Sunday, December 9, 2012

Going Out for a Fight, Be Back in Two Days!

Richard Franchot

With the outbreak of war, the 34th NY was recruited in Herkimer County in June 1861. A mere year later, Lincoln called for even more troops, and Herkimer, along with Otsego County, contributed enough volunteers to raise the 121st NY during July and August 1862. Governor Edwin Morgan appointed Richard Franchot, then a member of the 37th Congress, as the Colonel of the 121st NY on July 19. Franchot was the son of a French immigrant. He attended local schools and Polytechnic Institute in Troy. Franchot established a wool and cotton factory in Morris while dabbling in local politics. He became President of the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad and then later a US Representative on March 4, 1861. (1)

After receiving his appointment as Colonel, Franchot dove into his work to raise a regiment. In neighboring towns and counties there was a contest to see which could fill its quota first. Franchot tapped into this excitement and in less than 25 days had a full volunteer regiment. He successfully mustered the 121st into service on August 23rd and received an array of gifts from the proud citizens. On the 30th, the new regiment left Camp Schuyler and via Albany-New York City-Philadelphia-Baltimore, the regiment arrived in Washington on September 3rd. It was assigned to Fort Lincoln (currently a cemetery on Bladensburg Pike, MD), seven miles from the city. (2)

On September 7th, in response to the Confederate invasion of Maryland, the 121st was ordered to Hall’s Hill VA where it was to be attached to the V Corps. During this march, Franchot’s ineptitude as a commander surfaced. Franchot misunderstood the marching orders and headed in the direction of Hallstown MD. Luckily for Franchot, he was found by General Henry Slocum, who just happened to be a personal friend, and arranged to have the 121st attached to the 2nd Brigade (Bartlett), First Division (Slocum), VI Corps (Franklin). (3)

If wandering around the Maryland countryside wasn’t bad enough, Franchot had told the regiment to leave everything in camp except for what the men could carry on their backs because they were “going out for a fight and would be back in two days.” As a result of this blunder, Dr. Daniel Holt stated “from that hour our distress began. Unprovided with tents, blankets, mess utensils, we were compelled to sleep without a our food as best we could prepare it...endure chilling blasts and storms of rain until one-half the regiment were upon the sick list...I do not wish to reflect upon Col. Franchot’s humanity, but never had a regiment a worse commandant (unwittingly perhaps) than he. Unnecessary ‘double quick’ and forced marches, when no enemy was in sight or hearing, and when rest imperatively demanded for the life of the men, were made, until his name became a reproach and stench among the men of his command.” (4)

Isaac Best also shared a similar story about this first march when he wrote “this march to the front was unnecessarily severe. On the first day it was continued until late in the evening, and the men were too weary to even eat, and as they had left their knapsacks behind and had not yet been supplied with shelter tents, the night was spent most miserably, and in many cases the health of the men was so shattered that they never recovered from the effects of their excessive fatigue and exposure...the ambition of Col. Franchot to report at the front as soon as possible, led him to resume the march at 2am the next morning, thus only giving the men three hours for rest and sleep”. (5)

Overcoming these obstacles, the 121st arrived near Burkittsville on September 14th. Holt wrote that “the marches through Maryland were severe enough for old soldiers, but ours being new recruits, suffered beyond all calculation. Our Colonel thought that because he could stand it in the saddle, the men ought to stand it equally as well afoot.” This quote is a perfect reminder how new this regiment was and that the men were not in any way ready for the rigors of an active campaign, particularly under the command of Colonel Franchot who had no prior military experience and lacked reason on how to treat new soldiers. Another noteworthy point about this three week old regiment is that these men, who had yet seen no battles nor bloodshed, were about to witness two extremely violent engagements at South Mountain and Antietam. (6)

Clinton Beckwith’s account of the initial curiosity and bewilderment of the 121st at South Mountain probably sums up what all the men felt. In a letter to Best, Beckwith wrote “some of the men pointed out the position of the enemy on the mountain side. As we hurried down the side of the valley we could see a line of our troops filing off in the fields towards the village of Burkittsville; and farther up the side of the hill, a thin line of men, skirmishers, were moving towards the wooded slope of the mountain side. These were soon fired upon from the timber and returned the fire, and we could see for a short time the puffs of smoke from their rifles. A turn in the road hid them from our sight but but we were interested in the another feature of the entertainment. The battery which we had seen on the mountain crest farther up, evidently had us in view, for in addition to its report we heard a strange sound, a whistling, singing noise in the distance, and a solid shot flew over us and buried itself in the soft earth across the creek along side which we were now marching. Instantly many inquiries were made as to what it was, and all about it, and we were told that it was a shot from a Confederate battery fired at us, and that we were now under fire and within range of the enemy’s guns, and might be struck at any moment or instant, with one of those projectiles.” (7)

A few minutes later the regiment was halted and told to lie down so that they would be out of the Confederates view. As the 121st got comfortable in the dirt, the 96th PA passed them and moved to the front. They soon found out General Slocum had decided not to use the 121st because they were new and untrained even though Franchot had offered, and then pleaded, for the regiment to take the lead or make a charge.  Anything for glory! Although most men stayed put, others fell prey to natural curiosity and moved slightly forward to watch the battle. (8)

Holt also wrote about his experience at South Mountain. The day after the battle, the 121st passed through Crampton’s Gap. The regiment stayed in the vicinity with orders to guard the gap and the prisoners as well as collect arms and munitions left on the mountain. During the march through the pass, Holt wrote “I have seen what I never once expected to see--- a battle field---a field of blood and carnage...hardly two weeks have elapsed since the regiment left home and here we are in the thickest of is indeed a strange and awful be thus transferred from scenes of quiet where the effects of war are not perceptible to these fields of slaughter and to become participants in the deadly contests is something which never, in the most extravagant flights of fancy can extend into my head.” He described the ghastly sights in order that he encountered them, “first in the road, lay a dead horse, his federal rider having been killed and removed to the rear shortly after the engagement, then knapsacks, canteens, cartridge boxes and accoutrements of all kinds strewn the ground. Shortly a rebel with his brains blown out, arms extended, and eyes protruding from their sockets---still on, others in all manners of positions---some not yet dead but gasping the few remaining breaths away in utter unconsciousness of surrounding circumstances---others mortally wounded calling for water, knowing that eternity was separated only by a hair’s breadth.” (9)

Dunker Church
On the morning of the 17th, the regiment received orders to advance to Antietam with haste. By the time it arrived, it was too late to participate in the battle and was again assigned the task of collecting arms and munitions. Walking the battlefield, Beckwith stated “that the enemy suffered terribly from our fire may be gathered from the fact that for more than one mile I could have walked on their dead bodies, while in some places they lay in groups, and in others as many as fifteen lying in line close together. Mounted officers lay under their horses both dead. A great many dead horses were on the field. Near the church in the edge of the woods, by the sunken road and edge of the cornfield, the conflict by its results seem to have been the fiercest...I had before these battles and their real story, no conception of the vast number of soldiers engaged, or of the magnitude of the battles, and how small an atom one little chap like myself was in the great whole...I felt the awful horror of war upon me, and I again felt thankful that we had been permitted to see and know what we were coming to.” (10).


And, of course, Holt weighed in on the battle of Antietam and the various assaults against his senses at the things he witnessed on this field when he wrote that one week after the battle “the dead were almost wholly least a thousand blackened, bloated corpses with blood and gas protruding from every orifice, and maggots holding high carnival over their heads. Such sights, such smells...then add the scores upon scores of dead horses---sometimes whole batteries lying along side...every house, for miles around, is a hospital and I have seen arms, legs, feet and hands lying in piles rotting in the blazing heat of a Southern sky unburied and uncared for, and still the knife went steadily in its work adding to the putrid mess.” (11)

Antietam Hospital

After three weeks of dismal field command, Franchot resigned on September 25th and went back to Congress. His resignation was accepted immediately and not a tear was shed over his departure. As pleased as the regiment was to see Franchot go, they did have cause to thank him for one small military favor, in which Franchot pulled one small political string, and placed Emory Upton in command of the 121st NY Volunteer Infantry. Unlike Franchot, Upton was a competent leader. Under his command, the 121st became one of the greatest regiments in the Army of the Potomac and was thereafter known as "Upton's Regulars". (12)

1. Subdued by the Sword: A Line Officer in the 121st New York Volunteers by James M Greiner, 2003. Pg 6-7.
2. Greiner pg 7, 11.
3.  Surgeon's Civil War: The Letters and Diary of Daniel M Holt, MD edited by James M Greiner, 1994. Pg 3.
4.  Holt pg 3-4.
5.  History of the 121st New York State Infantry by Isaac O Best, 1921. Pg 9.
6.  Holt pg 14.
7.  Best pg 16-17.
8.  Best pg 17.
9.  Holt pg 20-21.
10.  Best pg 23-24.
11.  Holt pg 28.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"But! We will whip them yet."

Charles Russell Train
"My dear Martha, we are in an awful condition the only comfort I have is that there can be nothing worse. Pope is an imbicile--- But we shall come out right yet. Don't tell our friends what I say. Lincoln is a fool, Stanton an ass---a corrupt scoundrel, and Smith and Blair haven't brains enough to drive an omnibus. Bates isn't fit for a nurse. Kiss the children. May the Lord have you in his holy keeping is the prayer of your devoted husband, Charles R. Train."

George H Gordon
And that is what Charles Russell Train wrote on September 4, 1862 from Williards Hotel in Washington DC. Earlier that day, Train had received a commission as Captain so that he could serve on the staff of his friend Brigadier-General George H Gordon (1st Div, XII Corps). The two men were friends from days past in Framingham MA. Gordon had served in the army until 1854 and then practiced law in Boston while Train practiced law in Framingham and was elected to the 36th & 37th Congresses.

Train had left Washington when Congress adjourned on July 17th but with the national crisis of Pope's defeat at Second Manassas, Train returned on September 2nd and met Gordon who also had just reached the city from the battlefield. Immediately, Train contacted Secretary of War Edwin Stanton about a commission in the army. The next day, while yet waiting for this commission, Train wrote "Pope's campaign has been a failure, and we are today worse off than we were at the commencement of the rebellion. Our army is now safe in the intrenchment front of the city, and the next you will hear of Stonewall Jackson will be across the Potomac. But! we will whip them yet." Considering the doom and gloom that hung over Washington at this time, he was one confident Congressman!

On September 4th Train received his commission and further explained his reasoning for wanting this commission to his wife--- "Gordan came in all worn out, and without a staff officer left. Of course, I at once volunteered to go on his staff and give him all the aid in my power. I did not wish to join him except in a military capacity, because if I should happen to be captured I could not be exchanged as a civilian...[I] leave for the field tomorrow morning. I shall be detained until Gordon's staff are able to rejoin him, perhaps a month. I am at liberty to leave at any time, as I volunteered, work without pay, and bear my own expenses." Can you imagine any member of Congress working for free today? Or bearing their own expenses?

The next few days Train accompanied Gordon to various points in Maryland. The men passed through Frederick on the 14th as the battle of South Mountain raged in the not too far distance. On the 15th the XII Corps crossed South Mountain on its way towards Sharpsburg. Train was deeply impacted by the previous day's carnage that he found on the mountain's slope. This was the first battlefield he had ever seen and he found "the dead lying in heaps. It [wa]s dreadful. Saw a man on the fence, another on his knees. The men fall in their tracks and don't change a muscle."

The XII Corps reached the Hoffman and Line Farms on the night on the 16th. After only a few hours of restless sleep in the rain, the battle of Antietam opened for the XII Corps just before daybreak on the 17th. Once Gordon's brigade moved into the fray, Train carried out his duties as Gordon's aide and ran orders here and there without hesitation. Later that evening Train wrote about what he had witnessed during the battle, "heavy cannonading at daybreak all along the line extending some nine miles. We went on to the fight as soon as we could eat,---Second Mass., 3rd Wisconsin, 27th Indiana, 13th New York, 107th New York. Oh God! Oh God! What sights and sounds. I went in rear of the left wing, Gordon making a most rash but magnificent charge. Wasn't killed, thank God! We were separated in the confusion and did not find ourselves for three hours. We cried when we met. At dark we had driven the enemy back the whole line and lay behind our battery."

On the 18th, Train helped with burying the Union dead. On the 19th, Train witnessed the two most macabre scenes he probably ever saw in his lifetime when he and Gordon crossed the former Confederate line and walked through the Cornfield and West Woods. They found the Confederate dead lying as if in formation, row by row. Later at the Bloody Lane, it was a dead regiment still holding the position they had when they were living. Train wrote "the stink was awful. I vomited an hour. They have not buried their dead. I vomited an hour and thought I should die."

Train left the battlefield later that day for Washington via Frederick. Lee had taken his "horde of disordered fugitives" back to Virginia and thus the only task remaining for Train was to send telegraphs for Gordon.

On September 24th, Gordon authored his Official Report. In it he included praises for several people, including his friend Charles Russell Train. Of Train, Gordon wrote "I owe especial thanks to the Hon. Charles R. Train, who volunteered his services on my staff at a time when fatiguing labor and most arduous service had deprived me of all my aides save one officer. This gentleman also has shown his willingness to lay down his life in his country's cause. The invasion of the loyal North called him from his Congressional duties and his home at a moment's notice. No fatigues, though excessive, no danger, though most perilous, deterred him from moving forward whenever he could render assistance in beating back the invading foe."

Puritan's Progress by Arthur C Train, 1931, pg 263-268.
Gordon OR Vol 19 pg 497.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Who Lost South Mountain: Lee or Stuart?

The turning point of the 1862 Maryland Campaign was September 13th. On this day, Lee knew McClellan held a copy of Special Orders #191. Lee also surmised McClellan would advance through the three gaps of South Mountain in pursuit of the Confederate army. Until Lee could reunite his widely dispersed army, protecting these passes was critical.

Battle of South Mountain
On the afternoon of September 13th, Stuart was tasked with slowing or repulsing any Union advance toward South Mountain. DH Hill, who was ordered by Lee "to dispose of my troops so as to prevent the escape of the Yankees from Harper's Ferry...and also to guard the pass in the Blue Ridge near Boonsborough", believed Stuart was competent enough to handle this assignment without infantry and thus kept his troops near Boonsboro rather than in the mountain’s gaps. However, an unforeseen cavalry engagement between Stuart and Pleasanton caused Stuart to revise his thinking and he "sent a dispatch to me [Hill] saying that he was followed by two brigades of Federal infantry, and asking me to send him a brigade to check the pursuit at South Mountain". Hill sent two brigades, Colquitt and Garland, and kept the remaining three brigades near Boonsboro, although a short time later another brigade was detached to Hamburg Pass Road. (1)
DH Hill
JEB Stuart

When Colquitt arrived he found Stuart being pushed down the west side of the mountain by Pleasanton. Near nightfall, and catching sight of the Confederate infantry, Pleasanton halted his advance. This pause caused Stuart to believe Colquitt could hold National Pike with no difficulty. Rather than conducting reconnaissance to confirm his assessment, Stuart rode off into the sunset to Boonsboro.

I am hesitant to use Longstreet to bolster my analysis but I think this lengthy quote is important and not necessarily Longstreet rewriting this portion of the war in his favor. Longstreet wrote "it seems that up to the night of the 13th most of the Confederates were looking with confidence to the surrender at Harper's Ferry on the 13th, to be promptly followed by a move farther west not thinking it possible that a great struggle at and along the range of the South Mountain was impending; that even on the 14th our cavalry leader thought to continue his retrograde that day. General Hill's attention was given more to his instructions to prevent the escape of fugitives from Harper's Ferry than to trouble along his front, as the instructions covered more especially that duty, while information from the cavalry gave no indication of serious trouble from the front. A little after dark of the 13th, General Lee received, through a scout, information of the advance of Union forces to the foot of South Mountain in solid ranks...General Lee still held to the thought that he had ample time...[and] he preferred to make the stand at Turner's Pass, and ordered the troops to march next warning was sent McLaws to prepare to defend his rear, either by the commanding general or by the chief of cavalry. The hallucination that McClellan was not capable of serious work seemed to pervade our army". (2)

Further evidence of this hallucination comes from Lee's own Official Report when he wrote the march of Jackson, McLaws, and Walker "began on the 10th, and at the same time the remainder of Longstreet's command, the division of D.H. Hill crossed the South Mountain and moved toward Boonsborough. General Stuart, with the cavalry, remained east of the mountains, to observe and retard his advance...[Longstreet arrived at Hagerstown] on the 11th, General Hill halting near Boonsborough to prevent the enemy at Harper's Ferry from escaping through Pleasant Valley, and at the same time support the cavalry. The advance of the Federal Army was so slow at the time we left Fredericktown as to justify the belief that the reduction of Harper's Ferry would be accomplished and our troops concentrated before they would be called upon to meet it. In that event, it had not been intended to oppose its passage through the South Mountains, as it was desired to engage it as far as possible from its base". (3)

Around midnight, Hill received a note from Lee. In effect, this note related that Lee did not believe that defense of the mountain was going to be a routine effort like Stuart reported it would be. In fact, according to Hill, Lee "was not satisfied with the condition of things on the turnpike or National road, and direct[ed] me to go in person to Turner's Gap the next morning and assist Stuart in its defense". The cause of Lee's growing apprehension was "that Harper's Ferry had not surrendered and that the enemy was advancing more rapidly that convenient from Fredericktown...[causing Lee] to return with Longstreet's command to the Blue Ridge to strengthen DH Hill's and Stuart's divisions engaged in holding the passes of the mountains". (4)
At the time, Lee’s army was extremely scattered due to the division from Special Orders #191, therefore, it was crucial that the South Mountain gaps be held.  If the gaps were lost then McClellan could easily defeat Lee’s divided army piece by piece. Most importantly, it was at this time that Lee lost the initiative in the Maryland Campaign. From this point on, Lee’s actions were simply a reaction to the Union offensive.
As Hill explains, "to gain sufficient time to reassemble his divisions behind South Mountain was now Lee's only chance to extricate his army from its perilous situation, for he declined to assent to Longstreet's suggestion to retire on Sharpsburg and await McClellan's attack there. Orders went out for vigorous defense on the morning of the fourteenth. He assigned to DH Hill with his single division the task of of delaying McClellan's main body by making as desperate as a fight as he could at Boonsboro Gap until Longstreet could spur his men across the thirteen miles of hot and dusty roads from Hagerstown to support him. Munford was directed with his two cavalry regiments to defend Crampton's Gap, five miles south of Boonsboro Gap, until he could be reinforced by infantry, and McLaws and Jackson were ordered to expedite their operations and join Lee at top speed. It will then be seen that unless McClellan's army could be delayed at the two menaced gaps until the twenty-six brigades assembled about Harpers Ferry could make their way back to Lee, McClellan's united onset would jeopard the Confederate army as it had not been jeopardized since Yorktown". (5)
South Mountain by Robert Knox Sneden
Hill reached Turner’s Gap by sunrise on September 14th. Hill found that Stuart had abandoned the gap and left no cavalry at all. Instead, Stuart was positioned at Crampton's Gap. As far as Hill was concerned, Lee's note showed that he expected Stuart to be at Turner's Gap with Hill. When Hill arrived and found Stuart gone, he was unhappy and later wrote that Stuart "was too gallant a soldier to leave his post when a battle was imminent, and doubtless he believed that there was but a small Federal force on the National road". (6)
Stuart's untimely departure had left Hill in a dire predicament but neither he nor Hill knew it, yet. Hill explained that after "following a careful examination of the rough and wooded ground...Hill made his way to the lookout posts on one of his peaks to determine, if possible, in what force the Federals were approaching. After Stuart's report on the night before that his horsemen were being followed, so far as he could discover, only by cavalry and two brigades of infantry, no one was expecting so soon the appearance of General McClellan's entire battle force. General Hill was, therefore, amazed on reaching the lookout station to see almost as far as his eye could reach the oncoming masses of blue". (7)
Again, it is worth mentioning that if McClellan's army poured through the gaps before Hill could stop him, Lee's divided army would have ceased to exist.
When Stuart found no Union activity at Crampton's Gap he ordered Munford to remain at the gap with cavalry until infantry arrived and sent Hampton to the Potomac to watch the road from Harpers Ferry to Frederick. Still believing there was only a small Federal force advancing, and that he had adequately covered the gaps, Stuart left South Mountain and joined McLaws at Maryland Heights. Hill states it best when he remarked "evidently Pleasanton's Federal Cavalry was improving when it could mask an infantry movement against so acute an observer as General Stuart". (8)
Further illustrating the latest reconnaissance blunder at Crampton's Gap is McLaws statement that he "heard cannonading in the direction of Crampton's Gap, but I felt no particular concern about it, as there were three brigades of infantry in the vicinity, besides the cavalry of Colonel Munford, and General Stuart, who was with me on the heights and had just come in from above, told me he did not believe there was more than a brigade of the enemy. I, however, sent my adjutant-general to General Cobb, also Major Grogin, of my staff, with directions to hold the gap if he lost his last man in doing it, and shortly afterword went down the mountain and started toward the gap. On my way, with General Stuart, I met my adjutant-general returning, who informed me that the enemy had forced the gap and that re-enforcements were needed". Hello Sixth Corps. (9)
So, what exactly was Stuart thinking throughout the 13th? His actions are strange and the explanation for these actions is even more bizarre. Stuart's Official Report raises more questions than provides answers.
  • For example, in regards to the initial skirmishing with Pleasanton, Stuart wrote "the enemy was held in check until he had marched up to the attack two brigades of infantry, which was the only force we were YET (emphasis added) able to discover, so well did he keep his troops concealed". Stuart reported the Union infantry to Hill but forgot to add the YET part leading Hill to believe that all that was in front of him were two brigades. Quite a difference between two infantry brigades and an entire army. Why did Stuart think only a small Federal force was on the road rather than the entire Union army? What type of reconnaissance did he conduct to arrive at that conclusion? (10)
  • Stuart states he then "withdrew...given Hill ample time to occupy that [Turner/Fox] gap with his troops, and still believing that the capture of Harper's Ferry had been effected" Stuart sent Hampton to reinforce Munford at Crampton's Gap while he remained at Boonsboro. Why did Stuart think Harpers Ferry had surrendered? Did he believed it had happened only because according to SO#191 it was supposed to have had happened by then? Did someone send him a report stating it had surrendered? (11)
  • During the night Stuart determined that cavalry operations could not be conducted in the Boonsboro area and spirited off to Crampton's Gap which he "had reason to believe was as much threatened as any other..[because] it was believed that the enemy's efforts would be against McLaws, probably by the route of Crampton's Gap". Again, why did Stuart think this? What made him think Crampton's Gap would be the Union route of attack instead of Turner/Fox Gaps? He had engaged with Union forces at those gaps whereas at Crampton's Gap he wrote he found no enemy. (12)
  • Finding no enemy at Crampton's Gap, Stuart relocated to Maryland Heights with McLaws where he learned Harpers Ferry had not surrendered. Rather than return to any of the gaps, Stuart remained with McLaws offering him advice on the road network. In the meantime, Munford was battling the 6th Corps at Crampton's Gap. Stuart, finally, returned to the area only after the Confederates had been overwhelmed and pushed down the west side of the mountain. Stuart almost seems boastful when he wrote "I rode at full speed to reach that point, and met General Cobb's command just after dark, retreating in disorder down Pleasant Valley. He represented the enemy as only 200 yards behind, and in overwhelming force. I immediately halted his command, and disposed men upon each side of the road to meet the enemy...the enemy not advancing, I sent out parties to reconnoiter, who found no enemy within a mile". This is the same general who found nothing to cause concern the past two days. (13)
So, I conclude "Who Lost South Mountain: Lee or Stuart?", by putting forth the answer that they both lost it, Lee strategically and Stuart tactically. Special Orders #191 was a very risky gamble and Lee lost the bet. McClellan forced Lee to change his plans causing Lee to lose the strategic initiative. Instead of continuing on into Pennsylvania, Lee now had to prepare for a battle at South Mountain to hold McClellan back while Lee tried to hurriedly reunite his army. He was aware McClellan had a copy of the orders and thus McClellan could correctly surmise Lee's army was yet divided. Lee thought he had enough time to capture Harpers Ferry AND reunite his army before McClellan could push through the South Mountain gaps.
Lee's primary objective of holding back the Union, particularly at Turner/Fox Gaps, fell to Stuart and Hill and in this task Stuart failed miserably. Stuart knew an enemy advance through the gaps was imminent and even notified Hill as much allowing Hill the opportunity to position Colquitt and Garland. Instead of remaining in his assigned position, Stuart withdrew his cavalry and wandered off to Crampton's Gap and then Maryland Heights. Had he performed his scouting duties in a competent fashion, then Hill would have been alerted to the extreme danger he was facing and Stuart would have been present to aid in the fight on the 14th. Furthermore, Lee may have had the chance to get Longstreet's men to Hill quicker had Stuart informed him of Hill's precarious situation sooner. Stuart had the chance to redeem himself at Crampton's Gap but there too, his powers of observation were sorely lacking and Munford paid for Stuart's dereliction.
In a perfect Confederate world, McClellan would have never found the orders and advanced through the mountain gaps. But he did, and he did. As a result, Lee never had a chance at winning South Mountain even had Stuart performed his duties. 

1.Official Reports Vol 19 pg 1019.  Battles & Leaders (North to Antietam) pg 560.
2. James Longstreet, From Manassas to Appomattox pg 219-220.
3. OR Vol 19 pg 145.
4. B&L pg 560
5. DH Hill, Bethel to Sharpsburg pg 350-351.
6. B&L pg 561.
7. Bethel to Sharpsburg pg 363.
8. Bethel to Sharpsburg pg 361.
9. OR Vol 19 pg 854.
10. OR Vol 19 pg 817.
11. OR Vol 19 pg 817.
12. OR Vol 19 pg 817.
13. OR Vol pg 819.

"Resist the Enemy at all Hazards!"

The more I write about these men who served in the US Congress but resigned in order to fight in the war, the more fascinated with them I become. For the most part, they all lived extraordinary lives. I have limited my scope to what they did during the 1862 Maryland Campaign but I have to say, for this next character, it is well worth looking further into his life both prior to and after the war. William "Extra Billy" Smith is by far one of the most engaging and influential men of Virginia who, sadly, has been forgotten. Knowing nothing about him until now, it looks like I have to take another trip to Richmond to visit Hollywood Cemetery where he is buried as well as Capital Square where his statue is located.

William “Extra Billy” Smith was born in King George County, VA on September 6, 1797, making him the oldest Confederate general at Antietam. Union General Edwin Sumner beat him as the oldest general on the field by several months being born on January 30, 1797. Smith had an incredibly active life prior to the war. In 1818, he began practicing law in Culpeper Va. In 1826 started a successful stage line business that expanded into the Piedmont Mail Line. This line ran 654 miles from Washington to Milledgeville GA. The trip took 9 days and cost $45 one way. Today, the closest station to Milledgeville is Atlanta. One way takes 14 hours, cost $219, and there is yet another 98 miles to go before reaching the town. Initially, Smith was authorized to carry US Mail from Washington to Culpeper but as the line traveled further distances so did the mail, for an extra fee. These extra payments earned him the nickname “Extra Billy” after he was investigated during 1834 by Post Office Department Senator Benjamin Leigh. During the 1830’s he supported Andrew Jackson and was elected to the State Senate. He ran for US Representative in 1841, was beat by four votes, contested the results, had an election do-over, won by several hundred votes, and took his seat in 1842. He served one term due to his defeat in 1843. He then moved to Warrenton and spent time correcting his finances until he was unknowingly elected Governor of Virginia by the Legislature in 1846 for a three year term. December 31, 1848 found Smith out of a job again so he borrowed some money and went to California until 1852. While there, he was active in law, real estate, and the Democrat Party. Back in Warrenton he built the California Building and used it as a law office until he was reelected as a Representative for the 34-36th Congresses. (1)
Smith’s last day in the House of Representatives was March 3, 1861. In June 1861 he was appointed Colonel of the 49th VA by Governor Letcher. He fought at First Manassas and was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives. He fought his way through the Peninsula Campaign and Second Manassas. During the Maryland Campaign he was with Jackson at Harpers Ferry until it was surrendered and then hurried along to Sharpsburg to meet the main army. (2)

Early's position at 7am
At Antietam, Early’s brigade was on the Confederate left at the West Woods behind the Dunker Church. Jackson directed Early to post his brigade in a spot where he could support some artillery pieces that Stuart had placed to operate against the Union’s right. Finding Stuart about a mile further north, Early placed his brigade behind Nicodemus Heights/Hauser Ridge and remained there for about an hour until the enemy was seen making its way between Early and Stuart. Early moved his brigade forward to the rear of the West Woods. It was here Early was notified that Lawton had been wounded and he was to take command of Lawton’s Division. Early further advanced his brigade and “formed a line in rear of Grigsby and Staford, and they at once advanced against the enemy’s skirmishers, who had penetrated some distance into the woods, driving them back...heavy bodies of the enemy were now discovered in the field beyond the woods moving up to it. I left my brigade under the command of Colonel William Smith, of the 49th Virginia, with directions to resist the enemy at all hazards”. (3)

Discovering how butchered Lawton’s Division was, Early returned to his own brigade as there was nothing left to command. Early found his brigade where he had left it, “entirely in the woods, with its right flank opposite the middle of the field or plateau, and its direction was a right angle with the Hagerstown pike. In the woods were limestone ledges which formed very good cover for troops, and they extended back towards the church”. (4)

Early's position at 9am
At this time, the Union began aggressively pushing into the West Woods and in the vicinity of Dunker Church. Early stated his position became “very critical, as there was nothing between Hood and myself, thus leaving an interval of from a quarter to a half mile between my command and the rest of the army. Fortunately, however, my troops were concealed from this body of the enemy [Greene’s Division], or their destruction would have been inevitable, as it was nearly between them and the rest of the army, and the body, moving up on the left in my front, had now got into the woods...I directed Colonel William Smith, whose regiment, the 49th Virginia, was in the lead, to open fire on the flankers, which was promptly done, and they ran in on the main body, which was taken by surprise by the fire from the unexpected quarter from which it came”. (5)

Smith wrote “as the enemy swept around my flank, one of my men cried out from the rank, ‘Colonel, they are surrounding us!’ My answer was, ‘Men, you conquer or die where you stand. I will not yield the rascals an inch---but remember, everything depends on steadiness and courage. Obey orders, and I’ll answer for the result.’...I gave the order ‘about face’--- around came the whole command, when I cried out, ‘take aim---cover your objects---the man who pulls trigger without an object under his sight, ought to be drummed out of camp after this fight is over---fire.’ My great necessity was a crushing volley, and such a volley, I never heard! It is to this day with me one of the rich memories of the war. The Yankees did not even return fire, but with quick step retired on the line of their advance, and rejoined their advancing columns”. (6)

Minutes later the battle for the West Woods began in earnest. Smith yet held the concealed position and “a few volleys from our gallant boys, from their protected position, at a relatively small loss to them, into the masses of the enemy, soon covered the ground with their dead and wounded. The enemy finally broke, leaving, besides their killed and wounded, 350 prisoners on our hands”. (7)

During this violent exchange, Smith was severely wounded. Early wrote a letter in 1888 describing the condition he found Smith in. Early wrote “I found Col. Smith standing by himself in a lime-stone ledge; I rode up to him and said to him: ‘Colonel, get your men together’... he replied, ‘you will observe, General, I am very badly wounded, and can’t do anything more.’ I looked at him and saw the blood streaming from his left shoulder, which indicated a very serious wound, and I was not advised he was shot in another place, the leg, I believe. These wounds were in addition to the one inflicted by the ball which struck him in the was very evident he was very seriously wounded, and I saw he was unable to move, though he was standing up. He was subsequently carried from the field in a helpless condition”. In all, Smith received three wounds from one volley, and lived! The guy was 65 years old and running around a battlefield drenched in his own blood! (8)

After eight months of rest, Smith returned to the army as a Brigadier General. He continued serving in the army until he resigned December 31, 1863 in order to take the oath of office for the second time as Virginia’s Governor on January 1, 1864. (9)

3. Jubal Early's Memoirs by Jubal Early, pg 141-142.
4. Early pg 145.
5. Early pg 146-147.
6. Memoirs of Governor William Smith of Virginia by John W Bell, pg 47.
7. Bell pg 48.
8. Bell pg 48-49.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Friend

Today I lost a friend. He was a really good friend too. No matter what crazy Civil War ideas I threw his way, he listened patiently, explained the error of my ways, and then put me back on a normal path. Well, at least, as he would say, as normal of a path as normal can be for me.

He said he liked talking to me because I made him think about Civil War things that he had forgotten about. Sometimes I even told him things he did not know. It is hard to stump a master so I take real pride in outsmarting him every now and again.

He always asked about Jezebel. He would even bring me little containers of whatever he cooked over the weekend to give to Jezebel. Lasagna and chili were her favorites. In fact, he said he started talking to me because he could see how much I love Jezebel and he felt the same way about his cats. Then we found out how much we both loved the Civil War. Pets to war, odd stream.

A few months ago, he was the first person I talked to about my new interpretation of the Maryland Campaign. Not only did he not say I was crazy, but he actually supported my idea, told me to get to writing so that I can get published, and that undoubtedly I would be on the lecture circuit for my South Mountain theory. He was so excited about my idea! It was like a proud papa sending the young one off for the first swim.

So, I have decided the best way to honor my friend is with a special commitment. My commitment to my friend is that from this day forward I will work as hard as I can to become the best Maryland Campaign historian, to get my not so crazy idea published, and to give lectures to anyone who will listen. One year from today I will go to my friend's grave and I will give him a progress report and I will make him proud of me.

Thanks for everything Tony. I miss you tremendously.

Cedar Creek's Gentleman Planter

Monday, October 22, 2012

Intrigue and a Paint Brush

John Cochrane
In 1813, John Cochrane was born in Palatine NY. Cochrane studied law, entered the bar in 1834, and moved to New York City in 1846. In the 1852 campaign, Cochrane avidly supported Franklin Pierce who in turn rewarded Cochrane with the appointment of Surveyor for the Port of NY. Next Cochrane was elected as a Democrat to both the 35th & 36th Congresses where he served as a Representative until March 3, 1861. His bid for reelection to the 37th Congress was unsuccessful but he did serve as a delegate at the Democratic National Conventions in Charleston and Baltimore in 1860. In June 1861, Cochrane joined the Union army as Colonel of the 65th NY Infantry and was promoted to Brigadier in July 1862. During the Maryland Campaign, Cochrane commanded the 3rd brigade of  the 1st Division of the IV Corps. (1)

Cochrane was not a participant in the battle at Antietam because the IV Corps had been assigned to Harpers Ferry by McClellan. After the battle ended on the evening of 17th, McClellan assessed his situation and determined to renew the fight on the morning of the 18th. He sent orders to Couch to abandon Maryland Heights and move his IV Corps to Sharpsburg with haste. With the arrival of Couch (and Humphrey) on the morning of the 18th, as well as large portions of the V and VI Corps that had not been used in the previous day’s fighting, McClellan had nearly 30,000 fresh troops on hand. However, McClellan chose not to use these soldiers due to the strain of the night march. Instead, McClellan suspended orders to resume the fight and then succumbed to a case of dysentery. (2)

Although Cochrane missed being a part of this crucial battle, days later he made up for it by being part of a significant conversation. While this discussion is often referred to, it seems the importance of it is woefully understated. Members of what I call the “Emancipation Panel” included McClellan, Cochrane, Burnside, and Cox. On September 22th, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. As to why McClellan felt the need to respond to this proclamation is a mystery since he was well aware that he harbored powerful enemies in high places just waiting for a misstep to point to treasonous behavior. It would have been more appropriate and favorable for him to remain silent but that was not McClellan’s style. Nonetheless, he called these men together and, according to Cox, it was “for the purpose of asking our opinions and advice with regard to the course he should pursue respecting the Proclamation...and whether we thought he should say anything or should maintain silence on the subject”. The Panel questioned McClellan on his beliefs in regards to slavery and the war to which he responded “the war would work out the manumission of the slaves gradually...however, that the Proclamation was premature”. Cox stated that he, Burnside, and Cochrane all advised McClellan that “any declaration on his part against the Proclamation would be a fatal error...that any public utterance by him in his official character criticizing the civil policy of the administration would be properly regarded as a usurpation” and even though McClellan agreed, he declared that there were forces at work attempting to thwart the administration by organizing a coup with McClellan as leader of this insurgency. I think what needs to be most emphasized here is that it is extremely plausible that had McClellan decided to march upon Washington and topple Lincoln, that the Army of the Potomac would have followed him. The question that needs to be answered is--- who were these agitators urging McClellan to engage in treason? It can be surmised that John Garrett and William Aspinwall were likely whispering in McClellan's ear. Possibly even John Fitz-Porter. But who were the “others” McClellan referred to when he said “people assured him that the army was so devoted to him that they would as one man enforce any decision he should make as to any part of the war policy”? No doubt McClellan had a huge flair for drama, but in this case I do believe there was a ring of conspirators who were exerting undue pressure on McClellan to make a disloyal move on Washington. (3)

Jacob Cox

Ambrose Burnside
Nonetheless, it was discussed that if “there was agitation in camp on the subject, and intrigues of the sort...[was it not] wise for him to say something which would show, at least, that he gave no countenance to any would-be revolutionists”. The Panel agreed that McClellan should release general orders to “remind the army...that whatever might be their rights as citizens, they must as soldiers beware of any organized effort to meddle with the functions of the civil government”. On October 7th, McClellan released General Orders No. 163 which stated the afore mentioned.  (4)

George McClellan
 For whatever reason, Cochrane was so impressed with McClellan and his anti-slavery views that Cochrane ran off to Washington to meet with Chase who Cochrane correctly believed “constituted a central point, to which converged the multifarious strands of the radical web...[and was] a decided and resolute opponent of General McClellan”. Not only did Cochrane wish to change Chase and the Radicals opinions about McClellan, but he also held the bold notion that HE COULD REPLACE HALLECK WITH MCCLELLAN so that he could eliminate the “selfish machinations” that were endangering the successful prosecution of the war. Talk about intrigue! Gotta love Civil War politics! According to Cochrane, upon learning of McClellan’s true views in regards to slavery Chase agreed to reinstate him as the head of all armies. Satisfied that Chase was in his back pocket, Cochrane next took off for the Soldier’s Home to converse with Lincoln on the same subject. Cochrane presented the same argument to the President and claimed Lincoln “answered that the plan had occurred to him, and that it might, perhaps, supply the proper relief for the troubles we were enduring, and avert the dangers which menaced”. Wow! According to Cochrane, this scheme never played out due to McClellan being associated with the Democrats and this party’s open hostility towards the Lincoln administration during the 1862 election. After the election, McClellan found himself out of a job rather than being promoted to the top spot, ouch. (5)

As to what Burnside’s reaction was to this conversation with McClellan, Cox, and Cochrane, it’s hard to say. According to his biographer, Burnside “had actively enforced slave laws to win over uncommitted North Carolinians, [but] Burnside’s observations had convinced him that no amount of such currying would lure the South back into the would be more threaten them into a renunciation of secession on the penalty of total emancipation, while implying that slavery might continue (if it could) if the ordinance of secession were revoked”. Other than that, Burnside’s thoughts remain unknown. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any works written by Burnside covering the Maryland Campaign. The Rhode Island Historical Society has the majority of his papers but there is gap spanning June-November 1862. (6)

First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation (Located in Senate wing of US Capitol)
So now I come to the paint brush. In 1864, FB Carpenter lived at the White House for six months. During this time, he set up a canvas in the State Dining Room and painted the First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln. There are three things associated with this painting that I find to be truly interesting. First, Carpenter chose “not the signing of the final proclamation, but the July 1862 cabinet meeting at which Lincoln first told his ministers that he intended to issue the momentous order”. I think most would assume that this painting depicts the signing but as the title states, it is only the first reading. Second, although Carpenter hugely admired Seward, the painting actually shows Seward objecting “to the issuing of the proclamation until it could be sustained by a Union battlefield victory...the most famous painting ever made of the Emancipation Proclamation thus ironically depicted not its enactment but its postponement”. Bet that nugget of information would make a few modern day crusaders a little red in the face. (7) 
1860 Census Map
Third, and by far the most interesting and completely overlooked, are the two maps made by the United States Coast Survey in the painting. The first map in the lower right corner is the “Map Showing the Distribution of the Slave Population of the Southern States of the United States Compiled From the Census of 1860”. As the longest-ever-title states, this map shows the slave population in the South based on the statistics from the 1860 census. The 1860 census was the last time slaves were counted and this is the first map that shows the distribution of that last count. The amount of slaves per county is illustrated through the light/dark shading. It is abundantly clear where slave populations were highest (Mississippi River region and coastal South Carolina). Ironically, one can count the near order of secession based on the states slave population holdings.  Although there were a plethora of maps available (however, not always accurate), Lincoln chose this map to help with strategic planning since it clearly displayed the Confederacy’s labor system of slavery. It did not go unnoticed by Carpenter that Lincoln constantly referred to this map. Carpenter wrote that he wanted to display the map in his painting so “he carried it off one day, without the President’s knowledge, and as the copying of it was a tedious affair, it remained in the studio for some time...[until] one afternoon the President came in...[and] his eye fell upon the map...[and exclaimed] ‘you have appropriated my map, have you? I have been looking all around for it’”. (8)

1863 Map of the State of Virginia
The second map located on the table behind Seward is the US Coast Survey’s 1863 “Map of the State of Virginia”. This map too shares a military element. It displays concentric rings from Richmond outward every 10 miles as well as every rail line and mileage distance by rail.  In addition, all towns and terrain features are prominently displayed. These elements also factored into and guided Union strategy. It’s no surprise that Carpenter featured these two maps in his painting. (9) 
Concentric rings around Richmond

Rail Lines and Mileage

So in this blissful trip of a post I have gone from a New York Representative---who, after the crucial battle of Antietam, was included in a conversation about a newly issued proclamation--- back to an earlier discussion about the same  proclamation, whereby its release depended on that crucial battlefield victory, that later led to a painting---which included two maps that illustrated the Union war strategy that enabled and emboldened the release of the Emancipation Proclamation. I hope you followed along and had as much fun as I did!

1. &  Wikipedia
2. McClellan's War by Ethan Rafuse, 205. Pgs 327-328.
3. Military Reminiscences of the Civil War by Jacob Cox, 1900. Pgs 359-360.
4. Cox pg 361.
5. American Civil War by John Cochrane, 1879. pgs 30-33.
6. Burnside by William Marvel, 1991. Pg 153.
7. Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln by FB Carpenter, ed. by Harold Holzer, 2008. Pgs 8-9.
8. Carpenter pg 234. Notes on maps from 2011 Geography & Map Division (LOC) Civil War Maps Seminar.
9. Notes on maps from 2011 Geography & Map Division (LOC) Civil War Maps Seminar