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Numerical strength of the armies at Gettysburg.

by Colonel Walter H. Taylor, A. A. G., A. N. V.
[The following explanation and correction of his former article was sent by Colonel Taylor simultaneously to the Philadelphia Times and to us. We exceedingly regret that its publication in our Papers has been unavoidably delayed until now:]

As my account of the battle of Gettysburg was first given to the public in your columns, I respectfully ask space therein sufficient to make the following explanation and correction of the statement of the strength of the Confederate Army then made in that campaign:

I would premise with the mention of the fact that two kinds of returns of the strength of the army were required to be made to the Department during the war — the one a “field return,” made twice a month (on the 10th and 20th), and the other a “monthly return,” made on the last day of each month.

In the field returns there was a column for the “officers present for duty,” and one for “enlisted men present for duty” ; the sum of the two would give the “effective total” as generally understood — that is, the fighting strength.

In the monthly report the arrangement was different: there was a column for each grade of officers, both of the line and staff, and also a column for sergeants, one for corporals, and one for privates-enlisted men. There was then a column headed “effective total,” which embraced only the enlisted men present for duty — that is, the non-commissioned staff, sergeants, corporals, and privates; there being no column for the aggregate of the commissioned officers present for duty.

There are many methods of comparing the strength of opposing armies. The one adopted by me was to take the “effective total,” or the sum of the officers and enlisted men present for duty, [240] excluding all consideration of the special or extra-duty men, those sick, and those in arrest. As this manner of estimating was applied to both armies, it seemed to me the most equitable and satisfactory.

In taking notes from the returns on file in the Archive Office at Washington, I aimed to arrive at the “effective total.” This in the “field returns” was readily determined by adding together the officers and enlisted men present for duty; but in the case of the “monthly reports” it was a very natural error for one to take the addition of the column headed “effective total” as representing the effective strength. Now, it so happened that the basis of my estimate of the strength of General Lee's army at Gettysburg was the monthly report of the 31st May, 1863, and not a field return. I, therefore, took the total amount of the column headed “effective total” --viz., 68,352-as representing what is generally understood by that term, and under the impression that the extensions under that column embraced the officers and men present for duty.

I was the more naturally led into this error, as Mr. Swinton, whose figures I had before me, had done precisely the same thing. Lieutenant-General Early having directed my attention, on the 9th instant, to the discrepancy between certain figures given by General Humphreys from the same return to the Comte de Paris and mny own, and having expressed his apprehension that I took the figures from the column headed “effective total,” inasmuch as, excluding the cavalry, the strength of the army as taken from the field return of the 20th May, 1863, was greater than that taken from the monthly report of the 31st May, 1863, I began to suspect that the officers were not included in the estimate given. I at once made application to the War Department for the information necessary to settle the matter, and having been kindly favored with a prompt reply to my request, I have been enabled to review my figures, and find that the estimate of strength on the 31st May, 1863, does not include the officers present for duty. At that date the effective strength of General Lee's army was as follows: Longstreet's command, 29,171; A. P. Hill's command, 30,286; cavalry, 10,292; artillery, 4,702. Total effective of all arms, 74,451. And carrying out the same reasoning as that originally pursued, I would say that General Lee had at Gettysburg, including all the cavalry, 67,000 men — that is to say, 53,500 infantry, 9,000 cavalry, and 4,500 artillery. [241]

Of course this number was not available to him at any one time, as I have previously explained, but I prefer to adopt the greatest number as shown by the official reports; and in like manner I would persist in estimating the strength of the Federal army by the statement of General Hooker to General Halleck, made on the 27th day of June, to the effect that his “whole force of enlisted men present for duty would not exceed 105,000.”

As General Hooker thus gave only his enlisted men present for duty, perhaps the figures originally given by me as the strength of General Lee's army — that is say, 67,452 on the 31st May, 1873, and 62,000 at Gettysburg — should be employed in the comparison, as they represent also his enlisted men present for duty.

For if we add to the 105,000 enlisted men of the Federal army the same proportion for officers as that found in the Confederate army, it would raise the effective strength of the former to fully 115,000 on the 27th day of June, four days previous to the battle. View these figures as one will, the disparity in numerical strength is very apparent.

Historical accuracy being my great aim in all that I have to say upon this subject, I hasten to correct the error into which I have inadvertently fallen along with Mr. Swinton.

Strength of the army of Northern Virginia, May 31st, 1863.

commands.Present for Duty.Effective Total.
Enlisted Men.Officers.
First Army Corps:
General Staff13
Anderson's Division6,797643
McLaws' Division6,684627
Hood's Division7,030690
Pickett's Division6,072615
Total First Corps26,5832,58829,171
Second Army Corps:
General Staff17
A. P. Hill's Division8,501798
Rodes' Division7,815648
Early's Division6,368575
Johnson's Division5,089475
Total Second Corps27,7732,51330,286
Total effective Army of Northern Virginia 74, 4561

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