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205RE: [TalkAntietam] Re: US Civil War Factbook

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  • Jeff Beckner (PWC Magazine)
    Jun 11, 2001
      Not to entirely rehash this ever-so-familiar topic, but a couple of points:

      1. You carefully explain all the reasons Mac had for not attacking on the
      18th, yet state that he intended on attacking anyway. Huh?

      2. Why did the reasons for not attacking on the 18th not apply to the 17th
      as well?

      -----Original Message-----
      From: James Rose [mailto:eodrose@...]
      Sent: Monday, June 11, 2001 2:19 PM
      To: TalkAntietam@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [TalkAntietam] Re: US Civil War Factbook


      Perhaps saying "everyone" was a bit strong, but overall that is my
      impression of how most people judge McClellan's actions during the
      Maryland campaign. The seize on their vision of what might have been,
      and lose sight of what McClellan did accomplish.

      As to the specifics of your question (which was phrased quite
      differently than I normally see it), I agree that it would have been
      worth a try. That is speaking from the position of hindsight, and
      knowing what I know, attacking on the 18th probably would have been a
      good idea. While admitting that attacking might have been the best
      course of action, that does not mean that I believe what McClellan did
      do was wrong. I think that Harsh goes into the best detail of how the
      situation looked to McClellan after the battle in TATF (Murfin does
      little more than try to show that McClellan was little more than a
      whinny boy, and Sears is not much better).

      Looking at the situation on the evening of the 17th as it appeared to
      McClellan his decision is not unreasonable. In the first place
      McClellan did intend to attack on the 18th, but circumstances delayed it
      for 24 hours. McClellan was unaware of his advantage in manpower. All
      of the intelligence reports put the ANV at having a 25% advantage in
      men, and nothing that happened during the 17th could have changed that
      opinion downward. The AotP was repulsed at every point with 25-33%
      losses (it was worse among the green troops). The ANV's line was never
      broken fully open anywhere. The ANV was "wacked", but so was the AotP.
      Any attack on the 18th could only be done with the Fifth and Sixth
      corps'. The other corps' were unable to conduct offensive operations
      (at least that is what the corps' commanders told McClellan). Of those
      two corps' around 25% of the men had less than one month in service.
      Then there is the ammo situation. Small arms ammo was critically short,
      and the AotP was completely out of Parrot ammo. Because of the
      destruction of the B&O bridge the AotP would not be resupplied until the
      evening of the 18th. Finally any attack would again give Lee the
      advantage of defense. At best I don't see how McClellan could have
      believed that any attack on the 18th would be more than a toss up as to
      who would win.

      So the question becomes: should McClellan have taken that gamble and
      attacked on the 18th? Considering what McClellan believe his duty to be
      I would say that he was unjustified in taking the gamble that it
      appeared to be. McClellan's first duty was the protection of
      Washington, and the second was to end the invasion of Maryland (down
      around the end of the list is the destruction of the ANV). By standing
      fast on the 18th, and preparing to attack on the 19th McClellan served
      both those duties. Lee had three options. He could attack, stand, or
      leave. McClellan was ready for any counterattack, he would attack on
      the 19th if Lee stood, and the only place for Lee to go was back to
      Virginia. On the other hand if McClellan had attacked and lost, then
      Lee might have been able to revive his invasion (unlikely in hindsight
      no matter the outcome of the battle). That would mean a failure of both
      the primary and secondary missions. Quite simply if McClellan had
      attacked on the 18th he would have risked everything for the possibility
      of gaining relatively little.

      Jim Rose

      Jeff Beckner (PWC Magazine) wrote:

      > I don't think everyone believes McClellan would "automatically" destroy
      Lee.
      > But with an advantage in manpower, and facing an opponent that had been
      > whacked pretty good the day before (and Mac should know this, since _he_
      was
      > whacked pretty thoroughly too), and with his back against a river and
      > nothing but catastrophe awaiting him should the day go against him, was it
      > _at least_ worth a try?
      >
      > I would think even you would have to consider that as a valid choice.






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