Journal of a graduate student in military history and the American Civil War

Military History Word of the Day: “Refuse”

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Military. to bend or curve back (the flank units of a military force) so that they face generally to the flank rather than the front.

refuse. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc.http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/refuse (accessed: August 08, 2009).


It is not surprising that McClellan did not immediately decide to employ his left wing under Franklin to relieve Harpers Ferry. In focusing on Frederick for the past several days, the Federal right had not only advanced quicker and farther, but the left had angled northward toward Frederick. In consequence Burnside was now considerably nearer Harpers Ferry than Franklin. Moreover, McClellan needed to refuse his left flank along the Potomac until he learned the meaning of the rumor that Jackson had recrossed the river at Williamsport. Lincoln may have jumped to the conclusion that the Confederates were retreating, but the possibility of a turning movement could not be dismissed lightly.

1. Joseph L. Harsh, Taken at the Flood : Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 / [book on-line] (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1999, accessed 8 August 2009), 209-210; available from Questia, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=102364919; Internet.



3 Responses

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  1. Renee,

    Add this link to your list:


    Of course, the DOD didn’t have these definitions back then, but I keep this site handy along with my copy of Arco’s Dictionary of Military Terms.

    One of the great things Harsh points out in Confederate Tide Rising is the difference between a flank attack and a turning movement. Many folks assume they mean the same thing, but they do not and, more important, did not then, either. Pretty much everything Lee did up unitl 1864 was a turning movement, the favorite grand tactic of Winfield Scott. And, despite the sexiness of Jomini and Napoleon, West Point trained CW commanders were much more influenced by the folks through which they learned J and N – namely people like Mahan and Halleck – than J and N themselves, and their practical experience came from watching the master, Scott, in action, or studying the campaign in Mexico after the fact. My 2 cents, anyway.

    Harry Smeltzer

    August 9, 2009 at 9:31 am

  2. Rene,

    Very interesting statement from Harsh that Burnside in Frederick was “considerably nearer” to HF than Franklin in Licksville (now Tuscarora) on 12 September. I never looked at it closely when I first read it.

    On modern roads most of which are on or near CW era roads, both Frederick and Tuscarora are about 21 miles from HF (MapQuest). (Straight-line miles show Tuscarora about 15 mi. and Frederick about 19 from HF; mostly irrelevant since neither Burnside or Franklin could have gone in a straight line.)

    At first blush, it seems that the march from Frederick could only be more advantageous because it would have been more direct on better roads, the Frederick-HF Turnpike (AKA Harper’s Ferry Road or Ridge Road) through Jefferson to Knoxville then to HF while the route from Licksville to HF would have been less direct on worse roads. Franklin I suppose could have used the C&O Canal towpath but marching thousands of men, wagons, etc., using that narrow path would have taken a long time and exposed his army to destruction as it would have been strung out for many miles.

    Contemporary maps (from LOC, “1858 Map of Frederick County, Md. accurately drawn from correct instrumental surveys of all the county roads, & by Issac Bond C.E. Lithographed by E. Sachse & Co.” and an 1861 map also from the LOC, “Frederick County, Maryland / prepared under the direction of Liut. Col. J.N. Macomb Chf. Topl. Engr., for the use of Maj. Gen. G. B. McClellan, commanding U.S. Army, 1861”) show the distance from Frederick City to Knoxville as 15 miles and then it looks like another 5 or 6 to HF. These maps also show about 16 mi. from Licksville to Knoxville. The last road which would likely have been used from Licksville hits the HF Turnpike NW of Petersville and then follows the turnpike to Knoxville.

    Likely I’m missing Harsh’s point. Maybe he has Franklin in Barnesville 5 miles from Licksville when Burnside is in Frederick–if so, then Burnside is definitely closer.

    On the 13th, Franklin had his HQ about 3 miles east of Jefferson. That morning, there was some fighting nearer Jefferson with Union cavalry and infantry against Rebel cavalry under Munford. Rush’s Lancers had been dispatched early on the 13th to Jefferson Gap in the Catoctins some six miles southwest of Frederick where Col. Munford and his two regiments waited. The Lancers arrived with their infantry escort, the Ninth New York Infantry, just after noon and stopped having seen Confederate cannon in the road ahead.

    Arguably then on the 13th, Burnside had infantry closer to HF but it was only 2 regiments.

    Perhaps someone on the Antietam group can set me straight.


    Larry Freiheit

    August 9, 2009 at 10:50 am

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