GDG- Neither this Capital nor Harpers Ferry could long hold out against a...

John Lawrence jlawrence at
Wed Jan 25 19:15:09 CST 2012

In 1861,  Meade was put in command 
 of the Department of the Potomac, not to be confused with the Army of the Potomac. As commander of the Department, he was responsible for the defense of Washington. Under the direction of general Halleck, the defenses were constructed, Meade being directly responsible.
I'm not sure where you are coming from on your criticisms of numbers of the defenders.
The topic at hand is how well the defense was staffed had Lee forced himself  to
the gates.
My thought was that should Lee had attacked Washington, it would not be is impregnable as some seem to think.
Not sure what your tirade is all about bit is good to deal with a man of passion.

CWMHTours at wrote:

>Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
>;-{)  !!!!
>Meade had nothing to do with the Circle of Forts around  DC.  Where do you 
>come by  that?
>"Not fully manned"...  It was NOT intended to be fully  manned except in 
>the case of a military emergency.  Ie July  1864.
>There was 30K troops, trained as Heavy Arty.  They knew  how to shoot a 
>100lb Parrott which is not something you undertake lightly.   These guys were 
>damn good professionals.
>Not fully manned....What do you want them to do? Stand at full  alert upon 
>the ramparts when there was no Rebel withing 20 mi?
>The Circle of Forts was in constant flux,  Gen John  Barnard, et all were 
>always trying to tweek the defenses just a little  better.  They did a damn 
>good job.
>You don't need to man the ramparts when there is no one  around.  When they 
>were not skinny dipping in the Potomac or partaking of  the 600+ brothels 
>[I think that # is in Margaret Leech's book "Reveille in  Washington"  
>-Fabulous book.  You gotta buy it.  It is very  hooomoorous.]
>"AoP was first line of defense for DC"   No no  no!
>First line of defense was the forts.
>The AoP could go away and with 30k men plus the Veteran  Reserve,  plus the 
>staff of the Navy Yard, plus the quartermaster corps in  west DC and 
>Georgetown, plus the quartermaster staff in Alexandria, plus the  quartermaster 
>staff at Giesboro Point manning the re-horse station that's a LOT  of dudes.
>Benjamin Franklin Cooling wrote an excellent book on the  matter.  "Sword 
>and Shield"
>In his book he compares the DC forts to the anvil and the AoP  as the 
>hammer.  Read the book.  Difficult toi refute.
>And the west side of Balt was pretty open to invasion.   Defenses were 
>No no no, Jack!~
>Don't make me tell you again!  
>A  Loyal Neo-Anti Unionist,
>In a message dated 1/25/2012 4:28:25 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
>jlawrence at writes:
>Esteemed  GDG Member Contributes:
>Meade had construcyed a multiple fort  defensive line of some 33 miles 
>It is my impression thoyugh  that it wasa not fully manned,
>rom Coddington we know that defending  Pennsylvania was the bigger concern 
>than DC though, with Stanton  establishing the first ever National Reserve 
>with a commanmd center i  Harrisburg, under Curtain (even though it was a 
>A I read  your blurb (did not go into the OR you cited), Halleck was just 
>pushing  Hooker, whom he did noot like, a little harder.
>Obviously, the AoP was  the DC first line of defense, which is that Halleck 
>is saying.
>But  who knows.
>To respond to some earlier speculation about a what happens  if Lee defeats 
>the aoP in detail, which means renders it militarily  ineffective as a 
>fighting force, obviously they exfiltrate to Dc and see  if Bobby lee wants 
>to test his luck.
>Lee, if he is smart, goes home  anyway. He might try Philidelphia or 
>baltimore though, as the British  learned, it was defensible to a fault.
>The Harrisburg thing is, IMHO,  militarily unsound.
>More certainly though is Lee is not going to defeat  Meade in detail, but 
>rather drive him off the fish hook. In which case he  goes back to Pipes 
>And Lee gets degeated in  detail.
>----- Original Message ----- 
>From:  "Andy Mills" <amills at>
>To: "GDG"  <gettysburg at>
>Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 10:08  AM
>Subject: GDG- Neither this Capital nor Harpers Ferry could long hold out  
>against a large force
>> Esteemed GDG Member  Contributes:
>> In reading one of the articles posted earlier ( 
>  ) 
>> , on page 144, Halleck is quoted as to have said:  "Neither  this
>> Capital nor Harpers Ferry could long hold out against a large  force. 
>> must depend for their security very much upon the  co-operation of your 
>> army"
>> It has been said in this  forum that Washington was a nearly impenetrable 
>> fortress and the ANV  could never actually capture the city.
>> But this quote makes it  seem that he feared very much for the safety of 
>> and I have to  believe Lincoln would also feel this way, or Halleck 
>> wouldn't be able  to send such telegrams to the army.
>> Did they see a reality  that is we don't see today?  Were the forces that 
>> defending  Washington DC impressive on paper, but troops to which you 
>> couldn't  rely on when the fighting got heated?  In 1863, how many troops 
>>  defended the capitol and were they mostly green troops with short 
>>  enlistments?   What makes us today claim DC was unable to be taken  when 
>> the military men of the time thought the exact  opposite?
>> I know there are a lot of questions, but I am trying  to figure out the 
>> differences in beliefs and if this is all with the  hindsight of history 
>> know Lee / ANV / Confederacy never had the  capabilities the Union / US 
>> high command believed they were capable  of.
>> Thanks,
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