The appointment of Ambrose Burnside seemed to be a good choice. He was handsome and, at six feet in height, big in build. His large face was surrounded by heavy whiskers or “sideburns,” in a play on his name. He seemed dashing and brave, and he was. He also seemed to be very intelligent, but he was not.
One observer said, “You have to know Burnside some time before you realize there is not much behind his showy front.” But Burnside had amassed a good record as a subordinate commander in North Carolina and as a corps commander under McClellan. He was known to be McClellan’s friend but not dominated by him. As such, Lincoln believed Burnside would be an appropriate replacement to head the Union Army of the Potomac.