Thursday, January 31, 2008

Forgotten Generals of the Civil War: Confederate Colonel George Patton

His son was one of the greatest generals in the history of warfare and possibly the greatest officer in American Military History. Too bad that daddy fought for the Confederacy and lost. Today I will blog the extraordinary life of Colonel George Smith Patton on Mike’s Civil War Blog.

On June 26, 1833 George Smith Patton was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia. As a graduate of the famed Virginia Military Institute (1852) Patton spent a few years studying law in Richmond. He practiced law for several years but his interest in the military never left him and he kept in touch with his former college professor Thomas J. Jackson.

Like Jackson, Patton was known as a strict disciplinarian had a sharp mind for tactics. In 1856 he sensed that a Civil War was brewing and he personally raised his own militia company to defend Virginia. In what is now Charleston, West Virginia, Patton formed and drilled his company known as the Kanawha Minutemen. In its ranks stood most of the prominent members of the Charleston community including many of the lawyers and doctors within the region. They elected Patton their captain which was the highest ranking position within the company. In November of 1859, the Kanawha Rifles soon voted on a change of name to the Kanawha Riflemen.

Captain George Patton personally designed the uniforms that his men wore and he made sure that their appearance was good as their ability to march. A dark green over coat covered the mens backs with a cape which was laced with black trim on the collar and cuffs. A nine-button front with gold buttons along with dark green pants made these uniforms very unique. A single black stripe down the leg of the pants distinguished enlisted men from officers. The black was entrusted to the regular soldiers and a gold stripe was assigned to the officers. But these fancy uniforms didn’t stop there as Patton assigned each of the men a wide brim slouch hat with ostrich feathers dangling down from the side with the letters "KR" to complete the outfit. As armament the soldiers were armed with the latest two band fifty-four caliber Mississippi rifles with the sword bayonets.

The intense discipline and mutual bond that Patton instilled in his men made them the most recognized and the best company in Virginia. Their glamour was further realized when Patton had them form dress parades, attend social balls and wear White Berlin gloves to all events. During the Civil War era there was no company quite like the Kanawha Riflemen whose flair for the dramatic was equaled by their determination for success. This effect would carry them through the dark days of 1861-1865.

In 1859 abolitionist John Brown led a group of raiders into Harpers Ferry, Virginia. His intent was to arm the former slaves and lead an uprising to destroy slavery forever. The raid was put down by the U.S. Marines but the fear of a slave revolt spread quickly throughout the southern states. The governor of Virginia contacted the Mayor of Charleston, and requested that the Riflemen be ready if the stand off had not come to an end. This fact shows us that the Riflemen’s reputation had reached lofty heights in three short years and it wouldn’t be the last time that the state of Virginia looked for Patton’s troopers.

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861 the men of the Kanawha Riflemen cast their lot with the newly formed Confederacy. On May 8th, 1861 Patton enlisted in the Confederate army as a captain and he brought his men with him. The army with which they were a part of was then known as the Army of Kanawha under General Henry Wise. Patton worked so hard in drill that he was promoted without ever hearing a shot fired in anger. By the end of June he was made the regiments Lt. Colonel and he would soon see action along a creek appropriately called Little Scary.

Patton, the Kanawha Riflemen (who were named Company I) and the rest of the newly christened 22nd Virginia were stationed as lookouts along the mouth of the Poca River. The Confederates had fortified the area with cannon and their role was to make sure that the Federals didn’t attempt to cross the bridge that spanned the river. The area was important to the rebels because the side that commanded it would have control of the rich Kanawha valley and the entire western portion of Virginia. In early July, Union forces under General William Rosecrans defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Rich Mountain. This series of engagements resulted in Union control of northwest Virginia for virtually the remainder of the war. However, the north had to gain control of the Kanawha Valley to fully secure their stranglehold on the area and close it forever to the Confederacy.

On June 16, 1861 Union General Jacob Cox led his men into position to attack Wise in what was to become known as the Battle of Scary Creek. Cox ordered pickets to scout out the area and see what Wise was up to. The two sides ran into each other but the Confederates quickly got the upper hand and the Federals were pushed back. By 9 am Cox ordered more of his men into the fray and the causalities on both sides mounted. Patton and his men were in the thick of it but the men were forced to retreat from the weight of Cox’s overwhelming force. The Confederates retreat was offset by reinforcements of their own and the battle for the next several hours resulted in a stalemate. Long range rifles and cannon fired at each other. The Federals made several charges to cross the bridge, and were repulsed.

Sensing a chance for victory General Wise ordered a charge and Patton’s men led the way. During the attack Lt. Col. Patton was wounded in the left should and he was captured. Fearing a Union counterattack the Confederates abandoned the area and soon lost control of what is now known as West Virginia. Meanwhile, Patton was exchanged as a prisoner of war and this began a series of prisoner of war experiences for the grandfather of the famed World War II general.

After his release one month later he was wounded at Giles Court House May 10th of 1862 and again exchanged as a prisoner on the 25th of May. His status as a war hero worked out for Patton because upon his return to the 22nd Virginia he was commissioned as its Colonel. The regiment remained in the Western area of Virginia defending the Confederate border, carrying out raids and capturing supplies. In August of 1863 Patton and his men successfully defended White Sulpher Springs an area known for housing a famous health spa. The battle brought more success to Patton and more experience to his regiment which would be fully utilized in the Valley Campaign of 1864.

The 22nd Virginia's high tide of the Civil War was at the Battle of Droop Mountain, West Virginia on November 6, 1863. The battle became the biggest battle in West Virginian history and its place amongst the regions history is still discussed today by its residents. Patton was part of a Confederate force commanded by General John Echols. Echols named his force the Army of South Western Virginia. Meanwhile, the Federals under the dual command of General William Averell and Alfred Duffie were ordered to break up the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad in southeastern Virginia.

During the battle, Colonel Patton noticed that the left flank of the Confederate army was in trouble and he tried in vain to inform Echols but it was too late. The Confederates were forced to abandon their positions and the Federal attempt to control the railroad was successful. This setback didn’t deter General Robert E. Lee from calling on Patton and the Army of South Western Virginia for a special assignment.

General Jubal Early was given a patchwork of Confederate forced by Lee and he was ordered to clear the Federal army out of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Patton’s men were placed in a division commanded by General John C. Breckenridge a former vice-president turned Confederate general. Colonel Patton and his men would take part in every major battle fought by Early’s army including the raid on Washington D.C. and the Battle of Turners Gap. Early’s efforts were fruitless but they did prompt Union General U.S. Grant to send his friend General Philip Sheridan to command all forces pitted against Early. The two would meet in a bloody battle known as Third Winchester and the results would end all Confederate influence in the valley and it would claim the life of Colonel George Smith Patton.

On September 18, 1864 General Sheridan with an army of 38,000 men attacked General Early 12,000-man army and the rebels were quickly overwhelmed and routed. During the contest Colonel Patton was wounded as he tried to rally his beloved 22nd Virginia. After being captured for a third time Union doctors urged Patton to allow them to amputate his leg wound. Being a prideful man Patton refused and he died on September 25, 1864. Patton was only 32 years of age. He was buried at the famed Stonewall Cemetery in Winchester alongside his brother W. Tazwell Patton who was killed during Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg.
Colonel George Smith Patton’s bravery screamed for a post-death promotion to Brigadier General but that never occurred. Before his death Colonel Patton responded to a friends inquiry about his desire for a high rank. Patton said “I desire no influence to be exerted whatsoever, toward my promotion. If my services in the field have not earned my promotion, I should not value it.” These deeds along with his grandson own actions in another war make the Patton’s one of the greatest military families. It is said that the Patton that we know better great up admiring his grandfathers deeds and reenacted them in his back yard. Who knows, without the influence of a grandfather who served with so much bravery and distinction we might not have had a Patton lead a United States army in 1941-1945. Thank god for the Pattons.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"In my opinion General Robert E. Lee was average" by U.S. Grant

For many Civil War officers the war did not end with the close of hostilities. The battles moved from a war of guns to a war of words. Every veteran, whether he was a private of the President of the Confederacy penned memoirs and histories. These books usually revolved around their own personal experiences and they usually puffed up the writer at the expense of rivals.

One of these famous memoirs was written by Ulysses S. Grant. In the book, Grant provides American with its greatest military memoir. Grant offers opinions about the his chief adversary and you might be aware of him. His name is Robert E. Lee.

Grant's ideas go against the commonly held "mold" of the "Marble Man" and his supporters. These Lost Cause enthusiasts glorified the life and accomplishments of R.E. Lee and painted Grant as a butcher and one of the wars weakest generals. The former President lived during the early years of the Lost Cause and became the first "celebrity" author to challenge the greatness of General Lee. Perhaps part of Grant's opinion was molded by the attacks made by the Lost Cause supporters, Grant saw how these men were painting the history of the war and he wanted to make sure that these exaggerations would not hold up against the judgement of history.

The old Yankee general challenged the glorification of R.E. Lee and scoffed at the notion that Lee possessed superhuman abilities. Grant blamed both the northern and the southern public for giving Lee these qualities when the terrain and a bit of luck provided Lee with the opportunity for success. He used the examples of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania to support his viewpoint. The Confederate army (paraphrasing Grant) was so disrupted prior to the Wilderness that only the choking woods saved Lees army from destruction. Moreover, during the Spotsylvania Campaign Lee had several chances to exploit the vulnerability of the Union army but failed to do so. Lee remained behind his entrenchments as the Union army was separated and vulnerable to attack. Lee seemed immobilized in fog and in his memoirs Grant wrote "he seemed really to be misled as to my designs."

In fact, Grant's opinion of Lee was cited prior to the publication of his memoirs in 1885. After leaving an embattled presidency, Grant took a world tour and traveled to several countries like Egypt and France. A journalist named John Russell Young accompanied Grant and interviewed him several times during the trip. Russell wrote and article about these conversations and published them in 1878. The resulting article indicated that the general could not understand the fuss over Robert E. Lee. Grant believed that his opponent was overrated and Joseph E. Johnston was a greater threat. Lee had the backing of the Copperheads, the southern people and sympathy from the outside world. Together these things painted a rebel general who had no equal in American military history. "Everything he did was right Grant said "He was treated like a demi-god. Our generals had a hostile press, lukewarm friends and a public opinion outside."

Grant pushed further during his interview with Russell stating 'The cry was in the air that the North only won by brute force; that the generalship and valor were in the South. This has gone into history, with as many other illusions that are historical." Grant's next statement must have irked Lost Cause supporters as he stated "Lee was of a slow, conservative, cautious nature, without imagination or humor, always the same, with grave dignity. I never could see in his achievements what justifies his reputation.

Years later as he penned his memoirs, Grant went further into his opinion of Lee and supported his belief that Lee was overrated. In volume one Grant writes "The natural disposition of most people, is to clothe a commander of a large army whom they do not know with almost superhuman abilities. A large part of the National army, for instance, and most of the press of the country, clothed General Lee with just such qualities; but I had known him personally and knew that he was mortal; and it was just as well that I felt this." Wow thats great stuff and it is obvious that Grant might have liked Lee personally but as a fellow professional he felt that Lee military prowess was a fabrication. Grant added further that Lee sat behind strong defensive works and never came out to give him battle in the open field. "In fact, nowhere after the battle of Wilderness did Lee show any disposition to leave his defenses far behind him."

Grants quotes bring up some intriguing questions. Did Grant feel that Lee was a wimp? Grant never questions Lee's manhood but he obviously points out that Lee as a general was not a concern for him during the Overland Campaign. Historian William Blair accuratly states that Grant's Personal Memoirs serves as Grant's own shield from the grave. I think Blair is correct in his assumption.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Little Mac" and his love for his troops

Everybody knows that George McCellan loved his men so much that he was afraid to commit them to battle. Some people might make the attempt to debate McCellan's passive aggressive generalship, the love for his men is unmatched by an general in history. When you read the following quote you will be swept away by "Little Mac's" love for his soldiers. George had created the Army of the Potomac and like a mother love it and took care of it. It is no surprise that he uses the parent analogy in his message to his troops. The following was read to the men just prior to the start of the Peninsula Campaign in 1862.

"I am to watch over you like a parent over his children; and you know that your general loves you from eh depths of his heart. It shall be my care, as it ever has been, to gain success with the least possible loss; but I know that if necessary, you will willingly follow me to our graves for our righteous cause...I shall demand of you great, heroic exertions, rapid and long marches, desperate combats, privations perhaps. We will share all these together; and when this sad war is over we will return to our homes, and feel that we can ask no higher honor than the proud consciousness that we belong to the Army of the Potomac."

The way Mac finishes that statement is so true. I've always wondered if veterans of the Army of the Potomac felt that way. I am sure that so many of them did. "When this sad war is over we will return to our homes, and feel that we can ask no higher honor than the proud consciousness that we belonged to the Army of the Potomac."

What do you think of "Little Mac's" generalship??? Leave a comment with your response.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Forgotten Generals of the Civil War: Union General John Scholfield

He fought in all three theatres of Civil War combat (Trans-Mississippi, Western and Eastern theatres), commanded the entire United States Army in 1888, superintendent of West Point and proposed that Pearl Harbor be used as a naval base. So who was John McAllister Schofield? Today he becomes part of my Forgotten Generals of the Civil War series.

The future general was born in Chautauqua County, N.Y. on September 29, 1831. Ironically the town of Schofields birth is just 94 miles from my hometown. His father, a Baptist clergyman, moved his family to Freeport, Ill. in 1843. After a public school education, John became a surveyor in northern Wisconsin and served as a public school teacher. In 1849 he was offered an appointment as cadet at West Point and the ambitious young man finished 7th in his class in 1853. His first assignment was at Fort Moultrie, S.C. and after a brief time there he received his commission as second lieutenant in the 1st Artillery. After monitoring Seminole Indians for a while he was ordered to West Point to serve as a professor of natural and experimental philosophy. It was during this time that Schofield married Harriet Bartlett, daughter of one of his superiors and the two would remain married until her death in 1889.

In 1860, Schofield received word that a teaching position had opened up at Washington University in St. Louis. The motivated Schofield applied, was hired and moved his family to Missouri. It was during this time period that the nation was moving towards Civil War and both North and the South began to muster regiments. Having a military background made Schofield an important commodity and he received a commission as major. His first assignment was to organize and muster the 1st Missouri Volunteer Infantry.

His standing at West Point and subsequent assignments caught the eye of General Nathaniel Lyon who made Schofield his Chief of Staff. On August 10, 1861 both Lyon and Schofield saw their first battle at Wilson’s Creek, Missouri. During the contest, General Lyon was killed. John Schofield won the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1892 for his service at Wilson’s Creek. His citation for that award reads “Was conspicuously gallant in leading a regiment in a successful charge against the enemy.”

From there Schofield moved up through the ranks, first as Captain of the 1st Missouri, then colonel and then in November 1861 he became a brigadier-general. General Schofield held various territorial commands until the autumn of 1862 when he was given command of the “Army of the Frontier”. He assignment was to monitor Confederate operations in Missouri this put Schofield in a boring, uneventful position. But soon history would call the young general into action.

After serving for a time as the commander of the Department of Missouri, Schofield was promoted to Major General in February 1864. His new assignment was commanding the XXIII Corps and the Department and Army of the Ohio. General William T. Sherman utilized Schofield and his men during his famed Atlanta Campaign of 1864. “Uncle Billy’s” men pushed Confederate General Joe Johnston to the outskirts of Atlanta and eventually whipped his replacement, John Bell Hood who later surrendered control of the city to Sherman. When Sherman began his famous “March to the Sea” he placed General George H. Thomas in command of all the troops in the west. The XXIII Corps was one of his commands.

During the Nashville Campaign, Confederate General Hood was easily defeated at Franklin and Nashville. Schofield performed brilliantly at Franklin, which badly shattered Hood’s army and inflicted over 7,000 casualties on Hoods dwindling army. John helped Thomas finally destroy Hood’s army at Nashville and was awarded a regular army promotion to Brigadier-General in November 1864. By the end of March 1865 he earned another promotion to Major General. The XXIII Corps was moved by rail to Washington and then assigned to the newly formed Department of North Carolina. With this force he occupied Wilmington, N.C.> and joined Sherman at Goldsboro, N.C. on March 23, 1865. The combined force under Sherman eventually forced the surrender of Joe Johnston and the Army of Tennessee. During the surrender, Schofield acted as commissioner for execution of the surrender. He was given command of the Department of Virginia when the area was designed under President Andrew Johnson.

After the war he served as Secretary of War under Andrew Johnson a post that he only held for a brief time. Despite the lack of time he managed to organize a famed artillery school at Fort Riley, Kansas and the United States Cavalry School. After several years of commanding the Department of Missouri and the Department of Pacific he spent three months in Hawaii. It was during this time period that he wrote a report upon the military value of the islands to the United States. It was in this paperwork that Schofield recommended the acquisition of Pearl Harbor as a naval base. The islands did become the key to the U.S. Pacific Fleet and became the target of the Japanese in 1941. The establishment of the navy in Hawaii served as our jumping off point to victory in World War II. Therefore, Schofield not only helped us win the Civil War but also aided in our victory in World War II.

From 1876 to 1881 he served as the superintendent of the United States Military Academy. While there he acted as the board president that reviewed the case of General Fitz-John Porter. General Porter was dismissed from the service by sentence of a court martial for misconduct at the battle of Second Manassas. The inquiry under John M. Schofield found that Porter was right in not committing his men to a doomed assault which Confederate General James Longstreet would have crushed. It further found that Porters actions probably saved the Army of Virginia from an even greater disaster.

Clearing Fitz-John Porters name wasn’t Schofields last contribution to history. In 1888, upon the death of Phillip Sheridan, he became the commanding General of the Army. This post was last held by Sheridan, Sherman, Grant and George Washington. In February 1895 he resigned due to his advanced age and ill health. His remaining years were devoted to a new wife Georgia Kilbourne, who he married in 1891 and publishing his memoirs Forty-Six Years in the Army. The book was published in 1897 and became one of the best military memoirs ever written. General Schofield fought and lost his last battle with death on March 4, 1906 in St. Augustine, Florida. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

George H. Thomas, William Sherman and my current read

However, I have a few items to discuss and some house cleaning to do for this blog. So here goes.

It has been nearly eighteen years since I sat and watched the premiere of The Civil War by Ken Burns. It was during this film that I was introduced (as were so many other viewers) to author Shelby Foote. I have talked about Foote in a previous blog. After reading so many books on Lee’s Generalship and the Lost Cause I decided to take a break from that and commit myself to reading Foote’s massive three-volume narrative entitled The Civil War: A Narrative.

This reading has re-exposed me and introduced me to some interesting tidbits and ideas for future blogs. Of course my Forgotten Battles Series and Forgotten Generals series will see new additions but I wanted to add another. Great Military Blunders of the Civil War. In the next few weeks I will create a blog that will be the first addition to this new series. I cannot wait.

Back to Foote’s book. So far I am on page 191 of Volume One. The book is really good but Foote ignored the use of citation in his book although the things that I recognize are accurate and precise. Shelby was a masterful storyteller who weaves his storyline with engaging phrases and individual words. This along with the use of the Official Records, Memoirs and other primary sources make these books great. However, I don’t want to get ahead of myself because this isn’t a book review. Here is an interesting connection between two Union heroes that I didn’t know about. (I may have read this during my 23 years of Civil War studies but it might have been lost in my memory)

William T. Sherman and George H. Thomas were good friends. When Thomas, a Virginian by birth sought a position in the Union army Abraham Lincoln was hesitant. Former Federal officers RE Lee and Joseph E. Johnston had defected to the Confederacy and Lincoln questioned if this Virginian would do the same. Lincoln didn’t trust Thomas and Sherman spoke up for his old friend.

Lincoln question Sherman about the Virginian’s loyalties and the Ohioan assured Lincoln that Thomas was loyal. Lincoln signed a commission making George Thomas a brigadier general. After Sherman left Lincolns presence he encountered Thomas on the streets of Washington.

“Tom, you’re a brigadier general” he enthusisctally announced but Thomas betrayed no emotion to Sherman’s comment. Seeing his friends’ response Sherman feared that his old army buddy was going to the War Department to tender his resignation. “Where are you going?” Sherman asked.

“I’m going south,” Thomas replied firmly.

“My God, Tom,” Sherman groaned. “You’ve put me in a awful position! I’ve just made myself responsible for your loyalty!”

“Give yourself no trouble, Billy,” Thomas assured his friend. “I’m going south at the head of my troops.”

Lincoln had found one of his best and most underrated Union general who would serve faithfully at Mill Springs, Nashville, Franklin, Chickamauga and a dozen more engagements. So began the famed career of George H. Thomas, the “Rock of Chickamauga”.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Better than you think

After reading Two Great Rebel Armies I was totally astounded by the defencies given to the Army of Tennessee. The author states that the Army of Tennessee had less capable commanders and did not posses as many experienced leaders as the Army of Northern Virginia. I am not refuting that statement because it is mostly true.

However, the Army that was soon to be known as the Army of Tennessee had, at the time officers of promise who could have went on to better things. In early 1862, General Albert Sidney Johnston had several distinguished brigadiers who were fully capable of successfully commanding soldiers.

Here are the men that Johnston had under his command in early 1862:

1. William Hardee--A West Pointe, author of Rifle and Light Inantry Tactic, formerly an Academy text and now the offical drill manual of both armies.

2. George Crittenden--Another West Point graduate and a regular army man.

3. Lloyd Tilghman-Another West Pointer and veteran of the Mexican War.

4. John Hunt Morgan--no military training but he had fought in the
Mexican War and commanded a militia company in his hometown.

5. Nathan Bedford Forrest--Little or no schooling of any kind but we all know the kind of leader he turned out to be.

Now the geography of Johnston defense didn't offer him the best chance for a postive defense. This is a solid group of generals but the performance of Crittenden caused the Johnston's defeat and forced him to abondon his Kentucky defensive line.

This is Blog #100 and I want to thank everybody for reading and their support. My next two blogs will be revisits to my Forgotten Generals Series and my Forgotten Battles of the Civil War Series. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Lincoln: The General

In late 1861 Lincoln spoke to Quartermaster General M.C. Meigs. "General what shall I do?" he groaned. "the people are impatient; Chase has no money, and tells me he can raise no more; the General of the Army has typhoid fever. The bottom is out of the tub. What shall I do?"

Despite the many military setbacks that would haunt Lincoln throughout 1861 he knew what to do. President Lincoln saw how the war should be fought and how the Confederacy would lose. As his Generals rested on their laurels, Lincoln educated himself by reading military books, asking officers for advice and preparing strategy. In a late 1861 letter to General Don Carlos Buell, Lincoln wrote "I state my general idea of this war to be that we have greater numbers, and the enemy has the great facility of concentrating forces upon points of collision; that we must fail, unless we can find some way of making our advantage an over-match of his; and that this can be done by menacing him with superior forces at different points, at the same time; so that we can safely attack, one, or both, if he makes no change; and if he weakens one to strengthen the other, forebear to attack the strengthened one, but seize, and hold the weakened one, gaining so much."

This strategy would be adopted and adapted by Generals Grant, Sherman and Thomas. It would eventually doom the Confederacy. It is interesting to note that Lincoln foresaw the end of the Confederacy in this way. Use the military might of the Union so the rebellion would be squashed. In 1861-1862 he had the men but he needed the generals with the will to use them. I never read this Lincoln quote on strategy before and I thought that I would share it with my readers.

The next blog will be #100.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Book Review #7 Two Great Rebel Armies by Richard M. McMurry

I referred to this book in previous blogs. I mentioned before that I love studying the reasoning behind the Confederate defeat. Did Lee bleed his army? Did the Confederacy ignore the Western Theatre? I love it! In 1989 Richard M. McMurry published Two Great Rebel Armies and it is an excellent book. The essay explores several topics that compare the Army of Northern Virginia to the Army of Tennessee. I discussed a few of these in this blog and this blog. One of McMurry's main arguments is that the Army of Northern Virginia had better trained, better experienced military officers than the Army of Tennessee. This included the officers at the Brigadier General level and the regimental level. He takes the time to explore the Union and Confederate influence on the comparison between the two Rebel armies. One of his final chapters discussess the two main contributers to the literature of both armies (Douglas Freeman and Thomas Connelly).

In the end McMurry's conclusions are based upon statistics and facts that make each of them work perfectly. I don't want to give away too much because I feel that I have already. However, his final conclusions borders between Thomas Connelly's and Gary Gallaghers opinions. The book is a bit dated but the arguments are still plausiable, they still work and if you are interested in this part of Civil War history then you have to read Two Great Rebel Armies.

Yes I know, this isn't much of a book review. However if you read my previous blogs on this book they will provide you with some details and not give away the main points of the text.

I am at 98 blogs so far. Just two more to go for 100!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

An old Abe Lincoln Tall Tale

Everybody that is a Civil War buff knows that Abraham Lincoln loved to tell stories. As a boy, he was so talented at storytelling that people would gather around him to listen, laugh and enjoy his company. In 1861, during the infamous Trentaffair Lincoln told the following story to his cabinet.

"I remember when I was a lad, there were two fields behind our ouse separated by a fence. In each field there was a big bulldog, and those dogs spent the whole day racing up and down, snarling and yelping at each other through that fence. One day they both came at the same moment to a hole in it, big enough to let either of them through. Well, gentlemen, what do you think they did? They just turned tail and scamperer away as fast sa they could in opposite directions. Now England and America are like those bulldogs."

Great Stuff!

This story was taken from Lincoln on Leadership by Donald Phillips.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sallie...the ultimate mascot

It was the summer of 1986 and my parents took me to Gettysburg to learn more about the battle that I had come to love and study. During our trip we took the audio cassette tape tour of the battlefield. My readers may or may not know this but at the battlefield you can tour the battlefield by car and listen to a documentary like description of the battle and the monuments that occupy the grounds.

I remember listing to narrator Peter Thomas has he described one of the most famous military mascots in history named "Sallie". Sallie was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and was the offical mascot for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Given to one of the officers as a four-week old puppy, Sallie grew up among the soldiers learned their tendencies and they all became her master. She provided inspiration, comfort to the men and a unconditional bond of love was quickly formed.

Sallie followed the men on marches and to the battlefields on which they fought. Her most famous display of devotion was after the first days battle at Gettysburg in which the 11th was engaged in a fierce struggle with Richard Ewell's Confederates. As the 11th was pushed off of Oak Ridge, Sallie became seperated from the unit and like all dogs returned to the place from which was recently familier atop Oak Ridge. Around her the dead and dying of both sides littered the grassy hill and it was here that she stayed for the rest of the battle. Sallie licked the wounds of the injured and watched over lifeless bodies of the 11th.

After the Confederate retreat she was found and returned to her regiment after enduring several days without food or water. Her devotion and love were never forgotten by the men who served with her and after the war they dedicated part of their regiments monument to her along with a marvelous statue of her.

Even though Sallie survived the fierce struggle at Gettysburg she would not survive the war. During Grants Overland Campaign (May 1864) she was shot in the neck but survived with just a scar. Legend has it that upon returning to duty she tore the pants off of a 11th soldier who tried to run away from combat.

At the battle of Hatchers Run, Sallie was killed when a bullet struck her head. This event occured on Feb. 6, 1865 just two months and three days before Lee's surrender. Sallie was a true hero and make sure that you visit her monument at Gettysburg. Today many tourists place milkbones on her life-sized statue. I loved visiting this monument in 1986 and again in 1989 when I returned to Gettysburg with my dad on a father-son vacation.

"Sallie," a brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was the regimental mascot for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Given to 1st Lt. William R. Terry as a four-week old puppy, Sallie grew up among the men of the regiment. Sallie followed the men on marches and to the battlefield. At the Battle of Gettysburg, the dog got separated rom he unit. Unable to find her way, Sallie returned to the Union battle line at Oak Ridge, where she stood guard over the dead and wounded.

The dog continued her faithful service through February, 1865, when she was struck by a bullet to her head in the battle of Hatcher's Run, Virginia. One solder of the 11th wrote, “Poor Sallie fell in the front line in the fight…a bullet pierced her brain. She was buried where she fell, by some of the boys, even whilst under a murderous fire.” For her devotion to the men, Sallie is memorialized at the 11th Pennsylvania monument erected at Gettysburg in 1890. Just make sure that when you find the 11th's monument that you park, get out of your car and walk around to the other side of the monument's base. There you will find the statue of Sallie.

Some of Sallie and the 11th's battles were:

Battle of Fallen Waters (versus Stonewall Jackson) 1861
Second Bull Run (1862)
Antietam (1862)
Fredricksburg (1862)
Gettysburg (1863)
Spotstlyvania (1864)
Hatchers Run (1865)

Photos are credited to Pennsylvania State Archives and to Mr. R.G.

More infomation at:

A short history of the 11th can be found here:

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Brig. Gen. Albert Pike: Forgotten General of the Civil War

He is the only Confederate general who is honored with a statue in Washington D.C. The current location of this statue is in Judicial Square. He was a soldier, a writer, a Freemason and an attorney. Currently, he is mentioned in the film National Treasure 2: The Book of Secrets but who was Brigadier General Albert Pike? Todays blog will discuss another Forgotten General of the Civil War: General Albert Pike.

Albert Pike was born in Boston on December 29, 1809 and his parents would soon add five more siblings to the Pike household. He was a quick study and he would attend Harvard and eventually learn to speak in 16 languages. Being the type of person who desired to pave his own path, Pike moved west in 1831 and found a home in St. Louis. Eventually he made his way to Arkansas and and wrote for Arkansas Advocate newspaper in Little Rock. By 1835, after wisely marrying into a wealthy family he purchased the Arkansas Advocate and he even found time to write a guidebook for lawyers.

Pike was a regular braniac but that didn't stop him from an intense desire to serve his country. When the Mexican War started he quickly became an officer in the cavalry. After serving in the Battle of Buena Vista he and his commanding officer John Sloan had a difference of opinion. A duel was planned but their seconds convinced them to make up and move on with their respective lives.

After the war, Pike practiced law in New Orleans and he quickly became one of the cities more important citizens. As a leading advocate of slavery he became popular among slaveowners. He was against secession but when the Confederacy was formed he fave the new country his support. Pike was important because he had a good relationship with Native Americans and had negotiated several treaties between the tribes and the United States. After joining the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis put him in command of Indian Territory. Pike raised several rebel regiments from the tribes and led them during the Battle of Pea Ridge. The unit performed well until they were virtually destroyed in a Union counterattack.

After the battle, Pike's men were accused of scalping their Federal opponents. Major General Thomas Hindman accused Pike of disobedience and mishandling of supplies. Pike resigned and avoided any trial to prove or disprove Hindman's accusations. By November 11, 1861 Pike returned to Arkansas. After the war, he continued his work as a lawyer and argued several cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since 1859 Pike was deeply involved with the Freemasons and he even served his local chapters commander. He remained in the order until his death and wrote an influential book that is still used by historians who research the Masons. Pike was later linked to the Ku Klux Klan and was said to be a Satanist, who indulged in the occult, and he apparently possessed a bracelet which he used to summon Lucifer, with whom he had constant communication. It is said that he predicted that Three World Wars would occur! He was a bit werid but some of his personal beliefs can be deeply respected. For example he once wrote "Everyone is free to reject and dissent from whatsoever herein may seem to him to be untrue or unsound. It is only required of him that he shall weigh what is taught, and give it a fair hearing and unprejudiced judgment."

Pike might have been the most inflenutial Freemason in American history. Moreover, he wrote seven major book and over a hundred poems. He continued to write until his death on April 2, 1891. In 2007 Pike resurfaced as minor character in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. In the film his fictional decedent, played by Ed Harris attempts to find the City of Gold.

More photos of Pike are here:

Friday, January 4, 2008

Robert E. Lee: The armchair general

Robert E. Lee could play the role of an armschair general. Does this comment surprise you? I hate to break it to some people but R.E. Lee was a human being and could be critical of his subordinates. Confederate General Richard S. Ewell was the subject a postwar conversations that Lee held between 1868-1870 with William Preston Johnston and William Allen. This blog isn't meant to be a personal attack on Ewell or Lee but rather a discussion of Lee's critical opinion of Richard Ewell.

Due to ill health and the management of Washington College, R.E. Lee was unable to write his memorirs. Other than Lincoln, these unwritten memoirs would have become the most important Civil War manuscript ever.

It would have been interesting to see what Lee thought of his conduct during the war, his government in Richmond and he strategy in several campaigns. It seems that Lee remained repressed is several of his writings about the war and avoided critizing his subordinates publicly.

This fits Lee's command style and his beliefs of what an armycommanders role was is well documented by Civil War historians. But what of Ewell?

In May 1863, Richard S. Ewell took over the 2nd Corps of Lee's army after Stonewall Jackson crossed over the river and rested under the shade of the trees. His conduct at the 1863 Battle of Wincheser and during the Gettysburg campaign concerned Lee. Ewell did not demonstrate the potential that he had shown as a division commander and his handling of the final moments of July 1, 1863 (prior to sundown) have been debated by historians for decades. One could argue that Ewell was timid and lacked the decisiviness needed to excel as a corps commander.

By the beginning of the 1864 spring offensive it was obvious to some that Ewell needed Lee's guiding hand in order to be successful. General Lee made the unwise decision (though its easy to be an armchair general myself) to not alter his supervisory style with Ewell. Lee had the habit of issuing discreationary, vague orders that allowed his corps commanders to make their own decisions. From these orders the corps commanders would issue their decisions to their division commanders and so on.

James Longstreet and Thomas J. Jackson worked very well under Lee because they knew what he expected and they were excellent commanders in their own right. Ewell was promoted to replace Jackson but he was unable to. Lee's opinion of Ewell (granted it is in hindsight) were pretty straightforward. He told Allan that Ewell had "faults as a miltary leader-his quick alternations from elation to despondency, his want of decision" Lee must have believed that these issues contributed to the Conferate defeat. Although they do not emancipate Lee from his own failures as a commander.

The history of Lee's failure to supervise Ewell are well documentated. As he marched north in June 1863 Lee ordered Ewell to smash Union forces at Winchester, Virginia. A victory there would open up the road north and fulfill the first part of Lee's invasion plans. Ewells orders from Lee instructed him to "be guided by his own judgement in any unforseen emergency." Ewell fullfilled his commanding officers 1868 judgement of him at Winchester with his inital confidence when he saw that he could destory the Federals. However, once Ewell inspected the enemy's works his emotials turned from "elation to despondency." He quickly sent a message to Lee asking for directions from headquarters. The Battle of Second Winchester was a Confederate victory but this was most likely due to the fighting prowess of Jackson's old corps rather than the new 2nd corps commander.

At Gettysburg Lee expressed that Ewell had fought the battle in an "imperfect, halting way" and seemed utterly disastatified with the performance of Mr. Ewell. If Lee realized that Ewell had these weaknesses in 1863 he failed to change his command style with his 2nd corps commander. In hindsight however, it is easy to say that Lee should have fulfilled his subordinate's need for close guidance and explicit orders. In closing, he should have been more forceful with Richard S. Ewell. Cambell Brown, the stepson of Ewell and his staff officer noted than General Lee's "instructions to his Corps Comrs are of a very comprehensive, general description & frequently admit of several interpretations."

Between 1868-1870 Lee expressed concern over Ewell's performance during the Battle of the Wilderness. During this contest Lee issued more unclear oders to Ewell, whose Second Corps occupied the Rebel left flank. The excellent tactictian eye of R.E. Lee saw that victory for the South was at hand if Ewell could cut the Federals off from Germanna Ford. Lee's orders asked Ewell to conduct the attack but only if it could "be done without too great a sacrifice." The ambiguous language of these orders allowed Ewell to remain on the defensive.

In his 1868 conversation with William Preston Johnston the general reminisced about the Wilderness stating that "Ewell showed vacillation" during the battle and "If Jackson had been alive and there, he would have crushed the enemy." William Allan noted that Lee told him that Ewell's movement was meant to be " full attack on flank & intended to support it with all of Ewell's rout the enemy." We've established that Lee was correct in his assumptions about Ewell but where his orders on May 6, 1864 at the Wilderness a possiblity?

First, Ewell had to attack an entrenched Federal force across rugged terrain. To make matters worse, frequent Union demonstrations had pinned down the Second Corps so that Ewell could not shift units from his right flank without exposing the Army of Northern Virginia to a disasterous counterattack. Ewell had no reserve troops to support his attack or to protect the before mentioned Confederate flank to a Federal countercharge. Ewell was overly cautious but I have to give him credit for not over committing his troops. R.E. Lee....being a human correct in his assumptions about Ewell but his thoughts concerning Ewell's attack on May 6th border on fantasy.

As history records Ewell carried out the attack but his forces were too small to achieve the results that R.E. Lee needed. The limited attack captured two Union generals, captured some needed supplies and a few hundred prisoners. If "Jackson had been there" I doubt that he would have made a different decision. Perhaps Lee was thinking back to 1862 1863 when his army had the offensive firepower to carry out his brilliant attack schemes.

In the end one cannot doubt Lee's critical analysis of Ewell's career as a soldier. Perhaps, as some historians attest that the Jackson's guiding hand that had helped Ewell perform very well during Southern victories was missing. Lee failure to fill contributed to the Confederate defeats at Gettysburg and the draw at the Wilderness as much as Ewells own deficiencies as commander. If you are on Lee's side, Ewell's side, somewhere in between or indifferent you cannot deny that Lee was actually critical of a subordinate. Lee the critic is a microcosm of Civil War history that fascinates me. I will continue to look for more of his critical analysis.

91 blogs so far. Nine more means that I reach 100!!!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

General Bragg loved his soldiers

It is said that General Braxton Bragg was hated by his men. Confederate
Private Sam Watkins is one of those men who despised General Bragg. If that hatred was true one thing is certain, Bragg didn't publicly write about any hatred that he might have had towards his men. In fact, Bragg honored them. I recently found this in Braxton Bragg's Offical Report on the Battle of Stones River. Written nearly two months after the battle General Bragg states:

"To the private soldier a fair meed of praise is due; and though it is
so seldom given and so rarely expected that it may be considered out of
place, I cannot, in justice to myself, withhold the opinion ever
entertained and so often expressed during our struggle for independence.
In the absence of the instruction and discipline of old armies, and of
the confidence which long association produces between veterans, we have
had in a great measure to trust to the individuality and self-reliance
of the private soldier. Without the incentive or the motive which controls the officer, who hopes to live in history; without the hope of reward, and actuated only by a sense of duty and of patriotism, he has, in this great contest, justly judged that the cause was his own, and gone into it with a determination to conquer or die; to be free or not to be at all. No encomium is too high, no honor too great for such a soldiery, However much of credit and glory may be given, and probably justly given, the leaders in our struggle, history will yet award the main honor where it is due--to the private soldier, who, without hope of reward, and with no other incentive than a consciousness of rectitude, has en countered all the hardships and suffered all the privations. Well has it been said, "The first monument our Confederacy rears, when our independence shall have been won, should be a lofty shaft, pure and spotless, bearing this inscription, 'To the unknown and unrecorded

What more can be said? It is obvious that Bragg and a deep compassion
and respect for the common soldier. I am not saying that Sam Watkins
was wrong becase a lot of his soldiers wrote about there contempt for
General Bragg. The above quotation exposes a part of Bragg that I
didn't know exist and shows us how we need to reflect on all historical
accounts not just the ones written by the best Civil War authors.
Perhaps Bragg's comments are a bunch of crap but I doubt it. I saluate

Bragg on his honorable comments towards his soldiers and Civil War
soldiers in general. They were the greatest generation.

Bragg's full report at Stone's River can be located at:

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Future Posts

Just a quick one for my readers. However, I did want to share a few things that I am going to post in the next few weeks. I got a lot of cool and interesting ideas and thoughts for my new blogs. However here are the basic things that readers have seen since the blogs inception.

1. Another book review on Two Great Rebel Armies
2. Another Forgotten General of the Civil War will be posted soon
3. Another Forgotten Battles of the Civil War will be posted soon
4. More posts on Lincoln, Grant and Lee.
5. And much much more!!

Make sure that you vote on my latest poll. It asks what you think of this blog. Stay tuned and thanks to everyone who has posted comments. This blog can only get better if opinions and comments are posted.

I also have been mentioned on several blogs and webistes. I am really excited about this promising blog. Here are some links for websites that mention my blog.