The Civil War Connections Blog

Early August Dominos

Hey there folks, and welcome back to the good ol’ blog! Today’s tidbit about me is: I’m an enthusiastic computer game player, and for those of you who share my interest or want to get into the hobby, be aware that it’s a good idea to wait until a game goes on sale before purchasing it: the money saved can make a difference over time.

“Company of Heroes” game on top, then “Shogun 2” game on the bottom: the ironclad USS Roanoke is pictured, with fellow ironclads La Gloire and HMS Warrior behind her. And yes, you can send them in against wooden ships if you’re feeling especially cruel.


My recent posts have largely concerned artifacts in the museum, but I’m sure many of you are wondering what was happening in the Civil War 150 years ago. Last I mentioned, General Pope had arrived to take command of the Union Army of Virginia located near Culpepper, and General McClellan was doing absolutely nothing after being repulsed from Richmond in the Seven Days battles much earlier in the summer. So, with that in mind, perhaps a status update is in order?


Let’s start with our old favorite, General McClellan. McClellan had 90,000 men at his disposal, and continued to do absolutely nothing with them. In early August, General Halleck – the Army’s new commander in chief – pressured McClellan to advance against General Lee in Richmond, but McClellan refused, insisting that he needed more men. Since McClellan refused to attack, Halleck instructed him to send some of his troops up to General Burnside at Fredericksburg, but McClellan refused again. In fact, he not only said that he needed those men where they were, but he insisted that Burnside’s troops be handed over to HIM as reinforcements! Fed up with McClellan’s refusal to move, fight or cooperate, Halleck eventually ordered McClellan to pull back down the Peninsula so that his force could be transferred to Northern Virginia. Surprisingly, McClellan rejected this idea as well, claiming that retreating in the face of the enemy would undo all the “progress” they were making.

General Halleck, pulling off a pretty good “flabbergasted at what McClellan just said” facial expression.


Wow. That’s… just awful. Way to go, McClellan. Let’s compare McClellan to General Pope, who at last report was the newly appointed head of the Army of Virginia. Although Pope got things started on the wrong foot by insulting everyone under his command (see blog post “The Wrong Stuff” on July 23rd), he nevertheless deployed all his men in a competent, aggressive manner and began advancing against General Jackson near Culpepper. He replaced a useless cavalry commander with the much more awesome General Buford, he formed an accurate assessment of his enemy’s troop strength, and all with about half as many men as McClellan. That’s right, folks – Pope only had about 45-50,000 men, while McClellan had 90,000. I guess numbers aren’t everything! As for the Confederates, Lee had roughly 50,000 men and Jackson had roughly 25,000. Each Confederate force was outnumbered by about 2-1. Below is a mediocre map of what the two Union commanders were facing, both in reality and as they saw it.

On the Left, you can see where everyone was. On the Right, you cans see what each commander believed his opponent to have. Notice that McClellan seems to be monstrously scared of Lee. Click for a bigger view!


Now, for the Confederates! General Lee knew McClellan was more scared of his own shadow than any man has a right to be, so he decided to split his army in two: he would hold near Richmond, gathering strength, while Jackson took a big chunk of his men north to hold central Virginia against Pope. Since the Union armies were far apart from each other, Lee was beginning to see an opportunity to destroy Pope while McClellan continued doing nothing. Jackson and Pope were skirmishing a lot between Culpepper and Gordonsville, and it was only a matter of time until a big battle would develop: Lee was just waiting for the right time to strike. So as you can see, dear readers, the dominos were once again setting themselves up for a fight. As for when and how the battle would be joined, only time could tell…

Hmmm… there might be a storm brewing…


That’s all for today, my fellow readers. Come back soon for more Civil War coverage, and save your money for the important things in life – don’t waste it ALL on games!