Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December 20, 1862 (Saturday): "...a pair of socks and a pair of drawers".

General William B. Franklin

The undersigned, holding important commands in the Army of the Potomac, impressed with the belief that a plan of operations of this army may be devised which will be crowned with success, and that the plan of campaign which has already been commenced cannot possibly be successful, present, with diffidence, the following views for consideration. Whether the plan proposed be adopted or not, they consider it their duty to present there views, thinking that, perhaps, they may be suggestive to some other military mind in discussing plans for the future operations of our armies in the East.
1. We believe that the plan of campaign already commenced will not be successful for the following reasons: First. The distance from this point to Richmond is 61 miles. It will be necessary to keep up our communication with Aquia Creek Landing from all points of this route. To effect this, the presence of large bodies of troops on the road will be necessary at many points. The result of making these detachments would be that the enemy will attack them, interrupt the communications, and the army will be obliged to return to drive them away. If the railroad be rebuilt as the army marches, it will be so enormous that a great deal of the strength of the army will be required to guard them, and the troops will be so separated by the trains, and the roads so blocked by them, that the advance and rear of the army could not be within supporting distance of each other.
2. It is the power of the enemy at many points on this route to post himself strongly and defy us. The whole strength of our army may not be sufficient to drive him away, and even were he driven away, at great sacrifice of blood on our part, the result would not be decisive. The losses to him in his strong positions would be comparatively slight, while ours would be enormous.
3. In our opinion, any plan of campaign, to be successful, should possess the following requisites, viz: First. All of the troops available in the East should be massed. Second. They should approach as near to Richmond as possible without an engagement. Third. The line of communication should be absolutely free from danger of interruption.
    A campaign on the James River enables us to fulfill all these conditions more absolutely than any other, for-
1. On the James River our troops from both north and south can be concentrated more rapidly than they can be at any other point.
2. They can be brought to points within 20 miles of Richmond without the risk of an engagement.
3. The communication by the James River can be kept up by the assistance of the Navy without the slightest danger of interruption.
    Some of the details of this plan are the following:
We premise that by concentrating our troops in the East we will be able to raise 250,000 men. Let them be landed on both sides of the river, as near Richmond as possible, 150,000 on the north bank, and 100,000 or more on the south bank, all of them to carry three days' provisions on their persons, and 100 rounds of ammunition, without any other baggage than blankets and shelter tents and a pair of socks and a pair of drawers. Let it be understood that every third day a corps or grand division is provisioned from the river. If this arrangement be practicable (and we think it is), we get rid of all baggage, provisions, and infantry ammunition wagons, and the only vehicles will be the artillery and its ammunition wagons and the ambulances. The mobility of the army, caused by carrying out these, views, will be more like an immense partisan corps than a modern army. The two armies marching up the banks may meet the enemy on or near the river. By means of pontoons, kept afloat, and towed so as to be reached at any point, one army can in a few hours cross to assist the other. It is hardly supposable that the enemy can have force enough to withstand the shock of two such bodies. If the enemy decline to fight on the river, the army on the south bank, or a portion of it, will take possession of the railroads running south from Richmond, while the remainder will proceed to the investment or attack upon Richmond, according to circumstances. Whether the investment of Richmond leads to the destruction or capture of the enemy's army or not, it certainly will lead to the capture of the rebel capital, and the war will be on a better footing than it is now or has any present prospect of being. The troops available for the movement are the Army of the Potomac, the troops in Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina, with the exception of those necessary to hold the places occupied, the regiments now in process of organization, and those who are on extra duty and furlough, deserters and stragglers. The number of these last is enormous, and the most stringent measures must be taken to collect them. No excuse should be received for absence.     Some of the troops in Western Virginia might also be detached. The transports should consist of ordinary steamers and large ferry-boats and barges. The ferry-boats may become of the greatest use in transporting troops across James River. With the details of the movement we do not trouble you.
Should the general idea be adopted, these can be thoroughly digested and worked out by the generals and their staffs to whom the execution of the plans is committed.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servants,

    Major-General, Commanding Left Wing.

   WM. F. SMITH,
   Major-General, Commanding Sixth Army Corps.

Official Records, Series I. Vol. 21, Part 1, Page 868-870.

Franklin was first in his class (1843) at West Point.  He obviously did not study diplomacy there.  Here he communicates directly with the President.  Smith (known as "Baldy") finished 4th in the class of 1845.  In joining with Franklin he aligned himself with the general who the Republican dominated Committee on the Conduct of the War would blame for the debacle at Fredericksburg (a notion shared by Burnside).  The Committee wanted both generals cashiered from the Army, but Lincoln interceded on Smith's behalf to prevent it (although he could not stop Congress from stalling his approval as Major General).  In January, Burnside would request the removal of both from the Army.

Franklin would bounce around to various lesser commands before being captured during the Monocacy Campaign.  He ended the war "awaiting orders" which never came.  For his troubles, Smith would be sent to Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania.  For Lincoln's part, he believed the letter (received while Burnside was in Washington to consult with the President and Stanton) presented "the old question" of the overland advance against the line of the James and noted a good portion of the troops described will still have to be maintained in Northern Virginia.

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