Special Order 191 Fact or Fiction?

Fact or Fiction

  • Fact

    Votes: 22 81.5%
  • Fiction

    Votes: 5 18.5%

  • Total voters
    27

War Horse

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Okay I was reading berk / 13u's thread and became intrigued. Why was there no follow up or investigation concerning the cigars Wapped in Special Order 191. Was it an elaborate hoax? I've done a little digging and it seems some pretty heavy hitters are leaning that way.






 
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Drew

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OK I'll bite.

I was at Antietam on Halloween with a published author whom I asked your very question, War Horse.

I asked him straight up why McClellan didn't act on the orders or whether he thought it might be a ruse.

There was no direct answer, a sort of "both" as to he sort of blew it or maybe he thought it was a plant. We may never know the answer, but I'm all ears if anyone's got an idea.
 

War Horse

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OK I'll bite.

I was at Antietam on Halloween with a published author whom I asked your very question, War Horse.

I asked him straight up why McClellan didn't act on the orders or whether he thought it might be a ruse.

There was no direct answer, a sort of "both" as to he sort of blew it or maybe he thought it was a plant. We may never know the answer, but I'm all ears if anyone's got an idea.
Thanks Drew.
 
But he did act? Slowly, it's true - but then, that's McClellan. Slotkin's Long Road to Antietam is, IMO, very good on this.

McClellan would never have attacked at South Mountain if he didn't think he had a guaranteed advantage (IMO). Don't forget, this is the same man who fought Antietam with one hand tied behind his back and both eyes closed.

As to an enquiry, I've always thought that Lee kept the lid on it though not for the reasons this hoax/myth/counter intelligence theorist does:

http://americancivilwar.com/authors...ial-Order-191-Position-Paper-Joseph-Ryan.html

This guy would have been good at Kennedy theories back in the 60s.. :smile:
 
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Dave G

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I'm not sure about this now.
Some years ago I read Joseph Ryan's article about SO #191 being a "ruse of war" and it made a lot of sense. I asked a NPS Ranger about why the order (at the Monocacy VC at the time I visited) was in pristine condition although it supposedly had spent a day in the rain. He said it was found under a tree. Has anybody heard about that? Someone on this board mentioned that it was in an envelope -- although this is disputed in some reports.

To get back to Ryan, I started watching his videos on the Peninsula Campaign. He is highly pro-McClellan and leaves out any facts about why McClellan was a failure. I watched about ten minutes of one film mostly to see the battle sites -- but concluded that the guy is out to lunch -- so now I have to rethink his SO 191 "ruse of war" theory.
 
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Joined
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OK I'll bite.

I was at Antietam on Halloween with a published author whom I asked your very question, War Horse.

I asked him straight up why McClellan didn't act on the orders or whether he thought it might be a ruse.

There was no direct answer, a sort of "both" as to he sort of blew it or maybe he thought it was a plant. We may never know the answer, but I'm all ears if anyone's got an idea.

Barton Warren Mitchell of Company F 27th Indiana Infantry is credited with finding it. He was wounded (leg wound) on the 17th. Returned to duty the following April. Mustered out 9/1/1864. He was from Putnam County, Indiana, "a 45 year-old railroad man." at enlistment.
- Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana
 
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Great thread, I just love conspiracy theories!
But in this case...
I can remember the lost oder is part of the film they show at Gettysburg visitor center. Would the NPS do that if there was the slightest serious doubt about its authenticity? And wouldn't anyone after the war have unveiled the truth had it been a ruse? If only to further discredit McClellan because he believed it?
Really interesting, I'm curious what our CWT detectives will dig up!!
 

John Winn

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I really don't know; both choices seem possible to me. I will say that I've often thought it more than odd that any general would wrap orders around cigars or store them just laying about on the ground and then just walk off and leave them. They had a staff to deal with paperwork and orders. So I suppose I lean a bit toward fiction but more on the ruse side than it simply being a made up story. It does seem that if it didn't happen at all that a number of folks who were there or were involved in some way would have said so.
 
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I really don't know; both choices seem possible to me. I will say that I've often thought it more than odd that any general would wrap orders around cigars or store them just laying about on the ground and then just walk off and leave them. They had a staff to deal with paperwork and orders. So I suppose I lean a bit toward fiction but more on the ruse side than it simply being a made up story. It does seem that if it didn't happen at all that a number of folks who were there or were involved in some way would have said so.
As someone who has lost glasses and keys and (expensive) ballpens that just fell out of coat pockets, I can tell you: it might have happened exactly that way. And I think it is due to the cigars that anybody noticed it. Had it been just the paper nobody would have stooped to pick it up and read it. Although while writing this I'm just thinking that it can be used as evidence for both sides... hmmm...
 

Silverfox

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I often wondered if the plans were leaked through spying and the cigar story was just a cover. I read somewhere that Lee figured there was a leak somewhere when the Northern troops moved with unusual speed. Stonewall never told anyone where they were going---Just turn right at this crossroads etc. --No leaks there.
 
Forgive me for the self-indulgence of suggesting that Snooks, a hero of mythical proportion, was the one who lost the cigars (and the papers they were wrapped in) after receiving them at dead of night in a railway shack hard by the Frederick spur of the Harpers Ferry to Baltimore line in this fashion:

Yet the call came again and then again until I woke up in the darkness of the hut and heard the whispered name coming from somewhere outside the broken window at the rear.

“Hick...ah...I mean, Smith’s not here”, I hissed back. “He sent me. Do you have the package?” There was a sharp indrawing of breath from the shadowy figure outside and a woman’s voice replied.

“Who are you? Your name at once!” I moved as close to the window as possible. If this wench were at all favourable I’d have her in the building and trading secrets in ten minutes or draw stumps and declare myself beaten. As it turned out, I didn’t need much light to see that whatever attractions she may have as courier, she had none at all as a female. She was short and round—altogether too much like our beloved Queen to entice anyone other than a desperate sausage-eater whose sense of duty was far larger than whatever other sense he may have had.

“Flashman”, I replied, almost by habit now. “Major Flashman. Now do you have it or not and where am I to go?”

For a moment I thought this name meant something to this repulsive dumpling—she seemed to stiffen and almost drew back. Then she thrust something through the broken glass, something that fell to the floor and rolled some distance before I could grasp it in the pitch-black interior.

“My gold!” I cried, “Don’t forget the dosh!”

“Gold?” she hissed. “There is no gold here. Take the packet toward Frederick, to the first Union officer you can find. He’ll make sure you get your reward”.

And with that she turned away and in moments I heard the sound of a wagon moving off into the night, heading further south. **** Wild Bill—probably there never was to be any gold. He’d just wanted to put me to the hurdle and I’d jumped it for nothing. But this packet now, that might be something valuable.

I scrabbled around until it was safely in hand. It was a paper or two rolled up to hold four cigars and that was all. I took one out and gave it a good sniff and a listen, whereupon it promptly fell apart in my hand—typical dry rubbish from some southern plantation no doubt, not worth the effort of locating a match, so I tossed the halves aside. The rest I wrapped up again and stowed away in my jacket pocket; come daylight there might be something to these papers and even a bad cigar might win me a friend at need.
 

Andrew

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There was no direct answer, a sort of "both" as to he sort of blew it or maybe he thought it was a plant. We may never know the answer, but I'm all ears if anyone's got an idea.

I seem to recall reading in To Antietam Creek by Hartwig that McLellan considered the possibility that it was a hoax and sought corroborating evidence, i.e. reports of troop movements that matched those described in SO 191. Once he had that evidence he began to act accordingly.

At that time McLellan was very concerned with protecting Baltimore and especially Washington, and I don't think he was yet convinced that there weren't 10's of 1000's of troops somewhere in Northern Virginia waiting to attack DC as soon as McLellan was far enough away from the city to protect it. The intelligence regarding confederate troop numbers and locations he was receiving was often contradictory. SO 191 helped clarify a lot of what was being reported to him. Once he felt certain that Washington was not in danger he began to act in earnest in response to what was described in SO 191.
 

War Horse

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I seem to recall reading in To Antietam Creek by Hartwig that McLellan considered the possibility that it was a hoax and sought corroborating evidence, i.e. reports of troop movements that matched those described in SO 191. Once he had that evidence he began to act accordingly.

At that time McLellan was very concerned with protecting Baltimore and especially Washington, and I don't think he was yet convinced that there weren't 10's of 1000's of troops somewhere in Northern Virginia waiting to attack DC as soon as McLellan was far enough away from the city to protect it. The intelligence regarding confederate troop numbers and locations he was receiving was often contradictory. SO 191 helped clarify a lot of what was being reported to him. Once he felt certain that Washington was not in danger he began to act in earnest in response to what was described in SO 191.
Okay, here's what puzzles me. Little Mac was cautious by nature would it seem to him to be a little to convenient to find Lee's plans all wrapped up nice and neat. The McClellan I know would have been sceplical thinking it a plant. He would have most likely wanted evidence. In all honesty his past performance leads me to believe he would have squandered the opportunity. The mans middle name was procrastination.
 

War Horse

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All 3 of your links are to Joe Ryan's stuff. I am curious as to what you mean by describing him as a "heavy hitter"?
I'm looking for a link I found sometime back that I believe was a video discussion of some well known authors giving their views on the matter. I have not found it yet but I will.
 

Silverfox

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I'm looking for a link I found sometime back that I believe was a video discussion of some well known authors giving their views on the matter. I have not found it yet but I will.

That would be interesting---This is one of those fog of war items that just does not add up---Even though Mac had it---He could have been more effective with his manpower---Info leaked on both sides in spades---No wonder Jackson did not want to tell his men where they were going. What brand of cigars were they---Who smoked that brand?---Surely someone would be curious.
 
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