Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862

McClellan’s Command

What was the number of the defending Confederates?

To the best of our knowledge, Major-General John Magruder (1807–1871) who had the intriguing nickname of “Prince John”—had only 15,000 men to defend against more than 100,000. At the moment, the Confederacy had no other men, and it would not until General Joseph E. Johnston brought his men back from Manassas. Never had the Confederacy been in such danger.

Magruder—who was a colorful character—played his part to the maximum, however. Knowing that McClellan tended to err on the side of caution, Magruder did everything possible to make it seem that he had more men. The Confederates marched and then remarched, and they set up dummy fortifications with wooden guns. Here was where balloon reconnaissance should have done the trick, but McClellan did not even believe the reports that came from “Professor” Thaddeus Lowe. When he sent up one of his best friends, General Fitz-John Porter, to investigate, Porter was nearly lost when the air carried the balloon in the direction of the Confederates. From that moment, McClellan placed even less confidence, or credence, in reports from the balloon men.


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