top of page


Público·4 miembros

The Bluecoats: North South

At Antietarn and Sharpsburg on Wednesday l7th September 1862 the Union Army of thePotomac suffered 12 400 casualties, 25 per cent of those who went into action.Confederate casualties in the Army of Northern Virginia were 10 300, 31 per cent of thoseon the firing lines. The combined casualties for those twelve hours of combat came to22 719 - no single day of this or any other American war would surpass that fearfulrecord. Nor do these figures reflect a true count of the dead and wounded. Civiliansreturning to their farms in the following days told of numerous corpses under haystacksor in cellars or hidden in thickets. In addition, a substantial number of those tallied asmissing or wounded would die weeks or months later of their injuries.Commander of the Army of the Potomac was Major-General George Brinton McClellan,the son of a prosperous and socially prominent Philadelphia physician. He had anoutstanding record at West Point military academy. In 1855 he toured militaryestablishments in Europe including two weeks' observation of the siege of Sebastopolduring the Crimean war. At the outbreak of the civil war in 1861 he was head of the Ohioand Mississippi railroad and within a month he was a major general in charge of theDepartment of the Ohio. He conducted one of the war's first campaigns, producingseveral small but tidy victories. By July 1861 he was in Washington to take command ofthe dispirited Army of the Potomac, defeated by Joseph E. Johnston's Confederates at thefirst battle of the Bull Run at Manassas. By November, not yet 35 years of age, he wasgeneral-in-chief of all the Union armies.He laboured with great energy to forge the Army of the Potomac into a fighting machine.The troops were organized and equipped and drilled and given pride in themselves as partof McClellan's army. He made sure that his young volunteers were able to see, admireand trust their commander who would lead them into battle. Great reviews were held withmassed hands, everything was spit and polish, the climax of the day's pageantry' as theYoung Napoleon galloped past the ranks on his great black horse, Dan Webster, trailedby his glittering staff. It was Little Mac's grand army and he was received with loudshouts and an eager uproar that followed his progress through the ranks.McClellan was less successful in sustaining the admiration of official Washington. Atfirst his youthful zeal in organizing the army made him a power in the land. However, asthe weeks and months passed and the army did not advance beyond its drill fields andtraining grounds McClellan faced increasingly sharp questioning. Why were the Rebelsstill allowed to hold the field they had won at Bull Run? Why was the fine autumncampaigning weather going unused? Although serving a Republican administration, hemade no secret of the fact that his sympathies were with the Democrat opposition.Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton became exasperated with McClellan's reluctance touse the army that he had created and declared that he would "force this man McClellan tofight."In late October 1861 McClellan reported that he was facing a Confederate force "not lessthan 150 000 strong, well drilled and equipped, ably commanded and stronglyentrenched." This estimate was the work of Allan Pinkerton, the well-known Chicago detective, and it was monumentally wrong. A distinguished foreign visitor, France's Prince Napoleon, inspected both armies and reported that the rebels numbered about 60 000 and were "ragged, dirty and half-starved." Reports from his own officers in the field, based on the interrogation of deserters and slave informers assessed Johnston's army at 50 000. Neither Major-General Daniel E. Sickles and Brigadier-General James S. Wadsworth were regular army and so their reports were ignored.A gulf of mistrust and suspicion appeared between the administration and its principalgeneral. For nearly nine months the Union and Confederate armies, separated by only 25miles, made no attempt to join battle. President Lincoln summoned two of McClellan'sdivisional commanders Irvin McDowell and William B Franklin to the White House. Heasked them for ideas saying "If General McClellan does not want to use the army, Iwould like to borrow it." McDowell and Franklin could offer nothing helpful.On the other side, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was also experiencing difficultywith his commanders. In early March 1862, Johnston abandoned the Confederateentrenchments around Manassas and moved back to the Rapahannock River, about 30miles further south. The move was kept secret even from Davis until three days after ithad taken place.Finally, after nearly nine months of delay and prevarication, McClellan led his army in acampaign to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond via an advance up thepeninsula between the James and York rivers. Greatly overestimating the forces opposedto him he was driven back to Harrison's Landing on the James River by Robert E. Leewho had replaced Johnston, severely wounded at the climax of the campaign. McClellanwas ordered to return to Washington early in August 1962.Although a fine organiser, McClellan proved to be almost paralysed with caution on thebattlefield. His deep concern for his men and a fixation with avoiding casualties mayhave revealed an admirable sensitivity of nature but the general in command has hardchoices to make. An attack may save more lives in the long run than will be lost that day.For George McClellan all too often the risk looked too great.Back in Washington, McClellan was a general without an army until he was offeredcommand of the defenses of Washington after Major-General John Pope had beenthrashed by Robert E. Lee at the Second Bull Run, fought over the same ground as thefirst a year earlier.His victory over Pope did not reward Lee with the luxury of mature reflection on his nextmove. This part of northern Virginia had been picked clean and there was neither food forthe men nor forage for the horses. The railroad southwards was a shambles and could notmake up the difference. An attack on the strongly-fortified Federal capital of Washingtonwas out of the question and retreat southwards would surrender the hard-won initiative.He could pull back westwards into the Shenandoah Valley but that would be only anemergency measure. To the north, Lee concluded, lay manifold opportunities.Lee's army was organised into two "commands" under Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jacksonand James Longstreet. Jackson was the former professor of the Virginia Military lnstitute,looking not unlike people's mental image of the Old Testament prophet. He marched histroops 25 miles in a day and his eccentricities were marked. He had a passion for secrecyand this, his wrath at straggling and his unsparing demands on the hungry and footsorewere at first resented until it became clear that he had the habit of victory. JamesLongstreet was stolid and untiring, his calm self-assurance the balance to theopportunism of Jackson.Lee's other generals included Jackson's brother-in-law, Daniel Harvey Hill, outspokenand in frequent pain from a spinal ailment, Virginian Ambrose Powell Hill had drivingenergy and an explosive temper. Another relentless attacker was the tall, bearded JohnBell Hoed commander of the Texan brigade. The flamboyant cavalryman James EwellBrown "Jeb" Stuart had already proved himself to be the premier intelligence officer aswell as performing brilliantly in action.On 4th September 1862 advance elements of the Army of Northern Virginia crossed thePotomac at White's Ford, near Leesburg, Virginia. The march to Leesburg fromManassas was only some thirty miles but that was too much for thousands of shoelessmen and others suffering from diarrhea resulting from a steady diet of green corn andapples. Lee's fractious officer corps saw two of its generals under arrest - Powell Hillhad disagreed with Jackson and Hood with Longstreet so both stumped along in highdudgeon at the rear of the column. As if these were not annoyances enough, Lee himselfhad injured both hands in a freak accident, Jackson had had a fall from a new horse andLongstreet, with a badly blistered heel, was wearing an old carpet slipper on one footwhich caused his men some amusement.Lee's assessment that the Union army was demoralised and disorganised after itsresounding defeats in the James peninsula under McClellan and at Bull Run under Popeproved to he an overstatement. Even McClellan's harshest critics admitted his talents asan organiser and he was working "like a beaver" in Lincoln's approving phrase. Even thelowliest private was witness to the command confusion of General Pope and the relief athaving McClellan back in command was all but universal. McClellan spent long hours inthe saddle, visiting the camps, letting himself be seen, acknowledging the enthusiasticcheers and giving the unmistakable impression that now he was in command again allwas right with the world. On Sunday 7th September the Union army moved into Marylandbut only very slowly and spread out so as to cover both Washington and Baltimore.The Army of the Potomac now organised into a left wing under William B. Franklin,centre under Edwin V. Sumner and the right under Ambrose E. Burnside. He had 85 000men under his command and a further 72 500 manned the defences of Washington.McClellan had only the sketchiest information on Confederate strength and dispositionsand no information at all about their intentions. He relied heavily on his cavalry underBrigadier-General Alfred Pleasonton who met Jeb Stuart's troopers on every road.Pleasonton's men interrogated prisoners and deserters who naturally enough did theirbest to string along their Yankee captors. Pleasonton seems to have been remarkablygullible and reported that the enemy was "believed to be over 100 000 strong."Lee occupied Frederick, Maryland on 6th September appearing to be poised for a thrust ateither Washington or Baltimore. Maryland was a state supposedly sympathetic to theConfederacy but in Frederick "all of the people looked as if they had lost a dear friend"said one Confederate officer and Lee had to admit to President Davis, "do not anticipateany general rising of the people in our behalf". The total of new recruits probably did notexceed 200. One Union lady, writing to a friend "felt humiliated that this horde ofragamuffins could set our grand army of the Union at defiance." It was noted howeverthat this motley army was cheerful and that rifles were clean and cartridge boxes full. Bythe 7th September Jackson had recovered sufficiently to attend church where theReverend Daniel Zacharias held steadfast to his Union principles and offered a prayer forPresident Lincoln. To the amusement of the general's staff however, this act of moralcourage fell on deaf ears. Old Jack fell asleep during the sermon and was awakened onlyat the end of the service by the resounding tones of the organ.Lee needed to make major decisions about the objectives of his army. An operationalplan was drawn up, dated 9th September and designated Special Order No.191. Jacksonwas to fall swiftly on Harper's Ferry from the south while Walker and McLaws wouldoccupy the other commanding heights. Jackson had the longest march, westwards toBoonsboro so as to cross the Potomac at Williamsport, the schedule calling for the trap tobe sprung on 12th September. He released A.P. Hill from arrest which would make animportant addition to his fighting strength. The remainder of the army would cross SouthMountain to a holding position at Boonsboro to reunite once Harper's Ferry had fallen.Jackson approved the plan but Longstreet was dismayed. Dividing the army in the presentsituation did not strike him as sound military practice.McClellan moved with extreme caution and on 11th September reported to Washingtonthat he was confronting a "gigantic rebel army". Outlining the daunting prospect beforehim he said that it was imperative that he be reinforced immediately by at least one of thereserve army corps in Washington. George McClellan's vision of an opposing army tripleits actual strength was fixed immutably in his thinking. Lincoln and General in ChiefHenry W Halleck decided to send Fitz John Porter's corps into the field. The Unionarmy entered Frederick in the morning of l3th September to be jubilantly welcomed by itsinhabitants. General McClellan was all but overwhelmed by well-wishers. It was like a4th of July celebration and the Army of the Potomac had its spirits up.One of the units arriving that morning was the 27th Indiana who were assigned a bivouacsite in a meadow on the outskirts of town where a Confederate division had encamped afew days before. Making camp where other troops had stayed any length of time wasusually unpleasant from the point of view of sanitation but the Indiana boys found anunspoiled section and settled down to boil their coffee and relax. Sergeant John M Blossand Corporal Barton W Mitchell noticed a bulky envelope in the grass nearby. Insidewas a sheet of paper wrapped around three fragrant Virginia cigars. Cigars were a cutabove the usual camp debris but Mitchell and Bloss scanned the official-lookingdocument which was headed "Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, Special OrdersNo 191" and dated 9th September. Scattered through the text were names the Yankeesoldiers knew only too well - Jackson, Longstreet, Stuart. It was addressed to MajorGeneral D.H. Hill and signed "R.H. Chilton, Assist. Adj.-Gen." Sergeant Bloss andCorporal Mitchell suspected that the piece of paper might be even more important thanthe cigars and took it to their company commander who took it straight to corpscommander Maj-Gen Alpheus S. Williams. If it was authentic the implications werestunning - here spelled out in complete detail was the current operational plan of theentire Rebel army. Colonel Pittman of Williams's staff had served with Chilton beforethe war and knew his handwriting. By late morning it was in McClellan's hands and hesent a message to Lincoln saying "I have all the plans of the rebels and will catch them intheir own trap. Will send you trophies."Suddenly it was clear that Jackson was not trying to escape back into Virginia, he wasdescending on Harper's Ferry. Those rebels reported beyond South Mountain wereLongstreet's. The Army of the Potomac was ideally placed to divide and conquer.McClellan's good fortune was even greater than he imagined for Lee's optimistictimetable for the capture of Harper's Ferry was falling badly behind. Longstreet was nowin Hagerstown, a river crossing and more than 25 miles away from Jackson. McClellanhad 87 000 men in the vicinity of Frederick - almost double Lee's strength now dividedinto at least five parts. "No time shall be lost" he promised in his noon wire to Lincolnbut it was 18 hours before the first Yankee soldiers marched towards South Mountain inresponse to the discovery of Special Orders No. 191. The senior Union commanders werenot alerted to the secrets of Special Orders No. 191 and no effort was made to preservethe element of surprise. Major-General Reno's Ninth Corps only moved off during themorning of 14th September. Franklin was given the task of relieving Harper's Ferry buthis orders were only sent to him after sunset on 13th September.The Union garrisons at Harper's Ferry and Martinsburg were now outflanked and isolatedand across Lee's supply line were he to advance further north into Pennsylvania. TheHarper's Ferry garrison was little more than a railroad guard and was decidedly short ofcombat experience. Harper's Ferry, site of a government musket factory and arsenal, istucked into a narrow angle where the Shenandoah meets the Potomac and is dominatedby high ground on every side, Lee wanted to capture the garrison intact together with allits ordnance and supplies. Jackson had intended to cross the Potomac at Shepherdstownbut decided to make a wide march to Williamsport so as to cut off the escape of theUnion garrison at Martinsburg. This meant an extra 60 miles of marching.Walker had arrived on the Loudon Heights and McLaws on Maryland Heights onSaturday 13th September. "Stonewall" Jackson spent Sunday 14th September carefullyplacing his artillery and late in the afternoon the bombardment opened. The effect wasterrifying and demoralized the inexperienced garrison, many of whom had never been inaction before. At 8 a.m. on Monday l5th September a white flag appeared and UnionBrigadier-General White completed the formalities of surrender wearing his best uniformand mounted on a handsome black horse. Kyd Douglas, Jackson's aide wrote that Whitewas "somewhat astonished to find in General Jackson the worst dressed, worst mounted,most faded and dingy-looking general he had ever seen anyone surrender to."The 1 300 cavalrymen penned up in Harper's Ferry had been restive as they were unableto contribute to the defence and Colonel Grimes Davis of the 8th New York Cavalrydecided to escape. He was a Mississippian and a veteran of frontier Indian fighting. In thedarkness they set off over the pontoon bridge over the Potomac and then north along anobscure winding road. They picked up the pace and near dawn encountered a Rebelwagon train coming south from Hagerstown. Davis called up in his rich Mississippiaccent and ordered the driver to take the next turning because there was enemy cavalryup ahead. The turn was made smoothly and by the time it was light the sleepy teamstersfound they had an escort of Yankee cavalrymen riding alongside with pistols cocked.Lee had decided to move 13 miles north to Hagerstown, Maryland to counter a reportedUnion force, leaving D.H. Hill's single division with perhaps 5 000 men to cover thepasses over South Mountain. The last message from Jackson indicated that he wasrunning about a day behind schedule. A Confederate sympathizer had made his waythrough the lines and reported to Stuart that the Federal army was embarking on somesort of offensive operation. Stuart's report to Lee reached him at about 10 p.m. and,puzzled by this unexpected aggression from McClellan, he told Longstreet to march forBoonsboro to support D.H. Hill. Hill had been given the task of defending Turner's Gapthrough South Mountain "at all hazards." He had only some cavalry and two infantrybrigades and from the top of the mountain he could see advancing across the plain thevast army of McClellan "spread out before me. It was a grand and glorious spectacle, andit was impossible to look at it without admiration."Longstreet arrived to find Hill hard pressed and about to be overwhelmed. One brigadehad been broken when its commander, Brigadier-General Samuel Garland was killed.Others were reduced to fighting Indian-style scattered among the rocks and trees.Longstreet managed to stabilize the situation until darkness ended the battle. Twogenerals were killed in the fight - Garland and Union Major-General Jesse L. Reno waskilled near where Garland had died and their monoments stand on the road throughTurner's Gap to this day. Of the Union officers, Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes of the 23rdOhio was wounded and Sergeant William McKinley, another future president from thatsame regiment was not involved that day.Lee, in spite of his injured hands, was mounted on Traveller again as the remainder of theConfederate army marched south from Hagerstown. As the Texan Brigade marched pastthey began to yell "Give us Hood!" Lee agreed with the sentiment, suspended his arrestwhile there was fighting to do and Hood took his place at the head of the division. Lee,Longstreet and Hill met near Boonshoro and agreed that Turner's Gap would have to beabandoned by morning.Franklin, under McClellan's orders to relieve Harper's Ferry had been engaged byMcLaws's Confederates at Crampton's Gap and driven them away to the west but thenhalted for the night. The next morning there was cheering from McLaws's men in theirbattle line and a Rebel yelled that "Harper's Ferry is gone up, God damn you!" With

  • Acerca de

    ¡Bienvenido al grupo! Puedes conectarte con otros miembros, ...

    Página del grupo: Groups_SingleGroup
    bottom of page