What Lee Thought About the Lost Orders

Stone in the wall

2nd Lieutenant
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Location
Blue Ridge Mountains, Jefferson County WV
The thing that bothers me with SO191 are the cigars. The Orders were found wrapped with some cigars. Did Hill take the Orders and some cigars thinking that he puts them in his pocket, did some other Officer, orderly or attendant put the Orders with cigars on the side to be picked up during the move, or was there some other activity that caused the lose of the Orders? At some point someone would have asked for those cigars only to find out they were lost. So who ever was in charge of those cigars was the person that screwed up, giving McClellan the opportunity of a life time! It’s The Cigars!

Antietam, in my estimation, was Lee’s greatest battle, he knew what to do, when to do it and were it needed to be done. Lee was outmanned, his back was to the river, his opponent knew what he had available and McClellan had all the cards. Did the lose of Special Order 191 hurt Lee plans, yes, was it Hills fault, who knows, even history can’t tell us.
I don't believe Hill lost them. Myself, I've never seen any information that D H Hill even smoked cigars. Since Hill was under Jackson's command at the time, Jackson also sent him a (2nd) copy of the orders. Cigars may have been easy to get as they had just been in Frederick. Maybe the courier never delivered them? Or he did and as you said an orderly kept them? Waking up fumbling around in the dark and moving out before daybreak valuable items were easily left behind.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I really hope you do not believe what you are saying here. This is ten days after the Battle of Antietam and you are claiming a decision on spending by Halleck is an order to abandon the pursuit.

On the 18th, Lee is still on the field.
On the 19th, McClellan pursues to the water's edge.

20th, he tries crossing 5th Corps to hold a debouche over the Potomac. Lee responds in great force (about a quarter of his army, i.e. 10 brigades) and stops him.
So McClellan can't pursue over the Potomac at Shepherdstown, because Lee is not sufficiently a beaten enemy. Lee can respond and engage at Shepherdstown, so it is not safe to cross there.
What McClellan can do, however, is that he can continue pressing Lee by crossing the Potomac somewhere else - specifically, at Harpers Ferry. On the 20th Harpers Ferry is reoccupied by 12th Corps.

On the 21st there is some question about whether Lee is planning to recross the Potomac to the north (at Williamsport) and McClellan can't send most of his army marching down to Harpers Ferry (which is further from Williamsport, obviously) because Lee may be about to cross into Maryland again. So on the 21st McClellan sends 6th Corps up to Williamsport to join Couch's division.
Late on the 21st, McClellan orders 2nd Corps down to Harpers Ferry, and Sumner marches as directed at dawn on the 22nd. (McClellan also orders 1st Corps down there, but this order is then countermanded.)
22nd, 2nd Corps reaches Harpers Ferry and Sumner is ordered to build a pontoon bridge there (the rebels had destroyed the bridge). So McClellan is engaged in measures to allow him to cross the Potomac with a complete force (with wagons) somewhere that Lee cannot stop him; note that if Lee does move to block Sumner's crossing then Franklin can cross unmolested at the Williamsport fords.
Also on this date, McClellan asks for crews to repair the rail bridge, and asks Halleck for the expense to be authorized.
23rd, McClellan sends 9th Corps and most of his cavalry down to Harpers Ferry. Halleck asks for McClellan's plans.
Also on this date, the pontoon bridge at Harpers Ferry is laid, but a storm destroys the bridge before it can be used.
24th, McClellan replies to Halleck explaining his plans. If the river rises enough that it's unfordable, he intends to concentrate most of the army at Harpers Ferry and cross into the Shenandoah towards Winchester.
Obviously crossing the Shenandoah under these conditions requires a bridge to be built there - either a wagon bridge or a rail bridge that can resist freshets.

It's these appropriations which Halleck refuses, at the same time as arguing that McClellan should go into Loudoun Valley instead of into the Shenandoah.



The fact that the Potomac is between McClellan's command and Lee's, and that Lee was willing (and, apparently, able) to court engagement near the Potomac to block McClellan's crossing attempts means that a simple pursuit to "keep up the scare" is not sufficient. McClellan functionally needs to launch a new campaign against the enemy, and he needs to do so from a crossing Lee cannot block; that being Harpers Ferry.

Since McClellan is operating from Harpers Ferry, though, he will be operating a few days from his base already by the time he reaches his target (which is Winchester to cut Lee off), and so he needs a solid crossing that can't be interrupted by a storm (which would cut him off from the North and from his supply lines). It is this which Halleck's refusal prevents.

So what prevented McClellan's pursuit? Take your pick - if only a move over the Potomac directly following Lee counts, then it's the fact Lee was willing to throw a corps at preventing the crossing there. If crossing at Harpers Ferry counts, then it's the storms and Halleck not wanting to let McClellan build a bridge the storms can't destroy.


There is perhaps an argument to be made that McClellan should have shifted 2nd Corps to Harpers Ferry a day or so earlier, and got the pontoon train into action there a day or so earlier (which may or may not be feasible depending on where it is); beyond that though a lot of the possible time savings come down to either knowing what Lee's intent is before Lee does (i.e. knowing that Lee is not actually going to try and cross at Williamsport) or bringing on a general engagement at Shepherdstown with the possibility for McClellan to be caught mid-crossing by Lee's entire force.



Something that is worth considering at the same time, by the way, is that Halleck is repeatedly reluctant to agree to McClellan's "Shenandoah plan", and the cause of his reluctance is explicitly the need to keep Washington safe and the risk of an army occupying Manassas while McClellan is in the Shenandoah.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Antietam, in my estimation, was Lee’s greatest battle, he knew what to do, when to do it and were it needed to be done. Lee was outmanned, his back was to the river, his opponent knew what he had available and McClellan had all the cards. Did the lose of Special Order 191 hurt Lee plans, yes, was it Hills fault, who knows, even history can’t tell us.
I want to point out here that of these things Lee was:

- outmanned: yes, though probably not by much. The two generals had similar number of regiments on the field, though McClellan had a higher portion of brand new "green" regiments which were both full (high strength) and not well trained (low effectiveness).

- Back to the river: yes, though he still had a viable line of retreat and could have retreated over the fords on the night of the 16th. It is a fair question why he did not, and the reasonable answer is that it was a fight he thought he could win, and since the only disadvantage of "back to the river" is not having an unlimited distance to give ground then having a few miles of depth reduces the disadvantage here.

- his opponent knew what he had available: not really. SO 191 gives no strength information and does not even count off the number of divisions in Lee's army; there is certainly no indication of how big they are. McClellan also has no way to know how many of those divisions in Lee's army have reached him until they actually show up fighting.

- McClellan had all the cards: bit harder to judge as it's subjective, but this only really works if some of the cards are no good. The Union corps commanders are a bit of a shambles at this battle (Hooker doesn't coordinate with Mansfield, Mansfield nearly marches his corps to Hagerstown and then gets himself shot trying to work out whether a unit is the enemy, Burnside buggers up at the bridge).
 
Joined
Jul 22, 2021
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?
So, what Lee was saying he gave McClellan a head start and and every opportunity and he still screwed it up.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
So, what Lee was saying he gave McClellan a head start and and every opportunity and he still screwed it up.

Of course, in other conversations Lee said that McClellan was the best Union general he fought; I rather doubt Lee would be willing to say "McClellan beat me fair and square" because that would indicate Lee had been overconfident and squandered an excellent opportunity.


It's actually interesting to contemplate what McClellan's movements would have been like without the lost dispatch, because historically speaking McClellan had already ordered 9th Corps forwards before SO 191 was found, and the news of the encirclement of Harpers Ferry provided a lot of the same information that SO 191 did (i.e. that there were substantial Confederate sources south of the Potomac).
I think the likely outcome without SO 191 is that McClellan hits South Mountain later on the 14th - possibly in the afternoon rather than the morning. There might be no night marching, but the head of 9th Corps passed through Frederick around noon on the 13th and it's about a day's march.
6th Corps meanwhile makes sense to go to Jefferson Pass (once taken) and didn't do much night marching*, so assuming McClellan was trying to relieve Harpers Ferry at all they'd hit at a pretty similar time.
The way McClellan is feeling for the enemy up to the 13th makes sense with how Stuart's cavalry screen is denying good observation of where Lee is, and Lee may be gathered around Frederick ready for a battle there; after the 13th Stuart's screen has been driven in and McClellan knows there's no Confederate infantry east of South Mountain, so there's good reason to advance over the Catoctins and towards SM.


* I suspect this to be on account of there being no National Road to use as a guideline - it's easy to get lost at night and at least 9th Corps could follow the pike road


For Lee's claim to be correct then there are two possibilities. Either he was thinking of Jackson etc. crossing at Harpers Ferry to join him (in which case the fighting would take place somewhere between South Mountain and the Antietam, or alternatively Lee defending the line of South Mountain) or he was thinking of Jackson etc. joining him via Shepherdstown (in which case the fighting would take place west of the Antietam). But if Lee has all his stragglers up then so does McClellan, and that puts the odds at (campaign strength):

Lee ~75,000 PFD
McClellan ~101,000 PFD (with Couch and Humphreys)

Straggling hit the two generals about as hard as one another, and McClellan was missing two divisions. So the ratio actually doesn't change much compared to historical, or if anything is a bit more favourable to McClellan.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
So, what Lee was saying he gave McClellan a head start and and every opportunity and he still screwed it up.
Apparently, although its often pays to be skeptical of accounts that recollect conversations with Lee. Lee was not a boastful individual and he considered McClellan a formidable foe, so whether or not Lee actually made those remarks about a head start and "crushing" McClellan should be looked at with a grain of salt.
 
Joined
Jul 22, 2021
Apparently, although its often pays to be skeptical of accounts that recollect conversations with Lee. Lee was not a boastful individual and he considered McClellan a formidable foe, so whether or not Lee actually made those remarks about a head start and "crushing" McClellan should be looked at with a grain of salt.
Yeah, I would agree. Perhaps that was me saying those things. :D
 

WScott

Private
Joined
May 6, 2021
I want to point out here that of these things Lee was:

- outmanned: yes, though probably not by much. The two generals had similar number of regiments on the field, though McClellan had a higher portion of brand new "green" regiments which were both full (high strength) and not well trained (low effectiveness).

- Back to the river: yes, though he still had a viable line of retreat and could have retreated over the fords on the night of the 16th. It is a fair question why he did not, and the reasonable answer is that it was a fight he thought he could win, and since the only disadvantage of "back to the river" is not having an unlimited distance to give ground then having a few miles of depth reduces the disadvantage here.

- his opponent knew what he had available: not really. SO 191 gives no strength information and does not even count off the number of divisions in Lee's army; there is certainly no indication of how big they are. McClellan also has no way to know how many of those divisions in Lee's army have reached him until they actually show up fighting.

- McClellan had all the cards: bit harder to judge as it's subjective, but this only really works if some of the cards are no good. The Union corps commanders are a bit of a shambles at this battle (Hooker doesn't coordinate with Mansfield, Mansfield nearly marches his corps to Hagerstown and then gets himself shot trying to work out whether a unit is the enemy, Burnside buggers up at the bridge).
During the Maryland Campaign, the Confederate Army occupied Frederick Maryland for about 3 days. McClellan’s inelegance (including Pinkerton) should have been able to give him a fairly accurate number and kind of troops there, estimated to be 45,000 men.

When McClellan got the copy of SO191 ("Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home.") he knew that Jackson was going to Harpers Ferry and Longstreet going to Boonsboro / Hagerstown. Even if it were an even split of 22,500 men apiece, McClellan knew he had more than enough troops to stop Bobby Lee. He also knew Harpers Ferry was not captured yet or he would not have sent General Couch toward Harpers Ferry.

McClellans’ command at Antietam was passive, he relinquished to much control to his Corp Commanders and didn’t take a more aggressive posture. He did an excellent job in his pursuit of Lee and demonstrated his battle skills at South Mountain he just didn’t finish the job as I think he could have.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
During the Maryland Campaign, the Confederate Army occupied Frederick Maryland for about 3 days. McClellan’s inelegance (including Pinkerton) should have been able to give him a fairly accurate number and kind of troops there, estimated to be 45,000 men.
Estimated by who? What reason is there to think that Lee had 45,000 men?

Steiner watched much of Lee's army march through Frederick past his window, and he put the main body (Jackson's corps, Longstreet's corps and McLaws' corps) as "not more than 64,000 men" and some of DH Hill's brigades as "8,000". He didn't see some of DH Hill, or Walker's division, and he didn't see Stuart's cavalry, and yet he saw 72,000 men.

Meanwhile, after Second Bull Run the strength of Lee's army in effectives was 75,000 (per the Schulte ORBAT) and on October 10 Lee posted a strength of 64,000 men PFD* the first time he took a complete set of rolls; this is after about 17,000 casualties in the campaign.

So why exactly do you think the true number is that Lee had 45,000 men, and how is McClellan supposed to find this out if an eyewitness sees about double that?

* Confederate definition


Indeed, let's go further. Here are all the other observations of Lee made during the Maryland campaign (not including Steiner), and what the person making the observation could see:

Observation​
Number​
Companies​
Men per coy​
Whole army, September 4-6, said by a Virginia captain in Leesburg​
84000​
2030​
41.4​
Whole army, September 8​
75000​
2024​
37.1​
Whole army, September 9, Rebel deserter​
100000​
2024​
49.4​
Whole army, September 9, telegraph operator, over 100,000​
100000​
2024​
49.4​
Whole army, September 10, newspaper, 60,000 to 100,000​
80000​
2024​
39.5​
Main Body (Jackson Longstreet McLaws Anderson res art), September 10​
60000​
1573​
38.1​
Main Body (Jackson Longstreet McLaws Anderson res art), September 10​
70000​
1573​
44.5​
Main Body (Jackson Longstreet McLaws Anderson), September 10, “40,000 to 60,000”​
50000​
1573​
31.8​
Walker​
6000​
92​
65.2​
Jackson, Williamsport, “15,000 men and 70 pieces of artillery”​
15000​
691​
21.7​
Jackson, south of Williamsport, “not less than 25,000”​
25000​
691​
36.2​
Jackson, 6 miles west of Williamsport, “15,000 infantry, 100 cavalry, 40 pieces of artillery”​
15000​
691​
21.7​
Jackson, west of Martinsburg, “with a force of 20,000”​
20000​
691​
28.9​
McLaws and Anderson, “30,000 men at Burkittsville”​
30000​
430​
69.8​
McLaws and Anderson, “25,000 down to 12,000”​
18500​
430​
43.0​
Anderson, “8,000 or 10,000 of the enemy”​
9000​
266​
33.8​
McLaws and Anderson, “some 30,000 of the enemy’s troops on the heights”​
30000​
430​
69.8​
McLaws or McLaws and Anderson, “I thought there were some 12,000 or 15,000, perhaps more”​
13500​
430​
31.4​
Longstreet’s Command, “20,000 to 30,000”​
25000​
430​
58.1​
McLaws and Anderson passing over from Maryland Heights, counter gave up after counting 17,600 infantry in 22 regiments averaging about 800​
17600​
430​
40.9​
McLaws and Anderson passing over from Maryland Heights, “20,000, perhaps 30,000”​
25000​
430​
58.1​
Total attacking force at Harpers Ferry (Jackson, McLaws, Anderson, Walker) “amounting in all to 40,000”​
40000​
1213​
33.0​


For Lee to have 45,000 men in his army when it is at Frederick he would need to have 22 men per company. Instead, only two observations give this per-company value (both of Jackson at Williamsport) and all the others are higher - sometimes three times as much.

So who is McClellan's intel org supposed to get the information from? (Interestingly the average of all observations of Lee's forces in Maryland has his men per company average out at about 42-43. This would imply a strength of almost 90,000 men.)
 
Last edited:

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
McClellans’ command at Antietam was passive, he relinquished to much control to his Corp Commanders and didn’t take a more aggressive posture. He did an excellent job in his pursuit of Lee and demonstrated his battle skills at South Mountain he just didn’t finish the job as I think he could have.
What would it look like if McClellan didn't "relinquish too much control to his corps commanders"? The Antietam battlespace is too large for one person to manage, and his corps commanders are senior generals who are responsible for between 10,000 and 18,000 men, PFD; they should not require hand holding, and yet all too often they do, but McClellan cannot be in two places at once.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
He also knew Harpers Ferry was not captured yet or he would not have sent General Couch toward Harpers Ferry.
McClellan sent 6th Corps and Couch towards Harpers Ferry on the afternoon of the 15th and on the 16th because there was a large concentration of enemy troops there, and if they'd crossed at the ford (or remained north of the Potomac) they'd be in his rear and cut him off from Washington.
If you mean he knew Harpers Ferry was not captured yet on the 13th/14th, then yes, he did know that. He also knew Miles said that Harpers Ferry could hold until late on the 15th, and if Miles had indeed held until late on the 15th then McLaws' corps would have been trapped in the Pleasant Army and mostly compelled to surrender; instead Miles surrends half a day earlier than that.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
On the 18th, Lee is still on the field.
On the 19th, McClellan pursues to the water's edge.

20th, he tries crossing 5th Corps to hold a debouche over the Potomac. Lee responds in great force (about a quarter of his army, i.e. 10 brigades) and stops him.
So McClellan can't pursue over the Potomac at Shepherdstown, because Lee is not sufficiently a beaten enemy. Lee can respond and engage at Shepherdstown, so it is not safe to cross there.
What McClellan can do, however, is that he can continue pressing Lee by crossing the Potomac somewhere else - specifically, at Harpers Ferry. On the 20th Harpers Ferry is reoccupied by 12th Corps.
So lets be clear. The above is you agreeing with me that McClellan's attempt at a pursuit of Lee after Antietam ended on September 20th.

On the 21st there is some question about whether Lee is planning to recross the Potomac to the north (at Williamsport) and McClellan can't send most of his army marching down to Harpers Ferry (which is further from Williamsport, obviously) because Lee may be about to cross into Maryland again. So on the 21st McClellan sends 6th Corps up to Williamsport to join Couch's division.
Late on the 21st, McClellan orders 2nd Corps down to Harpers Ferry, and Sumner marches as directed at dawn on the 22nd. (McClellan also orders 1st Corps down there, but this order is then countermanded.)
22nd, 2nd Corps reaches Harpers Ferry and Sumner is ordered to build a pontoon bridge there (the rebels had destroyed the bridge). So McClellan is engaged in measures to allow him to cross the Potomac with a complete force (with wagons) somewhere that Lee cannot stop him; note that if Lee does move to block Sumner's crossing then Franklin can cross unmolested at the Williamsport fords.
Also on this date, McClellan asks for crews to repair the rail bridge, and asks Halleck for the expense to be authorized.
23rd, McClellan sends 9th Corps and most of his cavalry down to Harpers Ferry. Halleck asks for McClellan's plans.
Also on this date, the pontoon bridge at Harpers Ferry is laid, but a storm destroys the bridge before it can be used.
24th, McClellan replies to Halleck explaining his plans. If the river rises enough that it's unfordable, he intends to concentrate most of the army at Harpers Ferry and cross into the Shenandoah towards Winchester.
Obviously crossing the Shenandoah under these conditions requires a bridge to be built there - either a wagon bridge or a rail bridge that can resist freshets.

It's these appropriations which Halleck refuses, at the same time as arguing that McClellan should go into Loudoun Valley instead of into the Shenandoah.



The fact that the Potomac is between McClellan's command and Lee's, and that Lee was willing (and, apparently, able) to court engagement near the Potomac to block McClellan's crossing attempts means that a simple pursuit to "keep up the scare" is not sufficient. McClellan functionally needs to launch a new campaign against the enemy, and he needs to do so from a crossing Lee cannot block; that being Harpers Ferry.

Since McClellan is operating from Harpers Ferry, though, he will be operating a few days from his base already by the time he reaches his target (which is Winchester to cut Lee off), and so he needs a solid crossing that can't be interrupted by a storm (which would cut him off from the North and from his supply lines). It is this which Halleck's refusal prevents.

So what prevented McClellan's pursuit? Take your pick - if only a move over the Potomac directly following Lee counts, then it's the fact Lee was willing to throw a corps at preventing the crossing there. If crossing at Harpers Ferry counts, then it's the storms and Halleck not wanting to let McClellan build a bridge the storms can't destroy.


There is perhaps an argument to be made that McClellan should have shifted 2nd Corps to Harpers Ferry a day or so earlier, and got the pontoon train into action there a day or so earlier (which may or may not be feasible depending on where it is); beyond that though a lot of the possible time savings come down to either knowing what Lee's intent is before Lee does (i.e. knowing that Lee is not actually going to try and cross at Williamsport) or bringing on a general engagement at Shepherdstown with the possibility for McClellan to be caught mid-crossing by Lee's entire force.



Something that is worth considering at the same time, by the way, is that Halleck is repeatedly reluctant to agree to McClellan's "Shenandoah plan", and the cause of his reluctance is explicitly the need to keep Washington safe and the risk of an army occupying Manassas while McClellan is in the Shenandoah.
All of this is you trying to maintain that McClellan's attempt at a pursuit of Lee after Antietam continued after September 20th. You can not have it both ways.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
So lets be clear. The above is you agreeing with me that McClellan's attempt at a pursuit of Lee after Antietam ended on September 20th.


All of this is you trying to maintain that McClellan's attempt at a pursuit of Lee after Antietam continued after September 20th. You can not have it both ways.
It depends how a pursuit is defined.

If a pursuit involves following directly after a defeated enemy who cannot sustain combat sufficiently to stop you, then yes, McClellan's pursuit ends on September 20th because it is no longer possible for a pursuit to exist - Lee is over the Potomac and retains enough combat power to knock back McClellan's crossing at Shepherdstown.

This would, however, mean that Meade (the example you used as a comparison) didn't actually pursue Lee in any significant way at all, because he took a different route.



If, however, a pursuit means following up after a defeated enemy so as to keep them on the move (or bring them to battle again if they don't keep moving), and does not require directly following the enemy up, then McClellan's operations to cross the Potomac at Harpers Ferry on 21-25 September would qualify - he is manoeuvring to follow up on Lee and bring him to battle or drive him south.

This is the same sort of thing that Meade was doing after Gettysburg, manoeuvring south some distance from the track of Lee's main army for the most part and attempting to either cut Lee off (bring him to battle) or force Lee to march south (to avoid being cut off).
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Estimated by who? What reason is there to think that Lee had 45,000 men?

Steiner watched much of Lee's army march through Frederick past his window, and he put the main body (Jackson's corps, Longstreet's corps and McLaws' corps) as "not more than 64,000 men" and some of DH Hill's brigades as "8,000". He didn't see some of DH Hill, or Walker's division, and he didn't see Stuart's cavalry, and yet he saw 72,000 men.

Meanwhile, after Second Bull Run the strength of Lee's army in effectives was 75,000 (per the Schulte ORBAT) and on October 10 Lee posted a strength of 64,000 men PFD* the first time he took a complete set of rolls; this is after about 17,000 casualties in the campaign.

So why exactly do you think the true number is that Lee had 45,000 men, and how is McClellan supposed to find this out if an eyewitness sees about double that?

* Confederate definition


Indeed, let's go further. Here are all the other observations of Lee made during the Maryland campaign (not including Steiner), and what the person making the observation could see:

Observation​
Number​
Companies​
Men per coy​
Whole army, September 4-6, said by a Virginia captain in Leesburg​
84000​
2030​
41.4​
Whole army, September 8​
75000​
2024​
37.1​
Whole army, September 9, Rebel deserter​
100000​
2024​
49.4​
Whole army, September 9, telegraph operator, over 100,000​
100000​
2024​
49.4​
Whole army, September 10, newspaper, 60,000 to 100,000​
80000​
2024​
39.5​
Main Body (Jackson Longstreet McLaws Anderson res art), September 10​
60000​
1573​
38.1​
Main Body (Jackson Longstreet McLaws Anderson res art), September 10​
70000​
1573​
44.5​
Main Body (Jackson Longstreet McLaws Anderson), September 10, “40,000 to 60,000”​
50000​
1573​
31.8​
Walker​
6000​
92​
65.2​
Jackson, Williamsport, “15,000 men and 70 pieces of artillery”​
15000​
691​
21.7​
Jackson, south of Williamsport, “not less than 25,000”​
25000​
691​
36.2​
Jackson, 6 miles west of Williamsport, “15,000 infantry, 100 cavalry, 40 pieces of artillery”​
15000​
691​
21.7​
Jackson, west of Martinsburg, “with a force of 20,000”​
20000​
691​
28.9​
McLaws and Anderson, “30,000 men at Burkittsville”​
30000​
430​
69.8​
McLaws and Anderson, “25,000 down to 12,000”​
18500​
430​
43.0​
Anderson, “8,000 or 10,000 of the enemy”​
9000​
266​
33.8​
McLaws and Anderson, “some 30,000 of the enemy’s troops on the heights”​
30000​
430​
69.8​
McLaws or McLaws and Anderson, “I thought there were some 12,000 or 15,000, perhaps more”​
13500​
430​
31.4​
Longstreet’s Command, “20,000 to 30,000”​
25000​
430​
58.1​
McLaws and Anderson passing over from Maryland Heights, counter gave up after counting 17,600 infantry in 22 regiments averaging about 800​
17600​
430​
40.9​
McLaws and Anderson passing over from Maryland Heights, “20,000, perhaps 30,000”​
25000​
430​
58.1​
Total attacking force at Harpers Ferry (Jackson, McLaws, Anderson, Walker) “amounting in all to 40,000”​
40000​
1213​
33.0​


For Lee to have 45,000 men in his army when it is at Frederick he would need to have 22 men per company. Instead, only two observations give this per-company value (both of Jackson at Williamsport) and all the others are higher - sometimes three times as much.

So who is McClellan's intel org supposed to get the information from? (Interestingly the average of all observations of Lee's forces in Maryland has his men per company average out at about 42-43. This would imply a strength of almost 90,000 men.)
There are substantial credibility questions regarding Steiner's account. Caveat: this post is limited to reliance on Steiner's account. It is not intended to weigh in on the numbers discussion otherwise.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
There are substantial credibility questions regarding Steiner's account. Caveat: this post is limited to reliance on Steiner's account. It is not intended to weigh in on the numbers discussion otherwise.
Do you mean that there is a question as to whether Steiner could have seen the force marching through Frederick, or that he could have done so but that there is some kind of indication it was made up?

Let's see...


If Steiner's account is substantially correct in terms of the size of the main body ("not more than" 64,000 men in 1,573 companies, i.e. 40.6 men per company) then it accords with the average of other sources that observed the Rebels during the campaign (which average at 42.9 men per company).
Steiner also states that the main body took from 4AM to 8PM to go through Frederick, i.e. 16 hours. 64,000 men in column of fours forms a column 16 miles long, plus vehicles (which would lengthen the column somewhat, though the wagons would go after the main body per SO 191) and as it happens Jackson encamped on the 10th roughly 15-16 miles from Frederick. So the numbers don't seem completely off.
The Baltimore Sun gives 3AM to 9PM in an article of the 15th September, for what it's worth.


Well, I confess myself unable to locate the issue with a brief check, though I'd be interested to hear more.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Do you mean that there is a question as to whether Steiner could have seen the force marching through Frederick, or that he could have done so but that there is some kind of indication it was made up?

Let's see...


If Steiner's account is substantially correct in terms of the size of the main body ("not more than" 64,000 men in 1,573 companies, i.e. 40.6 men per company) then it accords with the average of other sources that observed the Rebels during the campaign (which average at 42.9 men per company).
Steiner also states that the main body took from 4AM to 8PM to go through Frederick, i.e. 16 hours. 64,000 men in column of fours forms a column 16 miles long, plus vehicles (which would lengthen the column somewhat, though the wagons would go after the main body per SO 191) and as it happens Jackson encamped on the 10th roughly 15-16 miles from Frederick. So the numbers don't seem completely off.
The Baltimore Sun gives 3AM to 9PM in an article of the 15th September, for what it's worth.


Well, I confess myself unable to locate the issue with a brief check, though I'd be interested to hear more.
Let's start with a few items - and the issue here is objectively assessing Steiner's reliability, as a neutral fact-finder would, not cooking up arguments or "explanations" that his attorney might make, or filling gaps.

Steiner's September 10 account has Jackson's troops passing from 4 AM to 8 PM - "sixteen hours". That's an awfully long time for an observor to be conducting a mathematical accounting. Try it. Perhaps that's why he hedged his bets, stating "the most liberal calculation could not give them more than 64,000" - that's a double qualification. He then counts "about 150" field guns "with the letters US" - where were these markings he observed? How many total guns? (There are good records of guns and types present for the ANV's commands at Antietam).

Sunrise at Frederick in September 10 was 5:44 AM - an hour and 45 minutes after Steiner purports to have started conducting this count. His visual acuity is impressive. Where was he located while conducting this count?

There are primary source accounts from participants on the Confederate side that Jackson rode into town about sunrise to pay his respects to a local and then rode out of Frederick about an hour ahead of any of his troops. That would place the troops starting to move about 6:30 -6:45 - meaning Steiner missed the mark by nearly three hours.

Steiner has 3,000 black troops "promiscuously mixed up" in all the ranks and "most" armed with a variety of weapons . In these same troops he notes the presence of Maj. Gen. Howell Cobb - an officer who even as the CSA's doom had become apparent by January 1865 still vehemently opposed enlisting and arming black troops. Moreover, although Steiner observed Jackson's troops arrive around 10 AM on September 6 and made detailed notes of their extensive activities September 6-9, there is nary a mention of these black troops "promiscuously mixed up with" Jackson's force.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
As for where he was located, offhand I'd assume the Steiner House, which is still standing and which is at 368 W. Patrick Street, Frederick, MD.
W. Patrick Street is Route 144, which is the National Road.
Steiner doesn't appear to mention this, but as I say, offhand I'd assume he was in his house.


The point about calculation is interesting, and I wonder if what was actually going on was that he based his determination of the number on his estimate of the rate at which they were going past (i.e. about 4,000 men per hour) and then multiplied by the time rather than counting for all sixteen hours.
This would of course mean that the actual amount of time they were going past, if less than sixteen hours, would mean his estimate was high (for example if the movement began at 6:30 rather than 4:00, and still ended at 8pm, the correct number is 13.5 x 4,000 so 54,000)


I also want to point out that the terms "sunrise" and "dawn" (and "daybreak") are slightly different and mixed up in usage in the 19th century because there was a period of workable light before the sunrise. The earliest point at which it can be said there's workable light is an hour before sunrise (the beginning of "nautical twilight", which on September 10 at Frederick is one hour before sunrise itself).
If that's what's meant by when Jackson rode into town then he'd be doing so perhaps as early as 4:45 or so, and the movement could have begun as early as 5:30. (Which would mean 58,000 by the estimate method discussed.)

(I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my own belief that Steiner saw black logistics/support personnel, slave or free, instead of black troops - something for which the Union army has no equivalent and which could reasonably have been misinterpreted as black troops - and that I think Steiner does not fully distinguish between the things which are his own personal observations and the anecdotes he picked up from others in Frederick.)


Thank you for pointing those out. I agree they mean that Steiner's report cannot be taken as true in all respects, but I don't think it can be outright discarded - instead the estimate should be considered to be likely somewhat high, which is in accordance with my belief on the actual number. (My belief on the number in question is that Jackson+Ewell+AP Hill+Longstreet+McLaws+Anderson was about 55,000 marching men, and that many of the trains were with DH Hill rather than with the moving force itself.)
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
As for where he was located, offhand I'd assume the Steiner House, which is still standing and which is at 368 W. Patrick Street, Frederick, MD.
W. Patrick Street is Route 144, which is the National Road.
Steiner doesn't appear to mention this, but as I say, offhand I'd assume he was in his house.


The point about calculation is interesting, and I wonder if what was actually going on was that he based his determination of the number on his estimate of the rate at which they were going past (i.e. about 4,000 men per hour) and then multiplied by the time rather than counting for all sixteen hours.
This would of course mean that the actual amount of time they were going past, if less than sixteen hours, would mean his estimate was high (for example if the movement began at 6:30 rather than 4:00, and still ended at 8pm, the correct number is 13.5 x 4,000 so 54,000)


I also want to point out that the terms "sunrise" and "dawn" (and "daybreak") are slightly different and mixed up in usage in the 19th century because there was a period of workable light before the sunrise. The earliest point at which it can be said there's workable light is an hour before sunrise (the beginning of "nautical twilight", which on September 10 at Frederick is one hour before sunrise itself).
If that's what's meant by when Jackson rode into town then he'd be doing so perhaps as early as 4:45 or so, and the movement could have begun as early as 5:30. (Which would mean 58,000 by the estimate method discussed.)

(I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my own belief that Steiner saw black logistics/support personnel, slave or free, instead of black troops - something for which the Union army has no equivalent and which could reasonably have been misinterpreted as black troops - and that I think Steiner does not fully distinguish between the things which are his own personal observations and the anecdotes he picked up from others in Frederick.)


Thank you for pointing those out. I agree they mean that Steiner's report cannot be taken as true in all respects, but I don't think it can be outright discarded - instead the estimate should be considered to be likely somewhat high, which is in accordance with my belief on the actual number. (My belief on the number in question is that Jackson+Ewell+AP Hill+Longstreet+McLaws+Anderson was about 55,000 marching men, and that many of the trains were with DH Hill rather than with the moving force itself.)
That's essentially my point - I'd place much more reliance on other assessments (assuming they don't raise similar concerns. of course - and I'm not saying they do). A lot of people have just taken Steiner and run with it. For myself, I suspect that - as you suggest - Steiner was stating as first-hand observation a lot of stuff he was actually getting from others - or was even just speculating based on rumors. I agree that Steiner could have seen "servants"/"support" personnel but he was very specific that "most" carried "rifles, muskets, sabres", etc. The notion of Cobb riding at the head of armed black troops is a bit of a "howler" - I doubt he was "drunk" to that extent. And how none of these were seen by Steiner during the highly visible and extensive activity of Jackson's troops reported by him during the preceding four days leaves "more questions than answers". Bottom line - I doubt that anybody putting on a case as to Confederate strength would be calling Steiner as a principal witness. (It should be kept in mind that Steiner had no training or experience in this arena - he was a physician)
 
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