From Antietam to Chancellorsville: September 1862 to May 1863

McClellan in Charge

What kind of shape were the Confederates in?

On the most important level—that of morale—they were doing quite well, but in terms of supplies and materiel, they were at their lowest ebb. Perhaps two thousand pairs of shoes had been found during the marches through southern Maryland: these were not nearly enough. The Confederate supply system, always suspect, was completely unable to keep up with events. The only bright spot was Stonewall Jackson’s capture of Harpers Ferry.

Northern observers frequently remarked on the trials of their opponents. The New York Times outdid itself in this regard. “The [Confederate] men are found with rags around their feet instead of shoes; they are seen eating ears of green corn, cob and all; they search for, pick up and eat the bits of hard bread that our troops throw away; while for clothing and tents a set of vagabonds would excel them.” (New York Times, September 10, 1862)

That the Confederates were dirty, weary, and hungry was beyond dispute, but they continued to move, and to do so like a pack of wolves. The Army of the Potomac, by contrast, was well fed, but its men appeared like slackers in comparison.


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