Shenandoah Valley 1864 Why Didn't Lew Wallace Fall Back on Washington D.C. After Monocacy?

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
After delaying Early's advance while suffering a defeat at the Battle of Monocacy, Lew Wallace and his forces retreated northeastwards towards Baltimore. Why did he not retreat southeastwards towards Washington D.C., keeping his forces between Early and the capital? Washington was obviously infinitely more important than Baltimore. Did he simply assume that Union reinforcements would arrive in D.C. in time?
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
After delaying Early's advance while suffering a defeat at the Battle of Monocacy, Lew Wallace and his forces retreated northeastwards towards Baltimore. Why did he not retreat southeastwards towards Washington D.C., keeping his forces between Early and the capital? Washington was obviously infinitely more important than Baltimore. Did he simply assume that Union reinforcements would arrive in D.C. in time?
Didnt Wallace come from Baltimore?
Isnt Baltimore due east (or even a little south of east) from where the battlefield was?
At the end of the battle, didnt Early control the road to DC and Wallace was on the road that he had arrived on from Baltimore?
 

WScott

Private
Joined
May 6, 2021
My guess is that Wallace was advised of the VI Corps coming to Washington in time to save the Capital. If not then I think he would have had to keep what was left of his Army between Early and Washington DC regardless of the consequences. I'm sure Lincoln or Grant would have relived him of duty immediately if he left Washington to chance.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
800px-Monocacybattle.svg.png



Battle map (from Wikipedia).

The course of the battle as described indicates that the southern portion of the Union force (Ricketts etc) was under greater pressure and was giving way. The natural response is to fall back on the remainder of the force, and indeed I think to fall back towards Washington Wallace's men would have had to fall back through the Confederates to some extent.
 

Jamieva

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Forum Host
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Feb 7, 2006
Location
Midlothian, VA
View attachment 404678


Battle map (from Wikipedia).

The course of the battle as described indicates that the southern portion of the Union force (Ricketts etc) was under greater pressure and was giving way. The natural response is to fall back on the remainder of the force, and indeed I think to fall back towards Washington Wallace's men would have had to fall back through the Confederates to some extent.

Georgetown Pike is the route to DC on this map. Earlys attack pushes Wallace away from there so his only option to move is via the national rd. Ultimately he played his role well as he delayed early while the VI corps is being transported to dc
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Georgetown Pike is the route to DC on this map. Earlys attack pushes Wallace away from there so his only option to move is via the national rd. Ultimately he played his role well as he delayed early while the VI corps is being transported to dc
6th and 19th,with the latter having been transported clear from New Orleans! It was a very vulnerable period.
 

Jantzen64

Corporal
Joined
Aug 10, 2019
6th and 19th,with the latter having been transported clear from New Orleans! It was a very vulnerable period.
Saphroneth, do you think Early could have taken the City had he not waited to attack till the 12th? Grant seemed to think that Wallace bought the City the day it needed, and Early himself indicated that, as he approached the works, he was concerned about making an attack, especially when his troops were exhausted after the 35 mile march. Then, once he learned the City had been reinforced, he called off a general assault. (See Early's quote from OR below). However, Gordon, and I believe a number of others, disagreed and felt that the City, or at least the works, were ripe for the taking.

I know you study the numbers carefully (e.g., McClellan in the aftermath of Antietam on September 18) and have thoughtfully gamed out what-if scenarios. What are your thoughts on whether Early could have taken the city on the 12th? Or the 11th?

*************************************************************************************************

On the morning of the 11th we continued the march, but the day was so excessively hot, even at a very early hour in the morning, and the dust so dense, that many of the men fell by the way, and it became necessary to slacken our pace. Nevertheless, when we reached the right of the enemy s fortifications the men were almost completely exhausted and not in a condition to make an attack. Skirmishers were thrown out and moved up to the vicinity of the fortifications. These we found to be very strong and constructed very scientifically. They consist of a circle of inclosed forts, connected by breast-works, with ditches, palisades, and abatis in front, and every approach swept by a cross-fire of artillery, including some heavy guns. I determined at first to make an assault, but before it could be made it became apparent that the enemy had been strongly re-enforced, and we knew that the Sixth Corps had arrived from Grant's army, and after consultation with my division commanders I became satisfied that the assault, even if successful, would be attended with such great sacrifice as would insure the destruction of my whole force before the victory could have been made available, and, if unsuccessful, would necessarily have resulted in the loss of the whole force. I, therefore, reluctantly determined to retire, and as it was evident preparations were making to cut off my retreat, and while troops were gathering around me I would find it difficult to get supplies, I determined to retire across the Potomac to this county before it became too late.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
After delaying Early's advance while suffering a defeat at the Battle of Monocacy, Lew Wallace and his forces retreated northeastwards towards Baltimore. Why did he not retreat southeastwards towards Washington D.C., keeping his forces between Early and the capital? Washington was obviously infinitely more important than Baltimore. Did he simply assume that Union reinforcements would arrive in D.C. in time?
Here's what Lew Wallace has to say about how he got to Monocacy and which way he would retreat:

From JUNE 23-AUGUST 8, 1864.--Operations in the Shenandoah Valley, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.​
No. 6.--Reports of Maj. Gen. Lewis Wallace, U.S. Army, commanding Middle Department, of operations July 1-10, including battle of the Monocacy.​

As Johnson still held the mountain pass to Middletown, the day 8th) was spent in trying to draw him into the valley with such re-enforcement as he might have received. A feigned retreat from the town was but partially successful; he came down, but, under fire of Alexander's guns, galloped back again. About 6 o'clock in the afternoon Colonel Catlin telegraphed me that a heavy force of rebel infantry was moving toward Urbana by the Buckeystown road. This threatened my lines of retreat and the position at Monocacy bridge. What was more serious, it seemed to disclose a purpose to obtain the pike to Washington, important to the enemy for several causes, but especially so if his designs embraced that city, then in no condition, as I understood it, to resist an army like that attributed to Early by General Sigel. I claim no credit for understanding my duty in such a situation; it was self-apparent. There was no force that could be thrown in time between the capital and the rebels but mine, which was probably too small to defeat them, but certainly strong enough to gain time and compel them to expose their strength. If they were weak, by going back to the bridge I could keep open the communication with General Sigel; on the other hand, if they were ever so strong it was not possible to drive me from that position, except by turning one of my flanks; if my right, retreat was open by the Washington pike; if my left, the retirement could be by the pike to Baltimore. I made up my mind to fight, and accordingly telegraphed General Halleck:

I shall withdraw immediately from Frederick City, and put myself in position to cover road to Washington, if necessary.
This was done by marching in the night to the railroad bridge, where Brigadier-General Ricketts was in waiting. ...
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Saphroneth, do you think Early could have taken the City had he not waited to attack till the 12th? Grant seemed to think that Wallace bought the City the day it needed, and Early himself indicated that, as he approached the works, he was concerned about making an attack, especially when his troops were exhausted after the 35 mile march. Then, once he learned the City had been reinforced, he called off a general assault. (See Early's quote from OR below). However, Gordon, and I believe a number of others, disagreed and felt that the City, or at least the works, were ripe for the taking.

I know you study the numbers carefully (e.g., McClellan in the aftermath of Antietam on September 18) and have thoughtfully gamed out what-if scenarios. What are your thoughts on whether Early could have taken the city on the 12th? Or the 11th?
I'm not so up on the numbers for this one specifically, but my understanding of the strengths involved is:



Before reinforcements arrived



The June 1864 return for the Dept. of Washington gives:

North of the Potomac

Effective units:
Haskin's Division (4,255 PFD and 411 guns, making this the actual defences). Includes three regiments of Ohio militia (150th, 151st and 170th)
District of Washington (2,706 PFD) - six regiments of the Veteran Reserve Corps.
Cavalry Division (Gamble) - only 814 horses, though 2,200 men PFD. Some of this however is the 8th IL which was at Monocacy.
District of Saint Mary's (including another eight companies of Ohio militia). 2,311 PFD.
Saint Mary's is south of Washington itself and I believe this to be the garrisons on the southern bank of the Eastern Branch.

Ineffective units:
General hospitals, guards etc (2,023 PFD). Basically hospital orderlies.
Cavalry Depot, Artillery Camp of Instruction etc


If you put the District of Washington into the forts, and put the dismounted cavalrymen (1,400) into them as well, you'd hit 8,355 men in the forts between the Potomac and the Eastern Branch.


South of the Potomac

Effective units:
District of Alexandria (1,488 PFD)
De Russy's Division (6,620 PFD) - 466 guns, again making it the actual fort garrisons. Includes lots of Ohio militia.
Cavalry Brigade (1,185 PFD).

Ineffective units:
Provost Marshal's command
Provisional Brigades
Rendezvous of Distribution


The steamers with reinforcements began to dock at noon on 11th July, it seems, which was the time Early historically arrived at Fort Stevens (but declined to attack until the next day). Thus in the event of Early being a day ahead of schedule then it's this that would be holding the fortifications.


In mid-1863 the assessment was that to "fully garrison" the forts north of the Potomac (only) would take 9,200 between the Potomac and Eastern Branch (the direction Early was approaching from) and 5,730 on the south side of the Eastern Branch, with the section south of the Potomac taking another 11,800 all told. There's not enough men to garrison all the forts, and what's there is not well trained heavy artillery but a bit of a hodge-podge ranging from green militia to dismounted cavalry as well as artillerists (though not enough of them) and Veterans (i.e. re-enlisted troops).

As against that Early has 13 infantry brigades and 4 cavalry. It's not clear how large these brigades are, unfortunately, but Jackson's force in August 1862 (which was 14 infantry brigades and 1 cavalry) was 28,000 effectives (i.e. about 33,000 PFD). I'd expect Early to have more than 15,000 PFD, all things considered, since some of Early's brigades were consolidated to keep up their strength (the 13 count is after consolidation).


The nature of the Washington forts is that you only really need to overcome one fort and you've punched a hole in the defences, so the defences being understrength is a very bad sign (there was enough to fight them, probably, but the extra manpower has a purpose). They were also not great in quality, with at least some of the forts having glacis which in 1862 could be charged over not merely by infantry but by cavalry, though this problem may have been fixed by 1864.

I'd say that if Early has the time to launch any kind of prepared assault before units from 6th and 19th Corps arrive then I wouldn't be surprised if he could take a fort, and thus outflank all the other defences. He'd probably need more than one day's grace however to completely take DC, or rather he'd have a field battle on his hands (inside the fort ring) to do so against elements from 6th and/or 19th.
 

Jantzen64

Corporal
Joined
Aug 10, 2019
I'm not so up on the numbers for this one specifically, but my understanding of the strengths involved is:



Before reinforcements arrived



The June 1864 return for the Dept. of Washington gives:

North of the Potomac

Effective units:
Haskin's Division (4,255 PFD and 411 guns, making this the actual defences). Includes three regiments of Ohio militia (150th, 151st and 170th)
District of Washington (2,706 PFD) - six regiments of the Veteran Reserve Corps.
Cavalry Division (Gamble) - only 814 horses, though 2,200 men PFD. Some of this however is the 8th IL which was at Monocacy.
District of Saint Mary's (including another eight companies of Ohio militia). 2,311 PFD.
Saint Mary's is south of Washington itself and I believe this to be the garrisons on the southern bank of the Eastern Branch.

Ineffective units:
General hospitals, guards etc (2,023 PFD). Basically hospital orderlies.
Cavalry Depot, Artillery Camp of Instruction etc


If you put the District of Washington into the forts, and put the dismounted cavalrymen (1,400) into them as well, you'd hit 8,355 men in the forts between the Potomac and the Eastern Branch.


South of the Potomac

Effective units:
District of Alexandria (1,488 PFD)
De Russy's Division (6,620 PFD) - 466 guns, again making it the actual fort garrisons. Includes lots of Ohio militia.
Cavalry Brigade (1,185 PFD).

Ineffective units:
Provost Marshal's command
Provisional Brigades
Rendezvous of Distribution


The steamers with reinforcements began to dock at noon on 11th July, it seems, which was the time Early historically arrived at Fort Stevens (but declined to attack until the next day). Thus in the event of Early being a day ahead of schedule then it's this that would be holding the fortifications.


In mid-1863 the assessment was that to "fully garrison" the forts north of the Potomac (only) would take 9,200 between the Potomac and Eastern Branch (the direction Early was approaching from) and 5,730 on the south side of the Eastern Branch, with the section south of the Potomac taking another 11,800 all told. There's not enough men to garrison all the forts, and what's there is not well trained heavy artillery but a bit of a hodge-podge ranging from green militia to dismounted cavalry as well as artillerists (though not enough of them) and Veterans (i.e. re-enlisted troops).

As against that Early has 13 infantry brigades and 4 cavalry. It's not clear how large these brigades are, unfortunately, but Jackson's force in August 1862 (which was 14 infantry brigades and 1 cavalry) was 28,000 effectives (i.e. about 33,000 PFD). I'd expect Early to have more than 15,000 PFD, all things considered, since some of Early's brigades were consolidated to keep up their strength (the 13 count is after consolidation).


The nature of the Washington forts is that you only really need to overcome one fort and you've punched a hole in the defences, so the defences being understrength is a very bad sign (there was enough to fight them, probably, but the extra manpower has a purpose). They were also not great in quality, with at least some of the forts having glacis which in 1862 could be charged over not merely by infantry but by cavalry, though this problem may have been fixed by 1864.

I'd say that if Early has the time to launch any kind of prepared assault before units from 6th and 19th Corps arrive then I wouldn't be surprised if he could take a fort, and thus outflank all the other defences. He'd probably need more than one day's grace however to completely take DC, or rather he'd have a field battle on his hands (inside the fort ring) to do so against elements from 6th and/or 19th.
Thank you for the detailed analysis (as always). BTW, Early said he had about 10,000 infantry:

My infantry force did not exceed 10,000, as Breckinridge's infantry (nominally much larger) really did not exceed 2,500 muskets.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Thank you for the detailed analysis (as always). BTW, Early said he had about 10,000 infantry:

My infantry force did not exceed 10,000, as Breckinridge's infantry (nominally much larger) really did not exceed 2,500 muskets.
Yeah, but this is literally Jubal Early, who was perhaps the single most notable promoter of the Lost Cause. Best to take his numbers with a pinch of salt - Breckinridge's corps had:

Evans: 6R 1B
York (consolidated): 10R
Terry (consolidated): 13R
Echols: 2R 2B
Wharton: 2R 1B
Smith: 2R 1B

Totalling 12 regiments and 5 battalions in unconsolidated brigades, and 23 regiments in consolidated ones. For that lot to not be more than 2,500 effectives he'd need the average brigade to be 400 men, and thus the average regimental organization to be about 100 men.


Even without that, though, he's almost certainly talking in effectives and not PFD.


Young gives Breckinridge's division 2,520 (PFD) on the North Anna, at which point it consisted of Echols' brigade, Wharton's brigade, and the Maryland Line (that being essentially a small regiment by this point of about 300 men). Assuming these two brigades (Echols and Wharton) are only 1,000 men PFD each and that they're twice the size of Breckinridge's other four brigades would still give Breckinridge 4,000 men PFD.

Echols' brigade at the North Anna:

22nd Virginia
23rd Virginia Battalion
26th Virginia Battalion

Wharton's brigade at the North Anna:

51st Virginia
62nd Virginia Mounted (dismounted)
30th Virginia Battalion Sharpshooters

Echols' brigade gained the 25th Virginia between then and Early's campaign. Wharton exchanged the 62nd VA for the 45th VA. So it's quite possible that the two brigades in total had actually expanded.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Since Lew Wallace's command retreated towards Baltimore, it could resupply there. From Baltimore it is possible to continue to Washington, though some ferry transport may have to be used.
Thus if Early had gotten into a fight with the VIth and XIXth corps, they had reinforcements available and Early did not. General Early also had no way to evacuate his wounded and would have needed to capture a quartermaster depot intact, to resupply. He probably would have had to fight his way to any depot and I doubt it would be left undamaged for him to capture, at that stage of the war.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The other factor was that the VI Corp had been on a transport ride, and the XIXth Corp had been transported all the way from New Orleans. They had not been marching and they probably had adequate quartermaster supplies on the transports.
It was 1864, and Early's men were probably not in great condition after marching in June and July.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Thank you for the detailed analysis (as always). BTW, Early said he had about 10,000 infantry:

My infantry force did not exceed 10,000, as Breckinridge's infantry (nominally much larger) really did not exceed 2,500 muskets.
Here's what the frontline commander north of Washington said in his report. "Monday morning" would be the morning of July 11, 1864:
From JUNE 23-AUGUST 8, 1864.--Operations in the Shenandoah Valley, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.​
No. 24.--Report of Maj. Gen. Alexander McD. McCook, U. S. Army, commanding northern defenses of Washington, of operations July 10-13.​
DAYTON, OHIO, July 25, 1864.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit a succinct report of the military operations in front of Washington, D.C., pending the advance upon it by a portion of the rebel army commanded by General Early.
Reporting in person at the War Department on the morning of July 10, I was directed to report to Maj. Gen. H. W. Halleck. U.S. Army, who assigned me to duty in the Department of Washington, to command a reserve camp to be located on or near Piney Branch Creek, about midway between Washington and Fort Stevens on the north. In company with Lieut. Col. B. S. Alexander, U.S. Engineers, I at once proceeded to examine the ground for the camp, also to make a hasty examination of the fortifications on the north of Washington. Returning at 6 p.m., and receiving my final instructions from Maj. Gen. C. C. Augur, commanding department, I proceeded to Piney Branch, where the Second Regiment District of Columbia Volunteers, Colonel Alexander, and the Ninth Regiment Veteran Reserve Corps, Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston, Captain Gibbs' (Ohio) battery, and Captain Bradbury's (Maine) battery had already reported.
Monday morning discovered the fact that the only troops on the north of Washington were the small garrisons in the forts, small detachments of cavalry in the front, and the troops above mentioned. Hearing of the near approach of the enemy, the idea of a reserve camp was at once abandoned and every man was brought forward and posted in the rifle-pits to the best advantage, and as strong a skirmish line as was prudent established. During the morning several additional regiments of the Veteran Reserve Corps and several detachments of dismounted cavalry reported for duty. They were posted in the rifle-pits on either side of the main road leading to Silver Spring. Captain Berry, of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, being stationed with his company on the road leading from Silver Spring to Leesborough, dispatched a courier at 10 a.m. the 11th, informing me that the enemy was advancing in force on that road with infantry, artillery, and cavalry. At 12 m. a strong line of the enemy's skirmishers came in view, advancing upon our position. The picket-line at this moment was composed of 100-days' men of One hundred and fiftieth Ohio, and a portion of the Twenty-fifth New York Cavalry (dismounted). Being satisfied that they could not contend favorably against the enemy's line, were ordered to fall back slowly, fighting, until they reached the rifle-pits. Fire was then opened at proper points upon our line, and the enemy was held in check until the dismounted of the Second Division of the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, 600 strong, commanded by Maj. George G. Briggs, Seventh Michigan Cavalry, were made ready to go out, drive the enemy back, and re-establish our picket-line. This was handsomely done about 1.30 p.m., the enemy's skirmishers being forced back, and our line well established at 1,100 yards in front of the works. The enemy not developing any force other than their skirmish line, affairs remained in this condition until evening. About 3 p.m. Maj. Gen. H. G. Wright, U.S. Volunteers, commanding the Sixth Army Corps, reported to me at Fort Stevens, informing me that the advance of his corps would be up in a short time. I directed him to furnish a force 900 strong of this veteran corps for picket duty during the night, constant skirmishing being kept up between the lines until after dark on the 11th instant. At 9 p.m. Brig. Gen. M. C. Meigs, Quartermaster-General U.S. Army, reported at Fort Stevens with about 1,500 quartermaster employés, armed and equipped. They were at once ordered into position near Fort Slocum, placed on right and left in rifle-pits. At 10 p.m. Colonel Price reported with about 2,800 convalescents and men from hospitals, organized into a provisional brigade composed of men from nearly every regiment of the Army of the Potomac. They were ordered into position in rear of Fort Slocum, as information received led me to believe that the enemy would demonstrate farther to our right.
At 12.30 a.m. on the 11th the following telegraphic order was received:
Major-General Gillmore, U.S. Volunteers, with a portion of the Nineteenth Corps, is assigned to command the line from Fort Lincoln to Fort Totten. Brig. Gen. M. C. Meigs, Quartermaster-General, to command the line from Fort Totten to Fort De Russy. Brig. Gen. M.D. Hardin, U.S. Volunteers, to command from Fort De Russy to Fort Sumner, inclusive. The Sixth Corps, Maj. Gen. H.G. Wright, U.S. Volunteers, commanding, to be held in reserve, and the entire line, and troops to be commanded by Maj. Gen. A. McD. McCook, U.S. Volunteers.
This order was complied with, with the exception to hold the Sixth Corps entire in reserve. I deemed it absolutely necessary that the immediate front should be picketed by experienced men.
At dawn on the morning of the 12th the sharpshooters of the enemy opened fire upon our skirmish line, which had been intrenched during the night. This fire was kept up from both lines during the day. The enemy, on retiring their line on the evening of the 11th, seized and retained possession of a house on the right of the Silver Spring road, situated on an elevated piece of ground, surrounded by an orchard and large shade trees (Rives), which afforded excellent cover for sharpshooters, and commanded our advance line. They also posted sharpshooters in Mrs. Lay's house to the left of the road. From these two points our skirmish line was very much annoyed by the enemy, they killing and wounding about 30 of our skirmishers during the day. I determined these two points must be carried. General Wright was ordered to furnish a brigade to make the assault (as I had failed to carry these points with Captain Beattie's sharpshooters, of General Getty's division, Sixth Corps). Brig. Gen. Frank Wheaton, U.S. Volunteers, was ordered to direct the movements of the assaulting troops. These troops having gained their position previous to assault at about 6 p.m., the two positions held by the enemy were vigorously shelled from Fort Stevens. Then at a signal Wheaton's troops dashed forward, and, after a spirited contest, gained the ground. This attack developed new forces of the enemy that had been concealed in a ravine beyond Mrs. Lay's house, and in the depression beyond the copse on the right of the road. The enemy's line was re-enforced by at least a brigade, the contest was kept up until after dark, we having gained all the ground desired, and rude intrenchments were thrown up upon it.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Since Lew Wallace's command retreated towards Baltimore, it could resupply there. From Baltimore it is possible to continue to Washington, though some ferry transport may have to be used.
I think they're unlikely to turn up in time to influence events following that route. Early marching to Washington was an impressive enough feat of marching; Wallace getting from the Monocacy rail bridge to Baltimore and then Washington would be about 85 miles and would under normal circumstances take a bit more than a week.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I think they're unlikely to turn up in time to influence events following that route. Early marching to Washington was an impressive enough feat of marching; Wallace getting from the Monocacy rail bridge to Baltimore and then Washington would be about 85 miles and would under normal circumstances take a bit more than a week.
I think Butler improvised a route that was faster than that in 1861. I think he used a ferry though.
 
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