I'm getting my feet wet again at blogging. I used to have two blogs, Battlefield Wanderings and the Battle of Shiloh. I've now merged the two into one. Partly to have it all centralized but also because I had a rough time getting the original Battlefield Wanderings site to cooperate properly. Please update (or add again) your favorites to follow the blog at battleshiloh.blogspot.
I've had a few trips since this blog went dark that I'll be adding over the coming months; Vicksburg, Seattle, and Illinois, as well as adding some older trips in as well.
Monday, July 20, 2015
Bushwhacking on a Grand Scale: The Battle of Chickamauga, September 18-20, 1863. By William Lee White. Illustrated, photos, maps, orders of battle, 192 pp., 2013, Savas Beatie, www.savasbeatie.com, $12.95 softcover.
There has never been a better time to a Western theater enthusiast. There will always be more books on Gettysburg than on any other battle but in recent years the pure volume of books on Western theater battles has steadily increased. The latest offering in this theater comes from a Chickamauga park ranger, and local, William Lee White. This is an excellent book that walks the fine line between being a general overview but gives enough detail for a more knowledgeable audience.
The book’s format is that in each chapter White explains a phase of the battle then has a driving tour that takes you to that spot. Although many of the photos are small there are period and modern photos are on nearly every page to help show the terrain, monuments or the commanders involved. I read it from the comfort of my home a thousand miles from Chickamauga but felt that the directions were easy to follow. Also having been to Chickamauga many times the directions and modern photos helped jog my memory of what is at each tour stop. If you read the book while on the battlefield it would only enhance the experience.
I’m tempted to compare it to the other Chickamauga tour guide, the War College Version, Guide to the Battle of Chickamauga, written by Matt Spruill roughly 16 years ago. The main difference between the two is that Spruill’s version uses the primary sources, mainly the official reports from the commanders to explain the battle while White’s version is a narrative account he distilled from the primary and secondary sources. White’s book is probably an easier read but Spruill’s puts you in the commanders’ shoes more as they make their decisions. I don’t think I could pick owning just one. For someone just entering the study of Chickamauga though White’s book is a more accessible read.
I also enjoyed the appendices, especially the one of the civilians who lived on the battlefield at the time. They are always mentioned in battle histories but for some of them this was the most detail I’ve previously seen, at least in one short chapter.
The one complaint I do have with Bushwhacking on a Grand Scale is that the driving tour stays within the national park. There is a wealth of other sites outside the park but the book does not take you to those. For the times it discusses actions outside the park it would not have been difficult to take the visitor there. This is a relatively minor complaint though for an overall great book.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Day one of the trip ended with us oin the Grand Gulf area. The next morning instead of back tracking all the way down to Grand Gulf to follow the army to Raymond we took a more direct route and meet up with the army halfway there, near Old Auburn. Then we followed the army on its march toward the battle of Raymond. Its a nice drive with state historical markers peppered along the way. Here are just a few.
From this spot a portion of the XIII Corps moved north along the road on the left and secured Whitaker's Ford, helping to secure Grant's left flank.
When Grant reached here on May 12 the bridge was burning. Union cavalry then fought with Confederate cavalry under Wirt Adams and by 11 AM had secured a bridgehead over Fourteenmile Creek and could then move forward.
Not far from the bridge is the Dillon Farm. Grant spent the evening of the 12th here and learned of the battle earlier that day at Raymond. He changed his plans here and decided to go to Jackson instead of his earlier plan of a more march more to the north.
Nearby is the family cemetery.
And next to the cemetery is the Natchez Trace. Although it feels remote the Dillon Farm was near the intersection of two pretty important roads.
Monday, November 11, 2013
We had a little problem at Port Gibson. We got turned around and a bit lost. Then once we did find out the right roads we were discourged by the locals on driving down to the Shaifer House as they were worried about the coming rain. In retrospect the rain wasn't bad and we probably could have made it but better safe than sorry.
The thing these pictures do not do justice to is just how rough the country is. Deep ravines and roads along the spines of the high ground. You get a good impression of how hard it would be coordinate a battle when you can't move anywhere near line of sight.
In the town of Port Gibson was this nice Confederate monument. Grant reportedly called the town too beautiful to burn. I think though that he wanted the town as a supply base and didn't want it as a burned out ruin. We tend to forget but Grant wasn't really living off the land during this portion of the Vicksburg campaign. He had a long wagon train that was following him.
This was a common scene as we'd pile out of cars near a marker. We'd all take our pictures, then discuss where we were in the battle, and how it fit into the larger picture of what was happening.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
According to some brochures the Windsor Ruins is one of the most photographed places in Mississippi. We did our part to keep it among the top.
Windsor was a big plantation at the time of the battle of Port Gibson. It wasn't involved in the fighting but served as a field hospital. These pictures don't do it justice for its size and beauty. There is a marker that shows what it would have looked like but all that's left is these columns.
The lady at the chamber of commerce told us that this tree was here at the time of the battle and is where the amputated limbs were piled up. No idea if its true but took a picture of the witness tree just to be safe.
I got a new camera before the trip so I played with the zoom function a bit. This was a good playground for that.
Friday, November 1, 2013
After Milliken's Bend we went south to pick up the battles as Grant crossed the River. Our order was slightly different, and I'll explain it in a later post but here is Grand Gulf where there was a naval battle as Grant attempted to cross here. Too much resistance so he knew he needed to find a different crossing point. There is a great park there and its not part of the NPS so there actually was helpful staff on site and a museum to tour. Great group of people, and they were very happy to see us.
There is a trail down to the river where you can get some idea of the bend in the River that was there in 1863 but of course the River has changed course so its not quite accurate anymore.
Up near the museum is Fort Wade. There are a variety of markers up here describing the action.
And one can see the remains of the ammunition magazine that the Confederates blew up once they realized they would have to abandon the post.
Just a gun emplacement but gives some idea of the connecting works associated with the fort.
Then you can also drive over to Fort Cobun, which was right where the big turn of the River was, where the term Grand Gulf came from. Of course the trees are tall and thick so its hard to get a good view of the water, which is no longer part of the main channel but is where it once was.
Through the trees there is some view of the water but is a bit tough to see.
The road down to the River had this great sign showing how deep the worst floods were. Had my dad stand over there for some perspective.
And detail of the sign. The stretch from 1922 to 1937 was rough with four floods over 52 feet. Then of course the government comes in and channels the River to what we know today. Now the water is managed, but floods still do happen.
This mill is behind the museum, I put it in here just because I liked the shot.
Monday, October 28, 2013
After Grant's Canal we pushed on to another largely forgotten area, Milliken's Bend. Along the way we saw a marker for the Duckport Canal, which was more part of the efforts to get past Vicksburg than a desire for the Mississippi River to cut Vicksburg out.
Then there was a marker for the Dalkeith Plantation that was along the bayou. The marker says the house is still standing but we talked to a local who said the house is long gone.
And then some markers for the battle of Milliken's Bend. The actual battlefield has been wiped away by the River. We knew that going in but it was still interesting to be in the area where it happened. We did go up on the levee in hopes we might have a view of the River but some trees blocked our view.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Our first stop on the tour was Grant's Canal. Since my last (and only) visit to Vicksburg in 2000 there appears to be some changes. For one thing there are more markers than I remember. The first trip was pre-digital camera so I didn't take pictures of every marker and monument like I do now so I can't be 100% sure but there seem to be more markers now.
Of course this monument is new since then. Its to the 9th Conneticut and has some amazing modern techniques being used. Most of my pictures of it turned out kinda poorly because it is so reflective, you see all of the group gathered around the monument but a few shots did turn out.
And the highlight, I guess, is seeing Grant's Canal. Or rather the depression that is left. Its kinda humbling to think of all the hard work and effort that went into digging the canal, only to have it become rather useless almost immediately, and then to be little more than a ditch today. If there were no markers here I wonder what people would think the depression was. An old road bed perhaps?