"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."


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?

     The 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.

     If 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 days.

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.

     Toward 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.

     On 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 conclusion?

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 Father,

Compare 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....

     On 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.

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