Thursday, November 12, 2009

Turchin's Chickamauga

Awhile back I stumbled across a potentially really interesting find. I requested John Turchin's Chickamauga through interlibrary loan, with the intention of xeroxing the entire book. Since then google books has made this unnecessary.

The interesting find is that inside the cover was a notation that this copy once belonged to William Rosecrans, commander of the Union army at Chickamauga. But as I read the book I found four pages that had hand written notations on them. They are in pencil so they are not the clearest copies. All the notations center around the time when Wood's Division moved out of the lines on September 20, right before Longstreet assaulted that very spot and turned the tide toward Confederate victory.

This is page 112 with the simple notation, "mistake"

Page 116 with the notation, "[?] Sheridan [?] way to shore up the left of our lines"

Page 127 with the notation, "this is a weak argument to expect a [?] [?]"

Page 128 with the notation, "this is a great mistake"

Is it Rosecrans' handwriting? I have no idea. I only offer it up as an interesting quirk of research. I did find this letter by Rosecrans to allow for some handwriting comparison. My initial reaction is that it does not eliminate the possibility that the writing in the book is Rosecrans'. I'd like to think it is Rosecrans' writing, it seems like an odd hoax to make.
I also posted this pictures on the Civil War West Yahoo discussion group when I found it a few years back. The pictures there might be a bit clearer, I think I scanned them differently back then.


Chris Evans said...

That's really fascinating. I'm not sure why anyone would fake this. It seems Rosecrans really could have wrote those notations.

Nick said...

Exactly. I can't see that anything can be gained by the hoaxer. The extra comments are pretty simple and are things Rosecrans might have thought. If there was something crazy in the comments like Wood later showed up and flaunted that Rosecrans career was now in shambles that might cause a harder look. But this is all pretty benign. I don't think it adds a ton to the story, if I was writing a Chickamauga book I might include the notations in the story or at least as a footnote, but it doesn't change the entire interpretation.

Chris Evans said...

It's interesting to imagine Rosecrans still so haunted by Chickamauga that he wrote these notations in the book. That battle and what it did to his career must have affected him deeply for the rest of his life. This is a really nice find.

C. Patrick Schulze said...

Ah, serendipity! What a great find and an interesting story to boot.

As to Rosecrans' handwriting, is there some way to compare his thoughts of the battle from other sources to this book? Might "Battles and Leaders" or some other tome suffice?

Nick said...

I'll have to look tonight at my copy of Battles and Leaders but I don't think Rosecrans wrote much about the war afterwards. No memoirs exist, as far as I know. I just did a search and there are 118 boxes (59 linear feet) of his papers housed at UCLA, which also includes flags, swords and a tea service. Sounds like it'd be great fun to look at the collection. The notations mention diaries but not a half completed memoir, but a physical search would reveal more.

Kevin S. Coy said...

I think it is his writing. Note the library book from Helena, Montana. One of his children, daughter, IIRC, lived in Helena, Montana.

Lee White said...

Wow, very cool Nick, I agree with the others, I dont see a reason for this to have been a hoax.

Anonymous said...


Rosecrans wrote extensively on his campaigns in the National Tribune, including a multi-part, front-page series on The Chickamauga Campaign.

I'd be pretty certain the comments are Rosecrans' -they fit his written remarks elsewhere.

I have come across two or three such annotated items. Usually regimental histories rather than comments by a major player like Rosey, but still, always fun to find.

Dave Powell