Friday, August 31, 2007

Winchester Confederate Cemetery part 4

There is also a large monument to the unknown Confederate dead in the cemetery. I think its one of the few monuments I've seen where the soldier's musket is pointed into the ground like this.

Grouped around it are four markers for individual battlefields. There is quite a bit of open ground around these markers but it is hard to tell where exactly these unknown are buried.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Winchester Confederate Cemetery part 3

The final batch of state monuments, including the plainest one. Come on Texas you gotta try harder than that. :)

Tennessee: Texas:

Winchester Confederate Cemetery part 2

A few more state monuments. As you can see from this selection some are pretty new (Mississippi) and some are pretty old.

Maryland: Mississippi:
North Carolina:
South Carolina:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Winchester Confederate Cemetery

While getting some materials reading for the Rocky Mountain Civil War roundtable's study group next study, Stonewall's Valley Campaign, (man, that is a mouthful) I remembered the two fabulous cemeteries in Winchester that Mike and I visited last April as part of the most recent study group trip.

The Confederate cemetery is named after Stonewall Jackson. Over 3000 dead are buried here though most appear to be from the 1864 fighting. Each state's dead is buried in its own section with a state monument. Some of the monuments are clearly of modern placement while others appear to be quite old. This reminded me of the cemetery at Carnton except that each of those state monuments is identical and the dead are buried much differently. Ok so I guess the only thing similar is that each cemetery has a state monument and are amazing places to visit.

Here are a few state monuments, more to follow in the coming days.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More on the 107th Ohio

Last night I got some time to do some reading on the 107th Ohio at Gettysburg, specifically on July 2nd. As I suspected they were in the Cemetery Hill area. In fact they were at the very northern tip of the line, Ames brigade formed a salient. They were attacked by Hays Brigade in the evening assault and were pushed back to a stone wall near Wiedrich's Battery (Battery I of the 1st New York Artillery).

Ames brigade had been positioned poorly, or maybe they just didn't have the men to form the position properly. At any rate when they were attacked their initial line crumpled. There was a bit of a gap in the brigade line which the Confederates were able to exploit. After falling back from this initial position they held their position at the stone wall and while it was a close affair they were not routed any further. During this fighting the 107th Ohio captured the 8th Louisiana's flag. This was the end of the main fighting for the 107th Ohio. They did some small skirmishing with Confederates in town on July 3rd but this was minor. Over the three days of battle they lost 23 killed, 111 wounded and 77 missing. A captain was the senior officer remaining and his report is a model of brevity. Basically he says they were engaged each day for a certain number of hours and that the fighting was severe. He gives very few details as to where they were or who was on their flanks.

Finally some clarification on how I'm related to Peter Reis. My dad's mother was Luella Goll, her mother was Caroline Illian, and her father was Lewis Illian. Lewis' father was Friederich Illian. Friederich was drafted in 1864 to serve in the 37th Wisconsin. At that same time his brother-in-law, Heinrich Kniebes was also drafted and served in the 6th Wisconsin. Both men were 44 years old and lived on the same farm. Friederich's mother and father in law also lived on the farm and when he was drafted were probably a big help to Friederich's wife, who had seven children aged 15 years to 14 months old to take care of. One of Friederich's daughters, Catherine married Wilhelm Reinheimer. Wilhelm's aunt Elisabeth was married to Peter Reis. Like I said yesterday, the relation is not direct at all but a line can still be traced.

Incidentally Wilhelm's uncles Jacob and Wilhelm were members of the Sandusky Schutzenverein (Rifle Club) founded in 1861. I don't know if the Sandusky Schutzenverein became a company in a regiment but these men did not serve in the army as both were in their 40s when the war began.

Here is a picture of Catherine Illian (my great-something aunt) and William Reinheimer with their three living children, William F., Cora, and Elmer (I believe that is the order from left to right). A fourth child, Elenor died at the age of 4 months.

Monday, August 27, 2007

107th Ohio

I recently found out I had a relative in the 107th Ohio. He was Peter Reis (Reiss) and served in company F of the 107th Ohio. The relation is not direct. His wife was the sister of the man who married one of my great(something) aunts. But relation is relation, I find it fascinating. Interestingly too his first wife (my connection) died in October 1854 and he remarried in December 1854 and his second wife was Martha Elisabeth Brazel. One of my friend's last names is Brazell, wonder if there is a connection there, that would be spooky.

Peter Reis enlisted on August 22, 1862 for 3 years. He was 39 years old. Their first combat was at Chancellorsville as part of the 11th Corps. At Gettysburg, on July 2nd, Peter was wounded. He would die eight days later from those wounds. What the wounds were I'm not sure. Since I found out about him I haven't even looked thru the OR to see where they were on the 2nd. Their monument is on Barlow Knoll and I'd guess that on the 2nd they were in the Cemetery Hill vicinity. I looked thru the Roll of Honor and if he was buried in the national cemetery he is in an unknown grave. I found a regimental history, reprinted in 2000, and have requested that from my local library. I thought this was interesting too because all my family is from Wisconsin. I have relatives in the 6th, 9th, 24th and 37th Wisconsin; and now I can add the 107th Ohio to the list.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Shenandoah Valley

The other big project the Rocky Mountain Civil War Roundtable is working on is starting up our next battle study. Every year we take a battle or campaign, spend several months doing a detailed study of it and conclude the study with a trip to the field to walk that ground. Last year we did Antietam with a fantastic trip in April. As an indication of how much we study something beforehand I think we broke the battle of Antietam into 7 parts, plus there was probably another 4 or 5 meetings to handle the stuff before and after the battle. Now we have decided to make Stonewall Jackson's 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign our next study. Right now I'm collecting articles, maps, books, etc to create a binder for each study group participant. We make these binders every year so that everyone has loads of maps and other materials to make the study a bit easier. Everyone cannot buy and read every book so this helps provide a good base. Anyone have any tips about what to include in the binder?

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Here is a list of the books published by our group of speakers:

Sam Davis Elliott:
Doctor Quintard, Chaplain C.S.A. and Second Bishop of Tennessee: The Memoir and Civil War Diary of Charles Todd Quintard
Soldier of Tennessee: General Alexander P. Stewart and the Civil War in the West

James Lee McDonough:
Shiloh: in Hell before Night
War in Kentucky: From Shiloh to Perryville
Stones River: Bloody Winter in Tennessee
Chattanooga: Death Grip on the Confederacy
Nashville: The Western Confederacy's Final Gamble
Five Tragic Hours: The Battle of Franklin
War So Terrible: Sherman and Atlanta

Kenneth W. Noe:
The Civil War in Appalachia
A Southern Boy in Blue
Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle
Politics and Culture of the Civil War Era
Southwest Virginia's Railroad

Timothy B. Smith:
The Untold Story of Shiloh: The Battle and the Battlefield
This Great Battlefield of Shiloh: History, Memory, and the Establishment of a Civil War National Military Park
Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862
Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg

Matt Spruill:
Guide to the Battle of Chickamauga
Storming the Heights: A Guide to the Battle of Chattanooga
Echoes of Thunder: A Guide to the Seven Days Battles
Guidebook on battle of Stones River due out this fall

As you can see our panel of speakers is quite accomplished with 22 books to their credit.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rocky Mtn Civil War Symposium

As some of you may I am involved in the Rocky Mountain Civil War Roundtable. I thought I'd take some space to publicize one of our upcoming events. We are in the process of creating a Civil War symposium in the Denver area. We decided to do it to learn something, perhaps expand the roundtable membership, and have fun. If it ends up making money then its something we'll do annually, expanding as we see fit.

We have secured a pretty good list of speakers to fit our theme, The War in the West 1861-1862. Tim Smith will talk about Shiloh. Sam Davis Elliott will talk about Confederate General Alexander P. Stewart. Kenneth Noe will talk about Perryville. Matt Spruill will talk about Stones River. And James Lee McDonough rounds out the group with a talk on the importance of the western theater. Exact topics will be announced here later but this gives you some idea of what will be presented. Each presenter has been published on his topic, plus has had other books published on other western theater topics. For our first year, with no reputation behind us, I think this is a pretty impressive group to sign on with just the hope that we'll do a good job.

Our symposium will be April 5, 2008 at a lecture hall at the Community College of Aurora, our co-sponsor. We will have a few book sellers present (our goal is to have all of the publishers of our speakers represented plus a few local booksellers and I think we'll achieve that). There will most likely be an exhibit featuring a local collector's impressive collection.

I'll get more info out about this from time to time, right now just something else to occupy my time. But I'm glad to do it as I think we can be successful at it and make this an annual event. Plus it should be a great time. If you'd like more info, or be on our mailing list, leave me a comment or shoot me an email. Thanks.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Some news

I've got some good news, a little early yet to be too happy, but a good sign nonetheless. I was recently contacted by Civil War News to be a book reviewer. And I jumped at the opportunity. Friday I got my first book to review and have already started reading it. So far so good. The one caveat though is that I have decided I will not post my review here until after the issue comes out. They did not tell me to do this but it seems like the proper thing to do. So in the near future you hopefully see me in print too. I'm just reserving some happiness so far until my review passes muster.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


When I wrote my Chickamauga article I got the idea while walking the ground, and later made sure to walk that ground again to get pictures for possible future use. I've always believed that walking the ground was vitally important to understanding what happened. A few weeks ago I received an email from a gentleman asking what sort of sources I use to plan my trips and that struck me as being an excellent blog topic, so here's some of my thoughts.

For print sources the two books I utilize the most are Alice Cromie's "A Tour Guide to the Civil War" and the Civil War Preservation Trust's guide. Cromie's guide is a bit dated and some sites don't exist anymore, plus there are new sites that are not in there. The CWPT's guide only includes the sites that paid to be part of the guide. These are all your major sites but some of the smaller (and often well done) sites are not included. Using those two will give you a good start.

A great online source is just going to the various state parks department websites and seeing what state parks there are. Most states have some sort of overview of what is at the park to see. Most sites are preserved at this local level rather than under the NPS.

Another great resource for traveling is Blue and Gray magazine. Each month they tackle one battle (or in the case of their Gettysburg issues, one aspect of the battle) and give a nice history of the battle plus an excellent tour. These tours are very detailed and often written by the park historian so they can be considered to also be fairly accurate. This magazine comes out 7 times a year and usually has one issue devoted to Gettysburg. Since its been out 20 odd years they have covered much of the war so chances are if you're looking for a particular battle they have covered it, unless it is quite small. Another caveat is that in their early days the tours were nowhere as good as they are now. The tours are quite impressive now. They also always have great maps.

Maps are another resource I try to utilize. I'll look at a period map and then compare it to a modern map to see what areas might have history that is a bit of the beaten path. Then I'll research to find out if there is a local museum or park that interprets its place in the war.

A truly great place to go is the Technical Information Center for the National Park Service (TIC-NPS). The only drawback here is that the center is located in Denver so if you're not a local your access is a bit harder. But this is a treasure trove of NPS materials, studies, etc. I used to go there all the time and browse the collection. Some of the studies the park service did are mind boggling. For instance I've twice found maps (Vicksburg and Chickamauga) that listed the size and style of every tree in the study area. Of course this didn't aid the study of the battle at all but it was fascinating that they went thru that kind of work. If there is one thing the NPS is good at it is studying something to death. It might take 20 years of study before they make a move but after 20 years they'll know more about the thing than anyone would care to know. Of course the same project done privately might have only taken a few months, but that's just how things operate at the NPS. I'm pretty sure TIC does research thru mail request, but I've never had to find that out. Incidentally if you are local and go, be prepared for tougher security than seems necessary. Maybe the NPS also has secrets on how to make atomic bombs because its the only library I've been too that requires a metal detector and an escort thru the building. Plus I was once told that before they could print anything for me they'd have to check the security clearance on the document. Somehow I don't think there are any state secrets in Shiloh maps.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Gap - part 10

The discussion of the gap at Chickamauga is now over. I'm still working on answering a few comments brought out by Dave Powell, currently have too little time to give to the subject. But I will get it done. I think the discussion went well. I didn't expect everyone to agree with me but I think we all thought a bit more about the gap than we normally would have. I think this also illuminates that there are plenty of minor battle events that warrant fuller examinations in the western theater. Just because its not Gettysburg doesn't mean we only deserve one general battle overview every couple of decades. I can think of roughly a dozen minor battle events that would be interesting as full examinations that probably will never be done because it didn't happen at Gettysburg.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Gap - part 9

Assuming that neither army would have been driven from the battlefield a new set of options would have been presented. One, Rosecrans withdraws his damaged army back to Chattanooga within a day or two. Two, Bragg withdraws his damaged army to Dalton within a day or two. Three, the battle renews the next day for a third day of fighting. All of these options are plausible. The second option, however, seems to be the more likely event. Bragg has a history of retreating following an indecisive battle. He retreats following Perryville and Stones River and neither battle would have been described as a resounding Union victory prior to Bragg's retreat. It is only with Bragg’s withdrawal that they became Union victories.

If Bragg did retreat again it can be assumed that Rosecrans would wait until the spring to begin a campaign in northern Georgia. Rosecrans was a cautious commander and the large number of casualties at Chickamauga would require time to replace. Rosecrans would also likely build Chattanooga into a supply base much as he did with Murfreesboro in the months after Stones River. Another possible outcome of this battle might be that Bragg would be removed from command of the army and that Longstreet might take his place. That is just a guess though and its impact on the future of the war is anyone's guess.

If it is decided that the Dyer Ridge defenses would have played a key part in saving the right it can also be argued that perhaps the Union left would now have too few troops to hold that area. Changing one aspect of the battle would have effects on other areas and it is possible that this change might have prevented the rout of the right wing but still lead to Union defeat, however I do not believe that Thomas would have been driven from the Kelly Field position. The troops that would have stayed on the right flank were troops that Thomas either never saw or that he used to defend Snodgrass Ridge. Thomas would not have to defend Snodgrass Ridge if there had been no rout of the right wing. The last reinforcement Thomas received prior to the breakthrough was Van Derveer's brigade and this he certainly did need. After that though Thomas is not faced with another crucial moment except on Snodgrass Hill. If Thomas does not have to defend Snodgrass Hill then he should have been able to hold Kelly Field. Possibly Bragg would have tried to find troops to make an attack on Thomas' left flank if Longstreet's assault was a failure but that is another guess that is impossible to prove or disprove.

If Chickamauga had been a Union victory its impact on the war could be as varied as the possibilities afforded by the Dyer Ridge defenses were to the battle itself. In the east two corps would never have had to leave the Army of the Potomac to aid the Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga. A winter campaign against the depleted Army of Northern Virginia might have achieved some successes.

In the west Major General Ulysses S. Grant would still probably be promoted to command the Military District of the Mississippi but a promotion to General-in-Chief and Lieutenant General might not happen in the spring. Rosecrans would probably be re-enforced with some men to make up for the losses of Chickamauga and also to offset the Army of Tennessee’s gain of Longstreet’s corps. Where would Grant command the district from? Would Grant command in the field with Rosecrans, prodding him along as he did with Meade? Where would Grant put Major General William T. Sherman’s army? Sherman operating against Mobile while Rosecrans goes after Atlanta might have hastened the end of the war in the west. If the Army of Tennessee keeps Longstreet’s corps the capture of Atlanta will likely be harder to accomplish. If Atlanta is not captured by the fall elections will Abraham Lincoln be re-elected? In Virginia though the Army of the Potomac should find itself with an easier task and so perhaps Richmond is captured before Atlanta is.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Gap - part 8

There are three plausible results of the fighting in the Dyer Ridge sector on the 20th. One, the Confederates could have routed this line and sent the Union units fleeing back to Chattanooga as actually happened. Two, the fighting could have reached a stalemate with the Union holding the line but leaving both sides in no condition for further fighting. Three, the Union could have achieved an enormous success and driven the Confederates across Chickamauga Creek. Of these three it seems that option two is the most likely outcome. Why? In the Civil War there are few instances of an attacking force driving an enemy from a prepared position, especially when the defenders have ample artillery. In major battles there are only four instances where an attacker pierced an entrenched line; the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania, the ending of the siege of Petersburg, the storming of the heights at Missionary Ridge and at Nashville. Two of these instances involve an army on the verge of collapse at the end of the war, Petersburg and Nashville. At Missionary Ridge the Confederates did not have good fields of fire for their artillery. At the Mule Shoe the artillery had been withdrawn the night before and the attack was begun under the cover of dark. These three different failings of the defenders were not things that the Union would have had to contend with along Dyer Ridge at Chickamauga.

Another situation to consider is that Wood might have been able to hold on long enough to receive ample reinforcements and there might have never been any fighting on Dyer Ridge. Longstreet's column was five brigades deep. The first line was Fulton's and McNair's brigades followed by Gregg's brigade. The third line consisted of Robertson's and Sheffield's brigades with Benning's brigade behind Sheffield. The final line consisted of Humphrey's and Kershaw's brigades. Assuming that this weight of numbers would not have been enough alone to drive Wood from the Brotherton Field position it would have fallen to the troops on Longstreet's left to carry the position. There were two divisions on Longstreet's left; Preston's division of Gracie, Kelly and Trigg's brigades and Hindman's division of Anderson, Deas and Manigault's brigades. These men would have fought Davis' division of Carlin and Martin's brigades, Sheridan's division of Lytle, Laiboldt and Walworth's brigades and Wilder's mounted infantry brigade. Van Cleve's division of Samuel Beatty, Barnes and Dick's brigades was in motion as the breakthrough occurred. They could have quickly reinforced Wood's position if Rosecrans determined to make his stand at Brotherton Field.

If Van Cleve's division only aided Wood's position that would leave six Union brigades to defend against six Confederate brigades. Considering that the defender usually was the victor in Civil War battles (especially when attacked by an equal number of troops) the Union would likely be able to hold this position. Another factor in their favor is that Wilder's brigade was equipped with Spencer rifles and this increased firepower would have helped them greatly.

The Union defenders did hold the Confederates back at Lytle Hill and Dyer Ridge for about 15-20 minutes so it is quite likely that Wood could have held Longstreet about that long at Brotherton Field which would have given Rosecrans the option of either holding onto that position tenaciously or withdrawing to Dyer Ridge. A disadvantage of holding the line at Brotherton Field is that it would have been difficult to bring artillery to the front due to the close proximity of the Confederates and the likelihood that they would have been able to kill many artillerists and their horses.

View from South Carolina monument

A final panoramic. This one was taken on the north end of Dyer Ridge near the South Carolina monument. The pics go from left to right, east to west, and show the open ground a Confederate attack would have had to make against the artillery line along Dyer Ridge.

Friday, August 10, 2007

North Dyer

Another panoramic, this one showing the Union artillery positions as seen a bit farther north in Dyer Field. This is the view the Confederates would have had once they stepped out of the woods.

The Gap - part 7

During the morning Crittenden and Major John Mendenhall had collected whatever artillery they found onto Dyer Ridge. At various times they had the 6th Ohio Battery, 8th Indiana Battery, 3rd Wisconsin Battery, 26th Pennsylvania Battery, 7th Indiana Battery, Battery C of the 1st Illinois, Battery D of the 1st Michigan (also referred to as the 4th Michigan Battery) and Battery H of the 4th US. Some of these batteries arrived at Dyer Ridge just minutes before the break through happened while some had been there most of the morning.

A total of 44 cannon in eight batteries were on Dyer Ridge at one time or another (it being nearly impossible to determine exactly when batteries arrived and left during those hectic minutes after the breakthrough). The cannon that were on the ridge included 10 pound Parrots, 6 pound smooth bores, 12 pound howitzers, 6 pound James rifles, 12 pound Napoleons and 3 inch rifles. An exact count of cannon is nearly impossible because Battery D of the 1st Michigan had previously lost two of its six guns and Captain J.W. Church did not list what was lost when, only that he was only able to escape with a 12 pound howitzer.

Of those eight batteries they lost 23 guns during the breakthrough; the entire army lost 36 guns during the two days of battle. The 6th Ohio Battery was the only battery to go unscathed while the 8th Indiana Battery lost all 6 of its guns, the 3rd Wisconsin Battery lost 5 of 6, the 26th Pennsylvania Battery lost 4 of 6, the 7th Indiana Battery lost 1 of 6, Battery C of the 1st Illinois lost 3 of 6, Battery D of the 1st Michigan lost 3 of 4 (after having previously lost 2) and Battery H of the 4th US lost 1 of 4.

At first glance it would seem easy to compare the fields of fire at Dyer Field to other battlefields where artillery was put to good use. One could compare the numbers of guns, the time the artillery had used to prepare their position and the amount of open ground. This would not actually be too beneficial because there are too many other variables, such as the quality of the troops on either side, the availability of support and the topography of the open ground. Some attacks against artillery had long distances to travel over relatively flat surfaces (Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg) while other attacks were much shorter but over more severe terrain (Missionary Ridge). We also would not know how long the Dyer Ridge defenses would have had to prepare as it is impossible to say how long Wood might have held Longstreet back. The numbers of guns could be compared but because there are too many other contributing factors this is a moot point.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

View From Dyer Ridge

Another panoramic, this time showing the view from the Union artillery position on dyer Ridge. This one moves right to left, south to north. Lytle Hill is on the far right of the first picture. The area where hood was wounded is in the center of the second picture. As you can see, the ground is fairly open and flat (constant slope). No swales that an attacking line could disappear in.

View of Dyer Ridge

These pictures form a panoramic moving left to right, south to north, of Dyer Ridge. Union artillery markers can be seen along the crest (no cannon are there but there are stone markers and cast iron tablets). To some extent this shows the slope and the open ground that the Confederates would have had to deal with in an attack up the ridge. These pictures were also taken near the spot where Hood was wounded, this time losing a leg.

Another of Dyer Field plus map

This is the view from roughly the middle of Dyer Field, taken from near the Dyer house. The view is looking north towards Snodgrass Hill. The south Carolina monument would be on the high ground on the far right of the picture. The slope in front of us is Dyer Ridge and was a Union artillery position. The stack of cannonballs marks Longstreet's headquarters (well after the break through).
Here's a map from Peter Cozzens' This Terrible Sound, page 366, that shows the Dyer Ridge area. The above picture was taken near the spot marked on the map for the Dyer House. The pictures from yesterday of Lytle Hill were taken in the Tan Yard area (Lytle Hill is not marked on the map but it is the high ground west of the Tan Yard on this map).

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

South Dyer

A panoramic view from Lytle Hill. These three pictures show the southern portion of Dyer Field moving right to left.

Lytle Hill

The view from Lytle Hill. Brotherton Field is directly through the trees in the center of the photo. Snodgrass Hill is out of view to the left. Lytle Hill would have been the new Union right under the previously discussed counter factual.
Looking up at Lytle Hill. The group in the previous picture was standing at the corner of the treeline on the left third of the photo.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Gap - part 6

If Wood remains in position what happens?

At some point Longstreet's weight of numbers would have likely pushed Wood's force back to the Dyer defensive line. With this visible threat to his right flank Rosecrans would have kept some men in that vicinity. It is logical to believe that once the size of Longstreet's attack had been known Rosecrans would have suspended the movement orders for Major General Philip Sheridan and Brigadier General Horatio Van Cleve's divisions and retained them in that area. This would have left Rosecrans with Crittenden's artillery, Colonel John T. Wilder's brigade and Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis, Wood, Sheridan, and Van Cleve's divisions to defend his right flank in the Dyer Ridge area. Major General Gordon Granger had Brigadier General James Steedman's two brigade division of the Reserve Corps in motion at about 1:30 PM and arrived at Snodgrass Ridge around 2:30 or 3 PM. If he had been needed at Dyer Ridge he could have been brought there soon after his arrival at Snodgrass Ridge, certainly by 3:30 P.M.

Dyer Ridge, overlooking the flat ground to the east, offers open fields of fire and a fair amount of elevation change. The distances from the Glenn-Kelly Road (which is the approximate tree line) to the defensive positions along Dyer Ridge range from 300 yards at the southern flank at Lytle Hill to 500 yards where the Union artillery was placed overlooking Dyer Field. The northern extremity of Dyer Field (where the South Carolina monument is now) is a little over 300 yards from the road. The Dyer House is also about that far from the road, while Rosecrans' headquarters is over 600 yards from the road. The elevation differences from the road to the defensive line are pretty steady at about 70 feet higher. The northern extremity of Dyer Ridge is 75 feet higher than the road, at the artillery line it is 70 feet and at Lytle Hill it is 60 feet. The Dyer house is about the same elevation as the road and Rosecrans' headquarters is about 35 feet higher. While not significant distances or heights they would offer some help to the defenders.

According to Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, the standard training manual for Civil War soldiers, the common march time was 90 steps a minute with a 28 inch stride and double quick as 165 steps a minute with a 33 inch stride. That means to cover the 300-500 yards from the road to the top of the ridge the attackers would have been under fire for 2-3 minutes of quick time or 4-7 minutes at common march. Assuming that an artillery piece could fire about 2 rounds a minute the attacking Confederates would have been subjected to approximately 4-14 rounds of canister from each gun. The supporting Union infantry would also have fired roughly the same number of volleys, perhaps a few more. The parts of the ridge that were closer to 500 yards away from the tree line would be able to fire a significant amount of canister and musketry. Other portions of the defenses would not be able to fire as much; but if Wood had previously battered Longstreet’s column, this fire might have been enough to stop that attack. Future Confederate attacks would also probably have very little artillery support as the nearby tree line would prevent them from moving much up close. It is possible that the Confederates could have put artillery in Brotherton Field and fired from that position against Dyer Ridge but, at least initially, there would have been a tree line that would have interfered with that fire.

Monday, August 6, 2007

No Civil War Today

I'm not in the mood for the Civil War today. Today my old dog (16 1/2 years old) was put to sleep. Here's a few of my favorite pictures of him. The last month or so has been rough, he's been getting thinner and having a hard time. He's had weak knees and hips for a long time. He's been mostly blind for a couple of years. And the last few days he's had a hard time breathing so we knew it was time. Its still tough to lose a friend, he's more than a dog to me, even when you know its really for the best.

Odd fact: I named him Rufus, this was before my Civil War interest began. Not sure why I named him Rufus. Later when reading about the Iron Brigade and Rufus Dawes and Rufus King it seemed somewhat ironic.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Gap - part 5

Also that morning Thomas ordered Brigadier General John Brannan's division to the left. Brannan decided not to obey the order and showed it to Reynolds, a senior officer. Reynolds told him not to obey it and Brannan said "I am not going [to], but who will take the responsibility if there should be a hereafter to this apparent disobedience of orders, for that is what it amounts to?" Reynolds replied "Of course, I will take the responsibility. You send word to Thomas what the state of affairs is here and we need have no anxiety as to any 'hereafter' to your not moving now." Brannan did send Colonel Ferdinand Van Derveer's brigade to Thomas and its a good thing that he did as Van Derveer was of great help to Thomas. Brannan and Reynolds had not been the victim of a recent Rosecrans tirade and that may be why they were willing to disobey an order.

Monday starts the discussion of Dyer Ridge, the counter factual you've all been waiting for.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Gap - a little clarification

This series of posts might be a bit hard to follow as I'm just posting a few paragraphs at a time from my original article, but I wanted to clarify a point.

I do blame Wood for his actions, but I do not think he was totally in the wrong. I think the other key actors in this drama deserve criticism, namely Rosecrans (for the faulty order to begin with) and McCook (for not taking the proper steps to fill the gap more quickly, which also can be blamed on Rosecrans to some degree). This was a very bad moment in the battle for Rosecrans, up to this time he had a sparkling career and despite being slow to begin campaigns did a wonderful job once it was started.

I hesitate to call it the main focus of the article, but in some respects I do deal a lot with the counter factual of the battle. This first started when I walk the Dyer Ridge line and started to wonder if it had been given a real chance to form what it might have been able to accomplish. That focus will become clearer a little later.

The Gap - part 4

In his testimony before the Crittenden court of inquiry Lieutenant Colonel Lyne Starling, Crittenden's chief of staff, talked about his delivery of the fateful order. One important part of his testimony was he said that he asked Rosecrans what the intent of the order was, which was standard procedure for couriers. Rosecrans informed him that it was to fill a gap on Wood’s immediate left, that Wood was to close to the left. This implies that Wood’s movement would be to just move directly to the left. When Starling told Wood the intent of the order Wood told Starling that no gap existed. Starling then said that the order was then null and void. Henry Cist in The Army of the Cumberland wrote that when Starling said the order was null that Wood said the order was quite imperative and that he would move at once. Starling then asked Wood if he would wait ten minutes for him to relay his concerns to Rosecrans. Wood said no, that he would move. In his book on Chickamauga, This Terrible Sound, Peter Cozzens says it is reported that Wood then replied he, "was glad the order was in writing, as it was a good thing to have for future reference," and "Gentlemen, I hold the fatal order of the day in my hand and would not part with it for five thousand dollars."

Earlier that morning when his division went into position at Brotherton Field, Colonel Frederick A. Bartelson of the 100th Illinois lead a charge across the LaFayette Road to attack Confederates who were then skirmishing with his men. Bartelson actually just stirred up a hornet's nest. His men ran into a Confederate battery and many were lucky to escape with their lives. Bartelson was not so lucky that day. Colonel George P. Buell then ordered four companies of the 26th Ohio to the crest of the ridge in Brotherton Field to provide covering fire for the 100th Illinois' retreat. Colonel George P. Buell's brigade would spend the rest of the morning skirmishing with Confederates. When the order came to withdraw, Buell told Wood's messenger that he could not safely make the move due to the skirmishing. Major Hammond, who had taken over the 100th Illinois, told Buell that he would face a court-martial before he would obey such a ludicrous command.

Around 11 A.M. Wood withdrew from the front lines and then moved to the left. He was thus not executing the letter of the order. In fact Brigadier General John B. Turchin said that the order was worded poorly and that the first part of the order contradicted the second part of the order. "The way things stood at the time, the order contradicted itself. The first part of it meant for General Wood to move his division to the left in the line and join Major General Joseph Reynolds, and the second meant to move it out of the line and place it in rear of Reynolds. According to the phraseology accepted in military language the order had no sense; one part of it was contradicting the other part. Why then not ascertain the meaning of it from the person who wrote the order before moving? The idea of implicitly obeying orders by such officers as commanders of divisions, without reasoning about them, is absurd." Turchin was particularly upset that Wood moved so quickly when he knew there were troops moving in his rear that needed the protection of a solid front line. To Turchin even if the order had been "plain as day", if there had been no contradiction in its wording, Wood should have delayed his movement until the movement in his rear had passed. Wood "never would have been considered derelict in his duties, if he had postponed the execution of that order until the movement of the rear brigades had been accomplished." Wood would later argue that even if he had stayed there was a gap on his right that would have caused his position to be enveloped. This gap did exist but it was created when those troops tried to fill the gap that Wood was about to make. If Wood had stayed this gap would never have been created.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Gap - response to comments

I wanted to respond to a few comments and not do it the comment section so it would be easier for all to read. [In the future if you leave a comment please leave at least your first name so I get to know some of you better]

Earlier someone responded that the "the verbal rebuke you refer to on Sep 20 is a fictionalized account." I didn't mean to state that it was a fact, in fact I gave Wood a chance to respond to this story. And I stated that the Sept 20 rebuke story comes from Cist originally and there are no footnotes to clarify where he got the story. [This commenter said the story comes from EV Westrate's "Those Fatal Generals" but the only copy I saw online has a 1936 copyright and Cist's 1882 copyright definitely makes it the earlier version.] What is clear though is that Rosecrans and Wood were not on the best of terms. This comes from the OR. I discussed an incident in early September, but what I left out appeared in my footnotes. Wood was upset with Rosecrans to the point of writing a 6 page letter explaining that he didn't mean the wording of the blind adherence to the details of the plan. That he thought he was acting within the framework of the plan and that he would obey any direct orders. On September 7 he covered this point and many others in detail in a long letter to Rosecrans (6 pages in the OR). In forwarding this letter to head quarters Crittenden endorsed it that he thought Wood vindicated himself from charges that were not made and the only charge Crittenden had made had only been refuted imperfectly. Wood saw this on the 8th and wrote to Rosecrans again that Crittenden's endorsement was enough for him and then went on for two more pages to try to more perfectly vindicate himself. Rosecrans finally responded to this note with the comment that he was missing too much information, information that Wood's reconnaissance should have provided.

Wood seems that he was quick to pick up on any slight, and slow to drop any point. I'd imagine he was still upset, to some degree, ten days later. If Rosecrans said anything to him I'm sure he took it as another rebuke. We'll probably never know for sure what/if Rosecrans said anything to Wood on the 20th. But also keep in mind that it was in Wood's best interests (just for the historical record) to say there never was a Sept 20th rebuke. His actions after that would seem particularly petty.

That same comment about the 20th rebuke being fiction also mentioned that the order was marked gallop and thus meant Wood had to act ASAP. An earlier comment also said much the same thing and cited a dissertation by Manville. The problem with this gets back to the blind adherence to orders. Wood has been engaged with the Confederates since nearly the moment he got into position, and not just minor skirmishing. The 100th Illinois has kicked up a huge hornets' nest. Its clear that something is in the works, when the attack might come is anyone's guess but this is not a quiet sector. The officers I've talked to have said that even if an order is marked ASAP there is some discretion allowed a division commander. A company commander is expected to move ASAP but a division commander has the power to delay the movement long enough to inform his commander that the conditions in the order do not exist (there is no gap for Wood to fill) and that his own sector is very active.

As to why Wood was never brought up on charges I think its as simple as he did provide good service on Snodgrass Hill. Rosecrans, Crittenden and McCook all abandoned the army. Wood stayed and fought. I think if Rosecrans had made his way back to Thomas and sent Garfield to Chattanooga he might have kept his job. As simple as that sounds I think that's a big factor.

Park Visitation

Nice article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press today about how the park service is hoping to combat declining park visitation numbers. A few ideas on how to make the parks more appealing to the younger crowd (using your wireless device to access a virtual ranger instead of the traditional wayside exhibits). Plus some stuff about why park numbers are declining.
Check out whole article at: