Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The 1962 Stinson Study: Fifth Entry

Fifty years ago, National Park Service historian Dwight E. Stinson, Jr. set out to “present a definitive study of the operations of Sedgwick’s Division at the Battle of Antietam.” What follows is the fifth entry from his report: Appendix B-Density of Formation.

"Appendix B--Density of Formation

A great deal of the criticism directed at General Sumner's conduct at Antietam stems from the fact that he deployed Sedgwick's Division in a formation too dense to allow for proper maneuverability in the event of a flank attack.
Col. Joshua T. Owen,
69th Pennsylvania
Library of Congress

[Here Stinson refers to a diagram to "illustrate the validity of such a charge." At this time the diagram and others mentioned in the report have not been located. When they are, I will add them to this site.]

The diagram above shows the formation designated by Sumner. Note that the interval is too close to allow the second and third lines to change front to the left if the forward progress of the first line is checked. This is exactly what occurred. In the diagram below it is seen that with an interval of 250 yards such a change of front to either flank could have been executed.

Even if there were no danger of a flank attack, Sumner's formation was still too dense for an approach under fire. Colonel Owen of the third line sums up this point in his report:

'I beg leave to state...as a matter worthy of discussion in a military point of view, whether the disaster was not attributable to its [the Philadelphia Brigade] having been placed in too great proximity to the other two lines, and thus, while intended to act as a reserve, subjected to as deadly a fire as those it was intended to support.' [1]

Palfrey, who was with the second line, commented:

 'The lines were so near together that the projectile that went over the heads of the first line was likely to find its billet in the second or third.' [2]

It may be concluded that the dense formation ordered by Sumner was one of the major contributing factors to the confusion, high loss, and severe defeat of Sedgwick's Division."
Next: Appendix C--Accusation of Rashness.

Source: Dwight E. Stinson, Jr. Operations of Sedgwick's Division. Unpublished, National Park Service Report, 1962. This typescript report is at the Antietam National Battlefield Library and Archives. All notes to Stinson's report are enclosed in quotes.

[1] "OR 319 (Owen)." This is Col. Joshua T. Owen, commander of the 69th Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Brigade (O.O. Howard), Sedgwick's Division, II Corps. Stinson notes in his bibliography that "All references [to the Official Records] are from Volume XIX, Part I unless otherwise cited. "[References] will be cited O.R. followed by the page number and the name of the person who submitted the report, as follows: O.R., 275 [Sumner]."

[2] "Palfrey 84." Francis Winthrop Palfrey, The Antietam and Fredericksburg (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1882)."

No comments: