He was born in Louisville, Kentucky on March 16, 1822, but was raised in Illinois. At the age of sixteen, Pope entered West Point and upon his graduation, where he placed seventeenth in a class of fifty-six, was assigned to the army engineers. During the Mexican War, he was breveted a captain for valor.
Following the Mexican War, Pope, who was an exemplary equestrian, was commissioned a 1st lieutenant in 1853 and promoted to captain in 1856. Pope was a man who was gregarious and fearless, yet his downfalls were that he was often hotheaded an loud-mouthed. This demeanor offended may people resulting in him being disliked.
When the Civil War began, Pope was appointed brigadier general of volunteers. As the commander of the Army of the Mississippi, he was successful in capturing New Madrid, Missouri and Island No. 10. This resulted in opening up the northern half of the Mississippi River for the Union. At the Second Battle of Bull Run, Pope and his army lost assuredly. However, undaunted, he then went to Washington. He blamed his loss at Bull Run on his officers, saying that they were more loyal to McClellan then they were to him. It seemed that President Lincoln agreed, in that he relived Pope of command, replacing him with McClellan.
For the remainder of the war to 1886, Pope served in the West, campaigning against Indians. After retiring from the army in 1886, he became a respected authority on conditions on the frontier and Indian problems and relations.
On September 23, 1892, John Pope died at the Old Soldiers' and Sailors' Home in Sandusky, Ohio.
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