Historians as numerologists: what Mac saw

I think most readers familiar with Fox and Livermore also know that by their careful tallies, McClellan fought every battle on the Peninsula outnumbered. This in itself should be interesting to readers of the “opportunities squandered” school of numerology, but it is only a fragment of a much worse picture for the Union.

It was McClellan’s assessment that the Rebels would mount a supreme effort to defend Richmond, which meant – as a minimum – the assignment of all available regional forces to his front. He could not conceive of the CSA doing otherwise and it is an anomaly of history that the concentration envisioned by McClellan and demanded by Johnston would be denied by Davis until Lee replaced Johnston at the very gates of the city.

Johnston himself calculated Lee’s strength in the Seven Days at 126,000 (Harsh so notes in Confederate Tide Rising). This obviously does not include the three militia regiments at Williamsburg we have previously mentioned, nor any emergency men, nor Richmond city militia, nor Carson's Division of Virginia Militia, nor any military formations outside the CSA “federal” field army structure – just Lee’s forces. We don’t know how many of those were effectives, but we know how many present for duty McClellan himself had based on the morning reports collected by the field surgeons and published in the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. He peaked in June with just over 78,000. From this number would be deducted the detachments, sick, skulkers, etc.

Johnston was good enough to break the Rebel figure down: 15,000 men from NC; 22,000 from SC and GA, 16,000 from the Valley (Jackson) totaling 53,000 reinforcements added to the 73,000 men Johnston said he had on 5/31/62. (Harsh says that later in life, Johnston changed his figuring. Wonder why.)

It is interesting to compare Johnston’s estimate with what Livermore counted in April 1862. Johnston’s Army of the Potomac = 110,000 excluding troops in the Acquia district. Ewell (apart) = 8,500. Valley District forces (Jackson) = 8,397. Huger in Norfolk = 15,143. The Department of North Carolina = 26,433. SC and GA = 40,000.

We have not counted Magruder behind his Warwick Line and yet we have reached 208,000 men in the field armies available to defend Richmond. We have not counted the state militias, reserves, home guards, etc. and we are over 208,000.

This is what McClellan saw while at the head of his 74,000 in May and his 78,000 in June.

Edwin C. Fishel, who died a bitter critic of both McClellan and Pinkerton, gives Pinkerton at least one compliment - one that is key to the entire business. He said that Pinkerton was extremely accurate in counting and identifying units in theatre: that the failure (in his opinion) came in assigning fill rates that were too high to those formations.

We have not gained in Rebel head counting much since Livermore but we have clarified the presence of Rebel units in theater and on the battlefield (which positions us to pass judgements on Pinkerton). It is time now for those Civil War historians who would let go of numerology to actually count those units as Pinkerton did and then consider their own reasonable fill rate. It will ruin their storylines but they would see Union commanders in an entirely new light.

Deal with unit counts and fill rates, with the Surgeons' history, with Fox and Livermore, and we are on our way out of the morass of made-up numbers that advance a literary purpose.

More in this in considering the Maryland Campaign.