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Re: [TalkAntietam] Re: US Civil War Factbook

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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 1 of 30 , Jun 11, 2001
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      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 2 of 30 , Jun 11, 2001
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        >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 3 of 30 , Jun 11, 2001
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          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 4 of 30 , Jun 11, 2001
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            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 5 of 30 , Jun 12, 2001
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              >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 6 of 30 , Jun 12, 2001
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                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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