The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was a United States Congressional investigating committee created to handle issues surrounding the American Civil War. It was established on December 9, 1861, following the embarrassing Union defeat at the Battle of Ball's Bluff, at the instigation of Senator Zachariah T. Chandler of Michigan, and continued until May 1865. Its purpose was to investigate such matters as illicit trade with the Confederate States, medical treatment of wounded soldiers, military contracts, and the causes of Union battle losses. The Committee was also involved in supporting the war effort through various means, including endorsing emancipation, the use of black soldiers, and the appointment of generals who were known to be aggressive fighters. It was chaired throughout by Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio, and became identified with the Radical Republicans who wanted more aggressive war policies than those of Abraham Lincoln.

Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War in Fort Pillow[]

The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was a committee made up of members of both houses of the United States Congress to oversee the prosecution of the American Civil War. It was chaired by Benjamin Wade, a Republican senator from Ohio. Public opinion of the committee was not favorable, and military officers found it even less savory. The committee had a name for advancing incompetent but politically savvy generals like George McClellan while ruining the careers of capable officers involved in military setbacks which were often not their fault.

In 1864, following the Battle of Fort Pillow, Wade and Congressman Daniel Gooch compiled a report of the so-called massacre committed by Nathan Bedford Forrest's men against the Union garrison at the fort. The report is not considered an objective account, but rather a propaganda piece. In interviewing survivors of the battle, Wade and Gooch encouraged exaggeration of atrocities committed by Confederate forces and sought to implicate Forrest as having personally ordered the slaughter of Union soldiers attempting to surrender, though Forrest was in fact at the rear during the part of the battle when such atrocities occurred.

Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War in Southern Victory[]

A Joint Committee modeled on that created during the War of Secession was created during the Second Great War to oversee the prosecution of that war on behalf of the legislature (despite the fact that the United States had lost the War of Secession, and had won the Great War, during which no such committee was created). It was chaired by Senator George Norris (S-NB). Other members included Senator Robert Taft (D-OH), Congresswoman Flora Blackford (S-NY), Congressman Foster Stearns (D-NH), and a Socialist Senator from Idaho.

In 1941, the Committee blamed General Abner Dowling for the defeat of US forces during Operation Blackbeard but did not ruin Dowling's career, as its predecessor committee a lifetime earlier likely would have done. This was due, in part, to Dowling providing damning evidence received from John Abell on various committee members voting against the allocation of adequate funds for U.S. rearming prior to the outbreak of hostilities. As a result, Dowling was cleared by the Committee.[1]

In 1942, the Committee resisted President Charles W. La Follette's attempt to negotiate with Mormon rebels. Chairman George Norris favored the measure, but his committee turned on him when Flora Blackford led hawkish Socialists to join with Republicans and Democrats who favored punishing the Mormons severely.

The Committee was not apprised of US efforts to construct a uranium-based bomb although individual members such as Blackford were aware of it. After the Confederacy detonated a superbomb outside Philadelphia, the Joint Committee toured the damaged area.


  1. Return Engagement, pgs. 290-295, hc.