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Re: [TalkAntietam] Re: US Civil War Factbook

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  • James Rose
    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
    Message 1 of 30 , Jun 11 12:19 PM
      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.
    • Jeff Beckner (PWC Magazine)
      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
      Message 2 of 30 , Jun 11 12:33 PM
        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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      • James Rose
        ... Is there a problem with there being a disparity between what McClellan wanted to do and what he felt he was capable of doing? During the evening of the
        Message 3 of 30 , Jun 11 1:32 PM
          Jeff Beckner (PWC Magazine) wrote:

          > 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?

          Is there a problem with there being a disparity between what McClellan
          wanted to do and what he felt he was capable of doing? During the
          evening of the 17th McClellan had determined to attack the following
          day. The decision not to attack was an evolution of thinking that came
          with the information he had. The situation didn't change, but
          McClellan's understanding of it did. After thinking it through he
          determined to postpone the attack until the 19th. Its called "changing
          your mind", and people do it from time to time.

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

          I would imagine that two important things looked different on the
          morning of the 18th then they did on the evening of the 17th. First, I
          don't think that McClellan was aware that the ammunition would be
          delayed until the morning of the 18th. Second, McClellan probably
          thought that after marching all night Humphrey's and Couch's men would
          not be in very good condition to conduct an offensive. Since they
          constituted close to half of McClellan's available force for the attack,
          the thought of using them right then may have looked a bit different
          than in the abstract.

          Jim Rose
        • Jeff Beckner (PWC Magazine)
          ... Well, yeah. On the face of it, you give very good reasons for not pursuing offensive actions -- in fact, with the lack of ammo, staying put might not even
          Message 4 of 30 , Jun 11 2:55 PM
            >Is there a problem with there being a disparity between what McClellan
            >wanted to do and what he felt he was capable of doing?

            Well, yeah. On the face of it, you give very good reasons for not pursuing
            offensive actions -- in fact, with the lack of ammo, staying put might not
            even have been such a good idea. With said reasons, he shouldn't even have
            been considering it under any circumstances. But he was, and it comes
            closely to sounding like you want to play it both ways: He doesn't fight,
            but deserves credit for at least thinking about it.

            >I would imagine that two important things looked different on the
            >morning of the 18th then they did on the evening of the 17th.

            I was talking about the morning of the 17th -- if it was a good time to
            attack then, what changed overnight other than slightly delayed ammo? If
            there were reasons not to attack on the 18th, I would think they'd apply to
            the 17th even more.
          • NJ Rebel
            Jim-- I cut your most excellent post to shorten the bandwith for this message but, in essence, I am in agreement with you on your statements. However, I
            Message 5 of 30 , Jun 11 6:24 PM
              Jim--

              I cut your most excellent post to shorten the bandwith for this
              message but, in essence, I am in agreement with you on your
              statements.

              However, I believe there is one very valuable thing that Mac did
              with respects to Lee that most historians either overlook or
              simply did not take the time to consider. Harsh goes over this
              from the viewpoint of what Lee could or could not have done on
              September 18th in TATF. Essentially, by remaining "in place"
              where he was on September 18th, Mac effectively shut the door for
              Lee to continue his Maryland campaign. Hence a large part of the
              reason for the ANV retreat to Shepherdstown.

              I wonder, too, if Carman says anything about Mac not attacking on
              September 18th vis Lee and any plans Lee might have had. IIRC,
              Lee was all for attacking on September 18th, but his main
              subordinate commanders were unanimously against it.

              Hope this helps.

              Your humble servant,
              Gerry Mayers
              Co. B, "Tom Green Rifles",
              Fourth Regiment, Texas Volunteer Infantry

              "I know of no fitter resting-place for a soldier than the field
              on which he has nobly laid down his life." --General Robert
              Edward Lee
            • James Rose
              ... McClellan had to stay put. It was absolutely imperative that Lee not be allowed to revive the campaign. As for the ammo situation, if I understand it
              Message 6 of 30 , Jun 11 8:05 PM
                Jeff Beckner (PWC Magazine) wrote:

                >
                > Well, yeah. On the face of it, you give very good reasons for not pursuing
                > offensive actions -- in fact, with the lack of ammo, staying put might not
                > even have been such a good idea. With said reasons, he shouldn't even have
                > been considering it under any circumstances. But he was, and it comes
                > closely to sounding like you want to play it both ways: He doesn't fight,
                > but deserves credit for at least thinking about it.

                McClellan had to stay put. It was absolutely imperative that Lee not be
                allowed to revive the campaign. As for the ammo situation, if I
                understand it correctly McClellan thought (on the 17th) that he would be
                resupplied in time for the attack on the 18th. That didn't happen, and
                the shipment was delayed until the evening. If you don't want to give
                McClellan credit for intending to attack on the 18th that's fine. It
                doesn't actually matter to me. I personally think that McClellan
                answered the questions about moral cowardice, timidity, and
                unwillingness to fight on the 17th. The fact that McClellan thought
                about attacking on the 18th and then changed his mind doesn't mean
                anything other than he changed his mind.

                >
                > I was talking about the morning of the 17th -- if it was a good time to
                > attack then, what changed overnight other than slightly delayed ammo? If
                > there were reasons not to attack on the 18th, I would think they'd apply to
                > the 17th even more.
                >
                Let me see. What changed during the day of the 17th. Let's start with
                10,000 casualties and go from there. On the morning of the 17th the
                AotP had 6 intact corps' that were capable of offensive operations. By
                evening McClellan was reduced to two corps' capable of offensive
                operations. In the morning there was a full load-out of ammo. By
                evening there were critical shortages (heavy fighting tends to use up ammo).

                There were many reasons not to attack on the 17th. I can think of
                several with straining myself. However, not fighting Lee was out of the
                question. If McClellan did not bring Lee to battle in Maryland it would
                have been as damaging, or even more so, than actually losing the AotP.
                McClellan had to fight Lee at some point, and thanks in part to S.O. 191
                McClellan thought that the ANV was still separated (at least somewhat).
                That means that on the 17th McClellan thought that the odds were
                probably as good as they were going to get. Therefore, he attacked.
                There were many reasons not to attack, but more overriding ones to
                attack on the 17th. By evening those overriding reasons had been muted
                by the battle (i.e. a bloodied ANV leaving Maryland is very different
                than an unscratched ANV leaving Maryland).

                Jim Rose
              • Jeff Beckner (PWC Magazine)
                ... Let me see. I guess all the Yankee bullets missed their marks. Where was this paralyzing lack of ammo in all of our other discussions? Has Dr. Harsh
                Message 7 of 30 , Jun 12 6:25 AM
                  >Let me see. What changed during the day of the 17th. Let's start with
                  >10,000 casualties and go from there.

                  Let me see. I guess all the Yankee bullets missed their marks.

                  Where was this paralyzing lack of ammo in all of our other discussions? Has
                  Dr. Harsh written another book?
                • James Rose
                  ... You do realize that McClellan had no real idea of how badly the Confederates were hurt during the battle. He could make an educated guess, but that is it.
                  Message 8 of 30 , Jun 12 2:02 PM


                    Jeff Beckner (PWC Magazine) wrote:
                    Let me see.  What changed during the day of the 17th.  Let's start with
                    10,000 casualties and go from there.

                    Let me see. I guess all the Yankee bullets missed their marks.
                    You do realize that McClellan had no real idea of how badly the Confederates were hurt during the battle.  He could make an educated guess, but that is it.  Basically what you are saying sounds like a paraphrase from a famous politician that goes something like this "Yes your troops are hurt, but so are they.  You are all hurt together."  McClellan understood something that apparently a lot of people miss.  It is easier to defend than it is to attack.  So on the 18th McClellan would only be able to attack with part of his army, but Lee would be able to defend with his entire army.


                    Where was this paralyzing lack of ammo in all of our other discussions? Has
                    Dr. Harsh written another book?

                    Have you read "Taken at the Flood" yet?  As for our other discussions, this is the first time I've been on these groups that I have joined in on a discussion of why McClellan didn't attack on the 18th.  That is why I've never mentioned it.  I've also never said that the ammo situation was "paralyzing".  That word has connotations that do not fit in this instance.  I said that he was critically short of ammo.  Sears acknowledges that lack of Parrot rounds even as he dismisses it as meaningless.  I think that the loss of the 20lb Parrots is far from meaningless.  They represented over 10% of the artillery pieces, and as the largest caliber they probably represented a higher percentage in actual combat power.  Considering that artillery is the one branch that McClellan knows is superior in all respects to the Confederates, such a loss is far from trivial.

                    Jim Rose


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