What I’ve Been Up To

Hello, everyone. My apologies for the time away. I’ve been so busy with other aspects of life that it’s been a while since my last post.

A lot of things are happening in the background, however, so here’s an update.

  1. Lee’s Beaver Creek Plan. Appearing in the next issue of North & South Magazine (should be in May 2022), this article provides evidence that General Robert E. Lee’s plan for the Maryland Campaign after the fall of Harpers Ferry involved re-assembling his army in Washington County, Maryland, for a final, war-winning clash with the Federal Army of the Potomac at a place called Beaver Creek. Located about 4 miles south of Funkstown, and about 5 miles north of Boonsboro, the heights behind Beaver Creek would have provided Lee’s army with a formidable defensive position. Lee hoped to whip his adversary at that place so that the enemy could not reinforce himself or retreat to the fortifications around Washington, DC, providing a war-ending victory.

    A combination of events, including the loss of Special Orders No. 191 and the failure of Harpers Ferry to surrender as early as Lee had anticipated, forced the Confederate general to defend the passes over South Mountain at a disadvantage, resulting in a defeat that sent his army reeling back toward Virginia. That is until Maj. Gen. Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson confirmed the impending fall of Harpers Ferry and Lee found terrain comparable to the Beaver Creek heights behind Antietam Creek, which prompted him to take position and fight the battle of Sharpsburg/Antietam on September 16-17, 1862.

  2. Lee’s Moment of Hesitation: Confederate Defeat at South Mountain. Accepted for publication in 2023 by the newly-created Antietam Institute in Sharpsburg, Maryland, this essay documents how Lee did not return to South Mountain at daybreak on the morning of September 14, 1862, as Lee and his lieutenant, Maj. Gen. James Longstreet, claimed. Instead, Lee hesitated on the morning of the fight at South Mountain, probably hoping to pull back Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill from the mountain to Beaver Creek, and in the hope that news from Jackson would soon arrive, allowing the Army of Northern Virginia to re-assemble in the vicinity of Hagerstown, Maryland, for a fight with the Army of the Potomac. Evidence cited in the essay proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Lee did not get Longstreet on the road until after 9:00 a.m. when gunfire broke out at Hill’s positions at Turner’s and Fox’s Gaps. As a consequence of this late departure, Lee forced Longstreet’s men to practically run 13-16 miles from the vicinity of Hagerstown to South Mountain, a strenuous march that cost Longstreet roughly 50% of his combat strength. This loss helped the Federals turn both of Hill’s flanks atop the mountain and forced the Rebels to retreat toward Sharpsburg. Lee and Longstreet then lied about their early morning march both during and after the war, probably in an effort to save face for their error.

  3. Special Orders No. 191: The Importance of Their Loss to Confederate Operations in Maryland. Under consideration by America’s Civil War magazine, this article argues that evaluating the true importance of the loss of Special Orders No. 191 to the outcome of the Maryland Campaign must take into consideration the impact of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s sudden advance on September 13, 1862, had on the operations of the Confederate army. In the article I document 3 knock-on effects that ruined Confederate chances to win a victory in Maryland during that campaign.

    First, how McClellan’s advance ruined Lee’s plan for a fight at Beaver Creek by forcing him to fight at a disadvantage atop South Mountain.

    Second, that the defensive position Lee took at Sharpsburg was unfavorable to his army compared to the defensive position Lee had wanted to take at Beaver Creek. This change of position forced by McClellan gave the Federals much more favorable ground on which to fight than they would have had if Lee had been able to execute his original plan.

    Third, that the emergency created by McClellan forced the Rebel army to come back together very rapidly using forced marches. This strain on Lee’s men, who were already exhausted by a long summer of fighting and marching, led many to fall out of the ranks (i.e., straggle), reducing Confederate combat strength at precisely the time when Lee needed it the most. This then increased McClellan’s odds of winning the victory the Union cause needed so desperately in September 1862.

  4. The Tale Untwisted. We’re close! Copyediting and formatting of the manuscript is complete. Once the final galleys get to me I’ll finish the index and it’ll be off to the printer. The last I heard Savas Beatie is hoping to have the book published in July 2022. Only paperback copies will be printed in the first run due to supply chain problems securing cloth binding for hardback copies.

  5. The Guns of September. Still laid out by COVID-19, Guns remains dormant. The last information I received is that we’ll return to editing the remaining 2/3 of the manuscript in autumn 2022 with publication anticipated in 2023.

    That’s about it for the time being. Thanks again to all of you for the support. I truly appreciate it. AR

Author: Alex Rossino

Author and Historian

One thought on “What I’ve Been Up To”

  1. Alex: I bought a copy of your new book on the lost order. I see you are as engrossed in the lost order issue as I am. I published a fictional account of how it came to happen some ten years ago (e book). Three persons bought it, but it is the first book telling the story as it actually happened, though the Floyd generation has moved on and cares less.

    I caught your footnote about the Jackson-Ross connection. Since I wrote the piece, I discovered that the text of the “note” is authentic. It was first published shortly after Lee’s death in the Baltimore Sun, as a letter to the editor written by a Frederick lawyer who then was a professor at a Washington DC law school. He explained that he obtained the text from the widow of Dr. Ross, who was a daughter of Virginia Gov. McDowell and the sister-in-law to Charles Venable who acted as the Executor of her estate. I obtained the estate court record, but found nothing in the will about who had possession of the note. Given these facts, the trial lawyer in me says it was Mrs. Ross who dropped the order at Barton’s feet, having received it from Venable. Jackson’s role in the deal was to direct attention to him and away from Venable. I have shut down my web site, but you are welcome to the files if you wish.

    Joe Ryan


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