What If McClellan isn't Removed in Fall of 1862?

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rbasin

2nd Lieutenant
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Tampa, Fl
My understanding was that there was a delay in the pontoons because of a number of SNAFUs about proper transmission of orders - McClellan wanted them at Washington, but the order wasn't sent on from Washington by telegraph and so there was a multi-day delay in their arriving at Washington.

As for Burnside's original plan, I'm having a real job of work trying to work out what the hell Lee could have done to prevent it! (Lee did too, which was why he elected to pull back to the North Anna.)
The pontoons were used at Harper's Ferry after Antietam. The bridge simply wasn't ready.

Halleck, then Lincoln supported Burnside's plan, but only if he moved quickly. I can't figure out why Burnside changed it.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
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Nov 10, 2006
The pontoons were those laid at Berlin, by which much of the army crossed the Potomac. This used 61 pontoons and a trestle, thus:

berlin_oct_1862.jpg


On the 6th November, the bridge was of no further use. The army was on the railroad. Hence orders were sent from Duane to Spaulding to move it to Washington for redeployment. The order was telegraphed from McClellan's HQ to the War Department, who put a copy on a barge to be sent up the river. Hence Spalding didn't receive it until the 12th. They sailed the pontoons down the C&O canal, arriving the evening of the 14th.

The pontoon bridges over the Potomac and Shenandoah at Harper's Ferry were left in place, as McClellan intended to permanently garrison HF.
 

rbasin

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Tampa, Fl
The pontoons were those laid at Berlin, by which much of the army crossed the Potomac. This used 61 pontoons and a trestle, thus:

View attachment 337553

On the 6th November, the bridge was of no further use. The army was on the railroad. Hence orders were sent from Duane to Spaulding to move it to Washington for redeployment. The order was telegraphed from McClellan's HQ to the War Department, who put a copy on a barge to be sent up the river. Hence Spalding didn't receive it until the 12th. They sailed the pontoons down the C&O canal, arriving the evening of the 14th.

The pontoon bridges over the Potomac and Shenandoah at Harper's Ferry were left in place, as McClellan intended to permanently garrison HF.
you may be right> I read the Harper's Ferry thing in the O.R. I think in a note written by Burnside.
 
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Saphroneth

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Halleck, then Lincoln supported Burnside's plan, but only if he moved quickly. I can't figure out why Burnside changed it.
It's possible it was part of the delay in getting the new commands set up, plus possibly worry about where Jackson was. I know that McClellan had recently localized Jackson in the Valley as of his removal from command, but if there was no further localization then a theoretical possible track of Jackson could be getting close to reinforcing Lee via the Swift Run Gap or similar. (And the plan doesn't work if Jackson is also present to help form the defensive line along the Rapidan.)
 

rbasin

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Tampa, Fl
It's possible it was part of the delay in getting the new commands set up, plus possibly worry about where Jackson was. I know that McClellan had recently localized Jackson in the Valley as of his removal from command, but if there was no further localization then a theoretical possible track of Jackson could be getting close to reinforcing Lee via the Swift Run Gap or similar. (And the plan doesn't work if Jackson is also present to help form the defensive line along the Rapidan.)
Maybe. I had always thought that going to Falmouth was the original plan, but now, it seems like there was no way for it to succeed.
 

Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
Maybe. I had always thought that going to Falmouth was the original plan, but now, it seems like there was no way for it to succeed.
Honestly even the Falmouth plan (i.e. go to Fredericksburg) could have worked, partly because of the fog of war. Lee doesn't know that the Union has a serious deficiency in bridging equipment and has to assume they can throw a bridge over the Rappahanock successfully, and so he originally pulled back to the North Anna position to wait for Jackson; when Burnside reached the Fredericksburg area, there's fords upstream of Fredericksburg which could have been used to get a corps across the river. Scott's Ford in particular as a corps placed in a defensive posture just south of Scott's Ford would permit the occupation of Marye's Heights.
Historically Burnside arrived at Falmouth with his whole force on the 22nd, while the Confederates didn't occupy Marye's Heights until the 25th; with Sumner (army vanguard) and Hooker both asking permission to occupy the heights it's basically Burnside's command decision that led to the opportunity being lost rather than a fundamental flaw in the ops plan.

Interestingly McClellan pushing a corps across a river as a debouche before he's ready to move the rest of his force over is actually something of a command pattern of his unless he's facing a fully defended obstacle - it occurs when moving over the Chickahominy, at Antietam, and more than once during the Loudoun Valley campaign.
 
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Saphroneth

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I've been playing around with a custom Vassal implementation of the post-Warrenton campaigning sequence, and something interesting that's come up with the model I created for McClellan's movements (as above, except for which corps goes where, then McClellan moves on Gordonsville with most of his force and sends 6th Corps via Fredericksburg to the North Anna) is the dilemma it forces on Lee.

Specifically this relates to Gordonsville in the scenario where Jackson moves to combine with Longstreet (via Swift Run Gap or via rail movement from Staunton) instead of coming down on McClellan's rear in Culpeper County.

Essentially, Longstreet's command strength must be split between Gordonsville and the North Anna at least until Jackson reaches Gordonsville, because Gordonsville is the key junction that allows Jackson to rejoin Longstreet. But the timings and distances mean that McClellan's main strength can reach Gordonsville before (in some cases considerably before) Jackson can reach it, so there is a period of time when Longstreet is having to hold both Gordonsville and Hanover Junction at the same time against most if not all of McClellan's army.

This is a problem which it seems the Confederates can't effectively solve. Longstreet has the choice of defending the Rapidan or further back, but he has to defend Gordonsville somewhere; if he doesn't then Jackson is cut off from the North Anna approach to Richmond (even going by rail means going via Charlottesville and Lynchburg to get to Richmond). But he has to either do it with less than his full force (and try to hold against Franklin's corps with whatever's left) or do it with his full corps and let Franklin take Hanover Junction anyway.

Bugger of an operational situation to be in.
 

rbasin

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Location
Tampa, Fl
The September-October '62 halt has a simple reason - Halleck has ordered him to halt.

I'm writing this up as I poke at it, but essentially on 26th September Halleck denies McClellan reinforcements, support, or the resources to rebuild the Harper's Ferry bridges until plans are "agreed on". McClellan argues that he should be allowed to advance on Winchester.

The 6th October telegram simply asks McClellan to submit a plan for approval. McClellan immediate submits his Winchester plan, and hears nothing until the 16th October, when Lincoln's letter was handed to McClellan (being hand carried). On the 17th McClellan sent a reply back that he understands that Lincoln has not approved his plan, and he will send out recces of the fords east of the Blue Ridge. On the 22nd the missing supplies started to arrive at the AoP depots and McClellan telegrams a new plan. At 1530 on the 23rd, Halleck approves McClellan's new offensive plan. On the 24th McClellan acknowledges the approval, and enacts the movement. Burnside will march to Berlin the next day (25th) and throw over a pontoon bridge, occupying the far bank the next morning.

Thus for 4 weeks, from 26th September to 24th October, the Army of the Potomac is static by order of Halleck. Halleck imposed control measures, and was tardy in the utilisation.
By Halleck, you mean Lincoln.
 
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67th Tigers

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By Halleck, you mean Lincoln.
No, I mean Halleck.

McClellan never received any orders from Lincoln. He received his orders from Halleck.

McClellan after Antietam was implementing a plan to advance on Winchester, and cut Lee off from his supply base. As part of this, he needed the railroad rebuilt to Harper's Ferry, and the owners of the C&O RR had agreed to it. They simply needed an appropriation to pay for the materials. On the 26th September Halleck denied the appropriation and imposed a control measure on McClellan; McClellan could not make an offensive until Halleck had approved the plan. McClellan then argued for a movement on Winchester but to no avail.

Lincoln visited about a week later, and everyone who overheard the conversations between McClellan and Lincoln thought Lincoln had ruled out an immediate offensive. On returning to Washington, Lincoln orders Halleck to have McClellan make an immediate offensive. In two recollections, one only two months later, Lincoln said he gave a peremptory order. However, the order than McClellan received from Halleck was simply to submit a plan for approval. On the 7th October, McClellan submitted his Winchester plan. On the 16th October, McClellan received a letter from Lincoln stating that Lincoln didn't like the plan, but that he wouldn't disapprove of it. Lincoln stated he preferred a movement east of the Blue Ridge instead. McClellan immediately replied that unless he found a pressing reason not to, he'd do as Lincoln wanted (17th).

On the 22nd October, supplies start arriving from Washington. At 1430 that day McClellan formally asks permission from Halleck to make an offensive east of the Blue Ridge. Halleck's approval is timestamped 1530 on the 23rd. This telegram arrived at 1730 hrs, and McClellan started immediately by issuing orders for throwing the pontoons over the next day (in fact it would be the morning of the 26th before the engineers completed the pontoon bridge).

To me it seems that Lincoln's orders were being filtered and distorted by Halleck. Hence Lincoln thought he'd give x order, but McClellan had actually received y order, because Halleck had altered it.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
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Feb 18, 2017
Would anyone be interested in if I showed what the Confederate and Union positions would be like after 5-6 days* of advancing, assuming that:

Jackson follows his orders from Lee and marches to Swift Run Gap (speed of march 11 miles/day) starting the same day McClellan resumes his movement
Longstreet pulls back to Gordonsville (speed of march 11 miles/day)
The Union Left Wing (Burnside) moves on Rapidan Station and points east (speed of march 9 miles/day)
The Union Right Wing (Porter) moves towards the Rapidan around Somerville Ford and Raccoon Ford (speed of march 9 miles/day)
6th Corps (Franklin) moves to Fredericksburg (speed of march 9 miles/day)

My interest is partly in getting a sense of just what Lee could do to resolve the situation - if that's even doable.

I propose to use the GCACW maps to measure distance in most cases because they show a lot of the smaller roads - and the fords, for that matter.

* this number is chosen because by that point 9th Corps will be approaching Gordonsville
 
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Ara Oko

Private
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Sep 28, 2019
Sorry to butt in. Just a question. Was McLennan a victim of circumstance more than a victim of hm.. Indecision? Pointless dithering? Or, perhaps, one problem exacerbated the other.
This I summise, but is this fair?
I'm up to episode 305 or thereabouts on the civil war podcast, I have my books. But I'm English, and we have our own civil war to study. A good one too.
Your civil war started as part of my general war studies. It was just the start.
Anyway, no spoilers. I wanna see how it ends! Hehe!
Seriously though, I'm just about through the Ghettysbeg story ark.
Still a long way to go...
 
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rbasin

2nd Lieutenant
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Tampa, Fl
Sorry to butt in. Just a question. Was McLennan a victim of circumstance more than a victim of hm.. Indecision? Pointless dithering? Or, perhaps, one problem exacerbated the other.
This I summise, but is this fair?
I'm up to episode 305 or thereabouts on the civil war podcast, I have my books. But I'm English, and we have our own civil war to study. A good one too.
Your civil war started as part of my general war studies. It was just the start.
Anyway, no spoilers. I wanna see how it ends! Hehe!
Seriously though, I'm just about through the Ghettysbeg story ark.
Still a long way to go...
Yours is the more interesting story
 

Ara Oko

Private
Joined
Sep 28, 2019
Yours is the more interesting story
Created the New Model Army did old Cromwell. The first, unified, professional, structured, trained modern army was our gift to the world, and it hasn't been the same world since..
 

Saphroneth

Captain
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Feb 18, 2017
Sorry to butt in. Just a question. Was McLennan a victim of circumstance more than a victim of hm.. Indecision? Pointless dithering? Or, perhaps, one problem exacerbated the other.
The usual picture in most histories is the latter (indecision/dithering), but the details of the circumstances make it clear something else was going on.

For example, let's take the month's pause after Antietam. This is a period in which McClellan has been ordered not to advance until he's submitted a plan to take the offensive and had it approved, and it's also a period in which the Army of the Potomac is critically low on supplies. At one point there was a food riot (during Lincoln's visit, no less) and diarists from the period are clear that the army had serious deficiencies in clothing and shoes - some men had only their one set of clothing, and so had to wash one piece at a time, which is not a good situation for an October campaign.
To delay an offensive until these problems are resolved cannot be called pointless dithering, or indeed indecision because McClellan was trying to get these problems resolved as soon as possible.

Once those problems were resolved, McClellan moves fairly fast - the bridge isn't completed until the 26th October and by the 6th November he's got control of Warrenton. The move down to Warrenton wasn't a route march either, it involved concentrating forces at each of the Blue Ridge gaps to prevent the enemy issuing forth.

Once at Warrenton McClellan is in position for an offensive campaign that can seriously unhinge the Confederate operational position in Virginia. There is no reason to believe he would not do this - at Antietam he launched very heavy attacks against Lee's whole army and he knows that only half of Lee's army is at Culpeper with the other half up in the Valley some days' march away.
I've tried to game this out assuming that McClellan thinks the worst case scenario (as far as he's concerned) is going on, and as far as I can tell one of these things happens:

1) McClellan can reach Longstreet before Jackson can possibly have joined him, and Longstreet lets himself be reached. McClellan launches heavy attacks.
2) Longstreet gives ground at least as far as Gordonsville, and McClellan has a free run to Fredericksburg. Longstreet has to dash to the North Anna to prevent McClellan beating him to Hanover Junction.
3) Jackson goes after McClellan's supply lines along the Orange and Alexandria rail road. Jackson's corps enters the operational area of the Union 11th Corps plus the massive Washington garrison, so he can't do too much damage, but now since Jackson isn't going to be arriving McClellan pretty much has a free hand against Longstreet.
 
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Saphroneth

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Feb 18, 2017
Locations of various units after the specified period of marching (5 days). I've sometimes had the Union units march less than nine miles per day on average, though the routes on the GCACW map may be shorter than the truth.
All units of Jackson have marched the full 55 miles permitted by the specification.

9th Corps: Upper Rapidan, over the river around Liberty Mills.
1st Corps: Orange Court House and points south.
3rd Corps: Orange Court House and points south.
2nd Corps: Orange Court House.
5th Corps: Thrown out to the east a little, halfway between Orange and the Wilderness. (2nd Corps shown with them.)
6th Corps: Fredericksburg.

Longstreet's corps: concentrated around Gordonsville.
Jackson's corps:

DH Hill marched through Swift Run Gap today (and had nine miles of movement allocation left). 18 miles from Gordonsville.
Jackson (i.e. Early, Taliaferro): Just over a day's march from Swift Run Gap, and thus 39 miles of marching from Gordonsville.
AP Hill: With Jackson.


End_of_14th.jpg

11th Corps is not shown; in this situation though it's not inconceivable that they'd be e.g. accompanying the pontoons to Fredericksburg or marching to Orange Court House. They represent 15,000 PFD.


This analysis is predicated on the idea that Longstreet would avoid engagement as far as possible until joined by Jackson. This is the "as far as possible" before Lee has to make serious choices:
Move west from Gordonsville (linking up with Jackson at Stanardsville in two days, but also letting McClellan march to Richmond unopposed)?
Move east from Gordonsville (moving to the Hanover Junction position to block McClellan's approach to Richmond, but also letting McClellan get between him and Jackson again)?
Stand at Gordonsville (and face attack at ~3:1 odds for days until Jackson arrives)?
Move south from Gordonsville (deferring the decision between giving up communication with Richmond or giving up communication with Jackson, but letting McClellan get control of the rail junctions and opening up the prospect of a race for Richmond)?


If there's an alternative stratagem for Lee that can prevent this happening, what is it?
 

Ara Oko

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Sep 28, 2019
Thanks. The reply I got, and the one subsequent were both hi-grade yet digestible. I will ask many dumb questions from your perspective. With many of you guys this is ingrained, but me, I came to it cold about a year ago, and I'm only at the end of Ghettysbeg.
I can't fathom why it's so unknown here in the UK. Its not taught in history class even.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
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Feb 18, 2017
I can't fathom why it's so unknown here in the UK. Its not taught in history class even.
Most countries focus more on their own history or on something relateable; we could wish to have enough time to cover every subject, but that would probably take as long as, um, history itself.

Of course, the particular subject of this thread (the Loudoun Valley campaign and the prospective Culpeper-Gordonsville campaign, or November 1862 campaign, or whichever name we choose to attach to it) is obscure even in the US! Some people don't even know McClellan moved south of the Potomac in late October and November.
 
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Saphroneth

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It seems to me that the most effective way Lee can stall McClellan is actually to try and wreck the rail lines (and bridge at Rapidan) to slow the process of McClellan supplying himself on the advance. But we do know that McClellan's army at the time had the capacity to operate between supply stops for 8-10 days, and the rail line is functional at least as far south as the Rappahanock; I suspect the worst case scenario for McClellan is that he has to pull most or all of his troops east towards Port Royal and Fredericksburg to keep them in supply.

Even that worst case scenario is basically the equivalent to winning Fredericksburg bloodlessly, so there's that.
 

Ara Oko

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Sep 28, 2019
It seems to me that the most effective way Lee can stall McClellan is actually to try and wreck the rail lines (and bridge at Rapidan) to slow the process of McClellan supplying himself on the advance. But we do know that McClellan's army at the time had the capacity to operate between supply stops for 8-10 days, and the rail line is functional at least as far south as the Rappahanock; I suspect the worst case scenario for McClellan is that he has to pull most or all of his troops east towards Port Royal and Fredericksburg to keep them in supply.

Even that worst case scenario is basically the equivalent to winning Fredericksburg bloodlessly, so there's that.
I think McClennan had the troops to defend his supplies, but it's an interesting analysis. Attacking him directly was also a problem. Because when little Mac actually got into a fight, he gave a pretty good account of himself.
Had he been bolder, I think he would have won all the fame and fortune he might have dreamed of.
Forgive my green questions and stuff.
 
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