Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September 20, 1862 (Saturday): "A spirit of fault-finding.."

General Jesse L. Reno


No. 17. Mouth of Antietam, Md., September 20, 1862.
The commanding general announces to the corps the loss of their late leader, Major General Jesse L. Reno.
    By the death of this distinguished officer the country loses one of its most devoted patriots, the army one of its most thorough soldiers. In the long list of battles in which General Reno has fought in his country's service, his name always appears with the brightest luster, and he has now bravely met a soldier's death while gallantly leading his men at the battle of South Mountain.
     For his high character and the kindly qualities of his heart in private life, as well as for the military genius and personal daring which marked him as a soldier, his loss will be deplored by all who knew him, and the commanding general desires to add the tribute of a friend to the public mourning for the death of one of the country's best defenders.
    By command of Major-General Burnside:

    Assistant Adjutant-General.

Centreville [Keedysville, Md.], September 20, 1862 - 6.30 a. m.
General MARCY, Chief of Staff:
    GENERAL: I have started two brigades of cavalry and a battery of artillery to Jones' Cross-Roads, to proceed in the direction of Williamsport. That force will be amply sufficient for any rebels to be met in that quarter.
    The remainder of my command is about getting off for Shepherdstown. The order of Major General Fitz John Porter of yesterday, sending my command to the rear, by the order of General McClellan, and which was transmitted by General Buford, had interfered most materially with a proper pursuit of the enemy. Many of the men of my command have had nothing to eat for two days, and last night, in consequence of the movement to the rear, they missed their trains, and are now starting out without anything. I would also call to the attention of the General commanding the fact that neither provisions nor forage can be obtained in Virginia, that country having been eaten out by the rebels. I have therefore to request that supplies be pushed on to me, if I find it advantageous to proceed on after the enemy, on reaching him. I trust, after the past experience of yesterday, the general commanding will not permit corps commanders to interfere with the cavalry under my command, for it breaks up all my system and plans.
     I shall do everything in my power to make up for the time we have lost.
    I am, general, very respectfully,

    Brigadier-General, Commanding Cavalry Division.

WASHINGTON, D. C., September 20, 1862.
General STONEMAN, Poolesville:
    It is represented here that wounded officers of Stuart's cavalry are on the Maryland side, un paroled. This matter must not be neglected.
     It is also represented that the troops of your division are pillaging and plundering the country. Stringent measures must be resorted to to enforce order.

    H. W. HALLECK,

September 20, 1862 - 11.30 a. m.
Major General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief:
     I have had but one case (of a wounded officer) reported to me, and the person reporting him did not know his whereabouts. I know of no officer of the rebel army in Maryland, unparoled. The whole country is covered with stragglers from General McClellan's army, and they are the depredators. I am trying to collect them together. Every means in our power has been taken to prevent pillaging by the troops under my command. From the time we left Washington squads of men were passed, who said they had been sent forward to find and join their regiments. Some were out of hospitals, &c. They are now all being stopped at the mouth of the Monocacy.


September 20, 1862
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Commanding U. S. Army:
     As the rebel army, now on the Virginia side of the Potomac, must in a great measure, be dependent for supplies of ammunition and provisions upon Richmond, I would respectfully suggest that General Banks be directed to send out a cavalry force to cut their supply communication opposite Washington. This would seriously embarrass their operations, and will aid this army materially.

    Major-General, Commanding.

WASHINGTON, September 20, 1862- 2 p. m.
    We are still left entirely in the dark in regard to your own movements and those of the enemy. This should not be so. You should keep me advised of both, so far as you know them.

    H. W. HALLECK,

Near Sharpsburg, September 20, 1862-8 p. m.
Major-General HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, Washington:
    Your telegram of to-day is received. I telegraphed you yesterday all I knew, and had nothing more to inform you of until this evening. Williams' corps (Banks') occupied Maryland Heights at 1 p. m. to-day. The rest of the army is near here, except Couch's division, which is at this moment engaged with the enemy in front of Williamsport. The enemy is retiring via Charlestown and Martinsburg on Winchester. He last night reoccupied Williamsport by a small force, but will be out of it by morning. I think he has a force of infantry near Shepherdstown.
     I regret that you find it necessary to couch every dispatch I have the honor to receive from you in a spirit of fault-finding, and that you have not yet hound leisure to say one word in commendation of the recent achievements of this army, or even to allude to them.
     I have abstained from giving the number of guns, colors, small-arms, prisoners, &c., captured until I could do so with some accuracy. I hope by to-morrow evening to be able to give at least an approximate statement.

    Major-General, Commanding.

Near Sharpsburg, September 20, 1862--8.30 p. m.
Major-General BURNSIDE:
    General McClellan directs me to say that the force of the enemy in front of General Porter seems merely intended to cover retreat of wagon train, &c. There is some force of the enemy at Williamsport, against which Couch moved this morning, and Franklin is ordered to go to-night. Williams' (Banks') corps arrived at Maryland Heights at 1 p. m. to-day. The commanding general directs you to hold yourself in readiness to move in the same direction as soon as events have developed themselves here and at Williamsport.
    I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    R. B. MARCY,
    Chief of Staff.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 19, Part 2, Page 335 and others.

The lack of unity within the Union command structure continued unabated at a time when cohesion was demanded.  McClellan's Headquarters remains at Sharpsburg, three days after the battle with his opponent on the move.  As so often was the case, he fails to communicate with higher authorities and sees insults at every turn (as in the letter to Halleck).  The cavalry appears here to be played out, with little organization devoted to resupply.  The announcement of the death of Reno at South Mountain is a military courtesy routinely used to inform troops of the loss of an important officer.  Beyond the courtesy involved, the loss of Reno was keenly felt, as he was an able officer.

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