of an offensive position the enemy is now actually in
Maryland and we are on the defensive. What a change!
After such vast preparations and such vast
sacrifices. This has been called a "brainless
war." I can't tell you of the future."
Still Searching. I have not been able to
establish the location of Williams' September 13th
Bivouac. Some where in this region, Lee's Special
Orders 191 is alleged to have been found around noon
of the 13th. Any ideas?
days surrounding the appearance of the Lost Order and the
resultant Battle of Antietam must have been chaotic for
Williams. His Corps Commander, Banks, was off again
leaving Williams the task of simultaneously moving the
corps toward the enemy and reorganizing the corps'
decimated command structure.
I have been intensely
occupied. The loss of the principal officers of the
corps has greatly perplexed me, and the [labor
entailed by the] reorganization of commands which
have lost field and staff and company officers, as
well as all their books and papers, is immense. We
march all day or are under arms all day, and then
pitch our main tent and write half the night. While I
write, my office tent looks like a bureau office in
Washington. Five clerks, two staff officers, and some
outsiders are all at work at a long table through the
center. Orderlies are coming and going with
dispatches. Reports are coming in from brigades and
divisions and the establishment looks as if we had
sat down for a season's work, and yet in an hour
everything may be packed in wagons as it was an hour
ago and we off for some other locality.
those problems were not enough, the corps was reinforced,
while on the March, with several new volunteer regiments
many of whom were separated from civilian life by only 30
I have now about
3,000[?] of these jolly fellows, who have marched up
from Washington without tents and with no shelter but
blankets and some overcoats. They think they are
suffering amazingly, and I fancy, as it is raining
tonight, that they are not as comfortably placed as
they were a few weeks ago under their paternal roofs,
as they have not the knack of old soldiers of
extemporizing shelters out of rails and blankets and
pieces of boards. I doubt if they won't by tomorrow
begin to look to the ragged regiments for comfort.
the caldron of Antietam this confused mass now moved. The
new troops would turn out to be good soldiers and the old
regiments would improve.
the 12th of September his mood showed a remarkable
reversal from that expressed in the negative and almost
despairing letter he wrote from Rockville on the 8th. It
is now known that Special Orders 191 was authored on 9th.
Had Williams come into knowledge of the order? Could not
the following confident lines, written on the 12th, a day before
the order was "found", support such a
I have great
confidence that we shall smash them terribly if they
stand, more confidence than I have ever had in any
movement of the war. We move slowly but each corps
understands the others, and when we do strike I think
it will be a heavy blow.... Don't be frightened about
me, but believe me, As ever, Your Affectionate
this with the concluding lines of the letter of the 8th.
We are now within a
few miles of where I began my service with the old
brigade a year ago. What a contrast. The three
regiments of that brigade (one has been transferred)
are here yet in name, but instead of 3,000 men they
number altogether less than 400 men present! Not a
field officer nor adjutant is here! All killed or
wounded! Of the 102 officers not over 20 are left to
be present! Instead of hopeful and confident feelings
we are all depressed with losses and disasters.
Instead of an offensive position the enemy is now
actually in Maryland and we are on the defensive.
What a change! After such vast preparations and such
vast sacrifices. This has been called a
"brainless war." I can't tell you of the
future. We are accumulating troops this way and shall
doubtless have some severe conflicts. If we fail now
the North has no hope, no safety that I can see. We
have thrown away our power, and prestige. We may
become the supplicant instead of the avenger....
the 14th Williams learned that he had been replaced from
his temporary command of the corps by Gen. Joseph
Mansfield, an aging soldier from Washington who had used
his political connections to secure the position.
Williams again returned to his 1st division which was now
in full advance across the battle grounds of South
Mountain and into the valley of the Antietam.
Going back to my
command, I met Gen. Mansfield, who had just arrived
from Washington to take command of the corps. He is a
most veteran-looking officer, with head as white as
snow. You may have seen him in Washington. His home
is at Middletown, Conn. and he has been inspector
general of the army for a long time.10 With this new
commander came an order to march. I went back to my
division, rather pleased that I had got rid of an
onerous responsibility. We crossed the fields to the
Hagerstown pike. Our new commander was very fussy. He
had been an engineer officer and never before had
commanded large bodies of troops.