Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 7, 1863 (Monday): What to do with Milroy?

General Robert C. Schneck

             Washington, March 7, 1863.

Major-General SCHENCK,
   GENERAL:  The substance of your distpatch* in regard to Winchester was telegraphed to General Hooker, who replied that no considerable force of the enemy could possibly be in front of General Milroy, and that was probably "stmmpeded" as usual.  General Milroy seems to be a very unrealiable man, and hardly fit for such a position.  Can you not make a better disposition of him?
    In regard to reconstructing the railroad to Winchester, the Secretary of War is of the opinion that do so at the present time would be a mere waste of public money.
    I have communicated to you my opinion in regard to Winchester.  It is a mere post of observation, or, in military phrase, a post in the air.  The Upper Potomac is a mere line of defense, not a base of operations.  It is, therefore, injudicious to risk any large number of troops at Winchester, and these must retire if there by any severe danger that the enemy will cut them off from Harper's Ferry.
    General Milroy's plan of operations is contrary to every military rule. To move an army up the Shenandoah while Hooker operated from the Rappahannock, would be to repeat the same old error of distant parallel lines, with the enemy between them, ready to concentrate upon and crush our divided forces.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

      H. W. HALLECK

 Not found.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 132.

Milroy continually reported troops preparing to overwhelm Winchester.  But Halleck here points out, even if there were such forces assembling against Milroy, Winchester was not a critical position to hold.  It was a good forward post of observation, but no more.  Ironically, although Halleck understood this, he left too many troops there during the Gettysburg campaign, many of whom were captured when Ewell swept north.


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