Wheat’s Report

7 01 2009

Well, I finally found a copy or Major C. R. Wheat’s report of the actions of the 1st Special Louisiana Battalion at Bull Run.  It was hiding in plain sight in the Supplement to the ORs, and was sent to me by friend of Bull Runnings Jonathan Soffe.

As discussed in this post, the report of Wheat’s commander N. G. Evans claims that the Battalion captured a regimental color during the fight.  Wheat’s report unfortunately does not mention any captured banner, however he does make mention of the capture of some artillery pieces.  Is it possible that the captured colors in question were actually those of a battery?

Also, I have more on the Wheat ambrotype recently “discovered” by Mike Musick and discussed here and here.  Mike sent me a big packet of info, which I mentioned here.  I haven’t forgotten – I just haven’t had time to get to it yet.





#110a – Maj. Chatham R. Wheat

6 01 2009

Supplemental Report

Report of Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat, First Special Battalion Louisiana Volunteers

SUPPLEMENT TO THE O.R. – VOL.1: REPORTS ADDENDUM TO SERIES I, VOL. 2, pp 194-195

Manassas, [Virginia],

August 1, 1861

Sir: I beg leave herewith, respectfully, to report the part taken by the First Special Battalion of Louisiana Volunteers, which I had the honor to command in the battle of July 21.

According to your instructions, I formed my command to the left of the Stone Bridge, being thus at the extreme left of our lines.  Your order to deploy skirmishers was immediately obeyed by sending forward Company B under Captain [Alexander] White.  The enemy threatening to flank us, I caused Captain [Jonathan W.] Buhoup to deploy his Company D as skirmishers in that direction.

At this conjuncture, I sent back, as you ordered, the two pieces of artillery which you had attached to my command, still having Captain [John D.] Alexander’s troop of cavalry with me.  Shartly after, under your orders, I deployed my whole command to the left, which movement, of course, placed me on the right of the line of battle.

Having reached this position, I moved by the left flank to an open field, a wood being on my left.  From this covert, to my utter surprise, I received a volley of musketry which unfortunately came from our own troops, mistaking us for the enemy.  Apprehending instantly the real cause of the accident, I called out to my men not to return the fire.  Those near enough to hear, obeyed; the more distant, did not.

Almost at the same moment, the enemy in front opened upon us with musketry, grape, canister, round shot and shells.  I immediately charged upon the enemy and drove him from his position.  As he rallied again in a few minutes, I charged him a second and a third time successfully.

Finding myself now in the face of a very large force – some 10,000 or 12,000 in number – I dispatched Major [Robert G.] Atkins to you for reinforcements and gave the order to move by the left flank to the cover of the hill; a part of my command, [by] mistake, crossed the open field and suffered severely from the fire of the enemy.

Advancing from the wood with a portion of my command, I reached some haystacks under cover of which I was enabled to damage the enemy very much.  While in the act of bringing up the rest of my command to this position, I was put hors de combat by a minie ball passing through my body and inflicting what was at first thought to be a mortal wound and from which I am only now sufficiently recovered to dictate this report.  By the judicious management of Captain Bouhup I was borne from the field under the persistent fire of the foe, who seemed very unwilling to spare the wounded.

Being left without a field officer, the companies rallied under their respective captains and, as you are aware, bore themselves gallantly throughout the day in the face of an enemy far outnumbering us.

Where all behaved so well, I forbear to make invidious distinctions, and contenting myself with commending my entire command to your favorable consideration.  I beg leave to name particularly Major Atkins, a distinguished Irish soldier, who as a volunteer Adjutant, not only rendered me valuable assistance but with a small detachment captured three pieces of artillery and took three officers prisoner.  Mr. early, now Captain Early, also, as a volunteer Adjutant, bore himself bravely and did good service.

My Adjutant, Lieutenant [William] Dickinson was wounded while gallantly carrying my orders through a heavy fire of musketry.

Captain [Obed P.] Miller of Company E, and Lieutenants [Thomas W.] Adrian and [Frank S.] Carey were wounded while leading their men into the thickest of the fight.

All of which is respectfully submitted,

C. R. Wheat.

Major, First Special Battalion,

Louisiana Volunteers

N. G. Evans,

Brigadier-General of Confederate States of America

[Wheat Papers, in possession of Mr. Charles L. Dufour, New Orleans, Louisiana]





Wheat Photo

24 11 2008

I received a packet from Mike Musick in the mail on Saturday with all sorts of neat info on the newly discovered photo of an individual who looks a lot like Rob Wheat of the 1st Special Louisiana Battalion (see here and here).  It included quite a few testimonials from big shots in the ACW field as to their opinions on the photo.  I’ll be posting more on this later.





More on the “New” Wheat Photo

20 10 2008

 

Here’s an update to this post about the “new” ambrotype of Rob Wheat.  The owner of the photo and author of the CWT article, Mike Musick, left the following comment:

Thanks for your interest in the picture, and observations. Love that shot from Seinfeld. The “new” photo, as it appears in the article and blog post, is in reverse. When it’s “flipped,” the similarities in appearance to the known portraits is somewhat increased.

I exchanged a few emails with Mr. Musick and learned that quite a few folks whose names you’d recognize agree to varying degrees that the fellow in the photo is Wheat.  In the interests of full disclosure, a couple names you’d also know aren’t so sure.  The original photo, which is not reversed and does not have a frame, was sent to me last December by a mutual friend, and I’ve been sitting on it since then.  Mr. Musick has graciously granted permission to show it here.





A “New” Photo of Rob Wheat

15 10 2008

The December issue of Civil War Times is out, which has an article by Mike Musick on his discovery of a previously unpublished ambrotype (above left), the subject of which appears to be Chatham Roberdeau Wheat, commander of the 1st Special Louisiana Battalion at Bull Run (I wrote about him here).  Once the article is put up on the magazine’s website I’ll post a link to it here, but for now you might want to head to your newsstand and get the hard copy.

Above right is a picture that is generally accepted to be Wheat, taken around the time of the outbreak of the Civil War.   Musick’s “new” image is thought to have been taken during Wheat’s earlier filibustering days.  Click the images above for larger images (you’ll get a super large image of the new photo if you click the first larger image a second time).   What do you think?  Same guy?

That shirt sure looks familiar.  Especially the sleeves.

Thanks to CWT for permission to post the new photo of Wheat.

See foloow up post here.





Wheat’s Tigers – Did They or Didn’t They?

28 08 2007

 

UPDATES: Please see the comments section for updates to this post. 

Earlier I received the following comment to this post:

First off, excellent research and a great website on “Sherman’s Battery”. I have a question that is in the ball park. Do you know of what flag Major Wheat’s Battalion captured? Evan’s OR report said “capture of a stand of colors”. There were no OR reports on Wheat’s Battalion. This has many of us just completely stumped.

We are thinking either the 2nd Rhode Island or 11th New York regiment. We are working on ALL Union and Confederate flags that were captured during the Civil War. This project will take a long time.

If you have any information or could tell me where to find it, I would be very grateful.

Thank you, Sir,

Shawn Prouty

I responded in brief to Shawn’s comment and told him that I would expand in the form of a post.  I also forwarded the question to Jim Burgess at Manassas NBP.

wheats-tigers.gifThe First Louisiana Special Battalion (Wheat’s Tigers) was the command of Major Roberdeau Wheat, part of Nathan Evans’ demi-brigade that was holding the far left of the Confederate line in the area of the Stone Bridge. The unit’s official report (OR) was apparently written by Captain Harris – remember that Wheat was severely wounded as described here (UPDATE: I found a report written by Wheat in the Supplement and you can read it here.  No mention of captured flags.)  I say apparently because, while Evans mentions it in his OR, there is a note indicating that the compilers of The Official Records were unable to locate Harris’ report.  I sent a note to my friend Tom Clemens who has a set of the Supplement to the ORs, asking him to check and see if Harris’ report turns up there.  (I’d really like to get my hands on the single volume of The Supplement that has the Bull Run stuff.)

Evans’ report, written just three days after the battle, includes this statement:

I send herewith a stand of colors taken during the action by Major Wheat’s battalion.

Evans submitted his report to Col. Philip St. George Cocke, though I’m not sure why.  Cocke commanded the Fifth Brigade of Beauregard’s army.  Other brigade commanders sent their reports to Beauregard or his AAG, Thomas Jordan.  Unfortunately, Cocke did not write an OR for the battle, and he was dead by his own hand by the end of the year.  Beauregard’s report, written in October, mentions having taken nine regimental and garrison flags, but does not identify any of the banners.

I don’t think that the battalion could have captured any of the 2nd Rhode Island’s colors.  Lt. Col. Frank Wheaton’s report written on July 23 does not mention any lost colors.  In addition, the battalion’s fight with the 2nd RI as recounted in this article by Gary Schreckengost describes the battalion as being driven from the enemy’s front  while still about 20 yards away, hardly close enough to seize their colors.  The author indicates that the battalion took part in Beauregard’s general advance later on Henry Hill.  A Tiger reported to a New Orleans paper:

Our blood was on fire.  Life was valueless.  The boys fired one volley, then rushed upon the foe with clubbed rifles beating down their guard; then closed upon them with their knives, ‘Greek had met Greek’, the tug of war had come…[It] did not seem as though men were fighting…[but as if there] were devils mingling in the conflict, cursing, yelling, cutting, and shrieking.

It’s possible that the 11th New York Fire Zouaves were a part of the force against which the Louisianans fought.  According to this site, it seems that while the New Yorkers did indeed lose their flags, they were subsequently recovered.

So, the long and the short of it is I don’t know what colors Evans was referring to in his report.  How about you guys?





More on “The Coaling”

25 04 2007

I keep forgetting that I have plenty of photos of my own to post.  Here are a few from a Spring 2006 trip to the Shenandoah Valley (hmmm.. looks like I never labeled these).  Our guide was the previously mentioned Gary Ecelbarger.  The site is Port Republic’s “Coaling”.  Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.

coaling-1.jpgcoaling-2.jpgcoaling-3.jpg

coaling-5.jpgcoaling-4.jpg

a) view from base of the hill; b & c) views from atop The Coaling to the Port Republic battlefield; d & e) exhibits on the site – d shows Keith Rocco’s painting featured here.





…but I know what I like

24 04 2007

I know this isn’t Bull Run related (other than in ways itemized here), but it updates somewhat this post.  The other day I picked up a used copy of Daniel Barefoot’s General Robert F. Hoke, Lee’s Modest Warrior for $9.98.  On the back of the dust jacket is a painting titled Ranger Willie, by Jack Amirian.  It depicts a stretcher borne Willie Hardee, his father standing over him, a mounted Hoke nearby.

The painting is not my style.  In fact, most modern day Civil War art is not my style – I generally find it too “cartoony”, and the overwhelming use of soft blues and grays leaves me with the image of a tattoo on the forearm of an 80 year old sailor – a blue-gray blob (though I’m sure it seemed like a good idea that night in Tokyo).  And why does everyone’s hat look like a gentle breeze would blow it off the wearer’s noggin?  Even the works of painters who strive for more realism bug me.  I mean, the subject matter!  Do we really need to see a young Nathan Bedford Forrest carrying a damsel across a creek, and how many paintings of Stonewall Jackson being alternately kind and gentle with his horse and bathed in heavenly light while at prayer – sometimes both at the same time - can the market bear (apparently a bunch)?

I only own one piece of Civil War art, and it’s by one of the few artists working in the genre whose work I like.  Keith Rocco’s Always Ready is hung above the fireplace in my family room.  It depicts the 9th NY Hawkins’ Zouaves at Antietam.  The print appeals to me on several levels:  I like Keith’s work (check it out in this book); I serve on the board of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation; and the model for the officer holding the Stars and Stripes was an e-quaintance of mine, the late Brian Pohanka.

Rocco’s work is often reminiscent of N. C. Wyeth.  If you don’t recognize the name, or can’t remember which Wyeth he is, think pirates.  His illustrations of buccaneers graced the pages of books like Treasure Island.  He also did Civil War work, like this one of Stonewall Jackson:  

wyeth.jpg

Compare that style to Rocco’s Port Republic below (reproduced with his kind permission):    

 This painting illustrates the early stages of an action in which Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat’s Louisianans assaulted Federal artillery on high ground now famous as “The Coaling”.  Wheat was seriously wounded at First Bull Run, leading his men in the critical action on Matthews Hill.  He was shot in the chest, through and through, and was told he would not recover.  The 275 pound commander of the 1st Special Louisiana Battalion responded: “I don’t feel like dying yet.”  So he didn’t.  He recovered and once again led his battalion in Richard Taylor’s brigade of Ewell’s division of Jackson’s army in the Valley in 1862.  On page 412 of R. K. Krick’s Conquering the Valley is this description by a Louisianan of the scene around the Coaling on June 9, 1862:

 Men ceased to be men.  They cheered and screamed like lunatics – they fought like demons – they died like fanatics…It was not war on that spot.  It was a pandemonium of cheers, shouts, shrieks, and groans, lighted by the flames from cannon and muskets – blotched by fragments of men thrown high into trees by bursting shells.  To lose the guns was to lose the battle.  To capture them was to win it.  In every great battle of the war there was a hell-spot.  At Port Republic, it was on the mountain side.

 wheat.jpgWheat (pictured at left) and his even larger cohort, 300 pound Lt. Col. William R. Peck of the 9th LA, moved among the Federal guns on the Coaling.  The Louisianans had determined that killing the battery horses would prevent the enemy from removing the guns should they be able to retake the ground.  Wheat used his own knife, and was reported as looking “as bloody as a butcher” while doing the job.

Rob Wheat would eventually meet his end at Gaines’ Mill on May 25, 1862.  He’s buried in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery.  I will get around to a biographical sketch, but it will be awhile yet.

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