Friday, May 15, 2020

"Straggling is a crime which cannot be to strongly reprehended nor too severely punished": The Sixth Corps' Orders Against Straggling in the Maryland Campaign

William Franklin
The stay-at-home orders across the United States have provided me with time to dust off some old research files from long ago. Recently, I was sorting through what I found on a past trip to the National Archives, where I spent the day looking through the records of William B. Franklin's Sixth Corps in the Maryland Campaign. In one of the bound books containing these records, I found an unpublished copy of General Orders No. 30, issued within that corps on September 9, 1862. The first section of the order said:

"Until further orders the rear Guards will be 'Brigade rear Guards' and will be composed of half a Regiment to each Brigade. Commanders of rear Guards will be held responsible by their respt. Brigade Commanders for a vigorous performance of their duty, [with?] respect to Stragglers. The cmdg General has noticed a great increase of stragglers in the recent marches of the Corps. Straggling is a crime which cannot be to strongly reprehended nor too severely punished. Division Commanders will use all possible means to stop it in future."

This internal order was no doubt issued in response to General Orders No. 155, issued from Army of the Potomac headquarters earlier on September 9. This order's sole purpose was to clamp down on straggling within that army.(1) That same day, a circular went forth from army headquarters, holding "superior officers" accountable for the army's straggling problems. "Inattention and carelessness on the part of those in high rank has been one fertile source of the straggling and want of discipline which now obtain in the various corps," said the circular.(2)

Headquarters issued the orders. It was now up to the individual commanders within the column of march to end the straggling problem in the Army of the Potomac. General Orders No. 30 was the Sixth Corps' current answer.

Stay safe everyone!

1. OR, vol. 19, pt. 2, 226-27.
2. Ibid., 225.

Bonus: For statistics of straggling in the Ninth Corps' Kanawha Division on September 8, 1862, head over to Dan Vermilya's blog, Our Country's Fiery Ordeal.