Was the writing already on the wall? A look at the composition of the Army of Northeastern Virginia at First Bull Run/ Manassas. [Part Three]

Hussar Yeomanry

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Continued from part two https://www.civilwartalk.com/thread...a-at-first-bull-run-manassas-part-two.153437/

The first part can be found here https://www.civilwartalk.com/thread...n-virginia-at-first-bull-run-manassas.153357/

Part Three:


Previously we looked at the Cavalry and then the rather ad hoc composition of the various divisions and brigades.

In this part I wish to delve even further down in to the specifics.


The Infantry:

Only looking at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions there are 12 companies of regulars, 117 companies of 90 day men, 220 companies of volunteers [Educated guestimate and certainly correct to within a company or two.]

With a little rounding that's c. 3.5% Regulars, 34% 90 day men and 62.5% Volunteers.

Given the perceptions around McDowell's army I had always assumed a higher percentage of 90 day men though 34% is quite a lot and certainly more than he would wish to lose from their enlistments expiring.

The Cavalry:

Entirely comprised of Regulars but only 7 companies strong (and as previously stated only 4 companies are not being used as headquarters guards)

The Artillery:

41 pieces in 9 very uneven batteries of 1, 2, 4 or 6 guns. All but 1 of these batteries is manned by Regulars and the exception are the 6 13pdr James Rifles of the 2nd Rhode Island Artillery. There are 2 more 12pdr Howitzers accompanying the 71st New York State Militia Infantry as its Company I.

So, that's 35 guns for the Regulars. 8 for the Militia.

As to the actual composition of batteries let us take the 6 guns of the Second United States Artillery, Light Company E. It has:
2 x 13pdr James Rifles
2 x 12pdr Howitzers
2 x 6pdr smoothbores

Meanwhile First United States Artillery, Light Company G is represented by a lone 30pdr Parrott Rifle – whose effects seem to be more psychological than actual.

Does this again show the haste with which the army has been thrown together?


Why have I only included the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions?


Well the 4th (Reserve) Division was held in reserve and not committed. It had also only been created the month before and lacked artillery, cavalry or indeed a brigade organisation (though some OOB's have the 4 New Jersey militia regiments divided off from the 4 New Jersey volunteer regiments). However no brigade commanders seems to have been appointed to oversee this.

Meanwhile the 5th does at least have a brigade structure and artillery. 14 pieces of which 6 arrive on the morning of the 21st. These are militia guns from the 29th New York Infantry. The rest are two Regular batteries – 4 guns in 1, 6 in the other and the infantry they are supporting are entirely volunteers. However it is also held in reserve/ guarding the flank and sees no action and there are suggestions from then Colonel Israel Richardson that Dixon S Miles who was commanding the Division was drunk. (Allegations that at a Court of Enquiry were upheld!)


I do however have a question. If the army had more cavalry could a smaller group of horsemen (if they had been available) be used to guard the army's flank rather than an entire Division? Would then the presence of another 8 regiments of infantry supported by guns have changed the outcome of the battle. Given how close things were it seems a reasonable supposition. Of course they are not available so the question is moot... but in my mind it is an interesting one.

Beyond that we have what strikes me most is the lack of Regulars amongst the infantry. In theory their presence is supposed to strengthen the army but are 12 companies really enough to do that? As to the artillery it seems that like the cavalry McDowell is having to make do with what is available? Should he have tried to even things out more because some brigades have no artillery and some have multiple batteries? As McDowell is by training an artillery man I think here we can be at least somewhat critical of him.

Thoughts?
 

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Andy Cardinal

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Interesting point about the Infantry. I had always assumed that the number of 3 months militia was much higher in McDowell's army. I do know that at least one regiment 90 days men marched home on the morning of July 21st rather than fight because their enlistment were up.
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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Interesting point about the Infantry. I had always assumed that the number of 3 months militia was much higher in McDowell's army. I do know that at least one regiment 90 days men marched home on the morning of July 21st rather than fight because their enlistment were up.
Yep, the 4th Pennsylvania of the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Division (though a number of its officers including Colonel Hartranft joined divisional staffs). They were not alone however for the 6 guns of Varian's Light Artillery, 8th New York State Militia Infantry, Company I did exactly the same.

NB I did not include the 10 companies of the 4th Pennsylvania or the 6 guns of Varian's Artillery in my examination of the army.
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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And another thought that has just come to me.

At Gettysburg the AoP that was nearly 3 times the size had c.350 guns that made the field. At Bull Run there are 57 (including 5th Division). So... if we were mirroring what the AoP thinks is required then for c.35,000 men it would have brought 120. Or more. That's quite a big shortfall compared to what experience suggests is required. We've already seen that it has far too small a percentage of cavalry. That means we are looking at a very infantry heavy army...

NOTE: The 13pdr James Rifles that I mention (which is how they appear in some records) actually appear to be 14pdrs.
 

thomas aagaard

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Beyond that we have what strikes me most is the lack of Regulars amongst the infantry.
By the end of 1860 every single infantry company in the army was deployed west of the Mississippi... and there where never than many regulars to begin with
I think he should be glad he had any at all... even if some of the soldiers where just as green as the volunteers...
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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By the end of 1860 every single infantry company in the army was deployed west of the Mississippi... and there where never than many regulars to begin with
I think he should be glad he had any at all... even if some of the soldiers where just as green as the volunteers...
Agreed. However the theory is that they are supposed to be the nucleus/ main body that the volunteers/ militia support. However as we can see that manifestly cannot happen here. 1 hastily combined Battalion drawn from 8 assorted US Infantry companies and 4 US Marine companies are just not going to be able to do this.

I also accept that qualitatively the 'US Regulars' are an issue. Few have seen fighting and then likely only Indian fighting (not to discount the bravery of Indians but it would not be anything like what they were going to face at Bull Run). Some are also new. Still, here at least there had probably been an attempt at training them right.
 

thomas aagaard

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The marines was all completely green. less than a handful of the privates had been in uniform for more than a few weeks.
Most of the officers had seen combat, back against mexico.

What the regulars had, was discipline. Even the new men had been influenced by it... and they did help cover the retreat.
 

Carronade

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I do however have a question. If the army had more cavalry could a smaller group of horsemen (if they had been available) be used to guard the army's flank rather than an entire Division? ......

Beyond that we have what strikes me most is the lack of Regulars amongst the infantry. In theory their presence is supposed to strengthen the army but are 12 companies really enough to do that?
I think this mainly highlights that it was easier and faster to raise infantry than cavalry. The Regular infantry and cavalry were each about 12% of their respective arms*. The infantry numbers seem small because of the large number of volunteer units already in service.

I don't think anyone questions that more cavalry would have been desirable or that screening the flanks would have been one useful mission they could perform. This would allow the army to respond to a threat if it emerged rather than tying down troops where they might not be needed.

How the Confederates were able to field a useful number of reasonable capable cavalry would be another discussion.

* Assuming they were at full strength, the prewar army had:
Five mounted regiments @ 12 companies = 60
Ten infantry regiments @ 10 companies = 100
 



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