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Military Intelligence 1861-63: Part II

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Intelligence 1861-63

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comprehend a big picture (before the battle), and he could see a big plan, but he could not see it through.
There is no particular reason to believe that if Meade had inherited the army without a going intelligence outfit, he would have set up as good a one as Hooker did. But he had one ability in which Hooker did not especially distinguish himself: as an evaluator of intelligence evidence he could hit the bull's eye as surely as someone else could find the target. On the morning he left the Fifth Corps and rode over to army headquarters to take command, he was completely uninformed of the enemy situation (Hooker had carried security too far) ; by evening he had picked out the correct information from a great welter of conflicting reports.25 In the succeeding days he continued this performance, though not against such great odds.   It is hard to believe that if he had been in command at Chancellorsville a flanking movement would have been read as a retreat or a planted story of enemy reinforcements would have been entertained for several days.
But Meade was far from an ideal applier of intelligence.   While in Maryland he read the evidence correctly and then acted as if the erroneous reports were as sound as the correct ones, and the army would therefore have to go out and look for enemy concentrations all over south-central Pennyslvania. It is reasonable to question whether, if he had not had his generals' views to rely on in the council of July 2, he would have made the decision that his information pointed to.
Lee, as has been shown, did not do anything like the job Hooker did in providing himself with intelligence. Evidently he also lacked Meade's flair for evaluation; for example, despite his own habitual use--over-use-of deception, he accepted a planted signal message that should have seemed suspiciously gratuitous. But Lee excelled in putting information to work.   Give him a scrap of it and he knew what action to take, and he took it, and saw it through.
Thus each of these men seems to have excelled in but one of the three skills-getting intelligence, evaluating it, and applying it. The second of these skills is of a higher order than the first, and the third is higher than the second, but the higher orders do not seem to require any degree of excellence in the lower ones.   This stratification, though
25 Undoubtedly Sharpe aided Meade in this, but the language of Meade's orders and of his dispatches to Washington reflects a strong evaluative role played by the commander himself.
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:09 AM
Last Updated: Aug 05, 2011 09:57 AM