What was the Biggest "Missed Opportunity" of the War?

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
There are several occasions over the course of the war when, if a commander had made a different decision or had simply had better luck, they might have inflicted a decisive defeat on the opposing forces and, perhaps, changed the course of American history. Sometimes this is due to a lack of boldness, or not having enough information, or sheer exhaustion, or (as Shakespeare would have put it) simply the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

What are the biggest missed opportunities of the war?

McClellan at Yorktown or the afternoon of Antietam?
Lee at Glendale?
Meade at Gettysburg on July 4?
Hindman at McLemore's Cove?
Johnston/Hood at Cassville?
Lee at the North Anna River?
Hood at Spring Hill?
Something else?
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Lincoln did wait until the mid term elections in Nov were over to fire McClellan but McClellan was already on thin ice before then.
Perhaps so, though it's a little tricky to work out what Lincoln wanted and whether it was achievable. For example, a lot of the back and forth between McClellan and Washington (both Lincoln and Halleck) in October is about whether McClellan should move east or west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. (Lee was at Martinsburg and Winchester at the time, so he was west of the Blue Ridge).

What Lincoln wanted was for McClellan to march east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Halleck wanted the same thing, giving the justification being that McClellan moving east of the Blue Ridge would mean that McClellan was protecting Washington.
What McClellan wanted was to move into the Shenandoah, west of the Blue Ridge, and either fight Lee there or force him to give up the upper Valley and retreat south of Winchester; if Lee did indeed retreat south of Winchester, then McClellan would be able to move on to conducting additional offensive operations.

Now, McClellan submitted his plan of operations, and Halleck refused to approve it while he and Lincoln argued with McClellan (though neither of them ordered McClellan to go the eastern route). McClellan eventually opted to switch to the eastern route, possibly because he could see that while neither of his superiors was ordering him to go east they were never going to let him go west, and once he submitted that plan Halleck approved it immediately.

So it seems that what Lincoln wanted was for McClellan to take up a specific offensive plan, but (and this is critical) for there to be no order to McClellan directing him to do so. McClellan had to take it up, or to appear to take it up, as a free choice...
 

neyankee61

Private
Joined
Oct 30, 2018
At this point and earlier Lincoln was very concerned about Washington DC.. Burnside Hooker and Meade all had that idea of protecting Washington as #1 priority. As the war went on Lincoln grew in his understanding of what it took to do this. The Lincoln of 1862 is not the Lincoln of 1864.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
At this point and earlier Lincoln was very concerned about Washington DC.. Burnside Hooker and Meade all had that idea of protecting Washington as #1 priority. As the war went on Lincoln grew in his understanding of what it took to do this. The Lincoln of 1862 is not the Lincoln of 1864.
So McClellan wants to do the aggressive thing and go after Lee where Lee is, and Lincoln is not happy with Washington DC merely being defended by (October 20 1862 numbers) 73,500 men PFD.

At the same time, Lincoln is unable to grasp that McClellan moving into Loudoun Valley means one of two things:

If McClellan leaves a garrison along the upper Potomac

Troops McClellan leaves along the upper Potomac cannot also enter Loudon Valley. If McClellan leaves behind 5th Corps (at Sharpsburg), 6th (at Williamsport) and 12th (at Harpers Ferry), then McClellan's manoeuvering army is only on the order of 60,000 men PFD, which means that it's no stronger than Lee's and may actually be weaker. This offers Lee a golden opportunity to defeat McClellan.
Stripping away one of the mentioned corps improves things a little for McClellan, but it still means a big garrison along the upper Potomac.

If McClellan does not leave a garrison

Then Lee can re-enter Maryland and Pennsylvania while McClellan is moving in the wrong direction.


McClellan moving into Loudoun does not protect Washington.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
JJ sends an engineer to Resaca on the 10th to lay out a larger defensive position

The cavalry of Martin's division and the brigades of Grigsby and Allen are all ordered to operate in the Resaca area from the 10th on, so roughly 1/2 JJ's cavalry is already left Dalton by the 10th

Loring's division arrives at Resaca by brigade on the 10th - 12th, joining the force already there (Cantey, Reynolds, Nisbett, Vaughn). Also the infantry divisions of Cleburne and Walker are both held south of Dalton from the 10th on, so he already had about 40% of his available infantry south of Dalton.
By the 12th Walker is south of Resaca while Cleburne is between Dug Gap and Resaca

On the 11th Cheatham (less Vaugns brigade already at Resaca and Strahls' brigade at Dug Gap) and Hindman's division are pulled from the line to wait in Dalton before moving south on the 12th, leaving just 3 infantry divisions in front of Dalton to face the IV Corps 3 divisions

By the morning of the 12th JJ had determined what Sherman is doing and begins moving rest of his command to Resaca
By the 13th his has everyone at Resaca ahead of Sherman
Thanks for digging into this.

Cleburne, starting on the 11th:
"In the afternoon I resumed the march, and halted about sundown at a point where a new military road debouched into the Sugar Valley road, ten miles from Dalton. Determining upon a line of battle I camped for the night. At 7 next morning, the 12th, the cavalry skirmishers in advance of me on the Sugar Valley road were driven in. Making my dispositions as promptly as possible, and more in detail than I had been able to do the evening before, I threw up breast-works and awaited the enemy, who was reported advancing in line of battle. He did not attack, however. On the 13th I marched to Resaca ..."​

Stevenson on the movement of his division (obviously not at Resaca):
"On the night of the 13th instant, agreeably to orders, I vacated my position and took up the line of march for Resaca."​

Stewart on the movement of his division:
... Sunday evening (8th) the enemy's skirmishers occupied the line we abandoned Saturday night--the front line of the gap--and from that time until Thursday night (12th) a constant and heavy skirmishing continued. ...
Thursday night (12th) we brought up the rear of the corps in retiring to Tilton. Friday night (13th) bivouacked along the railroad some three miles in advance of Resaca, and on Saturday morning (14th) took position in a line crossing the railroad, forming the right of the army, my right resting on the Connesauga.

Nothing in the OR for Hindman's division directly, but here is Walthall's brigade:
Early on the morning of the 12th I was directed to move with the division to the neighborhood of Varnell's Station, and by 12 m. we reached the point indicated, and formed line of battle on the left of the Cleveland railroad. Two hours later I was directed to move back, left in front, through Dalton on the Resaca road. About an hour after dark I was halted, and after resting several hours resumed the march in time to reach a point six miles north of Resaca, where my command had been on the 10th, about an hour before daylight. I remained here till about the middle of the day on the 13th, when I moved about two miles farther in the direction of Resaca, and formed line of battle facing northwest at a point indicated by the major-general commanding on the left of the road. At 6.30 o'clock in the evening I was directed by him to move to the left, and spent the night at a point where I was halted about dark by an order which he delivered to me in person.

Loring on the arrival of his brigades:
Scott's brigade arrived at Resaca on the 10th of May, followed by Adams' on the 11th, and Featherston's brigade on the 12th. Myself and staff arrived with Adams on the 11th. The advance of McPherson’s corps was reported, on my arrival, to be halted four miles west of Resaca.
On the morning of the 13th the enemy resumed his advance upon Resaca, driving our cavalry slowly before him. ...

Grigsby and Allen brigades (Message from Mackall to Cantey, May 11, 7:45 AM):
"... General Allen will observe the enemy between General Walker's position, Resaca, and Snake Creek Gap, keeping Walker and yourself advised of the movements of the enemy. Colonel Grigsby will take position with his brigade on the Sugar Valley road, facing south, and at a distance of four or five miles from Dug Gap and send a staff officer here for orders as soon as he gets into position. ..."​

Ahead of Sherman is not quite accurate. Some of these troops are just starting to move on the night of the 13th.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Johnston reported his effective strength as enlisted men, exclusive of sick, on extra duty and under arrest.

On 26th July, Sherman issued a circular directing that the sick, extra duty men and those under arrest be included in the "effective" column. However, the returns in the OR were not compiled this way.

For the 30th April, Sherman's strength in the field (excluding engineers, LOC troops etc.) was:
Effectives: 110,124
PFD: 124,181
Aggregate Present: 143,896

Of the "PFD not not effective", about half is dismounted cavalry, leaving about 7,000 "not effectives" carried on PFD. There are 19,175 present, but not carried under the "PFD" column. Most of these would be the extra duty men, since the sick were sent to the rear, and the "under arrest" was always a very small number.

In fact, the only substantive difference is in the officers. In April there were 4,958 officers carried as "effective" (4.5%). Feel free to adjust down Sherman's numbers by 4-5%, but it will not magic away his numerical advantage.



Sherman's dismounted cavalry and cavalry in the LOC are also not counted as effective.



You've made an apples to oranges comparison by including those lost to sickness and battlefield casualties for the rebels, but only the latter for the Federals. In fact, as Newton has noted, Johnston did inflict much heavier losses on the battlefield than Sherman, but they suffered badly from sickness, which wrecked the army. The figures for Johnston's tenure (from Newton) being:

FederalsRebels
Battlefield Losses21,92510,852
Captured and DesertedNot Known3,361
Went Sick34,41230,603
Returned from Sick19,87715,780
Net Loss36,46029,036
Nope. You are accusing me of things I never did. That is a bad practice.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
So a bunch of baseless speculation. Got it.
Well, no. Admittedly Confederate documentation for what was going on around Snake Creek Gap is thin on the ground. A great many gaps exist in the OR, and even when you find a report, people are unlikely to say in a report to their boss that the boss messed up. However, here is one such.

From the report of General Cleburne in the Official Records (the report is actually dated August 16th -- after General Johnston was gone):

"At about 1 a.m. on the 10th I received orders to move to the junction of the Sugar Valley and Dug Gap roads. At that point further orders were communicated to me to move toward Resaca. Leaving Colonel Williamson with his Arkansas troops in the gap (Grigsby had been sent to Snake Creek Gap) I moved accordingly within a mile of that place (Resaca) on the railroad. I remained here two or three hours, when I returned by your command to Dug Gap, arriving about sundown. My division was now together. Receiving orders during the night I marched on the morning of the 11th, starting at 7 o'clock, upon the Sugar Valley road in the direction of Resaca. This movement was rendered necessary by the untoward circumstances of Snake Creek Gap not being adequately occupied to resist the heavy force thrown against it, under the sagacious and enterprising McPherson. How this gap, which opened upon our rear and line of communication, from which it was distant at Resaca only five miles, was neglected I cannot imagine. General Mackall, Johnston's chief of staff, told me it was the result of a flagrant disobedience of orders, by whom he did not say. Certainly the commanding general never could have failed to appreciate its importance. Its loss exposed us in the outset of the campaign to a terrible danger, and on the left forced us to retreat from a position where, if he adhered to his attack, we might have detained the enemy for months, destroying vast numbers of his men, perhaps prolonged the campaign until the wet season would have rendered operations in the field impracticable. As it was, if McPherson had hotly pressed his advantage, Sherman supporting him strongly with the bulk of his army, it is impossible to say what the enemy might not have achieved--more than probable a complete victory. But McPherson faltered and hung back, indeed after penetrating within a mile of Resaca he actually returned, because, as I understood, he was not supported, and feared if we turned back suddenly upon him from Dalton he would be cut off, as doubtless would have been the result. ..."​
Mackall, of course, was we would call a strong Johnston supporter. He left the AoT when Johnston was relieved, taking a good chunk of the army papers with him -- which is probably one of the major reasons for the gaps in the Confederate side of the OR.

This is Cleburne saying, in effect, "How in the world did we leave Snake Creek Gap unguarded?"
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Though Johnston's defence of his conduct was that he'd left Resaca garrisoned well enough, and the roads to Dalton improved enough, that he could march down to contribute to the defence either way. He also argued that Resaca could be defended by a smaller number of troops than Snake Creek Gap.

Is the contention that Johnston should have held Snake Creek Gap and thus held a strong defensive position further north than Resaca? This would be arguing Johnston should have been static.
Or is the contention that Johnston should have reacted to what Sherman was doing and been dynamic?
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Though Johnston's defence of his conduct was that he'd left Resaca garrisoned well enough, and the roads to Dalton improved enough, that he could march down to contribute to the defence either way. He also argued that Resaca could be defended by a smaller number of troops than Snake Creek Gap.

Is the contention that Johnston should have held Snake Creek Gap and thus held a strong defensive position further north than Resaca? This would be arguing Johnston should have been static.
Or is the contention that Johnston should have reacted to what Sherman was doing and been dynamic?
I take it then that you are arguing against Sherman making any such attack; meaning Johnston would remain static waiting for an eventuality that would not materialize.
Lubliner.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
So since the "delayed 18 hours" idea has come up in this discussion already, I thought I'd go through what McClellan actually did and what the scope is for acceleration.


The first thing is that I'm going to assume that McClellan actually recieved the Lost Order between 2PM and 3PM on the 13th, as this accords most closely with the information we have.


Of the formations in McClellan's army:

Cavalry
McClellan sent a copy of the Lost Order to Pleasonton ca. 3PM and asked him to verify it with observations from the front.
Scope for acceleration: minimal.

National Road units (main body)

9th Corps

McClellan had already sent the vanguard of 9th Corps forwards, and after the Lost Order was recieved he ordered 9th Corps as a whole forwards. They conducted a night march which was slow but which did happen.
Scope for acceleration: minimal to low. 9th Corps is subsequently sluggish and there's a massive traffic jam in Frederick. If 9th Corps could move faster then it would speed up the whole main body.
There is no 18 hour delay in the movement of 9th Corps.

1st Corps
Ordered to advance at sunrise on the 14th, and wake up hours beforehand (at 3AM) to be ready to march. They move once 9th Corps has cleared the road.
Scope for acceleration: minimal. There is only one road through Braddock Pass.

2nd Corps, 12th Corps, Sykes
These units follow 1st Corps.
Scope for acceleration: moderate, if there is an alternative route by which they could have bypassed the bottleneck in Frederick and at the Braddock Heights (without using Jefferson Pass as that is earmarked for the 6th Corps column). The road network in the Frederick area seems to indicate that any such route would be a significant detour.

6th Corps, Couch
Franklin was ordered to advance at 'daybreak' on the 13th, without waiting for Couch, and to attack ASAP ("half an hour after you hear firing" from the main body's line of advance, is the less aggressive option given).
This order was sent after the capture of Jefferson Pass, and was timestamped 6:20 PM (so probably reached Franklin after sunset).
Scope for acceleration: moderate.
Franklin could have been ordered to move his whole corps to Jefferson Pass before the pass had actually been taken, but according to the itinerary for 6th Corps their 1st division actually did march to the foot of the Catoctins on the 13th. (No information about the position of the 2nd division is available for that date in the itinerary.)
The order to advance at "daybreak" means that 6th Corps should have begun marching as soon as there was enough light to see. If Franklin did indeed delay for hours after that then that's on him; if he didn't but took about ten hours to get the head of their column from the foot of the Catoctins near Jefferson to Cramptons Gap, then that's potentially problematic.
The other option available is a night march, but this would be fraught with potential risk. When McCellan orders 9th Corps keep moving overnight he has cavalry as far as Middletown and the road the corps column is meant to follow is a single high quality road forming a direct route; 6th Corps is having to follow a comparatively winding country road.

McClellan could have gone over to check that 6th Corps had begun marching at daybreak. However, the unfortunate reality is that he has to sleep at some point, and he was certainly awake at 11PM (when he sent to Halleck about having taken the plans and Catoctin Mountain) and midnight (the telegram to Lincoln).



The fundamental problem with the 18 hours claim

McClellan did not delay 18 hours before moving his troops. His orders had both columns slated to move as soon as practical (with 9th Corps being in motion before he found the Lost Order!) and the only part where a delay can be identified in his orders is if 6th Corps should have been west of the Catoctins before sunrise on the 14th.
The fact that a lot of the "18 hours" in question consist of the middle of the night tends to indicate that it's more of a buzzword than sober analysis. Armies generally can't move 24 hours a day, certainly not on an advance to combat.


The closest thing to a missed opportunity

There is an argument that can be made that the fighting at Cramptons Gap should have begun earlier, and thus that it should have been successfully brought to a conclusion earlier. This might have allowed for the relief of Harpers Ferry.
The requirement for this is that Franklin has not just the head of his column at Cramptons Gap but enough force actually at the gap to take it by some point in the afternoon, and that there is enough time for him to advance in the evening that next morning he can reach (and fight through) McLaws' main force before Miles surrenders Harpers Ferry.

From Cramptons Gap to Sandy Hook is about 8-9 miles. This means that it's about a "day's movement", or that it's going to consume the majority of a day to march down there at normal rates.
This means that if Franklin has taken Cramptons Gap by about 3pm, it's probably (with hindsight) too late. He'd need to get at least a minimum amount of force through the defile formed by the gap before it's safe to advance (as McLaws has over 50% more regiments than him, so if he marches down as a single road column he'll be at risk of being overwhelmed) and Miles surrendered by about 8AM-9AM the next day, giving only 6-8 hours of good light (possibly reduced by the mountains both sides) to get through the Gap and down to Harpers Ferry.

With three hours of fighting at the Gap necessary to take it, this means Franklin needs to be closed up and ready to attack by noon. But Cramptons Gap is about nine miles from Jefferson, and again to attack the Gap Franklin can't just advance his lead regiments as they come off the column of march - he needs to close up, which costs time.


The least painful way for Harpers Ferry to be relieved on the other hand is simple - Miles holds out as long as he said he could. This removes the whole problem as Franklin had got to the point he was advancing south down the Pleasant Valley on the morning of the 15th, and so Harpers Ferry can be relieved that day.
 

AA484

Private
Joined
Jan 17, 2020
Late to the party but I think the biggest "missed opportunity" would be the second day at Gettysburg. Longstreet attacking earlier by any significant amount of time and achieving victory would potentially be war-altering. This isn't a dig at Longstreet's performance on that day but I think it provides a better "what if" than Ewell's inaction in front of Cemetery Hill on the previous evening.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Late to the party but I think the biggest "missed opportunity" would be the second day at Gettysburg. Longstreet attacking earlier by any significant amount of time and achieving victory would potentially be war-altering. This isn't a dig at Longstreet's performance on that day but I think it provides a better "what if" than Ewell's inaction in front of Cemetery Hill on the previous evening.
There's a lot of WI on Day Two Gettysburg. One of them is the echelon attack going roughly as planned, since this could allow for a situation where:

- Longstreet is engaging 3rd and 5th Corps in snarling chaos on the Union right
- AP Hill and Ewell's right have taken Cemetery Hill from the outnumbered salient formed by 11th Corps
- Ewell's left is fighting over Culps Hill and preventing the detachment of reinforcements from that sector

This basically means the Union army's positional integrity is broken and they have to withdraw, probably overnight, but they can't all fit down one road...
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
Well, no. Admittedly Confederate documentation for what was going on around Snake Creek Gap is thin on the ground. A great many gaps exist in the OR, and even when you find a report, people are unlikely to say in a report to their boss that the boss messed up. However, here is one such.

From the report of General Cleburne in the Official Records...
Which does not says counter what I said.

My comment "a bunch of baseless speculation" was a reaction to your claim that 'They' argue
(1) "he made no attempt to safeguard it at all,"
(2) "does not seem to have recognized its' importance," and
(3) "may not have even known that Snake Creek Gap existed."

You chose not to bold the part in the middle of Cleburne's report where he says " General Mackall, Johnston's chief of staff, told me it was the result of a flagrant disobedience of orders, by whom he did not say. Certainly the commanding general never could have failed to appreciate its importance. " So Cleburne indicates that an attempt was made but someone disobeyed and that the JJ must have appreciated its importance, thus Cleburne is disagreeing with your three points above.

In another post you said "No one can say for sure if he was even aware that Snake Creek Gap existed." Ill say it for sure: he was aware it existed. The fact that this is even a question is silly.

You also say "All of his attention was on Rocky Face Ridge near Dalton and to the right in Crow Valley" which is also not supported by the record.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
Cleburne, in the quote you provided, said he was 10 miles from Dalton at sundown on the 11th. Resaca is less than 15 miles from Dalton, so he was already most of the way there. He was facing toward Sugar Valley and when the cavalry skirmishers "advance of me on the Sugar Valley road were driven in" because Sherman was advancing from Sugar valley. In other words Cleburne had been moved down from Dalton to observe Sherman on the 11th.

My understanding the phrase "On the night of the 13th instant", as used by Stevenson, is that it refers to after midnight on the 12th and before dawn on the 13th.

Stewart says he was "bivouacked along the railroad some three miles in advance of Resaca" which makes sense as he was the rear guard facing Howard Corps as it came down from Dalton.

All of them were part of the defense of Resaca before Sherman attacked on the 14th.

Cleburne, starting on the 11th:
"In the afternoon I resumed the march, and halted about sundown at a point where a new military road debouched into the Sugar Valley road, ten miles from Dalton. Determining upon a line of battle I camped for the night. At 7 next morning, the 12th, the cavalry skirmishers in advance of me on the Sugar Valley road were driven in. Making my dispositions as promptly as possible, and more in detail than I had been able to do the evening before, I threw up breast-works and awaited the enemy, who was reported advancing in line of battle. He did not attack, however. On the 13th I marched to Resaca ..."​

Stevenson on the movement of his division (obviously not at Resaca):
"On the night of the 13th instant, agreeably to orders, I vacated my position and took up the line of march for Resaca."​

Stewart on the movement of his division:
... Sunday evening (8th) the enemy's skirmishers occupied the line we abandoned Saturday night--the front line of the gap--and from that time until Thursday night (12th) a constant and heavy skirmishing continued. ...
Thursday night (12th) we brought up the rear of the corps in retiring to Tilton. Friday night (13th) bivouacked along the railroad some three miles in advance of Resaca, and on Saturday morning (14th) took position in a line crossing the railroad, forming the right of the army, my right resting on the Connesauga.

Nothing in the OR for Hindman's division directly, but here is Walthall's brigade:
Early on the morning of the 12th I was directed to move with the division to the neighborhood of Varnell's Station, and by 12 m. we reached the point indicated, and formed line of battle on the left of the Cleveland railroad. Two hours later I was directed to move back, left in front, through Dalton on the Resaca road. About an hour after dark I was halted, and after resting several hours resumed the march in time to reach a point six miles north of Resaca, where my command had been on the 10th, about an hour before daylight. I remained here till about the middle of the day on the 13th, when I moved about two miles farther in the direction of Resaca, and formed line of battle facing northwest at a point indicated by the major-general commanding on the left of the road. At 6.30 o'clock in the evening I was directed by him to move to the left, and spent the night at a point where I was halted about dark by an order which he delivered to me in person.

Loring on the arrival of his brigades:
Scott's brigade arrived at Resaca on the 10th of May, followed by Adams' on the 11th, and Featherston's brigade on the 12th. Myself and staff arrived with Adams on the 11th. The advance of McPherson’s corps was reported, on my arrival, to be halted four miles west of Resaca.
On the morning of the 13th the enemy resumed his advance upon Resaca, driving our cavalry slowly before him. ...

Grigsby and Allen brigades (Message from Mackall to Cantey, May 11, 7:45 AM):
"... General Allen will observe the enemy between General Walker's position, Resaca, and Snake Creek Gap, keeping Walker and yourself advised of the movements of the enemy. Colonel Grigsby will take position with his brigade on the Sugar Valley road, facing south, and at a distance of four or five miles from Dug Gap and send a staff officer here for orders as soon as he gets into position. ..."​

Ahead of Sherman is not quite accurate. Some of these troops are just starting to move on the night of the 13th.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Which does not says counter what I said.

My comment "a bunch of baseless speculation" was a reaction to your claim that 'They' argue
(1) "he made no attempt to safeguard it at all,"
(2) "does not seem to have recognized its' importance," and
(3) "may not have even known that Snake Creek Gap existed."
All of this is pretty much standard with historians. You can see it in almost any book you read.

You chose not to bold the part in the middle of Cleburne's report where he says " General Mackall, Johnston's chief of staff, told me it was the result of a flagrant disobedience of orders, by whom he did not say. Certainly the commanding general never could have failed to appreciate its importance. " So Cleburne indicates that an attempt was made but someone disobeyed and that the JJ must have appreciated its importance, thus Cleburne is disagreeing with your three points above.
Mackall, of course, was a major Joe Johnston supporter. One of the main reasons it is so difficult to find documentation on the Confederate side of the Atlanta Campaign is because Mackall took much of the staff paperwork with him when he left the Army of Tennessee paperwork with him when he left after Joe Johnston was relieved of command.

Cleburne is telling you that Mackall told him this, but there is no support for it other than Mackall saying it. You can call it a rumor if you like. I personally think it is a red herring (sort of an "it wasn't Johnston's fault" with some mysterious, un-named officer to be blamed). I actually think not bolding the Mackall part of the quote made it more obvious that it was there, and I did it because Mackall is generally considered an unreliable and biased source. If I had wanted to obscure it, I would have replaced it with an ellipsis as so many do in online discussions. Instead of that, I left it visible for everyone to see.

In another post you said "No one can say for sure if he was even aware that Snake Creek Gap existed." Ill say it for sure: he was aware it existed. The fact that this is even a question is silly.

You also say "All of his attention was on Rocky Face Ridge near Dalton and to the right in Crow Valley" which is also not supported by the record.
Why do you say "he was aware it existed."? Can you point to any documentation that indicates it?
 
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