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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Ripple Effects

So General Lee's foray into the North caused a bit of consternation:

The invasion had stirred a war-weary public in New York, but the rush of patriotism left the city and state virtually defenseless. The Pennsylvania militia had generally failed to muster for the emergency, and in the next two and a half weeks, New York sent almost sixteen thousand men to Pennsylvania—more than any of the neighboring states called on by President Lincoln. Governor Seymour telegraphed Colonel Marshall Lefferts of the Seventh Regiment to assure him the troops would not be kept any longer than necessary: “Will see the regiment is not kept longer than thirty days.”

Seymour had reason for concern. The day before Stanton's request for militia regiments, on June 14, Major General john Wool, commander of the U.S. Army's Department of the East, headquartered in New York City, had written to Seymour, warning that the eight forts in New York's harbor were woefully undermanned and the city was vulnerable to attack. Altogether, the forts had only 550 men. After the militia left, Richard Delafield of the U.S. Corps of Engineers also wrote to Seymour, calling for the harbor defenses to be properly garrisoned. “Should the enemy be successful, we are at this mo- ment without any reserve, or, indeed without any force whatever to check an advance on this city.”'

Naturally, war-weary Pennsylvania was also stirred, as Adjutant-General Lorenzo Thomas wrote to Secretary of War Stanton on July 1:

I found the citizens greatly alarmed; many of them under the impression that the rebels would take Harrisburg and march on their city. I satisfied many friends that this was impossible. Yesterday I had interviews with the Governor and General Couch, and I afterward examined the defenses; also the river as far as Middletown.

The Governor's belief at this time was that Harrisburg would certainly be attacked. I took the ground that no attack would be made at this time, as General Lee would have to turn his attention to the Army of the Potomac, rapidly approaching him. This is undoubtedly the correct view, for already Lees advanced troops are falling back for concentration.
There is a want of artillery and especially of practiced artillerists. Understanding that two companies of the Fifth Artillery were at Fort Hamilton, I last night telegraphed General Wool to send them on. They would be of great service at this time. In case General Wool objects, I hope you will have the order carried out. This measure is greatly desired by General Couch and the Governor.

Thomas telegraphed General Wool requesting two battalions of artillery be transferred from New York to Harrisburg, and informed General Couch he had done so.  Wool responded:

I have received your telegram of 30th, ordering two companies of artillery from Fort Hamilton, amounting to 155 men, effective. These constitute the garrison of the fort. I have at Fort Richmond one company of infantry; one company of infantry at Sandy Hook, and 133 men at Fort Schuyler, not well instructed in artillery drill. If you take from Fort Hamilton the artillery stationed at Fort Hamiton, you leave only one infantry company to man the batteries at Forts Hamilton and Richmond.

The Roanoke leaves to-day, leaving no vessel but those undergoing repairs All the artillery of the city has been sent to Pennsylvania. I have applied for State artillery, and as soon as it arrives, I will send you the two companies required.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant

Not so obedient, it seems!  Anyway, Wool made his own pleas to Admiral Paulding on July 2:

The Roanoke has left for Hampton Roads. Unless you can furnish us with the Passaic and two or three gunboats, New York will be in a defenseless condition. I have been ordered to send the garrison at Fort Hamilton to Harrisburg; that leaves us with only one company of infantry to man the guns of Forts Hamilton and Richmond...$100,000,000 of property may be destroyed in a few hours by any vessel of the character and speed of the Alabama. I hope you will be able to help us with some of your steamers.

Thomas was complaining to Stanton by July 3 that Wool was still objecting to his requests:

All the artillerists of this city have been sent to Harrisburg. A regiment of infantry will be forwarded to-day. I have asked the Governor of New York to send me a regiment, or less, of State artillery. I have received no reply...If I send you the two companies of artillery, numbering 155 effective men, I shall only have 460 enlisted men for duty to man the guns of nine forts, including Governors Island.

That was less than satisfactory:

Telegram received, and I regret exceedingly your unwillingness to send the two companies of artillery at Fort Hamilton. You state that all the artillerists of the city have been sent to Harrisburg. These, though no doubt excellent men, are not what is desired, for any number of such can be obtained in this State.

Practised artillerists, such as the two companies referred to, are what is desired. If, general, my first telegram had been promptly complied with, these men would have been of great service in the attack on Carlisle, and if here now, they would, in our critical period, be of one hundred times more service than they can possibly render at Fort Hamilton, in the movement on Lees flank and rear, ordered from this place.

In the emergency, it is only for me to reiterate the order to send them forward.

Then on July 4, Thomas complained again to Stanton:

Telegram received. The rebel cause is desperate, and we will now crush out the rebellion. General Smith has gone forward with all the available force, aiid as troops can be organized they will be pushed on. The artillery we have is, some of it, most indifferent. I hope General Wool will send on the two companies at Fort Hamil- ton. The New York artillerists sent here are perfectly worthless, and will have to be sent back.

But apparently some communications took place that aren't in these records, because a passive-aggressive Wool wrote to Stanton on July 5:

All the troops having been by your order sent to Harrisburg, excepting a few infantry, I was compelled to send all the rebel prisoners, excepting three or four, to Fort Warren. I have only about 400 men to man the guns of nine forts in the harbor of New York.

Generals can be a whiny lot.

Anyway, I found all the exchanges fascinating.  So many competing needs, between Pennsylvania and New York, between commands and departments, etc, all somehow being balanced whilst the enemy was threatening.  It's really amazing the Union was able to repel Lee and ultimately win the war.

Imagine if WikiLeaks had been around back then...


July 3, 2013 | Permalink


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