Taken At The Flood, Part 3

by Brett Schulte on January 12, 2006 · 0 comments

Taken At The Flood: Robert E. Lee & Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862
by Joseph L. Harsh

Chapter 2
“More fully persuaded”, Lee Crosses the Potomac, September 4-6, 1862

Chapter 2 covers Lee’s decision to enter Maryland, and the plan he put into place to make that happen.

“The March to Leesburg, September 4”
Early September was marked by beautiful weather, especially for an army on the march. The Confederates started to move northwest toward Leesburg in order to move to an area which would better supply the army. Fairfax County was picked clean after over a year of war. Bev Robertson’s cavalry brigade was sent to demonstrate against the fortifications around Washington in order to cover this movement. Lee had begun to recognize straggling as a problem for his army, and he sent out strict orders meant to curtail this drain on manpower. Jackson arrested A.P. Hill over his handling of the Light Division on the march, and this was partially as a result of Lee’s orderes. John Bell Hood was also arrested around this time after a dispute with “Shanks” Evans over some captured wagons. Harsh discusses whether or not the proposed movement into Maryland was an “invasion”, and he concludes that it was not. Instead, he believed that Lee wanted to live off the land for an extended period of time to relieve Virginia from the ravishes of war, though he had no intention of taking and holding any northern cities.

“Clearing the Decks”
Lee’s main goals were to alarm the Federal government and fight the Union army while the men were still reeling from the debacle at Second Manassas. In order to draw the Yankees out as quickly as possible, Lee sent D.H. Hill on a “raid” into Maryland on Sept. 4. Hill was to wreck parts of the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad to isolate the Union capital from the western loyal states. Lee knew that Lincoln’s government could not afford to sit idly by while these important transportation routes were being destroyed. Lee, in Leesburg, attempted to accomplish several things that day. He dictated orders that disbanded some of the more worn out artillery batteries and consolidated them with those in better shape. This plan only partially worked due to much resistance from the affected batteries’s members, and only 6 of these units were even temporarily disbanded as a result. Secondly, Lee decided to pare the unnecessary vehicles from his wagon train, as he wanted his army to be able to march as quickly as possible where they were going. Lee broke the news to his men about the decision to enter Maryland, and he emphasized that he wanted good behavior from them on the journey. The general also sent a dispatch to Davis about his decision on Maryland. Lee wanted ex-Maryland Governor Lowe to join him in order to speak to the people along the way and to try to encourage Marylanders to enlist in the ANV. Interestingly, he also wanted to know if he could enter Pennsylvania too if circumstances required it. Harsh believes that this was another reason the march into Maryland was not an “invasion”. Lee felt that Maryland was technically southern territory, and that there was no political reason preventing him from entering that state. Pennsylvania was clearly different. Winchester had been evacuated, and Lee figured that Harpers Ferry would also be evacuated soon. He needed this to happen in order for his supply route to Virginia through the Shenandoah Valley to be secure.

Part 1Part 2Part 3 – Part 4 (Not Yet Active)

“Leesburg War Council”
Lee wanted to know what he would be facing once he entered Maryland, and so he asked Maryland native Bradley Johnson, a brigade commander in Jackson’s wing, to brief him on the subject. Apparently Johnson did not paint an overly optimistic picture. He proceeded to tell Lee that eastern Maryland, including Baltimore and the Eastern Shore, was predominantly pro-Confederate. Unfortunately this area was under Union control. Western Maryland, upon whose soil Lee was about to step, mostly favored the North. The area was hilly and filled with German immigrants who had no use for slavery. Do to this information, Harsh believes that gaining recruits was not a main goal for Lee during the Maryland Campaign. Lee was also worried about where to cross the Potomac River. He debated crossing near Leesburg, which was much nearer the main Union Army, versus crossing further west near the Shenandoah Valley. He eventually decided to cross near Leesburg, figuring that the Union garrisons would evacuate the area around Harpers Ferry and save him the time and trouble of attacking those areas. Bradley Johnson for years afterward, always maintained this was not an “invasion” long after the war was ended. Harsh counts him as a key witness in strengthening the author’s case for an “expedition” rather than an “invasion”.

“Jackson’s Crossing”
On the morning of Sept. 5, Jackson’s troops crossed the Potomac at White’s Ford near Leesburg. D.H. Hill, already north of the river, was assigned to Jackson as well. Lee had Stuart screen Jackson’s movements, and he captured some Massachusetts cavalry at Poolesville, east of Jackson’s column. Stonewall and his wing reached Buckeystown that night. Harsh relates that the Confederates well behaved in the Maryland Campaign, and treated the civilians even better than the northern soldiers did. At this point, Lee made some minor changes in cavalry, replacing Bev Robertson with Thomas Munford, and he had detached commands recalled to their units. Lee looked to retreat to Warrenton if defeated, and Harsh relishes the irony, saying that a Union general might have been replaced or castigated if he had talked about lines of retreat before a campaign! The author next goes over some clues that Lee figured to stay in Maryland for awhile. Guns were shipped away to Richmond to be repaired and sent back to their units, presumably still in Maryland. Harsh notes that this type of reservicing would take some time. Lee also took time to designate supply routes through the Shenandoah Valley into Maryland. If Lee had embarked on a “Raid” or hit-and-run, he wouldn’t have needed to take such care in this matter. Lastly, Lee made repeated requests for ammunition, meaning he expected to fight in Maryland rather than retire if McClellan got too close. Fully 40% of Lee’s army was in Maryland by the end of the day, 50% was at Leesburg ready to cross, and Walker’s Division was seven miles south of that town. In response, 40% of the Northern Army had fanned out northwest of Washington, D.C., covering the capital and Baltimore. At this time, the future Harpers Ferry issue began to surface, as General Wool, commanding the garrison, had decided that he would not retreat. More ominously for Lee and his army, Federal morale was quickly on the rise, and the credit was due solely to George McClellan.

“Frederick Occupied, September 6”
The beautiful weather of early September grew a little less so on the following day, as the temperature rose and dust was starting to get kicked up on the march that September 6. The four divisions of Jackson’s wing reached Frederick that morning. The town was strongly pro-Union, but the civilians were treated well by the men in the ranks. Longstreet’s wing was consolidated from four divisions to three, and Longstreet crossed the Potomac that morning The divisions of Anderson and McLaws followed in the afternoon. The C&O Canal had been interrupted for 25 miles by this time. Lee talked to first Longstreet and then Jackson about the developing Harpers Ferry problem; Longstreet did not want to waste time subduing the garrison, but Jackson was all for it. At this point, Lee was within two miles of Frederick, and he issued orders combating straggling, while also announcing a Confederate victory at Richmond, Kentucky. At this point in the narrative, Harsh discusses whether or not Lee was aware of the western Confederate offensives. He believes that Lee knew about at the very least Kirby Smith’s movement north, and points out that this may have strengthened Lee’s resolve to stay in Maryland for as long as possible. Lee held two conferences that day, one with Jackson about a movement to subdue Wool at Harpers Ferry, and one with Stuart about moving east, screening the main body, and spreading conflicting info about where Lee’s army really was at any given time. At the end of September 6, Lee’s turning movement was almost complete; 90% of his army was across the Potomac. The Harpers Ferry problem still loomed, but Lee had to feel good about the way the expedition was proceeding so far. The Federals were receiving all sorts of rumors already, even before Stuart started spreading false rumors. McClellan had the 2nd and 12th Corps at Rockville, Maryland in the center, Couch’s IV Corps division at Offutt’s Crossroads on the left near the Potomac, and Burnside’s IX Corps on the right at Leesborough. Two more Union Corps crossed the Potomac that day: the First Corps was sent to reinforce Burnside, the Sixth Corps marched to Tenallytown and acted as a reserve. Around 60% of the Union Army was now north of the river. There was still no one designated to lead the Federal field force. McClellan was in charge of the defenses of Washington, D.C. only. Harsh notes that Lee was several moves ahead of his opponents at this stage of game.

NOTE: I’ve been extremely busy lately, so the detailed blog entries on Harsh will probably be postponed for a little while until I have the time to sit down and thoroughly digest each chapter. In the interim, look for many more “Reviews In Brief” and other shorter blog entries on gaming.

Check out Beyond the Crater: The Petersburg Campaign Online for the latest on the Siege of Petersburg!

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