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.


Friday, 6 February 2015

Hacking the Union Army for a Trent Counterfactual

Recently I've become interested in looking at Union Army deployments in the spring of 1862 with regards to a counterfactual with the US invading Canada over the Trent Affair. On examination the Union Army can really be stated to be about 39 infantry "divisions" counting the Washington garrison organised thus:

Eastern Theatre

MG George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac - 14 divisions
(two generals in this army, McDowell and Banks have the rank of MG in spring '62)

After Corps formed the organisation is:

        1st Corps - MG McDowell
        BG Franklin's Division
        BG McCall's Division (Pennsylvania Reserve Corps)
        BG King's Division (McDowell's division before corps formed)

        2nd Corps - BG Sumner
        BG Richardson (Sumner's division before corps formed, OTL was offered to Kearny, but he refused because he wanted to be promoted to command the division he had a brigade in)
        BG Sedgwick (was the Corps of Observation in the Shenandoah, i.e. Stone's Division put he was arrested)
        BG Blenker ("The German Division")

        3rd Corps - BG Heintzelman
        BG FJ Porter
        BG Hooker (was the observation force on the lower Potomac)
        BG Hamilton (was Heintzelman's, Hamilton was fired for ridiculous incompetence in April)

        4th Corps - BG Keyes
        BG Couch (was Keyes' division)
        BG William F. Smith
        BG Casey (this was the provisional training division and had all the new recruits and wasn't fully equipped until May, it fell apart quite badly on the Peninsula)

        5th Corps - MG Banks (left in the Shenandoah)
        BG Adelphus S. Williams (was Banks' division)
        BG Shields

In the east there are also 4 more static "divisions" used to garrison vital points:

Garrison of Washington (BG Wadsworth with two divisions worth)
        (In May-August '62 the USG stripped the defences to create a reserve division under BG Whipple)

Garrison of Baltimore and Annapolis
        MG John Dix's Division

Garrison of Fort Monroe
        MG John Wool's Division (Wool was very awkward, being the second highest ranking general in the army before the war. Lincoln specifically excluded Wool from McClellan's authority, and Wool expected a higher command)

There are also three expeditionary divisions in the east:

        MG Burnside's Coastal Division of the Army of the Potomac (this was always seen as a AoP division upto April '62, in a Trent scenario it's likely they were not sent to NC)
        BG TW Sherman's Division (around Port Royal)
        MG Ben. Butler's Division (still in New England in March '62)

The District of West Virginia (BG Rosecrans) is strictly speaking part of the Department of the Ohio until Fremont is appoint there, but for completeness there are two divisions worth of troops:

        BG Rosecrans's Division (not truly a division, but a division's worth of troops in the Cheat Mountain valley etc.)
        BG Cox's Kanawha Division (in the Kanawha valley)

Western Theatre

By March '62 MG Halleck had wangled complete control of the west, and his army consisted of the following:

Army of West Tennessee (MG US Grant*)
        MG McClernand's Division*
        MG Charles F. Smith's Division*
        BG Lew Wallace's Division
        BG Hurlbut's Division
        BG WT Sherman's Division (was the district of Paducah)
        BG McKean's Division (was under BG Schofield at St. Louis in early March, could easily be Schofield's division ATL)

Army of the Ohio (MG Buell*)
        BG George Thomas's Division
        BG McCook's Division
        BG Mitchel's Division
        BG Nelson's Division
        BG Crittenden's Division
        BG TJ Wood's Division
        BG George W. Morgan's Division

Army of the Mississippi (MG John Pope*)
        BG EA Paine's Division
        BG DS Stanley's Division
        BG Schuyler's Division

* All these officers were promoted MG in February-March due to their frontier campaigns that would not have necessarily happened.

In Event of War with Britain....

The question of how these forces would be reorganised in the event of a war with Britain (and France) is interesting.

Firstly the expeditionary forces of Butler and Burnside might not make their expeditions. Indeed in the event of a January or February war they're the obvious reserve to sent to the Canadian border. TW Sherman's division might not be able to be withdrawn in time and likely has to surrender when the USN can't supply them. The same probably happens to Wool's division at Fort Monroe.

It is obvious that the planned offensives against Corinth and Richmond are probably no longer viable, as the USG needs to pull divisions to defend their coastal cities and harbours, and the frontier even if they don't plan to invade, thus:

Philadelphia: 1 division (and ideally another for the Delaware peninsula)
New York: 2 divisions (one in NY city and one on Long Island)
Boston: 1 division (and ideally another for Portsmouth etc.)
Portland: 1 division
Detroit: 1 division
Cleveland or Pittsburg: 1 division (maybe 1 each)
Buffalo: 1 division
Rochester and Syracuse: 1 division (maybe 1 each)
Plattsburg (or Saratoga if Plattsburg lost): 1 division

Immediately 10 divisions (but better 14), about a quarter (or a third) of the Union forces are needed just to stop cheap raiding by British forces. These must come from existing formations as new recruiting will take time, or the US must accept the loss of these places.

Two of these divisions can come from Burnside and Butler. The other eight must come from the big field armies. Looking at the Army of the Potomac, they need to keep 2-3 divisions as an "Army of the Shenandoah" in place, Hooker's division on the lower Potomac and the division at Alexandria in place. It then needs a sufficient force to hold the rebels on the Rappahannock. This would be about eight divisions. This leaves one division spare after holding a strict defensive, say Blenker's Germans who can garrison one point.

Thus we must turn to the west and look for nine divisions to be withdrawn just to maintain a defensive. This is more feasible due to a weaker CS Army. The immediately obvious formation to withdraw is Pope's 3 divisions as Mississippi operations are a done deal. Then turning to Grant he can probably maintain a defensive position with a division each at St. Louis, Paducah and Fort Donelson and free up 3 divisions. This leaves the Army of the Ohio to give up 3 divisions which it can do and maintain a defensive.

Thus the need to shuffle divisions to meet the new threat of the British has essentially denuded the Union of their offensive concentrations. If the Union wishes to make an offensive it must "rob Peter to pay Paul" and open themselves to a counterstroke somewhere.

The Effect on the Confederate Army

The CSA is suddenly freed from needing to keep large forces defending their coastal cities in the same manner as the USA needs to do such. In the east with Magruder, Huger and the forces in the Carolinas and Georgia 102,259 (aggregate present and absent) are freed up from holding down Union incursions and gives the Confederates over 200,000 (AP&A) against Washington, which translates to about 150,000 effectives.

In the west, including 20,000 Texans the Confederates now have 178,964 (AP&A) which means they can at least double their major offensive thrust against Halleck to over 100,000 effectives.

One must ask if the mere fact of the British becoming hostile and the Union having to shift forces to meet it might weaken the Federal position so much the Confederates alone can score a win....

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Antietam - McClellan's Options on the 18th

The above map is the positions (roughly) of the two armies at the end of the 17th. The only change Lee made on the night of the 18th was to pull back DH Hill's division and solidify his centre along the Hagerstown Road. Approximate effective infantry and cavalry strengths have been added using Carman's figures (with strengths filled in for units it is not reported) and an estimate of Federal straggling based upon observations of the First Army Corps. Confederate cavalry may be overestimated, but the 6,000 infantry stragglers who rejoined Lee on the night of the 17th-18th are not included.

McClellan shifted Morell to reinforce Burnside on the proviso this was a temporary reinforcement to support him if he were attacked. Burnside used the division to relieve his battleline, putting it west of the Antietam and thus stymieing any thoughts McClellan had about using them in the centre. Couch's division (maybe 5,000 effective infantry) arrived midmorning on the 18th, and was sent to Franklin, where two brigades formed left of Slocum, and another relieved Irwin's Brigade of Smith. Finally Humphreys arrived with his exhausted raw recruits (at most 5,000, and probably less) which McClellan used to try and wrestle Morell back from Burnside - and Burnside promptly put them into his reserve and didn't send Morell back!

With all this in mind, and with many of McClellan's Corps commanders objecting to renewing attack, especially Burnside and Sumner, what was McClellan supposed to do? The only option I can see, given his situation, is to launch an afternoon attack by Franklin on the Dunker Church again. If McClellan manages to get Morell back from Burnside (which might mean relieving Burnside of command) he might get 14,500 effective infantry from 5th, 6th and 12th Corps into action there. However that's essentially just a replay of the assault by 1st and 12th Corps and Sedgwick's Division (2nd Corps) assault of the late morning on the 17th, presumably with similar chances of success.

Campaign wise, if McClellan orders such an assault and it fails his army, and the Union, is in dire straits. Whilst Lee likely won't be able to counterattack, if he moves as he historically did then McClellan won't have fresh forces to block Lee's reentry into Maryland via Williamsport. The campaign may well continue with Lee conducting a turning movement and regaining the advantage, or maybe Lee's troops were too exhausted. Either way the risk must be weighed against the benefits.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Antietam: Would Grant Have Attacked on the 18th?

At the Battle of Antietam (arguably 16th-19th September 1862, depending on whether you include AP Hill's rearguard stand against McClellan's cavalry on the 19th as part of Antietam or Shepherdstown) McClellan on the morning of the 18th suspended a planned attack on the Dunker Church by Franklin. The action on the 17th had ended when Burnside and Cox had refused McClellen's 1815 order to counterattack against AP Hill, and McClellan had originally intended to reinitiate the fighting at dawn with Franklin, but suspended this action awaiting reinforcements.

Critics of McClellan I have conversed with often trot out the argument "Grant would have attacked", so lets test that. I propose the following hypothesis:

"Grant would have made a major assault (on the 18th) the day after having made a major assault".

My methodology is to examine all Grant's assaults where the enemy remained on the field the next day. If the hypothesis is true then we will find major assaults the day after major assaults.

Major Assaults by Grant
  1. Vicksburg: assault on the 19th May 1863 (3 days after Champion Hill)
  2. Vicksburg: assault on the 22nd May (3 days after previous, no follow up)
  3. Spotsylvania: assault on the 10th May 1864
  4. Spotsylvania: assault on the 12th May
  5. Spotsylvania: assault on the 18th May
  6. North Anna: assault on the 23rd May
  7. Cold Harbor: assault on the 1st June
  8. Cold Harbor: assault on the 3rd June
  9. 2nd Petersburg: assault on the 16th June
  10. 2nd Petersburg: assault on the 18th June
  11. Jerusalem Plank Road: assault on the 21st June
  12. Crater: assault on the 30th July
  13. 2nd Deep Bottom: assault on the 14th August
  14. Globe Tavern: assault on the 18th August
  15. Chaffin's Farm; assault on the 30th September
  16. Peeble's Farm: assault on the 30th September
  17. Peeble's Farm: assault on the 2nd October 
  18. 2nd Fair Oaks: assualt on the 27th October
  19. Boydton Plank Road: assault on the 27th October
  20. Hatcher's Run: assault on the 7th February 1865
  21. Fort Stedman: assault on the 25th March
So with a sample set of 21 it appears Grant never launched a major attack the day after a major attack. There were sometimes some minor affairs, but never an immediate major effort the next day.

Thus given the fact that out of 21 tests Grant did not immediately repeat the attack 21 times I think we can dismiss this canard.

Conclusion: Grant would NOT have attacked at Antietam on the 18th September 1862, as per the other 21 times he was faced with similar situations. He likely would have prepared himself for a day or two for another effort (like Vicksburg, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor).

Probability of Grant not attacking, assuming a free choice of whether or not to attack = 99.99995%

(Derived as 1- (0.5)^21)

Thursday, 9 October 2014

"Military Calvinism" and General McClellan

Dennis Showalter noted that there is a trend towards secular calvinism in military history, as Ethan Rafuse pointed out on Civil War Talk Radio. In short, there is a tendency to separate characters (usually Generals) in the narrative into the bless├Ęd elect and those who are damned, usually with battlefield success being the judgement that sits upon them.
For the elect, all their sins are wiped clean, every mistake made is forgiven and passed off onto others, usually "stupid" and "incompetent" subordinates, or the weather, or simply dumb luck. The opposite is true for those cast out into the outer darkness, any progress made in achieving their goals is denigrated somehow, often by passing on their achievements onto others, or again, simple dumb luck.

We have this in spades in the historiography of the American Civil War, and the originator is the late Kenneth P. Williams in his unfinished "Lincoln Finds a General" thesis. Here is an extreme example of a calvinist approach, with Grant as the major member of the elect (although almost as if channelling the ghost of Ben Wade he decided to elevate Pope to the elect, leading to an oxymoric "papal calvinism"!). Most other generals are cast down, and the chief devil is of course McClellan, who dared challenge the sanctified Lincoln for the throne of heaven, errr, the Presidency. What K.P. Williams started, Harry T. Williams would continue, in his McClellan, Sherman and Grant - a book so wrapped up in psychodrama and impossibly flimsy evidence that Thomas J. Rowland felt the need to reanalyse the same topic and convincingly overturn the Williams's pet theories.

The treadmill however has accelerated, and the likes of Stephen Sears seethe with vitriol against McClellan and can find only praise for Grant and his friends. They don't let little things like facts get in the way of their ideas.

So, what of McClellan? If I may quote the late Joseph Harsh "He was a competent general who could have won the Civil War for the North... ", and that is absolutely true. McClellan is not so chronically flawed as some would have us believe and came close to actualling winning the whole war for the north in 1862. The reasons why he didn't are an interesting story, but are not as simplistic as the egregious Kevin Kiley would put it "he was a wuss". Great copy for those who don't do their research, and lack curiousity, but very poor history.