Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Union Discovers "Lost Order"


In 1862, “Union soldiers [found] a copy of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's orders detailing the Confederates' plan for the Antietam campaign near Frederick, Maryland. But Union General George B. McClellan was slow to act, and the advantage the intelligence provided was lost.”

Sergeant John Bloss and Corporal Barton W. Mitchell found a piece of paper wrapped around three cigars, realized what it was, and passed it up the chain of command. Purely by accident, the division adjutant general, Samuel Pittman, recognized the handwriting (it was from a colleague from the prewar army, Robert Chilton) who happened to be the adjutant general to Robert E. Lee. Pittman took the paper to McClellan. McClellan crowed at his potential victory.

And then he did nothing.

He thought Lee had greater numbers than the Confederates actually did, took 18 hours to get his army in motion, and to top it all off, Lee was alerted to the approaching Federals, and sent troops to plug the gaps in his own army.

The press dubbed McClellan "Mac the Unready" and "The Little Corporal of Unsought Fields".
Ordered to relinquish command from the War Department, McClellan did so on Nov. 9, 1862. In true New Jersey fashion, he then went on to play an active roll in state politics. Yeah, we haven’t had a good governor in centuries…

1 comment:

Susan Macatee said...

Great posts, Christine. I've enjoyed reading all of them.