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Irvin McDowell

Mathew Brady Studio, active 1844 - 1894
Chicago Albumen Works
Irvin McDowell, 15 Oct 1818 - 4 May 1885
c. 1862 (printed 2011)
Modern albumen print from wet plate collodion negative
Image: 8.9 × 5.9 cm (3 1/2 × 2 5/16")
Sheet: 12.7 × 10.1 cm (5 × 4")
Mat: 35.6 × 28.2 cm (14 × 11 1/8")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Frederick Hill Meserve Collection
Object number
Exhibition Label
Born Columbus, Ohio
Staff officer Irvin McDowell had no experience as a field commander, but thanks to powerful support from General Winfield Scott and Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, he was promoted to brigadier general on May 14, 1861, and soon received command of the Department of Northeastern Virginia. Faced with the daunting task of assembling, equipping, and training a large fighting force composed principally of inexperienced recruits, McDowell came under heavy political pressure to move swiftly against Confederate forces massing near a critical railway junction at Manassas, Virginia. McDowell’s battle plan may have appeared credible on paper, but the combination of untested troops and poor leadership in the field produced the demoralizing Union defeat at the Battle of First Bull Run in July 1861. Replaced immediately by General George McClellan, McDowell later suffered significant blame for his role in the Union defeat at the Battle of Second Bull Run a year later.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection
United States\District of Columbia\Washington