Monday, 20 July 2015

Effective Strength of the Opposing Armies at Yorktown

1. Introduction

Civil War history has a bad habit of comparing apples and oranges when strength categories are in contention. Invariably the "effectives" of the Confederacy is compared with the "present for duty" strength of the Federals. This distorts matters. Here we will adopt the approach of accepting the Confederate measurement and moving the Federal measurement to conform. We will also analyse the arrival times of various units to determine strength ratios.

2a. Confederate Effective Strength and Arrival Times

To determine Confederate strength the partial return Johnston provided ca. 30th April in the OR (ref) is used. To this some cavalry is added from the OR (ref) and Livermore (ref). Steven Newton estimated that between 10 and 20% of the army went sick in the trenches, and thus a correction factor of the lower bound (10%) is used in the sure knowledge this is not overcorrecting.

Arrival dates were ascertained by a general survey of biographies, regimental histories etc., and the last unit to arrive (Pettigrew's brigade) essentially walked the whole way, whilst most units got a train and then a steamer to King's Mill Wharf in Williamsburg. Results are in table 1. The entry "present before campaign" indicates the unit or formation had joined by 5th April, in some cases barely (such as Colston's brigade from Norfolk, and Pendleton's artillery).

Table 1: Effective Strength of Johnston's Army at Yorktown with Arrival Dates

2b. Strength at Various Dates

Accepting Newton's lower bound of 10% and correcting for a constant decay down to the 30th April estimate by Johnston we get the following strength at Yorktown (inc. Gloucester Point, Williamsburg etc.) for various dates:

Table 2: Estimated Effective Strength of the Yorktown Defences at Various Dates

3. Federal Effective Strength

One problem facing us estimating Federal effective strength is what did Johnston mean be "effective strength"? He appears (from previous returns) to be estimating his officers and men that were combat effectives, so that's the measure I will use.

Secondly there is the issue of what constitutes arrival? Do we count Casey, whose division consists of newly raised troops who haven't even been issued tents and so are suffering in camp near Fort Monroe whilst the QMG in Washington sorts his act out and don't move forward to a mile behind the main army on the 11th? When did Hooker, Richardson and Franklin actually arrive?

In his diary entry for 11th April la Comte de Paris states Hooker and Richardson have just arrived at Ship Point and have been held there for the moment. My notes indicate the two divisions completed disembarkment 10th-11th April and were held at Ship Point until 16th, when McClellan decided to adopt "regular approaches". Kearny's brigade of Franklin boards ship on the 17th, with the rest boarding on the 24th as a turning force.

Thus I will count Casey, Hooker and Richardson as arriving on the 11th, Kearny's brigade on the 17th (when they board ship) and the rest of Franklin on the 24th (ditto).

The third problem is the lack of divisional or brigade returns for the period. Hence I will estimate divisions at that fraction of their corps. I will take the corps strength, deduct an estimate for cavalry (800 men per regiment) and artillery (20 men per gun) and assume the infantry effectives are 75% of the residue.

Table 3: Calculation of Infantry Effectives in Each Federal Corps

We shall now calculate effectives by date.

McClellan intended to have a much larger body of cavalry, forming a brigade in each Corps taken to the Peninsula, and a reserve of 2 brigades (ref). He ended up with about 6.5 regiments. This of course had a significant effect. Here it's just left at 6,000 for all cavalry in the absence of better data.

The artillery is rated by number of guns. The strength of the artillery reserve (100 guns) is estimated with the rest. However, one would observe without gaining or losing guns or batteries its strength (PFD) has gone from 2,731 on 31st March to 1,888 on 20th May, or 69% of starting strength. This may be a good indicator of wastage. However, a simple analysis shows essentially no Federal wastage during the Yorktown operations, whilst the later Chickahominy operations show heavy losses.

Table 4: Federal Effectives by Date.

4. Force Ratios and Conclusions

Hopefully this is informative. It should be observed that McClellan's infantry force ratios start out in Grant territory of ca. 2:1, but within a few days is closer to 3:2 and by the late siege (with Franklin) are nearer 4:3. The Confederates were able to reinforce quicker than the Federals and by the time McClellan committed to regular approaches the infantry ratio was 4:3.

The question must remain was an immediate attack possible? It might have been, and McClellan actually ordered it. When Keyes reported Smith had met resistance at Lee's Mills his order to the courier bringing the news was “Ride back as fast as you can, and tell General Keyes to attack with all his force if only with the bayonet.”; he had just ordered Porter (leading the other column) “Attack with all your forces as soon as you arrive.”

However, the Confederates laid down such a wall of artillery fire that they smothered the advancing Federals, who settled down to counterbattery, and of course lost because the Confederates had works. The infantry found the approaches barricaded and covered by heavy fire.

Anyone criticising McClellan must provide a viable means of assaulting Yorktown. Personally I believe that after the failure of the navy McClellan hit upon the only viable plan - construct our own works and being up big guns to blast them out and get my infantry across the killing area. The assault was set for the 5th May, with six divisions assaulting the Yorktown fortifications above the Warwick river, but the rebels skedaddled even as the Federal assault forces were moving into their assembly areas awaiting the crossing of the LD.  However I'm open to better options....

Friday, 3 July 2015

Post-Seven Days Reinforcements for McClellan and Strength of the Army at Harrison's Landing

1. Introduction

As the Seven Days broke it dawned upon Stanton and Lincoln that McClellan's attempts to gain reinforcements might have been a good idea after all. They immediately ordered eight regiments from Shields' division, Department of the Rappahanock (then being merged into Pope's Army) to Fort Monroe and the 32nd Massachusetts from Washington was already under orders for Fort Monroe and was sent from the Dept. of Virginia to Harrisons.

Other reinforcements were ordered to Fort Monroe. Halleck refused his orders to send 25,000 (and a slimmed down request for 10,000) and in response to orders for 10,000 each to move from Hunter's and Burnside's departments 18 infantry regiments (6 from Hunter, 12 from Burnside) arrive by 15th July. Washington told McClellan to expect 41,000 reinforcements soon (ref).

Hunter's response was to send six regiments and promise another four when transports arrive, satisfying the request for "10,000" (ref); the initial six sailed on 12th July and a seventh (45th Pa.) on the 18th. Between 30th June and 31st July Hunter's "for duty" strength declined 210 officers and 5,211 men. Given sickness in round figures about 5,000 men were sent to Ft Monroe.

Burnside's 12 regiments were referred to be him as "7,000 infantry" (ref). From his 30th June to 31st July returns the Dept of NC declined by 341 officers and 7,617 men.

Thus by late July (21st when the 45th Pa. arrives) roughly 13,379 officers and men (less sick) were afloat off Fort Monroe.

2. Reinforcements That Reached McClellan

To 2nd Corps:

Kimball's Brigade (from Dept. of Rappahanock)
14th Indiana
4th Ohio
8th Ohio
7th (West) Virginia

This brigade arrived at Harrison's Landing on 4th July and was incorporated as a separate brigade into 2nd Corps.In September McClellan would add two new militia brigades to this one to make French's division that fought at Antietam.

To 4th Corps:

Ferry's Brigade (from Dept. of Rappahanock)
39th Illinois
13th Indiana
63rd Ohio
67th Ohio

This brigade arrived at Harrison's Landing on 5th July and was incorporated into Peck's Division (ex-Casey's) as a new 3rd brigade, replacing the old one broken up several weeks earlier and the regiment distributed to the remaining two brigades.

To 5th Corps:

32nd Massachusetts

This regiment was sent from the Washington defences and incorporated into Morell's Division.

3. McClellan's Strength ca. 2nd July to 10th August

Strengths are shown in table 1. In the immediate aftermath of the Seven Days McClellan had less than 50,000 infantry effectives. On that very day he estimated he didn't even have 50,000 with the Colours (ref)' he was right. In fact this may be an overestimate because a lot of men would have became separated from their units and come in during the next few days.

With the arrival of the nine reinforcing regiments (and some reorg.) McClellan's effective infantry strength swells to ca. 55,000 effectives, and whats more it stays there - equilibrium must have been reached and the camp very healthy. The minor increase is statistically caused by return of lost guns to infantry divisions. This is in direct contrast to Keyes' pleas for withdrawal (ref).

Table 1: Infantry Effectives on 2nd July (calculated by effectives 26th June - reported casualties, before any reorganisation) and on 10th July and 10th August (from OR 11(3) 312 and 367 calculated as before).

4. Effects on the Remaining Campaign

McClellan is significantly weaker in July than he was ca. 20th-26th June. In fact his infantry is about where it was before McCall's division arrived, even after the 9 extra regiments have arrived (ca. 55,000). Thus it only stands to reason an extra ca. 9,600 effectives afloat at Fort Monroe would have been useful, raising McClellan's strength to ca. 65,000 infantry effectives. Lee's returns for 20th July indicate his infantry divisions had ca. 58,579 enlisted men for duty (including artillery, est. 55-56,000 excluding the gunners)) after detaching Jackson and Ewell to the Valley (ca. 13,000 enlisted infantry for duty by August reports). This report would be "effectives" - consider that according the Jubal Early (who was lowballing the rebel strength) Lee had only 80,000 "effectives" and of course lost just over 20,000 (but gained Martin's brigade and some loose regiments, and apparently another draught of conscripts from outside Virginia).**

Thus the numbers haven't really moved. Even after detaching Jackson, Lee has roughly parity in infantry to McClellan, and superiority in late July. Partially this is because despite suffering heavier casualties Lee starts with a slightly larger army and has received more reinforcements.

If McClellan advanced Lee intended on recalling Jackson and calling in French giving him maybe some 68-69,000 effective infantry vs McClellan's 55,000. This indicates a major failure on Washington's behalf; even with Burnside's 9,600 effectives McClellan might still only have parity/ be slightly outnumbered.

This of course justifies McClellan's continual calls with 20-30,000 more effective men. That's actually a conservative estimate of what was necessary. To get ca. 2:1 advantage (like Grant had in 1864) Washington would need to do what it did in 1864 - strip the Valley and more!

5. Conclusion

The summer of 1862 was when the Confederacy was relatively at its strongest compared to the Union, and the numbers on the James reflect this. McClellan's army simply was undermanned for the task it was to undertake against the strength of the enemy. McClellan's requests for reinforcements were reasonable and militarily correct.


* Martin's brigade joined on the 5th July. Evans' and Drayton's brigades had been ordered to Lee but had not arrived before the 20th. Several additional regiments joined with the 44th Alabama and 48th Georgia being incorporated before the 20th (and counted), and the 47th and 48th Alabama***, and the 5th and 8th Florida arriving after the 20th. The listed strengths exclude French's brigade in North Carolina of ca. 1,300 effectives.

** A better way to approach this is from PFD, and with Martin and the new regiments, and deduct Seven Days casualties, giving ca. 96-100,000 PFD, then deduct the garrison of Richmond (10,000) and Jackson and Ewell (15,000) you get ca. 75,000 PFD with equates to ca. 56,000 effectives. Thus either Lee's army has severely shrunk since the Seven Days or he is reporting "effectives".

*** The 23rd July organisation chart (ref) indicates the 47th and 48th Alabama were incorporated into the 3rd brigade of Jackson's division by that date, so they may have arrived earlier but aren't counted in Lee's field return, which excludes Jackson and Ewell, plus attached cavalry etc..

Also note the following (not exhaustive) changes since the Seven Days:

16th Mississippi from "7th brigade", Ewell to Featherston's brigade, Longstreet (creating an all Mississippi bde)
2nd Virginia Heavy Artillery from Pender (as 22nd Va Bn) to Field's bde, both AP Hill
2nd Arkansas Bn consolidated with 3rd Arkansas Regt
4th Georgia transferred from Wright's Bde (Huger) to Ripley's Bde (DH Hill)
Wise's Bde incorporated into DH Hill's division as 6th Bde
 -  Wise has gained 20th Virginia and 59th Virginia, but in fact both of these were incomplete and probably actually with Wise during the Seven Days, but not numerically counted.
4th Georgia moved from Wright's Bde (Huger) to Ripley's bde (DH Hill)
48th NC from Ransom to Walker
Daniel has gained 32nd NC and 53rd NC.
Martin's bde of 4 regts (17th NC, 44th NC, 47th NC, 52nd NC) has joined
DH Hill's "unattached troops" are the 61st Virginia (6th in the OR, typo) and 13th Virginia Cav.

In summary Lee has gained since the Seven Days ended:
  1. 44th Alabama (arrived during Seven Days)
  2. 48th Georgia (arrived during Seven Days, Rafuse or his reference confuses the 48th Ga with the 52nd)
  3. 47th Alabama (join between 20th and 23rd)
  4. 48th Alabama (ditto)
  5. 20th Virginia (incomplete)
  6. 59th Virginia (incomplete)
  7. 32nd North Carolina
  8. 53rd North Carolina
  9. 17th North Carolina
  10. 44th North Carolina
  11. 47th North Carolina
  12. 52nd North Carolina
  13. 61st Virginia
  14. 13th Virginia Cavalry
With en route:
  1. 5th Florida
  2. 8th Florida 
  3. 17th South Carolina (Evans)****
  4. 18th South Carolina (ditto)
  5. 22nd South Carolina (ditto)
  6. 23rd South Carolina (ditto)
  7. Holcombe Legion (ditto)
  8. 50th Georgia (Drayton)
  9. 51st Georgia (ditto)
  10. 15th South Carolina (ditto)
  11. 3rd SC Bn (ditto)
  12. Phillips Legion (ditto)
**** Evans and Drayton joined on 28th July (ref).

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Effective Strength of the Federal Army in the Seven Days

1. Introduction

The Lost Cause spilled a lot of ink on their weakness in numbers (DH Hill summarised their arguments). Their numbers for the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days in particular are invariably their "effective strength" excluding officers and extra duty men. This will attempt to estimate Federal strength the same way as the Rebels got their 80-90,000 strength.

Taking the averages of several estimates of strength by the rebels they typically estimate their infantry at 75% of PFD, artillery at 90% of PFD and cavalry at 60% of PFD. These numbers are applied here to the Federals.

2a. Infantry Effectives

To determine infantry effectives first the 20th June 1862 return is taken and the number of enlisted PFD for each division is taken. This is converted to PFD on 26th by the methodology of Burton (-2.5% or -0.5% per day). The attached artillery is deducted at 20 men per gun to yield the number of enlisted infantrymen for duty on the 26th June. The number of "extra duty" men is estimated at 25% of PFD and thus deducted, yielding ca. 63,000 "effectives" (table 1).

Taking other measures give slightly larger numbers. Including officers (rather than adding separately as in 2d) would give ca. 66,000, and decreasing the extra duty to 20% gives ca. 67,300 without officers (70,500 with).

Table 1: Number of Effective Infantry Present on 26th June 1862 (Click to Expand)

 2b. Artillery Effectives

It is assumed that the artillery has only 10% extra duty men.
Table 2: Number of Artillery Effectives on 26th June 1862

2c. Cavalry Effectives

The cavalry has a larger extra duty element than the infantry, and effectives are rated at 60% of PFD.

Table 3: Number of Cavalry Effectives on 26th June 1862

2d. Total Effectives

The result of tables 1-3 plus officers (at 97.5% of PFD on 20th June) is summarised in table 4.
Table 4:  Number of Effectives on 26th June, Officers Added

3. Conclusions

The late Joseph Harsh estimated 70,000 Federal effectives if the Confederates had about 80,000 effectives as they claimed. Since the rebel estimates typically exclude officers (and some of their artillery) then doing the same for the Federals indeed is around 70,000.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The strength an organisation of the Department of Virginia - June 1862

Over on Prof. Brooks D. Simpson's blog Mr. J.F. Esq. (not a doctor) has made an interesting, but confused post about McClellan's reinforcements around the time of the Seven Days. I thought I'd do some digging, and found that no-one knows the organisation of Dix's command. Here's the findings in rough form.

1. Strength and Organisation of the Department of Virginia and Reinforcements for the Army of the Potomac

Any fool can turn to the OR compiled returns for the 20th June 1862 and point to Dix's department and say "there's another division". Of course to do so reveals a certain lack of knowledge and understanding.

When the Department was transferred back to McClellan's command in early June the first thing McClellan did was levy it for every available disposable regiment (and got a few from Washington and Baltimore). Thus twelve regiments were transferred thus:

From Department of Virginia directly:

20th Ind. - to Hooker
16th Mass. - to Kearny
29th Mass. - to Richardson
1st Mich. - to Morell
1st NY - to Kearny
2nd NY - to Hooker
7th NY - to Richardson
10th NY - to Sykes
20th NY - to Smith

From Baltimore and Washington:
2nd Delaware - to Richardson
101st NY - to Kearny
99th Penn. - to Kearny

Incidently, Jubal Early stated this never happened, so of course it did. (ref) The increases in McClellan's strength after Fair Oaks are obvious in increases in the grand aggregate of McClellan's infantry from the 31st May to 20th June returns thus:

2nd Corps: + 2,049 (3 regts)
3rd Corps: + 4,192 (6 regts)
4th Corps: - 190 (no new regts, this represents wastage)
5th Corps: + 654 (2 regts, but the 1st CT heavy arty shifts category taking 6-700 over to artillery)
6th Corps: +666 (1 regt)

Additionally the 11th NY of the Dept of Va was done year regiment and returned home to muster out in this time, removing 10 infantry regiments in total of the Dept of Va. As compensation six regiments were sent to Dix:

3rd NY - from Baltimore
4th NY - from Baltimore
8th NY State Militia - newly embodied
13th NY State Militia - from Baltimore (3 months militia)
25th NY State Militia - new embodied 3 months militia (6 coys only)
19th Wisc. - newly raised

When McClellan was given authority over the Dept of Va he extended it to include Yorktown, Gloucester and Williamsburg, giving Dix the garrisons of those places (such as the "Infans Perdu" battalion). Thus with his existing regiments Dix felt himself very undermanned, giving his breakdown of forces (in aggregate present and absent) thus on the 26th June (ref, I'll include regiments):

* Fort Monroe: 300 artillery "armed only with sabres" (2nd and 4th Wisconsin Batteries), 222  infantry (a few companies of 99th NY)
* Camp Hamilton and Hampton: 1,819 infantry (5th Maryland and the rest of 99th NY) and 90 cavalry (a coy of 11th Pa. Cav.)
* Ft Wool and Sewell's Point: 254 infantry (a few coys of 99th NY)
* Norfolk and Portsmouth: 2,254 infantry (1st Delaware, 19th Wisconsin and 58th Pa.), 309 mounted rifles (1st NY Mounted Rifles) and 80 artillery (Bty D, 4th US)
* Suffolk: 2,769 infantry (13th NYSM, 25th NYSM, 3rd NY and 4th NY), 134 artillery (Bty L, 4th US), 412 cavalry (a battalion of the 11th Pa. Cav.)
* Yorktown and Gloucester: 1,319 infantry (8th NYSM and NY Independent Bn "Enfans Perdu") and 355 cavalry (3 coys of 11th Pa. Cav.)
* Williamsburg: 466 cavalry (battalion of 11th Pa. Cav.)
* Newport News: 84 cavalry and 144 artillery (7th Mass. Bty)

Hence despite losing ten regiments, Dix's grand aggregate only went down by ca. 3,000 due to the gaining of six regiments, a battalion, and possibly some of McClellan's cavalry.

2. Is this a "spare division" McClellan could have used?

Short answer - no.

Dix's command had very little in the way of a disposable force that could have been sent to aid McClellan. His only contribution was to send company I, 99th NY on a steamer that got ground (see the commanders report).

Perhaps Dix could have formed a brigade out of his four reliable regiments (1st Del., 3rd NY, 4th NY and 58th Pa.) but there was no transport available on the river (McClellan called in all transport to move supplies from the Pamunkey to the James), and indeed nowhere to go except White House Landing which is being evacuated. So that's a no-go.

Maybe they can march up the Peninsula, but then they need to be shipped across the James River and then march some 80 miles to reach McClellan's army. Not exactly a rapid reinforcement is it?

Indeed consider the consequences of effectively abandoning Norfolk and Suffolk when the Confederates still have a couple of brigades in NC spare to retake them that Lee kept out of the Seven Days and so aren't ever counted (that's French's brigade and Martin's Brigade). Dix's concerns for the position he'd been put in by the ill-considered occupation of Norfolk weren't baseless.

3. Conclusions

Apart from incomplete orbats that have been filled in, this article basically concludes that obviously a bunch of tied down troops 80 miles from Richmond with no way of getting there could only be counted as "available to McClellan" by someone with incomplete understanding. Even Jubal Early (op. cit.) refrained from such an obviously silly argument. Hence my continual amazement at finding old Jube a more impartial commentator than some alive two centuries later. Next up, old Jube on "effectives" and making an "apple-apple" comparison using old Jube as one of the apples!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Pinkerton's Numbers according to Steven H. Newton

 The following is extracted from Steven Newton's "The Battle of Seven Pines" (pgs 15-16). It is as incisive as I expect Newton to be and deserves a wider reading. I enclose a few notes:

Oddly enough, for such a naturally cautious man, McClellan seemed insensitive to the risks he ran. On May 26 a storm drenched both armies, turned the roads into bottomless pits of mud, and threatened to wash away the few bridges spanning the Chickahominy. "Richmond papers urge Johnston to attack, now [that] he has us away from the gunboats," McClellan wired Stanton, appending calmly: "I think he is too able for that." This would have been an astounding conviction coming from any general whose divisions straddled a flood-swollen river in the presence of an undefeated enemy, but from McClellan it beggars belief. How could McClellan, who has gone down in history for his ability to overestimate the size of Confederate armies, have been so sanguine in his belief that Johnston was "too able" a general to attack an army divided into non-supporting fragments?

The explanation is painfully simple: what McClellan told his superiors he believed is not what he really thought. The general did not, in his own calculations, credit Johnston with nearly twice his own numbers. He was not misled by Allan Pinkerton (alias Major E. J. Allen) feeding him inflated estimates of Rebel troop strength which were accepted as if carved in stone. On the contrary, McClellan had very good intelligence which eh [sic] used quite cynically to prod the Lincoln administration for reinforcements.

"Little Mac's" spurious accounting began with his own strength reports. He kept his official record of his numbers low by a variety of devices: omitting officers and discounting troops available for front line duty but temporarily on special duty were his two mainstays. McClellan managed to maintain the fiction throughout April and May that his army usually contained less than 100,000 men. Of these he contended fewer than 89,000 were infantry carrying muskets into the line of battle. As biographer Stephen Sears has pointed out, "there was nothing really wrong with this way, except" and these were very large exceptions, "his obstinate refusal to explain what he was doing" and the fact "he was guilty of deliberate slight-of-hand by not counting the enemy army the same way he counted his own."

[Indeed McClellan did take his combat strength excluding officers and minus 1/6th of his infantry etc. who were detached to the logistics - if one uses McClellan's 20th May '62 return one finds 91,346 men PFD  in the infantry corps, cavalry reserve and advance guard - the fighting part of the army. Converted to combat effectives this would yield a force of ca. 76,000, approximate parity or perhaps even moderately outnumbered by the enemy army. Newton is thus in error in suggesting McClellan was excluding officers etc., but he is parroting Sears. Sears is equally incorrect, but parroting an article by Irwin in Battles and Leaders (link) - Irwin compares McClellan's statement of numbers of combatants with the aggregate present of all units including non-combat units. McClellan was not stripping down "duty men" in his claim, but using the PFD of his combat units.

Also Lincoln at this point started a dialogue with McClellan where he started using McClellan's "aggregate present and absent", which is also the strength category many authors use for McClellan's movement onto the Peninsula. By this measure McClellan had 128,864 officers and men, including non-combatants and those physically absent; Johnston has a similar number in this category being 125,143 the month before, excluding reinforcements received.]

Union intelligence officers made their guesses of Confederate strength by penetrating the commissary department of Johnston's army. This resulting in two distinct pieces of data: numbers of regiments and numbers of troops. In both cases, Pinkerton's estimates were far more accurate than has heretofore been admitted. He asserted on May 3 and again on June 26 that Johnston's army at Yorktown contained "the following-named organization: Twenty-two brigades, ninety-one regiments, three legions, two battalions infantry, five battalions artillery, sixteen companies artillery, and two companies infantry," which amounted to 100-120,000 men. "Now the only trouble with this," contended historian Bruce Catton, "was that Johnston at the time had barely 50,000 men on the peninsula," and that assertion, butressed by Douglas Southall Freeman, Clifford Dowdey and others, has left a lasting impression that Pinkerton's reports were purely flights of fancy.

In fact, Pinkerton had been uncannily accurate. While Johnston's own reports are confusing enough to make it difficult to separate his artillery out into battalions, the detective got everything else correct. Within three days of Pinkerton's first estimate, Johnston reported that his army possessed twenty-two brigades of infantry and cavalry (exactly Pinkerton's estimate), ninety-three regiments of infantry, cavalry or militia (against an estimate of ninety-one) and seven independent infantry or cavalry formations (again, exactly the estimate).

So, granting that Pinkerton got the organization of the Confederate army almost perfect, how did he manage to inflate the Rebel troops from Johnston's stated estimate of 55,633 to more than 100,000? In actuality he did nothing of the sort. Johnston's report involved the same kind of ersatz numbers as did McClellan's. [sic, see my comments above] He desired reinforcements as badly as his counterpart, and distrusted his superiors almost as much. So Johnston sent all his reports to Richmond in "effectives," which represented only the total available armed enlisted strength of the army, not the ration strength or "aggregate present" that Pinkerton was counting. Worse still, it can be easily shown that Johnston undercounted even those. At the end of May, Johnston's army contained at least 72,239 officers and men "Present for Duty." But "Present for Duty" strength was still far less than "Aggregate Present" which included soldiers in hospitals, under arrest, and detailed to non-combatant jobs [only "extra duty", not "special duty"]. Pinkerton himself alluded to this, when he cautioned McClellan that, while Southern regiments were organized with 1,000 men, "the regiments will not average over 700...." Despite everything McClellan wrote his superiors, he knew that Johnston's army in [sic] the peninsula could not have exceeded 75,000 officers and men, if measured in the fashion he calculated his own strength.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

An Interview with Prof. Joseph Harsh from 1995

The follow was an interview with Prof. Joseph Harsh by Prof. William J. Miller that appeared in Civil War in 1995.

M(iller): Was George B. McClellan a good general?
H(arsh): A cream-puff question. He was a competent general who could have won the Civil War for the North.
M: Could have? What did that depend on?
H: It depended on more patience, more support, more understanding by the Lincoln Administration and to a lesser extent the Northern public.
M: More patience? Some might say that it would have taken extraordinary patience for anyone to have had more patience with McClellan’s interminable preparations through the winter of 1861 and into the spring of 1862.
H: I’ve heard that said, and I don’t understand it.
M: (laughter) You’re teasing me. Come on now, he was working on building his army from August ’61 to March ’62 and he still didn’t feel he was finished. He was obsessive about preparations.
H: We’re talking about preparing to fight a major war of invasion and conquest. We’re talking about raising and training a volunteer army. We’re talking about mobilising the economy and industry of the North. How anyone could have expected this to happen much more quickly than it did escapes me. Yet, you’re quite right, of course. That McClellan was a meticulous perfectionist taking too much time to plan was a common criticism by the press at the time, and we have picked it up and carried it without really examining it.
M: Permit me to play devil’s advocate. Wouldn’t it have been possible to have done all those things – raising and training a volunteer army, planning a war of invasion and conquest – more quickly, given that the South was at least as unprepared for war? Couldn’t McClellan have tried to bring things to a head in the fall of 1861 or even early winter?
H: I think that thesis – that it was possible with a very quick movement to defeat the Confederacy in such a way that would demoralize Southerners and win the war – was tested and found wanting at First Bull Run. The lesson of First Bull Run was that the determination of the South was such that it was going to take a very large effort by the North to win the war. The North was going to have to conquer the South. Virtually everyone seemed to learn that lesson on July 21, 1861, and to acknowledge it for several months. By November 1861, though, the politicians and editors began to forget. I think that is one of the difficulties McClellan encountered. One of the things I will attempt to do in my companion volume, which will be on McClellan and Northern strategy through the Maryland Campaign, is to examine this question of the rise of impatience and the loss of confidence in McClellan over the winter of 1861-1862.
M: He was admired as a hero in August 1861 when he came to Washington. When did public opinion begin to go against him?
H: Late November 1861. I think the defeat at Ball’s Bluff in October helped increase public impatience. I don’t blame the Northern people because one of the things that McClellan had done, in a very salutary fashion, was to clamp censorship on the press, and the people weren’t getting the kind of detailed information they had been before. I remind you that when the phrase “All quiet on the Potomac” appeared, it was welcomed by Northern newspapers because of the fear for the loss of Washington.
M: And “All quiet on the Potomac” became a phrase used to mock the Army of the Potomac’s idleness.
H: Exactly.
M: You said McClellan could have won the war for the North had he been allowed to go the way he deemed best. What was his plan?
H: What did the North wish to accomplish? War aims determine what a country wishes to achieve and how it defines victory. War aims also determine, to some extent, the strategy that the nation employs.
The North’s war aims for the first year and a half were not the destruction of the South but the coercion of a recalcitrant sister back into the family. This was what we today would call a limited war, or war of pacification – and the word “pacification” was used during the Civil War. The term was primarily conciliatory. McClellan understood this from the beginning. When he arrived in Washington in summer 1861 and Lincoln asked him for his strategy, McClellan sat down and devised one. He presented it to the President, but Lincoln never told him whether the Administration would adopt this conservative plan for a limited war. No one told McClellan what he should do. He believed the North had to have a plan; it didn’t have one, so he began implementing his own. I have referred to this as the Strategy of Overwhelming. McClellan never gave it a name, but he repeatedly used the word “overwhelming” in describing his strategy.
M: What did it entail?
H: Simply put, it involved the North raising a force adequate to the task. Since there was something like four-to-one odds in favour of the North according to the 1860 census, McClellan wanted something approaching those odds in the field. It was McClellan’s view that the more men that he had, the fewer he would lose and the more he would overawe the enemy.
That was the military side of it. There was a political side as well. McClellan recommended leniency toward the South. Now, put these military and political policies together and we have a war strategy that sends a strong message to the South: It is foolhardy on one hand to resist because the Northern armies are so powerful but easy to return to allegiance on the other. This is not an unmodern strategy.
M: Was the Peninsula Campaign an attempt to enact this strategy?
H: It was a grotesque distortion of it. All the limbs had been chopped off. You must remember that by began the Peninsula Campaign, he knew that he would not have the kind of odds that would allow his Strategy of Overwhelming to work properly.
M: He took an army of about 100,000 men to the Peninsula initially. How many did he want to take?
H: Probably about 150,000 present for duty.
M: Once he gets to the Peninsula with this 100,000-man army, he learns he will not get other troops that he had planned upon?
H: Yes. At no time during the Peninsula Campaign did he have more than 101,000 men present for duty. He was no longer general-in-chief, no longer in command of the other forces across the continent that, according to his strategy, were to pressure the Confederates elsewhere.
M: Let’s go back and be sure we’ve emphasised that point. The Strategy of Overwhelming was a nationwide war strategy from beyond the Mississippi to the Atlantic coast.
H: And to the Gulf. Exactly.
M: And all the Union armies were to be moving together in a concerted effort. But when McClellan embarked on the Peninsula Campaign, the Union army’s efforts were in no way coordinated.
H: They were not because McClellan was no longer general-in-chief of all the armies. Lincoln certainly had a right to remove McClellan as general-in-chief, and we could argue about whether he was the right man to be general-in-chief.
What I think is inarguable, though, is that it was a mistake not to replace McClellan with someone as general-in-chief. Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton would try until mid-July 1862 to run the war themselves.
M: Why did Lincoln, in March 1862, remove McClellan as general-in-chief? Why did he reject McClellan’s national strategy when he himself did not have one, and no one else did either?
H: I don’t have an answer for that. I do suspect, however, that Lincoln was bowing to political pressure. I am not sure that Lincoln wasn’t a much weaker President than he’s generally considered. I do not think he led public opinion in the North, but instead frequently caved in to it. Nor was he good at distinguishing what popular opinion really was. Sometimes, I think, he gauged public opinion simply by listening to Washington politicians who made the loudest noise.
M: And this, you believe, continued into the Peninsula Campaign?
H: Yes. In April 1862, after the Siege of Yorktown had begun, the Congressional Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was in full swing investigating everything McClellan did almost as soon as he did it. This is extraordinary: A Congressional committee investigating an army commander as his troops are going under fire.
M: So McClellan’s plan for the national strategy falls by the wayside, but goes to the Peninsula hoping to enact at least a small portion of his plan for overwhelming the Confederate defenders. Why did he think an army of 150,000 was necessary to take Richmond. Did he really believe the Confederate army defending Richmond was as large as he reported it to be – 150,000 to 200,000?
H: I don’t know what he believed, and I don’t know that I will until after I’m into my research for this next book, after I have lived at McClellan’s headquarters the way I’ve just finished living at Lee’s headquarters. I don’t know whether I am comfortable with how much he believed those reports himself and how much he was willing to use these figures in order to impress upon the Administration that he needed more men. He passed on raw intelligence reports that the Administration wouldn’t be able to analyse properly in Washington.
M: There is some question in your mind whether McClellan believed these reports that told him of 180,000 or 200,000 Confederates opposing him?
 H: I believe we can doubt that he believed the more outrageous ones, the 200,000. I think he probably did believe that Lee had an army at least equal in size to his own, perhaps a little larger. I think he probably did believe that Lee numbered perhaps 120,000. And you must remember that beginning in June 1 or somewhat earlier the Confederate government began concentrating forces in the Richmond area.
M: Sure. That continued that month. Let me focus for a minute on the spectre of disingenuousness of taking a raw intelligence figure that perhaps he didn’t believe and sending it to Washington as something genuine…
H: If he did that.
M: He certainly mentioned figures like that to Lincoln.
H: But we can’t say he did not believe them. If we could determine that he did not believe these figures, which I’m not sure we can, and yet he sent them on to Lincoln and Stanton anyway, then we could probably make a case for McClellan being the prototype of a Washington bureaucrat. You know how those fellows defend themselves: “Hey, I didn’t say it, I’m just passing on the intelligence reports.”
M: (laughter) You’re saying he was a 19th-century spin doctor?
H: I’ve got to emphasise that I am not sure he did pass along these accounts without believing them.
M: I know. You’ve been clear about that. Let’s shift gears. Why have historians had so much trouble with George McClellan? Almost everyone who has considered him, from T. Harry Williams 30 years ago up to the present, has been very critical of him.
H: McClellan was not always the whipping boy that he has become in the last 30 or 40 years.  For a long time, there was a genuine debate on McClellan, with a fair number of people giving him a great deal of credit beyond simply recognising that he was a good organiser. Harry Williams’s first book grew out of his doctoral dissertation “Lincoln and the Radicals.” You will find a relatively fair appraisal of George McClellan, including a statement that McClellan could have won the war if the politicians had let him alone.
M: He changed his views 180 degrees in his later books.
H: But there is at least one other reason that McClellan has fallen into such disfavour with historians. The Civil War is a great national event. Americans have used it and are still using it to define ourselves. It is our great national drama, like a Greek drama, and just as the Greek people knew when they went to the amphitheatre, the roles that Agamemnon and Hector and Achilles and all the others were to play, and just as they expected the drama to be played in the fashion they knew, so we come to the Civil War with similar expectations and preconceptions. This is particularly true of respected characters like Lee and Lincoln. You cannot, in most cases, say good things about McClellan without saying bad things about Lincoln.
M: James Longstreet discovered that principle after the war, when he tried to promote himself at Lee’s expense.
H: Exactly. And scholarship with perhaps stand for non-traditional characterisations, but publishers want to sell books, which means getting right with the national icon Lincoln. Getting right with Lincoln means you’ve got to put some other people down. Many people have suffered from this Lincoln mystique. I’d say, for example, that Jefferson Davis was a better wartime president than Lincoln, a statement absolutely heretical the vast majority of people interested in the Civil War.
M: Wouldn’t  a growing number of people though, agree with  your assessment?
H: The point is, many characters in the drama have to interact with Lincoln, and current popular interpretation requires Lincoln to look good. It’s a seesaw. One character cannot be up without the other being down. It’s too bad we have to look at things that way. And certainly no one is more permanently on that seesaw than McClellan.
M: But McClellan does not seem unlikeable only by comparison. What of the letters in his memoirs that reveal a man who is petulant, childish in some ways, impatient, even spoiled? Those letters make it difficult for us to like McClellan in his own right, regardless of where he stands in relation to anyone else.
H: I’m glad you asked that question because the letters are at or near the heart of the negative impression that has persisted about McClellan.
M: They are not flattering.
H: I disagree. First of all, the letters have been extensively quoted. I think they have not been extensively read. I think it’s easy to pick quotations that make readers suck in their breath in horror that anyone could not be in awe of Abraham Lincoln. I view the letters as revealing someone who is essentially admirable.
M: Pardon me? You’re kidding.
H: They are in effect a diary. His relationship with his wife Ellen was so close that those letters to her are almost stream-of-consciousness. The events flow over him, and he reacts immediately, as in a diary. That’s how they have to be read. Keeping a diary is a form of therapy. When you read these letters in that fashion you see a man under tremendous pressure, you can see them in a different light. And he was young, relatively inexperienced.
M: Do you think this youth had more to do with his ultimate failure than perhaps has been considered? He was 35 on the Peninsula; he was relieved of command before his 36th birthday.
H: I don’t think so. Grant and several others have made an important point. McClellan’s difficulties might not have been so directly related to his youth as to his sudden elevation to command. McClellan didn’t have the chance to work his way up the chain of command.
M: Right. Many of the commanders that we view as successful – Meade, Grant and Sherman for example – grew into army command. They came up through brigade, divisional and corps command.
H: If some of those men had had their careers chopped off after a year and a half, they wouldn’t have been very outstanding. In fact Grant wouldn’t have been outstanding at all.
M: Sherman either.
H: Absolutely. McClellan could have been 54 rather than 34 and still have been suddenly elevated to army command. So the earliness rather than the youth is a factor. When considered in that light, I think McClellan did extraordinarily well. He was the first of the West Point professionals to have to fight a real war. When one considers what he was able to do in terms of organisation, strategy – I won’t include battle tactics – but strategy and logistics, I think he did very well.
M: Have historians treated McClellan fairly?
H: No. We have been wearing blinders by focusing on individuals rather than on broader questions of the forces at work – like mobilisation, like support from the President in statements asking the North to be patient. Lincoln could have done that. I have never found a statement by Lincoln urging public support for McClellan.
M: Was George McClellan mentally, psychologically or emotionally unbalanced?
H: No. I think he underwent periods of nervous fatigue. There are people who simply are not suited for the intense pressure he felt. Nobody could have known this before the war. They certainly didn’t get tested – there were no psychological profiles. Look at P.G.T. Beauregard, who was forced to take a leave with what was virtually a nervous breakdown at Corinth. Look at G.W. Smith, look at William Sherman early in the war who perhaps underwent the same thing. I think there were periods, one of which was during the Seven Days, when McClellan went for some 72 hours without sleep. But all this aside, I don’t think he was unbalanced in any of the ways you mentioned.
M: When historians consider McClellan they tend to focus on what?
H: His personality.
M: As opposed to?
H: Lincoln’s. That’s the problem.
M: (laughter) Is that the whole problem? If we both Lincoln and McClellan on the table, stripping all else aside, do you think we would come up with a much fairer view of McClellan?
H: No, I don’t. We are getting back to the role that Lincoln has assumed in popular mythology. If we wish to consider fairly George McClellan as a general and a man, we should not be holding him up beside Lincoln.
M: What should we be looking at when we consider McClellan?
H: We should be looking at his ideas and the circumstances under which he formed them. We need to ponder the larger questions about war aims, what the North was trying to accomplish with how much mobilisation. The war took four years because the North did not at first try to mobilise its tremendous power. Instead, it mobilised piecemeal, dragging it out over four years. For whatever other fault he may have had, Lincoln at least was very persistent and was willing to continue to go back to the well again and again for more resources. What McClellan had asked from the beginning was “Let’s make a reasonable draft on the resources of the country at the beginning and make this a relatively short and less bloody war” Lincoln was not willing to try that, and we know the result of that decision. Things might have ended far sooner and more favourably for both North and South had Lincoln adopted McClellan’s plans in 1861.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Joseph Glatthaar's Paranoid McClellan Part 1

If one reads Joseph Glatthaar's "Partners in Command" one comes across a very strange appendix entitled "McClellan's Tragic Flaws in Light of Modern Psychology". It is mostly idle speculation with no real evidence and no analysis made by someone utterly unqualified in the field he is dabbling. Let us explored his evidence.

 1. The Temerity of a Second Lieutenant

Towards the end of the appendix he present what he thinks is his killer piece of evidence. When "second lieutenant" McClellan was stationed at the USMA in the early 1850's he had the temerity to write to "brigadier-general" Totten about his position. The ranks are deliberately in quotes, as those are the ranks Glatthaar used.

To Glatthaar the arrogance of a mere 2Lt writing to a BG is damning enough he feels no need to perform any analysis. I am a scientist by profession, and I do look for evidence and analyse it. In this case I went to the 1850 Army Register and looked at the USMA entry:

One notes the ranks and positions. McClellan is a brevet Captain* and an assistant-instructor under Capt GW Cullum and the second ranking officer in Company A, U.S. Engineers (the only formed engineer company in the whole U.S. Army). Totten is is a Brevet Brigadier-General and is inspector of the USMA.

Now in 1850 Cullum took a two year leave of absence and went to Europe. No-one was appointed to replace him in Coy A or at the USMA. Being the military his chief subordinate "steps up" and Bvt Capt McClellan found himself acting company commander and the acting instructor of practical engineeering, one of the most important positions at the USMA.

Glatthaar seizes on a situation that here developed where Capt. Brewerton decided to deny Bvt Capt McClellan the right to requisition resources his acting position should have allowed him too. Now, Brewerton is McClellan's immediate superior (his "1 up"), and what do you do when disputes of this nature develop? You send it up another level to Brewerton's superior (McClellan's "2-up"), and that is Bvt Brig. Gen. Totten. Hence in fact writing to Totten is the right thing to do, both practically and according to military protocol.

One must wonder why Glatthaar felt the need to not be consistent (or correct) in his use of ranks. One suspects that the perceptual difference between second lieutenant and captain was too big a lure for his preordained conclusions, following a line of reasoning Rowland calls "specious". 

* Note that the USMA is not a regiment, and hence rank in the army rather than rank in the regiment is correct. In the army McClellan was a captain, and would have been a major except he refused a promotion based on the fact he believed he did not deserve it. Even Ethan Rafuse in a lecture I recently watched of his got the nature of the brevet wrong. It is not "honorary" rank, it is rank in the army greater than that in ones regiment, and is "real" rank.

2. The "squabble" with Rev. Samuel W. Crawford

Glatthaar makes some hay with the fact that McClellan "had a squabble with his teacher" and "claimed fifty years later to be blameless". This is from Sears' "George B. McClellan" (pg 4) as is most of the evidence, and used in the same manner.

Sears of course gives context. Crawford tried to whip McClellan and McClellan defended himself and defeated Crawford. How this is supposed to be evidence of problems with superiors is beyond me. It is more indicative of a strong and courageous young boy who has the courage to stand up for himself rather than meekly be beaten. In fact this is an important aspect of his character we'll come back too.

3. Second in his class

Glatthaar, using Sears as a reference says McClellan was aggrieved to coming second in his class. Glatthaar moves on, but Sears' evidence is this line from a letter reading:

" I must confess that I have malice enough to want to show them that if I did not graduate head of my class, I can nevertheless do something."

Sears and Glatthaar see this as evidence McClellan feels cheated out of his rightful place. Myers gives a larger extract:

"I am the only one of my class (of those who entered the Engineers) who is to go to Mexico, and I must confess that I have malice enough to want to show them that if I did not graduate head of my class, I can nevertheless do something."

Which completely changes the context and meaning. Here McClellan is disappointed to have been pipped at the post, but is happy he will get to go on active service and prove himself. The first four cadets got commissioned in the Corps of Engineers, and their class rank became literal, as the seniority of these four was in that order. The difference of one place could mean the difference of years to obtain a Captaincy (although the three members of the class still in the engineers in 1860 were all promoted to Captain together that year). The class leader, Charles Seaforth Steward, and the third and fourth placed officers (Charles E. Blunt and John G. Foster) got the much desired fortress assignments on the Atlantic coast. McClellan alone asks for a combat deployment, and is assigned as the junior company officer of the newly forming "Company A", US Engineers.

There probably is annoyance here, but McClellan takes it as a challenge to prove himself more than his three rivals, and goes to war whilst his former competition goes off to balls and drinks champagne.