Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 13, 1862 (Monday): Lincoln, McClellan, and "Leakage"

Lieutenant Thomas L. Livermore
(Author of "Numbers and Losses")

Washington, July 13, 1862
Major-General McCLELLAN:
    MY DEAR SIR: I am told that over 160,000 men have gone into your army on the Peninsula. When I was with you the other day we made out 86,500 remaining, leaving 73,500 to be accounted for. I believe 23,500 will cover all the killed, wounded, and missing in all your battles and skirmishers, leaving 50,000 who have left otherwise. Not more than 5,000 of these have died, leaving 45,000 of your army still alive and not with it. I believe half or two-thirds of them are fit for duty to-day. Have you any more perfect knowledge of this than I have? If I am right, and you had these men with you, you could go into Richmond in the next three days. How can they be got to you, and how can they be prevented from getting away in such numbers for the future?


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 11, Part 3, Page 319.

July 15, 1862. (Received 8 p.m.)
His Excellency ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President;
    Your telegram of yesterday [July 13] has been received. The difference between the effective force of troops and that expressed in returns is considerable in every arm. All commanders find the actual strength less than the strength represented on paper. I have not my own returns for the tri-monthly period since arriving at Fort Monroe at hand at this moment, but even on paper I will not, I am confident, be found to have received 160,000 officers and men present, although present and absent my returns will be accountable for that number. You can arrive at the number of absentees, however, better by my return of July 10, which will be ready to send shortly. I find from official reports that I have present for duty: Officers, 3,215; enlisted men, 85,450; in all present for duty, 88,665; absent by authority, 34,472; without authority, 3,778; present and absent, 144,407.
    The number of officers and men present sick is 16,619. The medical director will fully explain the causes of this amount of sickness, which I hope will begin to decrease shortly. Thus the number of men really absent is 38,250. Unquestionably of the number present some are absent-say 40,000 will cover the absentees. I quite agree with you that more than one-half these men are probably fit for duty to-day. I have frequently called the attention lately of the War Department to the evil of absenteeism. I think that the exciting of the public press to persistent attack upon officers and soldiers absent from the army, the employment of deputy marshals to arrest and send back deserters, summary dismissal of officers whose names are reported for being absent without leave, and the publication of their names, will exhaust the remedies applicable by the War Department.
    It is to be remembered that many of those absent by authority are those who have got off either sick or wounded or under pretense of sickness or wounds, and having originally pretext of authority are still reported absent by authority. If I could receive back the absentees and could get my sick men up I would need but small re-enforcements to enable me to take Richmond. After the battle of Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, &c., most of these men got off. Well men got on board hospital boats taking care of sick, &c. There is always confusion and haste in shipping and taking care of wounded after a battle. There is no time for nice examination of permits to pass here or there.
    I can now control people getting away better, for the natural opportunities are better. Leakages by desertion occur in every army and will occur here of course, but I do not at all however anticipate anything like a recurrence of what has taken place.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 11, Part 3, Page 321.

Livermore's "Numbers and Losses" (1900) is still the most reliable source.  He places McClellan's effective force in the field at 91,169.  The number grows, as shown in this correspondence when you factor in those available for duty in non-combat roles, absent on authorized leave, absent sick, and absent without leave.  Of the 38,250 absent a good portion most likely were either never on the Peninsula or left prior to the Seven Days battles.  If you add to the 91,169 effective 20,000 who were deployed at some point on the Peninsula and allowed for 16,000 casualties, you would come to a total close to McClellan's 144,407.  A good rule of thumb is to deduct 7% as unavailable for combat, leaving 93% effectives.  Interestingly, McClellan and Lincoln's numbers are not far apart (20,000).  The difference is McClellan has a better understanding of how difficult it is to restore sick and absent troops to combat.

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