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Disaster in the West Woods

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  • rotbaron@aol.com
    I just finished reading Disaster in the West Woods - Sumner and the II Corps at Antietam by Marion Armstrong ( 65-page booklet). I found the author had some
    Message 1 of 40 , Sep 20 5:00 AM
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      I just finished reading "Disaster in the West Woods - Sumner and the II Corps
      at Antietam" by Marion Armstrong ( 65-page booklet). I found the author had
      some enlightening perspectives on Sumner's attack into West Woods. He does a
      good job of explaining Sumner's orders, his understanding of Mac's plans,
      what he saw of the terrain and units as he arrived at East Woods, his recon,
      etc.

      Based on Armstrong's points, I have a better understanding of what Sumner was
      trying to accomplish and why events transpired as they did. The main fault he
      finds in the attack is Sumner's choice of formation. Given the tactics of the
      times, the formation was certainly an option; but a better choice was to
      advance Gorman in line (as he did), but have next two brigades in column
      (ready to deploy as needed).

      Sumner' s extended formation greatly impeded command and control by him and
      his brigade commanders. This led to Gorman's 34th NY drifting uncorrected to
      the left and caused Dana to lose command of his right regiments as he
      assisted his two left regiments. It also prevented a quick ability to refuse
      their left or other tactical options against the flanking Rebs.

      Armstrong also noted there was a more extensive gap between Gorman and Dana,
      than between Dana and Howard. As Dana left the East Woods, he saw troops
      laying in front of him. He assumed it was Gorman, so he halted his brigade
      (thus Howard also halts). The mistake is realized and they then resume their
      advance.

      He does make a point that Sumner saw troops entering West Woods near Dunker
      Church (125th PA) , troops further south (Greene), and troops around northern
      end of the woods (Goodrich and Patrick), so he did presume his flanks would
      be covered. He saw the gap between those forces and decided to move swiftly
      to fill it. His line did not actually begin to unravel from a flank attack,
      but a frontal attack against 7th MICH (IIRC also the 42nd NY). The breaking
      of this part of his line opened a gap and the flanking attack began by Early,
      Barksdale, and Kershaw. Furthermore, Sumner expected French to be coming on
      on Sedgwick's left, further ensuring his left flank.

      Armstrong also covers Sumner's activity after the West Woods debacle, which
      is not often mentioned in other books.

      Any thoughts?

      Tom Shay
    • Tom Shay
      As of now, the only plans I have for Saturday April 22 are at 9:30 AM (about one hour rehearsal for Church program). Let me know what time you expect to be in
      Message 40 of 40 , Apr 14, 2006
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        As of now, the only plans I have for Saturday April 22 are at 9:30 AM (about
        one hour rehearsal for Church program).
        Let me know what time you expect to be in the area.

        Tom Shay - Cressona, PA

        >>By the way Tom....I am going up to St. Vincent Depaul Cemetery in
        Minersville next Saturday (22nd) searching for the grave of Private
        Hugh Gallagher, USMC (1859 - Harpers Ferry, 1862-65 - USS
        Constellation). Want to meet up?
        Steve Bockmiller
        >>
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