Counting US Forces at Mansfield

by Ned B. on July 22, 2013 · 0 comments

Even though I was able to count a sizable Confederates force that Taylor had at the Battle of Mansfield, wasn’t he outnumbered in the battle?

Coming up with the total Present for Duty (PFD) on the US side is relatively easy since there is a table in the Office Records that shows the following Present For Duty strength as of March 31: 1

Department of the Gulf
HQ Staff/Escort:         67
Engineer Brigade:    721
1st Brigade, Corps d’Afrique:  1,535
Cavalry Division: 4,653
3rd Division, 13th Corps:  2,114
4th Division, 13th Corps: 2,659
1st Division 19th Corps (+Corps HQ): 6,497
2nd Division 19th Corps: 3,846
19th Corps Artillery Reserve: 276
    Subtotal: 22,368

Department of Tennessee
First Division, 16th Corps:  2,006
Third Division, 16th Corps: 5,208
Provisional Division, 17th Corps:  1,721
    Subtotal: 8,935

Total:  31,303

Seems like a big number, but what I am looking for is how many were brought to bear at the battle of Mansfield. Two quick subtractions:  1) the 2nd Division 19th Corps was detached to hold Alexandria, almost 100 miles down river and 2) the Provisional Division, 17th Corps stayed with the fleet on the river. So the remaining 25,736 is the size of the force that moved on the road from Natchitoches to Mansfield. So overall the US did have a numerical advantage, since this is larger than what I identified for Taylor.

But the US was unable to get all those men to the battle.  A big part of the US problem on the day of the battle was that the moving column was stretched out for miles. As a result, the battle was fought by just a third of the column — the 13th Corps and three of the four cavalry brigades totaling roughly 8,100 PFD.  Further, due to detachments guarding wagons and the delayed arrival time of the 3rd Division, 13th Corps, the front line at the start of the battle contained only around 5,000 men.2 Given that I previously counted over 12,000 Confederates present before the battle started, Taylor was not outnumbered in the battle itself.  The pursuing Confederates were stopped when they encountered the 1st Division 19th Corps, which balanced out the numbers engaged.  But the infantry of the 16th Corps, the brigade of colored troops and one of the cavalry brigades did not take part, having been many miles from the action all day.

So while there was a US numeric advantage in the overall campaign, Taylor had a numeric advantage in the battle itself.  When the National Park Service or the Civil War Trust writes “Taylor, though outnumbered, decided to attack” it is misleading, if not simply wrong. Having his main force more concentrated at the point of contact gave Taylor the winning edge.

  1. Official Records Series 1, Volue 34 part I, page 167-168
  2. See Reports  in OR1-34-I, specifically Landram p.292 and Lee p.454-456

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