker: The Most Unfairly Maligned Union Officer

Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, Joseph Hooker was the least deserving of being relieved of command.

By John C. Fazio
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2022, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Debate at the January 2022 Roundtable meeting was: “Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, which Civil War officer was the least deserving of being relieved of command?” Four members made presentations on the topic; the article below was one of those four presentations .


I am here to speak of General Joseph Hooker. More specifically, I am here to rehabilitate him, or to try to, because he has gotten an undeserved bad rap for 156 years, the most unfairly and unjustifiably maligned officer in the Union army.

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The Removal of Fitz John Porter: “An Undeserved Stigma”

Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, Fitz John Porter was the least deserving of being relieved of command.

By Jake Collens
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2022, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Debate at the January 2022 Roundtable meeting was: “Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, which Civil War officer was the least deserving of being relieved of command?” Four members made presentations on the topic; the article below was one of those four presentations .


I am honored to participate in this debate with such distinguished debaters. I have zero debate experience myself. Well, that’s not quite true. I have far too often debated with my cat and my wife, who are both accomplished debaters. I’ve managed to win a couple debates with Oliver, my cat. With my wife, Donna, well, she’s undefeated. I did persuade her to accompany me tonight so she could critique me later. I wish to thank her for her attendance. Donna!

Fortunately for me, as the facts and the truth are on General Fitz John Porter’s side, it’s unnecessary that I be an accomplished debater.

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The Removal of Joseph E. Johnston: One of the Biggest Mistakes of the Civil War

Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, Joseph E. Johnston was the least deserving of being relieved of command.

By Mel Maurer
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2022, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Debate at the January 2022 Roundtable meeting was: “Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, which Civil War officer was the least deserving of being relieved of command?” Four members made presentations on the topic; the article below was one of those four presentations .


The firing of Confederate General Joseph Johnston, second only to the immortal Robert E. Lee as a leader and one who successfully commanded armies throughout the war, was not militarily or politically in any way deserved. In fact, it was one of the biggest mistakes of the war. It led to the loss of many lives, the fall of Atlanta, the reelection of Abraham Lincoln, and the destruction of an army, effectively ending the Confederacy’s last hope of winning.

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The Removal of Gouverneur K. Warren: A True Crime against a Forgotten Hero of the Civil War

Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, Gouverneur K. Warren was the least deserving of being relieved of command.

By Gene Claridge
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2022, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Debate at the January 2022 Roundtable meeting was: “Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, which Civil War officer was the least deserving of being relieved of command?” Four members made presentations on the topic; the article below was one of those four presentations .


Most Civil War buffs will know Gouverneur K. Warren as one of the heroes from Gettysburg, yet most do not know his full story. I think this is best said in the following statement by David M. Jordan, who wrote a biography of Warren: “Little Round Top guaranteed G.K. Warren at least a footnote, a major footnote, in Civil War history. However, his further activities as a corps commander…made him a worthy subject of real study for the Civil War.” My goal this evening is not just to tell what happened to General Warren and his relief of command, but to argue and submit that this is an absolute crime to a forgotten hero of the war.

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The Great Debate of 2022: Opening Remarks

Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, which Civil War officer was the least deserving of being relieved of command?

By William F.B. Vodrey – debate moderator
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2022, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: The subject of the annual Dick Crews Debate at the January 2022 Roundtable meeting was: “Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, which Civil War officer was the least deserving of being relieved of command?” Four members made presentations on the topic; the article below was the opening remarks made by the moderator of the debate.


Good evening, everyone, and welcome.

We’re here tonight for the annual Dick Crews Cleveland Civil War Roundtable Debate, named after my longtime predecessor as moderator. He recruited me for a debate on the most important battle of the Civil War not long after I joined the Roundtable, and I’m still grateful to him. (I chose the 1862 Battle of New Orleans.)

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The Great Debate of 2022

Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, which Civil War officer was the least deserving of being relieved of command?

The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2022, All Rights Reserved


General and flag officers, both Union and Confederate, were often relieved of their duties or commands, subjected to courts-martial and/or boards of inquiry, or otherwise the subjects of adverse disciplinary proceedings for their conduct on, and sometimes off, the battlefield.

The 2022 Dick Crews Debate posed the question: Apart from Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, which Civil War officer was the least deserving of the discipline he received from superiors? Four debaters presented on the topic of which Civil War officer was least deserving of being relieved of command. Below are the texts of those four arguments, along with moderator William Vodrey’s opening remarks.

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The Best Book Ever Written About the Civil War: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Reviewed by Jon Thompson
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2005, All Rights Reserved

Editor’s note: On January 12, 2005, the subject of The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable’s annual Dick Crews Debate was “What is the best book ever written about the Civil War?” The article below is the text from one of five presentations made that evening.


Best book? Does that mean best research? Best scope? Best style? Biggest audience? Best reviews?

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The Great Debate of 2008

The Southern Victory of 1865:
Was the Confederacy a Viable State?

The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved


Was the Confederacy a viable state? Could it have survived as a nation? If so, what made it viable? If not, what did it lack?

The 2008 Dick Crews Debate posed the question: The Southern Victory of 1865: Was the Confederacy a Viable State? Five speakers presented on the topic of how the Confederate States of America won its independence and how it did or did not survive. Below are the texts of those five arguments, along with moderator William Vodrey’s opening remarks, presented in the order the speakers addressed the Roundtable.

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