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Military Intelligence 1861-63: Part II

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Intelligence 1861-63

plus artillery personnel-a total that was as close as the Confederate returns could have given it.10 Although Hooker could not have known how good a piece of work this was, he could not have failed to see that Babcock's service under Pinkerton had not afflicted him with any hallucinatory disease.11
While this reformation was going on, the Confederates' chronically haphazard intelligence did not improve. Lee's dispatches at this period show a surprisingly poor understanding of Army of the Potomac organization; when well-informed prisoners were taken the Confederates often could not fit the most basic O/ B data into place. An effort to get a spy into Washington failed. Lee complained that his scouts could not get past Hooker's pickets. When a full. and correct statement of Hooker's strength reached Richmond through a medical return printed in a Washington newspaper,12 its relay to Lee was so poorly handled that he did not appreciate its authoritative character and instead relied on his own estimate, which was 25 percent below the mark.
The Action
Hooker, appointed in midwinter, had three months to ready a campaign. The farmer-spy's report gave him the opening he was looking for: weakness on the enemy left, and a gap that opened directly on the rear of their main force. The gap could be reached, however, only if the Federals could evade discovery in a long march through country that Stuart's cavalrymen were watching.
Hooker's march did evade effective discovery.   Part of this success was due to security measures far more stringent than any the army
10 It was within 1/4 of I% of the figure now most generally accepted, though the last few percentage points of accuracy were accidental: Babcock was decidedly low on two of the infantry divisions and too high on the cavalry, and the errors canceled out.
11 Babcock had served under Pinkerton on the Peninsula and seems to have had a hand in the O/B work of that period, which (as noted in Part I) produced adequate basic data. But he deplored the ponderous record-keeping enforced by Pinkerton; he also deplored, it would seem from his own later work;, the detective's practice of making strength estimates that had little or no relation to his unit-byunit findings on the composition of the Southern army.
12 See Studies IX 4, p. 75 f., "Intelligence Story in Three Parts."
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:09 AM
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2011 09:06 AM