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Another day, another master’s thesis… and this one, submitted by William J. McCaffrey in 1970 is revealing, compelling, shocking. Although 140 pages long, this work grips the student of Battle of Shiloh by the throat, and does not let go. It examines “whether or not there was surprise at Pittsburg Landing on April 6th 1862”…and just who was surprised. On page three, a list of six items is posted: flawed conditions of readiness, at least one of which must be present to allow a Defender to get surprised by an Attacker. William McCaffrey devotes the remainder of his thesis to providing evidence of the presence of many of those six conditions of “un-readiness” at Pittsburg Landing in the days, hours and minutes leading up to General Albert Sidney Johnston’s attack. This report contains maps, an excellent list of references, and is constructed by a man concerned about “the lessons of History, and how to avoid the mistakes of History.” Have a read, and decide for yourself how close William McCaffrey, West Point Class of 1958, comes to the mark. Masters Thesis by William J. McCaffrey (1970) “Shiloh: a case study in Surprise” submitted to U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS and on file with National Technical Information Service: https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/733391.pdf
Just below is transcript of a communication (likely sent by special courier) from Confederate Secretary of War, Judah Benjamin to Major General Braxton Bragg (then commander of the Army of Pensacola, based at Fort Barrancas). Why is this 27 DEC 1861 letter important to the study of Shiloh? reveals "the intended mission of General A.S. Johnston, when he was sent West" confirms "a dispute" of some nature, between Generals Price and McCulloch; stresses intention for Missouri to be the primary scene of Confederate operations in the West; compares the skills of commander: Fremont vs. Halleck; provides a proposal to Major General Bragg (and recognizes his achievements in Florida). < Private and Confidential > Confederate States of America, War Department -- Richmond, 27 DEC 1861 My Dear Sir When we sent Genl A. S. Johnston to take command of the Western Department, it was believed that he would proceed at once to the west of the Mississippi and conduct the Campaign in Arkansas and Missouri. The obtaining possession of the latter State is of such supreme importance that I need not say to you a word on the subject. Before however Genl Johnston reached the Mississippi, the threatened invasion of Tennessee, and the advance of the Federal forces into Kentucky rendered it necessary to detain him in this latter State equally important as Missouri to the Confederacy, and threatening more immediate danger, especially when considered in connection with the menaced attack on our lines of communication by rail road through East Tennessee. At that time too, the Department of Missouri was committed by the enemy to Genl Fremont, whose incompetency is well known to us, was a guarantee against immediate peril. All this is now changed: Missouri is under command of an able and well instructed military commander. [Dispersions] exist between General Price and General McCulloch which prevent their cordial cooperation. We are threatened with grievous disaster: McCulloch has put his army (of about 9000 excellent troops) into Winter quarters in north western Arkansas, while Price has advanced alone, and we fear with fatal rashness, into a district of country where he is likely to be surrounded and cut off by overwhelming forces. And the Army of Missouri is represented to be a mere gathering of brave but undisciplined partisan troops, coming and going at pleasure, and needing a master mind to control and reduce it into order and to convert it into a real army. After long and anxious consultation with the President, we can find no one but yourself in whom we feel we could rely with confidence as Commander in Chief of the trans-Mississippi Department. Yet we do not know how to fill your place at Pensacola. Missouri must not be lost to us, even at some risk of misfortune at Pensacola. You have so thoroughly and satisfactorily prepared the defences at the latter point that we scarcely believe another attempt will be made on your defences, and we hope that by sending Kirby Smith to take your place, if you should leave, that important point will be successfully defended. You see already that my purpose is to ask you if you would consent to go to the West: in that event Genl Johnston's command would be divided by the Mississippi River, giving him as much even then as he can efficiently attend to; and your command would embrace everything west of the Mississippi, except the coast defences. Your Campaign would comprehend the States of Arkansas and Missouri, (together with northern Texas and the Indian Territory. Genl Price will probably be continued in the command of the Missouri troops when mustered with our service, and their number, of course, I cannot approximate. But we could scarcely have less than twenty or twenty-five thousand men from that state. For Arkansas and the Indian Territory, our forces amount to about 12,000 -- a number of other regiments are now nearly organized in Texas and Arkansas, and we would find means of assigning two or three of the new regiments to Pensacola, and these disengaging for your command the two best Mississippi regiments. With all these resources, aided of course by our hearty and cordial cooperation, it seems to me that we may confidently look for brilliant results. If the tide of battle should turn towards the Mississippi River, your operations would be conducted in cooperation with Genl Johnston's, and of course in that event he would rank you, but unless in case of joint operations on the river, your command would be entirely independent, and such joint operations would only be undertaken by special order of the President, and by your own concert with Genl Johnston. Will you undertake this work? I tell you frankly I believe you owe it to your Country, in this her hour of peril, but it will not be urged on you against your will. If we cannot now make available your name and reputation as a soldier, I confess I know not where else to look at this time. The President and myself have anxiously scanned every name on our Army List, and under all the circumstances (many of which it is not possible to communicate in this letter) we invariably fell back on yours as the name. The circumstances are pressing -- I could not say all that was important for your consideration by telegraph, but I must beg you as soon as it is possible to answer me by telegraph, "I accept," if that be your conclusion. If you say in reply, "I refuse," I must see what next best can be done. I am Yours very truly J. P. Benjamin [to Major Genl Braxton Bragg, at Pensacola.] Made available online by Missouri History Museum -- St. Louis Civil War Project http://cdm.sos.mo.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/CivilWar/id/1302/rec/2 Ozzy
Albert Sidney Johnston's last duty station with the U.S. Army was at San Francisco, California in early 1861. Shortly after his arrival there, he faced a dilemma (similar to that faced by Robert E. Lee): what to do when (and if) his State seceded. In Johnston's case, his State was Texas. When that time came, and Johnston decided to resign from the U.S. Army and "follow his State" into the Confederacy, he now faced another dilemma: how to conduct himself while still Senior Officer in California... waiting for his resignation to be accepted... awaiting arrival of his replacement as Commander of the Department of the Pacific. William Preston Johnston covers this important topic well in the biography of his Father, The Life of General Albert Sidney Johnston (especially pages 256-293.) But, for those without time to read 30-plus pages, I can recommend I will call a Traitor a Traitor by Brian McGinty. Only three or four pages long, it is concise and accurate, and explains why and how Albert Sidney Johnston conducted himself the way he did -- while still in the service of the U.S. Government; while crossing the desert east, with fellow travellers to take up the Confederate cause; and where his loyalty truly resided. Ozzy References: http://www.militarymuseum.org/Johnston.html (McGinty's work on AS Johnston, care of Military Museum of California) http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433082381157;view=1up;seq=9 (The Life of General AS Johnston, from HathiTrust)