What Lee Thought About the Lost Orders

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Did you even read the posts?? Let's try again. Steiner wrote that (1) Cobb was riding in a column containing 3,000 black men "promiscuously" mixed up "with all the Rebel horde" (which included Cobb's brigade - unless you have information to the contrary) and that (2) "most" of said blacks carried "arms, muskets, rifles, sabres", etc. Now read the well-known quote I posted from Cobb's letter in January 1865 - when the CSA was in dire straits and some were pushing the theretofore radical solution of enlisting and arming blacks. You'll get there ....
Out of curiosity, is your contention (i.e. the alternative hypothesis) that Steiner made it all up out of whole cloth - not just the armed black confederates but everything? And that he wasn't in Frederick at all, and the estimates he gave were formed without talking with anyone who was?

The reason I ask is that it seems to me that there are three possibilities:

1) Steiner was an eyewitness, and his information is based on eyewitness testimony (coupled with talking to others in Frederick during the occupation).
2) Steiner was not an eyewitness, but spoke to those who were.
3) Steiner was not an eyewitness and did not speak to those who were.

And in either (1) or (2) there is a way for Steiner's estimates to be based on a real starting point, and thus at least as reliable as OR v27 p559 (Jackson is "not less than 25,000") and the Baltimore Sun (Jackson is "15,000 infantry, 100 cavalry and 40 pieces of artillery", or OR 27 p660 (McLaws and Anderson are "30,000") or OR 27 p782 (McLaws and Anderson are "25,000 down to 12,000")
 

Belfoured

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Well, here's the thing about that.

Your specific argument that I was answering (unless I misunderstood it) was that it was implausible for Steiner to have observed 16 hours of men marching past, because he'd have to have been at the window for 16 hours and have amazing vision and night vision and so on.

What I was doing was explaining how it is plausible that Steiner could - equipped with a window - have got the information he required to make an estimate of strength. Because all counts of the number of men in a large army based on observation are estimates, since nobody ever has the time to count up all 40,000 or 60,000 or 100,000 men one at a time, but what they can do is observe a small part of that force fairly precisely and multiply out. (Steiner's house is actually in quite a good place to do this.)

If the inputs are incorrect, such as if Steiner asked around for when the march began and got an incorrect number (e.g. if "Jackson went through the streets first at 4AM" was misinterpreted as "Jackson's men went through the streets first at 4AM) then the output will also be incorrect, naturally, but there's at least one example I can think of where times given by military officers about an event disagree by upwards of an hour. The Baltimore Sun gives the start time of 3AM, so it was at least an hour earlier than Steiner's number; clearly Steiner is not the earliest time given.

This does not mean Steiner's numbers were exactly correct, by any means. I personally think that they're about 20% high if effectives are the measure (and since the trains marched behind the main column, they might be). But they are a point of data.



Now, I have also agreed - more than once - that Steiner clearly supplemented his own personal observations (if that is what they were) with the observations of others. In some places he tells us explicitly in the text ("a clergyman told me"), but in other places he is more implicit about it, such as when he says the "major-general" is "understood to be" Howell Cobb. It is quite possible that in other places he was more implicit still (such as with the inscriptions on the guns, which I agree was likely functionally a rumour being passed on)

While Steiner's observations on numbers are plausible, in that Steiner could have gained them as a single person observing the passing Confederates for an hour or so, that does not automatically mean that they were first hand.

But if Steiner's recorded information on strength was not first hand, then it still came from somewhere. Specifically his estimate of the strength of DH Hill, which is our only estimate of the strength of DH Hill from any eyewitness in Maryland.
I haven't addressed the September 11 estimate of Hill's division for a reason. That entry lacks all of the problems that permeate the September 10 entry. If Steiner were on the stand, problems might emerge during examination but that's speculation. To be honest, September 10 has so many defects on its face that I'm unable to sort out what might be accurate. That's the whole point.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
When you say that, do you mean McClellan accepted a formal truce (that is, he actively agreed to it)? Or just that no attack took place?
There certainly is room to discuss the "truce" and how "official" it was. In the end, no matter what he said then or later, McClellan made no attempt to attack or do anything else offensive. He made no effort to reject the "truce" that was, in reality, playing out on the field within his knowledge. I am sure you know this, so why bother trying to set up a strawman about it?

I agree McClellan didn't actually launch an attack, but my understanding is that McClellan wanted to attack if he could put together an attack that actually had a chance; the problem is that he had basically four divisions that were capable of attack (Morell, Couch, and 6th Corps) and Morell was over with Burnside who was complaining about being weak.
So, what, your position is that McClellan (the commanding officer) was subject to the whims of his subordinates? If Burnside is skittish, McClellan must refrain from attacking? I cannot agree with that.

You already know that both sides had suffered terribly the day before. You know what McClellan has -- and you know Lee has less. Lee's own generals thought Lee was taking a massive risk by not retreating on the night of the 17th-18th because of the extreme weakness of Lee's force.

If you are trying to say that there was a risk of failure if McClellan had attacked, then you are absolutely correct. If you are saying he could not attack because there was a risk -- then you are condemning McClellan's ability as a battlefield commander.
In which case, what is the date which fits the following conditions:

- Grant launched attacks on day X with a large part of his army, i.e. 75% or more which actually attacked on that day.
- Grant then launched attacks on day X+1 with a significant part of his army.
Let me guess: you have created an artificial scenario here that you think "justifies" your position and you want me to agree to play by your rules to "prove" what you want to "prove". What makes you think these points make any sense or show something important about real life? Can you show me some respectable military source putting forth this as a "rule" to evaluate by?

Can you show any two-day battle where McClellan attacks on both days? Any at all?

How many days does McClellan attack in the Seven Days, for example? How many days does McClellan attack at ...?

How about the Wilderness? Looks like Grant/Meade turns into Lee and attacks on May 5. Looks like Grant/Meade attack on the morning of the 6th, Longstreet counterattacks, looks like Grant/Meade counterattack Longstreet the same day.

Spotsylvania? May 8-9-10-11-12 there are three major attacks; when there are not, the artillery fire and skirmishing is sustained and frequent -- totally unlike the silence of the guns under McClellan on September 18 at Antietam. After four days of rain, we have more Union attacks on May 17-18-19.

What in the world makes you think this 75%-or-more-attack on two-straight-days rule means anything?




Note that what I am saying is that IF McClellan had attacked on the 18th then it would have been more aggressive (following a day of heavy attacks) than Grant under the same circumstances. It would not, for example, have been more aggressive than Pope (for whom 2nd Bull Run counts as two consecutive days of heavy attacks).
Note that McClellan decided -- no matter what he said or wrote to the contrary -- that he would not attack on the 18th. He offers excuses. He does not make a decision to attack. He struggles -- as he always did -- to make decisions like that. It seems to be against his nature, and he sees too much of what the enemy might do. Even worse, he worries far too much about what the enemy might do -- and he does not think enough about how seizing the initiative might help him and harm the enemy.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
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?
I am sure General Lee felt that way in 1868. All the Confederates were trying to find ways to rationalize how completely the US had won, in the end. But I doubt this statement is accurate. General McClellan was a much better general in September than in May and June. He had the whole army behind him and temporarily the administration was behind him.
No one has ever tried to prove that the pieces of McClellan's army were separated and vulnerable. General Lee, after August 1862 was able to take advantage of Burnside and Hooker and excessive pressure on each by the administration and Congress. But he was not able to win an offensive battle against Meade or Grant of the type he is describing in that comment.
Lee did achieve some tactical success against Meade/Grant, but he was never able to separate either general's army from its logistical support.
 
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wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
As for McClellan's pursuit of Lee's army after the battle of Antietam or lack thereof, I believe this was about the time that McClellan and Ingalls were having problems with feed for the horses and mules. And the army itself had just suffered the greatest one day casualties of the war.
McClellan was rational, IMO, and was horrified by what was occurring.
 

Stone in the wall

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Month
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
Joined
Sep 19, 2017
Location
Blue Ridge Mountains, Jefferson County WV
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.
I'd liked to have been a🪰 on the wall when Stuart showed up at Gettysburg.
 
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John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Well, they weren't in a cigar box. The orders were wrapped around the cigars. An aid recognized the signature of R H Chilton as he had served with him, and said yes that's his signature. That was good enough for McClellan. D H Hill was recieving the orders not sending them. So the box, or envelope or cigars would not have be returned to him.
Why were such papers wrapped around cigars? Did not someone suggest that they be placed into a pouch or at least into something more safe than a wrap of cigars?
 

WScott

Private
Joined
May 6, 2021
Like I said, it was all about the cigars. If you can figure out who they were for you'ld know who lost SO 191 and Lee wouldn't have gotten mad at the lose.
 

Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Why were such papers wrapped around cigars? Did not someone suggest that they be placed into a pouch or at least into something more safe than a wrap of cigars?
I think the suggestion is that the Order document was mistaken for waste paper, and used to protect some valued cigars. The cigars were then lost in an accident. Right?
 

Stone in the wall

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Month
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
Joined
Sep 19, 2017
Location
Blue Ridge Mountains, Jefferson County WV
Why were such papers wrapped around cigars? Did not someone suggest that they be placed into a pouch or at least into something more safe than a wrap of cigars?
I wish I could give you the answers. But this will probably be the ACW greatest mystery or "what if's" forever. Almost 159 years and nobody has figured it out yet.
 

Belfoured

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
I am sure General Lee felt that way in 1868. All the Confederates were trying to find ways to rationalize how completely the US had won, in the end. But I doubt this statement is accurate. General McClellan was a much better general in September than in May and June. He had the whole army behind him and temporarily the administration was behind him.
No one has ever tried to prove that the pieces of McClellan's army were separated and vulnerable. General Lee, after August 1862 was able to take advantage of Burnside and Hooker and excessive pressure on each by the administration and Congress. But he was not able to win an offensive battle against Meade or Grant of the type he is describing in that comment.
Lee did achieve some tactical success against Meade/Grant, but he was never able to separate either general's army from its logistical support.
The Allan quote posted by @jackt62 is very interesting, by the way - especially because Allan is also the source of the 1867 quote from Lee that the opponent he most feared was McClellan.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The Allan quote posted by @jackt62 is very interesting - especially because Allan is also the source of the 1867 quote from Lee that the opponent he most feared was McClellan.
And that makes me question of authenticity of the quotes. Because Lee knew that McClellan did not like battles. McClellan did not like to watch the army he had built suffer casualties. Lee had McClellan pegged perfectly.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
And that makes me question of authenticity of the quotes. Because Lee knew that McClellan did not like battles. McClellan did not like to watch the army he had built suffer casualties. Lee had McClellan pegged perfectly.
For someone that "didn't like battles", McClellan sure seems to have fought an awful lot of them.

In fact, if you count casualties then McClellan comes as the second most damaging enemy Lee fought. When loss ratios are counted, it's obvious why Grant is discounted. Only two Federal generals are really equal or better to Lee when looked at statistically; McClellan and Meade. Grant might have been a butcher, but he was a more competent butcher than Pope, Burnside or Hooker at least...

InflictedSustainedLoss Ratio
McClellan47,01743,4530.92
Pope9,47418,5651.96
Burnside5,37712,6532.35
Hooker13,76123,3851.70
Meade28,97326,9030.93
Grant74,028109,5261.48
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
For someone that "didn't like battles", McClellan sure seems to have fought an awful lot of them.

In fact, if you count casualties then McClellan comes as the second most damaging enemy Lee fought. When loss ratios are counted, it's obvious why Grant is discounted. Only two Federal generals are really equal or better to Lee when looked at statistically; McClellan and Meade. Grant might have been a butcher, but he was a more competent butcher than Pope, Burnside or Hooker at least...

InflictedSustainedLoss Ratio
McClellan47,01743,4530.92
Pope9,47418,5651.96
Burnside5,37712,6532.35
Hooker13,76123,3851.70
Meade28,97326,9030.93
Grant74,028109,5261.48
It is notable in the above list that the people who attacked had higher ratios and the people who fought defensively had lower ratios. This probably explains why McClellan's ratio is low.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
It is notable in the above list that the people who attacked had higher ratios and the people who fought defensively had lower ratios. This probably explains why McClellan's ratio is low.
Though we can look specifically at McClellan's ratio for his attacks, and that is South Mountain and Antietam.

Confederate Maryland:
Cramptons Gap 887
South Mountain 2,685
Antietam 12,051
Shepherdstown 307
Total Confederate Maryland (vs. McClellan) 15,930

McClellan Maryland:
Cramptons Gap 533
South Mountain 2325
Antietam 12410
Shepherdstown 366
Total Union Maryland 15,364

McClellan on the attack has a ratio on the order of 1 (certainly not 1.5 or more like Grant is).


We can also look at McClellan's ratio for his defences, and that is the Seven Days.
Union 15,849
Confederate 20,100

McCLellan on the defence has a ratio of 0.78 or so.


So on the defence McClellan's loss ratio is better than Meade, and on the offence McClellan's loss ratio is better than any other general whose primary focus was offence.

n.b. these numbers may not precisely align with the ones provided by 67th owing to different definitions. I used Wikipedia for speed.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
It is notable in the above list that the people who attacked had higher ratios and the people who fought defensively had lower ratios. This probably explains why McClellan's ratio is low.

Attacking prepared positions is poor generalship.

Mahan taught at West Point, and he developed the doctrine of "active defence"; conducting strategically offensive operations whilst accruing the benefits of a tactical defence. It was used with success by most generals, including McClellan and Lee. That McClellan and Meade were able to pull it off is praiseworthy.
 
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