Historians as numerologists (recap)

If you are joining us late, we are considering the spectacle of ACW historians who relate to strength figures in an occult way - through hunches, instincts, what feels right, and what they've "always believed."

We've noted that the occult numbers dealt out by Civil War historians are then used to cast spells on the reputations of battlefield commanders who are labeled "timid" or "deluded" or at least "ill informed" if they do not leverage their numerological (as opposed to numerical) advantages over the enemy.

At the root of this wizardry is the conceit of "factual evidence." This is implied rather than displayed because the numbers found in Civil War history are rarely numbers earned by research, analysis or any discipline commonly associated with historical method. They are on the level of guesses with no pretense of research attached to them. They are as occult as the blood in stool.

The reader, then, must be careful around Civil War writers dealing in numbers, for he faces an carefree author denouncing the opinions of real men facing real situations who were counting and accounting as if their lives depended on it.

The reader should also keep in mind that the historian will never consider "the enemy in front" when he can take the easy way out of equating that with "the enemy army in front" - before miscounting the army in front!

The enemy in front consists of the enemy army in front plus all those military formations not under the control of the commander of the army in front. It consists of all those emergency men ordered to the colors who are not part of the regular establishment and muster rolls. It can also include regular formations in theatre available to join the army to the front. And it includes every type of auxiliary armed force.

We have seen Joe Johnston's Valley army reinforced by the mobilization of white male Virginians aged 18-45 and we have seen Patterson note an "explosion" (David Detzer) in the size of Johnston's force. Patterson is not declared crazy and that is progress indeed.

What we want to do next is look at what every Union commander knew about Confederate mobilization - and the implications of that knowledge on force estimates.

I had promised to look at Livermore's tally of auxiliary forces, but that can wait...