soldier with rifle american civil warSpecial Order 191


Joe Ryan Book Review
Donald Jermann: Antietam The Lost Order



Why did General Lee move into Maryland?

"He had multiple objectives. First, he wanted to move the theater of operations out of Virginia. Second, since Maryland was a border state with strong Southern sympathies, Lee hoped both to induce it to join the Confederacy and to recruit new troops from it. Third, he hoped to draw the Union army away from the defenses of Washington, defeat it, and thus encourage the European powers to recognize and aid the Confederacy. And last, he hoped to cut the vital rail lines and canal linking the East with the West."


Ryan's Comment

Mr. Jermann provides yet another example of the cluttered story line consistently offered the public by the civil war writers. Let's examine Lee's "hopes" objectively. There is no evidence that Lee harbored any "hope" in his mind, in September 1862, that the people of Maryland would somehow rise up in massed rebellion against the Lincoln Government. The Lincoln Government had most of the political leaders and newspaper publishers locked up in prison cells. It had Baltimore locked down in martial law, occupied by military forces. Just not a reality, though, it is true, President Davis pushed on Lee, as he pushed the same thing on Bragg, a form "proclamation," as if printed words on a paper would inflame the passions of the young. The idea that Lee "hoped" to "recruit new troops" from Maryland is equally silly; for any young man with average eyesight could see the physical condition of Lee's soldiers—wearing dirty, ragged clothes, many marching without shoes, all of them hungry—and realize they would not be staying in Maryland long.


General Lee had no good reason to "hope" he could "draw the Union army away from the defenses of Washington." On the contrary, a reasonable person standing in his shoes would naturally have "hoped," if "hope" has any value that the Union army would stay inside the defenses of Washington forever. As long as the Union army stayed at Washington, Lee's army could stay in Western Maryland and as long as this was the status quo the State of Virginia was free of the invader and could go about its business.


Given the objective circumstances of the case, it is hardly believable to say General Lee hoped to "defeat" the Union army in Maryland. The undisputed fact is that Lee's army was reduced to less than 40,000 men when it entered Maryland. Equally not in dispute is the fact that the Union army McClellan marched toward Frederick to confront Lee numbered about 100,000 men. Any youngster in grade school can add up the numbers and recognize the silliness of Mr. Jurmann's statement about Lee's "hope."

Mr. Jurmann apparently thought it necessary to throw into Lee's basket of hope the idea he would defeat the enemy in Maryland as the means of dragging in to the narrative the idea that Britain would "aid the Confederacy;" i.e., break Lincoln's naval blockage by having its war ships escort its commercial vessels into Charleston Harbor. By the time he entered Maryland, General Lee—if we measure his mind by the standard of a reasonable person's—probably understood Britain was not going to do it.


And last Jurmann tells us, Lee's movement into Maryland was based on the "hope" that he could "cut the vital rail lines and canal linking the East with the West." In fact, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, from Wheeling to Harper's Ferry, had been cut time and again in the Allegany's, so Lee's blowing up a few more bridges was hardly essential to the closure of the line. As for the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, what was vital about it, was its value as a means of supplying McClellan as he marched away from Washington.

There is something inducing these writers to ignore the fact, as Jurmann does, that Lee entered Maryland intending to maneuver McClellan into battle at Sharpsburg. In Jurmann's case, blasting the reader with pellets of "hope" seems intended to distract the reader from the obvious.

Jurmann tells us Lee's plan through the words of Major-General John Walker:



"I went to General Lee and he said to me: `Return to the mouth of the Monocacy and destroy the aqueduct. By the time that is accomplished you will receive orders (by courier, Walker now being detached from the army) to cooperate in the capture of Harper's Ferry, and. . . after the capture, you will rejoin us at Hagerstown, where the army will be concentrated. . . .


A few days rest at Hagerstown will be of great service to our men. . . the short delay will enable us to get up our stragglers—not stragglers from a shirking disposition, but simply from inability to keep up with their commands. Besides we will get a large number of recruits from Richmond.


In ten days from now, if the military situation is then what I expect it to be after the capture of Harper's Ferry, I shall concentrate the army at Hagerstown. . . and march to this point, (Lee placed his finger on the map at Harrisburg.) That is the objective point of the campaign." (See, Jackson's Capture of Harper's Ferry, by John Walker, published in the Century Magazine in 1886.)


Ryan's Comment

So Jurmann's story hangs on the issue of Walker's credibility as a witness telling us, in 1886, what General Lee said to him in 1862. Rather than simply accept what Walker says Lee said—by a leap of faith; responsible jurors in the court room must measure what the witness says against what the objective facts prove.

By this test, the first paragraph of Walker's statement is, for the most part, probably true: in fact Walker had marched his division—the last one to come up—to Frederick and upon arriving there, countermarched to the mouth of the Monocacy. Here is how Walker stated it in the Century Magazine:

"Retracing our steps toward the Potomac, at 10:00 p.m. of September 9th my division arrived at the aqueduct. . . and about 3:00 a.m. of September 10th went into bivouac about two miles and a half west of the Monocacy. Late in the afternoon [of the 10th] a courier from General Lee delivered me a copy of his Special Order 191, directing me to cooperate with Jackson and McLaws in the capture of Harper's Ferry."


Note: The movement order did not direct Walker to "cooperate with Jackson" in the capture of Harper's Ferry.


As to Walker the order reads: "VI. General Walker, with his division, after accomplishing the object in which he is now engaged, will cross the Potomac at Cheek's Ford, ascend its right bank to Lovettsville, take possession of Loudoun Heights, if practicable, by Friday morning, Keys' Ford on his left, and the road between the end of the mountain and the Potomac on his right. He will, as far as practicable, cooperate with Generals McLaws and Jackson, and intercept retreat of the enemy."


Walker's and Jackson's line of march specified by the order

The second paragraph of Walker's statement is pure fabrication. How do we know this? Because the undisputed evidence shows that there were no "recruits" massed in Richmond, and marching forth 100 miles to reach Lee at Hagerstown on September 13th; and by Lee's own admission it is clear that he didn't expect the stragglers to suddenly appear in mass at Hagerstown.

General Lee's letters to President Davis:

                                              Two Miles From Frederick, Sept 7th

"Mr. President: I find that the discipline of the army. . . has not been improved by the forced marches and hard service it has lately undergone. Nothing can surpass the gallantry and intelligence of the main body, but there are individuals who. . . do it no credit.


One of the greatest evils is the habit of straggling from the ranks. It has become a habit difficult to correct. With some, the sick and feeble, it results from necessity, but with the greater number from design. These latter do not wish to be with their regiments, nor to share in their hardships and glories. They are the cowards of the army, desert their comrades in times of danger, and fill the houses of the charitable on the march." (O.R.Vol. 19. Pt 2, at p. 597.)


                                                    Hagerstown, Sept. 13th

"Mr. President: I wish your views of [the army's] operations could be realized, but so much depends upon circumstances beyond its control and the aid that we may receive, that it is difficult for me to conjecture the result. To look to the safety of our own frontier and to operate untrammeled in an enemy's territory, you need not be told is very difficult. One great embarrassment is the reduction of our ranks by straggling. Our ranks are very much diminished—I fear from a third to one half of the original numbers." (edited for brevity; O.R. Vol. 19, Pt. 2, at p. 605.)


General Lee's letters to President Davis, between September 7 and the 13th, make clear that Lee probably did not say to Walker, on September 9th, what Walker said Lee said.

As for the third paragraph of Walker's quoted 1886 statement, if Walker appeared on the witness stand in a court room and testified that Lee had pointed to Harrisburg on a map and said he meant to march his army to that point, the jury would laugh him out of the room.

At a minimum, marching from Hagerstown (the army fully concentrated), it would have taken Lee four days for the head of his army to reach Carlisle. Meanwhile, McClellan's army would be following him and Lee would be in serious jeopardy of being trammeled.

How do these civil writers think Lee was to cross the Susquehanna?

Jurmann gives us his version of the Lost Order scenario:

"When [Jackson] read his copy, he noticed that D.H. Hill, who was one of his subordinates, was tasked. . . . Jackson, fearing that Hill did not [have a copy] recopied the document in his own hand and sent the copy to Hill. Thus, the following copies existed:


Drafter                                   Recipient

Col Robert H. Chilton          Longstreet




                                       D.H. Hill



Jackson                             D.H. Hill"


Ryan's Comment

Like the rest of the bunch, Jurmann asserts that Robert Chilton was the "drafter" of the movement order, he asserts this in the face of the plain fact that Chilton's handwriting is not found on any of the five copies of Special Order 191 that are in existence. Except for D.H. Hill's copy, written in the hand of Jackson, none of the copies in existence, today, were received by Longstreet, Jackson, McLaws, Walker, or Stuart. Jurmann simply made the fact up. The record shows, instead, that Charles Marshall wrote one copy which, on September 12th, was enclosed with a letter of Lee's addressed to President Davis. A.P. Mason, a member of Chilton's staff, wrote a two paragraph version and incorporated it with an eight paragraph version, preserved in Chilton's letterbook. Someone wrote what appears to be an original draft of the order and it was this document that Barton Mitchell found in the field at Frederick, on September 13th. (see Who Wrote The Lost Order)

Jurmann tells us his version of how the order was found:

"Who lost the order? The lost order was the copy from Lee to D.H. Hill. It was found on Hill's vacated campsite so, presumably, it had been delivered."


Ryan's Comment

Jurmann, like the civil war writers generally, claims that the copy McClellan received was a copy Lee's staff was responsible to send by courier to Hill; and as the basis for the statement that the order was "found on Hill's vacated campsite," Jurmann offers the statement Col. Silas Colgrove made in his letter written to the editors of the Century Magazine, in 1886.

Colgrove wrote—"We stacked arms on the same ground that had been occupied by General D.H. Hill's division the evening before." Colgrove was clearly wrong about this, because it is not disputable that D.H. Hill's division had marched away from its camp at Frederick—wherever it was located—three days before Colgrove's regiment arrived. Jurmann certainly knew this when he wrote his narrative, but, as they all do, he ignored the reality, in order to convince the reader the found order belonged to Hill.

In his 1868 article, quoted elsewhere, D.H. Hill categorically denied receiving any such order from Lee's headquarters and denied that the sending to him of such an order by Lee's staff conformed with military custom and practice.

Note: Colgrove may have been influenced to include the statement about Hill's camp, because when he sent the order up the chain of command he sent it with the representation that it was "genuine."

Jurmann's story continues:

"One thing is fact, however—three cigars were wrapped in the order when it was found, and it is hardly likely that a courier or anyone else wrapped their cigars with a document before it was delivered to Hill. Logic would indicate that the order was used as a cigar wrapper after it had been delivered and read. This leads us to conclude that the order was actually lost by Hill himself, or perhaps his chief of staff."


Ryan's Comment

What can we do with this silliness? Notice first that Jurmann leaves out of his story altogether the 1892 statement made by John Bloss which other writers seize upon to prop up their version of the event; hence we have no "large envelope" to deal with, nor do we have to be concerned with Bloss telling us there were only two cigars, and Colgrove telling us there were three.

Jurmann, like his counterparts, ignores the elephant standing in the room with its trunk waving in the air. Why the cigars? Use the order as a cigar wrapper? How silly is this?

Assuming the cigars did not spill out of a "large envelope" as John Bloss claimed, in his 1892 writing, but were seen essentially as this scene depicts, reasonable persons sitting in the jury box, would be hard pressed to ignore the appearance of an invitation to Barton Mitchell, to pick the cigars up! It is the appearance of the cigars, not the paper somehow wrapped around them, that would naturally attract the attention of a soldier stacking arms in a field after a march. Jurmann, though, intentionally ignores this obvious point which, in the trial court, he would hardly be allowed to get away with.

In order for the jury to find that General Lee intentionally caused the order to be found by Mitchell, the jury necessarily would have to find that the cigars looked to Mitchell as they look in the photograph here. The cigars in the photograph were laid on the ground a minute before the photo was taken. If, in fact, the cigars were dropped on the ground at or before D.H. Hill's division, with horses and wagons and artillery carriages, moved off from its campground, then, indisputably, the cigars were laying on the ground for three nights and four days, before Mitchell arrived and stacked arms. It is indisputable that a rain storm swept over Frederick on September 11th, lasting all day and into the night. Under such circumstances, what reasonable person, sitting in the jury box, would conclude, as Jurmann claims he does, that "logic" leads to the conclusion D.H. Hill "lost" the cigars himself?

Query: What does that mean? "Battle plan?" The "battle plan" led to the battle of Antietam? How so? How did the movement order lead to the Battle of Antietam?


For those who want to cling to the claim that the cigars were lost by a "sloppy courier," they have a better chance of convincing their fellows, in the jury box, by suggesting that some friend of Hill's at Lee's headquarters gave the courier the cigars wrapped around the order as a gift to Hill.

But, then, they would still be unable to explain why the order is not written in the hand of one of Lee's staff officers. Why is the order written in the hand of a mystery man?



By Joe Ryan

Last Words On Antietam