News and Notes: March 29, 2014

Here’s some stuff that may be of interest to someone:

  • George Purvis has his own blog. It reads as if he’s a long-lost cousin of Jerry Dunford. In either case, those of you who want to see what George has to say can go there.
  • Kevin Levin pushes for a change to the Mississippi state flag. Given how long it took that state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, good luck.
  • Here’s yet another one of those “student displays Confederate flag, gets in trouble” stories from Kevin’s home state. And then there’s this, too. I will reserve comment until prom season passes.
  • Glenn McConnell was named president of the College of Charleston, and guess what happened? Yup … and this, too. As well as this. Told you sotwice.
  • None other than Gary Adams takes on someone who still embraces the black Confederate myth. In other words, here’s another case of the circular firing squad that is Confederate heritage advocacy.
  • For those of you who actually follow Civil War history, you will find this debate over the Lost Order of September 1862 fame very interesting. In order: here, here, and here. Maybe readers can go there to read the exchange and then come here to comment and discuss.

40 thoughts on “News and Notes: March 29, 2014

  1. Jerry Sudduth March 29, 2014 / 8:08 pm

    Really fascinating stuff as usual and not to hijack the discussion but
    I really enjoyed the debate on Lee’s “Lost Order.” It’s research and debate like this that is allowing us to get fresh perspectives on George McClellan. Thank you for linking it.

    All the while it is a shame the 24 hour military clock now in use was in existence then as this wouldn’t have been a debate. One way or another we would’ve had a clear answer as to what time McClellan forwarded the intelligence he’d received to Washington.

    Mr. D’Aoust gives solid evidence behind his theory and I tend to
    agree with him, no disrespect to Stephen Sears. His combination of using a timetable of events and common sense (again no disrespect to Sears) really makes me think McClellan acted as rapidly as he could to events.

    This is why we continue to do research. We’re getting fresh information that provide strong evidence which support differing views on long held beliefs we thought to be facts on the war.

    The more we research the more things become clearer.

    • John Foskett March 30, 2014 / 8:57 am

      There’s actually a lot more to this one and Daoust is a bit player in the discussion. The real debate is between Sears and Gene Thorp. There are a number – a large number – of issues and questions surrounding the problem of “when did McClellan see the Lost Order and how quickly did he respond?” I attach the link which has the full Sears-Thorp back-and-forth on this and which drills down to the essential “facts”. Warning – this is long but I think you’ll find it extremely interesting:

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/artsandliving/civilwar/civil-war-email-exchange/

      My own thoughts are that we’ll likely never resolve when McClellan actually received the Lost Order, which is the critical fact in the entire discussion. One problem, as you imply, is the lack of a uniform time-keeping system in the ACW. Hence, terms such as “near noon”, “about noon”, etc. are rough approximations. From my many backpacking/climbing experiences I know how easy it is to miss an accurate time by an hour or so without looking at an accurate time piece (and, by the way, when I’ve erred on the noon-time issue and have checked a time-piece, I was uniformly a bit early). Another problem is that the times which both Sears and Thorp use are based on recollections years after the events. There are, however, a few things which seem undisputed or hard to ignore. (1) The document was quickly discovered and moved up the chain of command with the celerity which its importance justified (even adding in the apparently recently-discovered fact that it hit the brigade commander, Gordon, as well). Even if it was found at 12 PM it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t in the hands of McClellan’s COS and AG (Marcy, also his father-in-law, and Williams) by 1 PM, with Pittman’s confirmation of its authenticity. Why the apparent delay until 3 PM when McClellan (having exclaimed jubilantly when he saw it) orders Pleasanton to confirm where the ANV in fact was? Hartwig speculates that they had difficulty locating McClellan, but that is pure speculation and doesn’t make a great deal of sense – the COS and the AG don’t know where their boss is? (Hartwig, by the way, pegs the actual discovery much earlier than 12 PM). We know the Galena wasn’t anchored in the Monocacy ๐Ÿ™‚ . (2) Why no orders based on discovery of this document until almost 6:30 PM (I agree with Sears that the order to Cox at 3:30, phrased as “it was intended that you….”, appears to be merely confirming 9th Corps orders given the previous evening). As Sears suggests, even if one wanted to “confirm” Lee’s position (something right up McClellan’s cautious alley), orders could have been issued immediately to the other corps to move into positions to take advantage upon confirmation, including (God forbid) night marching. Instead, we have the direction to rest up and get started the next morning. (3) ‘Why the strong difference in tone between McClellan’s cautious, bet-hedging 11 PM to Halleck and the 12 AM (accepting Thorp’s/Daoust’s theory) boastful promise to Lincoln?

      Bottom line – whatever the facts on these details, we appear to be left with McClellan acting with his usual caution in a situation calling for prompt action, even if you accept Thorp’s theory of when McClellan knew about the Lost Order. Was it because, as he had repeatedly done on the Peninsula, McClellan was again hitting the multiplier function on his calculator when estimating Lee’s legions?

      • Maurice Daoust May 26, 2014 / 1:42 am

        John, I was somewhat taken aback by your comment re my being a “bit player” in this affair. I say this in view of the fact I was the one who discovered the 12 Midnight document in Lincoln’s papers and brought it to the forefront. I was also the one who uncovered and published the evidence supporting the 12 Midnight theory. Gene Thorpe has made a wonderful contribution to the theory, especially as it relates to Halleck’s September 11th 12 Midnight telegram and how it too was misrepresented as “12M” in the OR. Had it not been for my discovery in 2002 none of this would be happening. On that basis, I consider myself to be considerably more than a “bit player.” Having said all this, I was very encouraged to find this group’s discussion on these matters. Whether your support Sears’s or my theory, it’s nice to see these things being discussed. Best regards, Moe Daoust

        • John Foskett May 26, 2014 / 12:46 pm

          Maurice: Perhaps I should have phrased it differently. I meant that your primary involvement in this multi-faceted controversy has to do with the narrow “12 M” issue as reflected on the telegram copy. It’s Thorp who appears to have taken on the myriad of related issues – for example, focusing on what McClellan did/did not do before/after receiving the copy, reconciling the various accounts of when the copy was found, etc. As I’ve made clear, it seems that there is a good case for the 12 AM interpretation. I am far less convinced about the rest of the McClellan “defense” on how/when the rest of the matter was handled.

  2. Jimmy Dick March 29, 2014 / 9:22 pm

    Regarding the McConnell appointment, it got hammered pretty good on Inside Higher Ed. There is something going on here that the trustees forgot about. It doesn’t take much to take a functioning college and run it into the ground, but it does take a lot of work to get keep one going forward in this current reality. The fact that they chose someone who is obviously unqualified for the job speaks volumes about their own ability to make good decisions for their school.

    Unlike times when a political appointee could be made and the staff would be able to cover for the bad decision, the financial situation of schools is far more precarious today. Schools cannot count on the states to bail them out of trouble and even worse, many states have cut back funding for higher education which means schools have to be performing at a high level of efficiency or find alternate sources of funding. There are several schools which are cutting back programs left and right because they made mistakes along these lines.

    The old ways of running schools are changing and that is a reality that must be dealt with. It cannot be ignored or pushed to the side. The appointment of someone who is not qualified to be an administrator in higher education could very well be the kind of mistake that kills off that school. We’ve already seen how one conservative politician, Mitch Daniels at Purdue, has alienated staff and faculty as the direct result of his policies which clash with concepts like academic freedom. Several key staffers have been to leave Purdue for other jobs. While Purdue’s focus on engineering sets it apart from many other schools of its nature, attacking the humanities seems to be causing many schools to be perceived as trade schools rather than academic institutions.

    Will that happen at the College of the Charleston? It is not Purdue and does not have the capacity to sustain significant damage to its infrastructure and rebound like Purdue if that were to happen. Instead, the trustees could very well have made a decision that results in the death of their college.

  3. Bob Nelson March 30, 2014 / 11:11 am

    According to Silas Colgrove, colonel of the 27th Indiana, the regiment reached Frederick “about noon” on the 13th of September (from a short piece he wrote for “The Century Magazine” in 1886). This is probably the “other primary source account” mentioned by D’Aust but not cited. The time that the order was found should, as D’Aust argues, “start the clock.” Like Jerry (above) I tend to agree with him. Does anybody have a copy of Wilbur Jones “Giants in the Cornfield?” What does he have to say about the timing of the 27th’s arrival in Frederick?

    BTW, my CD version of the O.R. (Guild Press) indicates that McClellan sent his “I-have-the-plans” message at “12 m” — noon — and also has a time stamp, which reads “Received 2:35 a.m., September 14.” If it really was sent at noon (which seems largely improbable if the 27th didn’t arrive until noon), then it took more than fourteen hours to be transmitted, which seems like an awful loooooooooong time to me. As Spock would say, “That’s not logical.”

    • John Foskett March 30, 2014 / 11:49 am

      It’s more complicated than that. There are other references to the 12th Corps arriving at their halt point “about noon”, “near noon”, etc. but the specificity is less than overwhelming. If you hit the link I’ve attached above and review the back-and-forth, however, you’ll see the uncertainties. Be aware also that in 1879 Colgrove apparently wrote a letter as requested by Barton Mitchell’s son to confirm his role in finding the order. Colgrove failed to specify the time of arrival, said that Mitchell handed him the order before Colgrove had even dismounted, said that he (Colgrove) “immediately” “galloped to McClellan’s Headquarters and delivered the document to one of his staff”, and asserted that the Army was “on the march” within 30 minutes. By this account (and in contrast to events which are not disputed), there was no visit to Williams’ HQ, no authentication by Pittman, and “our army” was sent promptly in pursuit. Obviously, Colgrove is hardly a reliable source on the facts.

      • Bob Nelson March 30, 2014 / 4:56 pm

        Good stuff, John. Your post (seen here above) did not show up before I wrote. So, it would seem, the debate will go on and on?

      • Bob Nelson March 30, 2014 / 5:07 pm

        Still, it seems to me that if the XII Corps got there around noon or about noon it seems unlikely that McClellan could have sent the message at noon. Weren’t his headquarters on the 13th still on the east side of the mountains?

        • John Foskett March 31, 2014 / 7:03 am

          Bob: That’s a good question regarding his headquarters. Thorp (or Thorpe – I’ve seen both) cites several sources showing that McClellan did not establish a headquarters on the 13th until 3 P.M. But he was in and about Frederick from about 9 A.M. on, according to Thorp, staging reviews, visiting Burnside at his HQ, etc. I suspect that the term “headquarters” could mean wherever he was at a given time. Here’s the problem with Thorp’s timeline that I see regarding McClellan not having this until 3 P.M.. Let’s assume that Colgrove was shown the document c. 12 P.M. Everybody agrees that its urgency and importance were recognized immediately and that it flew up the chain of command and was verified by Pittman. Let’s generously assume that this takes until 1 P.M. What happened over the next two hours? Thorp doesn’t deal with that, as I pore through his analysis. McClellan was in the neighborhood even by his analysis. Hartwig, as I noted, tries to account for this by speculating that Marcy and Williams couldn’t find him. I respect Hartwig but that strikes me as facially ridiculous – and if true makes one wonder what kind of inept command structure McClellan was operating. If he were even 4 miles away a good horseman could easily cover that in 15 minutes. This resembles the famous 18-minute gap in the Watergate tapes. But all of this isn’t truly material to the “big ticket” issue – McClellan’s delay. Sears says he screwed around for 18 hours. If you accept Thorp’s analysis, it drops down to 15 hours. So what? That gets to the second part of the issue – did McClellan delay? Thorp tries to show all sorts of movement post-3 P.M., but he cites only one order – that to Cox. As Sears has noted, its phrasing strongly suggests reaffirmation of an earlier order. Sears makes, in my opinion, a good case that any movements post-3 P.M. and up until midnight were those previously ordered. It’s only the next day that we see movements which had been ordered as a result of the discovery. In fact, Thorp seems to have it both ways – at 3 P.M. McClellan does the prudent thing by issuing orders to Pleasonton directed at confirmation but is also ordering new movements based on the document. So as I see it Thorp may have a case that the telegram could not have been sent at 12 P.M., but he hasn’t changed the ultimate point which Sears makes – even if Sears has done so by relying on the 12 P.M. time.

          • Bob Nelson March 31, 2014 / 8:16 am

            That makes perfect sense. Thanks, John. BTW, the Sears-Thorp exchange (linked above) was very interesting. Thanks for sharing. It is possible, however, that Marcy and Williams really didn’t know where he was, which might have caused additional delay. IIRC from one of Mac’s biographers (I would have to look it up), the general had a penchant for being “out and about” visiting with his corps commanders, looking over troop positions and even taking the time to talk with enlisted men. I did the same thing when I was superintendent of schools.

            I’d tell my secretary, “I’m going to Crystal Elementary for a meeting with Patti Peiffer.” While there I might run into a School Board member and we’d go have lunch. Or I’d spend some time visiting classrooms. The difference, however, was that I had a radio in my truck and a cell phone and my secretary could get hold of me any time, any where if needed.

          • John Foskett March 31, 2014 / 12:37 pm

            Bob: I certainly agree that it’s possible but i don’t accept that it’s plausible. Your job position is completely different from McClellan’s in a lot of ways (and I represent school districts, so I deal with superintendents every day – I feel your pain๐Ÿ™‚ ). Mac was in Frederick/close environs from 9 AM on and would certainly have been accompanied by some of his staff and his escort. He was in contact with at least 2d Corps command and 9th Corps command during that time. A competent COS should have had very little difficulty in finding him on an urgent mission – his arrival in Frederick sounds like what would have happened if Justin Bieber showed up at the local middle school. (And if Marcy was incompetent that, again, speaks to McClellan – in an area where ironically he has fared pretty well with historians) I simply can’t accept the probability that his COS and his AG couldn’t locate him for two hours. As I said, however, it doesn’t really matter in the large picture because that retains the ultimate conclusion reached by Sears, adjusted by only 3 hours.

          • Bob Nelson March 31, 2014 / 2:05 pm

            Actually, John, my “pain” was gone many years ago. I retired in 1999. LOL

          • John Foskett April 1, 2014 / 1:00 pm

            Bob:

            I’ve talked to a couple of Superintendents today who want to join you.๐Ÿ™‚

          • Bob Nelson April 2, 2014 / 11:22 am

            No doubt. It’s a much more difficult job now than it was twenty years ago, that’s for sure.

          • Bob Nelson April 1, 2014 / 2:49 pm

            Question John, and I realize this thread is old (from about a week ago). In the evening (11 p.m.), McClellan sent a message to Halleck in which he wrote, “An order of General R.E. Lee, addressed to General D.H. Hill, which has accidentally come into my hands this evening … discloses some of the plans of the enemy.” What do you make of the phrase “this evening?” Why would McClellan have used it if he had received the “Lost Order” copy in the early afternoon? Not trying to be a smart ass here, just trying to sort this out in my own head. If you wish, feel free to reply to me privately at bobnelson@comcast.net. Thanks.

          • John Foskett April 2, 2014 / 7:39 am

            Bob: I have no idea but that makes absolutely no sense. Even Thorp agrees that he had it by 3 P.M. and issued orders to Pleasonton at that time which were implicitly based on McClellan having it in his possession. Thorp’s entire case is built on McClellan’s receipt by that time and acting in accordance with it. My own cynical conclusion? McClellan may have been justifying his own delay while (as usual) he carefully considered all of his cards before playing them. Or he had an unusually broad definition of “evening”.

          • Bob Nelson April 2, 2014 / 11:23 am

            Thanks.

    • monodisperse April 4, 2014 / 6:01 am

      Jones goes with the “MOLLUS” timings advanced by Bloss and Pittman writing in the 1890’s, but mixes them with Colgroves timings etc. He put it online here (http://www.reocities.com/pentagon/barracks/3627/lostorder.html ). Hartwig did a similar thing in his recent book.

      There are two sets of timings. Colgrove and others writing at the time (in diarys) and immediately thereafter record it as approximately noon. Bloss gave a talk in 1892 where he remembered 9-10 am, and that the army was moving within an hour of him finding it. Pittman goes with Bloss.

      Ezra Carman corresponded with Bloss and Pittman (from whence we get Pittman’s timings), and rejected their timings in his manuscript, as well as other elements – Bloss claimed he divided up the cigars and they smoked them. but Colgrove noted receiving it cigars and all.

      There are elements in the Bloss/ Pittman account that would place the find at noon. The “army being in motion an hour later” they saw was almost certainly the main body of 9th Corps advancing to assault the Catoctin passes. 9th Corps was halted adjacent to 12th Corps, and moved about 1 pm. This element would seem to confirm the noon account.

      Thus, I contend that if the Bloss/Pittman account is normalised to known timings then in fact it confirms the order was found ca. noon as everyone else who commented in the 19th century contends.

      • John Foskett April 4, 2014 / 7:35 am

        The 9th Corps moved about 1 P.M.? according to Thorp, “And there are dozens of accounts that show that around 3:30 in the afternoon, the 9th Corps, about 13,000 men, started marching out to meet the Confederate Army.”

  4. John Foskett April 2, 2014 / 7:32 am

    And on it goes. D’Aoust (or Daoust – again, I’ve seen both) replies to the reply by Sears to the reply….etc. still going on over at Dimitri’s site.

    http://cwbn.blogspot.com/2014/04/guest-post-mcclellan-letter-response.html

    The elephant is still in the room, however – that 3 hours between discovery of the order (Thorp’s timeline) and McClellan’s receipt at 3 PM (Thorp’s timeline). Here’s D’Aoust’s statement: “What actually, factually happened shortly before 3 p.m., at Frederick was this: McClellan was handed the Lost Order, delivered by a courier from General Williams and Lieutenant Pittman at Twelfth Corps headquarters, confirmed as authentic by Williamsโ€™s covering note.”

    Name the courier, Mr. D’Aoust. Show me the source for the method and time of delivery. And, most important, fill us in on what on earth was happening after the initial, rapid acceleration of this document up the chain of command. That’s a pretty big time gap under the circumstances. Crickets.

    • monodisperse April 4, 2014 / 6:23 am

      Name the courier? Since no-one knows who it is that’s a tall order. Colgrove and Nathan Kimball both claim to have carried it. You’ve assumed a lot of zero-time actions. The order of events seems to be:

      1200-1230: Around this time some soldiers of the 27th Indiana find the lost order. Give it to Bloss, and Bloss apparently reads it, then decides to go and show it to his company commander, Capt Kop who also reads it. If found at noon exactly at least 15 minutes were consumed here, possibly more.

      1230-1300: Captain Kop walks about half a mile to find Colonel Colgrove and hand him the order. Colgrove reads it himself. Maybe another 30 minutes consumed. By Kimball’s account he was passing and also decided to have a read and told them to bypass their division commander and take it directly to Corps HQ.

      1300-1330: Kop and Colgrove (and maybe Kimball) walk (at footspeed, Kop isn’t mounted) to 12th Corps HQ. The Corps commander (Williams) isn’t there apparently, by Pittman is. Pittman reads it, and they decide to go see Williams.

      1330-1400: Williams, Pittman, Colgrove, Kop, maybe Kimball and other staff have a look over the letter and work out what to do. Pittman writes a note to the effect it is genuine, and hands it to “a trusty courier” (in fact probably Kimball), who departs for army HQ.

      1400-1430: Army HQ is just being set up at the Steiner Farm. The courier/Kimball is covering several miles through congested streets to reach an ill-defined point.

      1430-1500: Sometime in this period the courier/ Kimball arrives and hands it to Col. Marcy, he reads it then passes it to McClellan, just returned from sending off the 9th Corps divisions towards to Catoctin pass. At 1500 McClellan sends a copy to his cavalry commander with a covering letter.

      That’s simply a rough idea of the sequence given all the accounts. The timings would roughly fit that account. Army HQ wasn’t set up until after 2 pm, and the telegraph wires weren’t repaired until dark o’clock.

      Remember, no zero time actions. Everytime someone reads it or takes it to someone else, or discusses it time is consumed. It has changed hands at least five times in that 2-3 hours……

      • John Foskett April 4, 2014 / 7:31 am

        That’s a nice script if one is trying to come up with an (completely unsubstantiated) account to fit the missing three hours. Of course, Colgrove wrote a letter in 1879 which doesn’t remotely fit a leisurely walk with Kop. He was mounted when he received the copy and took off with it, according to that letter. Even under his 1886 account, which is replete with immediate awareness of urgency and importance, why on earth would he decide to essentially walk his horse so that the unmounted company commander could come along? There are a lot of (likely unresolvable) variables and ambiguities in the primary sources which are being used (or not used) here. None of them, however, are consistent with this cavalierly relaxed approach you’ve built in. Let’s work in another little wrinkle, since nobody was apparently using synchronized digital time pieces. Let’s suppose that the long-after recollections of “about” “around” “near” “noon” meant, say, 11:30 A.M. I’m not going to spend time on an alternative blow-by-blow script to get this to an endpoint by 1 P.M. but you know I can do it. The best part of all of this, of course, is that even if true, it merely reduces Sears’ calculation of McClellan’s delay from 18 hours to 15-16 hours. And then there’s McClellan telling Halleck at 11 P.M. that he had received the copy “this evening”. Neither you or I are capable of a script which makes 3 P.M. “evening” under any ordinary usage.

        • monodisperse April 5, 2014 / 3:09 am

          I simply tried to compile a timeline based upon all the best research, drawing heavily on Jones’ Giant in the Cornfield. He point being that things take time. Every time the order was read and digested, moved up the chain of command etc. time was taken.

          We have two quite strong fixed timepoints:

          1. The order was found 1200-1230 (or 0900-1000 by the Bloss/ Pittman MOLLUS writings).
          2. McClellan was known to have read the order and acted on it by 1500.

          Sears attempted to use the 12M telegram as proof McClellan had the order by midday and did nothing. The simplest inspection of the copy in the Lincoln papers shows the M was “midnight” and so the idea that the order must have been in McClellan possession by midday was false.

          D’Aoust and Thorp have a bunch of supporting evidence that confirms this.

          As to the contention about a 15/18 hour delay. The timings do matter. 9th Corps’ movement to support the movement through the Braddock Pass begins ca. 1300, and the last brigade doesn’t start moving until 1700, because that’s how long road columns are. Rodman’s division of course is returning from the assault on the Jefferson Pass, and doesn’t start to cross the Catoctin’s until 3 am, 14th.

          Franklin’s 6th Corps reaches Buckeystown quite late on the 13th, and sends forward a detachment to relieve Rodman occupying the Jefferson Pass.

          The march orders going into South Mountain were:

          A column consisting of 1st Corps, Sykes’ Division, 2nd Corps (and finally 12th Corps) following 9th Corps through the Braddock Pass to Middletown and on to Turner’s and Fox;s Gaps etc. (this would be modified due to the slow movements of Hooker, with 2nd and 12th Corps diverting onto the Shookstown Road, a small bridle path).

          6th Corps and Couch’s Division to go via Jefferson to Crampton’s Gap.

          It is not clear there is more that could have been done. The Federals starting marching before dawn. Palfrey of course suggests that Franklin could have made a night march and assaulted Crampton’s Gap around 6 am. It’s not clear that that is true, 12 road miles and a mountain ascent in the dark is a tall order.

          • John Foskett April 6, 2014 / 1:26 pm

            The 12 P.M. time of finding is hardly cast in stone, even if you disregard the accounts which state 9:30 or 10 AM.. There are references to “about” and “near” noon. That could be as early as 11:30 AM, for example. (If I recall correctly, the 27th was in the van of the 12th Corps, as well). Recollections decades after an event which state a time in such flexible fashion cannot be used for precision – nor uniformly as if the range must begin at 12 PM, which is, however, they seem to be interpreted in the debate. And yes, things take time. But you’ve worked in some acts which in my opinion simply do not hook up at all with the urgency stated by the guy whose account(s0 is the principal primary source – Colgrove, who in one account used the word “immediately” and in another says that he received it while still mounted and promptly dashed off to Williams. (Sears apparently thinks that the copy also made it to the brigade HQ, Gordon’s, but the only account I can find which even mentions that is a sketchy 1867 letter from Bloss and Gordon literally says nothing about it in his published War Diary account which covers South Mountain, etc.) I also still see no evidence of any post-3 PM orders from McClellan, other than the :”it was expected that…” order to Cox at 3:35 PM, and none which ordered any adjustments or new activities for September 13.

      • Bob Nelson April 4, 2014 / 8:26 am

        Thanks. That’s the timeline I feel most comfortable with. And as with 99% of the stuff in the O.R., there are no time stamps on the orders to Pleasanton to go in search of the enemy or for moving the IX Corps toward the pass. I’ve always believed that both movements were already in the works before the “Lost Order” was found. But then we’re all just the latest in a long list of historians and Civil War buffs who have tried to figure this out. The bottom line, of course, is that nobody will ever know for certain.

        • John Foskett April 5, 2014 / 8:06 am

          Jacob Cox made some interesting observations after the war about McClellan’s “orders” on the 13th (which, as noted, Sears makes a good case for having already been in place). Cox observed that McClellan should indeed have issued new orders on the 13th after getting the copy which would have had Cox marching to South Mountain, even at night. Cox was extremely critical of McClellan for essentially sitting on the information until the 14th. But i suppose that Cox is just another in that long line of McClellan bashers.๐Ÿ™‚

          • monodisperse April 6, 2014 / 2:43 am

            Cox casts a long shadow over the Maryland Campaign, and was closely involved with Ezra Carman’s work. As such he has had a major influence, and a lot of it was him covering his behind.

            Ninth Corps (-Rodman) was ordered to support the assault on the Braddock pass and advance beyond to Middletown before noon. Cox remembers receiving Reno’s orders (from McClellan via Burnside) around noon. Rodman’s division was detached to support Rush’s cavalry in seizing the Jefferson pass. Cox’s division bivouaced two miles west of Middletown the night (arriving dark o’clock), and moved off to South Mountain at 6am the next morning

            Something to remember, McClellan had had the Confederate dispositions reported to him as early as the 11th September. Al the lost order did was clarify that the reports coming from Curtain that the Confederates were north of Gettysburg, and the reports from Halleck that the Confederates had a whole other army poised to seize Washington, were false.

          • John Foskett April 6, 2014 / 1:36 pm

            Then McClellan’s reported jubilant reaction upon seeing the copy on September 13 and the basis for his highly confident message to Lincoln must have been overstated, since he already knew Lee’s plans and dispositions – yet still sent Pleasonton off to confirm them at 3 PM. If the former were true, the latter would unfortunately fit the vintage stereotype of McClellan. Neither his reported reaction nor the content of his telegram to Lincoln fit the image of a commander who had already put everything in motion to take advantage of the circumstances which were merely confirmed by the copy.

  5. jfepperson April 4, 2014 / 2:47 pm

    I think the ultra-focus on precisely when the Lost Order was found misses the point: Mac’s advance to Sharpsburg was not done with the kind of alacrity and urgency which the situation demanded, regardless of when he first saw the order.

    • monodisperse April 5, 2014 / 3:35 am

      Really? How so? As far as I can tell, given the state of the evidence, McClellan himself moved very fast. Of course, we can nitpick the execution by his subordinates – Franklin’s short pause at Jefferson or Hooker’s delays in marching through the Braddock pass, but is that “McClellan being slow”?

      • John Foskett April 6, 2014 / 7:54 am

        Define “very fast”. Let’s assume that it took nearly 3 hours for the copy to reach McClellan. Other than the directive to Pleasonton and the order to Cox (phrased curiously as “it was intended that….”), what other orders were issued for action to occur on the 13th? If I’m correct, the delays you refer to occurred on the 14th. (Odd, isn’t it, that McClellan’s soul mate Franklin would take his own sweet time getting all in order). I suspect that some of the “evidence” also involves McClellan’s customarily excessive estimates of enemy strength. As is the case with his actions on the Peninsula, his defenders point to all sorts of reasons why McClellan might believe in fantastic numbers but in both cases we know that he was wrong.by a good margin. And yes, I’ve read Harsh, Carman (Clemens), etc.

    • John Foskett April 5, 2014 / 8:08 am

      You’ve well-stated the problem in the proverbial nutshell. As I’ve put it, whether McClellan delayed for 18 hours or for 15, he delayed. See mine above regarding Cox’s assessment of how things went on the 13th and how they should have gone.

      • monodisperse April 6, 2014 / 3:52 am

        Reading Cox’s Military Reminiscences one notes that Cox was constructing his argument based upon McClellan having SO191 before noon, to wit:

        ” The information was in his hands before noon, for he refers to it in a dispatch to Mr. Lincoln at twelve. If his men had been ordered to be at the top of South Mountain before dark, they could have been there; but less than one full corps passed Catoctin Mountain that day or night…”

        Since we know his assessment is based upon incorrect information, is it still valid? Indeed, Cox is the originator of the attack on McClellan for not acting on SO191, published in 1900, and the accusation is not in his article in Battles and Leaders vol. 2 (1887). His only proof was the “midday” telegram which we now know is false.

        Cox is an interesting character. During the Maryland Campaign his nerve failed him twice. First at South Mountain, when he failed to push through after forcing Turners Gap, allowing Longstreet to come up, and then again at Antietam where he panicked when AP Hill arrived and ordered a general retreat. In both cases he attempted to resolve himself from responsibility for his actions by blaming others, and by 1900 this was McClellan.

        • John Foskett April 6, 2014 / 7:59 am

          I assume that everybody who left a post-war account factored in his own agenda, small or large. Hence McClellan’s B&L article on the Seven Days in which he shrinks his force to 75,000. But Cox’s assessment doesn’t turn on 12 P.M. vs. 3 P.M. (at the latest). He’s referring to night marching, etc. McClellan’s 3:35 to him could easily have required that. McClellan, of course, also is an “interesting character”. When it comes to “loss of nerve”, Cox at least was with his command and not ensconced on a gunboat.๐Ÿ™‚

  6. monodisperse April 7, 2014 / 3:07 am

    I wondered how long it would be before the attacks on McClellan widened and it’s going down the standard route. For the sake of focus I am going to decline to argue about numbers, or the two hours on USS Galena, but note there are counterarguments.

    On the lost order:

    1. Sears spends a lot of time proving to his own satisfaction that Freeman’s report that a Confederate leaning citizen say McClellan receive the order and exclaim “now I know what to do”, is false. Of course he use the description anyway despite disbelieving the source. His arguments there make sense, and in the absence of confirmatory proof we should reject Freeman..

    2. McClellan’s march orders of the evening of the 13th are pretty definite. He delivered the initial (verbal) orders around 6 pm, with the written (confirmatory) orders going out from HQ 10-12 pm. We have his orders to Franklin (stamped 1820 hrs) because his command was the only one far enough away that McClellan couldn’t deliver orders orally (in person or by courier).

    For an example on that day, see the 1535 order to Cox (OR1, 51, 827). Cox is already moving, and by his own accounts received a verbal order at noon to that effect from Reno (from Burnside, from McClellan who probably issued it between 1000 and 1100, probably closer to the latter). Cox actually marched his division out between 1300 and 1400 in obedience to the order (probably closer to the latter). Hence an order to move a formation took three hours (+/- 1 hr) to be enacted. That’s just normal. The order is confirmatory only, but some appear to have used it to suggest this is a reaction to SO191, it isn’t.

    That’s sort of the point. Receiving a new piece of information ca. 1500 is too late in the day to much with until tomorrow. Any marches initiated at HQ wouldn’t be starting until dusk at the earliest. Since the rear regiments of 9th Corps movement didn’t even start marching until 1700, because it took that long for the column to extend out (the column would be about 5 miles long). The road via the Braddock Pass is full until well after nightfall. Nothing can change that.

    3. Subordinates. Everyone had to deal with subordinates and trust them to carry out instructions. McClellan has:

    Hooker (loudmouthed, self-assured, but slow moving in his marches of the 14th, and lost his nerve on the 16th)
    Sumner (seems nervous with the level of authority given to him)
    Porter (every inch the soldier, but a fairly nasty person)
    Franklin (nice guy, but always found excuses not to attack)
    Burnside (consistently slow and timid in his movements during the campaign, and never seems to have had a nerve to lose)
    Williams (not a professional soldier and not trusted. McClellan offers 12th Corps to Sedgwick the night of the 13th, but he refused it. McClellan sends for Mansfield, who proves no better at Antietam)

    As a command team they did their best in a complex environment. However they really aren’t perfect….

    • John Foskett April 7, 2014 / 7:42 am

      Fair enough. You – not I – raised the issue of “loss of nerve” and the motivations behind post-war accounts, so let’s not object to a level playing field. And I know that there are “counterarguments” on literally everything when it comes to McClellan – not just the 200,000 or that time spent on a gunboat while the bulk of his army had to fight its way through to its “change of base” without a designated field commander. In fact, at times one gets the impression that but for (1) Lincoln/Stanton; (2) a succession of inept subordinates; and (3) the weather on the Peninsula, McClellan had won the war in Virginia by June, 1862. In a more serious vein, we can nitpick this lost order thing to death. I do not accept that the telegram could have been sent at 12 P.M. but I also do not accept that the earliest we can start the clock ticking is 12 noon on the nose and I am baffled by how 3+ hours were frittered away IF one accepts anything about Colgrove’s account(s) as accurate – as, for example, Thorp presumes. You make valid points regarding the subordinates and yes, it’s no easy/quick fix to get large formations on the road and yes, some have wrongly interpreted the orders to Cox as a response by McClellan to receiving the copy. The problem with McClellan is that when the dust settles we always seem to be left with a “near thing” or “close but no …”. It seems that when it comes to anything McClellan the advocacy (from both sides, concededly) takes over and ambiguities and gaps in the record are interpreted to suit the agenda. I’m no idolator of Grant by any stretch but I have substantial difficulty envisioning McClellan snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with a fair percentage of unblooded troops at Shiloh; taking the approach to Vicksburg which Grant ultimately settled on; or reacting to the tactical defeat at the Wilderness as Grant did. Likewise, it would be interesting to speculate on Grant’s approach up the Peninsula in April-May, 1862; how he would have handled Lee’s offensive in June; whether he would have sat staring at Lee on September 18; and, of course, how he would have responded to receiving a copy of the Lost Order. We will never know. We do know that according to Bobby Lee he was much more in awe of the guy he whipped in the Seven Days than the guy to whom he had to surrender.๐Ÿ™‚

      • monodisperse April 9, 2014 / 5:14 am

        Ah, so we finally come to the final act – the Grant comparisons. Lets not do this here (again?).

        I may take my leave quoting the late Joseph Harsh’s PhD thesis: “[McClellan] pursued a conscious and purposeful strategy from start to finish. Perceiving Lee’s strategic options, McClellan throttled them one by one. The campaign’s turning point came as early as September 11th. And, on the evening of the 12th, Federal intelligence informed McClellan that Lee had split his army. The ‘lost orders,’ found the next morning, simply filled in the details. McClellan incorporated this new information into his planning, but he continued to follow the strategy with which he had started his campaign. In the end, he beat Lee at Lee’s own game, and that was no mean achievement.”

        The questions of whether the orders were sat on is essentially immaterial. No plans were altered, and the quantity of new data the lost orders gave is much less than supposed. DH Hill even pointed out they were erroneous and argued this slowed the Federals down, but that was in an attempt to save himself from criticism for losing them. We know that McClellan came into possession of them between 1-2 pm (last timepoint he hasn’t received them, meeting with Jacob Cox) and 3 pm (sends copy to Pleasonton). They materially alter nothing except to back up McClellan’s other intelligence sources, and contradict the reports coming from Curtain (Lee is north of Gettysburg, to which McClellan send a cavalry recce) and Halleck (Lee’s force is a detachment, they’re main force is coming at Washington).

        Of course, the old Lost Cause school is looking for an excuse for Lee’s failure, and the lost dispatch provides it. Hence their focus on it. Ultimately though the loss of SO191 is much less important than supposed.

        • John Foskett April 9, 2014 / 6:14 am

          Hence GBM’s enthusiastic, eye-opening telegram to Lincoln at `12 m (noon, midnight – doesn’t matter). In the interests of caution, however, I should state the assumption – I assume that we agree that McClellan drafted and sent the telegram, regardless of when it was sent, and that it accurately expressed his thoughts about receiving a copy of the Lost Order. But perhaps even that isn’t a safe assumption, because the Lost Order copy merely confirmed the accurate intelligence McClellan already had (numbers aside, as always, and although, being McClellan, he now had to send Pleasonton on a confirming mission). I’ll leave it at this. The beauty of discussing McClellan in any context is that things are never as they seem and everything can be “explained.

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