Atlanta's numbers

Crimes against numbers, being the special mark of the Civil War historian, always catch my eye.

The question of Johnston's strength during the Atlanta campaign and at the point of relinquishing command to J.B. Hood is a controversy of which I have been innocent until drawn in by an aside in Stephen M. Hood's new book The Lost Papers of Confederate General John Bell Hood:
...Johnston had declared that during his May and June operations in North Georgia his army had lost 9,972 men, killed and wounded, in his infantry and artillery. Many subsequent writers had contented themselves with simply repeating what Johnston had written and even had ignored the restricted nature of the general's own statement ("killed and wounded," "infantry and artillery," "May and June"). In fact, if one adds other known losses and makes reasonable estimates of deserters, stragglers, men lost as prisoners, men lost to sickness, casualties in the cavalry, and losses in the 1-17 July period, one gets a different picture. Johnston's losses then total about 25,000.
Russell Bonds has a comment on Johnston's tallies in his War Like the Thunderbolt:
Johnston only counted enlisted men armed on the front lines as "effectives," while adding every orderly, cook, staff officer, and teamster west of the Appalachians to the Federal total ... In short, Johnston's reports compared apples to oranges - Confederate "effectives" versus Union "aggregate present" - and then compounded the problem by undercounting the apples and overcounting the oranges.
This useful criticism does not get us to a larger picture of relative strengths, so I turned to another new book, Robert Jenkins' To the Gates of Atlanta: From Kennesaw Mountain to Peach Tree Creek. Its Appendix C, "Estimated Strength of Hood's Army," puts the handover at 44,400. The unit breakdowns show figures such as 4,00, 2,000, 1,000 and, not surprisingly, they come from the OR. The OR does not say who made this estimate, why or how, nor the  excessive resort to zeroes. This is not to single out Jenkins because we often see historians who cite the early information of the OR in preference to the refined data and analysis that come later.

Have a look at this article from Battles and Leaders published lifetimes ago to see the kind of rigor that would be useful if we could ever train historians to take an interest in figures. Note that the authors say "between April 30th and June 10th, [Johnston must account] for at least the following men available for battle," namely 84,328. Subtracting Stephen Hood's estimate of 25,000 lost en route to Atlanta and we come somewhat near to the Battle and Leaders authors' reckoning for Gen. Hood's new command: 65,032.

"Somewhat near" because contemporary accounts also feature an abundance of zeroes. Among the Lost Papers is another estimate made by a Kentucky regimental surgeon who writes to Gen. Hood that "... it was estimated, from despondency and our retrograde movement, the army had lost between 17,000 and 20,000 men by desertion ..." [Emphasis added.]

There is a lot of work to be done here.

Stephen Hood's book opens another door to a related matter, of which I had not heard. Bragg writes Hood on December 17, 1865:
My recollection is perfectly clear ... In addition to the Army of Tennessee, then at Dalton, the General Commanding was offered for an offensive campaign, Polk's Corps from Mississippi & Ala., Longstreet's Corps from East Tennessee, and a sufficient number from Beauregard's command in S. Carolina & Georgia to make up 75,000 effective infantry. The Cavalry with these commands numbered at least 10,000 and the artillery 6,000, total 91,000. Besides the effectives so reported there were not less than 15,000 able bodied men bearing arms but reported on extra duty such as clerks, cooks, mechanics, laborers, teamsters &c, &c. One half at least could at any time be placed in battle without impairing the efficiency of the army.
I have always considered it a great misfortune that the generous offer of President Davis was not promptly accepted, and the campaign energetically undertaken. To furnish the means all other armies were for the time being to be subordinated to the Army of Tennessee.
This is gist for an alternative history and suggests the outnumbered JJ may have been outnumbered by his own choice.


p.s. Johnston was no stranger to spin. For details on how Johnston falsified his report on Fair Oaks, see Cliff Dowdey's The Seven Days.