Lee’s Lost Orders and the North Recruits

September 7, 1862/2012
Volume 3, Issue 36 (100 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

Maryland’s Welcome to Lee is Underwhelming

September 8, 1862. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had several purposes when, seeking to capitalize on his victory at Second Battle of Bull Run, he moved his army across the Potomac River and into Maryland. He hoped to enlist new soldiers and acquire needed supplies. He also hoped that his foray into Union territory might cause England to recognize the Confederacy, which might so demoralize the Union that it might negotiate a peace. Unfortunately for him, not many new recruits joined his army; he was in a region of Maryland with few slaves and less support for the Confederacy than he anticipated. Recognition of the Confederacy by Great Britain also proved elusive.

A Unionist woman wrote of Lee’s army as it marched through Frederick, Maryland:

“I wish, my dearest Minnie, you could have witnessed the transit of the Rebel army through our streets. . . . Their coming was unheralded by any pomp and pageant whatever. . . . Instead came three long dirty columns that kept on in an unceasing flow. I could scarcely believe my eyes.

“Was this body of men, moving . . . along with no order, their guns carried in every fashion, no two dressed alike, their officers hardly distinguishable from the privates — were these, I asked myself in amazement, were these dirty, lank, ugly specimens of humanity, with shocks of hair sticking through the holes in their hats, and the dust thick on their dirty faces, the men that had coped and encountered successfully and driven back again and again our splendid legions . . . ?

“I must confess, Minnie, that I felt humiliated at the thought that this horde of ragamuffins could set our grand army of the Union at defiance. Why, it seemed as if a single regiment of our gallant boys in blue could drive that dirty crew into the river without any trouble!”

– Submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Executive Director, Vermont Humanities Council      


Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod, My Brother’s Face, p. 50.

Lee’s Lost Order

September 13, 1862. It was a commander’s dream come true: Union soldiers found a copy of Robert E. Lee’s orders to Major General D.H. Hill. They were wrapped around a bunch of cigars and found in a field that Hill’s division had recently occupied. Hill never received the orders, and now Union Major General George B. McClellan knew exactly what Lee planned to do. Lee was going to split his forces in two. Had McClellan acted quickly, he might have handed Lee a decisive defeat. But true to form, McClellan was overly cautious, and the priceless but fleeting opportunity was lost.

A copy of Lee's Lost Orders at Crampton's Gap, Maryland. Click on image for larger view.

A copy of Lee’s Lost Orders at Crampton’s Gap, Maryland. Click on image for larger view.

– Submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Executive Director, Vermont Humanities Council

Countless Town Recruiting Meetings across the North

September 13, 1862. When Lincoln called for another round of recruits, recruiting meetings were held in countless towns throughout the North. Indeed, multiple meetings had to be held as the war progressed and the need for recruits continued.

Both the character of the meeting and the language used on September 13, 1862 in the Vermont Journal, the local newspaper in Windsor, Vermont to report on two such meetings recently held in town were similar to that of numerous meetings throughout the Union:

“The meeting [August 23, 1862] was large and enthusiastic. Patriotic speeches were made and volunteers came forward in a number sufficient, as we as then supposed, to supply our quota, and there the matter rested, until with a few days, when we were informed that, through some miscalculation, sixteen more men were required to fill our quota, before the 10th inst., or submit to a draft. It was decided to appeal once more to the patriotic young men of Windsor, and another meeting was held on Tuesday evening last [September 9] at the Town Hall, which was densely packed, . . . while a large crowd were gathered outside, vainly trying to learn of the success within. . . . The ladies were present in goodly numbers, manifesting the spirit of the mothers of [Seventeen] seventy-six, in this critical juncture of our nation. The Windsor Cornet Band was present, and enlivened the meeting by patriotic music. A number of the citizens encouraged enlistments by generous donations, and in short the meeting was a perfect success. The men came forward and our quota was full and the meeting adjourned, amid enthusiastic cheers.”

Recruitment posters like these were seen throughout the North.

Recruitment posters like these were seen throughout the North.

– Submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Executive Director, Vermont Humanities Council

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Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1862

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