Confederate Tide Rising, Part 8

Intermezzo, Appendices, and Final Thoughts

In this final blog entry on Joseph Harsh’s Confederate Tide Rising, I will cover what Harsh calls “The Chantilly Fumble” in his Intermezzo between this book and Taken At The Flood, I will relay what information Harsh provides in six interesting appendices (sort of a forefrunner of the cornucopia of information to follow in Sounding The Shallows), and I will provide my final thoughts on this first part of what is actually one large work. After Second Manassas, Lee tried to interpose his army between Pope’s army and the fortifications of Washington, D.C. In “The Chantilly Fumble”, Harsh chronicles the short but sharp Battle of Chantilly, where Union genewrals Phil Kearny and Isaac Stevens lost their lives but also prevented Jackson from achieving Lee’s strategic aims. After thumbing through the three books, I’ve found that Harsh loves to ask questions. Like any good historian, he knows that he cannot definitively answer all of those questions, and that most are open to more than one interpretation. In the six appendices at the back of Confederate Tide Rising, Harsh defines his use of terms related to strategy, and covers varied and interesting topics such as his use of troop numbers, Lee’s war councils and strategy sessions, and notes on Lee’s Campaigns.

“The war was thus transferred from interior to frontier”: The Chantilly Fumble, September 1, 1862

Stonewall Jackson marched very slowly on the morning of September 1, wary of any enemy troops who could appear at any time. Stuart arrived and told him of the wagon train incident of the night before, but Jackson sent him out again to scout ahead in a fluid environment. Jackson caught up to Stuart at Ox Hill, and he sent the Cavalry commander toward Fairfax Court House around 4 P.M. At Difficult Run, they ran into Union forces deployed in some strength. Jackson was about to test these forces with Starke’s Division (and send Stuart north to try to turn the Union right at Flint Hill), but he was forced to turn his attention south to his own right flank. Reno’s forces of the Union IX Corps had suddenly appeared and had to be dealt with. Isaac Stevens and his small division attacked Jackson in the Battle of Chantilly. Stevens lost his life and his division was driven back. Luckily, Phil Kearny arrived with part of his III Corps division to hold the Confederates’ attention. Kearny lost his life trying to find support for the right flank of one of his brigades, but these attacks forced Jackson to pause, and his mission to insert his troops between Pope and his capital had failed. Harsh writes that the Confederates did not fight very well that day, and he provides an excerpt from a letter of Dorsey Pender to his wife saying much the same thing. Lee was apparently preoccupied with other things on September 1, mainly because he was severely limited by his injured hands. At the end of the battle near Ox Hill, Lee had been checked. Stuart had found Flint Hill firmly defended, and Union troops were in a strong line between Pope’s retreat route and Lee’s army. Lee, as Harsh points out throughout the book, would not want to launch a frontal assault for minimal gain on September 2. Lee also was out of room as far as flanking movements went. Only seven miles from Flint Hill lay one of the forts in the long ring protecting the northern capital. Basically, Harsh says, Lee found himself in a mirror of the tactical situation he had started in near Richmond, where McClellan was within 20 miles of the city. Lee did not have the strength to have any chance of successfully mounting a siege of Washington. Also, he simply didn’t have the time even if that were possible. Three hundred thousand more Union troops were on their way, and he needed to continue inflicting defeats on the Union armies to foster enough dissent at home to cause the North to lose hope in successfully bringing the war to a successful conclusion. Harsh sets up the beginning of Taken At The Flood quite nicely.

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Appendix 1: A Working Definition of Strategy

Harsh defines the use of the important terms he uses throughout the book in this appendix. He believes that it is important to use “brief, plain language–which would have been understood by the participants, even if they did not employ it themselves–to describe concepts and distinctions that the y made in practice, even if they did not use special terms to decribe them.” Harsh’s full definitions attempt to include the usage of the word in both the 1860’s and today. The terms include:

1. War aims: the goals that a nation seeks to gain from the struggle

2. War policy: the attitudes and programs adopted by adopted by the government to achieve war aims

3. Strategy: the large-scale plan generals devise for the employment of the armed forces within the guidelines of the government’s policy for achieving the country’s war aims.

3a. Grand strategy: strategy involving the entire war in all of its theaters and all of its forces

3b. Campaign strategy: strategy involving a particular theater and its army

4. Logistics: the moving of armies, except in the presence of the enemy, and the supplying and equipping of armies in all circumstances

5. Tactics: the movements of troops in the presence of the enemy, usually in or preparatory to battle

Appendix 2: Notes on Mobilization, Strengths, and Casualties

A. Union and Confederate Mobilization
Here Harsh breaks down the total numbers mobilized on each side and provides us with a percentage of troops mobilized from the entire manpower pools of each side. Harsh concludes that 80% of the Confederate pool was mobilized versus just 30% of the Union pool. Harsh also talks about how slavery allowed more Confederates to join the army while the slaves provided manpower for labor.

B. The Strength of the Western Armies, March-April 1862
Harsh tries to determine the ratios of the opposing forces engaged in the West during this time. The numbers he uses suggest that the North had around 102,000 Present for Duty (PFD) versus a Confederate PFD strength ofalmost 96,000.

C. Strength of the Army of Northern Virginia in the Seven Days
Harsh presents a detailed PFD look at the strengths of Confederate divisions at the start of the Seven Days. He uses Leon Tenney’s Masters Thesis as his source for these numbers.

D. Union and Confederate Forces in the Virginia Theater, August 27, 1862
Here Harsh presents Union and Confederate numbers for the troops involved in the Second Manassas Campaign (or nearby) as of August 27, 1862. These numbers are from John Owen Allen’s Masters Thesis.

E. Confederate Losses at Second Manassas
Harsh says it is rather difficult to arrive at proper Confederate losses due to the lumping together of casualties for the main battle and Chantilly. Since the campaign was so fluid, it is also difficult to arrive at an easy answer for numbers engaged. Harsh decided to use the strengths for August 30 because each side had the largest number of men available on that day.

Appendix 3: Notes on Lee’s Strategy

A. Sources of Understanding Lee’s Grand Strategy
Harsh says he uses three main sources to interpret Lee’s strategy:
1. Charles Marshall’s essay “General Lee’s Military Policy”
2. Lee’s comments during the war
3. Lee’s actions to implement his strategy

He realizes that Marshall was a part of the “Lost Cause” group, and that they wanted to portray Lee as favorably as possible, but Harsh believes that this source is essential because Marshall was forced throughout the war to act as a historian, interpreting Lee’s orders and clarifying with Lee where he was unsure. Harsh points out that in many cases Lee’s words and actions back what Marshall describes in the essay.

B. Lee and the Inevitability of Confederate Defeat
In what has become apparent to me in only a short while, Harsh asks many questions (especially in Sounding the Shallows) that I really hadn’t thought about before. This is due mainly to my interest in tactics versus strategy. I haven’t looked at a lot of campaigns in any great level of detail from a strategic or operational standpoint. This is one of those fascinating questions I’m talking about.

Alan Nolan believes that Lee did not believe the South could win the war, but that he soldiered on out of a sense of duty. He bases this on two accounts set only a few days before Appomattox. Harsh is skeptical of this claim, mainly because Lee could be forgiven for feelings of despair at that late date. It does not necessarily prove Lee felt this way in the more optimistic times earlier in the war.

C. Lee and Northern Morale
Harsh talks here about Lee being dependent on the weakening of Northern morale to win the war rather than a total military victory. He points to letters Lee wrote to Davis and his son Custis where Lee has been viewing Northern newspapers to glean information on Northern morale.

D. Lee and the Northern Phobia over Losing Washington
Lee and the Confederate government were well aware during the war of the Lincoln Cabinet’s obsession with protecting their capital, and LEe apparently used this fear when deciding on strategy.

E. Lee and Davis and Jackson’s Valley Campaign
In this area Harsh believes that maybe LEe has been given too much credit, and Davis too little, in terms of the origination of Jackson’s Valley Campaign.

F. Lee’s Intentions in the Second Manassas Campaign
In this interesting piece, Harsh says that Lee was not looking to fight a major battle at the culmination of the Second Manassas Campaign, but was solely looking to force Pope to relinquish as much of Virginia as possible. I have covered my take (and the opinions of various authors) in this blog entry.

Appendix 4: Notes on War Councils and Strategy Conferences

A. Partial List of Strategy Conferences Attended by Lee
The author describes Lee’s attitude toward discusing strategy, which he says is very eager, and provides the multitude of strategy sessions Lee attended from the beginning of the war to August 31, 1862.

B. Fairfax Court House War Council, October 1, 1861
Harsh describes this important strategy session where Davis was looking to launch an attack across the Potomac River. Johnston and Beauregard said they needed more men, and Harsh postulates that there may have been a misunderstanding between Davis and the generals about exactly how many men were needed. In the end, Davis believed he couldn’t reinforce their army with the required men, and the talk of an attack was halted.

C. Richmond War Council, April 14, 1862
In this piece, Harsh talks about the possibility of the April 14 date not being accurate.

D. Jeffersonton War Council, August 24, 1862
Here Harsh talks about the possibility that this war council never happened. Apparently the only source is Henry Kyd Douglas, a member of Jackson’s staff with known hyperbolic tendencies. Douglas Southall Freeman does not believe the meeting took place, but Harsh says it was certainly possible, as the reputed members were all in the area on that date.

Appendix 5: Notes on Lee and the Campaign around Richmond, June 1-August 14, 1862

A. Lee and Stuart’s Ride around McClellan

Harsh questions Stuart’s use of such a large force to colllect the desired information about McClellan’s supply line, and also his orders to destroy wagons and collect supplies. Harsh points out that this ran the risk of drawing attention to the vulnerability of McClellan’s base at White House, and Ed Bearss goes so far as to suggest that it did exactly that, causing McClellan to make the decision to change his base as early as June 18, 1862.

B. Lee and Federal Reinforcements at Harrison’s Landing, July 5, 1862
Lee saw Federal reinforcements arriving at Harrison’s Landing with his own eyes, but they were only two brigades totalling 5,000 men from McDowell’s Department around Fredericksburg. Lee may have thought these were Burnside’s IX Corps or other troops.

C. Lee and the Replacement of Huger, Holmes, Magruder, and Whiting
Harsh does not agree with the commnonly held view that Lee was the driving force behind the replacement of these generals. He says that only in the case of Huger does evidence even begin to hint that this was the case.

D. Lee and Pope’s Orders
Lee apparently disliked both Pope’s orders and the man himself. He used unchararcteristic language to describe Pope as a “miscreant” and also to say he needed to “suppress” the Northern general.

E. Coggins Point, July 31, 1862
This piece refers to Lee’s oders to D.H. Hill to shell McClellan’s base at Harrison’s Landing in a surprise attack. Harsh says that Freeman believed the purpose was to allow more troops to be sent to Jackson. Harsh believes that the operation was intened to cover the transfer of A. P. Hill to Jackson. In other words, Hill was going to Jackson no matter what. Lee just wanted to distract McClellan to hide their departure.

F. Lee and Burnside’s Destination
In addition to Pope and McClellan, Lee knew that Bunside’s IX Corps could show up anywhere as an additional threat or as a reinforcement for the other two. Harsh does not believe the assertion made by Charles Marshall that Lee knew of Burnside’s whereabouts and that he also knew the Federals were still deciding how best to use his force.

G. Lee’s Decision to Supersede Jackson, August 9, 1862
Reader Brad Meyer believes this two one of the two most interesting subjects in the book. He says in a comment to Part 6 of my overview:

Here I think you gloss over one of the two of the really interesting points in the whole book. The first concerns what spurred Lee to send Longstreet to suspercede Jackson. Harsh doesn’t speculate on the cause but I think it quite possible that the final straw might have been Jackson message of 8 Aug anouncing the botched march of that date along with Jackson’s expectation “of little success” due to the botch. The other is the events surrounding the issuance of SO 181 moveing troops to Gordonsville when all the troops involved were either already there or on the march. Harsh does devote an appendix to this with much speculation, but none of it really satisfying. I wonder if Lee had felt so pressured he made the initial moves without informing Davis and took the opportunity to effectively resync Davis with the actual reality of the situation. It is more deviousness then Lee was wont to display, but it was the worst conditions he faced until the end of the war.

Harsh’s comments on this subject indicate that he waffles a bit as to the level of Lee’s dissatisfaction with Jackson due to no direct evidence from Lee. He points out that Lee did not have to send Longstreet’s command north to reinforce Jackson, especially considering it was located further away than other forces. In addtion, Longstreet was ordered to move to Gordonsville as early as August 9. Lee addressed letters to Longstreet at Gordonsville as “commanding, &c., Gordonsville”, indicating that Lee recognized Longstreet as the senior general at that location over Jackson. He also provides evidence suggesting that Lee originally had planned to stay near Richmond to watch McClellan instead of leaving to command versus Pope. Lee’s orders to Longstreet ordering him to Gordonsville (SO 181) were dated August 13 instead of August 9, and as Brad mentions above, Harsh speculates on exactly why this may have occurred. After reading over Brad’s theory, I think it is definitely a good possibility. It is similar in some respects to Lee’s decision to move north into Maryland in early September before ever receiving explicit permission from Davis to do so.

H. Lee’s Knowledge of McClellan’s Withdrawal from the Peninsula
Harsh says there is no evidence that Lee knew of McClellan’s withdrawal from the Peninsula at the time he sent Longstreet to reinforce Jackson. He further says that some evidence DOES exist to suggest that Lee thought McClellan was still there.

I. Lee’s Report to Davis of August 14, 1862
In this report, Lee ironically shadows what McClellan did when leaving for the Peninsula. He claims he has left 72,000 men for the defense of Richmond, when in fact the number is much lower. Harsh says Lee includes R. H. Anderson’s Division in this calculation even though he knows he has already ordered him north, and Lee used aggregate present and absent, a figure much, much larger than Present for Duty or Effectives and one the Confederates very rarely used. Harsh concludes that Lee was trying to put the best face possible on the situation, exactly as McClellan had done earlier. What Harsh doesn’t add is that the reaction of the two Presidents to this news shows in a nutshell the differences in trust between each leader and his general.

Appendix 6: Notes on Lee and the Campaign against Pope, August 15-September 1, 1862

A. Lee’s Orders of August 16-19, 1862
Harsh discusses the absence of some written orders for this period for the proposed attack against Pope along the Rapidan.

B. Lee’s Visit to Clark’s Mountain
There is some confusion over when Lee visited Clark’s Mountain and viewed Pope’s Army in its retreat from the Rapidan River line. Harsh agrees with Freeman and places the event on August 19. I infer from this piece that the other commonly accepted date would be August 18.

C. Lee’s Dispatch to Davis of August 24, 1862
Harsh discusses the timing of this dispatch in terms of the hour of the day in which it was written. Harsh believes the evidence points to Lee having written the dispatch prior to meeting with Jackson and ordering him on the turning movement through Thoroughfare Gap.

D. Jackson’s Route to Manassas Junction
Harsh discusses the recollection of Jackson’s engineer Capt. Boswell about what he knew when he led the turning movement. Harsh disagrees with Freeman in the interpretation of this recollection.

E. The Timing of Lee’s March To Follow Jackson
Harsh discusses if Lee left to support Jackson after thinking he had observed Pope leaving on August 26. The problem with the date is that Pope did not go after Jackson until August 27. Harsh believes Sigel’s premature withdrawal on August 26 is what LEe observed, and could have led him to conclude Pope was already moving away to confront Stonewall.

F. Jackson’s Movements on the Night of August 27, 1862
Apparently Jackson’s night march on this date was filled with confusion. Hill ended up at Centreville, and Ewell had followed him. Harsh discusses Freeman’s interpretation of events. Harsh believes that Jackson waited until the morning of August 28 to figure out where eveyone was before ordering them to concentrate north of Groveton.

G. The Lee-Longstreet Disagreement on August 29
Here Harsh discusses the matter of Lee wanting to attack and Longstreet demurrung several times on August 29. Harsh believes that Lee felt he had to rescue Jackson, hence his willingness to fight whereas before he had not intended to give battle in this campaign.

H. Defects of the Confederate Line at Second Manassas
The Confederates had exterior lines at Manassas due to Lee’s decision to place Longstreet at an obtuse angle to Jackson when he could have simply had him continue Jackson’s line west paralleling the Warrenton Turnpike. This meant the Confederates would have difficulty reinforcing any section of the line whihc was attacked in heavy force. It was for this reason that Longstreet started his flank attack on August 30 rather than sending Jackson some reinforcements.

I. Lee’s Injury, August 31, 1862
Apparently Lee’s injury to his hands on August 31 is shrouded in mystery. Harsh sorts through conflicting evidence to describe why and how it happened, and who was present at the time.

J. Lee’s Movements on August 31, 1862
This subject also is full of contradictions. Harsh concludes that Lee injured his hands in early midmorning near the Stone Breidge, a meeting with Longstreet and Jackson took place just before or after the injury, and that Lee ordered Jackson to start a turning movement before 11 A.M., with Jackson getting underway at least by noon.

Again, I want to thank everyone on the various message boards for recommending these books to me. Harsh’s first book at least was unfailingly interesting. The author presented his views and reasoned why he believes the theories he presents. He even discusses alternate possibilities and whether or not they might be correct in his appendices. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you are at all interested in Civil War strategy this book should be high on your list if you do not own it already. I will be continuing on now to Harsh’s next volume, Taken At The Flood, which picks up on September 1, 1862 and takes us through Lee’s strategy during the Antietam Campaign.

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One response to “Confederate Tide Rising, Part 8”

  1. Larry Freiheit Avatar
    Larry Freiheit

    I read with interest your comments on Harsh and saw that you mentioned two master’s theses you consulted and owned: Allen on Second Manassas, and Tenney on Seven Days. I have had no luck in buying these. May I ask where you bought yours? Are you interested in selling yours?
    Thank you,

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