I’ve always been interested in Present for Duty (hereafter referred to as PFD) strengths of various units during the war, just due to my own curiosity and also due to my hobby of wargaming the Civil War. One area in particular along these lines involves the Maryland Campaign of 1862, culminating in the Battle of Antietam. I recently posted the following note to several of the Civil War forums and groups I read on a daily basis:
I’ve always been interested in regimental strengths and the overall PFD strengths of armies and other military units during the war. My recent studies of Second Manassas and Chantilly led me to wonder how the Confederate PFD strength of 75,528 on September 2, 1862 could possibly shrink all the way to sources as varied as Priest’s 30,646 to Cannan’s 37,351 on September 17, 1862 (Priest says Sept. 16-18, 1862)? Were significant numbers of men left in Virginia or at Harper’s Ferry?
I have a few ideas of my own as far as troop loss goes. First, Jackson’s men especially had been marching and fighting since early August, and they
were simply worn out. I wouldn’t be surprised at thousands of men simply failing to keep up with their comrades on the march north. Second, I’ve read many reports of some Confederates stopping at the Potomac River and refusing to invade the North. How widespread this phenomena was I have no idea. I’d love to hear from others who might be a lot more knowledgeable in this area. Third, the macadamized roads of Maryland were brutal on a Confederate Army which had a large number of men with no shoes. I can see thousands more dropping out due to this cause.
I’d love to hear the opinions of those of you who know much more than I do and who have looked at this in some detail. I’d also appreciate it if
anyone can point me to more literature on this particular topic, since I realize Cannan and Priest probably aren’t the best sources for Confederate strength at Antietam.
 John Owen Allen, “The Strength of the Union and Confederate Forces At Second Manassas” (Masters Thesis, George Mason University, 1993), 209.
 John Michael Priest, Antietam: The Soldier’s Battle, 1st paperback ed., (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 332.
 John Cannan, The Antietam Campaign: August – September 1862, revised and expanded ed., (Pennsylvania: Combined Books, 1994), 228-229.
I received quite a few varied and interesting responses, some of which you can read for yourself at the Civil War Discussion Group and in the Usenet group alt.war.civil.usa. One theme kept coming back: “Read the set of books on the Maryland Campaign by Joseph Harsh.” What’s even more interesting is that the PFD strength above for September 2 was researched by John Owen Allen. Harsh was Allen’s advisor at George Mason University, so I figured that those numbers would be generally in line with Harsh’s view on the subject.
For those of you who don’t know, Harsh has written a trilogy books on Confederate strategy early in the war. The first, Confederate Tide Rising, discusses Lee’s and the Confederate High Command’s strategy and military policy early in the war, from 1861up to the start of the Maryland Campaign in September, 1862. The second, Taken At The Flood, discusses Lee’s strategy throughout the Maryland Campaign itself. And the last, Sounding The Shallows, is basically a large set of appendices for Taken At The Flood. Read together, from what I’ve been told, these three books give the reader a great understanding of the thinking of Confederate leaders in these early war battles, especially Antietam. I’ve since ordered them from www.amazon.com and I look forward to reading them. I’ll be giving readers of this blog a blow-by-blow account as I go. Look for that in the near future.
Lastly, I’d love to hear the comments of others who wish to offer answers of their own to the question: “How could the PFD strength of Lee’s Army shrink in half over the course of 15 days, and how could that same strength be back to 70,000+ weeks later with no significant reinforcements in terms of units arrived?”
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