Less than a week after the dismal Union showing at Second Bull Run, the Army of Virginia was merged out of existence and its erstwhile commander, Maj. Gen. John Pope, ordered to the hinterlands. In mid-September 1862, Pope took command of the Department of the Northwest, which had been created to deal with the Sioux Uprising in Minnesota. Pope planned to “utterly exterminate” hostiles; by early November, more than 2,000 Indians had been captured. A military tribunal at Fort Ridgely sentenced 307 to death, but President Abraham Lincoln commuted 269 of the sentences. The remaining 38 Sioux were hanged on December 26.
Pope served out the rest of the war in the West and, after a brief leave of absence, set up headquarters in Atlanta as military governor of the Third District, comprising Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Selected to carry out the Radical Reconstruction plans of Congress, Pope angered former Confederates with his stipulation that local voter registration boards include one black member and that jurors be selected from a list of all registered voters without regard to race. In 1868 Pope complained that he was not getting the necessary support from Washington and that President Andrew Johnson would do well to appoint officers whose abilities he believed in. Pope was immediately replaced by General George Meade.
Pope’s remaining career was spent in various commands in the West, including a stint at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he supported the post’s expansion and modernization and oversaw construction of the first military prison in the country in 1875. General John Pope retired from the Army in 1886; he died in 1892.
Originally published in the August 2006 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.