Military Intelligence 1861-63: Part II

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Intelligence 1861-63

But to say that all types were important is not to say that their importance was fully appreciated. Had these commanders been asked to name the one information source they could least afford to do without, the cavalry would have been their choice. Their willingness to employ it on other tasks even at critical times is perhaps the best single indication of the Civil War general's lack of passion for intelligence.
How a big built-tin advantage in intelligence can be overcome. In the contest for tactical information the Confederates held the upper hand by virtue of fighting on home ground 95 percent of the time. It seems to have been habitual with Federal commanders, when operating in the Confederacy, to concede the enemy this advantage.24 Pope resisted this tendency and by force of effort succeeded in getting an even break or better as long as his cavalry held out.   Like Pope, Hooker was too stubborn to be resigned to coming in second in the information contest.   Other Union commanders were liberal in regard to newspaper and flag-of-truce exchanges, probably because those were situations in which the Northerners for once stood to get a quid pro quo. Hooker clamped down hard on both. By these and other strong security measures, and by his insistence on vigorous and competent intelligence work, he marched to Chancellorsville with well nigh perfect information while Lee, surrounded by a friendly population, suffered from information that was as bad as Hooker's was good until the armies had been at close grips for two days. And the advantage Hooker seized early in his command did not prove transient; Sharpe maintained it, apparently, all the way to Appomattox.
A characterization of commanders as getters and users of intelligence. Three rather sharp classifications emerge from the performance of Hooker, Meade, and Lee respectively.
Hooker, administrator par excellence, saw the value of intelligence and knew how to get the job done right. He also did an excellent job of translating his intelligence into a campaign plan. And an excellent job of security.   But in the pinch he did not trust the plan that be must have admired as much as history does. It is hard to put one's finger exactly on his flaw, but this much is clear: he could
24 In the Mississippi theater, at least, Federal spies were instructed to tell the Confederates the truth about Federal forces, on the assumption that the Rebels would have correct information anyway and that the spy who made misstatements would only betray himself. At least one spy who ventured to interpret this rule to suit himself wound up by having to be reassigned east.


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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:09 AM
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2011 09:56 AM