The Smithsonian
Slavery & Abolition
Abraham Lincoln
First Blood
Life & Culture
Winslow Homer
Mathew Brady
Site Index

See more

Burnside and the 1st Rhode Island Volunteers, 1861

Genl. Burnside’s Victory March, 1862

Burnside, circa 1865



Ambrose E. Burnside (1824–1881)

At the start of the Civil War, Ambrose Burnside, a West Point graduate, was given command of the 1st Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry, which he led in the First Battle of Bull Run. He became a favorite of President Lincoln, was given charge of an expedition against Confederates along the North Carolina coast, and with its success, rose to major general of volunteers. In November 1862, over his own protests, Burnside was made commander of the Army of the Potomac. Shortly after his crushing defeat at Fredericksburg the following month he was replaced by General Joseph Hooker. Later, in command of the Department of the Ohio, he ably defended Knoxville, and in 1863, under Ulysses S. Grant, he helped defeat Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga. But his inefficiency at Petersburg in 1864 brought about Burnside’s resignation from the service. General Grant called Burnside “an officer who was generally liked and respected. He was not, however, fitted to command an army. No one knew this better than himself.”

Manchester & Brother Studio (active circa 1848–1880)
Ambrotype, 1861
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution


Home SI