Issuing orders: Winfield Scott

Winfield Scott knew something about orders.

Here's what we would have called a "frag[mentary]order" in the Army of the last century. It contains fewer elements than a complete, modern field order.

Here, Patterson asked if he should move his force towards Washington, given the developing situation. This order is complete as shown below (minus the salutation and signature).
July 23, 1861

Your force is not wanted here. It is expected you will hold Harper's Ferry unless threatened by a force well ascertained to be competent to expel you.
Short, direct, no ambiguity. Here's what you will do and here's the exception I will allow to my orders.

Now, let's look at a longer order, a warning order, issued by Scott during the Baltimore crisis. I'm going to "Fisk" it so you can see the value of each element of the order. Those of you who are ex-Army will recognize how Scott, in his thoroughness, is anticipating elements of the future five paragraph field order. This is the full order:
WASHINGTON, May 4, 1861

Major-General PATTERSON, U. S. A., Commanding, &c.:

SIR: I am sorry to learn, unofficially, that your health has not been fully established. A few days of good weather will, I hope, accomplish that desirable object.
This is the only "fluff" in the order and it has a subtext that says "I, the commander, being cognizant of your illness, nevertheless expect you to execute these orders." I take the liberty of imputing a subtext because Scott's orders are consistently fluff-free.
I have ordered the five companies of the Third Infantry, recently from Texas, now at New York, to Perryville to be united there, at Havre de Grace or Elkton, with Sherman’s battery of horse artillery, as you may direct.
These are essential coordinating instructions stating where Patterson's reinforcements are located and that although they are responding to Scott's movement orders, Patterson exercises control over these units.
My wish is that these regulars shall head any movement that may be made, by land or water, from your side upon Baltimore.
Scott has designated the RA elements as vanguard of Patterson's relief force.
The temper of Maryland, which a few days ago seemed to have undergone a very favorable change, is now believed to have suffered a relapse, that makes the movement of the six regular companies alone, by the old mail road from the Susquehanna to Baltimore, as was at first intended, hazardous, if not entirely unsafe, without a large addition of volunteers.
Scott recounts the enemy situation, and the "why" of these orders.
You will therefore hold the battalion of regulars, with the necessary addition of volunteers, ready for the combined movement from the other points (heretofore indicated), which I shall order in a few days upon Baltimore, if the route through the city be not sooner voluntarily opened.
This is the warning element of the order that tells the commander specific orders will follow. This is an order directing preparation for movement. It gives the condition that will trigger follow-on orders.
On your part, I give you the choice to move by land or water; in the latter case, letting Brigadier-General Butler, who has his water craft ready, know the day on which your commander will be ready to meet and consult him in Patapsco Bay.
Scott has given discretion to Patterson but the water choice is strictly conditional on coordination with Butler's force. It gives the location of the water element to be coordinated with, thus enabling the option.
You will also let Lieutenant-Colonel Porter, on the York road, know the probable time your commander may be expected to approach the eastern side of the city, leaving the western for General Butler’s approach. Let Brigadier-General Butler and Lieutenant Colonel Porter, as well as myself, know the morning you may appoint for the movement from your side.
More detailed coordinating instructions here, a Scott trademark. Patterson's relief column must start in the morning but Scott has allowed Patterson to select which morning after he receives his next orders. This choice of start dates is a feature of the orders Scott would issue in his two coordinated offensives of 1861; it can be perceived as a strength or weakness. We have here the conditionality of Scott issuing future movement orders to Patterson based on certain events or developments. We then have the conditionality of Patterson, who should be ready, selecting his jump-off day.

Perhaps this was Scott's nod to flexibility and a way of eliminating any subordinate's "readiness" protests.
I have just ordered Brigadier-General Butler to occupy and support a strong post at the Relay House, on the Patapsco, beginning with a regiment of volunteers. That regiment shall be instructed to take a part in the combined movement.
More excellent coordinating detail from Scott specifying where Butler will be and what the size of the coordinating military unit will be. Recall that this information is given in relation to an option. He is fully empowering Patterson to exercise that option with a minimum of fumbling around.
Exact time must be observed on all sides, to be regulated by prompt intercommunications.
Pure Scott. The "exact time" refers to the future chain-of-time-triggers that will be put into realization after Patterson's jump-off decision, as well as the times relative to the coordinating commands. Prompt "intercommunication" was enforced and lack of communication between coordinate forces cannot here be tolerated, since the commanders were warned. I want to emphasize that in reading the correspondence around Scott's Civil War operations (Baltimore and the two coordinated offensives), there is each day a flurry of coordinating instructions from Scott to the commands and these are - rarity of rarities - parallel communications, not serial. There are serial orders as well but each serial order is accompanied by a further issue of parallel orders. Similarly, Scott's subordinates in these operations are generating high traffic in coordination messages in accordance with his direction to maintain contact.

You don't see this level of written direction and unit communication in the AoP later on nor on the Confederate side contemporary with Scott. McClellan eliminated much need for unit intercommunication by having his aides move units on the battlefield; Lee issued fire-and-forget orders, one-a-day tops, serially and with major elements of information missing.

Lincoln, I think, was seriously misled by Scott's example into believing he and Stanton could manage operations by long distance. Of course, when they tried, they got the long distance part correct but could not manage the coordination.

Scott concludes,
Send the New Jersey regiments here, and we shall want for the capital seven more.

With high respect, yours, truly,
So Patterson will have to operate without the NJ troops and without seven other regiments, a major planning consideration. Were I Patterson, I might swear at this point.

If Scott had put this at the opening of the message, it would have completely distracted Patterson from the directions Scott wanted him to concentrate on. Instead, Scott had Patterson read through the commander's intent and his orders before he could begin to consider, "How am I going to do this without my NJ troops and seven other regiments?"

Wonderfully done.

These orders were random choices. Go to the OR and read Scott yourselves.