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Taking the Boardroom to the Metaverse Battlefield

The Battle of Antietam Corporate Staff Ride

What is a Corporate Staff Ride & What Does it Give You

Utilizing an experiential-learning approach and the setting of an actual battlefield, the Applied Battlefield Concepts™ Corporate Staff Ride is a short duration, top-level management development and leadership training tool that delivers a uniquely powerful and rewarding team-building experience. It is a proven, cost-effective, adaptable, repeatable and flexible solution for meeting internal training metrics and broader goals for improvements in decision making across the entire enterprise.

• Professional Analysis of Organization-Specific Senior Management Development Issues

• Proven, Repeatable, and Proprietary Leadership Development and Team-Building Tool

• Experiential leadership training programs have an immediate, personal impact

• Our program is designed by a succesful Wall Street Analyst who is also a published and award-winning military historian

• A “Real World” Metaphor of Crisis Decision-Making Where Terrain Becomes the Environmental Landscape of the Enterprise

• Directly Relevant Program Design Perspective

• Experiential Learning and Interactive Case Study Method

The Battle of Antietam Corporate Staff Ride offers a rich environment for an experiential training experience where war functions as a metaphor for competitive conflict. The complex interplay of political and economic factors, personality conflicts, rapidly changing organizational alignments, and desperate choices provide a dramatic setting for examining decison-making under the most critical and dynamic circumstances imaginable.

The Corporate Staff Ride is based on the perspective of a Civil War Corps or Division commander and his staff and subordinates. Therefore, the number of attendees must be limited to 15, with no more than five from any one organization. There is no restriction on job function, organizational level, or any other personnel variable.

Why Antietam? The Decisive Battle of the Civil War

Course of the War in 1862 Antietam marks a clear turning point in the strategic fortunes of the Confederacy in its struggle for independence. During the spring and summer months of 1862, the resurgent southern forces enjoyed an unbroken string of successes, reversing the Union’s tide of victories in the early part of the year. In the Western Theater, the euphoria of the Union victories at Forts Donaldson and Henry and at Shiloh, had given way to stalemate.

Meanwhile, in the East, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson had humiliated several Federals armies in his brilliant Shenandoah Valley campaign and General George McClellan’s drive on Richmond had ended in bloody failure. In the latter campaign a new Confederate hero had emerged – Robert E. Lee – and he was anxious to press his advantage. Over the hill, there was dissension in the Union high command and no one seemed able to face the growing power of Lee’s magnificent Army of Northern Virginia.

Robert E. Lee, Commander, Confederate Army of Northern Virginia

On the political front, during the spring and summer of 1862, the major European powers - especially England - were following events on the battlefield closely. Pressure was building for intervention in the dispute as “honest brokers,” thus effectively supporting the Confederate States’ claim to sovereignty. Abraham Lincoln’s plan to free the slaves, and elevate the struggle to a higher moral plain, was hostage to the Union’s battlefield fortunes, and they looked increasingly bleak. Still worse, mid-term Congressional elections in November might signal a repudiation of the administration's strategy and a register a negative vote of confidence in its leadership.

At the end of August, John Pope - a hero of the West - had led the Union Army of Virginia to bloody failure for the second time along Bull Run creek near Manassas, Virginia. To restore confidence to the badly shaken and demoralized troops, Lincoln had no choice but to recall the controversial McClellan who set about reorganizing the remnant of three bloodied and demoralized armies. It would be no small task and Lee had the initiative. Even the organizational genius of "Little Mac" would be hard-pressed to regain the initiative.

George B. McClellan, Commander, Union Army of the Potomac

By the beginning of September, Lee, seeing the opportunity to score a decisive military and political victory, headed north into Maryland, hoping to defeat McClellan - this time on Union soil – thereby precipitating a crisis that would end the war and establish Southern independence.

Nineteenth Century Tactics
The tactical legacy of the 18th century had emphasized close-order formations of soldiers trained to maneuver in concert and fire by volleys. These "linear" tactics stressed the tactical offensive. Assault troops advanced in line, two ranks deep, with cadenced steps, stopping to fire volleys on, command and finally rushing the last few yards to pierce the enemy line with a bayonet charge.These tactics were adequate for troops armed with single-shot, muzzle-loading smoothbore muskets with an effective range of about eighty yards. The close-order formation was therefore necessary to concentrate the firepower of these inaccurate weapons. Bayonet charges might then succeed because infantry could rush the last eighty yards before the defending infantrymen could reload their muskets after firing a volley
The U.S. Army's transition from smoothbore muskets to rifled muskets in the mid-nineteenth century would have two main effects in the American Civil War: it would strengthen the tactical defensive and increase the number of casualties in the attacking force. With a weapon that could cause fatalities out to 1,000 yards, defenders firing rifles could decimate infantry formations attacking according to linear tactics. Later in the Civil War the widespread use of the rifled musket caused infantry assault formations to loosen up somewhat, with individual soldiers seeking available cover and concealment. However, because officers needed to maintain visual and verbal control of their commands during the noise, smoke, and chaos of combat, close-order tactics to some degree would continue to the end of the war. Rapid movement of units on roads or cross country was generally by formation of a column four men abreast. The speed of such columns was prescribed as two miles per hour.

Upon reaching the field each regiment was typically formed into a line two ranks deep, the shoulders of each man in each rank touching the shoulders of the man on either side. A regiment of 500 men (250 men in each rank) might have a front of about 200 yards. Both ranks were capable of firing by volley or individual fire.

In Civil War battles, as in any large organized competition, the effectiveness of the commanders’ staff was a major determinant of success or failure. Our conception of the military staff is the result of more than a century and a half of evolution, but the major elements were already present in 1862. At that time, however, no guidelines for structure, training, or procedures were established. While the commander retained control of crucial staff functions - especially operations and intelligence – the growing complexity of warfare was already starting to overwhelm any one commanders’ ability to control a large formation. The typical Civil War staff structure was defined by General-in-Chief Winfield Scott in 1855 and was organized into two elements: a “general staff” and a “staff corps.” The typical staff functions were Assistant Adjutant General, Assistant Inspector General, Engineer, Ordnance, Quartermaster, Subsistence, Medical, Pay, Signal, Provost Marshal, Chief of Artillery

Chief of Staff
Even though many senior commanders had a chief of staff, his function was not uniform and seldom did he achieve the central coordinating authority of the chief of staff in modern headquarters. This position, along with most other staff positions, was used as an individual commander saw fit, making staff responsibilities somewhat different under each commander. This inadequate use of the chief of staff was among the most important shortcomings of staffs during the Civil War. An equally important weakness was the lack of any formal operations or intelligence staff. Liaison procedures were also ill defined, and various staff officers or soldiers performed this function with little formal guidance. Miscommunication or lack of knowledge of friendly units proved disastrous time after time.

Although some staffs became truly effective, that was more a function of the experience of the individuals and less the result of effective staff procedures or guidelines. Because of the hurried way in which the Army of the Potomac was reorganized just prior to Antietam, the staff work of the Union side was particularly poor. The Army of Northern Virginia, operating successfully for several months under Lee and his principal commanders, thus enjoyed a significant organizational advantage over its adversary.

Military Intelligence
During the Civil War, from 1861-1865, both the Union and the Confederacy engaged in clandestine activities. Hot-air balloons – the forerunners of spy planes and today’s satellites – were used to monitor troop movements and less visible operations also gleaned important intelligence on both sides.

Though neither army had a formal military intelligence service, both sides fully used spies, scouts, captured documents and mail, intercepted and decoded telegrams, newspapers, and interrogations of prisoners and deserters.

The Union’s principal spymasters were Allen Pinkerton and Lafayette Baker, both of whom specialized in counterespionage, and military officers George Sharpe and Grenville Dodge. The Confederacy had a looser array of secret operatives that collected intelligence and conducted sabotage and other covert actions. Three of the South’s most celebrated agents were women: Rose Greenhow, Belle Boyd, and Nancy Hart. In 1864, Confederate operatives tried to organize antiwar elements in Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio in a movement to leave the Union. They also set fires in New York City in an attempt to burn down the huge manufacturing hub of the north.

Both Union and Confederate agents operated abroad spreading propaganda and jockying for commercial and political support. Overall, the Union was more effective at espionage and counterintelligence, while the Confederacy had more success in special operations. The hard-won expertise and organization built up during the Civil War would be demobilized and dispersed following the South’s surrender, but a foundation for the future of intelligence had been set. (Source: CIA)

At the Battle of Antietam, the Army of the Potomac had an estimated 293 guns, 166 rifled. Although Antietam Creek physically separated many Union guns from the battlefield proper, many guns east of the creek could fire on Confederate positions along Hagerstown Pike. On the morning of 17 Sept approximately 90 Union guns were operating on the west side of the creek, mostly on the Union right flank north of Dunker Church. More guns were sent to the battlefield during the day, and by evening there were approximately 162 Union guns west of Antietam Creek. On 17 September the Army of Northern Virginia had an estimated 246 guns, of which 82 were rifled, 112 smoothbore, and 52 of unknown type. The Confederates reported having captured 73 guns at Harper's Ferry on 15 September, but none were assembled into batteries in time to be used in the Battle of Antietam.

The artillery of both armies was organized into batteries of 4-6 guns with a captain and 2 lieutenants, each commanding a 2-gun "section." Each gun made up a platoon, under a sergeant with 8 crewmen and 6 drivers. For transport, each gun was attached to a 2-wheeled cart, known as a limber and drawn by a 6-horse team. The limber chest carried 30-50 rounds of ammunition, depending on the size of guns. In addition to the limbers, each gun had at least one caisson, also drawn by a 6-horse team. The caisson carried additional ammunition in 2 chests, as well as a spare wheel and tools. A horse-drawn forge and a battery wagon with tools accompanied each battery. A battery at full regulation strength included all officers, noncommissioned officers, buglers, drivers, cannoneers, and other specialized functions and might exceed 100 officers and men. With spare horses included, a typical 6-gun battery might have 100-150 horses.

A battery could unlimber and fire an initial volley in about one minute, and each gun could continue firing two aimed shots a minute. A battery could "limber up" in about one minute as well. The battery practiced "direct fire": the target was in view of the gun. The prescribed distance between guns was fourteen yards from hub to hub. Therefore, a six-gun battery would represent a front of about 100 yards.

Antietam Staff Ride Sources

Ballard, Ted US. Army Center of Mil History. The Battle of Antietam Staff Ride, 2007 (online)

Bell, Raymond E., Jr. “Reserve MP Brigade Studies Antietam.” Army Hist (Fall 1989): pp. 12-14

Fuller, John D. "Battlefield Terrain Study: Burnside's Attack Against the Confederate Right at Antietam." Paper, AWC, 1985. 183 p.

Luvaas, Jay, & Nelson, Harold W. eds. The U.S. Army War College Guide to the Battle of Antietam: The Maryland Campaign of 1862. Carlisle, PA: South Mt, 1987. 310 p

Manguso, John M. "Civil-Military Operations-At Antietam?" Army Hist (Fall 1994): pp. 26-28.

Simmons, Edwin H. "Marine Officers Refight Antietam." Mar Corps Gaz 72 (Jun 1988): pp. 30 33.

Springer, Carl D. The Antietam Staff Ride: An Interactive, Computer-Driven Guide to the Battle of Antietam. Student project, AWC, 1992. 109 p.

U.S. Army Chaplain Center/School. Selected compilation of materials for Antietam staff ride, 1994. ca 125 p.

U.S. Army. Fort Belvoir. “Antietam Historical Battlefield Tour: Participants’ Information Packet.”ca. 70 p.

Antietam Computer Wargames

Sid Meier's Antietam

Sources for Visiting Antietam & Other Sites of the Campaign

Updated: October 19, 2022