Monday, May 7, 2012

Fickle Fortunes

Back in Washington, E.M.Stanton is surely becoming concerned with the mental status of his assistant in the field when he receives the following report from Scott on this day in 1862.  Only yesterday the imminent arrival of the whole Confederate army was anticipated at Corinth. Scott fails to identify the source for his new "News from Corinth" and gives Stanton no opportunity to evaluate it's reliability as compared to the news in his previous telegram.  In this instance, Scott seems to be more of a gossip columnist than an intelligence analyst.

May 7, 1862-9 a. m.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

News from Corinth this morning is to the effect that Beauregard has been ordered by Jeff. Davis to change his position, and that re-enforcements on their way to Corinth have been stopped. Their new point for concentration is unknown. Reconnaissance in force will probably be made by General Pope this afternoon. I go with it, and will advise you from the field. All other movements progressing. Weather fine.

Assistant Secretary of War.*

Their fortunes seem to be changing as often as the weather.  Note in the following report to Halleck that Pope is as certain that the rebels are leaving Corinth as Scott was of the arrival of reinforcements just one day before.  This may be an example of not "seeing the elephant."  Corinth's  strategic importance was centered on the railway junction.  If it was serving the Confederates in that capacity, there would naturally be freight arriving from one direction and departing in another.  If only the arrivals were being observed one would assume an enormous consolidation of materials, while a report of only the departures would indicate a mass evacuation.  Whatever the cause, the Union leaders are clearly having problems interpreting the intelligence they are gathering.

May 7, 1862.
Major-General HALLECK:

Reports from the pickets assume such a form and come so continuously that the enemy is evacuating Corinth, that I think an examination in force will be desirable. It is certain that as early as last Thursday trains were leaving on both rooads [sic] of twenty and thirty cars each, loaded with supplies, and since that time men have not been permitted to go to the depot. A great quantity of subsistence stores have been carried off. I instructed General Paine to make as close an examination last night as possible, without moving his command, but have had no report from him. If one of Buell's divisions, say Nelson's, which is nearest to me, can be sent, with two days' rations in haversacks, to occupy my camps, I will make a reconnaissance to-day with my whole force.

Please advise immediately.
JNumbers POPE,

In response, Halleck informs Pope that Buell's Army of the Ohio is in line, having overcome the obstacles that were blocking their path, and instructs Pope to send out a strong reconnaissance to his left tomorrow and drive back the Confederate pickets toward Corinth.  Pope amends his request for support from Nelson's division. Now he asks simply for coverage of his right flank as he assails Hardee's (CSA) position on the rail line.  He feels no reconnaissance would be successful unless he can first drive Hardee's men back into the works at Corinth.  He also noted that Nelson's division (including our men of the Seventeenth Kentucky) is not yet in position to do so, being to his right and rear by a couple of miles, although Nelson's Division  had advanced their camp three miles on this day according to his final report.  The decision is postponed until tomorrow.

*ORE reports courtesy of my Favorite Link, Ohio State's eHistory

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