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5988Re: [TalkAntietam] Sumner/Franklin conference

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  • G E Mayers
    Nov 29, 2009
      Dear Stephen,

      Re Carman... I think maybe I can save you the trouble, as the
      following is from Carman's Battle History:

      Walker, in his "History of the Second Army Corps" says: "It is
      easy to criticize Sumner's dispositions at Antietam--the
      dangerous massing of Sedgwick's brigades, the exposure of the
      flank of the charging column, the failure of the commander to
      supervise and direct, from some central point, all the operations
      of the corps; yet no one who saw him there, hat in hand, his
      white hair streaming in the wind, riding abreast of the field
      officers of the foremost line, close up against the rocky ledges
      bursting with the deadly flames of Jackson's volleys, could ever
      fail thereafter to understand the furious thrust with which a
      column of the Second Corps always struck the enemy, or the
      splendid intrepidity with which its brigade and division
      commanders were wont to ride through the thickest of the fight as
      callously as on parade." All this is conceded, yet the fact
      remains that these splendid troops of the Second Corps were much
      disorganized and many of them sadly demoralized when they fell
      back, and, unfortunately, that partial demoralization extended to
      their commanders. We again quote Walker: "If it is not a
      profanation to say such a thing about Edwin
      V. Sumner, he had lost courage; not the courage which would have
      borne him up a ravine swept by canister at the head of the old
      First Dragoons, but the courage which, in the crush and clamor of
      action, amid disaster and repulse, enables the commander to
      coolly calculate the chances of success or failure. He was
      heartbroken at the terrible fate of the splendid division on
      which he had so much relied, which he had deemed invincible, and
      his proximity to the disaster had been so close as to convey a
      shock from which he had not recovered." Nor had he recovered from
      this shock an hour or more later when Franklin came up. . . .

      Franklin, Slocum, and Smith were considering a charge upon the
      woods at the church. Newton's and Torbett's (i.e., Torbert's)
      brigades had come up and been formed beyond the woods and
      Bartlett's arrival was awaited to form a reserve, when it was
      found that Sumner had retained Bartlett to strengthen his own
      right, in place of Brooks', whom he had sent to Franklin. General
      Franklin says: "Immediately after its (Slocum's) arrival two of
      his brigades (Newton's and Torbert's) were formed in column, to
      carry the wood in the immediate vicinity of the white church. The
      other brigade (Bartlett's) had been ordered by General Sumner to
      keep near his right. As this brigade was to form the reserve for
      the column of attack, I waited until it came up. About the same
      time General
      Sumner arrived on the spot, and directed the attack to be
      postponed.... Shortly afterward the commanding general came to
      the position and decided that it would not be prudent to make the
      attack, our position on the right then being considerably in
      advance of what it had been in the morning."

      In the "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War" (Vol.II, p. 597)
      Franklin writes: "While awaiting the arrival of Slocum, I went to
      the right, held by Sumner. I found him at the head of his troops,
      but much depressed. He told me that his whole corps was exhausted
      and could do nothing more that day.... About 300 yards in its
      front, across an open field, was a wood...strongly held by the
      enemy. The corps had been driven back from an attack on this wood
      with great loss. When General Slocum arrived I placed two
      brigades of his division on General Sumner's left and was
      awaiting the arrival of his third brigade, which was to be in
      reserve. With the two
      brigades I intended to make an attack on the woods referred to,
      and General Sumner was informed of my intention. The two brigades
      were ready to move. Just as the third brigade arrived, General
      Sumner rode up and directed me not to make the attack, giving as
      a reason for his order, that if I were defeated the right would
      be entirely routed, mine being the only troops left on the right
      that had any life in them. Major Hammerstein, of McClellan's
      staff, was near, and I requested him to inform General McClellan
      of the state of affairs, and that I thought the attack ought to
      be made. Shortly afterward McClellan rode up, and, after hearing
      the statements of Sumner and myself, decided that as the day had
      gone so well on the other parts of the line it would be unsafe to
      risk anything on the right. Of course, no advance was made by the

      Palfrey says: "Wisely or unwisely, Sumner paralyzed the action of
      Franklin's Corps, first detaching from Smith and then from
      Slocum." But the responsibility rested upon McClellan for staying
      Franklin's advance. There was yet time to make it when he came
      upon this part of the field. He says: "Toward the middle of the
      afternoon, proceeding to the right, I found that Sumner's,
      Hooker's and Mansfield's Corps had met with serious losses.
      Several general officers had been carried from the field severely
      wounded, and the aspect of affairs was anything but promising. At
      the risk of greatly exposing our center, I ordered two brigades
      from Porter's Corps to reinforce the right. General Sumner
      expressed the most decided opinion against another attempt during
      that day to assault the enemy's position in front, as portions of
      our troops were so scattered and demoralized. In view of these
      circumstances, after making changes in position of some of the
      troops, I directed the different commanders to hold their
      positions, and, being satisfied that this could be done without
      the assistance of the two brigades from the center, I
      countermanded the order, which was in course of execution."

      Yr. Obt. Svt.
      G E "Gerry" Mayers

      To Be A Virginian, either by birth, marriage, adoption, or even
      on one's mother's side, is an introduction to any state in the
      Union, a passport to any foreign country, and a benediction from
      the Almighty God. --Anonymous
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Stephen Recker" <recker@...>
      To: <TalkAntietam@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Sunday, November 29, 2009 10:59 AM
      Subject: [TalkAntietam] Sumner/Franklin conference

      > In preparing for a tour I'm giving next week, I've been reading
      > Unfurl
      > Those Colors, Chapter 10. Vince has an interesting take on the
      > mediation of McClellan between Franklin and Sumner on whether
      > or not to
      > renew an attack against the Confederate left on the afternoon
      > of the
      > 17th. Vince has Sumner a little more excited about an attack
      > than I
      > remember.
      > Anyone have thoughts about this? Any recommendations for other
      > versions
      > of this. I plan to check out Franklin in Battles and Leaders,
      > then
      > McClellan's War, then Carman...after I have a turkey sandwich,
      > of
      > course.
      > Stephen
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