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Darius Couch
Civil War Encyclopedia >> People - Union Military
July 1, 1846 Graduating from West Point (rank): George B. McClellan (2), John Gray Foster (4), Jesse Lee Reno (8), Darius Nash Couch (13) Thomas Jonathan Jackson later Stonewall Jackson(17), Truman Seymour (19), Charles Champion Gilbert (21), John Adams (25), Samuel Davis Sturgis (32), George Stoneman (33), William Duncan Smith (35) Dabney Herndon Maury (37), Innis Newton Palmer (38), David Rumph Jones (41), Alfred Gibbs (42), George Henry Gordon (43), Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox (54), William Montgomery Gardner (55), Samuel Bell Maxey (58), George Edward Pickett (59)
  George McClellan
  Stonewall Jackson
  George Stoneman
May 31, 1862
June 1, 1862
Battle of Seven Pines [US]
Battle of Fair Oaks [CS]
Virginia
  Joseph E. Johnston
  George McClellan
  Peninsula Campaign
  Battle of Fair Oaks - Seven Pines
  James Longstreet
  Edwin Vose Sumner
  John B. Gordon
  Oliver O. Howard
  Daniel Harvey Hill
  Benjamin Huger
  John Sedgwick
  Samuel Garland
July 1, 1862 Battle of Malvern Hill
Battle of Malvern Cliffs

Robert E. Lee [CS] attacked George B. McClellan [U.S.], whose men made a gallant stand in front of the James River. Lee called off his attack after failing to break the Union line.
Virginia
  George McClellan
  Robert E. Lee
  Lafayette McLaws
  Seven Days Retreat
  Battle of Malvern Hill
  Fitz-John Porter
May 1, 1863
May 4, 1863
Battle of Chancellorsville

General "Fighting Joe" Hooker's Army of the Potomac is defeated by Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia as it crosses the Rappahannock on the way to Richmond

Union: 17,268

Confederate: 12,821
Virginia
  Robert E. Lee
  Joseph Hooker
  Bloodiest Civil War battles
  Stonewall Jackson
  Army of Northern Virginia
  Army of the Potomac
  Lafayette McLaws
  Chancellorsville
  John Reynolds
  George Stoneman
May 22, 1863 Abraham Lincoln offers command of the Army of the Potomac to Darius Couch. Couch refuses, but recommends George Meade.
  George Meade
  Abraham Lincoln


Darius Couch

Other references: Darius N. Couch, Darius Nash Couch

Division and corps commander during The Civil War, Darius Couch holds the distinction of being the sixth commander of the Army of the Potomac. During the Battle of Chancellorsville General Joseph Hooker passed command to Couch following a Confederate artillery attack that injured Hooker and destroyed the Chancellor house. Couch is rarely listed as its commander since command passed from Hooker to Couch and was not assigned by the War Department and Abraham Lincoln.

Born on a farm in Putnam County, New York, on July 23, 1823, (some sources list 1822) Darius Couch didn't have far to go to get to his college, West Point. It was less than 50 miles due west of his family's homestead. He received a brevet during the Mexican American War but left the army a lieutenant in 1855. Over the next five years he worked in his wife's family's business in Tauton, Massachusetts. It was his classmate, George McClellan who promoted the former lieutenant to brigadier general on August 9, 1861 (with rank from May 17). Couch spent the first few months of his military career training men to fight in the Army of the Potomac.

At the Battle of Seven Pines Couch was in command of a division ordered in close support of Silas Casey's advance to Seven Pines. Casey's men halted about 1:00pm, just as Daniel Harvey Hill ordered his Confederates forward. Samuel Garland [CS] hit Casey's men almost dead center and G. B. Anderson struck the Union line to the north of Garland, pushing it back about a mile before Couch personally led a counterattack with 4 regiments aimed at stabilizing the federal defenses. The attack struck a deadly blow against Anderson's right side and flank, but the rest of Anderson's line was doing so well that the Confederate simply ignored the attack. Couch, along with two regiments, the 7th Massachusetts and the 62nd New York, joined two regiments, the 65th New York and the 31st Pennsylvania and a Pennsylvania battery under Captain James Brady at Fair Oaks Station.

As Couch's men were regrouping about 2:30pm, Micah Jenkins pushed his Rebels south of Couch's position. Although it is unlikely he could withstand a major assault for more than 15 minutes, Couch had received word that Sumner's men had crossed Grapevine Bridge and were heading towards the station. Couch decided to entrench and await relief.

Late in the afternoon of May 31, Joseph E. Johnston ordered G. W. Smith to advance in support of Harvey Hill. Couch and his men had survived the afternoon unnoticed at the Fair Oaks Depot, but now four Confederate brigades under the command of W. H. C. Whiting were advancing on Couch's position, with Evander Law's brigade in the lead. Suddenly, a barrage from long range cannon hit Law's men from the northeast. Law was not expecting the shattering artillery fire. Couch would later write "I felt that God was with us." General John Sedgwick, riding at the head of his division had begun firing on Confederates as soon as they were within range.

Shortly after the first sounds of battle (about 1:30pm) Edwin Vose Sumner ordered Sedgwick and Israel Richardson to cross the Chickahominy and advance to the sound of battle. He had been reprimanded following the Battle of Williamsburg for failing to support Joe Hooker and did not want that to happen a second time.

Sedgwick's lead regiment, the 1st Minnesota under Colonel Sully, began forming on Couch's left while Sedgwick deployed his men in battle formation. Chase Whiting attacked, but soon Whiting was outnumbered by the federal troops under the command of Sedgwick and Couch. Additionally, in his rush to reach the line Whiting had failed to advance artillery, tipping the battle around Fair Oaks Station even more in favor of the Yankees. Soon, the Rebel advance was halted and a Union advance began. Joe Johnston, watching from a knoll near the station, was struck by a bullet in his right shoulder. Moments later an artillery shell exploded near him, knocking him off his horse just before darkness ended the battle.

At the Battle of Malvern Hill during the Seven Days Retreat, Couch was stationed east of the Quaker Road. The Army of Northern Virginia, heading south from the Battle of Glendale, used this road to reach the Army of the Potomac. Couch came under heavy attack during the battle, asking for assistance (he had a field telegraph{telegraph this time). Support came from Bull Sumner and Samuel Heintzelman, but he was probably happiest to see Francis Barlow's 61st New York, who moved to the center of Couch's line and withstood a Rebel charge.

Following the end of the Seven Days, Couch requested to be relieved of duty because of illness. McClellan did not send the request to Washington, but promoted Couch to Major General with rank from July 4, 1862. After returning to Aquia Point, Couch's division was assigned to protect Washington during Lee's advance into Maryland. With the Union loss at Second Bull Run, McClellan returned to command and ordered William B. Franklin to secure Maryland Heights (across the Potomac from Harper's Ferry). Franklin left Couch to control the Heights (and hence the town) and rejoined the Army of the Potomac at Antietam.

Darius Couch, along with many of the generals under Ambrose Burnside, vehemently opposed the planned attack on Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg. Couch, now in command of E. V. Sumner's Second Corps, had two new division commanders under him. Winfield Scott Hancock replaced Israel Richardson and Oliver O. Howard, who replaced the injured John Sedgwick. When the time came Couch personally gave the order for his men to advance, then returned to Union headquarters (the Philips House) on an overlook north of Fredericksburg to watch the disaster. The Second Corps job was to attack the famous stone wall/sunken road at the base of Marye's Heights.

Over the years farmer's wagons and stagecoaches had given the road beneath Marye's Heights a sunken appearance. In the late 1840's crews ran telegraph wires on the side of the road, and it was known as Telegraph Road. Even as Hancock, Howard and William French began lining up their men, Rebel artillery and sharpshooters were devastating the line. The men advanced until they were under the artillery, but then came into range of the Confederate infantry.

As brigade after brigade tried to assault the Rebel position they were turned back by Cobb's Legion, although a lucky artillery shot killed their commander, Georgian T. R. R. Cobb. At one point Couch turned to Burnside and told him to call off the attack. Burnside refused. He then returned to his corps and tried to rally his men. The Second Corps suffered tremendously - losing close to 4,000 enlisted men and officers.

In the aftermath of Fredericksburg, Burnside was out and Joe Hooker was tapped to replace him as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Couch was recognized, although unofficially, as Hooker's second-in-command. According to Steven Sears, in his book Chancellorsville, Couch's Second Corps was the "...best officered corps in the Potomac army." Hancock, French and John Gibbon were his division commanders for the conflict considered Lee's Greatest Victory.

On Monday, April 27, 1863 Hooker called Couch to headquarters where the two reviewed the plan for a massive move west. Hooker, who had bragged he would march to Richmond, intended to sidestepped Lee's Confederate Army, still concentrated around Fredericksburg. Although the roads and terrain were less hospitable, it avoided Lee's incredibly strong entrenched position.

Moving west from his winter camp in Falmouth, just north of the Rappahannock, where they had been since the loss at Fredericksburg, Couch's Second Corps followed the Rappahannock west, improving the roads and crossings. They, along with Dan Sickles Third Corps, would be called on to cross the river in a "turning movement" (an attack or threat of attack on or behind the enemy's flank). The two corps had roughly 30,000 men ready to fight.

At 10:00am, on May 1, 1863 Darius Couch seemed sure of the success of Hooker's plan. Using the roads south of the river, Hooker intended to move east, returning to Fredericksburg south of Marye's Heights. Convinced that Lee would leave most of his army at Fredericksburg to protect the Washington to Richmond Road, he expected only defensive action on the part of the Confederates. Once again Lee fooled an Army of the Potomac commander, aggressively moving to attack while leaving a division of men to protect Fredericksburg.

On the first day of battle Hooker's men ran head on into the Army of Northern Virginia. Meade's Fifth Corps was in front of Couch, doing a good job of advancing against a "heavy force" of Confederates. Couch rode forward from Hancock's division to scout Syke's battleline. It was here the commander of the Second Corps learned of Hooker's order to withdraw. Couch sent a staff member back to get the order rescinded with the words, "In no event should we give up our ground." Hooker refused to change the order.

Many consider Couch to be a cautious general, but in fact, he was a calculating general. He did not like to take chances unless he felt there was a likelihood of success. Couch recalled what happened that later that day when he personally met Hooker and protested the decision. Hooker told Couch, "It is all right, Couch, I have got Lee right where I want him; he must fight me on my own ground." In a moment of reflection, Couch added, "I retired from his presence with the belief that my commanding general was a whipped man."

The attacks by Stonewall Jackson to the west of the Chancellor house had driven Sickles back to a point where a pocket formed around the Union headquarters on May 2. Couch's men, although lightly engaged in the fighting, formed the eastern side of the pocket. On May 3, Lee and JEB Stuart (who had replaced the mortally wounded Jackson) were trying to destroy the pocket when an artillery attack shattered Hooker's headquarters, the Chancellor house. George Meade, north of the Chancellor house on Ely Ford Road, wanted to attack the Rebel flank and explained this to the badly shaken commanding general. In response, Hooker sent for Couch.

Darius Couch arrived at headquarters at 10:00 am, immediately entering Hooker's tent. The commanding general told him "I turn the command of the army over to you. You will withdraw it and place it in the position designated on this map." The map was a rough field sketch prepared the previous night by G. K. Warren and another engineer. Whether you consider Couch to be cautious or calculating, he did obey orders, and upon leaving Hooker's tent began issuing orders to extract the Army of the Potomac from its precarious position. At one o'clock Hooker had recovered sufficiently to resume command. He continued the withdrawal he had order Couch to begin. On May 4 Hooker called a meeting of his corps commanders. Only George Meade wanted to stay south of the Rappahannock and fight.




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1823
Ambrose Burnside
Antietam
April 27
April, 1863
Army of Northern Virginia
Army of the Potomac
August 9
August, 1861
Battle of Chancellorsville
Battle of Glendale
Battle of Malvern Hill
Battle of Seven Pines
Battle of Williamsburg
Bull Sumner
Chancellorsville
Daniel Harvey Hill
E. V. Sumner
Edwin Vose Sumner
George McClellan
George Meade
Harvey Hill
JEB Stuart
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Joseph E. Johnston
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July 23
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July, 1862
Maryland
May 1
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May, 1863
Mexican American War
Oliver O. Howard
Samuel Garland
Samuel Heintzelman
Second Bull Run
Seven Days Retreat
Stonewall Jackson
The Civil War
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William B. Franklin
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field telegraph{telegraph

Civil War Encyclopedia >> People - Union Military

Darius Couch was last changed on - May 1, 2007
Darius Couch was added on - January 12, 2007





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