First Bull Run The Army of the Potomac/ The Army of the Shenandoah – A most unexpected victory? Part One

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Hussar Yeomanry

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The Army of the Potomac/ The Army of the Shenandoah – A most unexpected victory? Part One


This is the companion piece to my examination of 'The Army of Northeastern Virginia' though it has not been easy. This is also not what I intended to write or indeed what I started to write for I began with a hypothesis. One that research has rendered moot. Therefore in Part Two of this article I now intend to mostly argue against it rather than for it as I had originally intended to.


So, that said, having argued that the 'Army of Northeastern Virginia' was flawed I doubt it will surprise anyone that I believe both Confederate Army's had problems too.

Mostly this is creating something out of nothing. After all the north has the beginnings of a military structure to build upon and an existing War Department. The south has neither. This will make the creation of two decent sized armies a logistical challenge to say the least though they do have one thing on their side. Many regular army officers headed south including Edward Cooper who had been the Adjutant General for most of the last ten years (with a brief stint as Secretary of War). Although not a field officer and ageing his experience will prove crucial in bringing at least some order out of the chaos.

Meanwhile the other officers will become the nucleus of their army, many of those at Manassas going on to have excellent careers with the Confederate Army [We will look at this veritable who's who of the Confederate Army in a later part]. For now let us look at what Cooper and others put into the field, he as with his counterparts in the north depending on the militia system.

While estimates vary the Army of the Potomac numbers between 20 – 22,000 men. The Army of the Shenandoah is in the 11 – 12,000 range. These are sizable formations but neither bothered with a Divisional Structure. They went straight from Brigade to Army Level without stopping. Does this put an unacceptable strain on the two Army Commanders? Certainly the Army of the Potomac has 7 Brigades of significantly uneven strength and a Demi Brigade as well as a couple of unassigned units. In general they are decent sized brigades and I wonder if a couple of Divisions or Wings might help with command and control.

The Army of the Shenandoah has 5 large Brigades, 12 companies of unbrigaded Cavalry under Stuart (though more on this below) and a few unassigned units. This is a more manageable situation but still I wonder about this and whether the two Army Commanders should have done something about this.

Also like the opposing 'Army of Northeastern Virginia' neither has an artillery reserve while in the Army of the Potomac the cavalry is assigned to brigades along with the infantry and what artillery is available. [Availability of artillery will again be in a later part].

As to geographical origins of the armies that is as follows

Cavalry – Believed to be 100% Virginian, at least by designation – though I would guess there are some Marylanders et al in there.
Artillery – Entirely from Virginia except for 11 pieces from the famed Washington Artillery from Louisiana with the AoP.
Infantry: (By Regiment I mean 10 companies, so that like can at least somewhat be compared with like – therefore a 7 company strong regiment, a 5 company regiment and an 8 company regiment would count as 2 regiments)

AoP:

c.10 Virginia Regiments (2 more small detachments guarding the lines of supply)
2 North Carolina Regiments
6 South Carolina Regiments
No Georgia Regiments
2 Alabama Regiments (1 slightly oversize)
c.3 Louisiana Regiments (4 more companies guarding the lines of supply)
3 Mississippi Regiments
1 Tennessee Regiment
1 Arkansas Regiment

Texas and Florida are not represented in these 28 and a bit Regiments

AoS:

7.5 Virginia Regiments
1 North Carolina Regiment
4 Georgia Regiments
4 Alabama Regiments
3 Mississippi Regiments
1 Tennessee Regiment
& 6 companies from Kentucky.

Texas, Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana are not represented in these 20.5 Regiments

To me North Carolina looks under represented. 3 out of 48.5? Thoughts?

So, for Part One of this investigation I ask, should there have been some level of organisation between 'Army' and 'Brigade'? Mixed brigades of cavalry, infantry and artillery in the AoP – a good thing... or not? Certainly the creation of this army was a Herculean effort but could they have done better?
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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I wondered that but we (or at least I) keep hearing how well organised North Carolina was compared to other states. Certainly that seems to be the general consensus, however May 20th (when NC secedes) is still two months before the battle occurs. So while they don't have much time I agree could they have done better? When one looks at Gettysburg and the ANV 2 years later Virginia of course send the most troops and by quite some way too but North Carolina and Georgia are about equal in second and again quite some way ahead of the remaining states.
 
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Hussar Yeomanry

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One other thing I meant to add and forgot:

The Union army had 90 day and 3 year enlistees.
On the Confederate side the perception is that it is entirely 1 year enlistees and that this is superior. However during my researches I have found that while this is the case for the vast majority of enlistments they do have 90 day men though this varies by state. Louisiana especially seems fond of these though I have yet to determine whether any of the Louisiana men at Manassas were these.

As an aside while looking in to this I found an amusing newspaper article (at least I thought it so) about Wheat's Tigers:

"The first special battalion, under the command of Major C. R. Wheat, leaves on Saturday for Virginia. We are told that this battalion is to be the right wing of the Second Regiment of the Polish Brigade under Major Tochman. The companies are the Walker Guards, Tiger Rifles, Old Dominion Guards, Delta Rangers, Orleans Claiborne Guards - Capts. Harris, White, Miller, Gardner, etc."

The Daily Crescent (New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana), 7 June, 1861

Emphasis is mine! Perhaps @Pat Young (Immigrants Forum) will find this interesting. [To be noted that the 5 companies fought at Manassas as The First Louisiana Special Battalion, with no sign of this Major Tochman... or a Polish Brigade... though according to that well known and totally reliable source wikipedia it is created later https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaspar_Tochman]
 

rpkennedy

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I wonder if North Carolina's underrepresentation has to do with the late date of secession?
That's possible. They don't seem to have been in much of a hurry to get infantry regiments in the field since only the 1st-4th were recruited in May and June, the 5th wasn't mustered until July, and the 6th in August.

Ryan
 
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Hussar Yeomanry

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That's possible. They don't seem to have been in much of a hurry to get infantry regiments in the field since only the 1st-4th were even recruited in May and June. The 5th wasn't mustered until July and the 6th in August.

Ryan
Thank you for that information. Every little bit helps with the bigger picture. However there is a problem. At Manassas we have the 11th NC Infantry, 8 companies of the 5th North Carolina State Troops and the 6th North Carolina Infantry under Colonel Fisher - which seems a little odd as you claim it wasnt raised until August. Also my information has them mustering in on the 16th May with individual units mustering before this and indeed well before the State secedes.

Is my information wrong or yours? [Not trying to be argumentative, just trying to determine the truth as having the regiment raised before the state secedes - as per my information - looks... odd... for want of a better word.]
 
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rpkennedy

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Thank you for that information. Every little bit helps with the bigger picture. However there is a problem. At Manassas we have the 11th NC Infantry, 8 companies of the 5th North Carolina State Troops and the 6th North Carolina Infantry under Colonel Fisher - which seems a little odd as you claim it wasnt raised until August. Also my information has them mustering in on the 16th May with individual units mustering before this and indeed well before the State secedes.

Is my information wrong or yours? [Not trying to be argumentative, just trying to determine the truth as having the regiment raised before the state secedes - as per my information - looks... odd... for want of a better word.]
I definitely could be wrong. I just googled the regimental histories of the first several infantry regiments and sketched a quick timeline. I'll have to go back and take a longer look.

Ryan
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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More info on my end:

I made a slight error - for some reason I missed something. May 16th is when Colonel Fisher was appointed to lead the 6th NC not when they were mustered into Confederate Service (for the duration of the war). I have that as June 20th now... which makes more sense. Interestingly individual companies have dates such as Company A being mustered into State service on 16th May, Company B and C on the 1st May (!) and the rest on the 16th.

So they appear to have been being formed... as State Troops... before North Carolina seceded. I wonder some of them when they joined up were entirely certain which side they would be fighting for?

I have to wonder if other regiments were similarly being formed by NC before they seceded. In which case only getting 3 regiments to Manassas does seem low.
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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Now to muddy the water (if only very slightly - and for completeness). Another source suggests:

The 6th North Carolina State Troops was organised on 16 May, 1861, and Companies A, B, C, G, H, and I, were mustered in state service on 20 May, 1861; Companies D and F on 24 May, 1861, dated 20 May, 1861; Company K on 25 May, 1861, dated 20 May, 1861; and Company E on 28 May, 1861, dated 20 May, 1861.

All I will add is that as they are apparently mostly gathered around the Charlotte Military Institute prior to the 4th June 1861 they must have been formed before this point.

EDIT - Note that which I have bolded. Is that some of the reason for confusion. They are the above first, then later become the 6th North Carolina? Then again they - unlike the 5th North Carolina State Troops are apparently being called the 6th North Carolina by Manassas...
 
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Hussar Yeomanry

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For completeness the 5th North Carolina State Troops:

Mustered in to Confederate Service (for the duration of the war) on 15th July (but a few days before the battle). Again however they have been in State service for longer. All but one company was mustered in on the 15th May, the remaining company on the 30th May.

Meanwhile the 11th NC are One year men and mustered in to Confederate service on the 3rd and 12th July (it seems to occur on two different dates varying by company). This means many have been in Confederate service for less than ten days by the time of the battle. However some of them were mustered in to State service in early May (again before the state secedes) with the rest mustering in over the course of the next month and a bit. [These are mostly volunteers rather than militia men it appears though there are some militia in there.]

What strikes me as most interesting (if not entirely surprising) is how North Carolina or elements in North Carolina are preparing for war prior to secession and in some cases nearly three weeks before. Indeed these preparations begin less than three weeks after Sumter.


I should also state that previously I have done South Carolina a mild disservice. The cavalry was not entirely Virginian. There was one detachment from South Carolina (Boykin's - 1st Brigade AoP)
 

Old Bay

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So, for Part One of this investigation I ask, should there have been some level of organisation between 'Army' and 'Brigade'? Mixed brigades of cavalry, infantry and artillery in the AoP – a good thing... or not? Certainly the creation of this army was a Herculean effort but could they have done better?
Definitely could have done better. However, hindsight, maybe?

I think it would've been a good idea to have that link between brigade and army in division form. I think the Army of the Northeast on the other end could've used another level between division and army as well. I wonder if the perceived shortness of the war at the time precluded the structure of the army to that level of detail. The "wing" wasn't going to be an option, though, at that time, because it was basically a corps. The Confederate congress made it illegal for a corps formation to be utilized until I think 1863, between Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, after Lee realized the 2 wings were too much for only 2 commanders.

Originally, Hampton's Legion was a mixed unit of all three arms, but I don't recall the cavalry or artillery taking part in the battle. I'd have to look at some of my books when I get home to see where or if they were detached. Shortly after the reorganization of the army the "mixed brigade" came into play, so I guess it wasn't that hard to think it could've been utilized in the battle. But there was a distinct lack of cavalry going around. Jeb Stuart's bunch being pretty much it.

It just feels like that the ad hoc nature of recruitment, armament, fielding and planning with the threat of a march by the Union at any moment left some organization to be desired.
 

Carronade

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I wonder if North Carolina's underrepresentation has to do with the late date of secession?
They may also have been concerned with setting up defense of their extensive coastline and inland waterways. Those were likely targets for the Federals and indeed would come under attack in August. Perhaps someone knowledgeable about NC like @CSA Today can help.
 
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Coonewah Creek

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I wondered that but we (or at least I) keep hearing how well organised North Carolina was compared to other states. Certainly that seems to be the general consensus, however May 20th (when NC secedes) is still two months before the battle occurs. So while they don't have much time I agree could they have done better? When one looks at Gettysburg and the ANV 2 years later Virginia of course send the most troops and by quite some way too but North Carolina and Georgia are about equal in second and again quite some way ahead of the remaining states.
North Carolina's "mean" date for the completion of organization of its forces committed to the ANV was approximately September, 1861. Virginia forces, in comparison, averaged unit organization completion about mid-April, 1861. All ANV units from other states beat, on average, the unit organization dates of the NC troops except for Florida and Maryland.
 

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Virginia forces, in comparison, averaged unit organization completion about mid-April, 1861.
That's impressive given that Virginia only seceded on April 17. Had they been discreetly mobilizing as the secession crisis developed? Did they have an particularly well-organized militia, that could be called to active duty promptly?
 
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Old Bay

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John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry really intensified militia enrollment and organization, at least in Virginia, I'm not sure about other states. For example, the Black Horse cavalry was founded in 1859 in Warrenton, VA and became Co. H of the 4th Virginia Cavalry after 1st Manassas.
 

67th Tigers

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North Carolina organised two groups of troops:

North Carolina State Troops - organised for "three years or the war" from the beginning. Initially 10 numbered regiments authorised; 1st-8th to be infantry, the 9th to be cavalry, and the 10th artillery. Hence the 1st NC Cav being also called the 9th. At the time of Manassas the 1st-6th NCST had been accepted into service and all sent to Manassas. The 9th Cavalry were still forming. The 10th artillery was organised with 5 light and 5 garrison batteries.

NC Volunteers - formed from the callout of the uniformed militia and operating under militia laws. The state embodied 13 regiments (1st-8th and 10th-14th Volunteers, the 9th failed to organise). The two sets of numbers caused confusion, and each regiment had 10 added to their number (1st Vols became 11th etc.) The 1st NC Volunteers were embodied for six months, and the rest one year.

The distribution of NC units on 21st July 1861 was:

1st NCST - assigned to Holmes' Brigade, Richmond (to Fredericksburg just after Manassas)
2nd NCST - assigned to Holmes' Brigade, ditto
3rd NCST - assigned to Holmes' Brigade, with a few coys still organising, ditto
4th NCST - assigned to Holmes' Brigade, ditto (en route, started 20th July)
5th NCST - arrived Manassas 19th July and assigned to Longstreet's Brigade
6th NCST - assigned to Bee's Brigade
7th NCST - organising at Camp Mason, NC (accepted 21st August and sent to New Bern)
8th NCST - organising at Camp Macon, NC (accepted 13th September and sent to Roanoke Island)
9th NCST (1st Cav) nominally organising at Camp Beauregard, NC, but actually each company was separate until August (accepted mid-October and sent to Manassas)
10th NCST (1st Arty) - 5 garrison batteries sent to Fort Macon.
Light Bty A - at Raleigh and left state 2nd August; to Smithfield, Va and Pemberton's Bde
Light Bty C - at Raleigh and ordered to New Bern
Light Bty D - left Raleigh for Richmond on 20th July
Light Bty E - at Raleigh, sans guns (received guns in October)

[the following were transferred to CS service 27th June and renumbered]
11th (1st) NC Vols - Yorktown, Va (DH Hill's "Bethel Regiment", fought the first battle of the war)
12th (2nd) NC Vols - Norfolk, Va
13th (3rd) NC Vols - Yorktown, Va
14th (4th) NC Vols - Norfolk, Va
15th (5th) NC Vols - Yorktown, Va
16th (6th) NC Vols - Army of Northwestern Va (I must note that I've made the 6th/16th confusion here. The 16th NC and 12th Ga were attempting to reinforce Rich Mountain around this time)
17th (7th) NC Vols - 8 coys at Cape Hatteras (captured August) and 2 coys on Roanoke Island
18th (8th) NC Vols - Cape Fear defences, NC
20th (10th) NC Vols - garrisons of Smithville, Fort Caswell and Wilmington
21st (11th) NC Vols - train wrecked en route to Manassas, guarded Mitchell's Ford but not yet brigaded. To Trimble's Brigade in October
22nd (12th) NC Vols - organising (accepted 24th July and sent to Fredericksburg)
23rd (13th) NC Vols - on the day of Manassas 7 coys of the regt were on trains to Manassas, but due to the traffic jam caused by casevac trains, did not detrain until the day after
24th (14th) NC Vols - Kanawha Valley (Floyd's command)

25th NCST - organising at Camp Patton (accepted 15th August and sent to coast defences)
26th NCST - organising at Camp "Crab Tree" (accepted 27th August and sent to Fort Macon)
27th NCST (ex-9th Vols) - organising at New Bern
(higher numbered regiment not yet formed)
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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Thank you all for your replies (I would have responded sooner but a Mozilla Firefox update broke my internet - it is now slowly returning...)

Especially thank you to @67th Tigers for his explanation. The only question I have is in relation to the 21st(11th) North Carolina. I agree that they guarded Mitchell's Ford but my information has them assigned to Bonham's First Brigade of the AoP on the 18th July. Then reassigned to the 6th Brigade of the 1st Corps of the AoP on the 25th July.
 
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67th Tigers

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Bonham's Brigade were guarding Mitchell's Ford, and on the 18th the Federals feinted at the ford. In response Beauregard sent the unbrigaded 21st (11th) NC and 6 coys of the 8th Louisiana from Camp Pickens to reinforce Bonham. This was a temporary arrangement, and not a formal assignment. The 21st (11th) NC was brigaded into Early's Bde by GO169 a few days later.
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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Not being able to see the precise wording of Special Orders No.129, Headquarters, Army of the Potomac (18th July) I can't tell how formal an arrangement the attachment to Bonham's brigade was (not that the minutiae really matters too much - for we know where they were and who they were formally or informally reporting to).

But, seriously, thank you for your help on these threads and your assistance is greatly appreciated.
 
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