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Official Report of Major General Pope to the Committee on the Conduct of the War, ca. 1864

Union inaction under Major General George B. McClellan at the beginning of the Civil War provoked Congress to question his competency and President Abraham Lincoln’s judgment as commander in chief. The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War examined McClellan’s responsibility for the defeat at Manassas (Second Battle of Bull Run), Virginia, in August 1862 under Major General John Pope.

Records of Joint Committees of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration

Official Report of Major General Pope to the Committee on the Conduct of the War, ca. 1864

Congress Investigates the Civil War

At the outbreak of the Civil War, some members of Congress expected an easy Union victory. After early losses to Confederate forces, they grew critical of President Abraham Lincoln’s military strategy. In 1861 a resolution to investigate two particular Union defeats was amended to create a Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War with a broader mission. The committee examined many aspects of the Union effort, intending to use its investigatory power to influence the president’s military decisions.

Between 1861 and 1865, the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War investigated and provided oversight of President Abraham Lincoln’s command of the Union Army in the Civil War.