Monday, April 14, 2008

Sam Davis Elliott

Our final speaker was Sam Davis Elliott talking about General Alexander P. Stewart, about whom he has written a fine biography. I'll admit I have not read the biography, but I have a copy and will one day soon read it.

Stewart is one of those commanders who have largely been forgotten. This is a bit strange in that he was one of the few a corps commanders in the Army of Tennessee. There are artillery captains in the Army of Northern Virginia that have had more written about them.

One thing I did know about Stewart is that he largely escaped most of the bickering in the Army of Tennessee. While much of the high command was dividing into pro or anti Bragg factions Stewart somehow managed to walk a thin line between both groups.

Sam mentioned that he got the bug to write about Stewart after passing his statue on the courthouse grounds in Chattanooga. Somehow I did not know about this statue, and I've been to Chattanooga a number of times. Next time I'm there I'll make a point of visiting the courthouse to see the statue.

The last time I was in Chattanooga I happened to meet Sam. I had gone back there for a week of wandering and on my last day there I participated in a ranger led hike of the Wauhatchie. As we gathered in the parking lot we introduced ourselves to each other and we finally met in person after exchanging emails over the various message boards we both belong to. The idea of the symposium was in my mind at that time, I think at that point we were still discussing if we though we could pull it off. As we walked up Tyndale Hill the ranger asked if we wanted to do some bushwhacking to the very top (the trail was not officially open yet). I think Sam was the first to speak and his answer was something along the lines of "how else would we spend our time, lets go up there, be among the first to see it." That sort of bushwhacking mentality is the same as our study groups' have and I knew right then that he was one of us. Once we started inviting people to the symposium he was one of the first ones we asked, he cemented it that day on Tyndale Hill. I knew if he had that sort of enthusiasm about bushwhacking to see entrenchments he could easily project that enthusiasm into a talk. And I was right, I really enjoyed the talk and mentally moved the Stewart book to the top of my to-read-list.

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