Tag Archives: Stonewall Jackson

Do bad maps explain a Stonewall Jackson mystery?

(July 4, 2017) Stonewall Jackson’s poor performance during the early summer 1862 Seven Days Campaign near Richmond immediately following his brilliant independent Shenandoah Valley victories may have been at least partly due to inaccurate maps of the countryside around the Confederate capital. Historians have long puzzled over his tendency to arrive late and in the wrong positions while failing to attack as directed during a week of nearly continuous fighting around Richmond under Robert E. Lee.

On 26 June at the first battle of the campaign, for example, Jackson was to arrive on the enemy’s north flank at Beaver Dam Creek and coordinate his attack with the rest of Lee’s units that would attack from the west. When Stonewall arrived too late at five o’clock in the afternoon he was in the wrong place even though his faulty map indicated that he was correctly located.

On 27 June, Jackson was again to lead a key flank attack at Gaines Mills but was late a second time because he was not familiar with the roads. He did not join the Rebel assault until nearly twilight. On 29 June, Jackson failed to launch a flank attack on the Federals at Savage’s Station. That time he did not show up at all. The third error, however, may have resulted from poorly worded orders from Lee’s adjutant, C. H. Chilton, who also played a role in the famous Lost Dispatch incident shortly before the Battle of Antietam three months later in Maryland.

Lee’s last chance for a decisive win in the Seven Days Campaign was on 30 June when he directed four columns of Rebel units totaling 70,000 men to converge on a marching column of 55,000 Federals at Glendale Crossroads. The defenders were part of a 100,000-man Union army that would be split in two if the Glendale attack were successful. In the end, only two of Lee’s four columns pressed their assaults vigorously and Jackson’s was not among them. That time, however, Jackson was close enough to see, or hear, the firing from his objective without a need of maps.

A number of Lee subordinates complained about the poor quality of maps used during the Seven Days Campaign. Daniel H. Hill said “the maps furnished the division commanders were worthless.” After the war Richard Taylor wrote “the Confederate commanders knew no more about the topography of the country [east of Richmond] than they did about central Africa.” Benjamin Huger complained, “I had no one to show me what road to  take.” John Magruder said the only map he ever saw was a grossly inaccurate one at Lee’s H-Q. An Alabama officer was surprised that even Lee was apparently unaware of a route the Union army took to retreat from the last battle of the campaign at Malvern Hill.

Jedediah Hotchkiss – Stonewall’s Cartographer

In contrast, Stonewall’s success in his earlier Shenandoah Valley Campaign benefitted significantly from his cartographer, Jedediah Hotchkiss, who remained on staff until the general was killed in May 1863 at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Jackson’s reputation for lightning movements and surprise attacks, befuddling his enemies, owes much to Hotchkiss’s mapping. Hotchkiss, however, had no time to prepare maps around the Richmond area before the Seven Days Campaign began. Unfortunately, the campaign could not be delayed with any prospect of victory in order to provide him time to make such maps.

Together with the three men who served as Secretary of War during the first fourteen months of the Confederacy, President Jefferson Davis along with Generals Joseph Johnston and Robert E. Lee should share the blame for the inadequate maps of the Richmond area during the summer of 1862. As Commander in Chief, Davis had at least a year after the war started in April 1861 to order that such maps be prepared. Similarly, Robert E. Lee could have ordered them after his March 1862 appointment as President Davis’s military advisor. Finally, Joe Johnston had commanded of the chief Confederate army in the Eastern Theater since the previous summer. None, apparently, gave it enough thought.

My Amazon Author Page


Sample Chapter: The Confederacy at Flood Tide

Provided below is the “Introduction” to my new Civil War book, The Confederacy at Flood TideIt is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart and other bookstores. It is also a History Book Club Selection. (Abundant footnotes are in the book, but not in this free sample.)  To inspect all of my books, please visit my author page at Amazon.


The Confederacy at Flood Tide was selected as a title to distinguish this book from the popular notion of the Confederacy at high tide. The latter expression is generally associated with Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, or, secondarily, the Rebel attack on Starkweather’s Hill at Perryville, Kentucky. However, the story of the Confederacy’s most opportune period for winning independence involved developments in Europe, Virginia, Washington, Maryland, Kentucky, Mississippi, and even Missouri and Arkansas.

     Although it lasted only six months, from June to December 1862, the rising tide flooded all theaters of the war. It was not an isolated surge in Maryland or Kentucky. For example, at Prairie Grove, Arkansas, in early December 1862, more Missourians fought to win their state for the South than fought to keep it in the Union. Moreover, the Confederacy’s flood tide was not limited to military factors. It also swelled within the sectors of diplomacy, politics, and espionage. For instance, on July 4, 1862, the Confederacy signed a secret contract with a leading British warship builder for two deep-water ironclads superior to anything in the US Navy and capable of crossing the Atlantic.

     The Confederacy never came closer to diplomatic recognition than in autumn 1862. After learning of the Union rout at Second Bull Run—known as Second Manassas in the South—in mid-September British Prime Minister Henry John Temple, Lord Palmerston, advocated intervention. In an exchange of letters with the British foreign secretary, Earl John Russell—who held a post comparable to US secretary of state, albeit somewhat more prestigious—Palmerston wrote: “The Federals got a very complete smashing, and it seems not altogether unlikely that still greater disasters await them, and that even Washington or Baltimore may fall into the hands of the Confederates. If this should happen, would it not be time for us to consider whether . . . England and France might not address the contending parties and recommend an arrangement upon the basis of separation?” Russell agreed and added that if mediation failed, “we ought ourselves to recognize the Southern states as an independent state.”

     US Secretary of State William H. Seward instructed his ambassador to Great Britain to inform Palmerston’s government that any attempt to intervene in America’s Civil War would result in a break in diplomatic relations with the United States, thereby implying that war between Britain and the United States would likely result. Such a war would have challenged both sides. Although it would be hard for Britain to maintain an army in America, its powerful navy might have ended the federal blockade of Southern ports and even blockaded Northern harbors. Contrary to popular belief, the Monitor and Merrimack   (CSS Virginia) were not the first ironclad warships. The British and French began building bigger and faster deep-water ironclads before America’s Civil War started.

     As one of the weapons used by the Union to reverse the Confederate tide, the Emancipation Proclamation was more controversial than commonly supposed. Contrary to popular belief, many contemporaries were confused, critical, and frightened by its implications. Major General George McClellan, among others, believed it was a deliberate attempt to incite a slave rebellion in the South.

          Even President Abraham Lincoln admitted the possibility of such insurrections before he issued the proclamation. On September 13, 1862, he replied to a delegation of Chicago abolitionists visiting Washington that he recognized the potential “consequences of insurrection and massacre at the South” that such a proclamation might provoke. Whatever the moral benefits, or immoral consequences, of emancipation, he “view[ed] the matter as a practical war measure, to be decided upon according to the advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the [Confederate] rebellion.”

#2_Confederacy at Flood Tide

        Whatever his intent, the proclamation led to an uproar about its potential to incite slave rebellions. Ultimately, however, there was a subtle but important difference in the language between the preliminary version—issued shortly after the Battle of Antietam in September 1862—and the final version issued on January 1, 1863. Lincoln added the following paragraph, which was altogether missing from the September version:

“And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.” Continue reading