Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 7, 1862 (Sunday):Completely Routed?

General George A. McCall

Camp near Potomac Creek, Va., December 7, 1862.
Brigadier General GEORGE A. McCALL,
Washington, D. C.:
    Your letters of the 11th, 13th, and 19th of November, ! with inclosures, were duly received as also that of the 2nd instant # and if I have delayed making my acknowledgment I assure you it has been from no want of respect, or desire on my part to remove from your mind as early as possible any unfavorable impression you may have entertained respecting the accuracy of my official report of the battle of Glendale.
    From the perusal of your letter of the 13th ultimo, the impression left on my mind was that you did not look for answer until the "opportunity to ascertain from General Meade, and others of your division, the particulars of this hard-fought field" had been presented me, since which time my official engagements have more than ever before absorbed my attention. I only regret that I could not relieve your mind earlier and that you have not furnished me with more evidence that I had been unkind or unjust in that part of my report which relates to your command at Glendale, for I had already assured you that it was my conviction that you had been "completely routed" on that field-not so much from the reports which were made me by the officers of your command, as you seem to convey in your letter of the 13th, as from my own personal observation. These only helped to confirm me in the opinion I had previously formed, from the falling back not of "stragglers" or the parts or whole of "one or two" regiments, but, I should judge, of the bulk of your command, in a flying, demoralized condition.
    The objectionable part of my report appears to be that which alleges that your division was completely routed, and yet I will venture to assert that neither General Reynolds, Meade, or Seymour will ever say that such was not the fact. Reynolds, since the receipt of your letter of the 19th ultimo, has assured me that such was the case. I have had no opportunity to converse with Meade and Seymour on the subject, but do not doubt that if that specific question is put to either of them they will reply in the affirmative.
   In the extract from Meade's letter furnished me he seems to dwell on the fact "that if the whole division had run through my lines our army would have been destroyed." I certainly nowhere in my report declared that they did, for of these that fled to the rear but an inconsiderable portion crossed my line; a much greater proportion made their escape through the field occupied by Sumner. Generals Sumner and Sedgwick are good authority on that subject, for they had as good an opportunity to witness it as myself.
    The letter of Captain Clark is no less irrelevant to the point at issue, which is not that your men did not behave well, but that they were "completely routed." In announcing that fact I did not impeach their conduct, for of that I had not the same opportunity to know. Troops can be whipped, I take it, and still preserve their honor. The same remark is applicable to extracts from letter of other officers of you division. They all seem to mistake the point at issue. To arrive at the fact it would be much more conclusive and satisfactory to inquire of each whether or not your division was "completely routed" on that field. Generals Kearny, Berry and Robinson informed me that such was the fact, on the extreme right. The two latter are now living and can testify for themselves. If any further doubt is felt on this point it would be well to refer to the record of the court of inquiry on young Randol, commanding battery.
   But of this -the testimony of my whole division-that of Sedgwick's and Kearny's-no matter. I assure you, general, that it is no agreeable task for me to accumulate proof to the prejudice of any companion in arms, and I have only written the above to satisfy you that I have not been unjust or untrue in my report of this battle. The crossing of my lines by your men filled me with apprehension-the approach of the rebels none. Justice and duty required that it should be placed on record at my hands, and from that consideration only I made mention of your command. This record must stand as it is, because it is true of your and it is just of mine. I shall never refer to it again except in vindication of what I have stated.
    Very truly, your friend.

    Major-General, Commanding

*That of July 15, p.110.

#Not found, but see McCall's report, Numbers 154.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 11, Part 2, Page 114.

Hooker had offended McCall by saying in his report of the Seven Days that  his division had been routed at Glendale (White Oak Swamp) during the Seven Days battles.  The exact quote followsL

"...the whole of McCall's division was completely routed, and many of the fugitives rushed down the road on which my right was resting, while others took to the cleared fields and broke through my lines from one end of them to the other, and I was apprehensive that the effect would be disasterous on my command, and was no little relieved when they had passed my lines."  

McCall, in his report had stated, "With the exception of this temporary and very partial confusion, produced as I have endeavored frankly to describe it, and the failure of the Fourth Regiment to support and protect Randol's battery on the extreme right, it will be seen that the division maintained its position throughout the day against thrice its numbers of the best troops of the Confederate generals, whose economiums were passed on it the next day, as testified by Surgeon marsh, of my division, in his report herewith."

Marsh related in his report remarks made to him after his capture by Confederate General Longstreet, "Well, McCall is safe in Richmond; but if his division had not offered the stubborn resistance it did on this road we would have captured your whole army.  Never mind; we will do it yet."

Hooker was gracious in his praise of McCall's Division conduct at Antietam and worked to ease the wounded feelings of McCall, but never backed away from his description of the troops as "routed" at Glendale.  The incident is an interesting precedent to the kind of arguments which would embroil generals on both sides with their compatriots after the war.

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