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Campaigns of the civil war — ChancellorsvilleGettysburg.

A review of General Doubleday by Colonel Wm. Allan.

No volume of this valuable series covers a period of more absorbing interest than General Doubleday's account of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. These were two of the greatest battles of the war, and the last, though not the decisive struggle it is often represented, marked the supreme point of southern effort, and was followed by unmistakable and growing signs of exhaustion. The book, as we might expect from the character and rank of its author, is a clear and painstaking narrative of events in which he bore a distinguished part. It is valuable as the carefully prepared statement of a Federal General officer who was a prominent participant, especially at Gettysburg, in the great campaign of 1863. It is well illustrated by fairly good maps, and in this respect contrasts very agreeably with most of the preceding numbers of the series.

General Doubleday's statement of the Federal movements at Chancellorsville is clear and good, and he apportions the blame for its disaster there much more justly between Hooker, Howard, and Sedgwick than does Colonel Dodge, in his more elaborate and most excellent work on this battle. There can be no doubt that the overwhelming rout of the Eleventh corps by Jackson was largely due to Howard's taking none but the feeblest precautions against a flank attack, and that too in spite of the fact that he knew Jackson to be moving all day across his front, and had been warned by Hooker to be on his guard. Again, though Sedgwick showed tardiness and lack of enterprise in pushing up from Fredericksburg, General Doubleday sees so clearly the immensely greater blunder of Hooker in lying idle at Chancellorsville with (besides the troops that had been engaged) “37,000 fresh men” in front of “17,000 worn out men,” while Sedgwick was being beaten, that he thinks Hooker must have been incapacitated for command by his wounds of the day before. He says: “The concussion must have effected his brain.”

General Doubleday is more of annalist than historian, and is of course mainly occupied with the blunders of his own superiors. He could hardly be expected to describe in fitting terms the splendid strategy of Lee, the no less magnificent audacity and skill of Jackson, and the courage and determination of those 60,000 Confederates who throttled “the finest army on the planet,” (as Hooker with pardonable pride termed it) on the south bank of the Rappahannock and hurled it, though doubly as numerous, bleeding and powerless beyond that stream. [171]

But while there is much to praise, the prominence of the distinguished author makes it all the more necessary to point out some of the errors he has made. We may allude, in passing to the fondness General Doubleday has for the term “Rebel” instead of “Confederate,” a small matter, but showing a tendency of mind not exactly historical. But there are graver matters, for instance, on page 37, in describing the gallant charge of Major Kernan, of the Eighth Pennsylvania cavalry, at Hazel Grove, he says: “At 34 years of age, literally impaled on the bayonets of the enemy, he laid down his life and saved the army from capture and his country from the unutterable degradation of the establishment of slavery in the Northern States.” The idea contained in the close of this sentence is repeated elsewhere in the book. Now, it may be permitted to a brave man like General Doubleday to become enthusiastic over the gallant charge of a handful of cavalry, even to the extent of greatly exaggerating the results of their devotion, but he has no right to say that the issue fought over was the “establishment of slavery in the Northern States.” The Southern States never aimed at anything of the kind; they fought for independence, and no more desired or expected, in the event of success, to extend their institutions over the North than did the American colonies, at the close of the Revolution, desire or expect to turn the Mother country into a Federal Republic.

Again, General Doubleday shows a conspicuous inability to deal fairly with the question of numbers. This is manifested frequently in his book, but we will content ourselves with examining one of the most notable instances, his enumeration of the forces at Gettysburg, on page 123. He says:

The two armies * * * were in numbers as follows according to the estimate made by the Count of Paris, who is an impartial observer, and who has made a close study of the question.

The Army of the Potomac, under General Meade, 82,000 men and 300 guns.

The Army of Northern Virginia, under General Lee, 73,500 men and 190 guns.

Stuart had 11,100 cavalry and 16 guns.

Pleasanton had about the same number of cavalry and 27 guns.

The Count of Paris is hardly entitled to the character of an “impartial observer.” He is frequently one-sided, and in his earlier volumes, especially, seems to have troubled himself but little about information that did not proceed from the side on which he fought. But letting this pass, it seems hardly possible, and yet it is a fact, that General Doubleday has seriously misstated the Count, and in favor of his own [172] side. In a letter from the Count of Paris (Southern Historical papers, vol. VI, page 10), from which General Doubleday seems to have quoted, the former credits General Lee with 73,500 men of all arms on July 1st, and says: “If we deduct the cavalry on both sides, we can say that the Southern General fought with 62,000 or 63,000 men and 190 guns, the 80,000 or 82,000 men and 300 guns with which Meade encountered him at Gettysburg.” General Doubleday has evidently counted Stuart's cavalry twice in the above statement, while he has counted Pleasanton's cavalry but once.

But why at this day should General Doubleday resort to the complicated calculations by which the Count of Paris, several years ago, and in the absence of the official returns, attempted to arrive at the numbers of the Federal army on July 1st, 1863? General Meade's official return for June 30th, the day before the battle of Gettysburg began, has been more than once published. It is given in the article of General Early, which follows in the Southern Historical papers the very letter from which General Doubleday quotes, and of course it settles the question as to Meade's numbers. It gives the “present for duty” in the Federal infantry and artillery at that date as 89,283, and gives the strength of the cavalry as taken from the return of May 31st (that for June not having been made in the cavalry), as 10,192. Now, on July 2d two brigades, not included above, joined Meade, viz: Stannard's Vermont brigade and Lockwood's Maryland brigade. These are estimated by General Humphreys at 2,500 each, or 5,000 for the two. In regard to the cavalry, after the return of May 31st was made Stahl's brigade of 6,100 men joined Hooker, but the Federal cavalry suffered severely in the fights and marches of June, and Dr. Bates as well as other Federal authorities, estimate that it did not exceed 12,000 on July 1. (Its strength on July 10 was 11,842.) Hence, adding the 5,000 infantry, we have 94,283 as the “present for duty” in the Federal infantry and artillery at Gettysburg, and adding the 12,000 cavalry, we have Meade's “present for duty” of all arms as 106,283. (As appears from the return of July 10, this number should be still further increased a few hundreds by some batteries which were omitted from the return of June 30.) Meade s return contains a heading not used in Confederate reports--“present for duty, equipped, which contains only those actually available for the line of battle” ; that is, it omits all general and staff officers, provost guard, engineer brigade, signal corps and guards and orderlies, and includes only line officers and men. Under this head the return of June 30 gives 83,900 infantry and artillery. Add Stannard's and Lockwood's 5,000 and the 12,000 [173] cavalry, and we have 100,900 for Meade's fighting strength for actual line of battle. Why, in all fairness, did not General Doubleday take this return of June 30 for the Federal strength, or show cause for rejecting it in favor of the speculations of the Count of Paris, made evidently without a knowledge of it?

It is a more difficult matter to arrive with exactness at General Lee's strength, because no return of his army has been found later than May 31. At that date his “Present for duty” was 64,159 infantry and artillery, and 10,292 cavalry--total 74,451. Between that date and July 1, Corse's brigade of five regiments, and three regiments of Early's division, that had been included in this return, were detached, and left behind in Virginia, while Pettigrew's brigade of four regiments, two regiments that had been in West Virginia, and “perhaps two other regiments in Davis' newly formed brigade,” had been added to Lee's infantry. These infantry additions may be taken as off-setting the infantry detached, and therefore not affecting the question. Besides these changes there were added to Lee's army the two cavalry brigades of Jenkins and Imboden. Both the Count of Paris and Colonel Taylor, of General Lee's staff, estimate the strength of three cavalry brigades at 3,000 men.

The Count and some other writers, have imagined, without a single fact on which to base the supposition, that the Confederate army was increased by the return of sick and deserters, and by the arrival of conscripts during the month of June, though it was engaged in an active campaign, and was moving from its own base into hostile territory. General Early clearly shows in the article above referred to, that this was not so, and that on the contrary his own division lost from sickness and straggling ten per cent. of its strength between May 31 and June 30, and by July 1 it had probably decreased fifteen per cent. The return of Rodes's division made at Carlisle a few days before the battle, shows a decrease of five per cent. in his strength as compared with May 31. These are the only two divisions whose returns near the date of the battle have been found, so far as I know. To sum up — Stuart's cavalry was increased by 3,000 after May 31, but like the Federal cavalry had been seriously lessened by severe marching and fighting. If the Federal cavalry could only muster 12,000 out of 16,000 on July 1, Stuart could not have had over 10,000 or 11,000 out of 13,300. But of Stuart's seven brigades three (Robertson's, Jones's and Imboden's) were not present at Gettysburg, having been engaged (like French's Federal division at Frederick, which is not included in [174] Meade's numbers) in protecting communications, guarding supplies, &c., in the rear. So Stuart had 6,000 or 7,000 cavalry at Gettysburg.

The Confederate infantry and artillery numbered 64,159 less the small losses in the battles about Winchester, and the far greater losses from the exhaustion of a march of two hundred miles. These losses have been variously estimated at from 5,000 to 11,000 men. So far no returns have been found that would fix the latter with exactness, but it is very evident that Lee's infantry and artillery “present for duty” July 1st, did not reach 60,000 men, and that 66,000 or 67,000 men of all arms, “present for duty,” is a liberal statement of his force.

The Confederate returns had no column for “present for duty equipped,” hence this estimate of Lee's force is to be compared with Meade's 106,283 “present for duty” of all arms.

The above sample of the way in which General Doubleday has dealt with the numbers of the combatants is not calculated to give a favorable impression of the impartiality with which he has treated his subject. His book is, however, a useful contribution to the annals of the war, though the author has not been able to lay aside the partisan sufficiently to rise to the true level of history.

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