Tag Archives: Special Order 191

Speech to Tampa Civil War Roundtable on Lee’s Lost Dispatch

This Wednesday I will be making a presentation on my latest Civil War book, Lee’s Lost Dispatch and other Civil War Controversies.

When: Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Where: Tampa History Center
801 Old Water Street
Tampa, Florida 33602
(Next to Hockey Arena)

Time: 7:00 p. m.

Parking: Arrive early to park for free in the basement.

Topic: Lee’s Lost Dispatch during Antietam campaign.

During Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North he developed a detailed plan to get his army into Pennsylvania by splitting it into fragments that would enable him to clear an invasion path by capturing the 12,000-man federal garrison at Harpers Ferry and taking the rest of his army to Hagerstown, Maryland less than six miles from the Pennsylvania state line. His army was vulnerable to annihilation while it was split into five parts, especially if Union Major General George McClellan became aware of the Confederate deployment.


Unfortunately for Lee, that is precisely what happened. Union soldiers discovered an authentic copy of Lee’s order detailing the Rebel army’s scattered unit locations. When the copy reached McClellan he declared, “Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home.” The result was the unplanned battle of Antietam.

My talk will describe the strategic situation, how the order was lost or stolen, and the consequences of the Union discovery. It will also analyze the available evidence to try and determine who was responsible for losing the orders.


My other Civil War books include

Trading With the Enemy
Co. Aytch: Illustrated and Annotated

Lee’s Lost Dispatch

Provided below is a copy of a speech I gave to the Civil War Roundtable of North Florida about the Lost Order of the Antietam Campaign.

The Confederacy never came closer to winning its independence than in September 1862.
Only three months earlier in late June, Washington brimmed with expectations of a Confederate collapse. The first six months of the year provided a string of federal victories in the West. They began in January at Mill Springs, Kentucky and continued with the surrender of 14,000 Rebels at Fort Donelson in February, Confederate ejection from Missouri in March at Pea Ridge, and culminated with the repulse of the supreme Confederate counter-offensive at Shiloh in April. Even a Rebel offensive in remote New Mexico was turned back.

In May the South’s largest city, New Orleans, surrendered to a Union fleet that fought past the city’s downstream fortifications. When Memphis was occupied in early June only a single Rebel outpost at Vicksburg prevented Union commerce from flowing down the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri rivers to export markets through New Orleans.

Union prospects were also favorable in the East where Major General George McClellan commanded the largest army ever assembled in the Western hemisphere. His troops were so close to the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia that they could set their watches by the city’s church bells. He planned to smash the Rebel defenses to rubble once he concentrated siege guns at Old Tavern less than six miles from the city, which he would then take by assault. Unless something unexpected happened, Washington’s optimism seemed justified.

But the unexpected did happen.

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