In your opinion, what were the top three “turning point moments” in the 1862 Maryland Campaign?
The return of George B. McClellan, replacing the over-hyped John Pope following Pope’s shocking failure at Second Manassas, is the significant turning point. Often overlooked: Henry Halleck’s arrival in the East (taking on the role as General-in-Chief of the Armies, putting an end to the experiment of President Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton operating as co- Commanders-in-Chief of the Armies.) Halleck acted as a buffer, allowing McClellan to operate without direct interference from Lincoln or Stanton.
1) The mysterious cigar wrappers, NOT for what McClellen did with them, but for what he didn’t do, Lee’s small army, split and divided, should have been hit by every Union Corps, not small gap battles.
2) McClellans overconfidence/ underperformance lifetime achievement award. Instead of massing his 200,000 troops for a war ending showdown against Lee’s not only much smaller army he dispersed his own much larger army chasing the Confederate’s breaking apart his own army. NEVER split your army when you hold a vast majoraty. Harper’s ferry ect. were gonna be lost anyway.
3) When the much larger Union army finally met the Confederates on the main battlefield McClellan, if I remember correctly only sent 2 of his 7 Corps in, and of those one was Sumners, who by all accounts couldn’t remember what he had for lunch. The other Corps was led by Hooker, who’s tactical skills consisted of running straight foreword and yelling real loud.
DISCLAIMER–Mclellen should have sent in 5 of 7 Corps he had and ended the war, period.
1. Barbara Fricke waiving her flag because it showed that Maryland, My Maryland was not working for Lee and that locals would not be joining up.
2. Taking the Sunken Road…finally
3. Lincoln finally making the determination that McClellan would not fight after not putting all of his troops in.
1. Lee deciding to follow up 2BR by invading Maryland, making a few erroneous assumptions in the process and splitting his army into separated portions on enemy turf; 2. D.H. Hill holding things up at SM; 3. McClellan apparently following the counsel of Porter in the late afternoon of September 17 and failing to throw in his unused troops against an opponent who was in dire straights with his back to a river;
Once the ’62 Maryland campaign had begun, 3 of the major turning points were:
1. Lee’s decision to split his forces to capture Harper’s Ferry because it created a vulnerability for defeat in detail.
2. Federal soldiers discovery of the lost order because it created an opportunity that even cautious George B. McClellan would attack & repel the invasion & badly damage or destroy the Army of Northern Virginia.
3. Lee’s decision to stand & fight at Antietam Creek with a portion of his Army because it exposed his army to defeat or destruction & almost certainly the end of his invasion of the North.
Try these for consideration:
1. Lee’s decision to capture Harpers Ferry and all that flows from it, including Special Orders 191
2. The mortal wounding of Israel Richardson
3. McClellan’s decision not to renew battle on the 18th
Your no. 2 may have affected who took over from McClellan in November. If one believes the bedside conversation with Richardson after his wounding and takes into account his strong Republican connections in Michigan, it’s not implausible.
I don’t know if this qualifies as an answer or not because I don’t know if the discovery of the Lost Order was a turning point or not. I’ve been doing a bit of reading about and thinking about that this year because of Dan Vermilya’s “That Field of Blood: The Battle of Antietam” and the forthcoming “To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign” by Rob Orrison and Kevin Pawlak, plus Scott Hartwig’s great talk at the Symposium. I’ve heard a lot of really good analysis about the event and its implications.
For your radar, Chris. Coming soon. Wee see the Lost Orders as having a much bigger impact. https://www.savasbeatie.com/the-tale-untwisted-george-mcclellan-and-the-discovery-of-lees-lost-orders-september-13-1862/
Alex: I assume that the 9/19 pub. date is an error?
For all the people lucky enough to hear Scott Hartwig speak at the symposium did he give a rough date for the much anticipated 2nd volume of his Maryland Campaign? The first was so amazing I have been dying for 5 years in anticipation of it’s release!!!
In order of importance:
1) Mac’s receipt of Special Orders No. 191. No orders found, no Battle of South Mountain, no fight at Sharpsburg.
2) Mac’s failure to allow a late afternoon attack on the rebel left by General Franklin. With Burnside advancing on the rebel right, Franklin could have won the fight that day.
3) Mac’s failure to follow-up the breakthrough at the Sunken Road. Lee’s center had effectively collapsed. One had push and the exhausted ANV would have broken in half.
1) The lost order of 191. This leads little Mac to take an initiative he didn’t otherwise present.
2) The taking of the South Mountain passes, as it showed Lee something was out of the norm for McClellan causing him to look for good defensible ground from which to fight the Army of the Potomac.
3) The capture of Harper’s Ferry. This freed up three divisions of men to help join Lee in putting up the defense which would lead to a stalemate, though McClellan should’ve won a resounding victory.
I agree with all of the suggestions the others have made, so here are three others:
1. McClellan’s decision, after the victory at South Mountain, to re-shuffle the command structure and re-orient placement of the forces, effectively demoting Burnside, enhancing Hooker’s authority, and “undoing” (as Scott Hartwig puts it) “the unity of command.”
2. McClellan’s not attacking on September 16 when even he knew that Lee did not have his entire army (all 120,00 (sic) of them!) in Sharpsburg.
3. Lee’s gamble to fight with the river at his back and no place to retreat.
1) the LOST ORDER
2) McClellan’s decision to launch three different attacks at different times.
3) AP Hill’s arrival late on the afternoon of September 17th.
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