Army

February 14, 2014

Military Intelligence – this week in history

Tags:
Ruth Quinn, Staff Historian
USAICoE Command History Office
Photos property of the U.S. Army
Col. George Sharpe’s All-Source Intelligence organization became the Bureau of Military Information. From left, this photo shows Sharpe, civilian John Babcock, an unknown officer, and Capt. John McEntee in front of their headquarters.

Colonel appointed Army of the Potomac’s intelligence chief

Col. George Sharpe’s All-Source Intelligence organization became the Bureau of Military Information. From left, this photo shows Sharpe, civilian John Babcock, an unknown officer, and Capt. John McEntee in front of their headquarters.

Feb. 11, 1863
During the first two bloody days of fighting in the decisive battle of Gettysburg, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Confederate forces battered Gen. George Meade’s Army of the Potomac. Shortly after nightfall on the second day, Meade assembled a Council of War.
The primary question was whether the Army of the Potomac should remain at Gettysburg or fall back to a position closer to its supply base. After little debate, Meade and his corps commanders unanimously agreed to stay and fight a defensive action the third day. The result was both a tactical victory, as an exhausted Confederate army retreated from Union territory and a strategic victory as it renewed northern support for continuing the war.

The Council of War’s decision to remain at Gettysburg was based on solid intelligence presented by Col. George Sharpe, the chief of the Bureau of Military Information formed only three months earlier. Sharpe’s assistant, John Babcock, was an expert in Order of Battle, and had developed detailed charts revealing enemy troop strength.
Babcock reported that, “prisoners have been taken today [July 2], and last evening [July 1], from every brigade in Lee’s Army excepting the four brigades of Picketts Division. Every division has been represented except Picketts from which we have not had a prisoner. They are from nearly one hundred different regiments.”

Sharpe used this information to present a clear and remarkably accurate picture of Lee’s remaining forces around Gettysburg. His figures depicted a Confederate army badly depleted with only four fresh brigades out of 37, approximately 15,000 men, to fight the next day. Conversely, the Army of the Potomac could field about 58,000 fresh troops, a nearly four-to-one advantage.

Sharpe was a natural, charismatic leader of many talents. He delivered the salutatory address in Latin during his graduation from Rutgers University at the age of 19 before moving on to Yale Law School. Passing the New York bar exam in 1849, he spent a few years in Europe, traveling, studying languages and serving in U.S. diplomatic positions in Rome and Vienna.

By the start of the Civil War, Sharpe had a successful law practice in New York and a rising reputation. Within weeks after the bombardment of Fort Sumpter, Capt. Sharpe was commanding Company B of the 20th New York militia regiment known as the “Ulster Guard.” The unit was only in service for three months, being mustered out shortly after the battle of First Bull Run.

But this was just the beginning of Sharpe’s military career. In the summer of 1862, Sharpe single-handedly raised 900 men to form the 120th (named by Sharpe in honor of the former 20th) with his own money and his family’s influence. But in February, 1863 he was called away from his beloved unit to serve as the intelligence chief for the Army of the Potomac and pull together an organization charged with getting information about the enemy.

The new organization was initially called the Secret Service Department but quickly became known as the Bureau of Military Information, or BMI. It was made up of soldiers and civilians, listed as “guides” for pay purposes, but commonly known as scouts or agents.

The BMI was a rare example of a business-like staff section created solely for the collection and dissemination of intelligence. It not only collected and coordinated information from its scouts, but it also cross-checked information with other sources, such as that derived from observation balloons, signal stations and open-source materials such as Southern newspapers, to compile a comprehensive intelligence report for the commander. Babcock, in addition to drawing maps and creating Order of Battle charts, developed an effective prisoner of war and refugee interrogation program. In essence, Sharpe created an all-source intelligence organization, arguably the first in the Army.

Following the Confederacy’s surrender at Appomattox nearly two years after the Battle of Gettysburg, the Army completely dismantled the intelligence organization that had contributed so much to the Union victory in war. Sharpe survived the war and was brevet promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers in 1864. He left Army service in 1865.

It would be another 20 years before another intelligence organization within the Army was considered. However, the enduring contributions of Brevet Brig. Gen. George Sharpe to Military Intelligence will be honored at Fort Huachuca when he is inducted into the Class of 2013 MI Hall of Fame this June.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Natalie Lakosil

Change of responsibility brings new MI Corps chief warrant officer

Natalie Lakosil From left, Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery Fairley, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence; outgoing Chief Warrant Officer of the Military Intelligence Corps, Joe Okabayashi, chief warrant officer 5; Maj. Gen. Ro...
 
 
Natalie Lakosil

TRADOC Army Reserve Instructor of Year awarded at Fort Huachuca

Natalie Lakosil From left, Brig, Gen. Jason Walrath, 100th Division, and Maj. Gen. A.C. Roper, commanding general of the 80th Training Command, pose for a photograph with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Army Reserves In...
 
 
Transition-Assistance-Program

Soldier Life Cycle — three phases help with transition

Transitioning from the military takes time, and unfortunately most Service members run out of time by the end of their career. The Department of the Army established the Solider Life Cycle, SLC, to help. The three phases of the...
 

 
Stephanie Caffall

B Troop hosts ribbon-cutting ceremony for new barn

Stephanie Caffall From left, in background, Capt. Joshua Hengst, commander of B Troop, 4th U.S. Cavalry (Memorial), and Pete Criscuolo, first sergeant for B-Troop, stand while Sgt. John Payne of B Troop brings his horse into th...
 
 

Survey shows decline in military sexual assaults

WASHINGTON — An independent survey confirms the prevalence of sexual assault in the military has dropped, Defense Department officials recently said. Statistics in the 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study show the percentage of active-duty women who experienced unwanted sexual contact during the past year declined from 6.1 percent in 2012 to an estimated 4.3 percent...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo

Military Intelligence – Moment in MI history

Army Intelligence showcases Medal of Honor recipients U.S. Air Force photo Retired Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez receives his Medal of Honor in 1981 for actions in Vietnam in 1968. The Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin