Thursday, August 2, 2007

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.


Dave Powell said...


I think you have to parse very carefully between Starling's testimony and Cist's additions.

In his Testimony Starling does not say that Wood moved without waiting. In fact, he hints at just the opposite.

1) Starling testified that Garfield, not Rosecrans, explained the intent of the order.

2) Starling rode to Wood, who told him Brannan had not moved. Starling then said "there was no order."

3) Starling then says he rode back to Rosecrans. Starling says nothing about Wood refusing to wait or moving immediately. He also says nothing about McCook present at this time.

4) Starling rode back to Army HQ and reported that Wood should not be moved, commenting on his "nice little breastwork" in Brotherton Field.

Now it gets really confusing. After reporting to Rosecrans and offering up the opinion that Wood should stay put, Starling then rode with Crittenden to see VAn Cleve, then in line east of the Glenn-Kelly Road, and north of the Dyer Road.

4) while with Crittenden and Van Cleve, Starling noted word from Thomas asking for more aid, and the Decision to send Van Cleve north.

5) Now starling rides back to Wood to find his "exact position." He finds Wood about 100 yards eastward - Wood has not moved yet.

6) More importantly, Now McCook is with him. Starling brings McCook to see Crittenden, and Wood also apparently at this time sends word to Crittenden that he (Wood) has received orders direct from Rosecrans to move.

7) Starling now only references McCook's offer to cover the gap in passing, noting that before McCook could move, Van Cleve's men were falling into confusion.

This sequence is at odds with what Cist recorded. It certainly does not square with the idea that Wood moved at once. It is consistant with the idea that Wood moved on McCook's approval, since Starling makes reference to such a move.

Dave Powell

Anonymous said...

I think I am related to Frederick Bartelson as the last name is uncommon. Can you tell me more about him and where he is from?