Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The 1962 Stinson Study: Eighth Entry

The situation in the West Woods at
09:00 hrs. Cope Map, 1908.
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 eighth (and last) entry from his report: Appendix E-Confederate Order of Battle.

"Appendix E--Confederate Order of Battle

From the Confederate viewpoint, the operations against Sedgwick's Division involved such an assortment of units and timing factors that they will be the subject of a separate report.

The diagrams in the body of this report indicate Confederate units present in the various phases of the action thus rendering a written resume of the units beyond the scope of the present project.

The Confederate forces which at one time or another engaged Sedgwick seem to have numbered between 7,000 and 10,000 men.

The table below lists the units and the estimate of their numbers as given by Palfrey and Allan.

Palfrey[1] Allan[2]
Early's Brigade of Lawton's Division
1,000 1,000
J.R. Jones' (Jackson's) Division (4 badly reduced
brigades under Colonels Grigsby and Stafford)
600 300
McLaws' Division (Cobb's, Barksdale's, Kershaw's & Semmes' Brigades)
3,000 - - - - 
McLaws' Division (less Cobb's Brigade)
- - - - 2,550
G.T. Anderson's Brigade of D.R. Jones' Division
600 600
Walker's Division (Ransom's and Manning's Brigades)
3,200 3,000
Other mixed units
1,600 - - - -
10,000 7,450

It is believed that Allan's is the better estimate of the two because he deducts Cobb's Brigade which was engaged elsewhere and rather than attempt to estimate the numbers of the 'Mixed' units he states that, regardless of strength, they were made up for by the units of the I and XII Corps which were also in the general area.

This concentration of force to meet the crisis was effected through Lee's use of interior lines. The list below gives the units of the attack force and their location at 8:00, at which time Sedgwick's Division was already west of the Antietam.

McLaw's Division
In reserve at Lee's Headquarters, 2 miles from the Dunker Church.
G.T. Anderson's Brigade
In line of battle (not engaged) on the site of the National Cemetery, about 1 1/4 miles from the Dunker Church.
Walker's Division
On the extreme right of the line covering Snavely's Ford, about 2 1/2 miles from the Dunker Church.

It hardly needs to be mentioned that a serious Federal demonstration or attack directed against Lee's right between 8:00 and 9:00 would have compromised the allocation of these forces.

 The remainder of the Confederate Army was disposed as follows:

J.R. Jones' Division
On the left in the West Woods seriously depleted from the morning's combat.
Lawton's Division
In worse condition that above. Three of four brigades off the line attempting to regroup. Early's Brigade supporting Stuart and in good condition.
Hood's Division
Engaged in Cornfield-East Woods. Losses so heavy that it will be pulled off line before 9:00.
D.H. Hill's Division
Three brigades heavily engaged in support of Hood. Will be practically dispersed by 9:00. Other two brigades responsible for Sunken Road front.
Evan's Independent Brigade
Responsible for front between Sunken Road and Boonsboro Road.
D.R. Jones' Division
Responsible for long front between site of National Cemetery and Snavely's Ford.
R.H. Anderson's Division
In reserve at Lee's Headquarters
A.P. Hill's Division
In Harpers Ferry area, 8 hours removed from Sharpsburg.

Notes ====

Cope map is Antietam Battlefield Board, Maps of the Battlefield of Antietam. 14 sheets. Surveyed by Lieut. Col. E.B. Cope. Washington: United States War Department, 1904 and Revised 1908.

 [1] "Palfrey 89-90." Francis Winthrop Palfrey, The Antietam and Fredericksburg (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1882)."

 [2] "Allan, 405-406. William Allan, The Army of Northern Virginia in 1862 (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1892).

Monday, December 24, 2012

The 1962 Stinson Study: Seventh 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 seventh entry from his report: Appendix D-The "Ambush" Question.

"Appendix D-The 'Ambush' Question
The West Woods 2013

Efforts have been made during the past year or so, on the part of the staff of the Antietam National Battlefield Site, to have the term 'ambush' condemned as a description of Sedgwick's defeat in the West Woods. The effort has been successful to the extent that labels in the new visitor center will refrain from use of the word. However, the heading 'Jackson Prepares an Ambush' has not yet been changed in the battlefield Handbook, nor the story of a deliberately laid trap which follows. Popular accounts of the battle have also propagated this misconception. There are two major reasons why it is important that Sedgwick's defeat should not be called an ambush.

1. An 'ambush' is defined as 'a post or tactical trap of troops in wait, concealed for the purpose of attacking an enemy by surprise.' The term carries a connotation of stealth and deliberate concealment. For reasons that will be denoted later, this simply did not occur. Use of the term 'ambush' implies that they did and is therefore incorrect.

2. Other parts of the battle story must conform when the term 'ambush' is used, thereby, giving rise to further false information. This is particularly true with the operations of Greene's Division and those of the 34th New York and 125th Pennsylvania, both of which must be misrepresented to clear the area where the 'ambush' is supposed to have been set up.

It is hope that the Operations section of this report has supplied evidence to discredit use of the term 'ambush' in connection with Sedgwick's defeat. The following points should bolster the facts in that section and prove beyond any doubt that no ambush took place in the West Woods.

1. Jackson made every effort to contain Sedgwick's advance and to drive him from the West Woods before McLaws and Walker arrived. This is evident by the artillery fire directed at Sedgwick during his approach and the desperate resistance encountered by Gorman's Brigade.

2. The 125th Pennsylvania and later the 34th New York were engaged in the very area where an ambush would have to have been set up, before the main part of Gorman's Brigade crossed the Pike.

3. If the above was not sufficient warning that trouble might be expected from the left, the fact that the two regiments were driven out before all of Sedgwick's Division entered the woods surely was. Colonel Owen of Howard's Brigade even suggested that the brigade oblique to the left to meet the danger. None of this implies the sudden springing of a carefully laid trap.

4. Confederate reports indicate that their reinforcements were committed to the attack upon arrival with no attempt at concealment or waiting for the opportune moment to strike. The following extracts from the reports of the commanders directly concerned with Sedgwick's defeat are offered to support this point. 

A. (Maj. Gen. T. J. Jackson) 'The force in front [of Early] (the 125th Pennsylvania and 34th New York) was giving way under this attack when another heavy column of Federal troops was seen moving across the plateau on his left flank. By this time, the expected re-enforcements...arrived, and the whole, including Grigsby's command, now united, charged upon the enemy, checking his advance, then driving him back with great slaughter entirely from and beyond the wood..." [1]

B. (Brig. Gen. J.G. Walker) '...we at once formed line of battle, and...the division, with Ransom's brigade on the left, advanced in splendid style, firing and cheering as they went, and in a few minutes cleared the woods, strewing it with the enemy's dead and wounded.' [2]

C. (Maj. Gen. L. McLaws) 'My advance was ordered before the entire line of General Kershaw could be formed. As the enemy were filling the woods so rapidly, I wished my troops to cross the open space between us and the woods before they were entirely occupied. It was made steadily and in perfect order, and the troops were immediately engaged, driving the enemy before them in magnificent style at all points, sweeping the woods with the perfect ease and inflicting great loss on the enemy.' [3]

D. (Brig. Gen. J.A. Early) (Narrative begins just after Early's Brigade had drive out the 125th Pennsylvania and 34th New York.) 'I also discovered another body of the enemy moving across the plateau on my left flank, in double-quick time, (Dana and Howard) to the same position, and I succeeded in arresting my command and ordered it to retire, so that I might change front and advance upon this force. Just as I reformed my line...McLaws' division came up, and the whole, including Grigsby's command, advanced upon this body of the enemy, driving it with great slaughter entirely from and beyond the woods..." [4]

To conclude this discussion it may be said on the basis of all available evidence, use of the term 'ambush' in reference to Sedgwick's defeat is not only misleading but grossly incorrect." [5]

Next: Appendix E--Confederate Order of Battle


Statements and words bracketed by (  ) and [   ] above are Stinson's.

[1] "O.R., 956 (Jackson)." 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] "O.R., 915 (Walker)."

[3] "O.R., 858 (McLaws)."

[4] "O.R., 971 (Early)."

[5] "Longstreet 246 exhibits a diagram which shows Sedgwick's Division moving through the West Woods, passing across the fronts of J.R. Jones on its right and Walker on its left. Longstreet's account of the operation (pp. 245-248) is as incorrect as his diagram and bears no resemblance whatsoever to the West Woods action which it is supposed to be describing. This work is completely useless as reference material for this phase of the Battle of Antietam." James Longstreet, From Manassas to Appomattox (Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott Co., 1896). 

{Author's note: "Ambush" in the West Woods has a long history. While neither Palfrey or Walker use the term in their studies of the fight in the West Woods, Carman, writing later, states "It would be a simple matter to say that Sedgwick's Division of 5,000 men marched into an ambush, ..." About a hundred years later,  September 2013 tour participants were promised that they would "walk the advance of Sedgwick's division to their impending ambush in the West Woods." }