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The American Civil War Timeline- 150th Anniversary

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Naval Battles 1861-1862 Part One

The Navy achieved some of the Union's most important military successes in 1861. The primary naval task was the blockade. It was no easy task. The Confederacy's 3,500 miles of coastline included 10 major ports and another 180 inlets, bays, and river mouths. By June 1861 3 dozen blockade ships were patrolling this coastline. But the Navy had only two ports in the South: Hampton Roads at the mouth of the James River opposite Confederate-held Norfolk; and Key West, Florida. Some ships spent nearly as much time going to and from these bases for supplies and repairs as they did on blockade duty. To remedy the problem, the navy decided to seize additional southern harbors to serve as bases. While plas for the first such operation went forward, the navy scored its initial victory of the war at Hatteras Inlet in North Carolina.

The North Carolina sounds served as Richmond's back door to the Atlantic, the front door being closed by Union control of Hampton Roads. They also served as a haven for privateers that dashed through the inlets to capture unwary merchant vessels. To stop this, Commodore Silas Stringham of the Atlantic blockading squadron put together a flotilla of 7 ships carrying 141 guns to wipe it out. Two transports carrying 900 soldiers and marines under Benjamin Butler's accompanied the task force. The soldiers' job was to assault the rear of the two forts guarding Hatteras Inlet after the ships had shelled them from the sea. Naval doctrine held that ships could not destroy well-armed forts. Perhaps this would have proved true if the half-finished forts had been well armed. As it turned out, however, the flotilla's rifled cannon battered them into submission on August 28-29 while cruising just out of range of their 19 smoothbore guns. On August 29 the 670 men in the forts surrendered without Butler's troops having fired a shot. When news of this victory reached the North it took some of the sting out of Bull Run and Wilson's Creek. In North Carolina panic reigned along the tidewater as Tarheels expected Yankee hordes to descend on all their coastal towns. But the bluejackets were not ready to follow up their victory- yet.

The next naval success required scarely any effort at all. Off the coast of Mississippi halfway between New Orleans and Mobile lay Ship Island. In September 1861 the Confederates obligingly abandoned its half-completed fortifications after a token shelling by the U.S.S. Massachusetts. The Federals occupied the island and built up a base for the Gulf blockade squadron and for a campaign to capture New Orleans.

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Naval Battles 1861-1862 Part Two

Meanwhile a formidable fleet was heading down the Atlantic coast toward Port Royal, South Carolina. This task force of 17 warships, 25 colliers, and 33 transports carrying 12,000 infantry, 600 marines, and their supplies. A gale off Cape Hatteras on November 1 scattered the fleet and floundered several transports carrying much of the army's ammunition and most of its landing boats. This mishap canceled the original plan for troops to land and assault the two forts guarding the entrance to Port Royal Bay. Once again the navy would have to do the job alone.

This was not a pleasant prospect for for Flag Officer Samuel du Pont, nephew of the founder of the du Pont gunpowder company and a veteran of 46 years of the navy. This traditional belief that one gun on shore was equal to four on shipboard seemed to give the 43 guns in the forts a better than even chance against 157 in the fleet. But du Pont was about to overturn the tradition. Using tactics made possible by steam power, he ordered his ships to steam back and forth past the ports in an oval pattern, pounding them with heavy broadsides while presenting moving targets in return. On November 7 the Union fleet carried out this plan with deadly precision, knocking out both forts after only 4 hours of firing.

At the cost of 31 casualties, the Union navy secured the finest natural harbor on the south Atlantic coast. More than that, the navy acquired a reputation of invincibility that depressed morale along the South's salt-water perimeter. The day after the capture of Port Royal, Robert E. Lee arrived in Savannah as the newly appointed commander of the south Atlantic coastal defenses. He regarded this assignment as "another forlorn hope expedition- worse than West Virginia." Lee recognized that sea power gave Yankees the option of striking when and where they pleased. "There are so many points to attack, and so little means to meet them on water," he sighed, "that there is but little rest." Lee had no choice but to concentrate Confederate defenses at strategic points, yielding most of the coastline to the enemy.

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McClellan! Part Two

In truth, there could be only one head of the post-Bull Run military buildup. McClellan went about this task with great energy. He put in 18 hour days that achieved quick and visible results. McClellan communicated directly with the president, bypassing Scott. Scott, whose age and infirmities prevented him from doing more than a few hours of paperwork, grew piqued at being left out of things. McClellan complained that Scott was frustrating his plans to prepare a quick offensive. He wrote his wife:

That confounded old man always gets in my way. He understands nothing, appreciates nothing. I don't know whether he is a dotard or a traitor. If he cannot be taken out of my path, I will resign and let the administration take care of itself. The people call upon me to save the country- I must save it and cannot respect anything that is in the way.

At first Lincoln tried to mediate, but the pressure was too strong from Republican senators, and on November 1, Scott retired "for health reasons." McClellan succeeded him as commander in chief. Republicans had pushed Scott out because they blamed him for the inactivity of the army.

...

With military acumen, he [McClellan] attacked where his adversary [scott] was weakest: in his pride. Snubbing him in public and differing with him abruptly in private councils, he goaded him into such trembling fury that the old man requested to be placed on the retired list as soon as possible, "to seek the palliatives of physical pain and exertion." Lincoln felt he could not spare him yet, however, and asked him to stay on, which Scott reluctantly agreed to do. McCellan kept at him, and at last in early October at a War Department meeting Scott turned heavily in his chair, addressing McClellan, who lounged in the doorway:

"You were called here by my advice. The times require vigilance and activity. I am not active and never shall be again. When I proposed that you should come here to aid, not supersede me, you had my friendship and confidence.

You still have my confidence."

Fort Sumter to Perryville, Shelby Foote

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It's amazing how much of an advantage the south had in terms of generals and military leadership. If not for that, and the corruption of some of the north's cabinet members, it might have been a much shorter war. The south was unified, the north was not. Three things the north had that made the difference IMO... Lincoln, factories and more men, the later two took time to take advantage of. The south had some political infighting while the north found ways to let politics get in the way of victory far more often. Even the egos of the early key players in the north were formidable obstacles. Look at McCellan. It took Lincoln a long time to find some generals who knew how to fight a war.

It would seem that way, but I suspect that the southern advantage here is a bit overblown. They mostly fought on their home turf as the underdog - men fighting on their land, protecting that land, will fight just that much harder. And, because they were usually outnumbered, they almost had to be more daring, etc.

It would also seem, and maybe someone who knows more than I could shed more light on this, that the southern generals had a little less bureaucracy to deal with and could just concentrate on the task at hand, where the Northern side had a lot of Washington pressure. Maybe if McClellan were in Lee's shoes, he would not have been as tentative. And maybe Lee, in Mac's shoes, would have been more cautious.

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The day after the capture of Port Royal, Robert E. Lee arrived in Savannah as the newly appointed commander of the south Atlantic coastal defenses. He regarded this assignment as "another forlorn hope expedition- worse than West Virginia." Lee recognized that sea power gave Yankees the option of striking when and where they pleased. "There are so many points to attack, and so little means to meet them on water," he sighed, "that there is but little rest." Lee had no choice but to concentrate Confederate defenses at strategic points, yielding most of the coastline to the enemy.

I had never seen this quote from Lee before. It reinforces what I had already beleived. Lee knew WV was not defensable. My last tidbit on WV:

There is a marker at the old salt mines of the Kanawha River Salines:

http://www.wvculture.org/history/thisdayin...story/0810.html

This is in the south of WV, where the population was more supportive of the Confederate cause, but Rutherford B Hayes didn't really destroy the salt works. "Mudwall" Jackson, Stonewall's cousin (the name was obviously derogatory) had captured Charleston, nearby the salt mines, but the occupation was short lived. A major flood had severly damaged the mines in 1861, which had 54 furnaces in operation before the disaster. The lesser known Jackson left with the best salt making equipment, pots, furnaces, drills etc that he could take with him. It is unclear if he destroyed whatever was left that he couldn't take with him, but many of the wells were flooded and unusable without some major renovations and improvements in any case. There wasn't much left of the salt mines when Hayes destroyed whatever remained, but he claimed credit for it, and WV was and is happy to blame him for it's destruction to this day.

The equipment Mudwall confiscated was sent to Saltville, a town in southwestern VA. Saltville had plenty of capacity, and it was not uncommon for well over a hundred wagons to be lined up awaiting transport to the Confederate army and points south. The problem was the south did not have the transportation network to get the salt where it needed to be. Saltville was also producing a good percentage of the south's coal. In fact, it was coal from Saltville that powered ther south's ironclads for the most part.

The importance of salt in the civil war for the south is a forgotten problem. There were a couple of other much smaller salt mines in the south, but the Confederates never had enough, and the lack of this mineral led to spoiled foodstuffs and illness and hunger for many southern soldiers. The Kanawha Salines would not be worked again until WWI. Today the area is still a source of coal and natural gas.

I find it interesting that even today, the south's part in the destruction of the mines is basically ignored. Hayes made himself an easy scapegoat in his quest for recognition of even dubious accomplishments in the war. The south would never have been able to use these saline resources. Like a lot of other destruction in the war, it was not neceassary.... at all.

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It's amazing how much of an advantage the south had in terms of generals and military leadership. If not for that, and the corruption of some of the north's cabinet members, it might have been a much shorter war. The south was unified, the north was not. Three things the north had that made the difference IMO... Lincoln, factories and more men, the later two took time to take advantage of. The south had some political infighting while the north found ways to let politics get in the way of victory far more often. Even the egos of the early key players in the north were formidable obstacles. Look at McCellan. It took Lincoln a long time to find some generals who knew how to fight a war.

It would seem that way, but I suspect that the southern advantage here is a bit overblown. They mostly fought on their home turf as the underdog - men fighting on their land, protecting that land, will fight just that much harder. And, because they were usually outnumbered, they almost had to be more daring, etc.

It would also seem, and maybe someone who knows more than I could shed more light on this, that the southern generals had a little less bureaucracy to deal with and could just concentrate on the task at hand, where the Northern side had a lot of Washington pressure. Maybe if McClellan were in Lee's shoes, he would not have been as tentative. And maybe Lee, in Mac's shoes, would have been more cautious.

Regarding the first point, I'm not so sure. Certainly the Army of the Potomac was the most political of any army this country has ever seen. That was hardly the fault of the administration or Washington City; the leadership of the AoP was somewhat at odds with how the war needed to be prosecuted. They were molded in the image of their first commander, and like McClellan the corps commanders who were largely Democrats (the conservative party at the time).

More directly to your point about pressure being applied from politicians, Lee (and every other Confederate commander) got plenty of heat from newspaper editors if and when anything went awry. Davis didn't need to prod R.E.L. because he had complete confidence in him - they were on the same page. If you look at how much he fought with Beauregard and Joe Johnston, there are similarities (especially the latter) with Lincoln's contentious relationship with McClellan, primarily aimed at getting either general to move forward.

As we will see, there was far more infighting in the Army of Northern Virginia, the Army of Tennessee and the trans-Mississippi that we ever saw in the AoP, Army of the Cumberland, and the Army of the Tennessee. It sometimes seems like the Confederate generals spent as much time fighting with each other over petty disputes as they did their combat opponents.

As for the latter point - if we swapped generals, would they have behaved differently - I don't believe there is much truth in that speculation. I think the manner in which McClellan handled the army he created is a perfect reflection of his own pyschological makeup. How would Lee have wielded the AoP? That is a little harder to postulate.

Lee is often criticized because his predilection for the offensive resulted in such high casualties - losses that were harder for the South to replace than the North. But his reason for adopting that strategy, seizing and maintaining the intiative, rested with his belief it was the best (and perhaps only) way for the Confederacy to win its independence. While that is another debateable point, I think if the roles were reversed he may have shifted gears and taken more of a seige approach since his available resources would have been vastly different. His tactics might have therefore been different. But regardless, I believe Robert E. Lee would have been in control, always seeking to do and to accomplish whatever circumstances allowed him to, and not (as was the case with Little Mac) merely responding to his opponents actions.

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Roanoke Island

Another joint army-navy expedition- in which the army for once did most of the fighting- sealed off all harbors in North Carolina except Wilmington. This expedition launched the checkered career of Ambrose E. Burnside, a handsome, florid, personable Rhode Islander whose imposing muttonchop whiskers would contribute a new word to the language with an anagram (sideburns) of his name. After leading a brigade at Bull Run, Burnside had gone home to organize a division of soldiers accustomed to working around water and boats. He gathered together 12,000 troops and in January of 1862 led a flotilla with the purpose of gaining control of the North Carolina Sounds.

Their first target was Roanoke Island, a swampy piece of land 10 miles long, 2 miles wide, and rich in legend- a land where the memory of Virginia Dare and the inscrutable word "Croatan" marked the mysterious fate of England's first North American colony. Controlling the passage between Pamlico Sound and Albermarle Sound, Roanoke Island was the key to Richmond's back door. Commander of the 3,000 Confederate soldiers, 4 batteries with 32 guns, and 7 one gun gunboats defending the island was Henry A. Wise, the political general transferred here from his feuds with fellow Virginian John Floyd in West Virginia. Wise had learned enough about war to recognize the inadequacy of his "mosquito-fleet" gunboats, badly-sited batteries, and poorly trained, outnumbered troops. He pleaded with Richmond for more men and more guns, but Richmond seemed plainly indifferent.

This indifference cost them dearly, for the Yankees were coming with power. On February 7-8, Burnside's 16 gunboats mounting 64 guns drove off the mosquito fleet and neutralized the Confederate shore batteries while steamers towed landing boats through the surf and 7,500 soldiers waded ashore on Roanoke Island. There they plunged through "impenetrable" knee-deep swamps and smashed through rebel entrenchments, suffering only 264 casualties. For this price they captured the island's 2,675 defenders. General Wise escaped but his son, an infantry captain, was killed in the fighting. Next day Union gunboats destroyed the mosquito fleet and seized Elizabeth City on the mainland. During the next several weeks, Yankees captured all the North Carolina ports on the sounds, including New Berne and Beaufort's fine harbor, which became another base for the blockade fleet.

Here was amphibious warfare with style. It won a promotion to major general for Burnside. It raised northern morale and dampened southern spirits. The Confederate Congress set up a committee to investigate the Roanoke Island disaster. The hue and cry forced Judah Benjamin to resign as secretary of war. There was a good deal of anti-Semitism involved with this. Jefferson Davis, who liked Benjamin, promptly appointed him Secretary of State.

The result of the Roanoke Island victory was a tightening of the blockade. Yet the South had a secret weapon designed to break it: the former U.S.S. Merrimac, now rebuilt into the C.S.S. Virginia, a new ship of the sort no navy had ever before seen. It is now time to tell its remarkable story.

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My next several posts will be about the ironclad battle of 1862 between the Merrimac/Virginia and the Monitor. This is one of my favorite battles to read about in the American Civil War. In a war mostly dominated by land conflicts, this is the one great sea battle. I also like it because it has an air of science fiction about it: the sudden appearance of new technology which none of your weapons work against, etc. It is a great testament to human ingenuity on both sides. And of course, it's a very exciting story- at least I think so.

Hope you enjoy it.

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Once timschochet has completed his retelling of the clash of the ironclads, I believe he has several other topics in mind.

As this point I'd like to make a suggestion for the order of covering the military aspects of the ACW for the remainder of 1862.

Suggested General Outline (primarily order of discussion for the battles)

Washington City: Buildup for McClellan's First Major Campaign

Western theatre: Grant takes Fort Henry

West: Donelson - the loss of of Kentucky

Virginia: Johnston evacuates Manassas

VA: McClellan lands on the Peninsula; siege of Yorktown

Trans-Mississippi theatre: Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern) and Island No. 10

West: Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing)

West: New Orleans

West: Corinth campaign

VA: drive up the Peninsula; Williamsburg

VA: the Valley Campaign

VA: Seven Pines/Fair Oaks

VA: Lee takes command; concentration on the Chickahominy

VA: The Seven Days; Richmond redeemed

VA: Lee v. Pope

VA: Second Manassas/2nd Bull Run

West Invasion: Munfordville

East Invasion: Maryland My Maryland

MD: Special Orders No. 191; Harpers Ferry

MD: South Mountain

MD: The bloodiest day in American History - Antietam (Sharpsburg)

Washington City: The Proclamation

KY: Perryville; Bragg retreats

Lincoln puts McClellan to the test

VA: Fredericksburg

T-M: Prairie Grove

West: Mufreesboro (Stones River)

That is not an exhaustive list but touches on most of the major events. If you think a cavalry raid or another engagement not listed should be discussed, feel free to add suggestions.

By general agreement, timschochet handles the overall narrative, politics, and naval engagements. But by all means, anyone can jump in at anytime (just as long as you stick with the general time line we are on - we can always circle back to subjects, but lets avoid jumping ahead).

I will generally handle land battles. However, I am a lot stronger and have more resources for some more than others. Of the above, I plan on doing:

BobbyLayne will cover narrative

Fort Henry & Fort Donelson

Pea Ridge

Peninsula Campaign - Seven Pines - Seven Days

Valley Campaign

Second Manassas

South Mountain

Perryville

Mufreesboro

I have sufficient resources to cover the others, but would like to open it up to anyone else who wants a shot at describing the military battles...so for now let's say these are open (first come, first serve):

Need volunteers for narrative

Island No. 10

Shiloh

New Orleans

Corinth campaign

Munfordville

Antietam

Fredericksburg

Prairie Grove

If no one steps up for these, timschochet will cover in a general post...although for Shiloh and Antietam - whoever does those, timschochet, myself, or someone else - it should be a lengthy and in depth analysis. I've spent time at both battlefields, but I don't want to take on more than I can handle, so hopefully other folks will jump in to help out.

Also, nothing set in stone...if somebody wants to cover one of the 8 or so I listed previously, just LMK and I'll get out of the way.

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This sounds good to me, except that the order might be a little different. I'm using McPherson as my main source, so, following him, when I'm done with the Ironclads, there are still some items to discuss regarding England's relationship with the Confederacy, Mason and Slidell, etc.

After that, still following McPherson, I want to discuss the Forts and Shiloh first before we get to the eastern battles- I understand these events often occur at the same time, but as in the World War II narrative, sometimes it's better to finish with one theater and then backtrack. Also, McPherson has a very interesting chapter in between these events called "The Sinews of War" which discusses political and cultural changes in both North and South, and I think this is important to cover. After that, we will backtrack and cover all the events of the east, beginning with McClellan's buildup and narrating all of the key battles that led to Antietam.

I think you're right that both Shiloh and Antietam are battles you could never stop discussing, and I'm unprepared to give anything other than the barest outline. Hopefully there will be some good contributions.

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You're right about the diplomacy aspect; no question 'one war at a time' should be up next.

I'm fine with the whatever order you are comfortable with, post #809 was a intended as a general suggestion.

I have tons of info on Shiloh and Antietam, but have spent way more time physically on the Maryland ground...really hoping someone who lives in the middle west or south (e.g., has spent more time there) will step up.

The only reason I didn't want to take Antietam is I'll probably want a break around then.

Again, anyway can jump in and take the helm for any particular battle.

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I could take Fredricksburg, it is one of the few battlefields I have seen in person, having spent nearly an entire day there once looking it over, and I remember it quite well. I walked the entire area several times, retracing the lines of assault of the Feds from the opposite side of the Rappnhannock and up the hill. The line of fire the rebels enjoyed was absolutely perfect for turning any Fed attack into a massacre, which is exactly what happened. Is that OK with you folks?

Edited by Rovers

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I could take Fredricksburg, it is one of the few battlefields I have seen in person, having spent nearly an entire day there once looking it over, and I remember it quite well. I walked the entire area several times, retracing the lines of assault of the Feds from the opposite side of the Roanoke and up the hill. The line of fire the rebels enjoyed was absolutely perfect for turning any Fed attack into a massacre, which is exactly what happened. Is that OK with you folks?

Awesome! :) If you get a chance, check out George C. Rable's "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!". Maybe your local library branch has it.Don't think it ever came out in paperback, and I wouldn't recommend buying it if you don't already have it. Dryer than sawdust. But it is the definitive work, so it would be a good reference source.

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The Ironclads, Part One

Having no traditions and few old-navy prejudices to overcome, the rebels got a head start into the new era of ironclad warships. In July 1861 they began grafting an armor-plated casemate onto the salvaged hull of the frigate Merrimack. Work began in July. The capacity of the Tredegar Iron Works was stretched to the limit to construct two layers of two-inch iron plate sufficient to protect a superstructure 178 feet long and 24 feet high above the waterline and one-inch plate covering the 264-foot hull down to 3 feet below the waterline. The superstructure sloped at an angle of 36 degrees to give added protection by causing enemy shots to ricochet. The strange appearance of this craft, rechristened the Virginia, reminded observers of a barn floating with only its roof above water. The Virginia was armed with 10 guns, 4 on each broadside plus fore and aft 7-inch pivot rifles. Attached to her prow was an iron ram to stave in the hulls of wooden warships.

This principal defects of this otherwise formidable vessel were its unreliable engines and deep draft. Unable to build new engines of adequate horsepower, the rebels reconditioned the two old Merrimack engines that had been condemned by the prewar navy and slated for replacement. The weight of the Virginia's armor gave her a draft of 22 feet. This prevented operations in shallow water while her unseaworthiness prevented her from venturing into the open sea. The weak engines and ungainly limited her speed to 4 or 5 knots and made her so unmaneuverable that a 180-degree turn took half an hour. Most of these problems would not be apparent until the Virginia was launched; in the meantime she inspired hope in the South and fear in the North.

Like Hitler's "secret weapons" toward the end of the second world war, rumors soon spread of the Confederate "supership" which could not be damaged by normal weapons and which would sink any ship in its path. The rumors soon reached the ears of Lincoln and Secretary of the Navy Welles, who assured the President that such talk was "hogwash". Welles already calculated, with reason, that he had a conventional navy superior to anything the Confederates could construct, and he was preoccupied with the need to build up the blockade fleet. There was no time to experiment with "newfangled notions."

Lincoln was a leader who was always enamored with new technology and paid little attention to the traditions of warfare; in this, he was much like Churchill (and Hitler, for that matter.) He resisted Welles' initial skepticism and, together with a Republican congress nervous about the Virginia rumors, passed a law on August 3, 1861, directing the construction of 3 prototype ironclads. Welles reluctantly set up a board to assess the dozens of proposals submitted by shipbuilders. The board eventually accepted two, which resulted in the building of the Galena and the New Ironsides, ships of convention design overlaid by iron plating. Lincoln himself became personally involved in the review of these designs. Though he was no ship expert, he asked Welles: shouldn't new technology demand a new short of ship?

His question was about to be answered, by one of the most brilliant shipbuilders in American history. But it almost never happened, because this man, while a genius, hated the United States Navy, and wanted nothing to do with it.

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I could take Fredricksburg, it is one of the few battlefields I have seen in person, having spent nearly an entire day there once looking it over, and I remember it quite well. I walked the entire area several times, retracing the lines of assault of the Feds from the opposite side of the Roanoke and up the hill. The line of fire the rebels enjoyed was absolutely perfect for turning any Fed attack into a massacre, which is exactly what happened. Is that OK with you folks?

Awesome! :rolleyes: If you get a chance, check out George C. Rable's "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!". Maybe your local library branch has it.Don't think it ever came out in paperback, and I wouldn't recommend buying it if you don't already have it. Dryer than sawdust. But it is the definitive work, so it would be a good reference source.
I am aware of Rable's book, but I have long had my eye on Francis O'Reilly's "Fredricksburg Campaign: Winter on the Rappahannock". This is my excuse for shelling out 150 bucks to finally get the hard cover. Just ordered it. Rable spends more time on the politics etc, O'Reilly's book is more about the battle itself with many more details and personal accounts from the field. Have you ever read this one? It's in paperback too. Timschochet, I'm enjoying your accounts of the ironclads... great stuff!

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I could take Fredricksburg, it is one of the few battlefields I have seen in person, having spent nearly an entire day there once looking it over, and I remember it quite well. I walked the entire area several times, retracing the lines of assault of the Feds from the opposite side of the Roanoke and up the hill. The line of fire the rebels enjoyed was absolutely perfect for turning any Fed attack into a massacre, which is exactly what happened. Is that OK with you folks?

Awesome! :wall: If you get a chance, check out George C. Rable's "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!". Maybe your local library branch has it.Don't think it ever came out in paperback, and I wouldn't recommend buying it if you don't already have it. Dryer than sawdust. But it is the definitive work, so it would be a good reference source.
I am aware of Rable's book, but I have long had my eye on Francis O'Reilly's "Fredricksburg Campaign: Winter on the Rappahannock". This is my excuse for shelling out 150 bucks to finally get the hard cover. Just ordered it. Rable spends more time on the politics etc, O'Reilly's book is more about the battle itself with many more details and personal accounts from the field. Have you ever read this one? It's in paperback too.
Outstanding, good choice.Yeah, they came out around the same time, and Rable is more of a campaign book. If you want a great microhistory that focuses primarily on December 13, O'Reilly is def a better choice. I feel like Rable would be more accessible to non-ACW bores whereas O'Reilly appeals more to folks more familiar with and interested in the military aspect. Both have merit.I have scores of books like this that I think the average casual reader would find tedious, but I eat it up. If you are going to spend time walking a battlefield these microhistories are invaluable. But I think most prefer casual narratives like McPherson, or great storytellers like Catton or Foote.

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I could take Fredricksburg, it is one of the few battlefields I have seen in person, having spent nearly an entire day there once looking it over, and I remember it quite well. I walked the entire area several times, retracing the lines of assault of the Feds from the opposite side of the Roanoke and up the hill. The line of fire the rebels enjoyed was absolutely perfect for turning any Fed attack into a massacre, which is exactly what happened. Is that OK with you folks?

Awesome! :thumbup: If you get a chance, check out George C. Rable's "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!". Maybe your local library branch has it.Don't think it ever came out in paperback, and I wouldn't recommend buying it if you don't already have it. Dryer than sawdust. But it is the definitive work, so it would be a good reference source.
I am aware of Rable's book, but I have long had my eye on Francis O'Reilly's "Fredricksburg Campaign: Winter on the Rappahannock". This is my excuse for shelling out 150 bucks to finally get the hard cover. Just ordered it. Rable spends more time on the politics etc, O'Reilly's book is more about the battle itself with many more details and personal accounts from the field. Have you ever read this one? It's in paperback too.
Outstanding, good choice.Yeah, they came out around the same time, and Rable is more of a campaign book. If you want a great microhistory that focuses primarily on December 13, O'Reilly is def a better choice. I feel like Rable would be more accessible to non-ACW bores whereas O'Reilly appeals more to folks more familiar with and interested in the military aspect. Both have merit.I have scores of books like this that I think the average casual reader would find tedious, but I eat it up. If you are going to spend time walking a battlefield these microhistories are invaluable. But I think most prefer casual narratives like McPherson, or great storytellers like Catton or Foote.
Having spent time on the old battlefield, knowing that this battle was the largest clash in terms of the number of troops involved in the entire war, the intracacies of the truces to gather dead and wounded, a Confederate who went out beyond the sunken road to offer water to wounded Yankees, specific accounts of men taking minie balls complete with their last words, to me, brings home the ferocity of it all. As Lee spoke, to paraphrase, "it is good that war is so terrible, lest we become too fond of it." as he surveyed the carnage of the scene below Marey's Heights. Fredricksburg was one of the most important battles of the entire war, but I will have my chance to expound on that thought when the time comes. The reprecussions of Fredricksburg would have a direct and both immediate and long term affect on the outcome of the war. I will attempt to relate the battle in a way the casual reader may appreciate. I hope I do half as good a job as you guys have done so far.

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Really looking forward to it, Rovers.

A lot of folks overlook Fredericksburg. They think they know the story: Confederates in strong positions repulse repeated attacks by Federals, with minimal loses.

But there are some great stories to be told:

Confederate sniper fire delays completion of Federal pontoon bridges

Federal artillery attempts to drive away Confederate sharpshooters

Federal Infantry cross river in boats and force Confederates out of Fredericksburg

Pelham prevents main Federal attack with only one gun on Federal's flank

Meade's attacks and repulse on the Confederate right

Meade renewing his attack, breaching A.P. Hill's line through a marshy gap

Gibbon attacks in support of Meade, capturing railroad

Early counterattacks, driving Meade from the breakthrough

Gibbon retreats before Confederate reinforcements

The remarkable Sgt. Richard Kirkland (the Angel of Fredericksburg)

Well, I don't want to steal your thunder with too much foreshadowing...and it will be months before we get there...but it should be great reading when we do.

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Really looking forward to it, Rovers.

A lot of folks overlook Fredericksburg. They think they know the story: Confederates in strong positions repulse repeated attacks by Federals, with minimal loses.

But there are some great stories to be told:

Confederate sniper fire delays completion of Federal pontoon bridges

Federal artillery attempts to drive away Confederate sharpshooters

Federal Infantry cross river in boats and force Confederates out of Fredericksburg

Pelham prevents main Federal attack with only one gun on Federal's flank

Meade's attacks and repulse on the Confederate right

Meade renewing his attack, breaching A.P. Hill's line through a marshy gap

Gibbon attacks in support of Meade, capturing railroad

Early counterattacks, driving Meade from the breakthrough

Gibbon retreats before Confederate reinforcements

The remarkable Sgt. Richard Kirkland (the Angel of Fredericksburg)

Well, I don't want to steal your thunder with too much foreshadowing...and it will be months before we get there...but it should be great reading when we do.

You know yer stuff! If Franklin who had 60,000 troops available had followed up behind Meade's penetration into Jackson's line.... but, I must restrain myself... the story of Fredricksburg is not yet upon us....

Who ever takes on Anteitam.... that is an epic. I don't have near the resources to do that one, maybe someone can step up.

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Antietam is such a great field to walk, one of the best preserved National Military Parks. Its a bit like Gettysburg, though, its so spread out you really need several days to hit everything. The Cornfield, East Woods, West Woods and the Dunker church are all fairly close to each other...but the sunken road is a pretty long hike, and Burnside's bridge is several miles away. The other thing that makes it a lot like G'burg is the town hasn't increased in size that much. Suburban sprawl has eaten into a lot of Civil War sites over the years.

In 2002 I went to the 140th re-enactment at Sharpsburg...IIRC we left the city around midnight or 1 a.m. so we could get there in time for the pre-dawn bombardment. They had a massive turnout - every 5 year anniversary draws more re-enactors - with encampments everywhere, battlefield demonstrations all day, terrific lectures, etc.

Next year they'll start doing 150th anniversary re-enactments - if anyone ever wants to attend a ACW battle re-enactment, 2011-2015 will be epic ones to go see.

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Antietam is such a great field to walk, one of the best preserved National Military Parks. Its a bit like Gettysburg, though, its so spread out you really need several days to hit everything. The Cornfield, East Woods, West Woods and the Dunker church are all fairly close to each other...but the sunken road is a pretty long hike, and Burnside's bridge is several miles away. The other thing that makes it a lot like G'burg is the town hasn't increased in size that much. Suburban sprawl has eaten into a lot of Civil War sites over the years.In 2002 I went to the 140th re-enactment at Sharpsburg...IIRC we left the city around midnight or 1 a.m. so we could get there in time for the pre-dawn bombardment. They had a massive turnout - every 5 year anniversary draws more re-enactors - with encampments everywhere, battlefield demonstrations all day, terrific lectures, etc.Next year they'll start doing 150th anniversary re-enactments - if anyone ever wants to attend a ACW battle re-enactment, 2011-2015 will be epic ones to go see.

Yet another reason I wanted to do Fredricksburg. The battelefield was small compared to other battles. In other words, it's an easier one to cover. I still don't have a cohesive understanding of GB despite a reasonable effort to do so. What month is the Sharpsburg re-enactment? Problem is my biz is seasonal.... spring, fall and summer are difficult to do anything other than work. I might be able to steal a 3 day weekend....

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Antietam is such a great field to walk, one of the best preserved National Military Parks. Its a bit like Gettysburg, though, its so spread out you really need several days to hit everything. The Cornfield, East Woods, West Woods and the Dunker church are all fairly close to each other...but the sunken road is a pretty long hike, and Burnside's bridge is several miles away. The other thing that makes it a lot like G'burg is the town hasn't increased in size that much. Suburban sprawl has eaten into a lot of Civil War sites over the years.

In 2002 I went to the 140th re-enactment at Sharpsburg...IIRC we left the city around midnight or 1 a.m. so we could get there in time for the pre-dawn bombardment. They had a massive turnout - every 5 year anniversary draws more re-enactors - with encampments everywhere, battlefield demonstrations all day, terrific lectures, etc.

Next year they'll start doing 150th anniversary re-enactments - if anyone ever wants to attend a ACW battle re-enactment, 2011-2015 will be epic ones to go see.

Yet another reason I wanted to do Fredricksburg. The battlefield was small compared to other battles. In other words, it's an easier one to cover. I still don't have a cohesive understanding of GB despite a reasonable effort to do so. What month is the Sharpsburg re-enactment? Problem is my biz is seasonal.... spring, fall and summer are difficult to do anything other than work. I might be able to steal a 3 day weekend....

The Maryland Campaign time line:

Harpers Ferry Sept 12-15

South Mountain Sept 14

Antietam Sept 17

In 2012 the 17th falls on a Monday, so I imagine the re-enactment weekend will be Sept 15-16.

re: GB - you really need to get a great book of maps to begin to understand it. Bradley Gottfried did a decent atlas a few years ago.

http://www.amazon.com/Maps-Gettysburg-Camp...y/dp/1932714308

The best campaign book IMO is still Coddington's 1968 classic The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, but Trudeau's more recent work Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage is pretty darn good.

Besides stomping the ground dozens of times in the last decade - usually accompanied by more seasoned vets who have spent decades studying Gettysburg - what really gave me greater depth was reading micro-histories that break the battlefield up by day. The best historian in that sub-genre was Harry Pfanz, a former historian at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Gettysburg: The First Day

Gettysburg: The Second Day - the best of the 3 IMO

Gettysburg: Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill

Unfortunately Harry retired before he got around to writing a book on the Third Day, but there is no shortage of volumes on Pickett's Charge. As an aside, Harry's son Donald is the historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, and wrote a great biography on Richard Ewell about a decade ago.

Other Gettysburg recommendations:

Gettysburg by Stephen Sears - on a personal level I loathe Sears because he never walks the ground (amazingly!), but he's a good writer (also did volumes on Antietam and Chancellorsville that are worthwhile).

Pickett’s Charge: The Last Attack at Gettysburg by Earl Hess - probably the best tactical discussion of the third day.

Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg By Eric Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi - Eric has written several books on the Union cavalry; J.D. is an insurance guy who re-enacts Col. Devin (Buford's brigade) and lives in the 'burg. Easily their best work.

Pickett’s Charge in History and Memory By Carol Reardon - friggin' awesome book that deals with the historiography of Gettysburg and the charge; just a terrific work, very original perspective.

Gettysburg, July 1 By David G. Martin - just make sure its not the 1st edition, which was rife with errors. Really solid hour by hour account.

The Killer Angels By Michael Shaara - the best history novel I have ever read, was the basis for the movie.

Gettysburg: A Journey in Time by William A. Frassanito - like Reardon's work, this one is a truly original perspective, an extraordinary study of the Gettysburg photographic evidence base.

Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign by Kent Masterson Brown - my favorite recent study of the campaign, it will blow you away how difficult it was to move an army in 1863.

For those who know very little about Gettysburg, Shelby Foote's Stars in Their Courses is a great starter book - under 200 pages.

ETA: Gettysburg Day Three by Jeffry D. Wert - forget this one; not in the same class as Pfanz but Wert is prolific, just read his book on the Peninsula Campaign.

ETA 2: If you ever see Gettysburg, Day Two: A Study in Maps by John Imhof on eBay, snap it up. Only 1,500 copies were printed in 1997. Usually they go for around $250, but I see in this auction last week it went for $150.

Also, our Gettysburg online discussion group has been working on a campaign map study for the last couple years. Phil Laino, mapmaker for for Gettysburg magazine, put together a 481 page heavy duty spiral bound atlas (suitable for taking on battlefield walks). Its available by mail order through Butternut and Blue (item #3, page 2) for $40 plus S&H, or at the gift shop at Gettysburg NMP*. That was a fun project - Phil would post each map online, we would debate it, and then he'd make corrections, start the cycle over, etc. In all he made 421 maps covering the entire 6 week campaign. Nothing fancy, just black/white with shades of gray maps, but they are IMO the most detailed, accurate and comprehensive maps ever published on Gettysburg.

:yucky:

One of our G'burg toy soldier geeks took a photo of it laying on his basement diorama. That diorama is Houcks Ridge, with Little Round Top back right, the stone wall to the Triangular Field on the left, with the brigades of Benning and Anderson in front on the Slyder Farm in the foreground.

:thumbup::ph34r:

*it was available at Morningside Books but might be sold out there - I think they only ran 500 or 1,000 copies. UPDATE: nm, still available for now.

Edited by BobbyLayne

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The Ironclads, Part Two

John Ericsson was born in Sweden in 1803. As a young man he joined the Swedish army, where he showed such skill and interest in mechanics that he soon moved to England, capital of the Industrial Revolution. It was a time for inventors and inventions, and Ericsson was a genius. He was interested in ships, but in his early years he could not get the Admiralty to purchase his designs. He built a steam engine that was the fastest known, but it kept breaking down. At one point Ericsson was forced into debtor's prison.

In the late 1830's Ericsson designed a a ship with two screw propellers moving in opposite directions. This was a revolution in shipmaking, but once again the Admiralty did not recognize it. Ericsson was rescued at this point by an American ship captain named Robert Stockton who convinced him that the United States Navy would purchase his design. In 1839, Ericsson moved to New York City. The Navy did buy the design, and a man became rich, but it was Stockton, not John Ericsson. Stockton tried to hide the fact that Ericsson had created the propellers, and claim credit for the success. This resulted in a bitter feud between the two men. To make matters worse, Ericsson, like many inventors of his type, was impatient, irascible, and generally rude to everyone. Had he been more patient he might have argued his case, but he had a tendency to storm out of meetings after screaming obscenities at everyone. Stockton managed to block the Navy from paying Ericsson. John Ericsson then swore he would never have any dealings with the United States Navy again.

Ericsson finally made his fortune by designing a caloric, or "hot air" engine. By the time the Civil War started, he was very comfortable. Though he cared nothing for either side of the conflict, Ericsson was intrigued by the idea of the Ironclads. For 10 years previously he had been working on the design of a new ship to meet the new technology, which was exactly what Lincoln had been looking for. Back in 1854, he had presented such a design to Napoleon III of France, who praised it but did not purchase it. Now, hearing that the navy was finally interested in designs for ironclads, Ericsson was torn. He had hated the United States Navy for 20 years. And yet- the chance to see his creation built! Ericsson was friends with a shipbuilder named Cornelius Scranton Bushnell who was a patriot. Bushnell knew of Ericsson's designs, and tried to convince the old inventor to submit them to the navy. Ericsson refused twice, and both times called Bushnell terrible names. The third time Bushnell came around, Ericsson agreed, very reluctantly.

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tim, post 823 was a horrible tease. I was left wanting more!

I know the CSS Virginia had a very deep draft, and that was it's perhaps biggest shortcoming, but in comparison, what was the draft of the Monitor? Clearly, the rebel ship had more fire power, but how does one design hold up to the other? The monitor was a much smaller vessle, correct? More manuvuerable, less draft? Given the turning radius of the Virginia, I am left to wonder why the Federal ships weren't able to avoid her ramming them being far more nimble than the iron clad was.

Will you cover that raid the Yankees attempted up a river to destroy the new construction of Conferate iron clads? I saw a piece maybe on the history channel on that raid, but all of the details escape me now. Did the Virginia only ram anchored Federal ships? The tactics of the ironclads is what I am pretty clueless about, and how their attacks might have been defensed. It certainly seems like it should have been relativley easy to avoid attacks by outmanuevering the slow ironclads, unless it was in a very confined straight of some sort, sheltered from the open sea. Simply out running them to open water should have been a viable defensive response?

From a purely ignorant layman's observation, the Virginia looks to be a better design, even though the Monitor was a dedicated design, not a modified platform built on an existing platform like the Virginia (Merrimack) was. TIA....

Edited by Rovers

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tim, post 823 was a horrible tease. I was left wanting more!

I know the CSS Virginia had a very deep draft, and that was it's perhaps biggest shortcoming, but in comparison, what was the draft of the Monitor? Clearly, the rebel ship had more fire power, but how does one design hold up to the other? The monitor was a much smaller vessle, correct? More manuvuerable, less draft? Given the turning radius of the Virginia, I am left to wonder why the Federal ships weren't able to avoid her ramming them being far more nimble than the iron clad was.

Will you cover that raid the Yankees attempted up a river to destroy the new construction of Conferate iron clads? I saw a piece maybe on the history channel on that raid, but all of the details escape me now. Did the Virginia only ram anchored Federal ships? The tactics of the ironclads is what I am pretty clueless about, and how their attacks might have been defensed. It certainly seems like it should have been relativley easy to avoid attacks by outmanuevering the slow ironclads, unless it was in a very confined straight of some sort, sheltered from the open sea. Simply out running them to open water should have been a viable defensive response?

From a purely ignorant layman's observation, the Virginia looks to be a better design, even though the Monitor was a dedicated design, not a modified platform built on an existing platform like the Virginia (Merrimack) was. TIA....

Hopefully I am about to answer most of your questions. But I know nothing about the bolded. If somebody does, perhaps they could provide it?

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tim, post 823 was a horrible tease. I was left wanting more!

...

Will you cover that raid the Yankees attempted up a river to destroy the new construction of Conferate iron clads?

...

...

I know nothing about the bolded. If somebody does, perhaps they could provide it?

:lmao:

Dunno...they put some pretty flimsy crapola on that the HC (much prefer Military History Channel...but then again the latter sponsors our Gettysburg discussion group).

I Googled history channel raid on CSS Virginia and came up blank.

BTW...and we'll get there shortly...the story of how the U.S. recaptured the Norfolk naval facility is pretty hilarious. Young Napolean forgot to make provisions for it in his grand Pennisula campaign plans...so President Lincoln and Treasury Secretary Chase borrowed some garrison troops from 78 year old General Wool down at Fort Monroe. When you want the job done, do it yourself...

Have more on that episode later.

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Rovers - there might have been a planned raid, a lot of small unit operations got authorization, failed, and never saw the light of day (e.g., no press reports, nothing in the The Official Records of The War of the Rebellion). I didn't find anything glancing through a couple references but I'll keep an eye out for it.

Lincoln was an military amateur, the upside of which is he was pretty open minded. They took a few 'coffee-grinder' guns down to the Pennisula, forerunner of the Gatling Gun (Lincoln test fired it himself). He gave the go ahead for Colonel Dahlgren's secret raid to free the Union prisoners at Libby Prison in Richmond. There is another somewhat famous hair brained naval expedition as well (having a senior moment this morning, forget the details). Anyway, its well within the realm of possibility and consistent with Lincoln's general notion of 'no harm in giving it a try'.

Edited by BobbyLayne

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This is a great thread. I'm kind of Civil War newb but i've been on a kick ever since I read The Killer Angels and visited Gettysburg last year. Pretty amazing stuff, it's like one huge epic story with great characters. I want to read a good non-fiction book on this, what would you guys recommend. How is Battle Cry of Freedom? I also want to read Foote's trilogy but it's seems kind of daunting.

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This is a great thread. I'm kind of Civil War newb but i've been on a kick ever since I read The Killer Angels and visited Gettysburg last year. Pretty amazing stuff, it's like one huge epic story with great characters. I want to read a good non-fiction book on this, what would you guys recommend. How is Battle Cry of Freedom? I also want to read Foote's trilogy but it's seems kind of daunting.

The first Civil War book I read was Shelby Foote's Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863. Its actually just one chapter out of the middle book of the trilogy. For some reason I thought it was under 200 pages (maybe that's how many pages the chapter is in his Civil War Narrative).

Anyway, the second, third and fourth books I read were Foote's trilogy. IIRC, the first volume took most of one summer, and I got through the next two over the fall/winter. That man is an awesome storyteller, totally gets you hooked.

After that I read everything I could get my hands on by Bruce Catton. Foote is pretty good, one of my favorites. Catton is even better IMO - just a genius at spinning a yarn.

From there I alternated between narratives, battle micro histories, and biographies of leaders and generals.

Walking the ground is where you really acquire a depth of understanding, especially going on battlefield walks with park rangers or licensed battlefield guides. Those guys have to pass tests that are comparable to the CPA exam before they get licensed - its a pretty awesome experience learning from folks who have been doing this for decades.

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The Ironclads, Part 3

John's Ericsson's ironclad design incorporated several novel features. A wooden hull sheathed with thin iron plate would be overlaid by a flat deck 172 feet long with perpendicular sides extending below the waterline and protected by 4.5 inch armor plating. The propeller, anchor, and all vital machinery would be protected by this shell, which was designed to float with less than two feet of free board, giving the craft the appearance of a raft- and also presenting a small target to enemy fire. Sitting on the dect was Ericsson's most important innovation: a revolving turret encased in 8 inches of armor and containing two 11 inch guns. This turret, along with the shallow draft (11 feet), light displacement (1,200 tons, about one forth of the Virginia's displacement) and 8 knot speed would give Ericsson's ship maneuverability and versatility. She could almost literally dance around a heavier enemy and fire in any direction.

Lincoln and Welles were impressed by Ericsson's design. But would it float? More specifically, would it stay afloat in a heavy sea? Some members of the naval board were skeptical. They had never seen anything like this cheesebox on a raft. Ericsson appeared before the board, held his temper for once, and overcame their doubts with a bravura performance. They awarded him a contract, but ridicule of "Ericsson's folly" by senior navy officers caused Welles to hedge his bet: the ship must prove a "complete success" (whatever that meant) or its builders must refund every penny of the $275,000 the government agreed to pay for it. According to McPherson, the old Swede was not concerned; he had confidence in his creation. (But McPherson's description of a calm, superbly confident Ericsson doesn't fit in with the description I have of the rest of his life. I'm sure he was confident in his creation, but confident in the U.S. Navy's ability to recognize that? I doubt it.)

Ericsson subcontracted the work to several firms to save time, though he supervised every detail personally. Starting three months later than the South, northern industry launched Ericsson's ironclad on January 30, 1862, two weeks before the Confederates launched the Virginia. Doubters present at each launching predicted that these crazy craft would never float, but cheered the disproof of their predictions. Several more weeks were required to finish the fittings of both ships. Ericsson named his vessel Monitor (one who admonishes and corrects wrongdoers.) There was no time for test runs to determine whether she fulfilled the terms of the contract; the Monitor's test would be trial by combat.

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This is a great thread. I'm kind of Civil War newb but i've been on a kick ever since I read The Killer Angels and visited Gettysburg last year. Pretty amazing stuff, it's like one huge epic story with great characters. I want to read a good non-fiction book on this, what would you guys recommend. How is Battle Cry of Freedom? I also want to read Foote's trilogy but it's seems kind of daunting.

The first Civil War book I read was Shelby Foote's Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863. Its actually just one chapter out of the middle book of the trilogy. For some reason I thought it was under 200 pages (maybe that's how many pages the chapter is in his Civil War Narrative).

Anyway, the second, third and fourth books I read were Foote's trilogy. IIRC, the first volume took most of one summer, and I got through the next two over the fall/winter. That man is an awesome storyteller, totally gets you hooked.

After that I read everything I could get my hands on by Bruce Catton. Foote is pretty good, one of my favorites. Catton is even better IMO - just a genius at spinning a yarn.

From there I alternated between narratives, battle micro histories, and biographies of leaders and generals.

Walking the ground is where you really acquire a depth of understanding, especially going on battlefield walks with park rangers or licensed battlefield guides. Those guys have to pass tests that are comparable to the CPA exam before they get licensed - its a pretty awesome experience learning from folks who have been doing this for decades.

Yea walking the grounds of Gettysburg was pretty epic, I was amazed at the destruction that happened in one small little town. We were so impressed by it that we had plans to go to Fredericksburg for this Pres Day weekend but the snow put an end to that.

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This is a great thread. I'm kind of Civil War newb but i've been on a kick ever since I read The Killer Angels and visited Gettysburg last year. Pretty amazing stuff, it's like one huge epic story with great characters. I want to read a good non-fiction book on this, what would you guys recommend. How is Battle Cry of Freedom? I also want to read Foote's trilogy but it's seems kind of daunting.

The first Civil War book I read was Shelby Foote's Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863. Its actually just one chapter out of the middle book of the trilogy. For some reason I thought it was under 200 pages (maybe that's how many pages the chapter is in his Civil War Narrative).

Anyway, the second, third and fourth books I read were Foote's trilogy. IIRC, the first volume took most of one summer, and I got through the next two over the fall/winter. That man is an awesome storyteller, totally gets you hooked.

After that I read everything I could get my hands on by Bruce Catton. Foote is pretty good, one of my favorites. Catton is even better IMO - just a genius at spinning a yarn.

From there I alternated between narratives, battle micro histories, and biographies of leaders and generals.

Walking the ground is where you really acquire a depth of understanding, especially going on battlefield walks with park rangers or licensed battlefield guides. Those guys have to pass tests that are comparable to the CPA exam before they get licensed - its a pretty awesome experience learning from folks who have been doing this for decades.

Yea walking the grounds of Gettysburg was pretty epic, I was amazed at the destruction that happened in one small little town. We were so impressed by it that we had plans to go to Fredericksburg for this Pres Day weekend but the snow put an end to that.
Sometime in the next month or so you should come over to this side of the river and visit the New York Historical Society:

Lincoln and New York (October 9, 2009 - March 25, 2010)

John Brown: The Abolitionist and his Legacy (September 15, 2009 - March 25, 2010)

:goodposting:

77th and CPW, right across from AMNH.

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OK, I figured it out. The documentary was about the CSS Albermarle, an ironclad built by an eighteen year old on his corn field ajacent to the Roanoke River. It was sunk at it's berth on the Roanoke by a Lt William B. Cushing USN commanding a torpedo boat, designated Picket Boat Number 1, using a spar torpedo in October of 1864. The Albermarle had had some success on the North Carolina Sounds, sinking several ships and by cutting off Plymouth from Federal shipping, caused the surrender of Plymouth. I knew I wasn't imaging it. It must have been at least ten years ago that I watched it, and it may not have even been on the History Channel, I'm not certain.

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OK, I figured it out. The documentary was about the CSS Albermarle, an ironclad built by an eighteen year old on his corn field ajacent to the Roanoke River. It was sunk at it's berth on the Roanoke by a Lt William B. Cushing USN commanding a torpedo boat, designated Picket Boat Number 1, using a spar torpedo in October of 1864. The Albermarle had had some success on the North Carolina Sounds, sinking several ships and by cutting off Plymouth from Federal shipping, caused the surrender of Plymouth. I knew I wasn't imaging it. It must have been at least ten years ago that I watched it, and it may not have even been on the History Channel, I'm not certain.

Whoa...what a weird coincidence...pretty sure my vague "There is another somewhat famous hair brained naval expedition as well (having a senior moment this morning, forget the details)" was referencing Cushing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_B._Cushing

Several biographers have referred to Lieutenant William B. Cushing as "Lincoln's commando" (though the Boer War-era term was not known in his time).

Fantastic Rovers, thanks.

BTW, his brother Alonzo Cushing was just about the toughest S.O.B. you'll ever read about. What he did at the stone wall at Gettysburg during Pickett's Charge was epic; can't wait to share that story with everyone when we get there.

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Yea walking the grounds of Gettysburg was pretty epic, I was amazed at the destruction that happened in one small little town. We were so impressed by it that we had plans to go to Fredericksburg for this Pres Day weekend but the snow put an end to that.

Fredricksburg is a great battlefield to visit. First, it's small compared to other battle fields. You can cover the entire field in a day, and walk the Union's lines of march and attack. The sunken road atop Marey's Hieghts is still just as it appeared during the battle. The sloping field between the sunken road and the town is vitrually the same... there were some small out buildings there before the battle, now the field is clear. It is very well preserved. It's very easy to visualize the whole battle. The canal the Feds had to cross is still there too. The present town of Fredrickburg is very quaint, and has the "feel" of the 19th century, at least it was about 15 years ago when I visited. Lots of period buildings, but not without a somewhat sophisticated feel. A pretty neat town to visit, even without the battlefield's presence. I did visit Gettysburg, but my ex-wife was a real pita, and we only stayed for about 2 hours, not hardly long enough. The big difference at Fredricksburg is that you can see the entire field of battle from Marey's Heights (except to the extreme south where Meade penetrated Jackson's line). This is the view Lee had. From atop that hill, you can see clear across the Rappahanock River. Lee could see the Union guns and encampment. I think this battlefield may be unique in this respect. It was also the largest battle in the Civil War, at least in terms of how many soldiers were there. The full force of both army's (or close to it) were all there. Franklin alone had command of 60,000 men. He failed to make good use of them. Be sure to get to Fredricksburg, you won't be disappointed.

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OK, I figured it out. The documentary was about the CSS Albermarle, an ironclad built by an eighteen year old on his corn field ajacent to the Roanoke River. It was sunk at it's berth on the Roanoke by a Lt William B. Cushing USN commanding a torpedo boat, designated Picket Boat Number 1, using a spar torpedo in October of 1864. The Albermarle had had some success on the North Carolina Sounds, sinking several ships and by cutting off Plymouth from Federal shipping, caused the surrender of Plymouth. I knew I wasn't imaging it. It must have been at least ten years ago that I watched it, and it may not have even been on the History Channel, I'm not certain.

Whoa...what a weird coincidence...pretty sure my vague "There is another somewhat famous hair brained naval expedition as well (having a senior moment this morning, forget the details)" was referencing Cushing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_B._Cushing

Several biographers have referred to Lieutenant William B. Cushing as "Lincoln's commando" (though the Boer War-era term was not known in his time).

Fantastic Rovers, thanks.

BTW, his brother Alonzo Cushing was just about the toughest S.O.B. you'll ever read about. What he did at the stone wall at Gettysburg during Pickett's Charge was epic; can't wait to share that story with everyone when we get there.

BL, thanks for that link. As I think about it, it may be almost 20 years ago I saw that documentary about Cushing's Roanoke raid. Reading your link brought it all back. The documentary with re-enactments was pretty good, which I suppose is the reason it stuck with me (at least somewhat). Now as I can better recall it, the documentary very accurately reflects the Wiki account of the raid. The Cushing boys were a pretty remarkable group it seems. Cushing was under heavy small arms fire when he bravely stood at the helm and detonated the torpedo. It was almost a suicide mission. This war had so many heroes and heroic acts... it's just amazing. Thanks again for the link... great job!

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The Ironclads, Part 4

On March 8, the Virginia steamed down the Elizabeth River from Norfolk and entered Hampton Roads, on what her crew assumed was a test run. But it turned out this was the real thing.

Anchored on the opposite side of Hampton Roads were five major Union warships: the frigate Congress and large sloop of war Cumberland off Newport News, and the frigates St. Lawrence , Minnesota and Roanoke a few miles to the east, off Fortress Monroe. All were powerful conventional wooden men o'war. Minnesota and Roanoke , of the same type as the pre-war Merrimack , had auxiliary steam propulsion, but the other three were propelled by sails alone, and thus were at the mercy of wind conditions and the availability of tugs. As Virginia crossed the Roads, looking (as one witness described her) "like the roof of a very big barn belching forth smoke as from a chimney on fire", the Union ships called their crews to quarters and prepared for action. Turning west, the Confederate ironclad shrugged off steady fire from ships and shore batteries as she steamed past the Congress . Firing her heavy cannon into both ships, she pushed her ram into Cumberland 's starboard side. The stricken ship began to sink, though her gun crews kept up a heavy fire as she went down. In the words of one of Cumberland 's enemies, "No ship was ever fought more gallantly."

Virginia backed clear, tearing off most of her iron ram, and slowly turned toward the Congress , which had gone aground while trying to get underway. Confederate gunners put several raking shells into the frigate's hull, and maintained a relentless fire as they came alongside. After an hour's battle, in which Congress ' crew suffered heavy casualties, she raised the white flag of surrender. As the Confederates began to take off her crew, several men on both sides were hit by gunfire from ashore, among them the Virginia 's Commanding Officer, Captain Franklin Buchanan , who ordered Congress set afire with hot shot. She blazed into the night, exploding as the fire reached her powder magazines about two hours after midnight.

Virginia had meanwhile made a brief demonstration in the direction of the big steam frigate Minnesota , which had also gone aground. However, with the day's light about to fade, the ironclad turned back toward the southern side of Hampton Roads and anchored. Though two of her guns had their muzzles shot off and most external fittings were swept away or rendered useless, she had dramatically demonstrated the horrible vulnerability of unarmored wooden warships when confronted with a hostile ironclad, and was still battleworthy. Her casualties, less than two-dozen, were removed and command passed from the injured Buchanan to Lieutenant Catesby ap R. Jones , who would take Virginia out the next day to deal with the Minnesota .

The day of battle was over- but what a day it was- the worst day in the history of the United States Navy up to that point, and indeed it would remain so until December 7, 1941. The Virginia had sunk two proud ships within a few hours. At least 240 bluejackets hae been killed, including the captain of the Congress- more than the navy suffered on any other day of the war. The whole Union fleet at Hampton Roads was threatened with destruction. And worst of all, this beast seemed invunerable to attacks. Bullets and cannon simply bounced off it.

History takes a fascinating turn here. As it happened, the Monitor was on its way and would be arriving the next day. But one of the great what ifs of the Civil War is what would have happened if the Monitor didn't show up, or wasn't built because Ericsson was still sore at the navy, etc.? We have some evidence as to what might have occured, and I will relate it in my next post.

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The Ironclads, Part 5

In the evening of March 8, 1862, following the attack by the C.S.S. Virginia, the whole Union fleet at Hampton Roads- still the main blockade base- was threatened with destruction. A taste of panic flavored the telegrams to Washington that night. It was recommended by the navy that Hampton Roads be abandoned. The Captain of the Minnesota wrote in his official report that he had no hope but to die bravely like the Cumberland. An emergency session of Lincoln's Cabinet was called for the following morning.

The cabinet meeting was one of the stormiest of the war. And surprisingly, the man who was the most upset was normally one of the calmest men in the administration: Edward M. Stanton, Secretary of War. Stanton had been before this morning, and would be after the morning, one of the leaders in the cabinet for the fullest prosecution of the conflict. Generally he was known to be an upright, very brave individual. But not on the morning of March 9, 1862.

Speaking without any expertise (there is no record of Stanton's comments on ironclads prior to this morning), the secretary stated that the Merrimack's victory the night before changed the entire outcome of the war. With this new technology, he claimed, there was no stopping the Confederacy. Stanton suggested that Lincoln begin negotiations for an immediate armistice and a recognition of the new country. This was listened to in shock and silence from the rest of the cabinet. Secretary Welles then spoke. He assured Lincoln that the Monitor, which had left New York two days earlier, should arrive at Hampton Roads this morning, and that she would be more than a match for the Merrimack. (Northerners continued to call the ship Merrimack, deliberately or otherwise ignoring the Confederate new name of Virginia.) Stanton recalled Welles being skeptical of the Monitor, and wondered how a "tin can on a shingle" with only two guns could handle the Confederate behometh. Lincoln commented wryly that they were all about to find out.

Certainly Stanton highly exaggerated the danger. Even if there had been no Monitor, that would not have threatened the war effort; there was only one Virginia, it could not operate in the open seas, and though it could damage U.S. ships all in one place (Hampton Roads), it's presence did not mean the end of the war or even an end to the blockade. But it is a fascinating question: what if the Monitor had not come? Would Lincoln have ordered a withdrawel of the ships at Hampton Roads? It seems to me if he had, the resulting propaganda victory would have been much greater even than the victory at Manassas. Furthermore, it might have given the South the one war aim they desired above all others: recognition by Great Britain. This is an issue I will discuss shortly, but Jefferson Davis believed that England's acknowledgement of the Confederacy would bring about a quick end to the war.

Of course, the Monitor did arrive. Coming up next: the climatic battle between the Monitor and the Virginia, the most famous naval battle of the Civil War, and one of the most famous naval battles in history.

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Very informative and comprehensive site:

Ironclads and Blockade Runners of the American Civil War

timschochet -

To address the question of what impact the CSS Virginia would have had if there was no USS Monitor, I think it would not have had a dramatic impact since the Confederate ship wasn't seaworthy. Certainly there would have been a slight shift in strategy. But McClellan (in sharp contrast to Grant in the west) never utilized or received the proper support from the Navy. We saw several instances of joint operations in the Western theatre, but not so much in the Virginia campaigns.

So let's say there was no clash of the ironclads. What would have been the immediate impact? Originally Little Mac was going to land at Urbanna. After Johnston abandoned Manassas, they decided to land at Fort Monroe. The Army of the Potomac disembarked there eight days after the Monitor-Merrimac contest, with no assurance from the Navy that they could protect the James River with the Virginia still intact. So I'm inclined to believe the overall impact would have been minimal.

The south was not going to win the war with one supership. That said, if she had not been contained, it would have been an embarrassing defeat for the Lincoln administration.

As for Ericsson, he had the best early design...but they had the Galena and the New Ironsides by the end of the summer. The Union would have eventually matched the Virginia with or without him, but they were lucky that his subcontractors in Brooklyn finished up in the nick of time.

There were ironclads all over the world by 1861; the French had used them to bombard the Crimean. But Montior-Merrimac was the first battle between steam ironclads.

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Wow, Stanton really over reacted. He must have thought the Virginia could operate in open seas with the speed of wooden ships, or he just cracked for a day. How else to explain his dire predictions? Did this episode reduce the respect and/or power he had in the cabinet later on? This is tantamount to a general panicing on ther field, don't you think?

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Wow, Stanton really over reacted. He must have thought the Virginia could operate in open seas with the speed of wooden ships, or he just cracked for a day. How else to explain his dire predictions? Did this episode reduce the respect and/or power he had in the cabinet later on? This is tantamount to a general panicing on ther field, don't you think?

Various sources discuss Stanton's reaction that day. McPherson uses the actual word "panic", while Foote spends a few paragraphs ripping him. But I can't find anything about it carrying over. Probably Lincoln, in his wisdom, recognized it as a moment of weakness and chose to overlook it. I can only imagine if it had happened to one of Davis's cabinet; Davis was a man who formed instant opinions of people in such situations and never wavered from them.

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Wow, Stanton really over reacted. He must have thought the Virginia could operate in open seas with the speed of wooden ships, or he just cracked for a day. How else to explain his dire predictions? Did this episode reduce the respect and/or power he had in the cabinet later on? This is tantamount to a general panicing on ther field, don't you think?

Various sources discuss Stanton's reaction that day. McPherson uses the actual word "panic", while Foote spends a few paragraphs ripping him. But I can't find anything about it carrying over. Probably Lincoln, in his wisdom, recognized it as a moment of weakness and chose to overlook it. I can only imagine if it had happened to one of Davis's cabinet; Davis was a man who formed instant opinions of people in such situations and never wavered from them.
Stanton ran pretty hot and cold. But Lincoln could look beyond peoples faults and find value in them. Cameron made a pretty big mess, and Stanton did a great job getting the War Department in shape.

The president recognized Stanton's ability, but whenever necessary Lincoln managed to "plow around him."

:lmao:

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I posted a link to this thread at my homer forum, a Jets message board. I guess a few folks have taken the time to do some reading here because of that. Tim and BL, I called this a near epic when I first found it. You two have done an incredible job here. I took the liberty to cut and paste the following comment from my Jets board:

""I love the civil war. Not the reasons it was fought, but the idea that states had the right to come and go into the union as they saw fit. Some of these are great reads, the writing in most cases are good, and if you guys were smart you would get together, come up with all of the citations, and turn this into a history book for the college level. They cost a lot of money as it is, so there's good money involved.""

I know the difficulty in getting published, especially without a boatload of credentials (that I know about) on a topic written so much about like the civil war, but I thought you might enjoy seeing what someone who just started to read the thread thought of your efforts here. It really is a great read. I will now pay a bit more attention to what and how I post in the thread, instead of the casual approach I have taken to this point.

Perhaps I can take on a bit more myself. I don't have near the knowledge and background you two fellas have, but I can try to contribute more if you like. I don't want Anteitam, but even if you want to pick another one for me.... I'm game. In fact, just give me an "assignment" for another 3 or so battles that still need a volunteer, pick them for me, and I'll do my best if you like.

I want to see (and read) this thing through, and am willing to help as much as I can.

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I posted a link to this thread at my homer forum, a Jets message board. I guess a few folks have taken the time to do some reading here because of that. Tim and BL, I called this a near epic when I first found it. You two have done an incredible job here. I took the liberty to cut and paste the following comment from my Jets board:

""I love the civil war. Not the reasons it was fought, but the idea that states had the right to come and go into the union as they saw fit. Some of these are great reads, the writing in most cases are good, and if you guys were smart you would get together, come up with all of the citations, and turn this into a history book for the college level. They cost a lot of money as it is, so there's good money involved.""

I know the difficulty in getting published, especially without a boatload of credentials (that I know about) on a topic written so much about like the civil war, but I thought you might enjoy seeing what someone who just started to read the thread thought of your efforts here. It really is a great read. I will now pay a bit more attention to what and how I post in the thread, instead of the casual approach I have taken to this point.

Perhaps I can take on a bit more myself. I don't have near the knowledge and background you two fellas have, but I can try to contribute more if you like. I don't want Anteitam, but even if you want to pick another one for me.... I'm game. In fact, just give me an "assignment" for another 3 or so battles that still need a volunteer, pick them for me, and I'll do my best if you like.

I want to see (and read) this thing through, and am willing to help as much as I can.

First of all thanks for the kind words, but in truth all I'm doing is a whole lot of cutting, pasting, and copying. Sure, I do throw some of my own thoughts in from time to time, but if you find my narrative either eloquent or exciting, that's extremely likely because of the sources, not me. I would never think of trying to publish anything because it's nothing but a copy. It's fine for a discussion board, and if people who don't know about the subject read it, and especially if they want to discuss it, that's great. But that's as far as it goes.

I actually don't have any background on the Civil War; none like BL. I've read McPherson and Foote, and that's about it other than the odd book here or there. (I actually once read Winston Churchill's discussion of the war from his History of the English Speaking Peoples- very fascinating perspective.) I just thought it would be interesting to do after the WWII thread. (That's actually a war I think I know considerably more about.) For instance, the whole Bull Run narrative was great for me, because I didn't know any of those details that BobbyLayne provided.

We'll have plenty of battles to cover. What I'm going to do periodically is give a list of events that will be covered, including battles, and then people can volunteer. Coming up is what McPherson calls "The River War". BL is going to tell us about the amazing exploits of Ulysses Grant at Fort Henry and Donelson. But I need someone to handle Shiloh. It is one of the key battles of the entire war and epic in scope. Interested in that?

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Sure, I can take Shiloh. The book I ordered on Fredricksburg won't get here for a few days anyway... LOL.

I had no delusion that what you and BL (we) are doing could be turned into a book, just thought it was a nice compliment to pass along.

Edited by Rovers

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Thanks, Rovers, I am just happy that folks are enjoying it. I get the impression we have a lot of lurkers, and I am hopeful they'll be more widespread involvement as we continue. Regardless, this is a lot of fun to reread and research episodes that I haven't looked at in years.

FWIW, my base knowledge is lightweight compared with the folks I stomp around Gettysburg. We get together every fall for three days of battlefield walks, lectures, presentations and dinners. Having been a guest in the homes of several members of our online discussion group, the individual library collections are extraordinary. It is rather humbling to be around guys 60, 70 and 80 years old who are still trying to learn something new everyday. While I always had an interest in history, I only began to study the ACW in earnest around 10 years ago. I still feel like a noob next to men and women* who have been at it for 30-40-60 years.

*While most civil war bores are male, what is interesting about discussion group is the number of wives, daughters, girlfriends and divorced/widowed ladies who get involved...everyone has a slightly different specialty or area of interest. Some of the women focus more on politics, the war's impact on civilians ,or medical treatment of the wounded, but we also have quite a few who can hold their own in any debate on military tactics.

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Sure, I can take Shiloh. The book I ordered on Fredricksburg won't get here for a few days anyway... LOL.

Sweet.

If you don't already own it, Wiley Sword's "Shiloh: Bloody April" is an excellent resource.

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As I research Shiloh, several thoughts have struck me so far. There are quite a few "legends: and "myths" that simply don'y hold up under scrutiny. I will dispell at least some of them. Secondly, one has to use as many sources as is possible to wade through fact vs. fiction, and some bias on the part of many writers, particularly of those sympathetic to the southern cause. This is reflected stiil, even in more recently written accounts of the battle. More recent study and accounts also indicate that it was Gen W Wallace and not Gen Prentiss who was more resonsible for holding the "Hornet's Nest" for seven hours. Prentiss survived while Wallace did not, so it was left to Prentiss to take most of the credit.

I will draw several times from the account of the battle from a Col Wills De Hass who was attached to Sherman.

For starters, no Feds were ever bayonneted in their tents as they slept. Pure myth. Yes, the Union did not expect an attack, and were unprepared for it, but most soldiers actually had time to eat a hurried breakfast.

BL, where should I pick up Shiloh? Will you cover the Confederate retreat from Ft Henry and points north of Shiloh? Will you discuss the importance of Corinth? That is a key element of Shiloh, and has a lot to do with Grant's confidence that Johnston would not attack, but would choose to defend that important RR junction instead. Give me an idea where to start, so that we don't get redundant. Thanks.

Edited by Rovers

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Rovers - As a prelude to Fort Henry & Donelson, I'm going to go over Belmont (Grant's first combat experience in the ACW), his movements during the winter, and explain the significance of the Forts. After going through both engagements I'm only going to cover the immediate aftermath. So you can pick it up from there.

IOW, I'm really only going over the river systems, you can expand on Halleck's theory of controlling tactical points on a map, Corinth, et al.

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