Friday, June 3, 2011

June 4, 1861 (Tuesday): Trimble Has a Plan

Isacc R. Trimble

                                                                        NORFOLK, June 4, 1861
General R. E. LEE:
      Dear sir:  You have no doubt disciplined your mind and temper to listen with some patience and composure to many suggestions of “admirable plans to defeat the enemy and end the campaign gloriously.”  I am reluctant to suggest anything which has in all probability passed through your mind already, but I am so fully impressed with the conviction that the attack on Hagerstown will be successful (even if the Pennsylvanians are there to the number of 6,000) that I venture to present it to you.  I think Hagerstown is a better point to defend Virginia than Harper’s Ferry, which must in time be turned unless the enemy is repelled.  As a junior officer I apologize for the liberty I take.  As a citizen, looking with horror at the awful golf which yawns to receive the liberties and prosperity of our country, I know you will pardon this departure from the observance of a more strict military etiquette.  May I beg to remind you of my earnest wish to accompany the first force sent into Maryland.
            Respectfully and truly, yours,
                                                                                    I. R. TRIMBLE

Trimble was 59, an engineer of some ability, assigned to strength defenses at Norfolk.  His plan, laid out in an attachment, was to take 3,000 troops from Harper’s Ferry and attack Union forces at Hagerstown.  To aid in the attack, Trimble suggested flying a US flag to make the Pennsylvania troops there believe the attackers were a relief column from Frederick.  “The attack being successful” cavalry forces would follow into Pennsylvania.  Another column of 3,000 men with four pieces of artillery would take two or three trains to Baltimore, throwing the force unexpectedly and (again) carrying the U.S. flag where they would arrive early in the morning and attack Northern troops.  These two movements being successful, Maryland will fill with volunteers and a new movement would head for Washington where they would drive Lincoln out of the city and down the Potomac.  When considering Trimble’s comments on Ewell at Gettysburg (where he functioned as an uninvited staff officer) it is well to consider this example of Trimble’s grasp on what was and was not possible on a battlefield. 

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