Here is a belated look at events in the Civil War this week in October 1862.
In mid-Tennessee, General Nathan Bedford Forrest is busy training and organizing some 3500 cavalrymen, and we won’t be hearing from him this week. (4)
The armies of Northern Virginia and the Potomac
During this six-week time period 150 years ago, according to William Allan’s The Army of Northern Virginia in 1862:
[s]preading his army from Hagerstown to Harper’s Ferry, McClellan . . . devoted the six weeks after Sharpsburg to putting it in prime condition for another aggressive campaign in Virginia. The Federal commander has been much criticized by Northern writers for the length of time consumed in this way . . . . Such certainly was the opinion of his superiors at the time . . . .
Allan points out that McClellan’s army had seen “severe and disheartening service” since they had marched to the peninsula, beginning in March. They had endured a “tedious and fatiguing campaign” to reach the Chickahominy, and then went through the rough Seven Days’ Battle, which left them spending the Southern summer at Harrison’s Landing, “exposed to a broiling sun on a sickly river bank.” They were then rushed first to Aquia Creek and then to General Pope’s aid and went through a defeat at Cedar Run, fall back to Washington, march to and into Maryland, and then a rush to Antietam, the bloodiest day in the whole war. They absolutely did need some R&R, which leaders in Washington may not have thoroughly appreciated, but Allan also succinctly attributes some of the problem to McClellan:
Inattention or indifference to his requisitions certainly prevailed to a greater or lesser extent. On the other hand . . . he wore out the patience of his superiors by his complaints, his exaggeration of small difficulties, his disinclination to do the best he could with the means on hand, and his grotesque overestimation of the forces opposed to him.
Meanwhile, notes Allan:
[i]f the morale and organization of Lee’s army were better, the labors and privations it had undergone had been greater than those of its adversary. . . . Thousands of barefooted men had fought at Sharpsburg. Many more that had broken down and straggled from their commands filled the country on the south side of the Potomac.
This straggling really irked Lee, and he devoted the six-week period to collecting up and reinforcing and refitting his army, first at Martinsburg and then “on the waters of the Opequon, north and northeast of Winchester, where the health of the troops, which had been seriously impaired by the hardships of the campaign and especially by the scanty and improper food, gradually recuperated.”
He also was watching McClellan, and like that general’s own superiors, was hoping McClellan would advance into the Shenandoah, for Lee could not stop him if instead he sent the Army of the Potomac against Richmond.
When McClellan did not move, Lee decided that a bold cavalry move would keep McClellan confused as well as collect much-needed information about matters on the north side of the Potomac.
Battles: Confederate Heartland Offensive: Perryville, Kentucky.
When the day was done, Bragg had won a tactical victory but not a strategic one. His men were done in by the day’s hard fighting and badly depleted in numbers, and they had been fighting only one corps. Tomorrow Buell might well send two fresh corps against him. His position unsustainable, Bragg slipped away in the night. He linked up with General Edmund Kirby Smith at Harrodsburg, and together they retreated toward Tennessee. General Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry were the rearguard and skillfully kept the pursuing Yankees back. (2)
However, by the time the retreating Confederates pass Richmond, Kentucky, General John Hunt Morgan, with Smith’s army, decides he has had enough and starts asking for permission to turn west, arguing that he could hurt Buell by striking the L&N Railroad. (2)
Military Events/Other: President Lincoln writes to General Grant: “I congratulate you and all concerned on your recent battles and victories [Corinth, Miss.] How does it all sum up? I especially regret the death of Gen. [Pleasant A.] Hackelman [Hackleman]; and am very anxious to know the condition of Gen. [Richard J.] Oglesby, who is an intimate personal friend.”
Military events: Virginia operations: General Lee sends General JEB Stuart and 1800 cavalrymen across the Potomac. Stuart and his men rendezvous during the night and start out on a second ride completely around McClellan’s army. (11)
Military events: Virginia operations: General Stuart and his cavalry cross the Potomac at McCoy’s ford above Williamsport and head north through Mercersburg to Chambersburg, destroying whatever military supplies they find and commandeering more cavalry horses along the way. (11)
Military events: Virginia operations: Stuart’s cavalry crosses the mountains to Cashtown and turns south to Emmittsburg, which they reach after sunset. They keep riding all night around the left flank of the Army of the Potomac and learn of Union forces coming against them when they capture a courier with a dispatch. (11)
Military events: Virginia operations: General Stuart and his cavalry pass between forces waiting for them in Poolesville and the mouth of the Monocacy River, the forward Confederates heading for White’s ford under General Lee’s second son, William Henry Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee. Stuart and his rearguard keep advancing Union troops from the Monocacy at bay. At White’s ford, Rooney Lee bluffs a waiting US regiment into fleeing, and the entire cavalry plus their prisoners and many captured horses cross safely. By midday, they are back in Virginia, having done some $250,000 in damage to the north. The next two weeks will be quiet. (10, 11)
(3) Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson
(4) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor
(5) The Lincoln Log timeline.
(7) Henry Halleck’s War: A Fresh Look at Lincoln’s Controversial General-In-Chief, by Curt Anders
(8) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.
(9)”The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” (Vol. II), Jefferson Davis.
(10) Civil War Home’s “The Eastern Theater: 2nd Manassas, Antietam and Fredericksburg.“
(11) The Army of Northern Virginia in 1862, by William Allan (1892)
(12) Conquest of the Lower Mississippi. BrownWaterNavy.org.
(14) The Strategy of Robert E. Lee, by J. J. Bowen (1914).
(18) Antietam timeline.
Categories: American Civil War