Preview: Powell, “The Chickamauga Campaign: Barren Victory”

24 09 2016

Layout 1The third and final volume of David A. Powell’s history of The Chickamauga Campaign – Barren Victory: The Retreat into Chattanooga, the Confederate Pursuit, and the Aftermath of Battle, September 21 to October 20, 1863, has been released by publisher Savas Beatie. (You can find my notes on the first two volumes here and here.)

This completes the most thorough history of the campaign to date. Volume III is a mixed bag, wrapping up the first two volumes and providing meat and potatoes statistics and research tidbits that all footnote readers will enjoy. The narrative portion of the book picks up on the morning of September 21, with both armies dealing with the immediate effects of defeat and victory. Three chapters follow both armies to the environs of Chattanooga. Two chapters discuss the costs and consequences of the campaign, and appendices deal with rear guard cavalry action in The Last Clash at Chickamauga and the relationship between William Rosecrans, James Garfield, and Charles Dana.

Then the fun begins. In a manner reminiscent of Joseph L. Harsh’s wonderful Sounding the Shallows, Powell offers the reader insight into both the numbers of the thing and the researching and writing process itself. Five appendices include: Union Order of Battle; Union Losses; Confederate Strength with Sources and Methodology (arranged in Order of Battle format); Confederate Losses (Powell provides the most detailed and complete look at Confederate numbers and losses to be found); and a Return for Polk’s Corps for October 22, 1863.

These are followed by a magnificent 85 page (!) bibliography. Powell’s extensive use of newspaper accounts from all points of the compass is impressively displayed. The different contemporary newspapers from which he drew number approximately 150!

The whole book is complimented with bottom of the page, detailed footnotes (with the exception of the Union OOB through Confederate Losses appendices which employ end-notes for purposes of style).

This is a great capstone to Powell’s take on the Chickamauga campaign (and let’s not forget his Campaign Atlas and his iconoclastic look at Confederate cavalry during this time, Failure in the Saddle). Don’t miss it.





Preview: Rasbach, “Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign”

22 09 2016

joshualchamberlainandpetersburgcampaignrasbach2016savasbeatieThis just in from Savas Beatie (there is no hyphen in that title, you know): Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign: His Supposed Charge from Fort Hell, his Near-Mortal Wound, and a Civil War Myth Reconsidered, by Dennis A. Rasbach.

It’s hard to read the full title and not get the impression that the book possesses iconoclastic, sacred-cow slaughtering characteristics. In fact the dust jacket notes are peppered with words like presumed, perpetuation, interpretation, mantle of authority, meticulous case, primary evidence, and body of evidence. By themselves not indicative of anything, but consider them and the book’s title together and, well, you start to see where we’re headed. And that’s not a bad thing by any means. This book considers, among other things, the accuracy of the identification of the actual site of the action in which Chamberlain was wounded, generally accepted for many, many years as along the Jerusalem Plank Road between the future site of Fort Hell (Sedgwick) and Rives’s Salient of the Dimmock Line (future site of Fort Mahone). Rasbach contends that the focus of Chamberlain’s attack was more than a mile away from there.

Other, similar theories on other battlefields have been shouted down with references to monument placement and lack of veteran divergence from accepted narratives, but in this case Mr. Rasbach is laying everything out there for consideration. Adherents to the classic interpretation will have to deal with his presentation on its merits.

You get: 176 pages of narrative, including a retrospective tour; plenty of illustrations, primarily maps, though the tour includes many modern day photos; Orders of Battle for June 18, 1864; an appendix on Chamberlain’s wound and treatment; another on the role of maps in evaluating Chamberlain’s account; bibliography, mostly published works but also ten manuscript sources and seven newspaper accounts; and full index. Footnotes are bottom-of-the-page.





A New Old Map of the Battlefield

21 09 2016

Author John Hennessy passed along this heretofore unseen, by him or me, map. It was provided to him by reader Kimball Brace, who found it in the Library of Virginia. Kim has been researching E. Porter Alexander and the signal stations around Manassas and the Bull Run Line.

Mr. Hennessy correctly points out some of the notable features of the map include its depictions of the Beale and Van Pelt houses and details of the topography around the Stone Bridge.

The key (click for large images):

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The map (click for large images):

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Here is a transcription of the key, provided by a staff member at the Winery at Bull Run. I’ll try to find out more about that part of the story later…

The key:
A. Centreville Road to Stone Bridge
B. Forest each side Centreville Road
C. Enemies long Parrot Gun, Rifled; opening light Sunday Morning July 21st 1861, on Col Wheat’s Battalion (marked by a circle with an X in it)
D. Beale’s House, vacated by family Wednesday July 17th.
E. Shaeffers encampment, of Battalion, Co S Beauregard Rifles, Capt Shaeffer. New Orleans ____ Blues. Capt Goodauyn. New Market ___ Capt H N B Wood.
F. Thicket to which a large force of the enemy were concealed.
G. Cornfield fronting entrenchment Schaeffer’s Battalion
H. Entrenchment left-wing Capt Wood’s __ north side Bull Run.
I. Shaeffer’s Battalion entrenched, s.side Bull Run.
J. Latham’s Battery 2 guns (one marked XX) firing upon enemy at A B & C
K. Albemarle Regt Col Strange Comm at, entrenched on Bluff of Bull Run
L. Wheat Stubble between Albemarle Regt. And front of Enemy advancing at this point, Capt Latham’s Artillery, opening upon them, they commenced the flank to O, all around
M. Stone Bridge
N. Battery, of Enemy (not known invisible) moved with infancy upon Left-Flank of S.C. Army.
O. Advance of enemy, from A,B, (Carrying C.) F & G to O. and direction up to V.
P. Cornfield of Beale’s
Q. Forest Felled by Shaeffer’s Battalion
R. Turnpike to Warrenton from Stone Bridge
S. Bull Run
T. Vanpelt’s House, He having 2 sons in the Northern Army
U. Open fields over which reinforcements passed. Met the enemy, and the result was as the country knows
V. Headquarter’s, Gen E Coucke Lewis House
W. 1 Gun from Latham’s Battery managed by Lieut Saunders New O ____ Blues.
a. *Cannon Shot from enemy into headquarters
b. XX Guns’ supported by Charlottsville
c. X Monticello Guards of Latham’s Battery
d. Cursive X : open fields leading to Manassas from Lewis Farm
X. Circle around an x: Col Wheat’s encampment before 21st July

Click here for citation





The 69th New York, Not the 69th New York

18 09 2016
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The flag of the 69th NYSM, which commemorates a great moment in Fenian history, in which Col. Corcoran refused to march the unit in review before the Prince of Wales

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The flag of the 69th NYVI, a different regiment altogether, likely much more different than many assume

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Flag of the 69th NYNGA (182nd NYVI) – Rightful CW heir to the 69th NYSM?

Many “fans” of the Irish Brigade, and in particular the 69th New York State Militia and the 69th New York Volunteer Infantry, labor under the assumption that the two units are related, the latter somehow descended from the former. I’ve met with some resistance, and once outright anger,  when I’ve suggested that the relationship is tenuous at best. I received the following note from Christopher M. Garcia in comment form on a Facebook status of Damian Shiels, host of Irish in the American Civil War. Mr. Garcia has researched New York Irish troops extensively, and did his master’s thesis on another 69th, the 69th New York National Guard Artillery. When I looked at the Old Dominion University thesis and saw Timothy Orr’s name listed as Director, I realized that he and I had briefly discussed Christopher’s work back in 2011. You can read a little more about Christopher and find a link to his thesis on Damian’s site here. Pay particular attention to Chapter 2, on page ten, and the opening sentence:

The 69th New York National Guard Artillery (NYNGA) considered itself to be the old 69th New York State Militia (NYSM) in federal service. 

Later he writes:

Although thousands of New York’s Irish joined the ranks of the Union Army at the war’s outset, most Fenians chose to stay out. After their return from Bull Run, most of the members of the 69th NYSM did not answer the Federal Government’s call for three-year volunteers… The 69th Infantry Regiment New York National Guard (as the 69th NYSM was designated after the Civil War), received the battle honors for the 69th NYV. Over time, the Irish Brigade tradition became the dominant regimental tradition, as if the 69th NYV was the 69th. The differentiation was lost sometime in the early twentieth-century when first hand knowledge disappeared…Regimental tradition holds that the 69th NYSM was the primary cadre for both the 69th NYV and the Irish Brigade, but this is untrue. The Irish Brigade was a non-Fenian entity.

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Michael Corcoran

The basis of the 69th NYSM was political, strongly rooted in the Irish nationalist Fenian movement. There was a lot of infighting among Fenians, with allegiances to different heads. Michael Corcoran, a prominent Fenian, was colonel of the 69th NYSM, and not affiliated in any way with the 69th NYVI or the Irish Brigade. Captured at First Bull Run, he returned after a year in captivity and formed Corcoran’s Irish Legion, which included the 69th NYNGA.

Here is Christopher’s original comment:

[F]ewer than 80 members of the 69th NYSM volunteered with the 69th NYV. The post war histories do not correlate with the records. The 69th NYSM was the mother Fenian regiment. All 3 founders of the F[enian] B[rotherhood] in America were members of the 69th [-] Doheny, O’Mahoney, and Corcoran. The Fenians purged the unit of differing factions in 1858-9. The core 69th NYSM was not its Bull Run strength but normally in the 200-300 person range. The Irish Legion is a different kettle of fish from the Irish Brigade, both class and ideological. Almost all the 69th NYNGA officers were up from the ranks and there were no “Big men” with pedigrees as men like Conyngham were so quick to point out. The Irish Brigade Fenians while getting a lot of attention were insignificant compared to the Legion. To the point the IB never even had its own Circle (which the Legion did) nor anyone on the ruling council of the FB which the 69th NYNGA did (2). Unfortunately most of the Legion Fenians were killed off between Spotsylvania and Petersburg, becoming the vanguard when the Irish Brigade was at its lowest ebb…

Christopher’s thesis is very interesting, and worth your time. Check it out.





Lt. Joab N. Patterson, Co. H, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the Battle

17 09 2016

Washington, D.C.

July 29, 1861

Dear George,

I have just returned from a fight where steel met steel and war in earnest reigned. I have experienced the sensations of General Jacksons celebrated passages across Canada lived in all its reality and can truly say it’s enough. Geo. I have heard cannon balls, bomb shells & bullets fly about my ears like hail, seen the dead & dying in every direction, heard the groans of the wounded and witnessed all the horrors of a battle field — been on a march and returned to camp unharmed. The troops which composed the grand army that crossed the long bridge and envaded (sic) VA’s sacred soil on the 10th inst. singing Dixie’s land and otherwise manifesting their joy in leaving the dull monotony of camp like to enter upon the active duties of a campaign have returned with broken ranks and saddened hearts…. Our regt. was placed on a knowl directly in front of a masked battery whose fire we could not return & there remained nearly half an hour, their shots making sad havock (sic) among the men — they however stood up like heroes until ordered to change our position — the fight was desperate on both sides. At one time we supposed the day was ours, and a hurrah arose along our whole line, but the reinforcements of Johnston coming up the reserve failing to appear and a sudden & unaccountable panic arising among our troops turned a victory into a disgraceful defeat and will leave a sorry page in the history of the Republic. There was a lack in some of the Generals. Some say Gen. McDowell was drunk — others that he lost his self-possession and many other vague reports — the fact is the Federal Army was not ready — it numbered not over 40,000 in all including the reserve, while the rebel forces amounted to 90,000, in a strong position chosen by themselves, strongly fortified by nature & art. They have shown themselves cowards in not meeting us in the open field — they would not stand against our charges, and only behind trees, in rifle pits & bushes did they stand, the retreat was disorderly and everyone looked out for himself.

I was behind our regt. and among the last to come in. Crossing a bridge a masked battery opened a destructive fire & a company of cavalry charged. Several of our men were killed, but only six of their horseman returned.

In the rush I left the road & took a roundabout path in the woods — at one time I imagined the cavalry was in pursuit with no idea of being taken I concealed myself in a clump of bushes & drew out the old revolver, determined to give some of them a pil, but it proved to be some of our own fugitives.

Write soon. Direct as before. Co. H. 2nd Regt. N.H.V.

Yours,

J. N. Patterson

Joab N. Patterson Letters, 1888-1889, MC 119, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Joab N. Patterson, 2nd New Hampshire, Co. H; born in Hopkinton, NH; age 26; resided in Hopkinton; enlisted Apr. 22, ’61, for 3 months as a Private.; not mustered in; re-enlisted May 11, ’61, for 3 yrs.; appointed 1st Lt. June 4, ’61; mustered in June 5, ’61, as 1st Lt.; appointed Capt. May 23, ’62; wounded July 2, ’63, Gettysburg, Pa.; appointed Lt. Col. June 21, ’64 ; Col. Jan. 10, ’65; mustered out Dec. 19, ’65. Brevet Brig. General, U. S. V., to date Mar. 13, ’65, for courage in battle and good conduct throughout the war. P. O. address. Washington, D.C.

Contributed by David Morin

History of the 2nd New Hampshire Infantry





Capt. Simon Goodell Griffin, Co. B, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the Battle

16 09 2016

The Goodwin Rifles. Capt. S. G. Griffin of the Goodwin (Concord) Rifles, 2nd N. H. Regiment, writes to his sister in Nelson a letter from which we are permitted to make the following extract. The letter was not designed for publication, but is none the less valuable on that account: –

Camp Sullivan,

Washington, July 23.

Dear Sister: I write you a line just to let you know that I am alive and unharmed, for you will hear that we have had a battle and been defeated. God knows it was no fault of ours that we lost the battle. but through some terrible mismanagement on the part of higher officers. Fifteen or twenty thousand of us were set to attack a force which proved to be more than fifty – some say eighty thousand strong – with ten pieces of artillery to our one. Our men behaved nobly, but it was of no use. They rushed us into the fight when we were all beat out after a fatiguing march – then for want of competent commanders, we were marched and counter marched on the field of battle, right in the fire of the enemy’s batteries without being able to reach them with our bullets, and to cap the whole they failed to supply our batteries with ammunition.

I begged our field officers to allow me to move forward with my riflemen and get behind a fence within reach of them, but they gave me no leave to do so. I finally gave the order myself, and my boys went up upon the run, with part of another company with us, and poured in the bullets with good effect. The rest of the regiment retreated and left us, and after remaining as long as was prudent, we retreated at double quick and joined them. The regiment finally came off the field in good order, excepting that some of the men were scattered away, – losing in killed and wounded about one hundred men. About a dozen men from my company are missing, – two we know of were killed, five wounded, and probably others of the missing killed. – Keene Sentinel.

Manchester, NH Mirror and Farmer, 8/10/1861

Clipping image

History of the 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Simon G. Griffin became a brigadier general. Biographical Sketch

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Major Alexander Warner, 3rd Connecticut Infantry, On Dr. John McGregor at the Battle

15 09 2016

Camp Keyes, Washington

August 1st, 1861.

Mr. J. McGregor:

Dear Sir,

Your letter came to hand last evening, and I hasten to give you the information you desire. Your son, Dr. McGregor, was surgeon of our regiment. The morning of July 21st, he went with his regiment to the battle field, and there stopped at a house which was to be used as a hospital for our wounded. He remained there through the day, faithfully attending his duties. When the retreat was ordered, I rode up to the hospital. The doctor came to the door, all besmeared with blood. I told him that a retreat was ordered, and, for his own safety, he had better leave at once. He asked me if there was any preparation for removing the wounded men. I told him there was not. He then turned and went into the hospital. As he turned, he said, ‘Major, I cannot leave the wounded men, and I shall stay with them, and let the result follow.’ That was the last time I saw him, and I did not know what had become of him until, a day or two ago, a prisoner, belonging to the fourth Maine regiment, made his escape from Manassas; and he saw the doctor there, attending to our wounded men. I have no doubt but that, in due time, the doctor will return to us. I am very happy to be able to give you the above information as to the whereabouts of your son: and anything I can do for you in relation to him, I shall be most happy to do. We miss the doctor very much, as he was highly respected by all of our regiment. I shall see the doctor’s wife as soon as I get home, and give her all the particulars. If there is anything I can do for you, in any way, please let me know.

Yours very truly,

Alexander Warner,

Major of the third Connecticut regiment

Part of this letter posted to Manassas National Battlefield Park Facebook Page, 9/15/2016

Biographical Sketch of Dr. John McGregor

Life and Deeds of Dr. John McGregorthis full letter is transcribed on pp. 39-40