Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Holy Shit, Special Order 191!

On September 13, 1862, Barton Mitchell was moseying around a hilltop when he came across an envelope. Inside were three cigars wrapped in a single piece of paper. "Lucky me," Barton presumably thought as he unwrapped his prize, perhaps assuming the paper was a birthday card or something.

But then he saw the writing. It wasn't a pithy, jejune greeting. It was a thoroughly detailed ten point list...of orders. Confederate orders. Not just any Confederate orders, either. They were explicit movement orders for every high-ranking officer in the Army of Northern Virginia. And Barton Mitchell just happened to be a Union soldier. Naturally, he slackened his jaw, allowing the cigar to fall dramatically to the grass. Probably.
The Scream
Artist's Rendition
Then he took the orders directly to his commanding officer, who sent it up the chain, person by person, until it reached Major General George B. McClellan, who practically jumped for joy and said, "Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home."

Two weeks later, largely thanks to the intelligence gleaned from Special Order 191, the Union won a strategic victory at the Battle of Antietam, which brought the Confederate offensive to a grinding halt and proved a significant enough turning point for Abraham Lincoln to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation. While the war had always been about slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation stated without question that freeing slaves in Confederate territory was now a strategic goal of the Union.
Lincoln and McClellan
Along with posing in a most dignified manner.
Arguably, the Civil War could have gone differently if Barton Mitchell hadn't stumbled upon such a valuable piece of information. In fact, there's a lengthy series of alternate history novels that base their point of divergence on that very event. The tiniest mishaps, like using the wrong paper to wrap your cigars and then leaving them behind, can be what Gandalf called "the falling of small stones that starts an avalanche in the mountains."
Gandalf from The Two Towers
He would actually fit in pretty well, given the facial hair.

Holy shit.

"LostOrdersCramptonsGap112611" by Wilson44691 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

"The Scream" by Edvard Munch

"Lincoln and McClellan 1862-10-03" by Alexander Gardner - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cwpb.04351.

The Two Towers still by New Line Cinema. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. No more articles? I really enjoy reading them. I hope you post more. But until then... holy shit.