Historians as numerologists (Detzer and Patterson)

In Donnybrook, David Detzer does a couple of things that set him apart from the general run of Civil War historians.

First, he makes a distinction. When he notices General Robert Patterson telling Congress about 40,000 being a strength figure for Joe Johnston in the Valley, he explains to readers that Patterson was sharing raw information and that the general himself said the report was “exaggerated.” (The norm here would be for historians to confuse a report with an estimate andthen make Patterson own the estimate.)

Second, Detzer takes the trouble to wonder about the report(s). (The norm here would be to wonder about Patterson.) What could cause such an “explosion” (Detzer) in Johnston’s numbers?

Now, broadly speaking, the ACW historian cannot be bothered to account for the more accessible Union numbers - heavens forbid that he should attempt an examination of Rebel strength. But Detzer plunges on.

He points out that Gov. Lechter mobilized the white male population of Northeast Virginia by decree on Saturday, July 13, 1861 ordering every male who could bear arms to obtain arms and report to Johston or Beauregard; three days later, the mobilization was statewide. The males of Loudon County (ages 18-45), for instance, mobilized on the 13th, were given until Monday to wrap up their affairs and then report to Johnston in Winchester.

Thousands of men poured into Johnston’s camp from many counties; Detzer does not try to count them but thinks 10% of the white male population within the mobilization age range reached the field. Those men were armed. They belong in any intelligence report, any intelligence estimate, and any half-decent Civil War history.

Using anecdotal evidence and/or assumptions and/or both, Detzer says the thousands of emergency men were diverted into performing labor by Johnson’s command. They were intended for combat.

So, two cheers for David Detzer. He has noticed those wraiths of Civil War history, the “emergency men.” But he has limited his research because the report of 40,000 concerned Johnston’s command exclusively – not the entire enemy in front of Patterson, just Johnston’s command.

The general run of historians are not that careful in their delimitings and may be baffled by that last comment. In the symmetric world of bad history, it is Pope versus Lee, Halleck versus Beauregard, army versus army, again and again. Who ever heard of an emergency influx of men?

Moreover, who ever heard of the Senior Reserve, the Junior Reserve, the militia, the Reserve Militia, the State Guard, and the other formations in theatre outside of the army establishment?

Livermore has. And these forces constitute part of the enemy in front of a commander, as we shall see.