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"Intel Provided by AoP Corps Flag System" Topic

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American Civil War

331 hits since 19 Sep 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Trajanus20 Sep 2018 7:45 a.m. PST

Had another of my "I wonder?" moments today.

After the introduction of the Army of the Potomac Badge and Flag identification system in 1863.

Just how long did it take the Confederates to figure it out and did it provide any useful Intel regarding the number of Corps/Divisions present on the march or in the field?

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2018 8:29 a.m. PST

Between newspapers and civilians, there would not be too many times in which there would be much doubt about who was where.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2018 10:38 a.m. PST

Hmm. I'd hedge, actually. The ANV seems to have relied very strongly on its home court advantage (and on Stuart.) The Gettysburg campaign shows very weak intelligence organization and procedures--poor recon, no good maps, and if anyone's interrogating Union POWs, I've found no reference to such. The Union Bureau of Military Intelligence is well ahead.

Once the war moved back to Virginia, I don't doubt Lee was well enough informed as to how the AoP was organized, and where in broad terms it was deployed. But I would not bet money that Lee could place individual Union Corps commanders between the commencement of the 1864 campaign and the beginning of trench warfare at Petersburg. He should have been able to, certainly. But that's different.

It's very suggestive that Longstreet does a much better job by himself of prepping for his assault at Chickamauga in terms of finding guides and surveying terrain than he does at Second Day Gettysburg with the "support" of the ANV staff.

Trajanus20 Sep 2018 12:09 p.m. PST

No doubt the AoP intelligence improved with the BMI. There again anything would have been better than Pinkerton feeding Little Mac's paranoia!

The info they were able to give Meade about what he was facing during Gettysburg was mighty impressive, which made me wonder if no one was flag spotting for the other team!

Bill N21 Sep 2018 8:20 a.m. PST

How much difference does it make if the Confederates identify their opponent's units? What matters would be where the troops are, whether they were infantry or cavalry, how strong they were and how well prepared they were. We all have our favorite units, but over the long term there wasn't that much difference in quality between units, at least in the major armies. While Hancock was better than Burnside, anyone underestimating the latter could be surprised.

67thtigers21 Sep 2018 8:46 a.m. PST

The BMI gave Meade far worse strength figures than Pinkerton ever managed. This was their estimate for Gettysburg:

92,000 infantry
6-8,000 cavalry (they had not detected Imboden etc., and upped this to 12,000 when they did)
270 guns (say 5,400 gunners)
= ca. 105,000-110,000 combatants

vs ca. 72,000 for his actual strength. These numbers were explicitly PFD, rather than aggregate present (which many of Pinkerton's estimates were, and indeed some of his raw int is aggregate present and absent). This is actually worse than Pinkerton ever did.

Trajanus21 Sep 2018 10:45 a.m. PST

Wish I could recall where I read it but in whatever book, it gave them much better results than that. Could it be you are talking Campaign (not that the numbers you quoted would have been right of course) and I'm talking present on the field?

I seem to recall their work being cited as contributor to Meade's decision as to where the attack would be on Day 3. I think they were marked down for losing Pickett somewhere and over estimating the size of his Division in any case.

Trajanus21 Sep 2018 10:54 a.m. PST

How much difference does it make if the Confederates identify their opponent's units?

Not a matter of quality but quantity. In the absence of Recon at Gettysburg
Lee was unsure of how many AoP Corps he was facing at the start.

Presumably he would have seen 1st & 11th Corps for sure and may be 2nd Corps if some one spotted Hancock and his flag bearer was with him ahead of the Corps itself.

It's regarding this kind info I was thinking about.

67thtigers24 Sep 2018 1:40 p.m. PST

The book is Fishel's Secret War for the Union, and I pulled the BMI's Gettysburg figure from it.

Fishel was trying to rubbish Pinkerton's achievements, and despite the fact that the BMI was demonstrably worse he had to skip over their mistakes so not as to contradict his own thesis.

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