Cavalry On The Flanks

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Munford had the 2nd, 7th, and 12th VA Cav. regiments (the rest of the brigade being detached), and these were very slight outfits so far as what they could muster in the field. At Poolesville several days before Antietam the 12th had about 80 riders (Dennis Fry), maybe a couple dozen of whom were killed, wounded, or captured there and near Sugar Loaf mountain.

Mr. Hoptak's book on the Battle of South Mountain says a few days later in the fight at Crampton's Gap, Munford's brigade; the 2nd VAC had 120 or so men, so this was an even smaller brigade by Antietam. No doubt after the campaign the units rendezvoused, and with so few men across the Potomac casualties would have to have been slight.

Numbers aside, regarding Antietam, is it known WHERE Munford's line was posted? Near the mouth of the creek?
The 2nd, 7th and 12th totalled 24 companies, and in the Northern Virginia campaign they had 1,240 effectives (per the schulte orbat). Where on earth were they all, then?


Numbers aside, the Carman maps put Munford near Myers' and Snaveley's Fords:

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This is 6:45 to 7:00 AM.
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
The 2nd, 7th and 12th totalled 24 companies, and in the Northern Virginia campaign they had 1,240 effectives (per the schulte orbat). Where on earth were they all, then?


Numbers aside, the Carman maps put Munford near Myers' and Snaveley's Fords:

View attachment 413537

This is 6:45 to 7:00 AM.

From Childe's life and Campaigns of Gen. Lee..

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And from another account...
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Reading the history of Ashby's cavalry, by McDonald, he mentions when the men's horses wore out, they took off to get others, if they could... the CS cavalry having to supply their own.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
From Childe's life and Campaigns of Gen. Lee..

View attachment 413545
View attachment 413546

And from another account...
View attachment 413547

View attachment 413548

Reading the history of Ashby's cavalry, by McDonald, he mentions when the men's horses wore out, they took off to get others, if they could... the CS cavalry having to supply their own.

View attachment 413544
But "thousands of stragglers" is insufficient. Quite apart from the question of actually proving that those stragglers were in such numbers (which is a thorny issue in and of itself, because claiming mass straggling after the fact is a much more acceptable explanation for aggrieved Southern pride than Lee actually getting himself in trouble), the 12th VA had 358 effectives on September 2 per the Schulte orbat. If they only had 80 effectives at Poolesville then they'd straggled 77% before any actually difficult marching had taken place. This would mean three quarters of the unit hadn't crossed the river.

I view that level of straggling as basically unbelievable.


I should also note that the evidence that some straggling happened in the Maryland Campaign is strong. The evidence that the armies (both) straggled more than normal is also strong, with the Union 1st Corps giving only 2/3 of their nominal PFD forming battle line instead of the usual 5/6.
But the kind of numbers for troops who fell out on the crossing of the Potomac are simply not credible. The numbers usually given would indicate over half of Lee's army failed to cross the Potomac, which would be utterly impossible to miss, and those few rolls taken over the period after the army had crossed the Potomac show no such enormous diminuition. The rolls of strength taken on September 22 for the infantry portion of the army (which are noted to be imperfect) plus the casualties suffered in the Maryland Campaign imply a minimum strength that crossed the river of 50,000 exclusive of cavalry (36,000 on the strength report for the infantry formations, plus the reserve artillery which is not on the September 22 report, plus 13,500 admitted Confederate casualties); at the same time the much heavier marches that took place happened after crossing the Potomac. Longstreet's march down to South Mountain, Jackson's march via Williamsport, Jackson's march from Harpers Ferry to Sharpsburg, and the pull back from South Mountain to Sharpsburg by Longstreet and DH Hill are all urgent marches which are more intense than the movement from Manassas to Frederick and would be expected to cause more straggling.

Similarly, the idea that the army was heavily weakened by "want of rest, food and shoes, and worn out by continual marches and daily battles" isn't entirely credible either. Of the three parts of the Confederate army:
Jackson's men had marched hard and fought hard on multiple days back to back, but they'd also captured the main Union supply depot at Manassas (so be good for food and shoes).
Longstreet's men had not marched so hard, and had not fought so hard either (they had one really big fight day at 2nd Manassas, then a day without fighting, then another day of some fighting at Chantilly).
DH Hill's men had marched to arrive on the field, but hadn't really fought at all.


As it happens, Carman gives approx. 4,500 Confederate cavalry on the field. With 127 companies in Stuart's entire force we should expect this to mean about 35 men per company, so the 2nd, 7th and 12th (24 companies, so about 1/5 of Stuart's force) should be about 900 men. This would be in effectives.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The additional question that has to be addressed here is what exactly the benefit is of a cavalry recce there. There are these potential benefits offhand:

- slowing down enemy movement.
- pushing in enemy screen to prevent observation of infantry.
- scouting to detect enemy infantry.
- blocking a ford.

Of these, slowing down enemy movement is not really feasible unless it is the cavalry main effort for McClellan's army. AP Hill's force is several thousand strong and there are other forces available (including cavalry, such as Stuart's) and a deep penetration move by Union forces is the kind of thing that might see the cavalry cut off.

There is no benefit from pushing in the enemy screen. 9th Corps is in contact with enemy infantry.

Scouting to detect enemy movement is redundant, as the signals station can see AP Hill's movement already.

And blocking the ford is also not really feasible unless it's the cavalry main effort and launched much earlier in the day (which will agian draw a Confederate countermove).


So, I reiterate - what exactly is the benefit supposed to be? It is something that perhaps "should" have been done, assuming it was not taking too much resources from other tasks, but the possible benefits do seem to require taking resources from other tasks.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I should also note that the 7th VA Cav were detached to Jackson, and that Munford said he had 550-600 cav at Antietam in the 2nd and 12th. This is out of 766 pre-campaign effectives and represents about 20% to 30% straggling, which is on par with other formations.
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
But "thousands of stragglers" is insufficient. Quite apart from the question of actually proving that those stragglers were in such numbers (which is a thorny issue in and of itself, because claiming mass straggling after the fact is a much more acceptable explanation for aggrieved Southern pride than Lee actually getting himself in trouble), the 12th VA had 358 effectives on September 2 per the Schulte orbat. If they only had 80 effectives at Poolesville then they'd straggled 77% before any actually difficult marching had taken place. This would mean three quarters of the unit hadn't crossed the river.

I view that level of straggling as basically unbelievable.


I should also note that the evidence that some straggling happened in the Maryland Campaign is strong. The evidence that the armies (both) straggled more than normal is also strong, with the Union 1st Corps giving only 2/3 of their nominal PFD forming battle line instead of the usual 5/6.
But the kind of numbers for troops who fell out on the crossing of the Potomac are simply not credible. The numbers usually given would indicate over half of Lee's army failed to cross the Potomac, which would be utterly impossible to miss, and those few rolls taken over the period after the army had crossed the Potomac show no such enormous diminuition. The rolls of strength taken on September 22 for the infantry portion of the army (which are noted to be imperfect) plus the casualties suffered in the Maryland Campaign imply a minimum strength that crossed the river of 50,000 exclusive of cavalry (36,000 on the strength report for the infantry formations, plus the reserve artillery which is not on the September 22 report, plus 13,500 admitted Confederate casualties); at the same time the much heavier marches that took place happened after crossing the Potomac. Longstreet's march down to South Mountain, Jackson's march via Williamsport, Jackson's march from Harpers Ferry to Sharpsburg, and the pull back from South Mountain to Sharpsburg by Longstreet and DH Hill are all urgent marches which are more intense than the movement from Manassas to Frederick and would be expected to cause more straggling.

Similarly, the idea that the army was heavily weakened by "want of rest, food and shoes, and worn out by continual marches and daily battles" isn't entirely credible either. Of the three parts of the Confederate army:
Jackson's men had marched hard and fought hard on multiple days back to back, but they'd also captured the main Union supply depot at Manassas (so be good for food and shoes).
Longstreet's men had not marched so hard, and had not fought so hard either (they had one really big fight day at 2nd Manassas, then a day without fighting, then another day of some fighting at Chantilly).
DH Hill's men had marched to arrive on the field, but hadn't really fought at all.


As it happens, Carman gives approx. 4,500 Confederate cavalry on the field. With 127 companies in Stuart's entire force we should expect this to mean about 35 men per company, so the 2nd, 7th and 12th (24 companies, so about 1/5 of Stuart's force) should be about 900 men. This would be in effectives.


Yes, the large scale straggling is a tough one, but it is generally well documented... at least I've read comments of it quite frequently. Regarding the strength (or weakness) of Munford's brigade:

From my notes, Sgt. Maj. Figgatt of the 12th VAC reported in the 1880s that the regiment mustered at Poolesville: "We had only about 100 men with the regiment that day."

Col. Munford reported the regiment numbered 75, (of whom 19 were casualties at Poolesville), due to details and “other causes.”

Mr. T.B. Ruffin of Mahone's brigade, stated Munford's cavalry at Crampton's gap, Sept. 14, numbered perhaps 200. (Norfolk Ledger, 1876).

From Capt. J.N. Opie, on the straggling generally...

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And from an 1891 review of the Battles and Leaders series...

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From Gen. Lee's comment, quoted above, it appears the stragglers were less interested in capturing enemy shoes, than accepting gratuities from the people...

The cavalry was evidently also susceptible to straggling too evidently. More, when the horses wore out the men would "go on a flank" to procure another. A federal cavalryman described the effect of active service on the mounts (and by Antietam, Ashby's cavalry brigade under Munford had been in the field several months, and largely without efficient military saddles like those described);

The horse is, in active campaign, saddled on an average about fifteen hours out of twenty four. He has no hay and only such other feed as he can pick up during halts. The usual water he drinks is brook water, so muddy by the passage of the column as to be of the color of chocolate. Of course, sore backs are our greatest trouble. Backs soon get feverish under the saddle and the first day’s march swells them; after that day by day the trouble grows. No care can stop it. Imagine a horse with his withers swollen to three times the natural size, and with a volcanic, running sore pouring matter down each side, and you have a case with which every cavalry officer is daily called upon to deal, and you imagine a horse which has still to be ridden until he lays down in sheer suffering under the saddle. The air of Virginia is literally burdened today with the stench of dead horses, federal and confederate. You pass them on every road and find them in every field, ….Poor brutes! How it would astonish and terrify you and all others at home with your sleek, well-fed animals, to see the weak, gaunt, rough animals, with each rib visible and hipbones starting through the flesh on which these “dashing cavalry raids” were executed. It would knock romance out of you.” [Knopp, Ken R., “The Confederate Horse in Camp and Field,” ]

I've seen references on military records to "horse detail" for men sent to find mounts...
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Yes, the large scale straggling is a tough one, but it is generally well documented... at least I've read comments of it quite frequently. Regarding the strength (or weakness) of Munford's brigade:
Right, but when Munford gives his strength at Antietam as 550-600, then surely that's more indicative?

From my notes, Sgt. Maj. Figgatt of the 12th VAC reported in the 1880s that the regiment mustered at Poolesville: "We had only about 100 men with the regiment that day."
Does that mean the whole regiment there, or just that portion which was present? That's about right for a battalion or squadron depending on what "about 100" means.

And from an 1891 review of the Battles and Leaders series...

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But that's "it has been recorded". What is that "record" based on?

I mean, "nearly 20,000 men" being absent would give Lee 55,000 men, which is a greater strength than I think he had! My estimate is that 47,000 men were on the field and in line, which is about 66% of pre-campaign strength (the same ratio the Federals displayed).


I think what happened is that Lee claimed he had a small number of men on the field, and this was simply accepted even though Lee hadn't taken rolls for weeks and would have no way to know for sure; consolidating the numbers from witnesses gives abou 47,000 (with error bars).

Of course, Lee complained about straggling, but so did everyone, because effective strength was always much lower than the number of men who were on the rolls. Antietam sees it unusually bad, but only by comparison.
 

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
But that's "it has been recorded". What is that "record" based on?
Estimates evidently... General Longstreet wrote in "Battles and Leaders"...

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For his part, General D.H. Hill felt there could not have been 27,000 CSA infantry at Antietam... claiming his own division of 3,000 was the largest by far. The balance were artillery, and cavalry on the flanks.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
For his part, General D.H. Hill felt there could not have been 27,000 CSA infantry at Antietam... claiming his own division of 3,000 was the largest by far. The balance were artillery, and cavalry on the flanks.
Yes, but going through the estimates of his subordinates indicates:



DH Hill: DH Hill claimed 3,000 infantry, but Carman calculated 5,449 infantry and 346 artillery.
Via Clemens we get:
Ripley's brigade: 1,349 infantry into action
Rodes' brigade: 3rd, 6th and 12th Alabama carried 840 into action, excluding at least the officers of the 12th. 5th Alabama was a small regiment, but no clue about the 26th; if the 5th and 26th average the same as the other three then it's ca. 1,400.
Colquitt's brigade, from Carman's correspondence:
6th Georgia: 300+ (and one company on picket not counted)
23rd Georgia: 485 men (not officers)
27th Georgia: 400 men (not officers)
28th Georgia: 250 men or 250-275 officers and men
13th Alabama: Carman guessed 310 based on a 2nd September strength of 612
Which implies that there were ~1,780 men plus officers, for a brigade strength of ~1,900
Garland's brigade:
Carman gives the brigade 756, but it was the strongest in the division on the 2nd September (though it did then take plenty of casualties at South Mountain) and the 5th North Carolina had ~625 men at Antietam. Adding officers and assuming the other four regiments are each about half the size of the 5th NC gives an estimate of about 2,100, but I'd say we could go with 1,700 to avoid overclaiming. Effectively this is assuming the other four regiments average 250 officers and men.

GB Anderson's brigade - Carman gives 1,174 and this seems fairly solid.
Divisional total:
1349+1400+1900+1700+1174 = 7,523 infantry, and 346 gunners.

After the battle (September 22) DH Hilll's division reported 332 officers and 4,739 men, for 5,071 just after Antietam. He suffered 3,241 casualties (by his report) at both battles.

He began the campaign with 9,848 effectives (September 2) and had not fought in August.

Estimates evidently... General Longstreet wrote in "Battles and Leaders"...
But look at how Longstreet constructs the number. He takes the 2nd Manassas strength (50,000), adds Anderson (4,000) and then claims 20,000 stragglers, but he ignores DH Hill's entire column up from Richmond (ca. 25,000).
Taking the straggler number as correct but adding in DH Hill's column we would get 50,000 + 4,000 + 25,000 - 20,000, for 59,000 (not 37,000) - removing casualties from Second Bull Run is down to ca. 50,000. (The number I've used is 47,000 effectives in line at Antietam.)
Note that this number is after straggling, while the number Longstreet quotes for McClellan is before straggling, and we know that McClellan's forces straggled heavily (specifically we know that 1st Corps at least got only 2/3 of its theoretical strength into line, which accords with evidence for other corps) so actually in line of battle McClellan would have more like 56,000.


It is very much in the interests of senior Confederate leadership in the Maryland Campaign to claim enormous amounts of straggling, and specifically enormous amounts of stragglers never entered the North at all. But while this happened on some scale, the idea that over 20,000 failed to do so (over and above normal straggling that happened to every army) raises difficult questions about what the hell they all ate for two to three weeks.

By contrast, the idea that the heavy straggling only set in on the forced-marches to Sharpsburg explains this much more satisfactorily (the men were only away from their commissariat for a few days).
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
As Harsh noted:

"Walter Herron Taylor, one of the most avid statisticians of the Lost Cause, gave Lee 49,077 men at Second Manassas and 35,255 at Sharpsburg. 33 In neither of his books does Taylor estimate the size of the Confederate army at the time of crossing the Potomac, nor does he assign a figure to the reenforcements from Richmond.

William Allan puts Lee at 50,000 on September 2 by taking Taylor’s figure for Second Manassas and then assuming the reinforcements “fully made up for his losses in battle, but it is not so certain that they covered the additional losses from sickness and straggling.” 34 A. L. Long wrote the army “did not exceed 45,000 effective men.” 35

Bradley Johnson went to the extreme of giving Lee only 35,000 men present for duty on entering Maryland, but he apparently made the error of using Taylor’s figures for September 17 without accounting for either battle or straggling losses between the 2d and the 17th. 36

Contemporary historian Stephen Sears concluded, “Reinforcements from Richmond … were at hand or on the way, but they barely made good the 9,000 men lost at Bull Run and Chantilly. On this date [September 3] Lee could count perhaps 50,000 troops with which to undertake his expedition beyond the Confederacy’s northern frontier.” 37 Sears offers no source for his figures, but the echo is so strong as to suggest he adopted Allan’s views.

On the other side, several authors have suggested Lee had a somewhat larger army at the time. Without specifying a number, Longstreet’s chief of staff, Moxley Sorrell, noted: “The enemy had suffered a serious defeat and was driven into his capital, his numbers again very great, but of demoralized and raw-recruited men. On the other hand, Lee also had a strong army (for Confederate numbers— we had been accustomed to be outnumbered.)” 38

Historian James Murfin decided: “The most men he counted on taking into Maryland was 70,000, and this number would probably be depleted even more by the time he crossed the Potomac.” 39 Murfin cites no source for his conclusion, nor does he explain why serious depletion was expected between Chantilly and the crossing of the Potomac. He perhaps alludes to the drop-outs who objected to leaving the Confederacy."
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Of course, the strength issue is somewhat getting away from the key point, which is what this cavalry flanking move at Antietam is actually supposed to accomplish. It seems that for all the goals one might have in mind it is either redundant (in that it would be gathering information that was already available through other means) or would involve a major commitment of strength (and thus have to be the main cavalry effort).
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Why didnt any cavalry patrols probe closer to the Potomac

Was Antietam Creek crossable anywhere downstream of Snavely Ford?

Today there is one bridge downstream, where the creek meets the Potomac at Antietam village, but I don't know if a predecessor bridge was extant there at the time of the battle. It was about six miles from McClellan's HQ, then several miles back to the Confederate flank or rear - too far for effective communication.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Was Antietam Creek crossable anywhere downstream of Snavely Ford?
The Carman map shows another ford, Myer's, but that goes directly into the woods where Munford's cavalry was. That is the southern limit of the map.

I would not want to say there was no ford.


There was a bridge of sorts, though - the Antietam Aqueduct which carries the B&O canal was completed in 1834 and still stands. However, it is described as "heavily damaged" during the Civil War and so may have been unavailable - the damage could have been in 1862, 1863 or 1864 and I cannot currently determine when.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
The engineers had the problem that they could get close enough to the Antietam to look for fords without being shot at. Rebel skirmishers still held the right bank. Indeed, the rebels held the area in front of the bridge until the first charge of the 17th. Hence the engineers didn't find the ford just upstream from the bridge.

Duane had located "farm ford" (i.e. the ford north of the bend), but hadn't been able to survey it due to the skirmishers.

There is a case that Burnside's cavalry should have made a sweep of the area to drive in the skirmishers. A history indicates a battalion of the 6th NY Cav did such a sweep, but on the 17th.
 
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