Wrapped in Flames: The Great American War and Beyond

noun: celerity
  1. swiftness of movement.
Could mean any number of things. Fast raids by light forces west of the Great Lakes, Union Commerce raiders on the high seas, a rapid redeployment of troops catching an enemy by surprise, all could happen, and there are probably plenty more options I haven't thought of.

This is the only one I'll give you a hint on, it was one historic flag officer's catch phrase ;)
Chapter 22: The Lion and the Bull
Chapter 22: The Lion and the Bull

"Comme le dit un vieil adage:
Rien n'est si beau que son pays;
Et de le chanter, c'est l'usage;
Le mien je chante à mes amis
L'étranger voit avec un oeil d'envie
Du Saint-Laurent le majestueux cours;
À son aspect le Canadien s'écrie:
Ô Canada! mon pays! mes amours!

As the old proverb says:
Nothing is more beautiful than one's country;
And to sing it is the tradition;
And mine I sing to my friends
The stranger looks with an envious eye
Of the St. Lawrence the majestic course;
At its aspect the Canadian sings:
O Canada! my country! my love!)

O Canada! Mon pays mes amours – originally written by George-Étienne Cartier, unofficial regimental song of the Les Voltiguers du Quebec, 9th Battalion Volunteer Rifles

“The Anglo-American frontier had not been idle in the time since the British had first crossed it in February on the Maine border and the time when Sumner’s army crossed into Canada come May 17th. In the period since the declaration of war the state of New York had been a frenzy of activity as men and material were shipped north from the warzones on the Potomac, and the arsenals in the lower state. Halleck had also taken up his command post at Albany where he would direct operations against the Province of Canada. Here was connected by rail, river, telegraph and canal with all his forces at the front, and to the industries of New England.

The Army of the Hudson, which had been forming since March, was four divisions strong and with its attached infantry, cavalry, artillery, and engineers, counted over 50,000 men and 84 guns.

Commanding the army was major general Edwin V. Sumner. At 65 Sumner had spent over 40 years in the military after enlisting in 1819. He had served in the Black Hawk war in 1832, then fought in Mexico earning two brevets, as well as his nickname “Bull Head” after being struck in the head by a spent round at the Battle of Cerro Gordo. Otherwise he was known as “The Bull of the Woods” for his ability to loudly address his troops and bellow orders. In the period before the Civil War he campaigned against the Cheyenne and attempted to quell the violence during “Bleeding Kansas”, and had been selected to escort Lincoln to his inauguration after his electoral victory in 1860.

When the Civil War broke out he was commanding the Department of the Pacific, but was rapidly transported east to take command of a formation in spring 1861. When trouble with the British threatened he had been assigned command of a formation of three divisions, then been transferred north to Albany where he took Burnside’s “Coastal Division” under his command. There he had formed the “Army of the Hudson” or the I Corps, Department of the Lakes, into shape.


Edwin V. Sumner

The army was not green. Each of the division commanders had seen action, whether it was in Mexico or Germany, and most of their men had been blooded in the early fighting in the summer and fall of 1861. In May of 1862 it was organized as such:

Army of the Hudson: MG Edwin V. Sumner commanding

Chief of Staff: Col. Alfred Sully
Commanding Artillery: Col. Francis N. Clarke
Adjutant General: Lt. Col. Joseph H. Taylor
Cpt Louis Philippe d'Orleans
Cpt Robert d'Orleans
Cpt Martin T. McMahon

1st Division BG Israel Richardson
1st Brigade (BG Oliver O. Howard): 5th New Hampshire, 81st Pennsylvania, 61st New York, 64th New York
2nd Brigade (BG Thomas F. Meagher): 63rd New York, 68th New York, 88th New York, 28th Massachusetts
3rd Brigade (BG William H. French): 52nd New York, 57th New York, 66th New York, 53rd Pennsylvania

2nd Division BG John Sedgwick
1st Brigade (BG Willis A. Gorman): 82nd New York, 15th Massachusetts, 1st Minnesota
2nd Brigade (BG William Wallace Burns): 69th, 71st, 72nd and 101st Pennsylvania Infantry
3rd Brigade (BG Napoleon T. J. Dana): 19th Massachusetts, 20th Massachusetts, 7th Michigan, 47th New York

3rd Division BG Louis Blenker
1st Brigade (BG Julius Stahel): 8th New York, 39th New York, 41st New York, 45th New York, 27th Pennsylvania
2nd Brigade (BG Adolph von Steinwehr): 29th New York Infantry, 68th New York Infantry, 73rd Pennsylvania
3rd Brigade (BG Henry Bohlen): 54th New York, 58th New York, 74th Pennsylvania, 75th Pennsylvania

4th Division BG Ambrose Burnside
1st Brigade (BG John G. Foster): 10th Connecticut, 23rd Massachusetts, 24th Massachusetts, 25th Massachusetts, 27th Massachusetts
2nd Brigade (BG Jesse L. Reno): 21st Massachusetts, 9th New Jersey, 51st New York, 51st Pennsylvania, 99th New York
3rd Brigade (John G. Parke): 8th Connecticut, 11th Connecticut, 9th New York, 4th Rhode Island, 5th Rhode Island

Cavalry Brigade: (Col. George A.H. Blake) 4th New York, 6th New York, 8th Illinois, 5th U.S. Cavalry

Burnside’s division had been transferred north in early February after Lyons departure as a holding measure. When war was officially declared at the end of February Sumner was dispatched to Plattsburgh to organize his headquarters. Richardson and Sedgwick’s divisions had followed over the thaw and Blenker’s had been entrained north from the West after the victory at Pea Ridge in March. They had drilled over the winter, and in accordance with the plans in Washington, had organized themselves for a march north.

The 99th New York had been detached to Plattsburgh where they had been put to work converting gunboats for service on Lake Champlain (their original purpose had been to man such vessels for the expedition to the Carolinas) in cooperation with the Navy in order to support a movement north up the Richelieu to attack Montreal.

The plan as laid down by Halleck was simple as plans went. The Army of the Hudson would march north and take the British fort on Île aux Noix, march up the river and seize the bridge and railroad crossing at St. Jean, then wheel about to besiege Montreal, which lay a mere 40 miles distant from their base at Rouse Point. This they were expecting to accomplish in accompaniment with a general uprising on the part of the French speaking peoples of the Province. This belief had been bolstered over the winter months, both from optimistic reports in the papers of the British needing to garrison the Province in case of rebellion, and from the reports of former members of the Province who had fled in the aftermath of the 1837 rebellions like Edmund O'Callaghan (who would join the Union army as a surgeon). As such when the army marched north in May 1862 most believed they would be greeted as liberators.

They were soon disabused of this notion…” – To Arms!: The Great American War, Sheldon Foote, University of Boston 1999.


The Anglo-American Border 1862

“The British forces in Montreal had not been idle since the outbreak of war. Williams, after returning from his whirlwind tour of the Province in January, set to work setting out the defences of Montreal and organizing the field force which would protect the city. Through December, Williams had just turned 62, and though the "Lion of Kars" was getting long in the tooth, he was not at all short of energy.

Williams first task though, was in seeing to the defence of Montreal itself, described as “the commercial capital of the Province, the centre of all great communications, and the principal strategic point in the Province.” To that end he established or re-established fortifications on the island itself and in the river. The fortifications on Saint Helen’s Island had been allowed to decay after a fire in 1848, but in the winter of 1861-62 the Royal Engineers had worked to re-establish some of the fortifications, laying out a series of entrenchments surrounding them. It was also made safe for ships in the river to dock, establishing a station for naval stores there. A heavy battery of guns was established there, along with temporary works on Nun’s Island, Bout de I’lse, and Lachine as well as a redoubt at Vaudreil.

To man these works, and free up the regulars for work in the field, a strong brigade of volunteer infantry and artillery had been established on the Island of Montreal under Col. John Dyde, a long time militia officer who had been organizing troops since 1855 and had served in the Volunteers during the Rebellions of 1837-38. He had three battalions of Infantry manning the works, and a brigade of garrison artillery under Lt. Col. Robert Tylee. They were supported by the Volunteer Engineer companies of Montreal, as well as two batteries of garrison artillery from the regulars.

The main field army was being gathered at St. Jean, in order to contest the advance of any force marching up the Richelieu, or to threaten the flank of any force which would attempt to march along the Chateuguay River, and by May had over 25,000 men and 54 guns. This force had been assembling since February, first with the Guards Brigade under Major General Lord Frederick Paulet. Paulet, 52, had enrolled in the Coldstream Guards in 1828 as an ensign, and had advanced in the peacetime army to the rank of Colonel before serving in the Russian War in the Crimea with the Guards Brigade in the battles at Alma, Inkerman, and Balacava. He had been dispatched to North America in the winter of 1861 and taken command of the Guards Brigade, which was stationed at St. Jean, before being elevated to command the First Division, Army of Canada, with the arrival of a second brigade of regulars in January. His division was understrength, thus being the equivalent of a light division. This was due to the refusal of the Guards officers to serve alongside the Colonial militia in brigade, and so to avoid ruffled feathers Williams placed Paulet’s division in reserve.

By May, two further divisions had been formed from the reinforcement tranches which had arrived both overland during the winter of 1861-62, and come mid-April, directly by ship from the Maritimes to Quebec and Montreal.

The Second Division was under the command of Major General Sir Patrick Grant. At 58 Grant had served with the army for over 40 years on various services in India as a staff officer and field commander in conflicts from the Gwalior Campaign, to the Mutiny where he acted as Commander in Chief. He had commanded the efforts against the Mutineers until the arrival of Sir Colin Campbell. His appointment to North America, with the rank of Major General, was as much practical as it was political. There were serious doubts about William’s abilities, and it was felt that a good officer should be waiting in the wings. The two men knew this was the reason for such an experienced officer’s presence, and although their relationship was polite, it was incredibly tense as Grant’s presence reminded Williams very distinctly of the price of failure.

Grant’s division also included the “Canadian Brigade” under Col. Augustus Lane Fox, a guards officer who specialized in rifle instruction and had won his colonelcy in the Crimea, a brigade of Canadian Volunteers enrolled into British service. Though each brigade save those of Paulet’s was bolstered by the presence of a militia battalion, Pitt-Rivers’s Brigade was the only one to incorporate only Canadian troops. The decision to fold militia into the brigades was both political and practical, the militia, though certainly not up to the standards of the regulars, were still able to pad out the numbers of Williams’s army, and accepting them into the ranks made it appear as though the Canadians shared the burden alongside the regular troops. To fill out this Canadian brigade they had selected three battalions who had volunteered themselves for service.

The first was the 1st “Prince of Wales” Battalion of Volunteer Rifles, first formed in 1859, it had earned its distinction in 1860 during the Prince’s tour of North America. It was commanded by Bernard Devlin, an Irish born lawyer who had immigrated with his father to Canada in 1844 and had practiced the bar since 1848. He had undertaken the prosecution of the Confederate raiders om behalf of the government in Washington in November 1861, but when war called he had joined his militia unit faithfully, replacing Lt. Col. Thomas Wiley who was promoted to the staff in January.

Second were the men of the 9th Battalion of Volunteer Rifles, the “Voltiguers de Quebec”. They had been assembled in Quebec City under the command of Charles de Salaberry. Son of the great French hero of 1812 of the same name who had led the militia to victory at Chateauguay, his inclusion had been almost as political as it had been practical. His brother Melchior-Alphonse was a very influential politician and the assistant adjutant-general of the Lower Canada militia serving in Montreal. Taché and MacDonald both speaking in support of him. With the recommendation of so many powerful people and Charles good record inside the militia he had been a natural to be chosen.

Lastly there was the 11th Battalion of Volunteer Infantry, or the “Argenteuil Rangers”. This unit had been organized John Abbott, a local member of parliament, and his brother Harry at considerable expense to himself. He was a successful businessman and politician, who was deeply involved in the economy of Lower Canada, and so had ties with many influential men. Despite many suspecting him of disloyalty after having signed the 1849 “Annexation Manifesto” Abbott, who would hold considerable grudges for the remainder of his life about the subject, would always maintain his service throughout the war, and that he had been granted command of the battalion, was firm proof his “youthful error” had been forgiven.


From left to right: Lane Fox, Abbott, de Salaberry, Devlin
Finally, the Third Division was under the command of Major General David Russell, 53, another Guards officer assigned to North America with the local rank of Major General. He had originally entered the army as a cornet in the 7th Dragoons in 1828, then exchanged to the 84th Foot in 1835, gaining a brevet colonelcy in 1854. He had seen action in the Mutiny, commanding the 5th Brigade, a mixed force of regulars and local troops, in the relief of Lucknow. There he greatly distinguished himself in the actions and was severely wounded and mentioned in the dispatches. He would return to Britain and spend time recruiting before taking command of a brigade at Aldershot.

The attached cavalry brigade was composed of the two newly raised Volunteer Dragoon regiments, as well as a solid core around the 13th Hussars who had been dispatched in response to the border raids in November under the command of Lt. Col, Soame Jenyns. They were led by Colonel Alexander Low who had entered the army in 1835. He had fought in the Russian War, serving in the battles of Alma, Inkerman, Balaclava, Tchernaya, and the siege of Sevastopol. He had even taken part in Cardigan’s ill-fated scouting expedition in Eupatoria. Sent to chivy the local cavalry into something resembling a field force, he had taken command of the cavalry brigade to provide a semblance of a mounted force and drill the Volunteer squadrons.

All told, Williams Army of Canada was organized as such come May 15th 1862:

Army of Canada: Lt. Gen. Sir William Fenwick Williams commanding

Military Secretary: Col. Hon. Robert Rollo (Unattached)
Aides de camp:
Captain Grant (Royal Engineers)
Captain W. H. Earle (17th Foot)
Chief of the Staff: Col. Edward Wetherall (Unattached)
Commanding Royal Artillery: Col. F. M. Eardley Wilmont, RA
Headquarters: 2/Royal Canadian Rifles (Bvt. Lt. Col Fitzwilliam Walker), 13th Hussars (Captain Thomas P. Gratrex)(1 company)

1st (Light) Division (MG Frederick Paulet)

1st (Guards) Brigade (BG Henry Ponsonby): 1st Battalion Grenadier, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards , 2nd Battalion Scots Fusilier Guards
2nd Brigade (Col. Lord Alexander G. Russell) 1/Rifle Brigade, 1/16th Regiment of Foot, 1/17th Regiment of Foot

Divisional Artillery (Lt. Col. Edward W. Crofton)

2nd Division (MG Sir Patrick Grant)
1st Brigade (BG John Garvock) 4/60th Kings Rifles, 55th Regiment of Foot, 6th Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles
2nd Brigade (MG William Norcott) 47th Regiment of Foot, 1/3rd Regiment of Foot, 3rd Battalion “Victoria” Volunteer Rifles
3rd (Canadian) Brigade (Col Augustus Lane Fox) 1st “Prince of Wales” Volunteer Rifles, 9th Volunteer Rifles, 11th Volunteer Rifles

Divisional Artillery (Lt. Col. Thomas Elwyn)

3rd Division (MG David Russell)

1st Brigade (Col. Henry Smyth) 86th Regiment of Foot, 76th Regiment of Foot 17th Battalion “Levis” Volunteer Infantry (Lt. Colonel J. G. Blanchet)
2nd Brigade (BG William Sutton) 1/10th Regiment of Foot, 2/25th Regiment of Foot, 12th Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles
3rd Brigade (Col. Edward Scovell) 64th Regiment of Foot, 96th Regiment of Foot, 4th Battalion Volunteer Rifles

Divisional Artillery (Lt. Col. Murray O. Nixon)

Cavalry Brigade (Col. Alexander Low): 13th Hussars, 4th Canadian Dragoons(4cos), 2nd Canadian Dragoons(6cos)

It was this force which would be expected to hold the border against the coming storm…

…Williams, keeping in line with Burgoyne’s view that: “some favourable battlefields could be selected…these, previously thoroughly well studied, could no doubt be rapidly entrenched, and made very formidable.” sought out a defensive line close to the border, where he could keep both the river and his line of retreat open, and fall back upon his defences if necessary. It was this which led him to entrench his force at the Lacolle River.

The Lacolle River was a small, swift, feeder of the Richelieu, running from the interior of the district to connect with the Richelieu as it rushed north to meet the Saint Lawrence. To the west it was fed by the shallow Beaver Creek, beginning in the broken country at Henrysburg. At the main crossing, a small village had grown up around a mill that sat at the site of previous fighting, unoriginally named, Lacolle Mills.

This position augered well for Williams, being the site of victories in 1812, 1814, and 1838 against other invaders, and it also covered the main road leading north to St. Jean, and the Richelieu River. Williams dug in his forces following the river. The Second Division under Patrick dug in at the Stone Mill, utilizing the high ground at the mill and the crossing to create a series of redoubts which overlooked the soft ground to the south of the river. The Third Division under Russell dug beside this position, covering a long line up to the rough ground at Beaver Creek which secured the flank, while Paulet’s First Division remained in reserve at Fort Lennox, several miles distant…” – Empire and Blood: British Military Operations in the 19th Century Volume IV


Lacolle Mills, 1869

More to come tomorrow ;)
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Chapter 22: Faugh A Ballagh
Chapter 22: Faugh A Ballagh

“It is not only our duty to America, but also to Ireland. We could not hope to succeed in our effort to make Ireland a Republic without the moral and material support of the liberty-loving citizens of these United States.”- Thomas Francis Meagher, On deciding to fight for the Union, September 1861


Sumner vs. Williams

“Sumner’s forces were preceded by Blake’s cavalry who began skirmishing with Low’s cavalrymen shortly after they crossed the border. This caused Sumner to advance cautiously, not knowing his enemies exact dispositions. With his slow, methodical advance Sumner’s advance guard, Foster’s brigade, came into contact with the British piquets on the Lacolle River just past 1pm on the afternoon of May 17th. The remainder of the day would be spent shaking out his force along the British line, probing for weaknesses. By the end of the day he felt certain that he had found the weak point in the line near Beaver Creek, the ground was firm, and his flank was secure from British counter attack. He shifted Sedgwick’s Division to be the left hook of his attack, while Burnside’s Division, who knew the area better, would demonstrate against the stone mill. Richardson’s and Blenker’s Divisions would be held in reserve waiting to support the anticipated break through.

The battle began in earnest at 7am on May 18th. The American guns opened up on their British counterparts, with special emphasis being placed on the strong point at the Stone Mill. However, it became rapidly apparent that the artillery duel was an unequal contest.

The American artillery was a mix of Napoleon 12pd guns and 10inch Parrott Rifles. Most crews were not new, but they were not well experienced with their guns. Though in theory their guns could reach a maximum range of 1,400 meters, in practice they reached less than half that, and most American gunners were firing from a range of 600 meters at best. In sharp contrast, the British Armstrong 12pd cannon, could reach a maximum range of 3,400 meters, and at Lacolle Mills they were firing on average, over 1,000 meters.

The artillery duel bogged down from the start as batteries were thrown up, only to first fall under devastatingly accurate artillery fire, and then, disciplined British rifle fire. Despite a clear superiority in guns, Sumner possessing 84 to the British 54, the men of the Royal Artillery had the range to a nicety, and were firing from well prepared positions, and outranging their opponents by a significant margin. As one artilleryman would later recall “The day was fine, and the range was good.”

It was in this manner the first disaster would strike near Beaver Creek. While directing his men in the assault on Russell’s Division, Sedgwick was personally directing the emplacement of his batteries to support the attack. It was here he first came under fire from British riflemen along the shore, many of his gunners ducked for cover, but Sedgwick strode about unconcerned calling "What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line?" His artillerymen, suitably motivated by their commanders example, returned to their pieces and opened fire with aplomb. An hour later though, the counter batter fire was becoming distressingly accurate and Sedgwick had to again stroll into the fray and shout "Why are you dodging like this? They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."

It was moments later that a 20 pound shell landed nearby and burst, mortally wounding him. He was removed from the field at 11 o’clock.

His division’s assault across the river was continuing just as well as the artillery barrage. Though the Lacolle River is shallow, it is not easy to ford, much less under constant disciplined rifle fire. Sedgwick had placed Gorman’s brigade in the lead assault, but they soon faltered under British fire. Successive attacks produced similar results, and with Sedgwick’s death his entire division was soon in disarray. Sumner though, was not perturbed, he simply ordered Richardson’s division forward with orders to cross the river.

Brigadier General Israel B. Richardson, nicknamed “Fighting Dick”, had served in the United States Army near since 1841 when he graduated West Point. Serving against the Seminole and in Mexico, where he was brevetted twice, before resigning in 1855 to take up farming in Michigan. When war had broken out in 1861, he was quick to offer his services, commanding a brigade at Bull Run. When he led his men forward at Lacolle Mills he knew there would be no shirking, as he had drilled them hard over the winter, and by his example they would ford the river.

Twice his men attacked, and twice they were driven back, but on the third time the charge was led by men who had every reason to take the fight to the British, no matter what the cost.

The 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division, Army of the Hudson, was under the command of Brigadier General Thomas Meagher. At 38, Meagher was young for a Brigadier General, though perhaps not so much in the Volunteers. He had been born in Munster in 1823 and grew to have a flair for oratory quickly as he aged. This skill would serve him well in the “Young Ireland” movement, which he became prominent in in the early 1840s. He participated in the Young Ireland Rebellion of 1848 and was exiled to Tasmania where he married in 1851. He soon escaped to the United States, making his home in New York and becoming an American citizen. When the Civil War had broken out he used his considerable oratory to recruit a full company of Irishmen for the 69th New York Volunteers, and after Bull Run he would use his talents to recruit an entire brigade of Irishmen…” – To Arms!: The Great American War, Sheldon Foote, University of Boston 1999.


Thomas Meagher

“By the time of the First Battle of Lacolle Mills, the Irish Brigade had shaken out and was well in hand. When their chance came to fight where their peers had failed in assaulting the British, they would surely succeed. For them, this was not just a fight for their homes, but a fight against their most ancient enemy in battle. Indeed, as one captain would later recall “At the sight of the English redcoats our fellows got mad to get at them.”

Meagher led his men mounted, until his horse was shot from under him, and then he led them afoot. The advanced signing in Gaelic, unhindered by the shot and shell. Despite taking fire as hot as any that the British had thrown out that day, they advanced steadily, making it to the river, and then stepping across with a great yell of “Faugh A Ballagh” or “clear the way” in old Gaelic.

They thundered home in a furious charge, unleashing a devastating volley of buck and ball shot at 100 yards, then drove on with the bayonet. Meagher himself was in the British works, laying about with his saber and urging the men on. Slowly but surely the British were pushed back. Here it was that old Sedgwick’s division, though leaderless, rallied, and joined the fray with their fellows, themselves reaching the British lines. Russell’s Division soon found itself hard pressed, and being driven slowly from their entrenchments.

It was there that the day was decided, that great crush of men in a wild melee, and then the British reinforcements arrived…

…when Meagher’s men saw the banners, one sharp eyed observer sent up a cry of “It’s the Guards!” but Meagher, wounded but with blood in his eyes brandished his sword like a hero of old and cried “Then come on boys! Let’s give them a taste of Fontenoy!”The Bloody Green Banner: The Irish Brigade, Seamus Meagher, New York Publishing, 1961


Meagher at Lacolle

“Paulet’s Division had been informed the night of the 17th that the American forces had been spotted, and so on the dawn of the 18th they had formed up and marched to the sound of guns. Their march had been a quickstep across good corduroyed roads established by the Royal Engineers, and they made excellent time to the site of the fighting. The division was the only reserve available to Williams, and he intended to make good use of it.

The melee on the flank at Beaver Creek was quickly getting out of hand. Despite having stalled the American advance all day, by 1pm the numbers and the ferocity of the Irish Brigade was pushing Russell’s 9,000 men back as the renewed assault pressed on. By 1:30 over 10,000 Union troops had pushed through the lines and were threatening to unhinge the British position, and here was where success or failure in the battle would hinge.

The Guards Brigade led the way, under the command of Brigadier General Henry Ponsonby, marching as though on the parade ground in red coated splendor with the regimental flags held proudly aloft. They came upon the battle, which was rapidly reaching a crescendo and filled in the flank where Sutton’s brigade was being steadily forced back. With a loud cheer of “Hurrah” they announced their arrival with a wave of gun fire. The Union men, despite their numbers, were now mixed in a disorganized mass. Brigades from two different divisions intermingled with each other, making controlling the whole group exceedingly difficult, and so the Union assault stalled.

For the next hour disciplined volley fire on the advance would drive the Union soldiers back. Ponsonby led his brigade steadily ahead, pushing even the Irish Brigade back with the steely discipline of the guards, even briefly engaging in a bayonet fight so that “when we engaged the enemy, our volleys were exchanged muzzle to muzzle.” Even the blood thirsty cry of the Irish Brigade was forced to give way before the Guards as they advanced. The action was hot, but by 3pm there could be little doubt as to the outcome. Meagher’s men, despite their tenacity, had been driven back across the river, and Paulet’s Division occupied Russell’s field works as Russell regrouped his own division.

Richardson’s Division was back across the Lacolle, and Sedgwick’s Division, now commanded by Brigadier General William W. Burns, was badly bloodied and needed to regroup. Sumner’s left hook had failed.

His diversionary attack on the Mill, had not gone much better.

Burnside’s Division, taking the lead, had discovered similar problems with their artillery. The British gunners, on an elevated portion of the field and with superior range, had effectively silenced his divisional artillery by 10am. Burnside proceeded with the assault regardless, feeding his brigades into British fire piece meal, dispatching another when one was pinned down. This resulted in what later men would term a “meat grinder” as Burnside’s Division simply went forward, one brigade after the other.

According to legend, Blenker sat on his horse with his division in reserve watching the action, when Edwin Sumner Jr. (the son of the elder Sumner commanding the army) rode up to him to ask how the battle went.

“I believe that Burnside means to cross the river.” Blenker said. Confused, the junior Sumner asked how this was to be accomplished since the Stone Mill was still in British hands. Blenker shrugged and replied “Oh he means to build a new one, with the corpses of his own men.”

The fighting at Stone Mill ended near 2pm, and as soon as Sumner was made aware of the situation near Beaver Creek he ordered the withdrawal. Blenker’s men covered the retreat of Burnside’s bloodied division as Burns and Richardson withdrew towards Rouse Point. Come the morning of May 19th, the entire American army would be back where it had started, with the only American soldiers to reach Montreal being prisoners of war.

The battle had been costly. All told Sumner’s forces had suffered some 7,600 men dead, wounded, and captured. The costliest fighting coming at Beaver Creek where the Irish Brigade had fought hard, only to be repulsed by the Guards. Burnside’s disastrous attacks on the Stone Mill had fared poorly and left his Division a wreck, while Sedgwick’s death had thrust Burns to the command of the 2nd Division, which was in dire need of rest and refit. It was a dispirited army which encamped at Rouse Point the next few weeks.

In sharp contrast the British army was jubilant. News of William’s victory against a force, often exaggerated as being three times his size rather than double, was broadcast throughout Canada and Britain, and soon flashed across the continent. Williams’s army had only suffered 2,300 casualties in the battle, inflicting three times the losses on their foes. This victory though would be offset by American victories across the summer…” – Empire and Blood: British Military Operations in the 19th Century Volume IV
Will women be mobilized to factories should the Union be pushed far enough?

Women and girls already form a large component of the labour force.

Some selected figures from the 1860 Census in regard manufacturing (which reminds me I really ought to do this for all the states)

Iowa establishments 1,939, 6,143 men and 165 women employed.

Maine Establishments 3,810, 24,827 men and 9,792 women

New York State 22,624 establishments, 176,885 men, 52,227 women

Ohio 11,123 establishments, 65, 749 men and 9,853 women

Pennsylvania 22,363 establishments, 182, 593 men and 39, 539 women

Of course men should read men and boys and women; women and girls but a lot of women were also employed in other non-manufacturing trades and services and women from agricultural backgrounds were likely providing labour on their farms. Women of the working class in the 19th Century were hardly creatures of idle leisure.
Those poor men from Burnside's division. That was probably a less than pleasant day.

Well in fairness to Burnside, it's a far better day than the one the Army of the Potomac suffered OTL historically...

Will women be mobilized to factories should the Union be pushed far enough?

As RodentRevolution's post outlined, there are women in the work force (and I imagine TTL that number would grow, but that's a bit outside the scope of my research). Though I don't think we are yet in an era where it would be seen as completely appropriate for women mobilized en masse for the work force.

Though the US is well away from mobilizing more than one million men, which would nessicitate more women in the work force. There's about (give or take) 500,000 men under arms in the US, with perhaps 200,000 more on various staff and support roles behind the lines who are under army employ. Then roughly 30,000 in the navy.


Though the US is well away from mobilizing more than one million men, which would nessicitate more women in the work force. There's about (give or take) 500,000 men under arms in the US, with perhaps 200,000 more on various staff and support roles behind the lines who are under army employ. Then roughly 30,000 in the navy.
Is that the number "Aggregate Present"? If so then that's really very large for this time period, I think - I know we've discussed this one before, but OTL the Union's army was c. 430,000 Present For Duty in mid-1862, and that number included those on extra duty (i.e. "local" logistics and support) and those under arrest. The Aggregate Present (everyone not absent) was 500,000, so TTL the army size is considerably larger than they could manage OTL without the draft.

Based on OTL where 20% of the AP&A was Absent in June 1862, I expect the Union has about 150,000 to 170,000 men absent from the army as well. Absenteeism seems to go up as the army gets larger, though, so they could have as many as 350,000 absent.

Total Aggregate Present by half-year, OTL:

June 30 1862
December 31 1862
June 30 1863
December 31 1863
June 30 1864
December 31 1864
April 30 1865

PFD numbers (to nearest thousand), which includes some logistics troops as well as under arrest/sick

June 30 1862
December 31 1862
June 30 1863
December 31 1863
June 30 1864
December 31 1864
April 30 1865

It really looks like the army you're crediting the Union with is one larger than they ever managed before 1865 - and that last return has absenteeism on the same date of 320,000, with absenteeism in the previous return of 330,000.

ED: not criticism, per se - just registering that I think your army numbers are very generous to the Union, and that perforce many of them are going to be equipped with "arms not fit for the field", like 1/3 of the OTL Army of the Potomac as of Trent.
This could lead to odd side effects, such as when a Regiment of Union troops level their muskets and half of them go "sproing" instead of "bang".
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we should probably clarify the various definitions above

"1. Aggregate Present and Absent: all living men currently carried on the rolls of a unit

This would include men in camp, on leave, in hospitals, serving on details, prisoners of war, deserters, and long-term convalescents. Obviously this number really means nothing in terms of how many men were involved in a campaign or battle.

2. Aggregate Present: all the men of a unit who were within the camps of the army or detachment in question

Newton mentions that this term is sometimes used (incorrectly) as a synonym for “ration strength”. This term includes quite a few men who would never see battle, including “those under arrest, detailed as teamsters, clerks, and cooks, or the mildly sick and slightly wounded who had not been shipped off to hospitals in the rear.” Newton mentions that in some cases where a large sample size exists, you can try to estimate a PFD strength for the whole army by taking the ratio of known aggregate present to PFD ratios for units in an army or department and applying that ratio to the whole army. However, he stresses that this is “slippery ground”, due to the different ways each commander used this term. He calls the use of this process a “guesstimate”, and he only uses it in his study when no other way is possible.

3. Present for Duty (PFD): all the officers and men of a unit who marched into combat, and therefore did include a number of noncombatants, such as stretcher-bearers, musicians, and couriers

Newton says this category “most consistently attempted to record the number of men actually ready to participate in battle.” He calls PFD (and I bold part of this for reasons that will soon become clear) “the best consistent standard by which to measure the relative strengths of the opposing armies.”

4. Present For Duty, Equipped: A Union term meaning all officers and men who actually went into battle with appropriate weapons and accouterments

This term was used at the start of the war, but it was gradually phased out during the first two years, and PFD numbers were reported instead on the Union side.

5. Effectives: Confederate term for the number of enlisted men directly in the line of battle, excluding officers, stretcher bearers, and sometimes even senior NCOs or file closers

Newton notes that “effective numbers would therefore be among the lowest strengths reported for a unit, and would not accurately reflect the effectiveness of manpower mobilization.” Confederate leaders tended to count their men in terms of effectives throughout the war."

from here
yes a blog but it cites sources and is handy in terms of providing definitions

a bit more on the subject

Now that the definitions are out of the way, we need to talk about the use of these terms by either side. After the war, a lot of the “Lost Cause” historians such as Jubal Early and Walter Taylor tended to compare Union PFD numbers versus Confederate Effectives. This had the effect of making the disparity in numbers greater than it truly was. In effect, these men were comparing apples to oranges. Thomas Livermore (and Newton in his research for Lost For The Cause) found that with “amazing consistency”, you can compare PFD and Effectives. They found that typically effectives represented 93% of enlisted PFD strength in the infantry and artillery, and 85% of the enlisted strength for the cavalry. They go on to say that 6.5% should be added to the enlisted PFD strength to account for officers. The formulas, as found on page 23 of Newton’s book, are as follows:

infantry/artillery: (effectives/.93) * 1.065 = PFD
cavalry: (effectives/.85) * 1.065 = PFD

Newton says that this method works with “astounding accuracy” when applied to known Confederate PFD and effective numbers in 1864, and that at the very least it results in a much better comparison than Union PFD versus Confederate effectives. I’m not in a position to agree or disagree with these gentlemen as far as the accuracy of this method goes. I simply present it here as their educated opinion on the subject, and I am inclined to trust their methods for use in counting heads for wargaming purposes."

Now when Saph and others talk about Union Present For Duty, that really only matters when or if they are able to count what the Confederates, Canadians or British Army was able to have 'present for duty'. We have some information on the Confederates but the only information likely to be available for a British Army in wartime conditions would be from Crimea (as it is similar in that it was fought in a temperate zone). Present for duty numbers would likely be less in India (tropical diseases and other conditions) while later period numbers (say from the 2nd Boer War) would reflect significant advances in medicine between 1862 and 1900. (although non combat losses were bad well into World War I and even World War II)

Note that aggregate present number includes temporary sick but more importantly, those attached to the 'tail' of the army, such as teamsters, orderlies etc as well as those only temporarily absent. If you look at numbers for POWs held (both waiting for parole or in enemy hands and going to be paroled) you can subtract them from the Aggregate present numbers and likely have a pretty good feel for the actual strength of the Union Army at any time. Those numbers are likely available somewhere.

Present for duty is a good measure for a BATTLE or CAMPAIGN but a false measure for the general strength of the ARMY AS A WHOLE. It only looks at combat strength on the line for a specific campaign or battle. While better than 'effectives' (which doesn't count officers for example) an army is not just teeth. All armies of this era have a tail too. Combat and general support does matter in this era.

The source cited above does give an example.. 2nd Manassas

so really the best way to count heads is to take aggregate present, subtract those held as POWs, deduct the sick list and that is probably as close as we can get to what the number of troops available for service actually is for the Union (or any other army), from skirmishers to buglers to teamsters to medical orderlies to officers both command and staff.
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As RodentRevolution's post outlined, there are women in the work force (and I imagine TTL that number would grow, but that's a bit outside the scope of my research). Though I don't think we are yet in an era where it would be seen as completely appropriate for women mobilized en masse for the work force. .

for that matter there are a hell of a lot of children in the work force too (on both sides of the pond)
Now when Saph and others talk about Union Present For Duty, that really only matters when or if they are able to count what the Confederates, Canadians or British Army was able to have 'present for duty'. We have some information on the Confederates but the only information likely to be available for a British Army in wartime conditions would be from Crimea (as it is similar in that it was fought in a temperate zone). Present for duty numbers would likely be less in India (tropical diseases and other conditions) while later period numbers (say from the 2nd Boer War) would reflect significant advances in medicine between 1862 and 1900. (although non combat losses were bad well into World War I and even World War II)

Per Ferguson, Empire p172

He notes that the Royal Commission of 1863 identified the annual death rate from 1800-1856 as 69 soldiers per 1000*, it also estimated 5,880 hospital beds would be required for an army of 70,000 which suggest in India a sick rate of some 8.4% which was a particularly unhealthy spot for the period.

Via an article published on the PMC website it becomes clear that sanitation in the Union Army and for that matter the Confederate one was shocking:

The most common sickness among soldiers was gastrointestinal disorders. There were 711 cases per 1000 soldiers per year. The rate was higher in the West, where sanitation was worse. The mortality rate of acute diarrhea and dysentery was 3 to 17 per 1000 per year, while that of chronic diarrhea and dysentery was 126 to 162 per 1000 per year. There were no cholera outbreaks.

However it is worth noting the progress the British made as a result of their Crimean War experience

Per Professor Lynn MacDonald's work on Florence Nightingale's statistics available here

She [Nightingale] concluded that, if the Americans, meaning the North, had properly used the advice gained from the Crimean War, they could have kept their hospital death rate to 3% instead of the actual 10% (McDonald (2011), page 679).

The thing is that we know the loss rates of the Crimean War and we know an awful lot, thanks to highly detailed statistics about the impact of reforms and so it is very possible to arrive at a reasonable approximation of British sick rates.


The thing is that we know the loss rates of the Crimean War and we know an awful lot, thanks to highly detailed statistics about the impact of reforms and so it is very possible to arrive at a reasonable approximation of British sick rates.
It says a lot that Florence Nightingale's efforts reduced the sick rate for the Black Sea theatre below that for the Home Establishment!

I think she was also involved in the strategic move by sled which suffered a negligible number of casualties to sickness.
It says a lot that Florence Nightingale's efforts reduced the sick rate for the Black Sea theatre below that for the Home Establishment!

I think she was also involved in the strategic move by sled which suffered a negligible number of casualties to sickness.

She was indeed. She made the recommendations regarding winter clothing and hot food, which was what necessary to keep men warm as they were in barrack.