Searching for Irvin McDowell: The Civil War’s Forgotten General

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Frank Simione Jr./Gene Schmiel
Pub Date:
March 2023
trade paper, 6 x 9
20 images, 10 maps, 312 pp.
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About the Book


Irvin McDowell was a prominent figure during the early months of the Civil War. With so much at stake, he was called upon to lead the Union’s largest Eastern Theater army. Pressed by the media and President Abraham Lincoln to move into Virginia and defeat the Confederates gathering there, McDowell led his neophyte army out to the plains of Manassas and was soundly defeated. McDowell went on to hold an independent command in northern Virginia during the Peninsula Campaign and serve in the Army of Virginia under Maj. Gen. John Pope during the disastrous Second Bull Run Campaign. Despite his significant contributions, a lack of personal papers left him in obscurity.

Authors Frank Simione Jr. and Gene Schmiel used available sources to create a reliable and readable synthesis of the man and his career to fill a sizable gap in the historiography. Unless or until his private papers surface, Searching for Irvin McDowell will stand as the best treatment available.


Advance Reviews

“Overall, Searching for Irvin McDowell does a solid job of establishing the significance of the general’s role in the war and fairly describing and assessing those considerable leadership flaws and battlefield mistakes that have contributed to his enduring low standing among the war’s prominent generals.” — Andrew Wagenhoffer, Civil War Books and Authors,

“Defeated at First Manassas, the unhappy pawn of Washington strategists who sought to check the influence of George McClellan, and a critical contributor to the second Union defeat at Manassas, Irvin McDowell was rarely far from the center of controversy during the first two years of the Civil War. Curiously, for over a century and a half there has been no full-length biography of this enigmatic, but unquestionably important, officer. In Searching for Irvin McDowell, Frank P. Simione Jr. and Gene Schmiel provide a study of the general, his endeavors during the war, and the controversies that surrounded him that will be useful to anyone seeking to understand the first two years of America’s bloodiest war. — Ethan S. Rafuse, author of From the Mountains to the Bay: The War in Virginia, January–May 1862.

“The subtitle says it all: Irvin McDowell has been a forgotten Civil War general for too long. Now, thanks to great research and writing by Frank Simione and Gene Schmiel—not to mention Hal Jespersen’s incredible maps—readers will better understand McDowell the man and his impact on the Civil War. This is an important book that should open many eyes to McDowell's life, career, and legacy." — Benjamin T. Arrington, author of The Last Lincoln Republican: The Presidential Election of 1880


Frank Simione Jr. retired from ATCC, a bioscience industry non-profit biological resource center in Manassas, Virginia. During his 42-year career he published technical papers, review articles, manuals, and book chapters. Frank’s interest in the Civil War spans more than half a century. Gene Schmiel is a retired U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Officer and former assistant professor of History at St. Francis University (PA) with a Ph.D. degree in History from The Ohio State University. Gene is the author of many books about the Civil War, including Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era.