Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A great day

Yesterday was a great day, I'd say one of the best days of my life. I'm not sure if I've talked about it much here but my son is not my biological son. But yesterday the court revoked his biological father's rights and allowed me to adopt him. In 6-8 weeks the government will even issue a new birth certificate most likely to make all the necessary name changes easier to make. A six year old doesn't have his name on a lot but there are a variety of things that need to be changed. But its official now, we have court documents to that fact and made the change at school already.

So while there is a new Kurtz man (officially now, he's been using Kurtz for over a year) the most important part here was not the name change. Now if, heaven forbid, something were to happen to my wife I wouldn't also have to worry about losing my son. I'm the only father he's ever known and tearing apart the family would be devastating to both of us. Now we do not have that worry. We are forever joined. Plus now we do not have to deal with the harassment from afar. If we wanted to we would never have to listen to another word out of his mouth. Truthfully we will probably send a picture once a year with a little update but we are legally obligated to do nothing at all.

The best day of my life was the day I got married but yesterday is a very close second. Of course another big day will be coming up near the end of June when we welcome a second baby into the family. I truly have a blessed life.

And FYI, all comments for all posts on this blog are moderated (due to Chinese spammers) so if you feel that no biological father should ever lose his rights, not matter if he asks for it himself or makes no effort to even call his son, don't bother leaving a comment. I'm willing to post comments that question my Civil War research but in this case follow your mother's advice, "if you don't anything nice to say don't say anything at all."

Friday, March 26, 2010

4th Infantry Division

Yesterday I had to get plates for my new car. Instead of getting the plain old standard plates I got plates for the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. I thought the plates were more interesting plus it supports our troops. Additionally there is a Civil War connection.

The 4th has four brigades and in each brigade is an infantry battalion, the fourth brigade has two battalions. These infantry battalions trace their history to the Civil War. There are two battalions of the 8 and 12th Infantry Regiments. Both units served with the Army of the Potomac. There is one battalion of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, which actually started its history as the 2nd Battalion of the 13th Regiment. The 13th Regiment's motto is "First at Vicksburg" although it appears that the 2nd battalion spent more of its time in Missouri than in the army under Sherman and Grant.

There are also three squadrons of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, the Buffalo Soldiers, in the division but that's a post war regiment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I've been rereading Glenn Tucker's "Chickamauga: Bloody Battle in the West" for research this past week. Its been awhile since I've read it and this past week has made me realize again how nice a read it is. Oh sure it has its errors and sometimes the order of things is a little odd, but Tucker was a good writer.

Next up I'll read Peter Cozzens' "This Terrible Sound" to flesh out the details and use that as my source material. I read Tucker just to refresh my mind about the flow of the battle. I'll use Cozzens for the meat. Cozzens' book is a good read too, I've read his four western theater battle books and enjoyed them all.

I also have the five Blue & Gray magazines that were recently done on this campaign handy. And then I'll use the new "Maps of Chickamauga" by David Powell to pinpoint any loose details. I noticed that Steven Woodworth has edited a volume of Chickamauga essays that is coming out at the end of April. So hopefully I'll be able to get a copy of that soon too to get another perspective. Truthfully we have a bunch of Chickamauga related literature available right now. Things are looking up.

Then I can really get working on my own Chickamauga project. Hopefully I'll be able to make it as readable as Tucker but have all the facts right too. Luckily I'm not trying to write a whole new battle history, just a smaller project, I don't have the time (or motivation) for that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Artillery range finder

I recently started rereading Glenn Tucker's "Chickamauga: Bloody Battle in the West" and was struck by a passage I've obviously read before but did not remember. In telling the story of the Union entrance into Chattanooga in early September 1863 Tucker has a passage about an artillery range finder.

Colonel Smith D. Atkins of the 92nd Illinois Mounted Infantry, of Wilder's Brigade, is near the Tennessee River with two rifled 10 pounders of the 5th Wisconsin Battery. There is a small Confederate fort across the river with a brass gun in the center and two steel guns on its flanks. Atkins asks the battery's lieutenant to fire at the fort and the lieutenant pulls out a "flat piece of brass full of holes of different sizes." He finds the hole that corresponds to a man standing up across the river and thus has the range. The first shot dismantled the brass gun and killed four men. (page 17 in the 1992 Morningside reprint)

The source is a speech Atkins gave in 1907 so his memory could be flawed. I did a google image search and found nothing. Has anyone seen this in a museum anywhere? Can anyone verify if the thing even existed?

I would think that if it existed there would be a ton of these made during the war. Word would quickly spread that the 5th Wisconsin Battery always fired its shots at the proper range. The other batteries would want to know how they did so well. Other commanders would want one for the batteries under their command. Sure men could become proficient at judging ranges with their eyes alone but once the first range finder was made it would be pretty simple to make copies. Then every battery in the service could have a bunch so that if the sharp-eyed officers were wounded or killed the other men could still find the correct range quickly. Of course the range finder would be of little use once smoke obscured the enemy but there would be plenty of times it would come in handy. Plus once you got the first range right then adjustments would be very easy as the enemy advanced or retreated.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Hill

Truthfully I should have made this post before I started the Franklin series, but somehow I forgot that I had some Spring Hill pictures. Or maybe I was just too focused on Franklin. In any respect Spring Hill is one of those big what-if moments of the war. Hood had outmaneuvered the Union at Columbia and had a chance to put them in a huge bind. If his men could block the Columbia Pike they would put the Union in a tight spot. The Union army would be separated with the Confederate army between them. Of course you could also look at it that the Confederates would now be surrounded, but generally history has looked at this as a lost opportunity for the Confederates.

Instead the Confederates stopped just short of the Columbia Pike, and slept while the Union army slipped by on the pike. The next morning a furious Hood would berate his top commanders. Some believe that these men responded by being too exposed, too aggressive at the battle of Franklin, which lead to six generals being killed. I think Hood deciding he would make a frontal assault on Franklin instead of finding a way around the town and beating the retreating Union army to Nashville was the reason for the high casualties at Franklin. For whatever reason (and there have been tons of explanations offered for why Hood attacked the way he did) for that style of attack that is why the losses were so severe.

Back to Spring Hill, there is some land preserved and much of the area still is rural. That has changed in recent years, in the few years since I started visiting Spring Hill I've seen new buildings go up in the area and can see that it will only get worse. I have little fear of Savannah growing into the view sheds of Shiloh but I am certain that Franklin's growth will mean growth for Spring Hill and we will lose hallowed ground and view sheds.

The main land preserved at Spring Hill is where Forrest's men attacked, followed later in the day by Cleburne.

The view from the above sign. The ridge line is very obvious but this walk is much steeper than it looks. Not extreme steep but it proves the point that you do not really appreciate maps and books until you walk the ground.

And the view back down the hill. There is a walking trail up here with a few stops that help explain the fight up here.

Back in the parking lot is this state historical marker that has one of the best quotes of the war. Forrest speaking to Chalmers after he was repulsed, "They was in there sure enough, wasn't they, Chalmers?" Cleburne's men then arrived and pushed the attack, succeeding until dark ended the fighting.

On the Columbia Pike, and nearly due west of the preserved land seen earlier, is this sign. It helps show how close the Confederates were to cutting the pike. How this would have affected the course of the war can be debated but the earlier fighting is only a half mile away so once Cleburne drove the Union back there was little to stop them from cutting the pike.

This is very similar to a picture at the beginning of this post. I included it here because it shows some of the preservation issues at Spring Hill. At the base of the hill is a new building (I haven't been back since to see what business happens at the building, it might be a grocery store or a warehouse, I don't know) which was not there on my first visit a few years earlier. In the distance is a highway that handles a lot of traffic heading towards the Saturn plant, as well as the general increase in population in the area. Sad to say but I do not think that this view will remain like this for much longer. If this is the view we have in 2039 for the 175th anniversary I would be very surprised, I think there will be more homes and stores cluttering this view by then. I hope I'm wrong.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kennesaw Mountain

Once again this is a pre-digital picture post.

Kennesaw Mountain is a tough battle to tour. The preserved land tends to only be the Confederate trenches so you cannot follow the Union attacks much, although in some places there is enough preserved to give you the feel of the final bit of the assault (and at Kennesaw that's almost all you need). Sure I would love if more was preserved but we have to deal with what's left.

On the big Kennesaw Mountain are some Confederate entrenchments that still appear very strong.

But the point here is not how strong the position was but what it protects, and you can get a nice view of hazy Atlanta from here. Clearly the Confederates are running out of ground. There are still places they can make stands and strike at the Union army but it is obvious that there is not much ground to give. If they are to strike back they need to pick their spots in a hurry.
But at Kennesaw Sherman has decided to stop moving around the flank and give battle. He realizes how close he is getting to Atlanta and hopes for a big victory to shorten this campaign. But it will fail.
Most of what is preserved, fighting wise, is the area at Cheatham's Hill. Here some very savage fighting will center along an area known as the Dead Angle. Cheatham and Cleburne had very strong entrenchments and will severely handle the Union assault. 8000 Union soldiers will make the assault and in 90 minutes will lose over 1000 while Confederate casualties were roughly a third of that.
A view from one of the Confederate forts, this one looking right at modern traffic.

This is the view from Cheatham's Hill. This is actually a pretty long open area, and somewhat steep. This would have been very brutal to attack across.

The battlefield park started initially as this Illinois monument placed at the top of the hill, with a small parcel of land around it. Later more land was added and eventually it became the national park we know today.
Some Union soldiers were trapped near the top of the hill, unwilling to retreat across the open ground and unable to go forward. So they dug a mine in hopes of blowing up the trenches, this didn't work but it kept them busy.
Along Cheatham Hill are a few monuments like this to fallen Union soldiers.

The best picture I managed of the entrenchments. Trees and kudzu have made it a bit difficult to see but you can get some feel for it.

To the south of Cheatham Hill is Kolb's Farm, which was fought for about a week earlier. There is very little preserved here, I only included it as an example of what much of the Atlanta area battlefields look like. One small piece of ground is preserved, and traffic buzzes by a short distance away.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Confederate Cemetery at Franklin

In the spring of 1866 the Confederate dead were reinterred on the McGavock family estate. Their house, Carnton, had been a field hospital during the battle and as discussed in a previous post is now open for paid tours. The cemetery is also open to the public. The dead have been grouped by state and there are individual headstones with as much information as possible for each man.

Each state also has a marker with the number of dead from that state. The state historical society marker lists the internments at 1496 but if you tally the totals from each state marker the total is 1481.

Here are some shots of the cemetery. Its a rather simple design, one big central walkway with burials in lines on either side.

Once I was there and flags for each state were out. I like the look of that too.

On the south side of the Confederate cemetery is the McGavock family cemetery.

Additionally General Johnson Kelly Duncan is buried here. Duncan was born in 1827 in Pennsylvania and graduated 5th in the West Point class of 1849. He resigned in 1855 and did some engineering work in Louisiana. When the war began he became colonel of the 1st Louisiana Regular Artillery but in January 1862 was promoted to brigadier general and put in charge of the lower Mississippi River defenses (Forts Jackson and St. Philip). He was captured when the forts fell and after his exchange became Bragg's chief of staff. He died of malaria in Knoxville on December 18, 1862 and was later buried here.

And now the state markers.








North Carolina

South Carolina



The Unknowns