Antietam

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Wow! That's a lot to digest. I'm afraid I have to disagree with 67th's interpretation.

"This telegram is often mis-quoted. Some parse it as an order for an immediate movement"

The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south. Your army must move now while the roads are good.

There's no ambiguity there. It's a direct order to move.

and it concludes " It is necessary that the plan of your operations be positively determined on before orders are given for building bridges and repairing railroads. "

Which is a control measure. Which is why it's necessary to read the whole telegram. Whilst McClellan may be ordered to cross the Potomac, he is not allowed to until a plan of operations has been agreed to by Halleck. Halleck had ordered McClellan to submit a plan for approval before he's allowed to bridge the Potomac.

McClellan promptly submitted a plan for consideration, and didn't get a reply (which was a disapproval) until the 16th. In the meantime he is constrained by Halleck's order NOT to cross the Potomac until a plan has been agreed upon.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Why is that? Does Sears intentionally try to deceive or could it be just a simple mistake/ not doing more research on a particular subject etc.? Take the 4,300 cavalry as an example. Sears uses McClellan's own numbers. Is Sears trying to deceive by not digging further and showing those PFD? Another question. Since I own five of Sears books I'm interested in what you have to say. Which information in any of those books has Sears fabricated?

The absolute classic is Sears admitting to Gene Thorp that the "midday" telegram was timestamped "midnight", and that he (Sears) knew this but it didn't fit his story and so he changed the facts to fit the story. In his last book, he claims that the "idnight" is a post-facto addition. Better eyesight than me to see that:



As to strengths, the footnotes in Sears indicate he understood the difference between effectives etc., and gave a simple methodology for converting to it, implying he'd done this. Then when discussing strength on the 18th he removes these corrections to try and boost McClellan's strength.

The strength of the cavalry division at 4,320 is correct for the end of the 20th, plus casualties added back. However, this apparently includes forces not on the field on the 17th (McReynolds, 8th NY and 6th US).
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
😈

In Appendix 1 of Landscape Turned Red Sears does address this 12M business with the explanation that 12 M stands for meridian, or noon, "in contemporary military parlance" and not midnight. The issue has to do with when Lincoln received the dispatch, I guess. I don't see were the problem lies. In page 113 Sears says the document (SO 191) was handed to McClellan late in the morning and then sent a dispatch to Lincoln at 12 m. McClellan was elated with the find and wanted to share it with Lincoln quickly because Lincoln had sent him dispatches wanting to know what's going on and, I guess, was pressing McClellan for information regarding Jackson re-crossing the Potomac. Seriously now, what difference does it make whether it was midnight or mid day?
Because a big part of Sears' case against McClellan is that McClellan delayed on the 13th.

As it happens, of course, McClellan's "12 M" telegram includes events which had not yet happened as of midday - they happened in the evening. So it must be a midnight telegram.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
McClellan can not order this but has to request it and must be approved. McClellan is not a dictator but part of the team. Meigs, Haupt, Halleck must be brought in on the plan in order to get things done correctly and as efficient as possible. It was demonstrated there where many hiccups with supplies being stored in RR cars for weeks, stuff going to the wrong terminal, lines being clogged by with private RR cars etc.
Yes, McClellan can't order this but has to request it.
And Halleck stonewalls on approving it for weeks at a time.

What is going on here is that Halleck is (1) making sure that McClellan can't act without explicit approval, and (2) not giving that approval. So Halleck is ensuring that McClellan can't do anything.

It's the equivalent of telling someone that they need permission before going outside, and then not saying anything when they ask permission. De facto this is refusing permission; indeed if that sort of shenanigans was taking place in a person to person relationship we'd call it gaslighting.

Meanwhile Halleck is also denying that there is a supply problem and would go on to deny there ever was a supply problem.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I know McClellan pointed out that the bridge was necessary to defend Harpers Ferry even if it wasn't used offensively, so they may as well build it as soon as possible even if Lincoln wanted him to move along a different route.
As for "finally", the timeframe doesn't seem to me to support "finally".


The time frame does support Halleck because McClellan was given two choices on October 1st and Halleck is GiC.
The reason I say the timeframe doesn't support "finally" is that you had McClellan "finally" sending the Shenandoah route plan, but Halleck had asked for a plan the previous day (request on 6th, reply on 7th).

As has already been mentioned Halleck tells McClellan to get moving on the 1st of October; "finding that he purposed to operate from Harper's Ferry, I urged him to cross the river at once and give battle to the enemy........On October 6th he was peremptorily ordered to cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy, or drive him south".
Halleck here is either misremembering or lying. A peremptory order is one which is unambiguous and is to be obeyed exactly and immediately - but what Halleck ordered on October 6th was for McClellan to submit a plan, not "cross the river now".

"I am instructed to telegraph you as follows: The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south. Your army must move now while the roads are good. If you cross the river between the enemy and Washington, and cover the latter by your operation, you can be re-enforced with 30,000 men. If you move up the Valley of the Shenandoah, not more than 12,000 or 15,000 can be sent to you. The President advises the interior line between Washington and the enemy, but does not order it. He is very desirous that your army move as soon as possible. You will immediately report what line you adopt and when you intend to cross the river; also to what point the re-enforcements are to be sent. It is necessary that the plan of your operations be positively determined on before orders are given for building bridges and repairing railroads.
I am directed to add that the Secretary of War and the General-in-Chief fully concur with the President in these instructions.''

Which way is McClellan to go if this is a peremptory order? Well, Halleck offers two options, so he's not ordering McClellan to use the Loudoun route - therefore the Shenandoah route is still an option.
The President prefers the Loudoun route, but explicitly does not order it.
Halleck does order that McClellan should immediately report what path he is to follow, and he also insists that the plan be approved before McClellan can order bridges built etc.

Now, if what Halleck had said was just "cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south", that would be a peremptory order to do just that - and McClellan could then build the bridges and repair the railroads necessary to let him cross into the Shenandoah in good supply. But Halleck hasn't done that.

Instead, McClellan is given two choices - Shenandoah and Loudoun - and told to report which one he's going to use. Once the plan is approved, he's allowed to start building bridges.

It should be self-evident (but apparently is not) that if McClellan needs approval before building a bridge, and the enemy is south of the Potomac while McClellan is north, he can't go on the offensive until Halleck officially approves the plan.
At best, Halleck is misremembering what he ordered (and McClellan promptly obeyed the section of the order which could be obeyed promptly). At worse Halleck is creating a "case" against McClellan, one which exploits how the orders he gave McClellan could not immediately be obeyed in full without Halleck's cooperation (cooperation he did not give).
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
At worse Halleck is creating a "case" against McClellan, one which exploits how the orders he gave McClellan could not immediately be obeyed in full without Halleck's cooperation (cooperation he did not give).

It may be this, but likely at Stanton's request. Recently I reread Carman's chapter on the Bull Run debacle, and during the critical days where McClellan was asking Halleck for orders regarding Pope's location etc, Halleck was ensconced in his office writing a report to **** McClellan at Halleck's request. This is during the 29th and 30th, i.e. whilst Franklin has started moving towards Pope, but needs direction as to where Pope is.

"
The probable reason why Halleck paid so little attention at this time to affairs of the army in the field was that he was industriously engaged in drawing up, at Stanton’s request, an indictment against McClellan. The bitter feeling engendered by McClellan’s dispatch of June 28th, yet rankled in Stanton’s heart and he pursued him with an implacable hatred; and not only Stanton, but Chase and others were extremely bitter and favored his instant removal from command, when the Army of the Potomac should be brought to Washington, and, as elsewhere stated, one of the reasons given for that movement movement was that he could be more readily disposed of. Friends of the country had endeavored to heal the breach; the Governor of Ohio telegraphed Stanton “For God’s sake drop the wrangling between the friends of McClellan and yourself in Congress.”74

Others recognizing the injury being done the cause of the Union, by the unseemly and disgraceful cabal at Washington gave similar advice and ex-Governor Dennison and others were in Washington on August 26th, interceding with the President, but Stanton was implacable, and now had an additional lever with which to oust McClellan, by his failure to move promptly from the Peninsula during the early and middle days of August and to send Franklin forward on the 28th.75

On the 29th Stanton sought Chase and excitedly discussed McClellan. Both had long believed him not worthy of trust in command of any army of the Union, and the events of the last few days had greatly strengthened their opinions. The two then called upon Halleck and remonstrated against McClellan having any command, and Stanton wrote and presented to Halleck this paper.76

General: I desire you to furnish me information upon the following points:
1st. At what date you first ordered the general commanding the Army of the Potomac to move from James River.
2nd. Whether that order was or was not obeyed according to its purport with the promptness which, in your judgment, the national safety required, and at what date the movement commenced.
3rd. What order has been given recently for the movement of Franklin’s corps, and whether it was obeyed as promptly as the national safety required.
4th. You will furnish me copies of the orders referred to in the foregoing inquiries.77

Halleck promised a reply next morning, but did not fulfill his promise until the late in the day.78"
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The truth of the matter on that topic ("I had to send off my wounded first, because it was do that or abandon them at Harrisons Landing") being but mere fripperies when someone has a case to make.



I sort of wonder how things would have gone if McClellan had opted for the Loudoun route promptly in early October. Perhaps Halleck would have allowed it, but then you have McClellan needing to leave

6th Corps at Williamsport
5th Corps at Sharpsburg
12th Corps at Harpers Ferry
to protect the line of the Potomac from Longstreet, which leaves him down to

1st Corps 14673 PFD
2nd Corps 16346 PFD
9th Corps 13727 PFD
For less than 45,000 PFD in infantry corps

And then the promised 30,000 from Washington - if that's 30,000 PFD (which it might well not be) then that brings McClellan's total up to just under 75,000 PFD in infantry corps, which is about what he had on the field at Antietam (less than Antietam if you count 6th Corps).

Mind you, if I were McClellan and I had to start on an offensive where the difference between a hard-fought offensive victory and the destruction of my own army was promised reinforcements from Washington, I think I'd end up bitterly laughing and going over the number of times that situation had obtained...
Offhand promises from Washington regarding troops (either "you will keep these" or "you will get these") that got unfulfilled...
Blenker's div detached
1st Corps detached (after promise of no further detachments)
Fort Monroe troops (removed from McClellan's command, though eventually reinstated months later)
1st Corps coming down to join at Richmond (that one being a dance that took up some of May and the whole of June)
Burnside at Harrisons Landing (most of July)
And of course command of the combined AoP-AoV, which didn't happen.

Which means...



Early October options by infantry​
Shenandoah​
Loudoun​
Loudoun with half of 6th Corps added to AoP​
If Washington fulfils promise​
116832​
74476​
87004​
If Washington does not fulfil promise​
101832​
44476​
57004​
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
It might also be worth noting that the rebel 10th October return is complete:

Effectives (offrs and men)Present
Longstreet's Wing30,08037,439
Jackson's Wing27,52033,360
Cavalry Division5,7616,378
Artillery Reserve9121,027
TOTAL64,27378,204

It notes an increase of 5,462 enlisted effectives over the 30th September return (exc/ cavalry), and 9,113 present.

Thus is Lee if able to move his whole force, or the majority of it, against a Loudoun column, he might have crushing superiority.

The troops that joined before Warrenton were Whipple's and Stoneman's divisions (13,385 PFD by 10th November return, say ca. 10-11,000 effectives). The 11th Corps and Sickles' Division (3rd Corps) joined in November there with ca. 10,000 for 11th Corps and 6.500 PFD for Sickles. That constitutes the 30,000.

Thus McClellan would be heading to Warrenton with ca. 58,131 in the infantry corps, plus maybe 6,000 cavalry and the reserve arty (say 1,000). Say 64,000 PFD or a bit over 50,000 effectives.

There is a chance that Lee might be able to make a general concentration and outnumber McClellan's moving column.
 
Last edited:

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Yes - what makes the Loudoun movement as executed viable is simply that the Potomac had risen, and consequently that it was possible to detach 5th and 6th Corps from the upper Potomac without risk. This effectively doubles the size of the moving column.

Looking at the movements during the Loudoun campaign, it's possible that they could have been made in much the same way without 6th Corps, but you really need at least four moving corps columns to conduct the moves as-made (e.g. on the 5th November you have 5th, 2nd and 9th covering Snickers, Ashbys and Manassas gaps respectively, and 1st Corps moving to Warrenton.)
 

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
and it concludes " It is necessary that the plan of your operations be positively determined on before orders are given for building bridges and repairing railroads. "

Which is a control measure. Which is why it's necessary to read the whole telegram. Whilst McClellan may be ordered to cross the Potomac, he is not allowed to until a plan of operations has been agreed to by Halleck. Halleck had ordered McClellan to submit a plan for approval before he's allowed to bridge the Potomac.

McClellan promptly submitted a plan for consideration, and didn't get a reply (which was a disapproval) until the 16th. In the meantime he is constrained by Halleck's order NOT to cross the Potomac until a plan has been agreed upon.

The way I interpreted the order to move and the building of bridges are mutually exclusive operations. In other words, one does not depend on the other. This can be proven by this dispatch that has Sumner sending a force to attack Leesburg.
 

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
The absolute classic is Sears admitting to Gene Thorp that the "midday" telegram was timestamped "midnight", and that he (Sears) knew this but it didn't fit his story and so he changed the facts to fit the story. In his last book, he claims that the "idnight" is a post-facto addition. Better eyesight than me to see that:



As to strengths, the footnotes in Sears indicate he understood the difference between effectives etc., and gave a simple methodology for converting to it, implying he'd done this. Then when discussing strength on the 18th he removes these corrections to try and boost McClellan's strength.

The strength of the cavalry division at 4,320 is correct for the end of the 20th, plus casualties added back. However, this apparently includes forces not on the field on the 17th (McReynolds, 8th NY and 6th US).

Sears might have a point in saying the midnight was added later. The i's in midnight are not dotted, the d, t and h do not look at all like the ones in the telegram. As to strength the claim is that Sears is purposely trying to make it look as if the ratio of forces was even greater than in actuality. Yeah, I could accept that. Sears appears to be obsessed with McClellan. Who says advertising is a waste of time and treasure!
 

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
Because a big part of Sears' case against McClellan is that McClellan delayed on the 13th.

As it happens, of course, McClellan's "12 M" telegram includes events which had not yet happened as of midday - they happened in the evening. So it must be a midnight telegram.

Yeah, I see. Sears does not include "We have possession of Catoctin" in his narrative on what's in the telegram. Maybe afraid that would give his theory away. Hmmm. Veeeery interesting. Are you to young to remember Laugh In?
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Yeah, I see. Sears does not include "We have possession of Catoctin" in his narrative on what's in the telegram. Maybe afraid that would give his theory away. Hmmm. Veeeery interesting. Are you to young to remember Laugh In?
I'm probably too British to remember it.


Here's the diagram Gene Thorp made about the situation with the telegram:

mcClellanChart1-2col.jpg




Which also points out the interesting fact that, if McClellan had indeed delayed in the way Sears suggested, the 9th Corps would have had to get from Frederick to South Mountain in about three and a half hours...
 

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
Yes, McClellan can't order this but has to request it.
And Halleck stonewalls on approving it for weeks at a time.

What is going on here is that Halleck is (1) making sure that McClellan can't act without explicit approval, and (2) not giving that approval. So Halleck is ensuring that McClellan can't do anything.

It's the equivalent of telling someone that they need permission before going outside, and then not saying anything when they ask permission. De facto this is refusing permission; indeed if that sort of shenanigans was taking place in a person to person relationship we'd call it gaslighting.

Meanwhile Halleck is also denying that there is a supply problem and would go on to deny there ever was a supply problem.

As I posted to 67th the building of bridges and moving across the Potomac are mutually exclusive. BTW, In neither of his two reports did McClellan mention that not building the bridges was a cause for his delay and does not mention Halleck being responsible for the delays. But McClellan does not spare Halleck for other matters. That is if I remember correctly what's in Mac's two reports.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
As I posted to 67th the building of bridges and moving across the Potomac are mutually exclusive. BTW, In neither of his two reports did McClellan mention that not building the bridges was a cause for his delay and does not mention Halleck being responsible for the delays. But McClellan does not spare Halleck for other matters. That is if I remember correctly what's in Mac's two reports.

But they're not, surely? You need the bridges to exist to move across the Potomac.
And certainly some of this is stuff we have to determine from other sources and evidence rather than basing it on McClellan's report - I could see him for example not wanting to include the accusation about the bridges because it's harder to quickly summarize - but the evidence seems pretty clear to me based on the timings of the back and forth letters that the majority of the delay results from periods when Halleck has McClellan's plan but is refusing to approve it.


Situation​
20 September​
Shepherdstown​
21 September​
Union army shifts to Harpers Ferry (to 23rd)​
22 September​
Sumner ordered to throw a pontoon bridge over the Potomac​
23 September​
Halleck asks McClellan’s intent​
24 September​
McClellan says he’ll be crossing the Potomac and Shenandoah to attack Winchester​
25 September​
McClellan asks for any reinforcements (11th Corps, he was told he’d get them) to go to Knoxville​
26 September​
Halleck cancels reinforcements for McClellan, countermands bridge building, asks for McClellan’s plans​
27 September​
McClellan explains his plans​
28 September​
No reply from Halleck​
29 September​
No reply from Halleck​
30 September​
No reply from Halleck​
1 October​
McClellan says the bridges are required anyway; Halleck refuses to allow bridge building and says to speak to the President; Halleck’s telegram also implies he hasn’t sent McClellan’s plans to the President​
2 October​
Lincoln’s visit ongoing​
3 October​
Lincoln’s visit ongoing​
4 October​
Lincoln’s visit ongoing; McClellan (and other accounts) agree Lincoln was persuaded that the bridges were needed​
5 October​
Situation seems stable​
6 October​
Situation seems stable​
7 October​
Halleck asks for McClellan’s plans and refuses permission to build bridges etc. until approval is given​
8 October​
McClellan explains his plans​
9 October​
No reply from Halleck​
10 October​
No reply from Halleck​
11 October​
No reply from Halleck​
12 October​
No reply from Halleck​
13 October​
No reply from Halleck​
14 October​
No reply from Halleck​
15 October​
No reply from Halleck​
16 October​
No reply from Halleck; Lincoln urges McClellan to get moving but does not give an order​
17 October​
Halleck has still not approved McClellan’s plans​
18 October​
Halleck has still not approved McClellan’s plans​
19 October​
Halleck has still not approved McClellan’s plans​
20 October​
Halleck has still not approved McClellan’s plans​
21 October​
Halleck has still not approved McClellan’s plans​
22 October​
Halleck has still not approved McClellan’s plans​
23 October​
McClellan offers different plans; Halleck approves them​
24 October​
McClellan begins bridging the Potomac to conduct the Loudoun Valley campaign​

I make it that, of the 35 days in this table, 17 (i.e. about half) have a delay stemming effectively solely from Halleck having McClellan's plans but not either okaying them or overruling them.
 

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
The reason I say the timeframe doesn't support "finally" is that you had McClellan "finally" sending the Shenandoah route plan, but Halleck had asked for a plan the previous day (request on 6th, reply on 7th).


Halleck here is either misremembering or lying. A peremptory order is one which is unambiguous and is to be obeyed exactly and immediately - but what Halleck ordered on October 6th was for McClellan to submit a plan, not "cross the river now".

Halleck had asked for a plan in a dispatch dated 26th September.

"Your telegram in relation to reconstructing bridges at Harper's Ferry was received yesterday. As I telegraphed to you this morning, the War Department wishes to be informed more definitely of your plans before authorizing the expenditure of large sums of money for rebuilding bridges on the Potomac....."

There's more to the dispatch but that should settle the issue about the date when plans were requested.

I forgot to add that McClellan himself says in his Report that the president ordered him to cross the Potomac and give battle. That's how McClellan understood the dispatch; as an order.
 
Last edited:

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Halleck had asked for a plan in a dispatch dated 26th September.

"Your telegram in relation to reconstructing bridges at Harper's Ferry was received yesterday. As I telegraphed to you this morning, the War Department wishes to be informed more definitely of your plans before authorizing the expenditure of large sums of money for rebuilding bridges on the Potomac....."

There's more to the dispatch but that should settle the issue about the date when plans were requested.
Yes, and McClellan replied with his plans promptly (same day or next day).
Halleck didn't give a reply.

Then he requested McClellan's plans again on the 7th October (McClellan replied promptly) and didn't reply. It wasn't until McClellan submitted different plans on the 23rd that Halleck approved them, and once that happened McClellan was in motion the next day.
 

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
I'm probably too British to remember it.


Here's the diagram Gene Thorp made about the situation with the telegram:

View attachment 372195



Which also points out the interesting fact that, if McClellan had indeed delayed in the way Sears suggested, the 9th Corps would have had to get from Frederick to South Mountain in about three and a half hours...

Yeah. I've read about the 18 hour delay even from other sources than Sears. I think it goes back to Michie or Ropes. I know Kenneth Williams includes it in his critique of McClellan. So, by this chart McClellan waits just half an hour to order the 9th Corp to move as a result of the Lost Order. Is that how it should be re-interpreted?
 

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
But they're not, surely? You need the bridges to exist to move across the Potomac.
And certainly some of this is stuff we have to determine from other sources and evidence rather than basing it on McClellan's report - I could see him for example not wanting to include the accusation about the bridges because it's harder to quickly summarize - but the evidence seems pretty clear to me based on the timings of the back and forth letters that the majority of the delay results from periods when Halleck has McClellan's plan but is refusing to approve it.

McClellan had pontoon bridges built both across the Potomac and the Shenandoah River. That's what he used to get Sumner's force across to attack Leesburg on the 2nd of October: and don't call me Shirley (surely you Brits must have seen Airplane!)
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Yeah. I've read about the 18 hour delay even from other sources than Sears. I think it goes back to Michie or Ropes. I know Kenneth Williams includes it in his critique of McClellan. So, by this chart McClellan waits just half an hour to order the 9th Corp to move as a result of the Lost Order. Is that how it should be re-interpreted?
It actually dates back all the way to Jacob D. Cox, who was in command of the Kanawha division. Which is odd because Cox was actually the first division out of Frederick - McClellan ordered him forwards around noon (by Cox's account) which means that if anything 9th Corps was already on the move when SO191 was found.

The best way to interpret it seems to be that SO191 confirmed things McClellan had already suspected, but his army was on the move before it was found.
 
Top