What Lee Thought About the Lost Orders

jackt62

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I've been reading Douglas Southhall Freeman's "Lee's Lieutenants." In the Appendix to Volume II, Freeman cites conversations that two of Lee's associates at Washington College had with him on February 15, 1868. The gist of the conversations was that Lee believed that McClellan's finding of Special Order No. 191 (that set forth the disposition of forces under Longstreet and Jackson after moving into Maryland), was a "major reason for the failure of the Maryland Expedition." One of the participants in the discussion was E.C. Gordon, the Washington College clerk who recounted Lee as saying that "I went into Maryland to give battle, and could I have kept General McClellan in ignorance of my position and plans a day or two longer, I would have fought and crushed him." The other individual who spoke with Lee in 1868 was Colonel William Allan who at the time was a professor at Washington College. He recounted his conversation with Lee as follows: "Had the Lost Dispatch not been lost, and had McClellan continued his cautious policy for two or three days longer, I (Lee) would have all my troops reconcentrated on Maryland side, stragglers up, men rested, and intended them to attack McClellan, hoping the best results from state of my troops and those of enemy."

Both of these individuals put in memoranda the content of their discussions with Lee on this matter. Freeman's work is well researched and cited, so much credence should be given to his account. While the discovery of the Special Orders undoubtedly benefited McClellan and the AOTP, this is the strongest statement I have come across that provides insight into Lee's thought on the loss of the orders. Comments?
 

Bruce Vail

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Lee did blame the Lost Order for the failure of the Maryland Campaign, and, by extension, blamed Gen. D.H. Hill, who is supposed to have actually lost the order. Lee was too much the Southern Gentleman to openly blame Hill in published commentary, but there is good reason to believe that this was the case.

Hill biographer Hal Bridges covers this subject in his book Lee's Maverick General. As Bridges recounts, there as a very sour relationship between Hill and Lee, as Hill had openly and repeatedly criticized Lee's generalship
 
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jackt62

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Was anyone ever punished for losing the orders?

Suspicion always fell on D.H. Hill because of a peculiarity in the way the orders were dispatched. Hill's Division was nominally in Jackson's Corps, but was detached from the movement to Harpers Ferry. As a result, Hill is said to have received a copy of the order directly from Lee's HQ, and another copy from Jackson. But Hill obtained an affidavit from his Division staff that asserted that the only copy he received was the one from Jackson. However, Lee asserted that the copy sent from his staff was delivered to Hill (and was the one that presumably was left on the field for the AOTP to find). Lee's adjutant, R.C. Chilton backed up this assertion by noting that couriers were supposed to return a written receipt indicating that orders were received; years later, Chilton inferred that a receipt must have been sent back to Lee, because the omission of one would have set off a chain of investigation, something that did not occur.

So in answer to the question, given the lack of clear evidence, and the conflicting accounts for years afterwards, nobody was ever punished for losing the orders.
 

Bruce Vail

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Suspicion always fell on D.H. Hill because of a peculiarity in the way the orders were dispatched. Hill's Division was nominally in Jackson's Corps, but was detached from the movement to Harpers Ferry. As a result, Hill is said to have received a copy of the order directly from Lee's HQ, and another copy from Jackson. But Hill obtained an affidavit from his Division staff that asserted that the only copy he received was the one from Jackson. However, Lee asserted that the copy sent from his staff was delivered to Hill (and was the one that presumably was left on the field for the AOTP to find). Lee's adjutant, R.C. Chilton backed up this assertion by noting that couriers were supposed to return a written receipt indicating that orders were received; years later, Chilton inferred that a receipt must have been sent back to Lee, because the omission of one would have set off a chain of investigation, something that did not occur.

So in answer to the question, given the lack of clear evidence, and the conflicting accounts for years afterwards, nobody was ever punished for losing the orders.


Suspicion always fell on D.H. Hill because his name was on the Lost Order. Although this was not publicized immediately after the Battle of Antietam, it did become a matter of public record about a year later, when McClellan filed his official report of the Maryland campaign.

see: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a2/LostOrdersCramptonsGap112611.jpg
 

Georgia Sixth

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Bruce Vail

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I've been reading Douglas Southhall Freeman's "Lee's Lieutenants." In the Appendix to Volume II, Freeman cites conversations that two of Lee's associates at Washington College had with him on February 15, 1868. The gist of the conversations was that Lee believed that McClellan's finding of Special Order No. 191 (that set forth the disposition of forces under Longstreet and Jackson after moving into Maryland), was a "major reason for the failure of the Maryland Expedition." One of the participants in the discussion was E.C. Gordon, the Washington College clerk who recounted Lee as saying that "I went into Maryland to give battle, and could I have kept General McClellan in ignorance of my position and plans a day or two longer, I would have fought and crushed him." The other individual who spoke with Lee in 1868 was Colonel William Allan who at the time was a professor at Washington College. He recounted his conversation with Lee as follows: "Had the Lost Dispatch not been lost, and had McClellan continued his cautious policy for two or three days longer, I (Lee) would have all my troops reconcentrated on Maryland side, stragglers up, men rested, and intended them to attack McClellan, hoping the best results from state of my troops and those of enemy."

Both of these individuals put in memoranda the content of their discussions with Lee on this matter. Freeman's work is well researched and cited, so much credence should be given to his account. While the discovery of the Special Orders undoubtedly benefited McClellan and the AOTP, this is the strongest statement I have come across that provides insight into Lee's thought on the loss of the orders. Comments?

It was charcteristic of Lee to refrain from publicly blaming any of his subordinate generals for battlefiled reverses, no matter what his personal feelings might have been. I can't think of an example of him ever doing so, can you?
 
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jackt62

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It was charcteristic of Lee to refrain from publicly blaming any of his subordinate generals for battlefiled reverses, no matter what his personal feelings might have been. I can't think of an example of him ever doing so, can you

I've been trying to come up with a public rebuke by Lee. The closest might be the following 2 when Lee rebuked subordinates face to face.
1. "Well, well, General . . . bury these poor men and let us say no more about it."
Rebuke to General AP Hill after his ill advised and failed attack on Union positions at Bristoe Station, October 1863.

2. "General Ewell, you must restrain yourself; how can you expect to control these men if you have lost control of yourself? If you cannot repress your excitement, you had better retire."
Rebuke to General Ewell who, trying to rally his soldiers at the battle of Spotyslvania, cursed his men and used his sword to flay confused soldiers.
 

Bruce Vail

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I've been trying to come up with a public rebuke by Lee. The closest might be the following 2 when Lee rebuked subordinates face to face.
1. "Well, well, General . . . bury these poor men and let us say no more about it."
Rebuke to General AP Hill after his ill advised and failed attack on Union positions at Bristoe Station, October 1863.

2. "General Ewell, you must restrain yourself; how can you expect to control these men if you have lost control of yourself? If you cannot repress your excitement, you had better retire."
Rebuke to General Ewell who, trying to rally his soldiers at the battle of Spotyslvania, cursed his men and used his sword to flay confused soldiers.

Hah! The rebuke to Hill was so mild that it hardly qualifies as a rebuke at all.

The rebuke to Ewell was pretty serious. It's new to me, and I am assuming it was said in the presence of other senior officers. If so, it reflects an unusal amount of stress on Lee.
 

Rebforever

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Hah! The rebuke to Hill was so mild that it hardly qualifies as a rebuke at all.

The rebuke to Ewell was pretty serious. It's new to me, and I am assuming it was said in the presence of other senior officers. If so, it reflects an unusal amount of stress on Lee.
That rebuke of Ewell was at Spotsylvania. General Lee sent him home and was replaced by General Early.
 

jackt62

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Hah! The rebuke to Hill was so mild that it hardly qualifies as a rebuke at all.

The rebuke to Ewell was pretty serious. It's new to me, and I am assuming it was said in the presence of other senior officers. If so, it reflects an unusal amount of stress on Lee.

Lee had a way of expressing displeasure at someone in a subtle way so that the person had to think about whether they had just been admonished somehow. Here's another Lee "rebuke" of AP Hill, which was more in the form of advice.
"When a man makes a mistake, I call him to my tent, talk to him, and use the authority of my position to make him do the right thing the next time." That happened after Hill wanted to haul a subordinate officer before a court of inquiry, but Lee obviously thought the infraction was not that severe.
 

Bruce Vail

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That rebuke of Ewell was at Spotsylvania. General Lee sent him home and was replaced by General Early.

Wow. Lee must have been badly rattled by the near-disaster at Spotsylvania. No surprie there, as Grant came **** close to destroying the ANV right then and there. Ewell too, since his actions seem near-hysterical. Wasn't Ewell one-legged at the time? Must have been slightly comical to have seen pegleg Ewell chasing his own soldiers in fury.

Was Ewell sent home permanently?
 
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jackt62

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Wow. Lee must have been badly rattled by the near-disaster at Spotsylvania. No surprie there, as Grant came **** close to destroying the ANV right then and there. Ewell too, since his actions seem near-hysterical. Wasn't Ewell one-legged at the time? Must have been slightly comical to have seen pegleg Ewell chasing his own soldiers in fury.

Was Ewell sent hone permanently?

Ewell was one-legged since his wound at Groveton in 1862; when he returned to active service his command abilities were not considered to be as high as they were when he fought in the 1862 Valley Campaign and until his wounding. Lee felt that the pressure of the fighting at Spotsylvania may have been too much for Ewell, so Lee had him transferred to a non-front line command in Richmond.
 

Rebforever

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Wow. Lee must have been badly rattled by the near-disaster at Spotsylvania. No surprie there, as Grant came **** close to destroying the ANV right then and there. Ewell too, since his actions seem near-hysterical. Wasn't Ewell one-legged at the time? Must have been slightly comical to have seen pegleg Ewell chasing his own soldiers in fury.

Was Ewell sent home permanently?
Destroy ANV right then? If you take a look at the battle map, you will see the beginning of the “ inverted V” General Lee used at North Anna battle to beat General Grant. Whether Ewell returned, I do not know.
 

John S. Carter

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I've been trying to come up with a public rebuke by Lee. The closest might be the following 2 when Lee rebuked subordinates face to face.
1. "Well, well, General . . . bury these poor men and let us say no more about it."
Rebuke to General AP Hill after his ill advised and failed attack on Union positions at Bristoe Station, October 1863.

2. "General Ewell, you must restrain yourself; how can you expect to control these men if you have lost control of yourself? If you cannot repress your excitement, you had better retire."
Rebuke to General Ewell who, trying to rally his soldiers at the battle of Spotyslvania, cursed his men and used his sword to flay confused soldiers.
McCLELLAN with or without the orders did not defeat the Confederate army ,it was considered a draw' At least Meade went after Lee after his Gettysburg Both battles achieved for the North one accomplishment ,they halted the Confederate army from going just so far North,Just wondering,reading the achievements of calvary on both sides,imagine a massive calvary ,as like the mongols or huns had,leading Union cavalry attacking Atlanta or Richmond and for the Confederates ,Washington or a vitely transport center,The armies would be engaged against against each other to assist the cavalry.Union cavalry under Sheridan ,Confederate under Forest.Possible or just not logical on a military scheme ?
 

jackt62

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imagine a massive calvary ,as like the mongols or huns had,leading Union cavalry attacking Atlanta or Richmond and for the Confederates ,Washington or a vitely transport center,The armies would be engaged against against each other to assist the cavalry.Union cavalry under Sheridan ,Confederate under Forest.Possible or just not logical on a military scheme ?

Interesting concept in which the infantry assists the cavalry, as opposed to the other way around. Don't see it as being practical, though for a number of reasons. To begin with, that type of cavalry assault would run into problems holding secure supply lines for operating on a massive scale and for a lengthy period of time. Cavalry assaulting fortified positions such as Atlanta or Washington would likely be decimated by entrenched artillery, assuming they could even reach those destinations without being cut off and surrounded by enemy forces. Even some of the actual, lesser cavalry raids such as Stoneman's attempt to outflank the ANV at Chancellorsville, or some of Sherman's cavalry raids to cut off the railroads around Atlanta failed abysmally.
 
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