205RE: [TalkAntietam] Re: US Civil War Factbook
- Jun 11, 2001Not 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
From: James Rose [mailto:eodrose@...]
Sent: Monday, June 11, 2001 2:19 PM
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.
Jeff Beckner (PWC Magazine) wrote:
> I don't think everyone believes McClellan would "automatically" destroyLee.
> But with an advantage in manpower, and facing an opponent that had beenwas
> whacked pretty good the day before (and Mac should know this, since _he_
> whacked pretty thoroughly too), and with his back against a river andYour use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
> 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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