Frederick Converse Beach, ed., “McDowell, Irvin,” The Americana: A Universal Reference Library (New York: Scientific American Compiling Department, 1912).
McDowell, Irvin, American soldier: b. near Columbus, Ohio, 15 Oct. 1818; d. San Francisco, Cal., 5 May 1885. He studied in France and was graduated from West Point in 1838. During the Canadian troubles he was stationed on the Niagara and on the Maine frontiers, and in 1841 served at West Point as assistant instructor in tactics, becoming adjutant in 1845. In 1845 he went to Mexico as aide-de-camp to Gen. Wood and for gallant conduct at Buena Vista in 1847 was promoted brevet captain, shortly afterward attaining the rank of assistant adjutant-general. Subsequently he was stationed at the War Department in Washington and in 1856 was raised to the rank of brevet-major. He was on Gen. Wood's staff at the outbreak of the Civil War and assisted in inspecting and organizing the volunteer troops at Washington. In May 1861 he was made brigadier-general of the volunteers and given command of the Army of the Potomac. Constrained by the impatience of the North, McDowell moved in July to meet the enemy and despite his carefully laid plan met a disastrous defeat at Bull Run, 21 July 1861, owing to the imperfect organization of his raw recruits Shortly after McClellan was given command of the army and McDowell was retained at the head of one of its divisions. In 1862 he was promoted major-general of volunteers and placed in command of the First corps, which became the Army of the Rappahannock, stationed to guard Washington. In August 1862 he received command of the Third corps of the Army of Virginia and fought under Gen. Pope at the battles of Cedar Mountain, Rappahannock Station, and the second battle of Bull Run, where he performed especially good service. He was removed from the field in September 1862. Considering this action of the War Department a direct reflection upon his military services, he asked for an investigation, the result of which was favorable to him. In July 1864 he was placed in command of the Department of the Pacific Coast, and in March 1865 was made brevet major-general in recognition of his gallant services at Cedar Mountain. In 1872 he succeeded Gen. Meade as major-general in the regular army. The last years of his life were spent in California.