The Lost Order

"How do you think Special Orders 191 fell into Union Hands?"

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Lost Order: Blessing in disguise?

From: Dennis Dewalt
Date: 15 Sep 1999
Time: 10:47:41
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Has anyone ever considered that the Lost Order was a blessing for the ANV rather than a curse? I refer to D.H. Hill's writings in "Battles & Leaders" in which he suggests that the order (being lost by the ANV and then found by the AOP) actually put the Federal Commander McClellan into a more cautionary mode than usual. I quote from Hill's article: "The Federal commander gained two facts from the order, one of which was needless and the other misleading. He learned that Jackson had gone to Harper's Ferry - a truth that he must have learned from his own scouts and spies and the roar of artillery in his own ears: the cannonading could be distinctly heard at Frederick, and it told that someone was beleaguering Harper's Ferry. The misleading report was that Longstreet was at Boonsboro." If you read the Lost Order it clearly states that Longstreet was to proceed no further than Boonsboro (even though this was later changed to Hagerstown, a good day's march from South Mountain, but McClellan could not have known this by reading the order). The end result ,according to Hill, is that instead of confronting only a division at the South Mountain gaps, McClellan would believe he would be up against Hill and most, if not all, of Longsteet's Corps and the reserve artillery. Therefore the "extraordinary caution" of McClellan on the 14th of Sept. is somewhat justified. By extension, then, this gave the ANV more time to concentrate at Sharpsburg because McClellan prepared for a major battle at the gaps instead of the mere holding action assigned to Hill's division. Hill writes, " In the Battle of South Mountain the imaginary foes of the Lost Dispatch (Longtreets Corps) were worth more to us than 10,000 men"! I believe Hill's account is logical in its analysis of McClellan's frame of mind, although one could argue, with good justification, that McClellan would have acted with the same overcaution had he thought only a brigade were present at the gaps on Sept. 14, 1862. Please reply with any of your thoughts on this matter.

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