Zachariah Chandler portrait

On December 5, 1861, Michigan Senator Zachariah Chandler offered a resolution to create a committee to investigate the debacles at the battles of Ball’s Run and Bull Run. Iowa Senator James Grimes expanded Chandler’s resolution calling for a joint committee to examine all aspects of the war. The full Senate approved Chandler’s resolution and the House quickly adopted the Senate resolution creating the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War on December 10, 1861. [Wikimedia Commons]

Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War Facts

December 10, 1861- May 22, 1865

Key facts about the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.

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  • The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was popularly known as the War Committee.
  • The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was created on December 10, 1861.
  • The original members of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War consisted of Republican Senators Benjamin F. Wade (Ohio) and Zachariah Chandler (Michigan), Democrat Senator Andrew Johnson (Tennessee), Republican Representatives George W. Julian (Indiana), John Covode (Pennsylvania) and Daniel W. Gooch (Massachusetts), and Democratic Representative Moses Fowler Odell (New York). When Johnson was appointed military governor of Tennessee in March 1862, he was replaced by Democratic Senator Joseph Wright (Indiana).
  • Theoretically, the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War served as a mechanism for overseeing the administration’s execution of the war.
  • The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War did yield some positive results, especially in terms of uncovering and reducing graft related to war contracts, exposing mistreatment of Union soldiers in Confederate POW camps, advancing the production of heavy ordnance, and maintaining public morale.
  • The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was dominated by Radical Republicans.
  • The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War convened for the first time on December 20, 1861.
  • Members of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War agreed to hold no public meetings and to keep their deliberations secret. The Committee was authorized to subpoena witnesses and documents for examination, however anyone called to testify was forbidden to speak with the press afterwards.
  • Members of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War regularly leaked information to newspapers when it suited their agenda.
  • Throughout its existence, the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was obsessed with second-guessing the performance of Union military commanders (especially in the Eastern Theater), despite the fact that its members had little if any martial expertise.
  • Members of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War were notably critical of West Point graduates, while otherwise tolerant of less effective political generals who shared their partisan beliefs.
  • Generals who were conspicuously targeted by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War were Charles Pomeroy Stone, George McClellan and George Meade.
  • Led by Senator Benjamin Wade, who harbored a personal dislike for the President Abraham Lincoln, the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War closely scrutinized (if not criticized) nearly every move Lincoln made.
  • Radical members of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War questioned President Abraham Lincoln’s commitment to emancipation because the president delayed issuing until after the Union victory at Antietam.
  • When the 38th Congress convened in 1863, the Committee on the Conduct of the War was reconstituted. On the House side, Republicans Julian and Gooch continued their assignments. Unconditional Unionist Party member Benjamin F. Logan (Utah) replaced Covode who retired from Congress. Democratic Representative Odell continued his service. Wade and Chandler continued to represent the Republicans from the Senate. Democratic senators Benjamin F. Harding (Oregon) and Charles R. Buckalew (Pennsylvania) replaced Johnson and Wright.
  • The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War continued to meet until shortly after the war ended, adjourning for the last time on May 22, 1865.
  • During its existence, the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War convened 272 times and published at least one report each year.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War Facts
  • Coverage December 10, 1861- May 22, 1865
  • Author
  • Keywords joint committee on the conduct of the war
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 27, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 3, 2021
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