Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862
Lincoln Versus Horace Greeley
What was Order 191?
On September 10, 1862, Lee wrote orders for all his commanders, not only telling them their tasks, but indicating where the other sections of the Army of Northern Virginia were positioned. One extra copy was made, by Lee’s personal secretary, and this may be the one that was found by two Northern soldiers.
Among the Union soldiers at Frederick, Maryland, were Sergeant John Bloss and Corporal Barton Mitchell. Seeing an envelope in the grass near their encampment, they opened it to find a set of orders wrapped around three cigars. For the first few minutes, the soldiers were more interested in the cigars, but on examination they found that the orders were from Lee and concerned every part and section of the Army of Northern Virginia. The men rushed to their commanding officer, who then rushed to his, and just a few hours later, McClellan held in his hand something of inestimable worth. Observers claimed that he shouted: “Here is a paper with which if I cannot whip Bobbie Lee, I will be willing to go home.”
With McClellan, the first enthusiasm was never the whole story, however.