Could Pope Have Won at 2nd Manassas?

Andy Cardinal

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This verges into the realm of what if, of which I am typically suspicious. However, I also see the value of exploring "counterfactual" history. So, in that spirit, two questions:

1. In what way could Pope have won the battle at Second Manassas? I believe the opportunity to win the battle was there; historically Pope fixated exclusively on Jackson and lost track and/or ignored Longstreet. However, the opportunity to defeat Lee's army in detail was there for a time, and better generalship would have made the Union army better prepared for Longstreet's arrival with possible good results.

2. If Pope had won the battle, how would that have impacted the war? There are 3 obvious results of Union victory at 2nd Manassas that come immediately to mind -- 1. Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation a few weeks earlier; 2. Lee does not invade Maryland in September; and 3. Pope is the ascendant commander in the East, which more than likely spells the end of McClellan's role in the war as of September 1.

I am hoping for an interesting discussion based on the questions posed above.
 
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Dead Parrott

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1. Larger, more concentrated attacks instead of the small as disjointed attacks he actually conducted.

2. Believe Porter's report of Confederates (Longstreet). Scout it with cavalry. React accordingly.

As I recall, Porter and Longstreet agreed postwar that Porter's corps was positioned (by chance) to prevent Longstreet's attack because the Confederate flank would have been exposed to Porter's counterattack.

3 Jackson had a strong defensive work from the railroad cut. The right flank ended on a wooded area and the left was anchored on Bull Run.

Some Confederate cavalry screened the north side of the river. Bull Run is notable in that in most places the north bank are higher than the south. It would probably require a roundabout move due to roads, but a Union infantry division or two could disperse the Confederates cavalry and guard the ford while artillery enfiladed Jackson's line.

The best way to win Second Manassas in Ultimate Civil War General is to make a demonstration in front of the Confederate lines while a large portion of your army performs a left hook. Can be done in-game on the first day, before Longstreet arrives. Obviously it's a game so it would have been much more difficult in real life. However, Pope made no effort to find and turn Jackson's right in real life, instead launching headlong attacks at his center.

I always love how easy everything is in most wargames - clear view of the board, terrain & movement calculations exact, strengths known, etc etc....too bad real war is nothing like that at all...!
 

Saphroneth

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I will note that in reality Pope actually was trying to feel for Jackson's right, but he was doing so in a very poor way. He theoretically committed Porter + McDowell to it, but the Joint Order was enough of a mess that it didn't work out that way (and McDowell took his troops off to join with Pope's main body).

I've done a map study and I think by the time that flank column could reasonably have reached Jackson's right (even without the Joint Order confusing things) Longsteet was already substantially on the field and deploying. You'd need Porter + McDowell to fight through Longstreet.
 

Saphroneth

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I think the fundamental error of the Northern Virginia campaign on the Union side - aside from actually going for the transfer of forces at all, as the rationale is dubious at best with the true numbers - is that Pope didn't block the Bull Run mountains. The amount of force required to do so would have been cheap at the price, and it would have allowed Pope to concentrate almost all of his attention on Jackson.

There's even prospects for rail movement of troops (6th Corps, specifically) to east of Leesburg, around Farnwell or Guildford Station. This would alow them to block the Aldie gap in the Bull Run mountains on about the same timescale as Jackson would have arrived there, but this is contingent on Pope actually maintaining communication with his base.


Incidentally that's something else I would point out as a major flaw with Pope's style of operations. He didn't consider it important to maintain communication with his base, and so consequently you have periods where nobody at Washington has any idea where Pope is or what the situation is. At times there's question as to whether Pope is going to retreat to Aquia.
They have troops and want to get those troops to him, but they have no idea whether there's thousands of Confederates between Pope and Washington so they have to bring in cavalry (for scouting) and advance to contact.
 

neyankee61

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Sherman received Grant ' s message dated Dec 6 on or about Dec 18. He wrote 2 or 3 letters to Grant explaining why he should match into SC. Grant gave him permission Dec 24.
 

Saphroneth

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Sherman received Grant ' s message dated Dec 6 on or about Dec 18. He wrote 2 or 3 letters to Grant explaining why he should match into SC. Grant gave him permission Dec 24.
Right.

So, to be clear, Halleck on August 1 told McClellan to send off his sick.
On August 4 is when Halleck tells McClellan to withdraw the army to Aquia (that's the date McClellan recieved the letter). McClellan protests the order, explaining why, and Halleck reiterates it.
By August 9, Halleck was complaining that McClellan should have had troops to Aquia by then and the delay was not satisfactory (i.e. he thought McClellan should have already had troops arriving at Aquia by then).


So if Sherman had been as rapid in loading troops as Halleck thought McClellan should have been, there should already have been ships en route to Grant by Dec 24.

This is not to say that Sherman did anything wrong; rather, it is to point out that Halleck's expectations of how fast a waterborne movement can be conducted from a standing start are not necessarily realistic.
 

neyankee61

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Sherman's first reply was to tell Grant that he was collecting transports with the Navy's help. He told Grant it would take time but as soon as he could gather enough transports he would start sending his troops to him.
 

Saphroneth

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Sherman's first reply was to tell Grant that he was collecting transports with the Navy's help. He told Grant it would take time but as soon as he could gather enough transports he would start sending his troops to him.
Right, which is to say, he immediately begins the work to commence the movement. Ditto McClellan (who was ordered to send his sick off first and used all available ships for the purpose).

McClellan also specifically warned how long it would take to send off all his sick, and functionally his estimate is correct. (He's about one day late, but after he'd given the estimate he also had to ship off some cavalry and artillery for Burnside which consumed some of the transports.)
 

Saphroneth

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Of course we are talking about Sherman and Grant relationship vs Halleck and McClellan
Indeed, but the question started out being about McClellan dawdling (I demonstrated he didn't) and moved on to McClellan refusing to disclose his plans to Halleck (and yet McClellan did disclose those plans; Halleck just didn't agree with them). So now the issue is the relationship between the two.

McClellan says that once reinforced by Burnside he will advance; Halleck orders Burnside elsewhere and then tells McClellan no reinforcements are available.


In their later relationship Halleck is clearly setting conditions for McClellan and then not fulfilling his part when McClellan meets the conditions. When McClellan wants to attack into the Shenandoah and submits a plan for approval, that approval being required before bridge building can be done (by Halleck's order), Halleck sits on it.
 

Lubliner

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Indeed, but the question started out being about McClellan dawdling (I demonstrated he didn't) and moved on to McClellan refusing to disclose his plans to Halleck (and yet McClellan did disclose those plans; Halleck just didn't agree with them). So now the issue is the relationship between the two.

McClellan says that once reinforced by Burnside he will advance; Halleck orders Burnside elsewhere and then tells McClellan no reinforcements are available.


In their later relationship Halleck is clearly setting conditions for McClellan and then not fulfilling his part when McClellan meets the conditions. When McClellan wants to attack into the Shenandoah and submits a plan for approval, that approval being required before bridge building can be done (by Halleck's order), Halleck sits on it.
I now remember early on when McClellan first took command of the AOP, and Halleck was in St. Louis, McClellan telegraphed a personal message of hope, and commendation concerning victory. He also made mention of the positional rank of someone ascending to a major-generalship, or the numbers allowed with that position, and had spoken of whether it would be admitted. He had definitely been intimate at that time with Halleck. Curiously enough with Halleck's eventual rise to higher command, I must give a certain amount of credit to McClellan in his obedience to that command. For all practical purposes, it appears he did not want to jeopardize whatever friendship existed between them by an act of disobedience or rebuff.
Lubliner.
 
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From the responses, Pope can't win unless he isn't Pope...but that's assuming everyone else is who they were, historically speaking.
What if 'Seven Days' Jackson shows up? The guy who seemed disoriented, listless, generally out of it?
What if Longstreet gets a case of 'the slows' and delays, or takes the wrong road?
If Pope isn't up against the hammer and anvil of the ANV, but a couple of mediocre generals performing well below their usual standards, how does that change things? Can he remain Pope and win?
 

Saphroneth

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From the responses, Pope can't win unless he isn't Pope...but that's assuming everyone else is who they were, historically speaking.
What if 'Seven Days' Jackson shows up? The guy who seemed disoriented, listless, generally out of it?
What if Longstreet gets a case of 'the slows' and delays, or takes the wrong road?
If Pope isn't up against the hammer and anvil of the ANV, but a couple of mediocre generals performing well below their usual standards, how does that change things? Can he remain Pope and win?
So there's a number of things to think about here.


A campaign can be won in a manoeuvre victory (i.e. by manoeuvre the commander creates a situation he wants, without a major battle - think Tullahoma) or in a campaign where the manoeuvre sets up a battle where the enemy is forced to fight at a disadvantage (such as by making it so the enemy has to fight their way clear) or in a situation where both sides basically pitch into a voluntary battle and one of them comes off better.


So the first question to address is - is Pope good at battle handling?

The evidence seems to suggest that he is not, at least not with the army he had in Northern Virginia. Counting only the first day of main fighting where Pope was going against Jackson (and ignoring Porter's entire corps and Longstreet's entire corps, plus ignoring Banks and the cavalry), Pope had about 55,000 effectives who suffered 4,500 casualties.
Jackson had about 23,300 effectives who suffered 1,750 casualties.

This produces a CEV of about 0.07. This is bad to the extent that it cannot be entirely explained by the nature of the defences Pope was going against.

For the second day, again discounting Porter and Porter's casualties/inflicted damage (to get a sense of the impact of Longstreet's attack), the CEV comes out as about 0.25. Which is also pretty bad; it implies Pope's open-field CEV isn't going to be much more than 0.25.


What this tells us then is that for Pope to win a campaign that includes a fight it will need to pretty much stack an overwhelming advantage. But the unification of the armies, while the campaign objective, doesn't really qualify as a win as then there's going to need to be something done with that army.

If we assume that Ricketts' division (only) blocks Manassas Gap on the 28th and Longstreet screws up continuously (i.e. does not get troops through the gap that day or the day afterwards) and that Jackson hangs around at Manassas for too long, then you have the possibility for Hooker, Kearny, 9th and 11th Corps, plus a division or two of 1st Corps, to combine against Jackson on the 28th. (Porter is too far to really join in that day) This is basically the best case scenario possible as it is the Confederates doing nothing for a day or so, and some of it (no Longstreet involved) relies on someone actively disobeying Pope's orders so it can be said to be a situation created in spite of Pope.

In this case, Pope concentrates about 51,000 effectives against Jackson's 24,500 effectives. Which is roughly comparable to the first day of fighting at Bull Run, though against less capable defences.

Jackson has at least one line of retreat (to Centreville) and if he knew Pope was coming a little ahead of time he could defend the line of the Broad Run. So this is a battle of choice to some extent for Jackson. He has one axis of attack to deal with (or two slightly related ones) and there's nothing actually coming in to flank him, so if he's under too much pressure he can retire to the north, plus retreat towards Aldie overnight.



It might work out as a victory. But note that it involves an outright coincidence blocking the Bull Run mountain gap, and it involves one of Pope's biggest flaws as an operational commander (i.e. that he didn't think about possible enemy actions) holding true. Even so, it relies on heavy attacks into an enemy with a position benefitting from secure flanks.

It also relies on Pope doing better on a battlefield than we have any real evidence he would.
 
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