17 August 2007 by Published in: General musings 5 comments

The other day, I posted about how the New York draft riots drew thousands of troops away from the Army of the Potomac, thereby depleting the strength of the army. Over the course of a few weeks, the Fifth Corps division of U. S. Army Regulars, an entire brigade of Vermonters, and nine other regiments were sent to New York to keep the peace. The Vermonters and the Regulars were some of the best and most battle-tried troops in the army, and they would be difficult to replace.

The army of the Potomac suffered about 25% casualties during the battle of Gettysburg, or about 23,000 men killed, wounded, and captured. There were another 1,000 or so casualties in the fighting during the retreat from Gettysburg. Obviously, these immense losses limited Meade’s options and his choices.

As I continued to work on the epilogue to the retreat manuscript, I had another realization. In addition to the battle casualties and the detachments to deal with the New York draft riots, nine veteran regiments–two year and nine months regiments–reached the expirations of their terms of service and left the army to muster out and go home. Between the detachments to New York and the men leaving to go home, Meade lost about 15,000 veteran troops at a time when he needed every available musket in order to bring Lee’s wounded army to bay.

Thus, by the end of July, there were 40,000 less veteran soldiers in the Army of the Potomac than there were when the Gettysburg Campaign began. It is, therefore, no great surprise that Meade was particularly cautious in making his decisions about when and how to attack Lee’s army.

Scridb filter


  1. Stephen Graham
    Sat 18th Aug 2007 at 12:58 am

    And this comes after both the losses in May due to the Battle of Chancellorsville and the large number of regiments that mustered out in May and June.

  2. Cibola2
    Sat 18th Aug 2007 at 9:17 am

    All good points. One should also consider the depletions to Lee’s army. It is the relative number of troops that is important (consider Marye’s Heights, 1862 compared to 1863). Also, the nature of the engagement (Meade on the offensive).

    Separately, of July 1863, it is interesting to note that the New York Times had Gatling guns to fend off the rioters but Meade had no Gatling guns to fend off Pickett. See


  3. Steve Basic
    Sat 18th Aug 2007 at 9:27 pm


    What is also conveniently forgotten by those in DC at the time, Meade lost 3 of his Corps commanders during the battle as well. 2 of them, Reynolds and Hancock were extremely important to Meade, which is shown by the confidence he placed in them. As for the 3rd…No comment. 😉

    Hope all is well.


  4. Don
    Sat 18th Aug 2007 at 10:36 pm

    I think Steve’s definitely onto something here. Look at the corps commanders who led the pursuit, and you don’t see Hancock- or Reynolds-like activity. Meade wasn’t (and shouldn’t have been) personally leading a corps himself.

  5. Stephen Graham
    Mon 20th Aug 2007 at 1:05 am

    In addition to 1st, 2nd and 3rd Corps having new commanders due to casualties at Gettysburg, 5th Corps is commanded by Sykes, who’s only been in command since June 28th. Pleasonton took over the Cavalry Corps in late May, Howard’s been in command of 11th Corps since late April and Sedgwick took over 6th Corps in February. The long-serving corps commander is Slocum, who’s been there all of 9 months. So half of the corps commanders have less than a week’s experience in command when the pursuit starts and two others have less than three months experience.

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