Saturday, June 30, 2007

Perryville - opening attack

The battle of Perryville began as a fight over water. The fall of 1862 was a dry time in Kentucky. Doctor's Creek was little more than pools of water, not really a creek anymore. As the Union army came into position, with a plan to attack the next day when the whole army was in place, sharp skirmishing broke out along the creek bed as both sides tried to gain control of the important water.

Here is the Union's view of Doctor's Creek. The H. P. Bottom house can be seen just to the right of the road on the Union (west) side of the creek. Also of note the Perryville state park has recently acquired battlefield land that was later called Sleettown. I have yet to see it on a map but I'm pretty sure the land is the high ground across the creek from this position.
Today the creek is much more impressive than it was in October 1862.
And a view from the creek looking up at the Union positions on the hill.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I've always heard that Manassas is a difficult place to tour and I'd agree with them to a point. As the pictures show there is a ton of traffic through the heart of the battlefield. It seems if you stay off the Warrenton Turnpike (currently Lee Highway US 29) and the Sudley Road (currently state highway 234) you should be fine. These two pictures show the Warrenton Turnpike and it was somewhat difficult to get on and off this highway. Luckily people did allow us on and off when we needed, primarily because they were facing bumper to bumper traffic and thus allowing one more car space wasn't the end of the world. Unfortunately there are not many side roads in the park so you will be on these two main roads a lot for touring. When Mike and I left the park in April we took a side road near the Stone Bridge to get back towards Leesburg and it eventually turned into a gravel road. It was pretty weird to be that close to all that traffic and be on a gravel road.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stonewall Monument

A few views of the Stonewall monument.

In this shot the Bee monument can be seen on the far right. The Bartow monument is just below the crest of the hill on the left side.

The most muscular horse and rider that ever existed.
With his arms back, chest stuck out, and the cape of his jacket pushed back Stonewall looks more like Superman.
Despite the sun glare Stonewall can be seen on the far left and the Henry House is on the far right. The old patriots monument is between us and the house so it is not visible (due to the shadows) but it is in the shot.

Monday, June 25, 2007

1st Manassas Monuments

There is also a grouping of 1st Manassas monuments, these are located on Henry House Hill near the Visitor's Center. There are four monuments here, below are three of them (the fourth will be the subject of the next post).

This monument marks where General Barnard Elliott Bee was killed while trying to rally his troops. He also uttered the famous remark, "There stands Jackson like a stonewall, rally behind the Virginians." Whether Bee intended it as a compliment or insult is unknown as he was soon after killed. Popular legend has made it a compliment but Bee might have been upset that Jackson hadn't come to his aid.
Near the Bee monument is a monument marking where Brigadier General Francis Stebbings Bartow was mortally wounded. According to the monument he was the first Confederate officer to give his life on the field, but surely they must mean the first general officer as I'm sure some lieutenants and captains probably died before a brigadier general did. The Stonewall monument can be seen in the background.
Finally, the oldest of the monuments on the field. This simple monument stands next to the Henry House and the simple inscription is "In memory of the patriots who fell at Bull Run July 21, 1861." That would be Union patriots.

2nd Manassas Monuments

These three monuments are all New York monuments. Fittingly they are along NY Ave, which is just south of the Groveton Cemetery and west of Young's Branch and Chinn Ridge. They would have been along the Union left flank on August 30, 1862 and were attacked by Longstreet's corps.

The 5th New York, Duryee Zouaves, suffered brutal losses in briefly holding this ridge. The park brochure claims a loss of 123 men killed. The monument puts the killed at 124, plus 223 wounded, out of just 462 men in action. This loss occurred in five minutes along this ridge, which the monument claims as the greatest loss of life in any single regiment in any battle of the war.
Near the 5th New York's monument is the 10th New York, National Zouaves, monument. A complete breakdown of casualties is not given on the monument except to say that they lost a third of the regiment, including 31 killed or mortally wounded.
Along the Warrenton Turnpike just west of NY Ave is the monument to the 14th New York State Militia, 84th New York Volunteers, also known as the Brooklyn regiment. It does not detail what the regiment did that day or its losses, except to say that during its service it lost about 600 men killed and wounded. That is somewhat odd because regiments usually list losses much more exactly on monuments.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Historic Photos of Gettysburg by John S Salmon

I recently received a copy of Historic Photos of Gettysburg by John S Salmon for review. It is mainly a picture book with some text, and captions of course. I liked it but not being a Gettysburg guy I wasn't sure if a Gettysburg nut would find it as interesting. Are there enough new photos to appeal to a Gettysburg guy? So I let my buddy Ian look through it and he said that there was quite a few new photos. More importantly he thought it was worth the $40 price tag.

In looking through it I only found two mistakes. The first is that the captions on pages 59, 64 and 65 don't quite mesh. The person identified as Captain John Hoff on 59 is not the same person as the person identified as Captain John Hoff on 65. The page 59 Hoff looks like the person on page 64 that is simply identified as an identified clerk of Hoff's.

The second mistake is on page 150 when Salmon says that "It was Howard, having directed much of the Union side of the battle on July 1, who selected the ridge as the Federal fallback position." I would disagree that Howard directed much of the Union side on July 1. I don't believe he ever offered much direction to the 1st Corps and once the troops rallied on Cemetery Hill Hancock was on the scene so Howard only had to direct troops on his half of the line. Second, I don't think Howard selected the ridge as the fallback position. Buford and Reynolds also saw the defensive potential of Cemetery Hill and while Howard was the first to leave troops for its defense I don't think we can say he selected the ridge as the fallback position.

The book is broken into four sections: the battle, dedication and remembrance, the 50th reunion and the 75th reunion. The battle photos are mainly photos that we've seen in Frassanito. I didn't compare the books side by side to see if this book has anything that Frassanito missed but I doubt Frassanito missed much. The rest of the photos are what really sets this book apart and makes it a worthwhile purchase. Two of my favorites are on pages 141 and 155. Both feature an equestrian statue with a metal sign that says to stay off the mound (apparently a huge earth mound had been built before the statue was placed). And in each photo there are veterans milling all around the statue. They probably figured that they fought for that ground and they were not about to let some sign keep them away from what they had bleed for.

On page 196 is a great quote from FDR at the unveiling of the Peace Memorial at the 75th Reunion:
"Men who wore the blue and men who wore the gray are here together, a fragment spared by time. They are brought here by the memories of old divided loyalties, but they meet here in united loyalty to a united cause which the unfolding years have made it easier to see. All of them we honor, not asking under which flag they fought then - thankful that they stand together under one flag now." I wonder how many of the Confederates in the audience bristled at those comments.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Stone Bridge

The Stone Bridge over Bull Run. One of the main tour stops for its role in the battle. When this picture was taken this past April a more appropriate name for the creek would be Muddy Run. I apologize for there not being much of a posting this weekend (nothing yesterday and this minor effort today) but in the near future I hope to answer a challenge presented by Jenny over at Draw the Sword. The other day she posted a wonderful question about how in summarizing 1st Manassas Douglas Southall Freeman says that 51 men in the Confederate army at Manassas became generals (or already were) and that "eight, were to prove plainly unqualified for the final grade they reached; nine were to show themselves of low capacity to command; seventeen could be regarded as average soldiers; the remaining seventeen were to be renowned." Jenny challenges us to figure out who in the list was renowned, incompetent, etc. I thought I'd take a stab at it and hope to have something here by the end of the week. Jenny's whole post can be viewed at:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Iron Brigade at 2nd Manassas

One of the reasons I wanted to stop at Manassas is because it is where the Iron Brigade (and yes I know there are something like 5 different Iron Brigades, but I'm referring to the brigade that eventually consisted of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana and 24th Michigan) first proved its mettle. They were part of the forces looking for Stonewall Jackson's suddenly disappearing force. And near dark on August 28, 1862 they found it the hard way. Both sides stood close together and traded volleys, with neither side really gaining an upper hand. It would not be the last time these two famous forces faced each other on a battlefield. A good book on the first fight of the Iron Brigade is Alan Gaff's "Brave Men Tears: The Iron Brigade at Brawner's Farm." There is also a good book on how the Stonewall Brigade and the Iron Brigade ended up facing each other quite a few times, it is Jeffry Wert's "A Brotherhood of Valor"

We didn't end up getting to walk around this area much as the sun was starting to set and we still had a long drive to Petersburg ahead of us that day. The first picture is Battery B, 4th US Artillery's position near Brawner's Farm. And the nearby plaque that helps explain what the battery did here.
Along the tree line in front of the guns is a marker to the 76th New York, which formed on the right of the Iron Brigade.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Railroad Cut at 2nd Manassas

During my April road trip to Maryland and other nearby sites Mike and I also stopped at Manassas. I had earlier mentioned our visit but had not posted pictures because to better tell the story of the battle my pictures would also have to come from an October 2004 trip. At the time of my first post I did not want to overlap two groups of pictures, but now I've come to the conclusion that its better to overlap than have nothing.

These pictures were taken along the railroad cut. Only the second picture was from the April 2007 trip.

Here is dad in the cut in front of Archer's Brigade. The tablet, with a time of 5:30 PM on August 29, reads:
"As my leading files entered the railroad cut, I saw the enemy advancing up it from the left. I ordered the 1st Tennessee to fire, which it did with great effect. This first fire was answered by a furious assault upon my whole front. For 20 minutes or more we gallantly resisted the attack until other troops came up in time to save me from being flanked."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Some final Shiloh observations

As you may have guessed I have finished my series of posts on the the critical decisions of the Shiloh campaign. Some things that surprised me; there was very little done on the second day that can be termed critical. In fact there are not many critical decisions made during the battle. Most of the critical decisions are made prior to the battle. Also the Union tends to make few bad decisions while the Confederates seem to make few good decisions. Some of this is dumb luck and I really hate to make a blanket statement that the Union just had more good commanders, but at Shiloh this seems to be the case. Confederates who will eventually have pretty good careers tend to have off days at Shiloh, while the Union gets some good days out of commanders who end up with lackluster careers.

I found this exercise quite helpful in examining a battle and will probably do it again down the road. The trap of studying a battle, or the war, is that you let your 21st century ideas influence your opinions of an event. Distances, minutes and miles, seem much shorter now. When a general or unit takes awhile to do something we are often quick to criticise and blame. But often if you can look at what they did with what was available you will come to a different conclusion, not always but this is often the case. Eventually I think I would like to try this approach on Perryville, that is a battle that has recently caught my attention after two visits this past year. It is a battlefield I want to study in depth and then take a long trip there to really get the feel of the land.

Also with hindsight we can see that a decision someone agonized over wasn't as important as they feared. We now know Beauregard didn't have the vast army that Halleck was afraid of in May 1862 as he closed in on Corinth, but if we study what Halleck knew and what he had to work with we might come to a different conclusion. I can cut Halleck some slack because he was worried about the possibility of another high casualty battle like Shiloh was. I am more critical of his decision after Corinth to stop the advance and be content with what was gained, I realize he had a ton of new territory to defend, but he had so many men that some sort of advance was possible. That of course though is a discussion for another day.

This is not my final Shiloh post, just the last post in the Critical Decisions of Shiloh series. I'm sure I will post about Shiloh again in the future, maybe soon, maybe not for awhile.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Lack of Union pursuit after Shiloh

On April 8 Grant sent out a small pursuit party under Sherman to see what the Confederates were up to. Sherman was repulsed at Fallen Timbers. This ended the Union pursuit. As stated earlier the purpose of Grant’s army being at Pittsburg Landing was be in a position to capture Corinth. Both Grant and Beauregard’s armies had suffered severely at Shiloh; casualties on a scale that the country had never experienced before. On April 11 Halleck arrived to take command of the combined Union force. Pope's army would be brought over to Pittsburg Landing after its capture of Island No. 10. After April 11 Halleck had a relatively fresh army under Buell to tip the odds in his favor. An immediate advance, by a general who was willing to attack the Confederates at Corinth, probably would have resulted in a major victory. Halleck was too worried about long casualty lists to risk an attack that might bring a major victory but also a large casualty count.

Grant’s other options were to have used many more men in the pursuit, Buell’s Army of the Ohio had not been too bloodied on April 7. Also Grant could have decided after Sherman returned to make a larger pursuit on April 9. Though it is well after the battle of Shiloh it is possible that Halleck could have ordered a pursuit of the Confederates soon after his arrival on April 11.

Grant mainly didn’t pursue because he didn’t feel he could order Buell to do it and because he knew that Halleck wanted to avoid another battle. Halleck was on his way to Pittsburg Landing to take overall command. If Grant had made a large scale pursuit on April 8 or 9 he probably would have captured large numbers of Confederates and that might have softened the news of his own large casualties in the battle. There is also a possibility that if Grant had captured a large number of Confederates on April 8 it may have convinced Halleck to start the Corinth campaign sooner, move faster and attack. Halleck might have been able to score a major victory at Corinth that included the capture of a portion of Beauregard’s army as well as the strategic rail junction. Considering how cautious Halleck was it is unlikely that anything would have made him move faster and attack.

The Confederates would have been able to rest somewhat before Halleck's army arrived. There were also fortifications around Corinth that were made stronger every day. Halleck had a superiority of numbers though and probably could have taken Corinth with light to moderate losses.

It is a critical decision to not pursue. There were very good reasons not to pursue but there were also good reasons to pursue. Every day the Confederates have to strengthen Corinth means it will take m ore men to capture it. Halleck wants to avoid casualties and rather than rush into a risky battle he chooses to march slowly and continuously entrench so that he cannot be attacked.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

After wishing my mother a happy mother's day a month ago with a picture of my parents at Chickamauga, my dad's comment was "who is the old guy?" So here's a better picture of my dad for father's day. He's probably only a few years apart in the two pictures but there's less visible gray in this one. I poke a lot of fun at dad but I love him. This picture was taken at Fort Pillow.

Forrest’s charge at Fallen Timbers

After the battle the Union made a pursuit with a small force under Sherman. At Fallen Timbers Forrest led an impromptu charge against this small force with roughly 400 cavalrymen. Forrest cut right through the Union lines in the charge. This small event caused Sherman to halt the pursuit and return to his camps. The Union made no other pursuit. Forrest was clearly outnumbered but he made his charge hoping to stop the Union, just like he did. The Fallen Timbers site had a lot of felled trees which would hinder movement and this seemed like the place to halt the Union.

Forrest could have tried some other way to halt the Union. In retrospect we can see that Sherman probably would have stopped at his first resistance. There are any number of ways Forrest could have halted Sherman. A few cannon may have been enough to convince Sherman to halt the pursuit. The way Forrest ended the pursuit was dramatic but it could have ended much less dramatically.

Its a significant action but one that is not critical because the Confederate rear guard would have done something to halt this small pursuit. Forrest just ended the pursuit in dramatic fashion.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Beauregard ordering withdrawal on April 7

Around 2 P.M. on April 7 Beauregard decided that his army had done all they could. He realized that continuing the fight would only risk the possibility of his army routing from the battlefield so he ordered a retreat from the field.

Beauregard could have decided to stick it out as long as possible. If the Confederates had continued to hold their ground they probably would have been destroyed. Two more brigades of Buell's army had just arrived on the battlefield and were moving towards the front. The longer Beauregard stayed the more he risked the destruction of his army without much possibility of achieving a great victory.

The risks far outweighed any possible rewards so it is wise that Beauregard decided to retreat. This qualifies as a critical decision because if he had stayed the Confederate army would have probably dissolved.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Confederate failure to prepare for a second day of fighting

As was discussed in the Forrest expedition section the Confederates made little effort to prepare for a second day of battle. Many units retreated to the Union camps to find food and use the tents. Some units slept in line of battle where they ended the first day. Polk gathered some of his corps and retreated to their camp of the previous night well south of the battlefield. Beauregard shared a tent with Bragg so they probably discussed some ideas for the next day but there was no command council held to share information and plans. This disorganization does not allow Beauregard to effectively deal with the Union advance early on April 7.

The simple solution would have been to gather his commanders that night to discuss plans for the next day. The council of war would have been able to make a few easy decisions that would have changed the start of the second day of battle. The first would have been to arrange troops logically within the battlefield, not having some up front, some in the Union camps and some miles to the rear. Forrest might have been able to present his information about the arrival of Buell's army at such a meeting. A decision about whether to retreat or do something else could have been made.

Ignoring the possibility of a second day was a critical decision and a mistake. This is very similar to Grant thinking that the Confederates would not venture out of Corinth to attack him.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Forrest’s scouting expedition of April 6-7

There was little use for cavalry during the battle. The battlefield is mostly woods with scattered fields. At the end of the first day's fighting Forrest moved forward and gained a good vantage point on some old Indian mounds to watch the landing. He saw Buell's army coming across the river to swell Grant's ranks. He knew that Beauregard needed this information right away so that he could either order a night attack or prepare for a morning retreat. He was unable to find Beauregard but did find Hardee. Hardee refused to do anything about the information.

Hardee and Forrest should have known where to find Beauregard. They both should have been in contact with Johnston/Beauregard throughout the day. There is no alternate decision here because there is no way to find Beauregard to let him make a decision. Also Hardee decides not to make the decision for Beauregard.

The fact that Forrest made a reconnaissance is not a battle altering decision, that is exactly what cavalry should be doing. His efforts to share this information are dealt with in the Confederate preparations for a second day of fighting. Hardee's decision to do nothing about the information is critical because he could have made a decision to get at least part of the army ready for a second day of battle. Hardee should have realized that Beauregard was not doing anything to prepare for a second day and that he was the only one with the important information about Buell. Forrest's decision to stop looking for Beauregard is also critical because his information is so important. Forrest never did contact Beauregard because once the attack starts the value of the information was severely diminished. On the other hand the Union advance starts so early on April 7 that there is probably very little Beauregard could have done differently if he had received the information around the time of the Union advance.

Beauregard calling off final attack on April 6

As the Confederates prepared to attack the Dill Branch line late on April 6 an order arrived from Beauregard calling off the attack. He claimed the "battle sufficiently won," though Bragg made the very good point that no battle is ever sufficiently won.

Either Beauregard could have sent an order giving more discretion to the front line commander or rode there himself to view the situation. If the Confederates had attacked the Dill Branch line until sunset or losses caused them to stop instead of an order they probably would not have achieved much beyond lengthening the casualty lists.

It is debatable what a concerted attack on the Dill Branch line might have achieved but it is doubtful that this attack would have succeeded. There were few Confederates in the assault and the sun was setting. This is not a decision effecting the course or outcome of the battle.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hurlbut and WHL Wallace move early

Hurlbut and WHL Wallace moved towards the sound of firing without waiting for orders from Grant. They took up positions on the left and right flank respectively of what would be become the Sunken Road defenses. Both start moving around 9 AM which is about the moment Grant arrives at the Landing. Even though they had not moved before Grant arrived they were ready to move. This is a big step as Civil War regiments cannot be made ready in mere moments, it takes awhile to get a regiment ready, much less brigades or divisions.

If they had waited for orders they might have come into those positions too late and would have had to form a line closer to the landing. Forming a line closer to the landing would have changed that element of the defense. Except for Dill Branch there was very little good defensive ground between the Sunken Road and the landing. If they had been routed from the Dill Branch line it would have proved disastrous. Also if they had initially formed a line along Dill Branch that would have allowed the Confederates to strike Sherman and McClernand’s divisions on the left flank.

Forming a line along the Sunken Road allowed time for a last line of defense to be created. It also protected the left flank of Sherman and McClernand. It is a critical decision for Hurlbut and WHL Wallace to move without orders and secure a defensive line.

This post is a bit out of order. Sorry about that, I wanted to check something before posting it and in the meantime I forged on with other Shiloh posts.

Vicksburg landscape

It looks like Vicksburg is taking its first tentative steps towards altering the landscape back to 1863. I was at Gettysburg in April and the tree cuttings have made an incredible change in touring the park. Now Vicksburg is starting down the same path. Of course this starts with public hearings so it'll be quite awhile until chainsaws make their appearance but this is a great sign.

I was last at Vicksburg about 7 years ago and it was difficult to get a feel for the fighting because there are so many trees in between the lines. In one area they had cleared out all the trees and it was an amazing view. Unfortunately this was before I got a digital camera so there are no pictures to share, so you'll just have to believe me that the change is amazing.

Complete story at:

Monday, June 11, 2007

Prentiss holds to the last

When Grant toured his divisions during the morning he told Prentiss to hold the Sunken Road to the last man. Prentiss followed these orders completely. He did not try to get out of there until he was flanked on both sides. Very few of his men got away as the Confederates closed in from all sides.

Prentiss could have pulled his men out earlier. The most logical time to leave was probably when Hurlbut retreated from his left flank. This happened at a time when the fighting in his front had diminished so it probably appeared that he was safe until reports of the retreat on the left became known.

If Prentiss had pulled his men out when Hurlbut did he might have been able to prevent the capture of roughly 2300 Union soldiers. This may have allowed the Confederates to make a more coordinated assault on the Dill Branch line as historically they lost some of their manpower to gathering up prisoners. Of course the Dill Branch would also have been stronger by those 2300 men.

Prentiss’ staying in position until the bitter end did cause the capture of a large number of Union soldiers but it also delayed the Confederate attack on Dill Branch by at least a half hour. It is debatable if the Dill Branch line could be breached but giving the Confederates more time to try it would not be a good thing. It is a critical decision because it cost the Confederates valuable daylight, which at this point was worth more than manpower.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Lew Wallace’s marching formation

When Lew Wallace was informed he was on the wrong road he performed a counter march so that his best brigade stayed at the front of the formation. The first courier to Wallace had said that the Union was doing well but by the time the courier arrived that informed him of the better route (or rather the only route now available) the day had turned against the Union. Wallace was now informed that he might have to rescue the rest of the army from a dire situation. If the army was really in such a dire situation it makes sense to put the best brigade at the head of the column. If he would have had to fight his way across the bridge or go into combat soon after that he would need his best men up front.

His other option was to about face the entire division. If Wallace had been marching straight into combat it would have been important to have the best brigade attack first. If he had performed an about face he would have arrived on the battlefield a little earlier but probably not in time to take part in the battle that day.

Since Wallace stood little chance of seeing combat after taking the wrong road the reverse march does not rate as a critical decision. The net result of Wallace taking the slower method of turning around was just the time lost. Wallace cannot be faulted for his decision to counter march because he had just been told that the fate of the army might rest on his shoulders. Having the best men up front was now more important than the time saved by about facing the entire division.

I would also like to add that even though above I refer to Wallace being on the wrong road I'm not in total agreement with that, see the most recent post about Wallace, as Wallace knew of two roads from his position to the main encampment. One road had already been selected as the route Sherman would take to help Wallace. The shoe was on the other foot so Wallace took that road. Once Sherman has had to abandon that bridge Wallace's route is the worse option. Perhaps if the first courier had said the situation was particularly bad Wallace would have taken the route that put him behind the Union army and would have allowed Grant to place him where ever he needed him. Overall I think Wallace has taken too much grief for decisions that were not bad decisions based on the info he had.

Another thing to note is that, from what we can decipher, Grant's orders were not crystal clear. Everyone was learning on the fly. In the future Grant's orders will be much clearer, this is one lesson he took from Shiloh. If Shiloh had been an 1864, or even an 1863, battle it would have been fought much differently. I don't mean entrenchments and the like, just that command and control issues would have worked much more smoothly, orders would have been better. Veterans at all levels would have behaved differently. This is one aspect of Shiloh that interests me, the rawness of the troops and commanders and how they all acted. A great book on this aspect is Seeing the Elephant: Raw Recruits at Shiloh by Joseph Allan Frank & George A. Reaves.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

John Davis - Medal of Honor

On Memorial Day weekend the Rocky Mountain News ran an article about a Medal of Honor winner (First Sergeant Maximo Yabes for actions Feb 26, 1967 in Vietnam) buried in Fort Logan National Cemetery, the closest national cemetery to my house. A sidebar said that 2 other Medal of Honor winners were buried in the cemetery; Major William E. Adams for actions May 25, 1971 in Vietnam, and Private John Davis of the 17th Indiana Mounted Infantry for the tiny battle of Culloden, Georgia in April 1865.

This last one especially intrigued me and wasn't until today that I was able to get out there to see the headstone. In truth Davis is not buried there, his headstone is "In Memory." Apparently Davis's original burial site near Cotopaxi, Colorado, is no longer in existence and at some point someone placed this memorial stone to honor a Medal of Honor winner.

In the meantime I've also done a bit of research on the battle of Culloden. Amazingly the date of the battle in unknown. I've seen three different dates given in late April 1865 but from other evidence it seems to me that April 19 was the most likely date of the battle. The battle itself was a minor event. A part of James Wilson's force, on its way to Macon, encountered the Worrill Grays near Culloden. The Worrill Grays numbered less than 200 men, but held off a superior force for about two hours. Near the close of the engagement two men in the 17th Indiana Mounted Infantry captured the Worrill Grays' flag. Aaron R. Hudson of Company C and John Davis of Company F were both awarded Medals of Honor for this capture.

The Worrill Grays was a company of old men and boys in 1865 though it had earlier been Company D of the 6th Georgia State Troops. They disbanded in April 1862 and the men mostly went into the 32nd Georgia's Co. B. Their flag would have been retired but somehow it ended up back in service in 1865. [Most of the info in this paragraph came from Greg Biggs, he also provided the picture of the flag shown below]

Another unique aspect of Davis' memorial is that the lettering is gold while the standard is black. It turned out okay in the picture, the gold should be visible.

Near Davis' memorial headstone was this memorial headstone for Private John William Gribble of the 10th Tennessee Cavalry. I was intrigued and will end up researching him to find out the story behind this memorial. I did not see any other Civil War veteran headstones.
Just a view of Fort Logan National Cemetery.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Lew Wallace taking the wrong road

The area between Savannah and Corinth can be thought of as a rough triangle with Purdy in the northwest corner forming a right angle. Purdy is roughly 22 miles north of Corinth and 20 miles west of Savannah. The camps around Pittsburg Landing are about 25 miles from Corinth along the longest leg of the triangle. Roughly halfway between Savannah and Purdy is Adamsville, one of Lew Wallace's brigades was camped here. Another brigade was two miles east at Stoney Lonesome and the third brigade was two more miles east at Crump's Landing. Savannah is about 2 more miles to the east.

The road network in this area consisted of a few good roads and many small paths utilized by local farmers. The largest road in the area was the Corinth Road which traveled the long leg of the triangle from the landing to Corinth. The Hamburg-Savannah Road went north-south along the river connecting those two points on the river by land and passed right through the Union camps and is also referred to as the River Road. Hamburg and Purdy were also connected and this road was the third major road to bisect the battlefield. Each of Wallace's brigades had a road that lead from their position to the battlefield.

The road from Crump's Landing was the River Road. The road from Adamsville angled to the southeast and joined with the River Road just north of Snake Creek. The road from Stoney Lonesome, called the Shunpike, angled to the southwest until it was clear of Snake Creek, then it turned south and intersected the Hamburg-Purdy Road.

It the weeks before the battle the Union commanders were more worried about the Confederates striking Wallace's exposed division than the major camps. Sherman and Wallace had decided to use the Hamburg-Purdy Road and the Shunpike in case of attack. They had corduroyed sections of the road to keep it dry so that it would be ready for any emergency. When Wallace was given orders to come to the aid of the army he decided to take the path Sherman had intended to take to help him. There is, and was, some debate over whether or not those initial orders stated which road to take. The only copy of the order has long since been lost so that is a mystery we'll never solve. The route Wallace choose would bring him onto Sherman's right flank, as long as he was able to hold onto the Owl Creek bridge. Sherman though was unable to hold onto the bridge and Wallace did not learn that the path was blocked until well into his march. Unless he wanted to try to cut his way through the Confederate army, an idea he later said he thought about (but probably didn't), he would have to back track and take the River Road to reach Grant's army.

Wallace could have taken the river road and arrived closer to the landing. If Wallace had taken the river road he would arrived somewhere around 2-3 P.M. He would have then been able to re-enforce any of the troubled areas. These fresh units might have been enough to prevent the capture of Prentiss’s Sunken Road defenders.

If Wallace had arrived earlier he could have turned the tide of combat on day one. This delay was critical, however, knowing what Wallace knew it was not a bad decision to take the route he best knew.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

New Lincoln note

As mentioned on a few other blogs earlier this week the National Archives said they would unveil a newly found note written by Lincoln. Today was the unveiling, and what was this long lost note? Nothing more than the original version of a message that was telegraphed to Meade after Gettysburg. The text has been known forever, now we have the original note Lincoln gave to Halleck to telegraph to Meade. Interesting? Sure. Exciting? Not really.
Check out full story with pictures of the note at (

Union forms a final line on April 6

As the battle progressed it became clear to Grant that a fall back line was needed. He gave this task to his chief of artillery, Colonel Webster. This final line utilized whatever available artillery was nearby, including some siege guns that were intended to be used at Corinth. As units retreated from other portions of the battlefield they further filled in the last line. By the time the Confederates attacked it late in the day it was very strong and they were unable to breach the line.

Grant could have decided that a fall back line was not necessary. He could have decided to send every available unit back to the front. He could have just relied on his commanders to rally their men when they fell back to the landing.

If the line had not been made it would have probably had severe repercussions when the Confederates made their attack on the Dill Branch line. By giving retreating units a safe place to halt, it was easier to rally those men. It is possible that they could have continued north until they felt safe before stopping. A reserve line studded with cannon helped them feel safe where Grant needed them most.

This was an important decision but not a critical one because it seems obvious to create a fall back line. Any competent commander should have built a last line, especially in a situation where there were no more fallback points. North of Pittsburg Landing there are not any other obvious fallback positions, if needed the Union would have found something but probably nothing as good as the line along Dill Branch. Grant made a good decision but because of his situation, terrain and otherwise, it was not critical because it was so obvious. If he had made the opposite decision that would have been a critical decision, and a mistake.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Thanks for the encouragement

Just a quick note to thank everyone for the encouragement over the last two days after my post about publishing travails. It was good to see that. I'll keep everyone posted in the future about my projects. Maybe one of them will show up in your local bookstore and you can say you knew me when I started a little blog. :)

One of the better lines of encouragement came from Laurie Chambliss's This Week in Blogs. I got a chuckle from this line: "Nick's own prospective book has hit a bump in the road due to conflicting opinions from two manuscript reviewers. We trust this is just a Lew Wallace moment and it will be straightened out shortly to make a dramatic appearance, later than expected but at just the right moment after all."

Thanks to everyone.

Confederate commitment to Hornet’s Nest

In one particular portion of the Union's Sunken Road defenses it came to be known as the Hornets' Nest. This was an area that the Confederates assaulted about 7 times. Some sources have listed as many as 12 charges in this area but 7 is probably closer to the truth. None of these assaults drove the Union from this area. It was not until the Union flank near the Peach Orchard was turned that this sector had to retreat. In retrospect it seems clear that the Confederates devoted too much attention to this area.

It seems clear that at some point Johnston, or some other high ranking general, should have stopped these attacks and put these men to better use in another area of the battlefield. Some men would have had to stay opposite the Hornet's Nest so that the Union did not advance from there or shift troops elsewhere. There would have been some Confederates freed up to make attacks on either of the flanks of the Sunken Road. This may have allowed the Confederates to turn those flanks earlier and given them more time to attack elsewhere.

This was a critical decision because it should have been clear after the second or third assault that this position was not going to be taken by frontal assault. The Confederates would have been put to better use elsewhere on the battlefield.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Publishing Travails

I'm not sure if I've talked about it much on here before but I am working with the University of Tennessee Press on a few projects. I'm not going to discuss projects on here in any sort of detail, a little tip a published friend of mine gave me. Yesterday I got back the second review of my Shiloh manuscript and it was pretty negative. This was not really a surprise as I had talked with the publisher the week before and he had already given me the recap. So even though I knew it was going to be negative I'm still a bit bummed and not in the mood to do much of a post today.

What really is the difficult part of this is that in the packet was another review, it actually was that reviewer's second review of the manuscript. And his review was extremely positive. He had a few changes to make, mostly it was about things that I'm pretty sure are not public knowledge but that he knew from his own research. And that's fine, I'm all for making changes and tweaking things. But the second reviewer's comments and changes were basically a complete overhaul of the manuscript, changing what it was all about. He was envisioning a completely different book than what I was working on. Plus some of things that had been added because of comments from the first reviewer were not liked by the second reviewer. Not sure how I would change those. Both reviewers have solid reputations, the first reviewer does have quite a bit more published, so its not clear cut whose comments should get precedence.

Plus some of his comments were essentially lies, he said I would not be able to use a particular map and said that since I wouldn't be able to use it the whole manuscript seemed plagiarised. I actually know the mapmaker and have his permission to use his map with some alterations we discussed. So I knew I was on solid ground but the reviewer had no idea of this arrangement and instead of just pointing out that permission would need to be granted he said that he knew I wouldn't get that permission. So that was very annoying. Go ahead and tell me where the facts are wrong, or what interpretations you don't agree with, but don't make up stuff.

Also the way he was talking about the book he envisioned it made me wonder if he hasn't already thought of something along these lines, that maybe his negative reaction was partly fueled in response to someone else beating him to the punch on one of his ideas. I just have a hard time believing that my manuscript was as bad as he says after reading the two reviews from the first reviewer, plus comments from my publisher. Those other reviews and comments were pretty positive, in fact the first reviewer's recommendation was to go ahead and publish the manuscript with or without his most recent comments. So to then see the other reviewer say to never publish it seems quite odd. One of the reviewers is wrong, of course my instinct is that the favorable reviewer was right.

In any case the manuscript is dead for now. I'll probably rework it down the road but not for awhile. That also means I will most likely need to find a different publisher for this project. UT is still interested in some of my other projects so I don't need a new publisher for everything. Just another part of the up and down world of publishing.

Monday, June 4, 2007

This Mighty Scourge by James McPherson

I recently read James McPherson's new book This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War and would recommend it to all. Each chapter of the book is an essay, some of which have already appeared in various journals, on a single topic. The overall theme is simply the Civil War, not battles or politics, although there are chapters on those topics.

The reviews I've seen of it online have run the gamut from people who proclaimed it a masterpiece (most likely an exageration) to people who were disappointed that it was too general in scope. I would agree with those reviewers who thought it too general, but that is part of the reason I liked the book.

Some of his chapters cover topics I would never take the time to read a full book on. These are topics like the Underground Railroad, Jesse James and the Brahmins. The essays on particular battles are not about the ebb and flow of the battle but how it fit into the war, how it changed the war, and what other factors were going on that influenced the campaign.

Another complaint of some reviewers is that McPherson himself broke no new ground, that he was mainly synthesising the most recent research. This I also liked. During my last year of my history degree I had to read a ton of historiographies (basically the history of the history) and these were mainly tedius and boring. In This Mighty Scourge though McPherson provides a ton of historiography and makes it enjoyable reading. When historiography is done well it is very interesting and informative. It also helps mold questions for further research by making the opinions of the last several historians succinctly known and differences exposed.

Yes this book was a general overview and yes it broke little new ground. That is what made it enjoyable. Very infrequently is a book of this style done well but McPherson did it here. Often this sort of book comes across as so general as to be childish, or the historiography is so boring that it would sell better if the title was changed to "Nyquil: The Very Drowsy Formula."

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Union counterattack at noon on April 6

Around noon on April 6 the combined forces of Sherman and McClernand’s divisions made a counter attack near Woolf Field. They were successful in driving off the enemy and capturing a battery. The Confederates soon recaptured the battery but the guns would not be used at Shiloh again. The attack slowed the Confederate advance on this front and bought Sherman/McClernand’s force some time.

Although Sherman and McClernand’s divisions fought together, quite well, Sherman seems to get most of the credit for the fighting on this front. This probably had a lot to do with their overall reputations at the end of the war. Sherman and McClernand did not have to attack. They could have used the lull before this counter attack to form a new defensive line or strengthen the line they were on.

When Sherman and McClernand attacked the Confederates were weakened enough that the Union attack was able to push them back. If the Confederates were in a condition to be pushed away they probably could not have made a successful attack if Sherman and McClernand had stayed put.

This is a critical decision, in some respects it looks like a foolhardy decision. How did Sherman and McClernand know that an attack would be successful at that moment? Although they were relatively new to command (this was not the first battle for either commander but was their first battle on this scale) they did a fine job all day. Picking the right moment for a counter attack was just another sign of how good, or lucky, they were. Luckily for the Union right the attack succeeded in pushing the Confederates back and buying them some time.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Cleburne’s handing of brigade

Confederate General Patrick R. Cleburne’s initial assault at the swamp near Shiloh Branch split his brigade. Until this obstacle was cleared he would stay with one half of his brigade for awhile, then ride around the swamp to the other half and help them for awhile before going back. He did this several times and was not able to do much with either half.

His other option was to temporarily attach one half to another nearby commander to command until the brigade could be reunited. Coordinating half of his brigade with another command may have been enough to more quickly carry that position. As it was neither half was able to accomplish much beyond extending casualty lists.

This was a critical decision because choosing the other option may have enabled the Confederates to capture the Shiloh Church sector much sooner. This was a difficult decision for me to make because I like Cleburne, I find him a fascinating character, but this is one of those cases where he did not do a very good job. He lost too much time riding between the two halves of his brigade. When he was away from one portion they did little, mostly because they were recuperating from the recent brutal attack.

Cleburne's brigade ended up getting mauled during the battle. Some of it was early but he was in action on both days of the battle. When the losses were counted later, after stragglers had reappeared, his losses in killed, wounded and captured amounted to 1043 of 2750, 38%. The 6th Mississippi lost 300 of 425 men, the fourth highest percentage loss by any unit in the entire war.

This map is from Craig Symonds biography of Cleburne. I scanned it, its not that great of quality but gives you idea of where the split happened. The map also shows positions later in the day, so ignore the northern part of the map for this discussion.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Confederate attack formation

The Confederate attack was made with each corps being a battle line. This was to create waves of men which may have been a manageable attack formation in open fields but in the woods this quickly collapsed. The length of the line also prevented the corps commander from exercising control over his entire command. Eventually an ad hoc command structure was created when each corps commander took control of a section of the front. This was not the best solution but was the only real solution to be made during the battle.

The other main option would be to attack with each corps forming a column. If each corps had attacked as a column the corps commanders would have had more control over the attack. This probably would have allowed them to fight more effectively.

A critical decision because the line formation caused much confusion which resulted in delays and piecemeal attacks. A better controlled formation might have accomplished more.