Electronic publication of books has become yet another “next wave,” in the realm of popular technology. “Epublishing” is beginning to overtake traditional publishing, and electronic versions of books are outpacing paper versions. More and more, readers will find far greater variety and choice through electronic publishing sites, with both brand new and well known books available.

With that phenomenon, however, come new problems, both for readers and writers. Ebooks cannot be found, perused, and selected from book shelves. They do not stand up in rows, with covers available so readers may simply pull them out read blurbs on the back. Instead, they are buried in lists and files which the reader must sort through, searching by author, title, or by “key words,” and unless one knows exactly what they are looking for, it can be difficult to find new and interesting books that way.

For writers, the problem is reversed. Our books disappear into these files where we have to hope someone either knows to look for us or chances across our work through the same sorting process. More and more, those of us with books only on epublishers will approach readers through blogs, to present our work, offer the equivalent of a back cover blurb, and better yet, offer sample chapters to help a reader quickly determine whether to pursue each book at its epublishing site.

That is the purpose of this blog, to present this writer’s work in a more visible way; I hope you will take a look and if you like what you see, follow up through the indicated links.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

A comment on how Allegheny Road was written

Perhaps those contemplating reading Allegheny Road, or others who have already read it, might find it of some interest to obtain an insight into the process of writing such a book. Of course if they are also writers, they have their own insight, but are invited to read on, anyway.

Long before I attempted to write a book of over a hundred thousand words, with more than two secondary plot lines, with several characters whose lives intersected, I had wondered how anyone could do such a thing.
How, I asked myself, did one begin with a blank sheet of paper (or computer screen) and end up with a book like that. Where did one start, to create a plot at all, let alone a complex, multi-layered one? And how was it possible to tie everything together to create a coherent story from beginning to end?
Certainly, there is no set answer to those questions. Every writer will have his/her own method and I had to develop my own, so I can only speak from my own experience but while generally, the same process works for me with all the fiction I write, I’ll connect what I found to the writing of Allegheny Road.

Actually, to be honest, the idea of a writer facing a blank screen or page is more cliché than reality. It makes a good anecdote, but I strongly suspect that a person who has decided to write a book almost certainly approaches the work with some ideas, enough ideas around which to begin building a plot from the outset. The real question of interest is how to expand a bare plot into something more complex, more interesting, more intriguing than a simple straight-ahead story.
Allegheny Road began as an idea while I was finishing a comprehensive non-fiction book about the Civil War; during that writing, I made notes of several elements of a story long before I was ready to write the fiction work. Although those initial story ideas, however, were simple and unadorned, and did not go far toward a viable plot, they gave me something to work with.
The next step was to start asking myself questions about what to do with the plot. For instance, the first thing I had decided was that a Union officer would end up at a plantation in Virginia, where he would meet and become romantically involved with a Southern woman. That was a very simple and not particularly unique idea, but it was a foundation to build the rest of the book upon.
To begin creating a first level of plot, the first question I asked was what would allow a Union officer to become separated from his unit in order to reach a plantation far outside the battle zone. The answers to this question triggered a cascade of ideas, and set up the lowest strata of plotting for the overall book. What it did not do was tell me what happened when the officer, who I had by then named Scott Patton, in fact met the woman, far from the war. Just having a man from Cincinnati find and meet a woman in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia did not even really qualify as a plot. It was more like a clause than a whole sentence.
Other questions included such as why was Scott Patton not already involved with a woman at home, and why was the woman in Virginia not involved with a man, so that when they met they were free to have a romantic relationship?
Again, answering those questions had a ripple effect, causing much more of the book to fill out. Part of that process involved introducing other characters, one of whom was the estranged husband of the Virginia woman, named Ashley Lynn. Creating a story for the two of them, including why their relationship had gone sour, added an entire plot line of its own.
Out of that process, however, a fourth character suddenly emerged, who became the character who tied everything together and created yet another powerful plot line, and caused the entire overall story to change drastically, leading to what I had been missing, a grander plot than what had developed up to that time.
That character was a woman named Millie Turner, a slave, who became George’s personal servant when she was three and he was only a little older, but with whom he fell in love, which feeling she reciprocated. The fact that his family could not be allowed to know of their secret affair or she would have been sent away, and the fact that a white man and black woman could not marry in Virginia, added major levels of tension to the story that surpassed even Scott Patton’s contribution to the plot. In other words, with the introduction of Millie Turner, the book transformed into something I could never have begun to imagine when I started.
The fact that the two families, George’s and Ashley’s decided the two would marry brought even deeper tension and led to the estrangement between George, Millie, and Ashley, by the time Scott arrived. And the fact that long before that time, Ashley and Millie had become best friends, and secretly ran a “station” in the underground railroad, right out from under George’s nose not only added further stress, but served as the cause that brought Scott to the plantation.
The final, missing part of the story was the dangerous, threatening relationship between Scott and George that began when the latter returned on furlough from the war, hoping to find a warmer greeting from either Ashley or Millie, only to discover a Yankee on his land who was apparently wooing both “his” women. What ultimately came of this confrontation powered the rest of the story and caused me to go back and rewrite everything, in order to set up that plotline as the true core of the book.
To tell any more would be to spoil the tale for those who may read Allegheny Road in the future, but from this little narrative, it should be clear how the book came to be, with all its twists and turns.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sample chapters from The Marundi Affair

Stan McCown
Chapter One

She saw nothing at first, it only came to her as a sound: a scraping, scuffling noise just off to her right in the total darkness beyond the glow of street lamps. Before she could react, someone had her, someone stronger, strong enough to twist an arm behind her back in a compliance hold and still cover her mouth with the free hand.
Before she could recover from the impact, he had quick-marched her the thirty feet across the hospital emergency driveway, flattening her face-first against the side of a vehicle that was almost invisible in the darkness.
With whispered words, he warned her of what would happen if she tried to run or if she screamed, and then opened the door and ordered her inside.
Just from his voice, before she saw his face, Sharon knew who had kidnapped her; even as she obeyed his command and climbed into the front seat, she readied her first line for when he joined her inside.
“Are you proud of yourself, Prentiss?”
Sharon’s assailant planted his hands on the wheel and stared across at her, his eyes widening in feigned disbelief.
“That’s it? I’m giving you the chance to throw the mother of all fits, and that’s your best shot?”
“That’s what you’d like, isn’t it? Somehow, that would get you off, but I won’t play along,” Sharon told him.
“What I will do is ask how you dare come for me this way. How much guts did it take to grab me from behind? Hardly more than to just put a gun in my back. And not as satisfying as laying your hands on me and hurting me.
“I may be committed to non-violence, but if you touch me again, and any part of me is free, you’re going to find out that even I have limits on how much I’ll take.”
His jaw tightened and un-tightened, his hand gripped the wheel with white-knuckle intensity, and Prentiss glanced over at her two or three times.
“How else could I do this? If I’d just waited for you here and kindly asked you to get in the truck, would you have come with me voluntarily?” he said. “It would have taken a gun, or like this. Wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah. I would never go with you willingly, ever. Yeah, that much is right. But I’ve already looked down the barrel of your gun before and I’d have rather done it again than have you lay your hands on me.”
The urge to cover her face and cry almost overcame her but Sharon clenched her jaw and fought it down. 
“But it’s past that now,” she said. “You have me, and I know where this is heading. All I have left is to ask to see my husband again, so I can say goodbye.” She barely got the words out without letting her voice break.
“Now leave me alone until then.”
Sharon lolled her head against the window and tried not to cry or to give in to the rising tide of fear and sorrow at the way her life was about to end.

Sharon had first met Prentiss a month earlier, on her third day after arriving in Baghdad. That morning, she had glanced up from her laptop at the sound of tapping on the edge of her door-less office space. Expecting to find someone she knew, she peered at the man, not recognizing his face from the staff files. On instinct, she rose to her feet, already looking for a way to get out of the tiny room if she felt the need.
“Yes? Do you need help, treatment?”
“No Ma’am.”
He was about her age, a little over average size, better than average looking, enough that she would have remembered his face if she had seen it when she ran through the staff files her first day there.
“Then why are you here. This is an office area, so unless you’re visiting someone—”
“That’s why I’m here, to see you, Dr. Witt.”
She expressed surprise, asked if she was supposed to know him and suggested he had her mistaken for someone else but he shook his head.
“What are the chances a man would mistake you for anyone else? Not you. I doubt there’s another woman in this god forsaken country who’d make me look away from you.”
He made a point of eyeballing her from top to bottom and back again, nodding to himself in what was meant to convey appreciation, or something more base.
Sharon had faced this too much in her life and it always gave her a sensation of being naked. Unconsciously, she tugged at her top, the way she always did in times like this, trying to flatten her chest.
“If this meant to flatter, it’s gone sour,” she told him. “It comes off rude, and I don’t much appreciate your manner. I don’t know who the hell you are but if you really have valid business with me, let me hear it then go away.”
The man, whose name she would of course learn was Prentiss, whistled softly through his teeth and grinned.
“I see how you get your reputation. A woman who’s used to being in charge. It makes you all the hotter.
“I bet you run a tight, tough O.R. The terror of the nurses, aren’t you? I wonder if you’re as hard on the patients. As you are on me.”
Prentiss continued to lounge in the doorway his arms folded, his original soft smile now a leering grin.
“Listen, you’re teetering on the brink of sexual harassment. I’m telling you to leave before you push me over the edge.”
“Of what? What’ll you do? I know for a fact that you and I are the only Americans in this building right now. And the locals know me and are afraid to challenge me, so I could bend you over this desk and they wouldn’t lift a finger. But I’m not sure you’d mind. Shall we?”
Her jaws tightened and she began assessing her chances of rushing past him if he entered the room, and how far she could make it down the hall if he did, before he tackled her out there and finished what he had threatened.
Sharon felt her knees weaken and locked them, not wanting to collapse while he was there to pounce. Nothing strong enough came to mind now, she just wanted to whimper and beg him not to hurt her, so she clamped her jaws and said nothing.
“Dr. Witt?” he said and the question, in fact the softness of the words made her jump a little.
“Yes?” she murmured.
“I think you’d better sit down. I let this go beyond anything I intended. I’m not here to touch you, and I’m sorry I stared. You are a looker and surely you know it. A man sometimes loses focus.
“Please, sit, I’m staying put, right over here until I’m finished, but we have to talk.”
“Talk,” she said, feeling color returning to her face.
“Okay. Here’s the thing, I came here with a message for you. And it’s this: as long as you’re in this hospital, you run the risk of being arrested.”
Hearing that, her strength returned in a rush. 
“Me? Who’s going to arrest me? For what? I’m just a doctor, I’m totally neutral and pacifist. Who’s talking about arresting me? Why?”
Prentiss sighed and the gesture transformed him. Having already stopped ogling her, now he looked down, at a space on the floor that had no features, his head nodding in an almost spastic way.
“If you stay here, at this hospital, you run the risk of being implicated in terrorist activity and we’d have to take you in. They might send me and I don’t want to be the one. If I can talk you down from this, we’ll both be a lot happier in the end.”
Sharon could not decide whether to laugh in his face or explode in outrage. She demanded to know if he was serious and if so, by what insane logic anyone could implicate her in terrorism.
“I told you I’m totally neutral, I’m here to save lives! I don’t support the terrorists, the bombers, any of them, I just support the civilians.”
“Yes. And that’s the problem.” Prentiss now went off into a tangent about the fact that no one who did not work directly for the occupation forces could be considered neutral or innocent. Every man, woman, and child, he insisted, could be turned into a living bomb, or could pull a gun out of their clothes and shoot down occupation forces.
“They’re all the enemy, and sooner or later, if you treat them, you’re going to treat someone who’s killed one of your own people, or someone who does it after you’ve saved them. Every person you keep alive is a potential human bomb, or a shooter, or somebody to trigger an IED. You just cannot know. It doesn’t matter, an old lady, little girl, pregnant woman, they all hate us, they all want us dead, and we came here to save them!”
“That’s pure crap,” Sharon told him. “The saving part. You came here for the oil and the base of operations to take over the rest of the Middle East. And the excuse to please the military-industrial complex with a war they’ve been demanding since the last one here. That’s all. And it all was done by a lie. The only people who belong in jail are the president and his boss—the vice president—and a few others.
“But they can’t be arrested, so you come for me. For treating the victims of this travesty. It’s fitting, isn’t it? You people kill civilians in the thousands, I guess you arrest them too. For no reason. It must not be a stretch to come after an innocent civilian doctor while you’re at it.”
“You aren’t listening. Doctor Witt, we absolutely don’t want to arrest you,” Prentiss told her. “It would be a nightmare, for everybody involved. You think I want to lock someone like you up? The last thing I want is that. I’m not here to threaten you, Doctor, I’m here to convince you to do the right thing so we never have to.”
“And what’s the right thing? Make sure my patients don’t survive? Or interrogate them first? Or just go home and abandon them? What are you asking?”
“You’re one of the world’s best. You’re wasted here, you’re needed where our men and women are being treated, at the hospital in the Green Zone.”
“The one you took over. Yeah, I know about that. Now it’s the occupation hospital. Well no thank you. I didn’t come here to support the occupation.”
Sharon demanded to know why this issue was not broached to her when she processed through the State Department to work at the civilian hospital. No one warned her that she was liable for arrest as a supporter of terrorists, nor did they even hint that she should work in the occupation hospital in the Green Zone.
Prentiss nodded, pensive.
“I understand that. The answer is that this is all off the record. It’s actually classified. You aren’t to repeat this, now or when you get home. If word reached the media that a renowned civilian doctor is threatened with arrest, with no charges that can be sustained, essentially as an enemy combatant, well the public will put up with that for Arabs, for known terrorists, but not you. If your face was plastered on the tube, on papers, and it was reported you’re arrested as an enemy combatant, it could flip the tide back home.
“Nobody needs that. You don’t need to be locked up for years in some barbed wire enclosure, or somewhere worse. We don’t need the publicity, and I personally don’t want to see someone like...you put away. But I’ll do it.”
“Wait a minute, they’re talking about...me...enemy combatant? Without charges, or due process? Locked up in Guantanamo? No.”
Her head began to swim and she felt her knees weaken all over again, and if she started to sink, he would come to her, with mock concern, and touch her. She let herself slowly into the chair, so he could not see how badly his threat had shaken her.
“So you’ll do what I’m asking, transfer over?”
“I don’t know. I have to think. Let me think. Not now, I can’t just answer now.
“I won’t go to that hospital, no matter what. I’d go home first. Yes, I’d go home before I’d support the occupation. Let me decide.”
“What do you mean, you would refuse to treat your own people?”
“I won’t treat the military, on either side, unless they came to me here. I didn’t come here to treat military, they have their own doctors. Or anyone cooperating in the occupation. I can’t.”
Prentiss stiffened and she could see his jaw muscles working.
“You’ve got to watch that kind of talk, Doctor. Even to me. You’ve heard the president, you’re either with him, or you’re the enemy. If you don’t support the effort here, and you’re arrested, it would be as an enemy combatant.
“I’m going to keep what you just said to myself, but never say it while you’re in the country again. And you’d better think about what I’m offering and make a decision.”
“How long do I have?”
“Until you treat the wrong person and the occupation finds out.”
Prentiss told her he was with the Blue River Security Agency and that the hospital was within his perimeter so he would monitor her, and he would come back for her decision if she didn’t act first.
“I’ll even go so far, if I can, to warn you off the wrong patients, while you’re wrestling with your decision. I’ll do all I can to protect both of us, you from arrest, and me from having to arrest you, for as long as I can.
“And I don’t mind any excuse to see you, so I’ll hold out as long as you do. The longer you take, the more of an eyeful I get. If that works for you, then so be it. But I can’t watch every minute. If you take the wrong patient and I’m not there to help you...I’ll be there to deal with you.”
He excused himself and was gone from her sight before she could respond. For the moment, Sharon wilted with relief. The alarm and fear would come later.

Chapter Two

For about a week after the first confrontation in her office, Prentiss did show up at least once every day, but only forced an exchange of words the second day. In that face-off, he chided her for ignoring his warning, yet reiterated his promise to try and shield her from treating “the wrong people,” as much as he was able.
“Remember, I never asked you to,” she responded. “But you have to do what you have to do, and so do I.”
He only nodded but no longer smiled, and when he left, seemed more to wander away than to go with any conviction.
After that, he only let her see him across the room
each day, rather than approaching her to talk, and she had no idea how he could have been actually checking up on her patients to see which of them were “the enemy” of the occupying forces. She wondered what he would have done if he did somehow determine someone waiting for treatment was a risk...and even wondered how she would have had to respond.

When he abruptly broke the string of appearances, Sharon did not realize it until the end of the shift when the brief thought passed through her tired mind that she had not seen him all day. After that, however, he was absent for nearly a week, by which time she had stopped even thinking about him and had relaxed over the warnings he had tried so hard to sell her on.

The circumstances of Prentiss’s return were literally explosive.
A bomb had gone off blocks away and wounded poured into the hospital in a flood. Sharon was in the process of lining up her first cases for surgery when Prentiss insinuated himself into the picture. Bending over a patient who lay on the floor, assuring the man that she would soon be treating his shrapnel wounds, she heard a commotion behind her and then Prentiss’s voice, directed at people who had accompanied him.
“The operating room is through there, go ahead and take him on in,” Prentiss was saying. Sharon snapped her head around in time to see him leading two of his men, identifiable by their Blue River outfits, carrying a stretcher with a fourth man, toward the swinging doors leading back to the treatment area.
“Where the hell are you going?” Sharon called across the room to Prentiss. “You can’t just barge in there, there’s no room in there, either. Let me see what you’ve got.”
“You can look at him in back,” Prentiss said.
While she worked her way over and around the patients
lying across entire floor, Sharon told Prentiss she would examine the man right there. “Just hang on, I’m coming,” she added. “What are you doing here anyway? You tell me to go work in the government hospital, so why the **** don’t you use it yourself?”
Prentiss ignored her question but instructed his men to wait for her to join them.
“Is that it, only this leg?” she demanded when she had looked the wounded man over. “Well good god, if that’s all there is, this isn’t critical. Why on earth would you rather bring him to a hospital with worse conditions than your own? Look around, we have people dying here and you bring a leg wound?
“You know better than this, Prentiss. We can’t touch him for hours, you want him to lie around like this? What are you trying to prove?”
Prentiss took her by the arm, guiding her with nearly painful pressure away from his men.
“I’m doing this for you,” he told her in a low tone. “We’re aware that people in this room are involved in the bombing. I’m protecting you. While you work on my guy, I’ll quietly slip around and tag the ones you mustn’t touch and you can leave them for the others. And in the meantime, you get a gold star for helping Americans and everybody comes up a winner. Just go along.”
“Listen to me, Prentiss—no. It would be the height of hypocrisy for me to waste another second on someone who has a bigger, better hospital available, just to help my own cause. To hell with it, you get him out of here and where he belongs. Or I’ll go back over there and him that you’re using him for a political game. Or whatever game it is you’re playing.
“What’ll it be?”
Prentiss let out a long breath. “Well I tried. Now you’re in it, no mercy, Witt. I thought we had something going, but since you prefer to treat the enemy instead of your own people, I’m going to nail you for it.”
His voice had gone icy but he let her go and returned to his men. She heard him ordering them out, his voice nearly shaking with barely controlled anger. She also heard curses aimed her way from the other two men, perhaps even the wounded one but she was already on her way back to the patient she had selected for the first surgical procedure.

By the time she was scrubbed and inspecting X-rays, Sharon had already put Prentiss out of her mind. It was only later that she caught on: he claimed to have known who among those in the room were involved in the bombing, yet he showed no interest in arresting them, or even marking them as he had said he would. Instead, he pulled his men out in a huff and let the bombers, if there really were any, get away clean.
 Sharon ended up working through the day and most of the night, catching a couple of hours sleep in her office, but only then because she feared exhaustion might erode her skills. Not until after noon of the next day were all the patients from the attack finally treated or taken to be buried. Neither Prentiss or anyone else from the occupation came back and arrested the alleged perpetrators but by then, the incident with Prentiss seemed to Sharon like no more than a bad dream.

She would not see Prentiss again until the next major outbreak of violence in the area. Based on what Sharon heard just from the buzz in the room, this incident had begun at a roadblock and exploded into a horrific firefight, with anyone within two blocks caught up and wounded or killed.
The first to arrive from the scene was a British reporter carrying a child of four or five who had been separated from her parents and was hit twice herself by stray bullets.
“How about you?” Sharon asked the man, while she checked out the little girl.
“Hit? Are you wounded too?”
“No, thank the lord. Oh Jesus, will she live?”
Sharon tried to reassure him, not at all certain the little girl would survive. She offered the reporter a seat behind the admitting desk where he could wait, knowing that in minutes the rest of the space in the room would be filled.
Sharon dispatched the child with a nurse to be prepped for surgery and while X-rays were being taken and developed for the child, she allotted herself another ten minutes to examine incoming wounded before scrubbing. Prentiss was not in her thoughts until he appeared much as before, with four men standing and one injured.
Sharon greeted them with a stern pose, pointing back out the door, but this time, Prentiss lost his temper more violently than before. With a nod of his head, two of his agents seized her by the arms, covering her mouth before she could protest or scream.
“We’re doing it a different way this time,” Prentiss told her. “You treat my man or I’ll shut this place down and take you in. I won’t even worry about whether any of the perpetrators are here or not, you sealed your fate last time and it’s already on record. A hell of a lot of good you’ll do your allies in a cell. It’s you choice.”
“You wouldn’t,” she said through clenched teeth. “If you do, I’ll let it be known you saw terrorists last time and ignored them.
“You don’t even give a living **** about catching bad guys, you’re playing some other kind of game, and you’re taking something out on me I can’t even figure out. So **** off, I’m not putting up with it any more. You’ve been bluffing all along.”
Prentiss drew his weapon and fired it into the floor, causing her to shriek. Then he pointed it for a moment at the space between her eyes.
“You ****. Bluffing? Have I? Believe me, I will shut it down, and that includes arresting the entire staff and locking them out. With the patients inside. Yes or no?”
“You’re a maniac. But put that ****ing thing away, you win, you *******. I’ll do it, goddamn you.”
“I thought so.”
He slowly removed the gun from against her head and directed his men to let her go. For some reason certain he would not shoot her, she had been more frightened when he shot the gun than when he pointed it at her, and she was able to stalk her way back to the wounded man, directing the two stretcher bearers to carry him into the back.
Working quickly, she still lost a half hour doing a proper job of removing a tiny shrapnel from just under the surface in the hip and suturing it up, all the time agonizing over the little girl who needed surgery sooner than later.
Finished, she gazed into the man’s eyes, trying to judge his level of pain.
“Have you had morphine?” she asked the wounded man but one of his buddies told her he had.
“Then you don’t get more right now, too soon.
“Get him to the Green Zone, let them decide whether he goes to bed or stays ambulatory, and if he needs more morphine by then, that’s their call. You got that?
“Here’s a souvenir for his necklace,” she said, handing the shard of shrapnel to Prentiss.
“Now get out of here, all of you.”
“Sure. But as far as I’m concerned,” Prentiss told her, “you’re here on borrowed time now. Ten to one, you’re going to end up in our custody before you can go home.” He turned on his heel and led his men back into the lobby.
Before he had taken two steps, Sharon raced to the prep room to scrub up and try and save the child, relieved to find she was stable, and after two hours of work, satisfied herself the little girl would live.

After finishing the child, with her next patient being prepped, Sharon spared a minute or two and stepped back out into the lobby, relieved to find the British reporter still waiting.
“You saved her, she’s going to make it,” Sharon said and he burst into tears. She held him a moment, patting him on the back.
“Doctor, those animals, those Blue River chaps—what they did to you—I got that whole thing on camera. I’m going to make the blighters famous. This’ll play well, in Europe, at least in some parts, showing how they work.”
“I’m not sure that’s smart. If you think you have to use it, you ought to wait until you’re out of the country, and out of their reach,” she advised. “But you’d know better than me. Do whatever you think, but I have to get back.”
“Doc—you’re an angel.”
Sharon smiled but made no attempt to respond, unwilling to waste another second in even such relatively pleasant conversation.
She did not think to ask if her face had appeared in recognizable form on the screen, unable to imagine at that moment how the video could come back to haunt her in time to come.

Each time, Sharon had described to her husband the conflicts with Prentiss as they occurred, and Doug had urged her to end her tour early and return to Seattle before Prentiss carried out his threats.
“No, I’m doing the most productive work of my career. I won’t let this ******* scare me away,” she had told him initially.
After the last incident, she was far less sanguine. “I thought he was bluffing, but the moment he pulled out his gun and shot at my feet...I’m not so sure. My god, Doug, I nearly peed on myself, you know how I hate guns!
“But I won’t be forced out of my commitment. If I did, would you come with me, back home?”
Doug told her he would stay in Baghdad, and it bothered her that he did not even seem upset to think of their being parted so drastically. She struggled, not for the first or tenth time, to keep from asking him what had gone wrong between them, but did not want to bring it into the open and force his hand.
“Another reason not to go,” she said without energy, meaning the separation if she did go. She tried to interest him in sex but he claimed to be too tired and said she must be as well and she realized he might be right.

Following the threat to shut down the hospital, Prentiss did not return for days, but when he did appear, it was with a squad of men, who carried an Iraqi male that Sharon vaguely remembered having treated a few days earlier. His shirt was unbuttoned now, exposing bloody bandages around most of his upper body.
“He says you were his doctor. He seems to have torn his stitches, you should take a look.”
“I see, yeah. Let’s bring him back here and I’ll find out what needs to be done. He was supposed to stay in bed. Where did you find him? I’m a little surprised you’d give enough of a **** to bring him in for repair. What is he, one of your informers or something?”
“Hah! Hell no,” Prentiss said. “But we didn’t bring this piece of **** in to be repaired. I just wanted to know if you’d admit treating him. He says the American woman was the one. That would be you. So yes or no? Did you treat him or not?”
A cold feeling flowed through her, dawning realization of what was going on here. Hating to lie, Sharon denied ever having seen him before, knowing it was too late, she had already as good as admitted it.
“He says different,” Prentiss told her.
“Go on,” he coaxed the Iraqi man. “Was this your doctor?”
“My doctor, no, but she treat me. Woman has no right touching man, I was unconscious. Bitch.” He spat on the floor at Sharon’s feet.
“There you go, his word against yours,” Prentiss said. “It’s good enough for me.”
“Oh yes, you believe your enemy first, when it fits your game. What is this little kinderspiel about? What exactly are you trying to prove?”
“That’s the question you ought to have avoided like the plague,” Prentiss told her. “This character used a cell phone to set off a roadside bomb, and didn’t have the balls to blow himself up with it. Killed three marines. Luckily, a spotter saw him and they were able to grab him. They weren’t as kind and gentle as they might have been, so when he started bleeding they noticed he’d been stitched up recently. When he cursed about having a female doctor, we kind of added things up.
“Tell you what, I’ll even give you a pass for denying you worked on him. For lying to me. That’s small potatoes. I’m just interested in the big one, that you saved the life of a terrorist.”
“Is this true?” she asked the prisoner. “You set off that bomb?”
“God is great. Yes, I do it.”
“God damn you,” she hissed. “I didn’t put you back together so you could kill people. You bastard!”
“You should never have touched me. I revile you—a woman should never touch a man except to ****. I wish you had been with the others when I set it off. Go to hell, woman.” This time he spat directly on her but Sharon did not flinch.
“I almost wish—” She caught herself and wandered away, shaking, sobbing, her mind in a fog, oblivious to everyone around her. She dropped to her haunches, fighting nausea, barely aware when two boots appeared within her field of vision.
She looked up to find Prentiss grinning down at her.
“Oh, you’re loving it aren’t you, you prick,” she told him. “Well don’t think you can make me feel any worse than I do. But you know what? This doesn’t change anything. I’d do it again, because I didn’t know what he meant to do. I can’t read minds. And I’d sooner he be in your prison in one piece.”
“Of course you would, noble to the end.”
Oddly, he reached down and offered her a hand back to her feet and still dazed, she accepted.
“So what are you going to do? What happens now?” she asked. “What do you do to me now?”
“Nothing, yet. You’re easy, I know where you are, which is the hell of it as far as you’re concerned. I can come back for you when I get around to it. Right now, it’s all about this guy—he’s going to put me on the map, my first serious terrorist score. That means I don’t need you right now, but now you get to wonder when I will get around to dealing with you.”
He reached out and now Sharon backed away, afraid for a moment than in his triumph, he intended to touch her inappropriately, but he stopped short and smiled almost wistfully then spun away, leading his men and their prisoner out the door.

At home that night, Sharon tried to talk out her feelings with her husband.
“You know, this is the first time in my career that I had to even think of regret at having saved someone’s life,” she told him. “Now, I’m afraid it’s going to haunt me. What should I do?”
“I’m not quite sure what you’re asking. I’m trying to figure out if you’re saying you do regret saving him, or that you think you ought to regret it, or that you want to be reassured that you don’t have to regret it. No, here’s the real question: are you feeling guilty or responsible for the deaths?”
“Would a reasonable person—not this Prentiss, but somebody outside the system—hold me responsible?”
“No reasonable person, hell no,” Doug told her.
“Okay, let’s get to the real question in all this, and I’ll let you answer it for yourself,” he said. “How would you feel if you worked in the Green Zone hospital? How would you feel about healing soldiers who then went out and shot up innocent civilians the way they do? Ask yourself if you would feel any differently than you do about this.
“Really, how would it be different? You can almost argue this guy is fighting for his country against an illegal occupation. How would you feel differently if you put together a soldier who was killing civilians himself? How?”
His logic hit her with a sledge-hammer impact. She gasped, and held her stomach, and then became calm.
“No! No different. I would hate them for going out and killing after I saved them, as much as I hate what this one did. You’re right.
“Oh lord, Doug, this doesn’t make me feel better, but I can live with it. I don’t have to regret having healed him the first time. All he did was kill the people he perceives as the enemy.
“The thing that hurts is that I only came here to treat noncombatants and I’ve already ended up working on fighters, it doesn’t matter which side. Yet I can’t turn down a patient. Imagine I was in Dr. Mudd’s place. Could I have refused to treat Booth? No. I would’ve turned him in, but I would’ve fixed his leg first. That’s what I do.”
“And that’s the answer. It’s what you do. Do what you trained to do first. ‘First, do no harm,’ right? Then deal with the moral issues of your patients when they’re whole. Right? You have no cause for regret, you own the high ground in all this, Honey.”
“Oh god, no wonder I adore you,” she said. “You saved my sanity.”
Her husband grinned and reminded her it was his profession to save people’s sanity, including hers.
He seemed embarrassed and a little resistive when she went to him for a kiss. This time, however, he cooperated when she wanted to make love, and after such a terrible beginning, the day ended on a happier note than she could have imagined.

Chapter Twelve

It blew up without warning.
Among the forms of fundraisers Sharon attended were plays, in which the last evening’s proceeds were donated to the cause of the moment. Sharon had presented a considerable sum and along with others who had contributed, accepted an invitation to a party after the performance.
She did not see him until it was too late.
“Ah, Dr. Witt, I want you to meet the prime benefactor of the event. He’s our angel, we couldn’t do this without him.”
Lee played the game of meeting Sharon for the first time. She thanked him for his work with the charity and he shrugged in his usual shy way. “Sure,” he said, and although it meant nothing, the woman who had introduced them beamed. Sharon could not move, could not find a gracious way to get out of this and the woman prattled on, her words blurring in Sharon’s ears.
Someone attracted the woman’s attention and she excused herself, leaving Sharon and Lee frozen in place. He seemed more stricken by the suddenness of this face to face confrontation than even Sharon felt.
“Look, please believe me, I had no idea this would happen, Sharon. I’m sorry.
“But I need to know, is everything all right? Are you still safe? I’ve been worried as hell about you. I’ve heard things that scare me.”
“Scare you? What? Who threatened you?”
“No,” he said, his eyes darting around the room. “Not about me, about you. Jesus, thank god you’re still all right. You are, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, sure. What do you know?”
“I’m not going to say it here. And I promised to leave you alone. I don’t know how to pass it to you.”
“Listen, I can’t imagine how you’d know anything about me but if you do, I need to hear it.
“I think I’ve lost my mind, but I think we’d better talk. I came in a cab to avoid parking. What about you?”
“No, I’m parked.”
“I’ll slip out, onto the sidewalk and you go get your car, pull up and let me in and go on. Are you free to leave now?”
“To hell with anything else. Let me start first, I’ve got farther to go to get the car.”
She nodded and the moment he left her side she hugged herself to still the trembling in her limbs.
Five minutes later, she climbed aboard and he rolled away.
“I didn’t eat, did you?” she asked him, receiving a negative reply.
“I know a quiet restaurant near my house. If you keep your eye out and nobody seems to follow us, let’s go there and talk.”
She directed him around from the one way street before the playhouse, and he made two or three additional turns, finally assuring her nobody was following, as he had done that last time she saw him. Fifteen minutes later they were parked by the storefront restaurant, waiting in the crowded entry for the next seat.
“This doesn’t seem real,” she said. “Jesus, Lee, I hope what you’re going to tell me is worth this risk. I’ll be very ****ed off at you if it’s nothing.”
“I wish it were nothing. I’d risk having you angry at me if I found out there’s no risk for you. I’m not sure but it seems ominous to me.”
“I guess I’ll find out.”
“You’re sure it’s okay to talk here?” he asked her.
“We aren’t going to shout it at the top of our lungs. The chances that someone I’m worried about would be here is pretty low. And the chances they’d know to somehow bug this place are next to zero. If I don’t like the looks of anybody seated around us, I’ll kick your foot twice, okay, and we just eat and talk later.”
“Got it.”
They made no further conversation until they had been seated and made their order. Whatever else might come of this, it was a pleasure to have a glass of wine with no covert implications. She raised hers and a little mystified, Lee touched it and they smiled across the table.
“Would it shake up the world if I told you how much I’ve missed you?” he asked her.
“No, but it wouldn’t do anyone any good.”
By now, she had surveyed the other diners around them in the dark, narrow little room and saw no one who appeared to be paying them any attention. With that satisfied, she asked Lee what it was that had given him such a scare.
“I know that you’ve been worried all this time that anything might link your name with the people who held you,” he began. “I’m not sure that what I’ve found has anything to do with them, but if it does, you should know it’s emerged.”
“You say that like it’s something I might have anticipated. Am I really supposed to know what you’re talking about?”
“I don’t know. If nothing stands out, then I guess you don’t. But you would have to be aware of a severe clash between you and a squad of men from the Blue River Agency, in the hospital there in Baghdad was recorded.”
“How do you know?”
“What’s emerged is a video taken by a British reporter during a time when you were coerced into treating one of the Blue River men and they became threatening.”
“Oh ****. Video. I’d forgotten. Yes, he told me afterward but I forgot all about it, so much else had happened since. And now it’s out? Oh Jesus, you were right, this could be...maybe not deadly, but terrible trouble.
“How did you get onto this?”
“Sharon, people are asking about Americans disappearing in Iraq and Afghanistan, who’re reported to be blown up in ‘incidents.’ A well known television journalist lost a colleague so she’s asking around and long story short, she went to England and the video fell into her hands. She swears she’s keeping it under wraps and so are her contacts, but who knows how long they can. Or will.”
“And how did this reach you?”
“She contacted us, by following up on it, learning you were working with the Belgian group. When we heard she was nosing around, we got proactive and intercepted her before she could go to you. We told her a lot was at stake and kind of bought her off to stay away from you. But she had the clip and shared it with us.”
“Wow, all this going on all around me, buzzing around my head and I’m so out of it I have no idea. Lee, thanks for heading her off. This woman could cause more trouble than the video. And that’s ****ing bad enough.”
“Yes. But Sharon, did you hear what I said? Several Americans have disappeared, mostly reporters, in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“I’m not surprised. But that’s all unconnected to me.”
“Even when they were all reported disappearing under identical conditions to your husband?”
“Those are the most dangerous places on Earth. What’s your point?”
He explained Henrietta Masterson’s belief that her friend and other colleagues had fallen into the hands of the government and only reported dead. At that, a cold river flowed through Sharon’s body, that Lee had guessed the truth.
“There’s a growing belief,” he went on, “that the government—our government—is arresting people and not even reporting them as enemy combatants, and locking them up, and covering their disappearance by reporting they’ve died without a trace.
“Sharon, given what you said, that someone arrested you under suspicion that you were somehow supporting terrorists, and then this video of somebody from Blue River threatening to arrest you...it’s difficult not to see something there. I’m not asking you, but try and imagine what I’m thinking.”
“Lee, I’m going to the bathroom, I need to be alone a couple of minutes to think and I can’t do that with you watching me. This is a...might be a turning point. Please.”
“Of course.”
She excused herself and with no one else in the bathroom, she slumped against a wall and closed her eyes, wrestling with the issues coming to a head. The resolution came more quickly than she had anticipated. Dashing water into her face to be sure she was thinking clearly, she gave it another minute. In that time, a terror came over her, that Lee would be gone when she returned and she suffered a dire sense of loneliness. In a panic, she hurried back to the table and nearly cried when she found him still there.
He gazed at her but did not press for a response.
“Lee, I have a feeling you’ve figured out the truth. I’m crazy to do it but I’m going to let you in on some of it. I’ve only told one person any of it at all but I’m going to tell you more now. Accept what I tell you and don’t ask for more. Promise me that or I won’t tell you anything.”
“If you need to hear it, then yes, I’ll do with whatever you can tell me.”
“It’s true, the Blue River Agency is involved in all this. But they aren’t alone and they’re only serving as go-betweens in a way. I won’t tell you who else is involved but it doesn’t matter.
“The major thing I can tell you is one you seem to already suspect: my husband is alive and being held as a hostage to coerce me into cooperating in something I can’t begin to let you hear. If you knew, I don’t think you could stand not to try and do something to help me and for my husband’s sake, I can’t risk that.”
She had found his hand on the table top and caught herself caressing it but could not bear to stop. His eyes were keen on hers and she could imagine him processing what she had said and seeking a way to help her, and she feared she was growing close to taking another step to cooperate, and knew she must not.
“Say something, Lee. What are you thinking, knowing this?”
“I have to ask you something first. I wonder if you’ve figured out that I couldn’t have become so caught up in this if I hadn’t fallen in love with you. Can you tell me you didn’t know?”
“Oh god, Lee, I couldn’t let myself think that way. Listen to me, there’s no good to come from it. But if you have to know, yes, I would believe it. Just don’t expect me, a married woman, to answer it.
“Okay, you love me. What then?”
“Now that I know for sure about his situation, my top mission has to be the one thing that could make you happiest—rescuing your husband. I have the feeling that if he were safe, you’d be safe, that whatever threatens you would no longer apply. If I could, I’d throw all the resources I could get my hands on into bringing him back and eliminating whatever scares you. I wish I could, Sharon. I would drop everything else in my life to fix yours.”
“Yes, I know you would. But rescuing him’s impossible. There’s no guess in the world that he’s even in Iraq now, and wherever he is, no way to get him or anyone else out of their hands, and then if you could, they’d kill any prisoners before they let them go. Lee, forget a rescue.
“I have to wait and obey their orders, and that’s all either of us can do, wait.”
“It’s killing me to see you tied up like this, Sharon.
I feel as tied up as you do.”
“Why? Really, Lee, deep down, how does this tie you up? I’d like to know.”
“I can’t rest, I can’t relax, I can’t be happy while your life is torn up like this, Sharon. Don’t chastise me, I can’t just will it away. I keep thinking of how I’d like to take you where you could be safe but now I understand you refuse to give them an excuse to keep him.
“Is there something they want you to do before they free him? I’m not asking what, but what would be the price if you did it?”
“No, it’s something I can’t do. I can’t do anything that leads anyone to who they are, the people behind this, not even you. And they want me to...renounce something I’ve...****, I can’t say another word or you’ll figure it all out.
“Lee, drop it, I’m begging you.”
“You’ve become my life, Sharon. Even knowing I can’t ever be closer than this, I can’t think of anything but you.”
“Stop it, Lee,” said but her voice was weak.
“I’m going to tell you something that’ll end this. Something that’ll change how you feel and think about me.”
She described everything that had transpired between Prentiss and herself, including her attempts to lead him on to believe she would sleep with him in order to try to worm something out of him that would somehow help her.
“Lee, I would never have sex with him, but I’m ashamed just to lead him on. What do you think of me for that? I encourage you to consider me hardly better than a whore, if it’ll help you, make it easier for you to turn your back on me.”
Far from the eyes of someone stunned and hurt by her revelation, Lee gazed at her with more adoration than ever.
A wave of arousal swept through her and she had to close her eyes and turn her head away.
“Lee, for god’s sakes, stop it. How can you look at me that way after that? How?”
“Sharon, it makes you all the more precious to me. And knowing you’re forced to see this animal now, to protect your friend, it makes my blood boil. But it excites me that you’re playing the clandestine game. I don’t care in the least that you’re dangling sex in front of him. I know you won’t give it to him, but in your situation, I’m proud of you for doing what you have to, trying to get an edge against this *******, and these nightmarish people.
“I love you all the more to know you’re still fighting them in what way you can.”
“I left out one thing about my dealings with this ******* now.” She related how she was protecting her best friend by holding the prospects of sex in Prentiss’s face, and hearing that, Lee covered his face and she realized with a tug at her heart that he was struggling not to openly cry.
“How could anyone have a better friend? You’re so far above me, above anyone I know. I love you, I adore you, but you’re more than an angel.”
“Stop it,” she hissed. “I got my friend into this, how could I let that animal go after her if I can keep him away by teasing him? Of course I do, it isn’t a stretch and it doesn’t make me an angel. Or anything like it. Combined with my attempt at ferreting intelligence out of him, it seems a natural.”
“I don’t care, you’re amazing.” Lee wiped at his eyes and she felt the sting of tears in her own.
“Lee, if we’re going to admit secrets, I can’t hide one from you. I’ve tried to ignore it, to shrug it off, to deny it, but I can’t: I’ve missed you, too. I’ve even dreamt of you. Lee, you’re as sweet as any man I’ve ever known, including my husband.
“And yet, none of this changes the situation between us. It’s no more safe for us to be seen together than it ever was. Every time we say goodbye, we have to treat is as the last. This one may nearly kill me, Lee. Do you...do you know that I’m falling in love with you?”
“You said you can’t dare think that way, and I can’t think that way about you. My god, Sharon, I’d give everything I own or could ever own to have you in my life. But I’d do the same thing just to set you, and him free.”
“I know you would,” she murmured. “Do you know that if there were no innocent third person involved, I’d ask you to take me away tonight? And stay with me?”
They clasped hands over the table now, and with no more they could say in that place, only now began to pick at their meals. But suddenly, the urge to be somewhere more private took them both and they rushed through the meal, and in a half hour, strolled down a side street, away from his car, into dark shadows among the bushes fronting one of the houses.
He crushed her to him, running his fingers through her hair and she never wanted to be anywhere else. The kiss was more passionate than the fleeting brush of lips that the last, and first time, when she had run away. Now, she gasped in pleasure at the touch of his lips.
“I need you,” she whispered. “Let me go and walk away. Please, quickly. Please, go.”
They held hands as far as they could reach, until his next step pulled them apart. Sobbing, hugging herself, wishing she could die or run back to him for all time, Sharon wandered the long blocks back home, and fell face first on the bed, curling up in a fetal ball, fighting the desire to imagine Lee’s touch all over her body.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sample chapters from The Awful Arithmetic Volume II

Part IV: The War in Virginia, The McClellan Period

Chapter One

Before McClellan brought his army to Fortress Monroe, that base had hosted an expedition bound for North Carolina by ship under the command of General Ambrose Burnside. This was part of the blockading plan, with the intention of denying some of the coastal entrances in the Carolinas to Confederate privateers and blockade runners.

By early February, Burnside had captured Roanoke Island from a small Confederate force and over weeks to come, he seized a number of positions and upset Confederate operations out of the region. Later, by the end of the campaign McClellan conducted in Virginia, Burnside’s men had turned over the work on the Carolina coast to the navy and transferred to a position along the Potomac at Aquia Creek, forming a base that would be used when McClellan’s army returned toward Washington.

It will be recalled that at the advent of McClellan’s campaign into Virginia, Lincoln had relieved him of the position of general-in-chief, leaving McClellan in command only of his own army, the Army of the Potomac. Although Winfield Scott had retired from the army, he still served as a military consultant to Lincoln. With McClellan demoted, no one held the actual position of general-in-chief, at a time when, because of the number of armies now operating in several venues across the entire contested arena, such a coordinator of Union armies was needed most.
Scott had originally wished for Halleck to replace him rather than McClellan but that request had of course been turned down at the time.
Out in the West, men such as Halleck were now running their own independent wars with little supervision from Washington. When the right men were in place, such an arrangement was perfectly workable, but when the independent satrap was the likes of Halleck, no good could come from the lack of a general-in-chief.
Not yet ready to name a new general-in-chief, however, Lincoln saw the need of bringing in someone to share the load of coordinating armies that were now spread across a fair amount of the upper Virginia landscape. These armies included those under Banks, Frèmont, and McDowell, not to mention McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.
To solve the problem of coordination, Lincoln decided to name someone to serve as overall commander of all the armies in Virginia except McClellan’s own. What would happen after McClellan finished his campaign would be worked out at that future time.
Unfortunately, the president had not yet come to recognize who were the best men among all the generals qualified for such a position. As a result, the man who was proposed to Lincoln as the right man for the job was not the best man for the job. His name was John Pope.
Pope had not accomplished a fraction of what Grant, Sherman, or even Don Carlos Buell and George Thomas had already achieved in the West, but he was one of those kinds who, like the king of them all, McClellan, talked a good game. And Pope was not even as charming about it as McClellan. On the other hand, he did possess one attribute that set him far above McClellan: when fighting was needed, Pope would fight.
Pope’s orders, dated June 26, stipulated that the first mission of the armies he commanded, armies that were outside McClellan’s purview, would be to deal with the threats to Washington from Confederate armies in the Shenandoah Valley and to further protect Washington from any other Confederate armies that might be in position to attack the capital. Once Pope had placed federal forces in such a way as to satisfy this mission, he would then be free to employ whatever forces remained in order to threaten Richmond from the west side in support of McClellan’s operations on the north, northeast, and east side of the Confederate capital.
It might be argued that if enough men were available to fill two sizable armies in this way, such coordinated operations ought to have been set up before McClellan left for the Virginia Peninsula.
Practically speaking, the plan McClellan had presented for Buell to come from the West and appear behind the Confederate army by way of the Cumberland Gap or all the way around the far end of the Appalachian Mountains entirely would have filled this bill. When Buell had scotched that plan, long before Pope’s arrival, the forces he would now command, that is, all the forces not used on McClellan’s expedition, should have already been put to the use Pope would do now. Those free from protecting the capital should already have been set up to hit the Confederate army from a different angle, partially to take pressure off of McClellan and partially to deliver the killing blow while McClellan had Lee tied up in a desperate struggle against him.
If that was not to be carried out, then those free forces should have trailed behind Jackson when he was recalled from the Shenandoah Valley and hit him before he could join up with Johnston.
At the time that McClellan was setting forth on his peninsular exploits, however, federal planners had not been able to see past the fear that lurking Confederate forces constantly threatened Washington and so they had no appetite for grander plans with what spare armies were available, such as that of Banks, Frémont, and even McDowell.
Only after all the Confederate fire power had left the area of Washington to fend off McClellan around Richmond were they satisfied enough about the security of Washington that they could expand their horizons and seek out more aggressive goals for those forces west and north of Richmond. In so doing, they handed that job to Pope.
At the time that Jackson left off his Shenandoah Campaign and moved south to join Lee against McClellan, McDowell still hovered around the Rappahannock in the vicinity of Fairfax, in a position from which he could either finally join with McClellan, or “slide” over and coordinate with Pope, depending upon what higher powers ordered him to do.
Following the battle of Seven Pines, McClellan had shifted positions a bit, finally transferring headquarters south of the Chickahominy River. With the news that McDowell would finally be joining him, albeit from a different direction, McClellan decided to wait for him before proceeding. Once McDowell was finally on his way, McClellan could have somewhat relaxed over the danger to the wing commanded by Fitz John Porter that had been dangling in the air north of the Chickahominy River.
Lee had other ideas.

Now in command of the Army of Northern Virginia, for the rest of the war as it turned out, Lee made the decision to hit Porter’s wing before he could cross the river and use it as an anchor, or before McDowell could reach him and form a stronger wing. This could be viewed as carrying out the alternate plan Johnston had not chosen when he attacked south of the Chickahominy at Seven Pines.
Porter’s own V Corps, the farthest extended corps of the entire wing was currently situated near the tiny village of Mechanicsville, awaiting the junction with McDowell. McClellan played into Lee’s hand by doing nothing new to support Porter during the waiting period, which bought Lee time to attack.
In an earlier part of the war, Lee had earned the dubious nickname among his men, “King of Spades,” from his penchant for digging fortifications, a trait not surprising in a combat engineer, which was Lee’s original business in the army. Waiting for the moment to strike, he earned that moniker anew by having his men build additional layers of defensive works to augment those that had been established while McClellan was still on the peninsula.
The rain, which was one of McClellan’s excuses for not moving, was Lee’s ally.
Lee predicted that McClellan would keep pressure on Richmond by moving “post to post,” rather than coming on in a great rushing surge. This was the hallmark of a general like McClellan who preferred winning by maneuvering rather than straight-ahead fighting. McClellan would intend, Lee surmised, to work his big siege guns into place to shell Richmond by rail rather than transporting them by land. The augmented defensive fortifications were meant to keep McClellan as far from the capital as possible with the least fighting in that area.
Lee also acted so as to deny McClellan use of the railroads near Richmond, all the while preparing to take on Porter before McDowell arrived.
Lee dreaded the idea that McClellan might avoid direct battle and lay siege to Richmond, by parking outside the city and lobbing shells over the defensive lines right into town. If he were able to do that, in time little would be left of the city and everyone would be forced to flee. In other words, the results of a prolonged siege with shelling would be little different than if McClellan were to directly capture the city.
While Lee could perceive that threat, McClellan either failed to recognize it himself, or chose to avoid yet one more action that would have delivered his avowed target—Richmond—into his hands. Whenever opportunities presented themselves to take Richmond, or to defeat the army before him, McClellan appeared reluctant to accept them, or one could go so far as to suggest he refused to accept either possibility.

The Robert E. Lee who was a latent combat engineer loved defensive works, but when the opportunity rose, a different Robert E. Lee appeared, one who also loved to take the offensive, and that Lee could become aggressive almost to a fault. Despite setting up a defensive base, he would much prefer to be pro-active and chase McClellan away from Richmond entirely, and in the process, defeat as many elements of McClellan’s army as he could, and he never retreated from that attitude even when he would have been better served to usher McClellan on his way without a fight, if that was what the Union commander wished.
While facing the army before him, Lee was not neglectful of the specter that Pope represented, with the threat of squeezing in on Richmond from the other side, which might have been fatal for the Confederacy if successfully carried out. Even before McClellan began to wind down as a threat, Lee had plans in place to deal with Pope.

On June 25, 1862, McClellan sent his Third Corps forward toward Richmond to probe the defenses, due east of the city. This pitted his men against the thinner, but well-entrenched line Lee had recently planted in the way. McClellan hoped to maneuver some of his guns closer to the city, as Lee had predicted, but was repelled and thwarted by Lee’s pre-arranged dispositions. A skirmish broke out at a site called Oak Grove, east of Seven Pines, and although little came of it, this would be reckoned as the first of
a series of battles called the Seven Days.
The next day, Lee launched his attack on Porter, to the north. Jackson, now near enough to figure directly in Lee’s plans, was ordered to approach from north of Porter’s position so as to descend upon him with three divisions, in such a way as to cut McDowell off from joining Porter without a fight. This was the danger for the Union side that had existed since the plan to unite McDowell with Porter had led to the isolation of an entire wing of McClellan’s army north of the Chickahominy. This was the move that had been feared, even anticipated, by the Confederates, to wedge a sizable force into the space between Porter and McDowell.
If the maneuver was done right, Lee’s army could maul Porter, before McDowell could come to his aid. Once finished with Porter for the moment, the combination of Jackson and Lee could then turn and take on the incoming McDowell and inflict heavy damage on his flank, if not outright defeat him.
With units stripped from other parts of the South, and when Jackson was added to the mix, Lee could count 86,000 men to stand against McClellan’s 106,000 or so. For Lee’s purposes, these were workable numbers, if his men were used in the best way, enough men to hold the new entrenchments with part of his army and hit Porter then McDowell with the other. Lee saw the situation as 30,000 men, multiplied in effect by defensive works, holding off 75,000 on his right while his additional 55,000 plus hit only about 30,000 of McClellan’s. If the attack on Porter succeeded, McClellan would have to pull men from the other side of the river to protect his supply base, turning the advantage there to Lee, side as well.

The timing of the scheme depended upon Jackson’s maneuver into position between Porter and McDowell. Edging north to flank Porter, Jackson’s arrival was to trigger a cascade of moves by Confederate forces to flush the Union corps that were north of the Chickahominy out of their defenses, sending them reeling backward. Soon as Jackson was known to have reached his jumping off point, the subsequent attacks would open up in sequence.
In time, the two wings of the Confederate army would converge, those attacking Porter and those holding off the rest of McClellan’s army south of the Chickahominy, presenting a solid front, cutting McClellan off from his base.
One potential problem would develop if McClellan cut loose from that base at White House on his own and set up a new base to the south on the James River. To make that change, however, McClellan would have to move all the way through White Oak Swamp, an extensive network of bogs and woods south of the Chickahominy. That should hold him up long enough for the Confederates to do even more damage, if not defeat him entirely.
Jackson gave June 26 as the day he would be in place.
McClellan had perceived the danger to his White House base, and had countered it by in fact preparing a backup base on the James River at Harrison’s Landing, just as some in the Confederate brain-trust had feared.

McClellan had advance information on Jackson’s approach and figured out the plan Lee intended to explode on him and had Porter as prepared for it as possible.
On the day when both sides expected Jackson to arrive, he did not arrive.
Ambrose Powell (“A.P.”) Hill commanded the next unit in line on the Confederate side, near Beaver Dam Creek, a stream just east of Mechanicsville where Porter was entrenched. This unit was to join in with is own attack when Jackson arrived; Powell’s attack would be the signal to Lee that Jackson was in place, and at that point, the other moves that were part of the overall operation could proceed.
Waiting for Jackson to enter the arena and set off the main event, A.P. Hill tried to hold his patience. All day of the June 26, both sides waited for Jackson, who was to have “gone in” at dawn.
At three in the afternoon, Hill made the decision on his own that the operation had to be opened by someone and as he put it, “I determined to cross at once.”
Even without Jackson, the other corps followed suit in proper order after Hill, and the attack achieved initial success, with Porter driven back to his gun emplacements along Beaver Dam Creek.
In the beginning, Lee, and even Jefferson Davis, who was monitoring the operation from the field, assumed that Hill’s movement indeed signaled that Jackson was near, which in turn would indicate that the overall plan was intact. They had no way of knowing that Hill had
lost his composure and decided to vent his frustration and trigger the “show” on his own despite Jackson’s failure to arrive.
In his assumption that A.P. Hill’s attack meant the plan was still on line, Lee tried to send in Daniel Harvey (“D.H.”) Hill to hit Porter’s flank at the creek, but federal artillery proved overwhelming and the attempt failed. By nine at night, the great hope for this operation that had appeared so promising was dimmed, the battle lost for the Confederacy.

Jackson’s failure to reach the rendezvous had come as a result of unexpected resistance by Union cavalry much farther out from the battle, slowing him down to such a degree that he had only reached within three miles of his jump-off point a devastating ten hours behind schedule. His men were exhausted from the long slog over rough terrain in the draining heat of this part of Virginia, and Jackson, who had only slept ten hours out of the last ninety-six, had reached a limit and finally put his men to bed without carrying on to the now unsuccessful battle.
While Jackson had a viable reason for missing his timing to set off the battle, he lacked any excuse for having never sent a message to Lee and Davis alerting them to his problems and the fact that he would not arrive until long after expected, which might have allowed Lee to modify the operation, or put it off until he knew Jackson was arriving.

The actual casualties of this battle of Beaver Dam Creek were mild, but the worst result was the failure of the entire operation to cause significant damage to McClellan’s northern wing.
Now, Lee recognized, McClellan was in the driver’s seat. If he wanted to wipe out Lee’s army by reinforcing on that northern wing, he was in position to do so, or he could pull his army together south of the stream for an all-out thrust to Richmond.
McClellan being McClellan, however, he took neither avenue. Instead, he panicked, or at least portrayed panic, by reckoning himself outnumbered in all directions and considering it lucky that his army had survived. In that mindset, he was in no mood to undertake offensive moves in any direction.
When Jackson did arrive, he had no action to enter, yet just knowing that Jackson was nearby was enough to send McClellan into a panic. He withdrew Porter three miles south and had him hunker down on the east bank of Boatswain Swamp, an admittedly strong position with a looping river to hide behind.
A smart commander, in fact any commander undertaking such a raid into enemy territory as McClellan had conducted, would have gone in with a contingency plan for getting out in the worst of cases. That plan for McClellan appears to have been evacuating the army onto boats on the James River and taking them back the way they had come, to Washington, or thereabouts. The location that would serve best for McClellan’s army to board ships on the James was about fifteen miles away, called Harrison’s Landing, where he had already decided to make his new base.
Despite still holding a powerful position near Richmond, in his panic after the threat to Porter’s wing, added to the near disaster at Seven Pines, McClellan began thinking in terms of terminating his entire campaign and evacuating his army from Virginia. A cynic—and in Washington there were plenty of such cynics, among the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War—would have suggested that this had been McClellan’s plan all along, to put up the appearance of a spectacular operation that carried almost to the doors of Richmond, only to cross to the James and take his army away, without accomplishing much of anything except killing time. If that were true, the time he killed was a boon to the Confederate cause, because weeks were wasted with no real threat to the Confederacy itself, weeks that all counted toward the elections of 1862 then 1864. Although the Confederates had lost some men, the casualty list was nothing compared to what horrors McClellan could have leveled upon them if he had half-tried.
In evaluating McClellan’s performance based on this “tour” through Virginia that was already being wound down, only three possibilities appear.
Either One, McClellan was one of history’s most cowardly major commanders, Two, he was one of the worst tactical commanders, or Three, he was, by the standards of his own government, a full-scale traitor. It is difficult to find a fourth explanation for what he had done—or more accurately, had not done—up to that point, and indeed, for what he would continue doing in the overall course of his entire campaign against Richmond.
Following his refusal to attack Magruder at Seven Pines, and his scare over Porter’s vulnerability, in the remaining time his army spent in Virginia, McClellan would only fight enough to get away from Lee and escape to Harrison’s Landing. Already, he was for all intents and purposes out of the business of either trying to take the Confederate capital or to defeat the enemy.
The only reason McClellan would engage in any more fighting was due to the persistence of Lee, who, as intimated above, did not see the sense of just allowing McClellan to go away quietly as he clearly now wished to do. Of course it was not possible for Lee to actually believe McClellan had no more fight in him, and neither was it within what one would learn to expect from Lee’s behavior to let the enemy go without administering as much punishment as possible, whether that was the wisest response or not.
Lee ought to have been overjoyed to allow McClellan to end his campaign without losing a single man he did not have to. All he need do was screen McClellan off from Richmond until his army left Virginia soil and Lee would have achieved all he could ask or have been asked to do.
Lee was not built that way, however.
As a result, the Seven Days battles continued.

June 27, the day after Beaver Dam, Lee pushed his men to attack Porter, unaware that Porter had established a strong defensive line behind Boatswain’s Creek adjacent to and north bank of the Chickahominy River. The attack nearly came to disaster for the Confederacy, delivered by Porter’s men who were well dug in and protected from direct assault.
To try and root the Union forces out, Lee planned for Jackson to again flank Porter on the right, from the direction of a crossroads called Cold Harbor, so that when Porter turned to face Jackson, he would be weakened frontally and could be attacked by other corps.
Again, Jackson did not arrive. Investigation revealed that he had taken a wrong road, and additional confusion resulted in D.H. Hill’s simultaneous attack being ordered to a stop by Jackson himself.
Eventually, late in the day, Lee cobbled together a full-scale assault and chased Porter and reinforcements who had joined him across the Chickahominy.
Ironically, while Porter’s evacuation over the river appeared a victory for Lee, it was actually the desired result, bringing McClellan’s army back together again south of the Chickahominy. Porter’s stand at Boatswain’s Creek had been a holding action, one could almost say a deliberate diversion to buy time for McClellan’s operations south of the river. The key factor in this battle, which was called First Cold Harbor, or Gaines Mill, after two nearby landmarks, was the number of losses.
The Confederate losses were 1,483 killed, 6,402 wounded, and 108 missing—nearly 8,000 men Lee could not afford to lose in a battle that achieved nothing. The Union, which could afford it, lost appreciably fewer, and at such a rate of exchange, the Union could fight such essentially dead-end battles for years and eventually run the Confederacy down to its last man standing. This has been stated before, but it cannot be overstated and each such battle only made the fact more glaring.
During this exchange, Magruder, still holding south of the Chickahominy, had put in another masterful performance, convincing most of McClellan’s generals that they were severely outnumbered. McClellan sent messages to Washington detailing how his army had barely survived after Cold Harbor, when in fact as described above, the real result was that the wing which had been isolated away from the main army bought the time and opportunity to cross over to where it had belonged in the first place, south of the Chickahominy.
McClellan would not believe that Lee had so far given the best he had. Instead, he chose to believe that the attacks at Beaver Dam and Cold Harbor had only been half of a one-two punch and that the other half was coming any moment from his left.
Lee reckoned that he had at least achieved the objective of breaking McClellan’s supply line north of the Chickahominy, but that was illusory. McClellan had already “cut loose” from that supply line, in favor of the new one extending down to the James River, as part of his evacuation plan.
The sad reality is that the only thing McClellan truly accomplished and would ultimately accomplish in his entire campaign through Virginia was to whittle down Lee’s army a little more. Lee’s activity during these battles would serve as a signal that he had the tendency to be overly aggressive, willing, or at least unable to avoid throwing men away to gain little.
It may seem that dwelling upon only a couple of thousand dead Confederates at a time seems excessive. When battle after battle resulted in thousands dead, however, an entire army would have been taken away from Lee by the time of the last days of the war, an entire army that might have saved the Confederacy. Even if an equivalent number of men had likewise been taken away from the Union by April of 1865, it was only the Union that could still field a gigantic army right up to the last.
The very title of this work reflects the situation
that resulted: the attrition of so many men on both sides, with the advantage to the Union formed part of Lincoln’s “awful arithmetic.”

No matter how soft McClellan might have truly intended to be on the Confederates, which is of course an issue of speculation and not proven knowledge, he had ended up in a situation in which merely for his army to escape, he must kill more and more Confederate soldiers, while plenty of his own men must also die. It had become the default position, to fight his way out of Virginia, because Lee would not let him go otherwise. Had McClellan saved his own skin whole letting his army be wiped out rather than fight and kill Confederates, his army career and his political aspirations would have been just as dead, and worse, he might have ended up in a noose, from which even Lincoln might not have been able to save him, convicted as a traitor by the Joint Committee. He must fight his army out of Virginia no matter how hard doing so might be on the Confederates, and his own men.
The striking fact is that throughout this process, despite his real—or his portrayed—panic, McClellan continued to hold in his hands the power to defeat Lee, either directly or by turning toward Richmond and forcing Lee to conduct what might have amounted to a suicidal defense. It might have been true that in so doing, McClellan’s own army would have been roughed up considerably, but their mission was to win the war and they had a strong chance of doing so even with significant losses. Just as Patterson would have been expected to absorb his losses against Johnston at Winchester if it meant the war could be won, so would McClellan’s army against Lee.

In the event, even after Gaines Mill/First Cold Harbor, the killing, even if in self-defense, was far from over. Rather than just letting him go away, Lee would put up as much of a fight, costing as many men as necessary, to harass McClellan all the way out of Virginia.
In so doing, in trying to do what damage he could to McClellan, while he could, Lee would only do more damage to his own army’s future.

It is easy to castigate Lee for his zealous aggressiveness in the face of McClellan’s virtually giving up, but to his credit, the former could not know with certainty that McClellan was giving up. His move to the south, toward Harrison’s Landing could be taken as resetting his base for a serious run at Richmond from a different angle. Lee could not responsibly assume McClellan had given up on an offensive program and was now only sidling down to the James in order to leave. In fact, for a time, for all Lee knew, McClellan would still return to his base at White House. It was Lee who had now worked himself into the position of having forces potentially divided and beaten in detail by the enemy, during which, the enemy might also push through to Richmond.
When at last, intelligence convinced him that McClellan was abandoning his base at White House, Lee still had to face three possibilities to describe McClellan’s plans. He might be changing his base to the James, he might be trying to slip past Lee and return to Fortress Monroe, down the peninsula, or he might be preparing for the final lunge to take Richmond.
Lee had to make a decision, to focus upon one of those alternatives and act upon it. Logic combined with what he had perceived of McClellan’s tendencies told Lee that the true case in the enemy’s plans was to shift base to the James. That did not tell Lee what McClellan would do when he got there, but Lee burned with the desire to intercept and defeat McClellan before he could carry out the operation. Happily for Lee, in what would have appeared to him as the best case scenario, combat engineers working for General Longstreet discovered that key fortifications McClellan would have used to turn toward Richmond had been dismantled, and Lee read that to mean McClellan was on his way only to escape Virginia altogether.

Chapter Two

After Cold Harbor, McClellan wrote an extraordinary letter to Secretary of War Stanton.


I now know the full history of the day. On this side of the river (the right bank) we repulsed several strong attacks. On the left bank our men did all that men could do, all that soldiers could accomplish, but they were overwhelmed by vastly superior numbers, even after I brought my last reserves into action. The loss on both sides is terrible. I believe it will prove to be the most desperate battle of the war. The sad remnants of my men behave as men. Those battalions who fought most bravely, and suffered most, are still in the best order. My regulars were superb; and I count upon what are left to turn another battle, in company with their gallant comrades of the volunteers. Had I twenty thousand or even ten thousand fresh troops to use to-morrow, I could take Richmond; but I have not a man in reserve, and shall be glad to cover my retreat and save the material and personnel of the army.

If we have lost the day, we have yet preserved our honor, and no one need blush for the Army of the Potomac. I have lost this battle because my force was too small.

I again repeat that I am not responsible for this, and I say it with the earnestness of a general who feels in his heart the loss of every brave man who has been needlessly sacrificed to-day. I still hope to retrieve our fortunes; but to do this the Government must view the matter in the same earnest light that I do. You must send me very large re-enforcements, and send them at once. I shall draw back to this side of the Chickahominy, and think I can withdraw all our material. Please, understand that in this battle we have lost nothing but men, and those the best we have.

In addition to what I have already said, I only wish to say to the President that I think he is wrong in regarding me as ungenerous when I said that my force was too weak. I merely intimated a truth which to-day has been too plainly proved, if, at this instant, I could dispose of ten thousand fresh men, I could gain the victory to-morrow.

I know that a few thousand more men would have changed this battle from a defeat to a victory. As it is, the Government must not and can not hold me responsible for the result.

I feel too earnestly to-night. I have seen too many dead and wounded comrades to feel otherwise than that the Government has not sustained this army. If you do not so now, the game is lost.

If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you, or to any other persons in Washington. You have done your best to sacrifice this army.

According to Nicolay, the effect of this letter was like a thunder bolt in Washington, less for the nasty and insubordinate tone than for the implication that McClellan saw no hope of victory.
In actual fact, Lincoln did not see the last paragraph until long after McClellan no longer mattered, because an army censor in the telegraph office removed it before passing it along.
Now, Lincoln met with governors in New York for the purpose of building up support for an additional outlay of recruits, but the letter that accompanied his request for new men is an indicator of the strategy he expected on both fronts, and in one case, represents a change from his previous focus:

“What should be done is to hold what we have in the West, open the Mississippi, and take Chattanooga and East Tennessee without more. A reasonable force should in every event be kept about Washington for its protection. Then let the country give us a hundred thousand new troops in the shortest possible time, which, added to McClellan directly or indirectly, will take Richmond without endangering any other place which we now hold, and will substantially end the war. I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsake me; and I would publicly appeal to the country for this new force were it not that I fear a general panic and stampede would follow, so hard it is to have a thing understood as it really is.”

From the distance of a hundred fifty years later, it is easy to see the fundamental flaw in this strategy espoused by Lincoln. In order to do so, however, the concept must be studied with two different points in mind.
The first point is that if Lincoln meant to throw a hundred thousand more men against Richmond, unless this was done under a different commander, who had his heart in the work, it would be a waste of men who should be sent to the West to truly win the war. With another hundred thousand men, any general who intended to fight could have wiped out the Army of Northern Virginia and taken Richmond almost in hours. The idea of sending even one more man to McClellan for any reason was a mistake.
By all means, the only thing Lincoln ought to have done with regard to McClellan was to sack him as rapidly as possible and promote someone else who was already in a key command within his army and on the scene, provided that next man was not one of McClellan’s Democrat-supporting friends. With the army where it was located at that time, what was needed, rather than another hundred thousand men, was a head on fight against Lee by threatening Richmond and forcing him into a defensive last stand, while Pope came on hard from the other direction. Such a plan would seem to have been a clear road to victory.
Saying that Richmond should be threatened is not the same as saying it should have been taken. Again, Richmond was the position at which Lee would have to anchor his army, and when that army was defeated, Richmond would simply fall into Union hands as part of the victory package. If the Confederate government by then fled, the Union forces would be able to move south, into the Carolinas, and crush the remaining Confederate armies between Grant and themselves. With Richmond seized and the Confederate army in Virginia disbanded in defeat, Beauregard’s army in the West would either soon be run to bay, or rushed into Virginia to try and salvage something in the aftermath of the Union victory. And if it was to Virginia that they proceeded, it would be with Grant’s army nipping at their heels, slavering over the opportunity to crush them against the oncoming elements of the victorious Union army in Virginia.
Thus the second point was that every man who could be spared from Virginia in the Union cause should have been rushed to Grant in the West, where real progress was being made against Confederate armies, while federal armies advanced through the Southern land.
The efforts in the West were succeeding. In Virginia, McClellan was only tying Lee up, conspicuously failing to ever finish him off, and Lincoln was putting up with it. McClellan should have been yanked, but if he was not to be, no more support should have been wasted with him.
The fundamental problem in the entire approach to the war was the assumption by the nation of people and the government that the war could not be won unless it was won in Virginia. The idea that the armies in the West could move into that larger space, take it over, push Confederate armies away by sheer strength of numbers, and continue gobbling up Confederate territory did not seem to appeal, or at least had not occurred to many people besides the generals actually carrying out the advance.
To fight the war most effectively, wherever the Union army was advancing most powerfully and rapidly should have been the place where all the firepower in terms of men should have been focused. Since that was the West, no good reason existed why the armies in Virginia could not be used to merely to lock Lee inside that state, with the minimum number of troops required, perhaps a total of a hundred thousand, and all other men and armies should have been poured into the gaping hole that had been opened by Grant and Sherman, beginning at Shiloh and continuing forward, albeit under Halleck, to Corinth.
The fact that in the future, Lee would “leak” out of containment and make raids twice into the North does not negate this cordon plan. The reason he was able to escape and make the raids owed to the failure of intelligence and the containment operations of the Union army, not the theory. Under better commanders, that army could have headed off Lee and he would likely have been discouraged from attempting to break out in the first place.
The issue of those two raids can be ignored at this juncture, but the strategies that led to failure were being sowed by Lincoln’s choices now.
If the Western federal armies had been fully supported while Lee was merely contained, in not much time, Grant and Sherman would have chased the other Confederate armies across the main body of the South, and they would have had to turn north and join Lee in Virginia, after which the two Union armies could have closed in from both directions.
That was in fact the formula which was in process when the war ended in 1865.
First, however, instead, Lincoln would opt for spreading forces in a wasteful, time-consuming way, making smaller advances in both Virginia and the West, which was almost exactly what the Confederate game plan originally intended.

At least, rather than another hundred thousand wasted men, Lincoln only siphoned off fifteen thousand to appease McClellan, who continued to idle around Richmond, setting up not a grand assault on either Lee or the city, but merely preparing to provide protective cover while he sent his army back down the peninsula behind Lee, to boats at Fortress Monroe, completing an overall campaign which accomplished little more than to whittle down Lee’s army by a few thousand men.
Lee did indeed refuse to make it easy for McClellan to simply march his men from around the Chickahominy River down to Harrison’s Landing. The wise move on Lee’s part would have been to shadow McClellan, keeping his army between McClellan and Richmond but only putting enough pressure on McClellan to convince him his decision to leave was correct, without giving up one more man than necessary in the process. Instead, Lee forced McClellan into a fighting exit, but lost far too many men doing so, and worse, maneuvered himself into a position that actually at one point offered McClellan a straight shot to Richmond, if only he would take it.

 The route that McClellan’s army must follow from the Chickahominy River to the James passed through a difficult stretch of ground called White Oak Swamp. An army crossing such terrain on the roads that penetrated the area must move in columns, which meant McClellan’s large army would be strung out for miles. The column would be long enough that while units were entering the swamp in the north, others would be exiting on the other side, a perfect recipe for attacks on each end, which could have led to disastrous results for McClellan. 
Lee did not waste the opportunity, setting Magruder to strike the part of the army that was trailed out north of the swamp, supported by Jackson, while General Benjamin Huger would hit the southern element, supported by Longstreet.
Roads crossed through the swamp at angles to the main route McClellan was using, offering him the chance to turn off in the direction of Fortress Monroe, unless Lee sent units of his own to intercept him. That job fell to Ewell.
Lee tended to plan complicated operations that required close cooperation between components of his army, similarly to Joseph Johnston’s planning at Seven Pines. This attempt to heavily damage McClellan at White Oak Swamp would be no exception.
As part of the plan, Confederate forces must be moved ahead of McClellan in order to catch his army leaving White Oak Swamp, but the dual attacks did not have to be simultaneous. No need existed for the Magruder-Jackson operation to wait for the attack on the other end of McClellan’s army before it could begin.
Magruder went to work, but again, Jackson failed to make the rendezvous and converge, leaving Magruder to go it alone. Even with the use of a huge gun mounted on a train, Magruder’s 13,000 men could not do the job unsupported—the federals were too massed in the area north of the swamp and Magruder could not make a dent in their position. This fight, on June 29, came to known as the Battle of Savage Station, named after a nearby nexus on the rail line.
Savage Station did not slow McClellan’s progress down or do much damage to his army, in other words, for the Confederates, a “fizzle.”
The cause of Jackson’s failure this time was the need of his army to cross the Grapevine Bridge over the Chickahominy in order to reach the attack point. Porter had taken the precaution of destroying the bridge after having used it for his own crossing. Jackson spent the entire day rebuilding the bridge and as a result, never entered the arena of battle.
It will be recalled that controversy surrounded the events at Henry House Hill in the Battle of First Bull Run, when General Bernard Bee had referred to Jackson’s standing like a stone wall. After his failure to come to Magruder’s aid, some began revisiting that famous statement by Bee, now remembering not that he had praised Jackson but that he had cursed him for taking so long to jump into the fight that day.
Here, Jackson appeared to have repeated the performance, but without the saving bayonet charge at the end.
Nevertheless, despite the failure of the attack at Savage Station, north of the swamp, the columns that were to attack McClellan on the other side were moving into place on three different roads, aiming for a clash with McClellan at the town of Glendale.
Lee’s plan designed that 45,000 men would hit McClellan’s right flank, and 25,000 would hit him again from the rear. By that time, McClellan would be out of the swamp and it was to be a fight in the open, with his army still stretched thin by its disposition along the roads.
Some of McClellan’s generals felt the victory at Savage Station should be the beginning of something better than an element of the continued evacuation to the James River. They believed they should turn and stay in the fight for the long haul. Sumner was chief among those who felt this way, but McClellan’s firm orders dictated that the evacuation would continue.
So dedicated did McClellan remain to retreat after Savage Station that he allowed a Union hospital with some 2,500 wounded to fall into enemy hands, along with dedicated surgeons who willingly accepted capture to remain with the patients.
Lee was in the mode of setting up battles ahead of McClellan’s direction of flight and waiting for the latter to fall into them. As part of that, the location du jour would be the aforementioned Glendale, although several names eventually attached themselves to the coming fight, including Frayser’s Farm, since it occurred over an area and not at one point.
Huger was to “open the ball” on the Union right, while Jackson, after passing through White Oak Swamp, would hit the rear, and a General Holmes on the left. Again, Lee counted on fine choreography among his elements and again, for various reasons, much of it to do with the terrain of the area, the Confederate elements did not converge in time and McClellan’s army helped slow them down by setting up obstructions on the cross roads.
The battle at Glendale was meant originally to take place against elements of McClellan’s army that were emerging from White Oak Swamp. The operation was delayed so long that instead, after the Savage Station battle, McClellan hurried his men through the swamp, then worse from Lee’s perspective, on through the town of Glendale itself, before the Confederates could carry out their attack.
Holmes could see McClellan’s army working its way up a slope onto a local prominence called Malvern Hill, close to the James River. He set his artillery to shelling the Union forces but soon got better than he gave: on the river, federal gunboats responded with greater firepower and broke up the artillery attack. McClellan’s own artillery reached the slopes of Malvern and added their contribution against Holmes’s men, forcing him to remove his army from the intended convergence upon McClellan at Glendale.

From time to time, Jackson fell into a strange malaise, in which he seemed oblivious to orders or what was needed. Again, he allowed his army to bog down and personally spent part of the afternoon writing a letter to his wife and napping, and in that way, failed to follow up the rear attack on McClellan’s army at Glendale on June 30.
By the end of that day, some of the Union army had topped out over Malvern Hill, crossing to the down-slope leading to Harrison’s Landing. Lee had lost the race: if he continued with an attack, he would only be hitting the rear of McClellan’s army.
Still, Glendale developed into the big battle of the Seven Days, and a bloody one.
On the surface, Glendale/Frayser’s Farm appeared to have been a Confederate victory, only because they held the ground afterward, but the point of the battle had not been position. Lee had desired to heavily damage McClellan one time before he could escape, while the latter’s mission at Glendale was to hold off the enemy long enough for his army to get clean away and on toward Harrison’s Landing, and that he achieved despite some casualties. In that, the battle went to McClellan’s advantage. Again, McClellan could afford far more casualties than Lee, and his men only needed to prevent Lee from blocking progress to Harrison’s Landing, and in doing so at Glendale, they succeeded. As a result, the federal army was able to continue its retreat in almost entirely one piece.
This was the point when Lee should have left McClellan to make his escape. Lee being Lee, however, the Confederate commander hoped that at least the battle at Glendale had set McClellan’s army on edge, enough so that if he hit it again, it might crumble and he could still achieve a significant victory. This was Lee being greedy and unacceptably aggressive, prepared to waste men to achieve something already achieved, the end of McClellan’s campaign against Richmond.
In defense of Lee, he apparently feared that once gathered at the river, if left alone, McClellan might yet turn front and make a final massive lunge at Richmond.

The final stage of the withdrawal to Harrison’s Landing had not been completed with the action at Glendale and Holmes’s own withdrawal under federal artillery fire. To fully protect his back as the army proceeded over the hill and on to the river, McClellan set up a heavy artillery presence on the slight elevation that Malvern Hill represented, in good defensive ground.
In response, Lee set up his own artillery array around the northern slopes of Malvern Hill and Longstreet picked out a position from which something like 120 artillery pieces could hit the Union army from more than one direction, which ought to throw their own artillery operations in confusion. The idea was that when the Union’s guns were put out of action, Confederate infantry could still carry an assault on the rear of McClellan’s army.
Under the circumstances, however, Longstreet’s artillery could not gain a position that allowed it to bring converging fire on the federal guns, situated as they were at higher elevation, a distinct advantage. Making use of that and their rifled cannon, which provided greater accuracy, one by one, huge numbers of Union guns would zero in on individual Confederate cannon until they were reduced to rubble, then shift to the next, methodically eradicating the Confederate artillery capability. In only thirty minutes, the Union guns simply wiped out their Confederate counterparts.
Ultimately, this battle of Malvern Hill was won when the federal cannon turned against Confederate infantry advances, resulting in 6,000 Southern casualties, with absolutely nothing gained for it for the Confederate cause.
That was the finale of the Seven Days Battles.

A postscript must be inserted, however. Either McClellan, as some said, almost fell apart emotionally in the last stages of the Seven Days, or simply left the events to operate on their own for reasons he did not admit. While his men fought and died, and in truth, placed themselves in a position from which they could have still beaten Lee and taken Richmond, McClellan absented himself from the fray, literally and mentally, disappearing five miles off during Glendale, dealing with the logistics of the army’s coming encampment at the river, leaving no one out front in actual charge of the operations. It seems that Porter took some initiative, but one historian has stated that had the Union army been mauled, enough to render it useless in the future, McClellan would have earned a court martial and whatever punishment the court might choose, for dereliction of duty. And in the Malvern Hill battle, he left the field, moving aboard an iron clad ship on the James, the Galena, appearing detached from what was developing in the field.

Chapter One

While Grant pressed forward and then closed out his capture of Vicksburg, Rosecrans by June 23 had sent enough pressure against Bragg to dislodge him from Tullahoma; for a time, the latter posted his army in Chattanooga.
On August 16, Rosecrans launched an attack against him.
Shelling Chattanooga as a diversion, Rosecrans sent his forces to the south and west of town, circling around long mountain ridges, while leading Bragg to believe he was approaching from the northeast, where Burnside had a force in the vicinity of Knoxville. When on September 8, Bragg realized Rosecrans was southwest of him and circling the mountains, he abandoned Chattanooga. This Rosecrans took as a sign that Bragg was retreating to Dalton, Georgia, and he set out in hot pursuit.
At this juncture, one of the great lost chances of the Civil War developed. Little has what Rosecrans was about to do been noted. Usually it is taken as fact, that he carried out the division of his army, which led to the battle of Chickamauga, and then weeks later, the battle of Chattanooga ensued.
The words above ought to be considered carefully: When on September 8, Bragg realized Rosecrans was southwest of him and circling the mountains, he abandoned Chattanooga.
How long had that city been a target of the Union army? Certainly since Halleck’s super-force had occupied Corinth and Buell had been sent along the tracks, then was caught up in the campaign that ended at Perryville. Much longer, really. From the time when it became clear that Fort Henry should be captured, opening up the Tennessee River, Chattanooga became an ultimate target. And now, Bragg had pulled away, so that Chattanooga lay unoccupied by Confederate forces, directly before Rosecrans. It is true that Confederate armies were meant to be the targets of Union armies, but never was it sensible to turn down the gift of a major city, a major railroad nexus when it was simply handed over, but Rosecrans now did exactly that. Bragg was beyond him, on the other side of Chattanooga, and all Rosecrans had to do was seize the city, make it his base, and he could take Bragg on any time thereafter. With no major Confederate army separating Grant and himself, if Rosecrans occupied Chattanooga now, the Union would never have to give it up. Just by claiming Chattanooga now, Rosecrans would have locked Bragg away from an entire segment of the Confederacy, effectively blocking him up in a farther corner of the South. Once having claimed Chattanooga as a federal possession, Rosecrans could then have pursued Bragg wherever he might go, using his own army as a screen to keep Bragg from doubling back to Chattanooga, and certainly, by then, Grant would have cheerfully reinforced him so as to maintain the city in federal hands while Rosecrans further pursued Bragg.
Furthermore, had Rosecrans claimed and occupied Chattanooga now, the next move could have been against Bragg and Atlanta at the same time, which would in fact develop, but not for months instead of now.
There is more to this issue, however. Although the following letter to Grant from Halleck was written long after the events in which Rosecrans abandoned Chattanooga, the point of them needs to be emphasized now.

Major-General GRANT, Louisville.
GENERAL : In compliance with my promise, I now proceed to give you a brief statement of the objects aimed at by General Rosecrans and General Burnside’s movement into East Tennessee, and of the measures directed to be taken to attain these objects.
It has been the constant desire of the government, from the beginning of the war, to rescue the loyal inhabitants of East Tennessee from the hands of the rebels, who fully appreciated the importance of continuing their hold upon that country. In addition to the large amount of agricultural products drawn from the upper valley of the Tennessee, they also obtained iron and other materials from the vicinity of Chattanooga. The possession of East Tennessee would cut off one of their most important railroad communications, and threaten their manufactories at Rome, Atlanta, etc.
When General Buell was ordered into East Tennessee in the summer of 1862, Chattanooga was comparatively unprotected; but Bragg reached there before Buell, and, by threatening his communications, forced him to retreat on Nashville and Louisville. Again, after the battle of Perryville, General Buell was urged to pursue Bragg’s defeated army, and drive it from East Tennessee. The same was urged upon his successor, but the lateness of the season or other causes prevented further operations after the battle of Stone River.
Last spring, when your movements on the Mississippi River had drawn out of Tennessee a large force of the enemy, I again urged General Rosecrans to take advantage of that opportunity to carry out his projected plan of campaign, General Burnside being ready to cooperate, with a diminished but still efficient force. But he could not be persuaded to act in time, preferring to lie still till your campaign should be terminated. I represented to him, but without avail, that by this delay Johnston might be able to reenforce Bragg with the troops then operating against you.
When General Rosecrans finally determined to advance, he was allowed to select his own lines and plans for carrying out the objects of the expedition. He was directed, however, to report his movements daily, till he crossed the Tennessee, and to connect his left, so far as possible, with General Burnside’s right. General Burnside was directed to move simultaneously, connecting his right, as far as possible, with General Rosecrans’s left so that, if the enemy concentrated upon either army, the other could move to its assistance. When General Burnside reached Kingston and Knoxville, and found no considerable number of the enemy in East Tennessee, he was instructed to move down the river and cooperate with General Rosecrans.
These instructions were repeated some fifteen times, but were not carried out, General Burnside alleging as an excuse that he believed that Bragg was in retreat, and that General Rosecrans needed no reenforcements. When the latter had gained possession of Chattanooga he was directed not to move on Rome as he proposed, but simply to hold the mountain-passes, so as to prevent the ingress of the rebels into East Tennessee. That object accomplished, I considered the campaign as ended, at least for the present. Future operations would depend upon the ascertained strength and; movements of the enemy. In other words, the main objects of the campaign were the restoration of East Tennessee to the Union, and by holding the two extremities of the valley to secure it from rebel invasion....”

Simply put, when Rosecrans had his hands on
Chattanooga, he was to keep it in his hands. He was not to pursue Bragg off into Georgia, he was to hold the passes through the valley and then cooperate with Burnside in Eastern Tennessee. After that was accomplished, then the operation against Bragg could proceed.
Combining with Burnside, Rosecrans could have secured Eastern Tennessee as so long desired, then the problem of Bragg could be faced.
Instead, Rosecrans went after Bragg, splitting his army into three, and running into a bigger battle than ever should have been fought. Before following out the moves Rosecrans carried out against Bragg, it is worthwhile to consider the situation that was developing, from the Confederate point of view.

In late August and early September, Lee personally traveled to Richmond for a conference that would determine what he would do next, with Vicksburg lost and his great raid into Pennsylvania having turned into ashes. Bragg’s recent retreat from Tullahoma added to all the other worries on the minds of the Confederate high command. More and more, the southern part of the Confederacy was being ceded to Union forces.
Contrary to the good sense expressed previously, that he should let the Union forces just sit and wait, Lee thought he had talked Davis into authorizing a new offensive against Meade and he passed word to Longstreet, currently leading the army when Lee was absent, to prepare for it.
While agreeing to obey orders, Longstreet argued that it seemed futile to continue the offensive and fight a war of attrition and felt the best plan was to hold position in Virginia and bolster the efforts in Tennessee. He thought two corps could keep Meade standing off, allowing Lee to send a third corps to help Bragg in Tennessee.
This was written on September 2, and Burnside was just then taking Knoxville. It was two days later that Rosecrans pressed Bragg through Chattanooga and did not stay, himself.
Suddenly Davis turned about and agreed with Longstreet. He tried to convince Lee to personally lead the corps into Tennessee and take overall command. Lee demurred, insisting that the man who already had command and knew the situation, Bragg, would do the better job.
Davis gave in to this argument, and Longstreet was dispatched with two of his own divisions to go join Bragg.
Upon Longstreet’s departure to Tennessee, about 45,000 remained for Lee against Meade. Using the two rivers, the Rappahannock and the Rapidan as buffers, and laying back in the vicinity of the Wilderness, Lee could feel safe against a threat from the now much larger federal army while Longstreet was away.

Rosecrans had no expectation that Davis would ever send reinforcements into the West, let alone as many as 18,000. This meant he was unaware that the army against him would soon swell by that number. Yet Halleck estimated that enough men could be rallied to Rosecrans’s side to more than match what Bragg could muster. Much of this could come from Burnside, if he would only cooperate.
The plan of creating three columns involved an attempt by Rosecrans, to surround Bragg outside of Chattanooga and prevent his retreat deeper into Georgia, where Rosecrans surmised Bragg would go. As seen above, those were not his orders. Holding Chattanooga and supporting Burnside to solidify federal occupation of Eastern Tennessee would have resulted in Bragg being held off, unable to threaten the Union armies even with the addition of Longstreet. For all intents and purposes, Bragg would have been pushed into a corner, or put in a position of having to conduct an assault on the combined forces of Rosecrans and Burnside in their secure positions, which would have bordered on the suicidal.
With regard to the passes and mountains in the area of Chattanooga, several large formations of hills, or as they were locally considered, “mountains,” stretched in ridges, as if flowing with a wind from the north. These mountains were penetrated by a number of openings through which armies could pass, with greater or lesser ease, much like the topography of upper Virginia, where the Blue Ridge and Catoctin Mountains, and the Cumberlands and Allegheny paralleled each other, with valleys between and gaps cutting through the ridges.
In passing through Chattanooga to try and defeat Bragg, contrary to orders, Rosecrans dispatched M/G Alexander McCook wide to the south, through Winston Gap, one of the passes piercing those mountains, about forty miles below the border of Georgia and Alabama/Tennessee. George Thomas used Stevens Gap and M/G Thomas Crittenden passed through Chattanooga until he was beyond Lookout Mountain, which is one of those long ridges whose northern face loomed over the city of Chattanooga, but the body of which stretched for miles to the south, into Alabama, like a blunt-faced snake.
Crittenden’s corps exited the valley of Chattanooga, through a pass in another mountain to the east called Missionary Ridge, down into the Georgia countryside across the nearby border.
As Rosecrans rushed his three columns eastward and in two cases southward, still believing Bragg was retreating, the Confederate force was in fact near La Fayette and closer to George Thomas’s XIV Corps than Thomas was to any other Union corps, a perfect set up for the always hoped-for “defeat in detail.”
Thomas had “popped out” of the mountains into a valley called McLemore’s Cove and Bragg meant to trap him in there and attack him heavily. McCook would be “fixed” by Fighting Joe Wheeler’s cavalry as he emerged from the mountains further south, and Bedford Forrest would do the same to Crittenden up in the north near McFarland’s Gap. In this way, each of Rosecrans’s columns would be intercepted and blocked as it emerged from its respective pass, with the northernmost and southernmost columns delayed while the central column, belonging to Thomas, was beaten.
Longstreet’s incoming divisions were yet to arrive but with other rare reinforcements on hand, Bragg now had 55,000 total, 40,000 of which he could throw against the 23,000 of Thomas’s column.
September 9, Thomas entered the cove and Bragg ordered the attack.
The plan seemed sound, but the execution was not. The generals Bragg had assigned to conduct the attack on Thomas did not begin to coordinate their efforts until Thomas had already caught a scent of their trap and U-turned back into McLemore’s Cove. The result was a trap that closed on empty air.
Bragg would blame the failure on confusion over the orders sent and received by the two generals who were to attack from different directions but the situation was not as simple as that. The fact was, Thomas was never going to blunder into the trap because he became aware of it ahead of time.
To understand how he came to know the Confederates were waiting for him leads to an intriguing story in its own right, because it exposes dynamics of a kind that existed in this war but did not show up in bare statistics.
It is informative to read the official report from Thomas, describing events from his point of view as his column approached McLemore’s Cove:

September 9. – Baird’s division moved across Lookout Mountain to the support of Negley. Negley’s division moved across the mountain and took up a position in McLemore’s Cove, near Rodgers’ farm, throwing out his skirmishers as far as Bailey’s Cross-Roads; saw the enemy’s cavalry in front, drawn up in line; citizens reported a heavy force concentrated in his front at Dug Gap, consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery.

The intriguing aspect of this report is contained in the last clause of the final sentence: “citizens reported a heavy force concentrated in his front at Dug Gap, consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery.”
It should be borne in mind that this occurred deep in Alabama. Citizens, that is, local people, were passing information to a Union army in order aid its operations against a Confederate army!
Thomas again, 

September 11. – Baird’s division closed up on Negley’s at Widow Davis’ house about 8 a.m. Soon afterward, Negley being satisfied, from his own observations and from the reports of officers sent out to reconnoiter, and also from loyal citizens, that the enemy was advancing on him in very superior force, and that his train was in imminent danger of being cut off if he accepted battle at Davis’ Cross-Roads, determined to fall back to a strong position in front of Stevens’ Gap. This movement he immediately proceeded to put into execution, and by his untiring energy and skill, and with the prompt co-operation of Baird, succeeded in gaining possession of the hills in front of Stevens’ Gap and securing his trains, without losing a single wagon.

Additional intelligence had been provided by “loyal citizens.” This might have been expected in Eastern Tennessee, but in Alabama?

September 12. - Brannan’s division reached Negley’s position by 8 a.m., and took post next on the left of Baird. Reynolds’ division was posted on the left of Brannan, one brigade covering Cooper’s Gap. Reports from citizens go to confirm the impression that a large force of the enemy is concentrated at La Fayette. A report from General McCook confirms that fact. A later dispatch from the same source says it is reported that Bragg’s whole army, with Johnston’s, is at La Fayette. Generals Brannan and Baird, with parts of their commands, went out on a reconnaissance toward Dug Gap at 1 p.m. to-day. General Brannan reports they advanced 2 miles beyond Davis’ Cross-Roads without finding any enemy with the exception of a few mounted men. Corps headquarters encamped at top of Stevens’ Gap.

September 14. - A negro who had been taken before General Buckner yesterday and released again reports that Buckner and his corps are in Catlett’s Gap preparing to defend that place. A negro woman, lately from the neighborhood of Dug Gap, reports a large force of rebels between Dug Gap and La Fayette.

Thus, through a combination of Unionist local people, blacks who reported in to the Union army, and deserters from the Confederates, Thomas and thus Rosecrans and the other columns were well aware of Bragg’s trap and avoided it by going up Chickamauga Creek. It would seem that a fair amount of carelessness on the Confederate side had also contributed to the process of warning Thomas.
Ultimately, Bragg was forced to give up on beating Thomas for now. Next he turned his attention to Crittenden, up closer to Chattanooga, hoping to entrap him as he had not been able to do with Thomas. Blaming his commanders for the failure at McLemore’s Cove, Bragg decided to trust the entrapment of Crittenden to different commanders. This was to take place at dawn on September Thirteenth. Leonidas Polk was the commander designated to attack Crittenden but when he arrived, he took up a defensive posture and refused to attack a force he feared was superior.
When Bragg reached the position and finally managed to send the assault in, Crittenden, á la Thomas, had slipped off the hook, disappearing behind Missionary Ridge, another long prominence just east of Chattanooga. Already aware, through Thomas’s intelligence, that Bragg was on the offensive instead of fleeing to Dalton as he originally believed, Rosecrans called his three columns back together, in the vicinity of Lee and Gordon’s Mill on Chickamauga Creek, around a “corner” from Chattanooga.
During that time, in a snit over the failures of his subordinates, Bragg did not make any additional move to plant his army in Rosecrans’s way and so the Union commander was able to reassemble his army without harassment.

If Rosecrans had occupied Chattanooga with his entire army then proceeded forward, with his supply lines in the city, and his army blocking the way against Bragg, and had he not taken the long detour with two parts of his army through the mountains southward, he would have been more advanced outside of Chattanooga than Chickamauga Creek, and Bragg would not occupy the ground directly before him. Bragg would have had to retreat farther because Rosecrans would have more directly pressed him from a base east of Chattanooga in such a way, even in a loss, as to keep Bragg from following him around Missionary Ridge into Chattanooga. From there, Rosecrans could have chosen more favorable ground to take on Bragg.
By whatever machinations that placed them there, the two armies now stood poised across Chickamauga Creek from each other and there the battle shaped up, with Bragg arrayed slightly to the northeast of Rosecrans. Bragg assumed Rosecrans would attempt to retreat back up around Missionary Ridge, which was at his back, through Rossville Gap to Chattanooga and Bragg meant to get to the gap first, close it off, and with what was now parity in numbers with Rosecrans, finish him off. Clearly, had Rosecrans already held Chattanooga, he would have positioned himself to prevent Bragg flanking him and cutting off his retreat to Chattanooga if he should need it.

To achieve this victory, which to Bragg must have appeared as a chance to finally stymie the slow but constant advance of the Union army that had begun with Shiloh, he had intended to extend his right flank until it was north of Rosecrans, which would have created an envelopment around the Union left flank, and from that
configuration, should have been able to both cut Rosecrans off from Chattanooga and herd the entire Union force back into McLemore’s Cove and trap them as he meant to catch Thomas in the first place. This scenario would not have been possible if Rosecrans had already claimed the city and his entire army had entered this battle from that position.

This attack was to occur early on September 19, but in the night, unknown to Bragg, Rosecrans drastically realigned his forces, moving Thomas to the Union left in such a way that he ended up actually further north than Bragg’s men, outmaneuvering the possibility of envelopment and in so doing, ruining Bragg’s plan to drive the entire Union force south into the trap.
In fact, Rosecrans had generally shifted his entire force to the north, closer to Rossville Gap, which was his safety-valve route through the mass of Missionary Ridge, and back to Chattanooga. This put paid to Bragg’s plan for September Nineteenth.
That same day, September 19, George Thomas probed forward, to the east, and collided with Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry, triggering a fight that erupted into a general battle up and down the whole line. By the end of that day, Rosecrans held the road that ran through the battlefield. Twice his center was hit hard but held.

As for Longstreet, his men had come from Virginia by train, and Longstreet personally followed them in, having to work his way through a Union line in the dark (during which, running into blue-coats, Longstreet disguised his southern accent and bluffed his way past as a Yankee.)
According to Longstreet, upon his arrival, Bragg barely briefed him about the current situation then informed him another attack was scheduled for the next day.
That attack did not develop as crisply or immediately as Bragg had indicated to Longstreet because Polk was three and a half hours late making ready. Longstreet employed the time wasted, however, by further acclimatizing himself to the overall situation under which he was to direct the coming action. At the same time, however, George Thomas’s men took advantage of the same delay to dig in well enough to repulse the assault against their sector when it began.
It is instructive to read what Thomas had to say in his official report, as he describes the terrain in which the fighting took place.

Kelly’s house is situated in an opening about three-fourths of a mile long and one-fourth of a mile wide, on the east side of the State road, and stretches along that road in a northerly direction, with a small field of perhaps 20 acres on the west side of the road, directly opposite to the house. From thence to the Chickamauga the surface of the country is undulating and covered with original forest timber, interspersed with undergrowth, in many places so dense that it is difficult to see 50 paces ahead. There is a cleared field near Jay’s Mill, and cleared land in the vicinity of Reed’s and Alexander’s Bridges. A narrow field commences at a point about a fourth of a mile south of Kelly’s house, on the east side of the State road, and extends, perhaps, for half a mile along the road toward Gordon’s Mills. Between the State road and the foot of Missionary Ridge there is a skirt of timber stretching from the vicinity of Widow Glenn’s house, south of the forks of the road to McDonald’s house, three-fourths of a mile north of Kelly’s. The eastern slope of the Missionary Ridge, between Glenn’s and McDonald’s, is cleared and mostly under cultivation.

With the Confederate attack foundering, a break would come that turned the battle around and won the day for the South. This event that opened up the attack for Longstreet is seldom reported in detail, and when it is mentioned, usually described incorrectly.
The usual explanation for this phenomenon was a confused report that a hole existed in the federal line to the north and Rosecrans dispatched what he thought was a reserve unit to fill it, but instead, sent a front line unit, pulling it out of place and as a result, in so doing, creating an actual hole where none had existed, a hole through which the Confederates poured.
Up to a point, that description is accurate, but the actual details that led to the creation of this key gap in the line are interesting enough to report more fully, since this incident is the key to the Confederate victory at Chickamauga.
It will be recalled that by Rosecrans shifting his entire army to the left, or north, which was a wise enough move, he placed Thomas’s corps in the way of Bragg’s intended envelopment. That far out on the wing, being “in the air,” George Thomas felt exposed to flanking and more than once dispatched couriers to Rosecrans, requesting reinforcements.
One of those couriers, in moving down the line to meet with Rosecrans, discovered what appeared to be a gap in the Union defensive lines. Deep in the woods, however, hidden from the messenger’s sight, a division under command of John Brannan was indeed holding the position as he should be. Thomas’s description of the lack of visibility in the forest explains how this could have developed.
Nevertheless, in the name of diligence, the courier reported to headquarters what he perceived as a dire situation, an opening through which the Confederates could charge and make a turning movement onto the rear of the entire Union line.
Rosecrans appears to have panicked at the report of a hole in his line, and without investigating, accepted the claim at face value. He insisted that General Thomas Wood move over to fill the gap. That was the fatal mistake.
Let General Woods describe what ensued.

I received the order about 11 o’clock. At the moment of its receipt I was a short distance in rear of the center of my command. General McCook was with me when I received it. I informed him that I would immediately carry it into execution, and suggested that he should close up his command rapidly on my right to prevent the occurrence of a gap in our lines. He said he would do so, and immediately rode away. I immediately dispatched my staff officers to the brigade commanders with the necessary orders, and the movement was at once begun. Reynolds’ division was posted on the left of Brannan’s division, which, in turn, was on the left of the position I was just quitting. I had consequently to pass my command in rear of Brannan’s division to close up on and go in to the support of Reynolds.

So soon as I had got the command well in motion, I rode forward to find General Reynolds and learn where and how it was desired to bring my command into action. I did not find General Reynolds, but in my search for him I met General Thomas, to whom I communicated the order I had received from the commanding general, and desired to know where I should move my command to support General Reynolds. General Thomas replied that General Reynolds did not need support, but that I had better move to the support of General Baird, posted on our extreme left, who needed assistance. I exhibited my order to him, and asked whether he would take the responsibility of changing it. He replied he would, and I then informed him I would move my command to the support of General Baird. I requested General Thomas to furnish me a staff officer who could conduct me to General Baird, which he did. Taking this staff officer with me, I rode at once to Barnes’ brigade and directed the staff officer to conduct it to and report it to General Baird. I then rode to the other two brigades for the purpose of following with them in the rear of Barnes’ brigade to the assistance of General Baird. When I rejoined them I found the valley south of them swarming with the enemy.

It appears that when I moved my command to go to the support of General Reynolds, the gap thus made in our lines was not closed by the troops on my right, and that the enemy poured through it very soon in great force. The head of his column struck the right of Buell’s brigade, and cutting off a portion of it, forced it over the adjacent ridge, whence it retired, as I have subsequently learned, with the vast mass of fugitives from the troops on our extreme right toward Rossville.

Prior to the advent of the above situation, the initial attack by the Confederates, when it finally came after the delay caused by Polk, was at first confused. Still, like a low spot in the road draws the rainwater, the gap in Rosecrans’s line seemed to draw the Confederates to the opening and there, they broke through and got behind Rosecrans’s entire defensive line, a disaster for the Union side, as Woods made clear.

Even with this gift handed to them, all was not well on the Southern side, either. The initial confusion, before the gap was exploited, seemed to stem from the fact that Bragg had been quite miffed when his grand design to shove the Union army up into McLemore Cove had failed and he seemed to lose interest in the coming attack, or else confidence, or both. He was satisfied to issue the orders for an all-out straight-on attack, then personally abandoned the scene, riding north, throwing over his shoulder the message that if he were wanted, he would be found at “Reed’s Bridge,” and added that the battle was in the hands of the corps commanders, meaning, primarily, as senior man, Longstreet.

Before the attack finally began, and certainly before the providential gap in Union lines was discovered, Longstreet had likened the impending charge to Pickett’s at Gettysburg, and tried to bring as much order to it as he could before it stepped off. This time, however, he had more men, they were in better shape and position, and the enemy was less powerful than Meade had been, nor did they hold the same quality of higher ground.
To him, the initial charge seemed to fail, with John Bell Hood’s line repulsed at first and Hood himself felled with what was thought a deadly wound.
It was in this period, however, that the open lines left by Wood’s departure were discovered and when the general charge came, it flowed through the hole. The tail end of Wood’s division, still in the process of moving around Brannan’s was hit hard, and the integrity of Rosecrans’s army generally fell apart from that point.
In the comedy of errors that was the Chickamauga battle, two beacons of light and order stood out on either side. Longstreet made the most—and it was enough—of a bad situation, and George Thomas prevented the loss from turning into an all-out catastrophe on the Union side by holding firm for as long as he was able.
After Longstreet’s breakthrough, and the rampage of his men through the rear of Rosecrans’s defense, the stampeding Union forces did not stop, they carried on up the valley to Rossville and beyond, and the unraveling continued like the ripping open of a zipper until it reached Thomas’s position. About two thirds of Rosecrans’s entire army on the field had been routed and vacated the battle by then.
It will be recalled that Bragg’s master strategy had been to carry out a massive “wheel” to the left, meaning his whole army should swing around north of Rosecrans’s and shove it into McLemore Cove, but that plan was long gone. Instead, as Longstreet would explain it, the great wheel-left was converted into a wheel in the opposite direction because the opening and the route through the hole where Wood had evacuated caused the momentum of the retreating Union army to go north. If they could no longer be driven into McLemore’s cove, perhaps they could be pursued and finished off here along the Chickamauga, so Longstreet turned the attack in that direction, with great success until its momentum began to wear out and it ran into George Thomas’s men standing in the way.
Thomas’s men were arrayed in a semi-circle around Snodgrass Hill and they held on and were reinforced by a reserve unit under Gordon Granger, further north than Thomas. Those federals who still remained on the field rallied around this force. It was not sufficient to reverse the fortunes of the battle, but the resistance thrown up by Thomas allowed much of Rosecrans’s army to get away even if they were holding their proverbial tails between their legs.
For this heroic stance at Snodgrass Hill, Thomas gained the nickname, “The Rock of Chickamauga.”
The accepted story of this part of the battle says that Rosecrans fled through the Rossville Gap into Chattanooga with his men, turning over command of the field to Thomas, who was left to withdraw at his own discretion. By that version, Thomas held firm until enemy artillery drove him out, leaving the field to Bragg.
It is said that Rosecrans, when he saw the assault coming his way, announced, “If you care to live any longer, get away from here,” and promptly took his own advice. An observer on the spot noted that immediately, “The headquarters around me disappeared.”
Longstreet understood the end of the battle differently. Rosecrans did not simply flee the field, he announced he was transferring to Chattanooga, only a few miles away, to “view the position there.” At least that put a better face on his exit than simply running away.
This is Thomas’s description of the same scenario:

General Garfield, [future president of the United States] chief of staff of General Rosecrans, reached this position about 4 p.m., in company with Lieutenant-Colonel Thruston, of McCook’s staff, and Captains Gaw and Barker, of my staff, who had been sent to the rear to bring back the ammunition, if possible. General Garfield gave me the first reliable information that the right and center of our army had been driven, and of its condition at that time. I soon after received a dispatch from General Rosecrans, directing me to assume command of all the forces, and, with Crittenden and McCook, take a strong position and assume a threatening attitude at Rossville, sending the unorganized forces to Chattanooga for reorganization, stating that he would examine the ground at Chattanooga, and then join me; also that he had sent out rations and ammunition to meet me at Rossville.

Longstreet agrees that the Confederate artillery finally convinced Thomas to leave, and an order from Rosecrans to pull out came after Thomas had already decided it was time to go.
Longstreet said that while he was wiping up after Thomas had withdrawn, it was not until the next day that Bragg arrived from the right to find out his army had won the battle. In his continued fit of ill humor, he had remained out of the arena, with a reserve of five brigades that had not even been inserted into the battle.
By whatever interpretation one chooses, the fact was that Rosecrans fled to Chattanooga and when he could, Thomas also joined him, and as a result, Chickamauga was heralded as one of the few victories for the Confederate army in the West. Yet controversy raged over the manner in which Bragg dealt with the ending. The fact is undeniable that for one reason or another, even in defeat, Rosecrans and his army ended up in Chattanooga, where they ought to have been all along, or at least from which they should have based.
While that seemed like a better than deserved outcome of a badly fought battle, the conditions under which Rosecrans and his men took up residency in the river city were not quite what they would have preferred. Bragg’s army had them sequestered under what amounted to siege conditions, or at least modified siege conditions, and would be well along toward starving them into submission by the time they were rescued.
The controversy, from the Southern point of view, surrounded the issue of allowing Rosecrans to at least occupy the city even if under unfavorable conditions rather than driving him clear out and away from Chattanooga. It seemed shameful to many in the Confederate army that in losing a big battle, the vanquished ended up in possession of a key city, even if it was as virtual prisoners.
Worse, unlike Pemberton, Rosecrans could certainly expect outside help before his men starved or surrendered. Grant was relatively close by and had the firepower to oust Bragg, and if he did, Chickamauga would turn out to be only a temporary positive for the Confederacy, for in the end, Bragg would likely be as much boxed into a corner of the Confederacy as he would have been if Rosecrans had taken Chattanooga first and used it as a base to chase him south and east.
No doubt, it would only be a matter of time before Grant and Sherman came knocking at Bragg’s door. Still, too much time would be wasted in actually siezing and holding Chattanooga as opposed to Rosecrans taking it first and using it as a position of strength out of which to strike.
It would be some time before Grant arrived to bail Rosecrans out, but nevertheless, a battle was about to open in Chattanooga right away, between Bragg and his own generals, a battle that had been a long time coming.