Scott's operational art (cont.)

Scott's second coordinated offensive was launched without regard to regimental-level expirations of enlistment terms.

The force structure provided to Patterson to wage his part in two offensives was allocated from War Department resources by Scott himself. He knew what he was doling out and his principal staff officer, Townsend - as an assistant adjutant - should have been especially concerned with personnel matters. The idea that the make-up of Patterson's command could have surprised Scott or Townsend boggles the modern mind.

Regiments of variable shelf-life, having been assigned to Patterson's command by Scott, Patterson himself seems to have lost track of his own enlistment expirations. I find no mention of this issue by him in his correspondence until he is well into the second offensive. He discovers his problem in mid-operation and raises the alarm in shocked tones after unsatisfactory exchanges with Scott over his (Patterson's) aims and orders.

Patterson thus conveys a sudden ignorance of his assets in the midst of an already equivocal performance. His apparent surprise is as stunning as Scott's own primitive error, and making it weirder (as with Scott), Patterson's principal staff officer is an assistant adjutant (Fitz John Porter) whose main concern as a staff officer is men, pay and enlistments.

Patterson's operational lead, MG George Cadwalader (right), had a unique state/federal commission, the federal part of which was due to expire immanently. Again, there is no correspondence showing Patterson aware of the fact or seeking clarification of his subordinate's status.

Cadwalader's federal commission expired before the end of operations. After some days operating as a federal commander without legal authority, he and Patterson learned second hand that Cadwalader's commission had been allowed to lapse. With no provision made for a replacement and with Cadwalader's boss unable to plan for a rational reassignment of duties (out of ignorance, personal and induced), Scott himself incurred this serious risk ... needlessly.

The same news regarding Cadwalader - not orders, not a letter - informed Patterson that he himself had some days previously been relieved in favor of Nathaniel Banks. The news seems to have come with Banks' arrival at Harpers Ferry. This is a remarkable turn of management that is never commented on in discussing what has devolved historiographically into a shriveled prune misnamed The Bull Run Campaign.

Scott's first offensive against Harpers Ferry flourished under complexity and attention to many moving parts. It was executed by Patterson and Cadwalader, with support from Stone, and cinched by McClellan's threat to Johnston, an event outside the scope of Scott's original conception.

Scott's second offensive collapsed under the combined weight of plodding simplicity and terrible staff work. Had McDowell won his battle, it would not have erased the stain from Scott's management of the Valley force.

It may be worth picking through the relevant chronology and correspondence in a wrap-up post.

We should also follow up with a brief recitation of all the bad - tragic actually - lessons Lincoln appears to have learned watching Scott at work.

Perhaps, continuing analysis of Scott's military art, we can also amuse ourselves in the course of a few posts looking at the myth of that much-ballyhood Anaconda Plan (a choice piece of vaporware ardently promoted by clueless pop historians).

More to come, then.