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timschochet

The American Civil War Timeline- 150th Anniversary

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I haven't done six-sided hex war gaming in more than 30 years. I believe timschochet has some Avalon Hill experience, though maybe not ACW related. I used to war game D-Day and the other WWII battles growing up.John Tiller (Talonsoft) did a decent ACW PC based series called Battleground. The main titles were Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga. Most of the CDs had smaller battles as well - Wilson's Creek, South Mountain, Stones River, etc.That series was discontinued but a similar series by HPS, but it is an ACW campaign series. Talonsoft sold the Battleground series to a small software company in Staten Island, and they repackaged the five titles into a single release. I believe there is a sizable gaming community which has done customized mods and add-ons for both series.The other ACW pc game I have is Sid Meijer's Gettysburg, but I never got around to trying it. Might still be in the cellophane.

The game I linked doesn't use hexes, they have fallen out of vogue. Uses something called point to point or "area" movement. It's kind of hard to explain, but if you go to the link I supplied they'll have a picture of the map and some of the cards.

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Chickamauga and Chattanooga, Concluded

Having accomplished their assignment, Thomas's soldiers did not stop and await orders. For one thing, they were now sitting ducks for the enemy firing at them from above. For another, these men had something to prove to the rebels in front of them and to the Yankees on their flanks. So they started up the steep ridge, first by platoons and companies, then by regiments and brigades. Soon 60 regimental flags seemed to be racing each other to the top. At his command post a mile in the rear, Grant watched with bewilderment. "Thomas, who ordered those men up the ridge?" he asked angrily. "I don't know," replied Thomas, "I did not." Someone would catch hell if this turned out badly, Grant muttered as he clamped his teeth on a cigar. But he need not have worried. Things turned out better than anyone at Union headquarters could have expected- the miracle at Missionary Ridge, some of them were calling it by sundown. To the Confederates it seemed a nightmare. As the Yankees kept coming up the hill the rebels gaped with amazement, panicked, broke, and fled. "Completely and frantically drunk with excitement,: blueclad soldiers yelled "Chickamauga! Chickamauga!" in derisive triumph at the backs of the disappearing enemy. Darkness and a determined rear-guard defense by Cleburne's division, which had not broken, prevented effective pursuit. But Bragg's army did not stop and regroup until it had retreated 30 miles down the railroad toward Atlanta.

Union soldiers could hardly believe their stunning success. When a student of the battle later commented to Grant that southern generals had considered their situation impregnable, Grant replied with a wry smile: "Well, it was impregnable." Bragg himself wrote that "no satisfactory excuse can possibly be given for the shameful conduct of our troops...The position was one which ought to have been held by a line of skirmishers." But explanations if not excuses can be offered. Some Confederate regiments at the base of Missionary Ridge had orders to fall back after firing 2 volleys; others have received no such orders. When the latter saw their fellows apparently breaking to the rear, they were infected by panic and began running. The Union attackers followed the retreating rebels so closely that Confederates in the next line had to hold their fire to avoid hitting their own men. As northern soldiers climbed the slope, they used dips and swells in the ground for cover against enemy fire from the line at the top, which Bragg's engineers had mistakenly located along the topographical crest rather than the military crest where the line of fire would not be blocked by such dips and swells. Perhaps the ultimate explanation, however, was the Army of Tennessee's dispirited morale which had spread downward from backbiting generals to the ranks. Bragg conceded as much in a private letter to Jefferson Davis tendering his resignation. "The disaster admits of no palliation," he wrote. "I fear we both erred in the conclusion for me to retain command here after the clamor raised against me." As the army went into winter quarters, Davis grasped the nettle and grudgingly appointed Johnston to the command.

Meanwhile the repulse on November 29 of Longstreet's attack against Knoxville deepened Confederate woes. In Virginia a campaign of maneuver by Lee after the 11th and 12th Corps left the Army of the Potomac also turned out badly. During October, Lee tried to turn the Union right and get between Meade and Washington. Having foiled that move, Meade in November attempted to turn Lee's right on the Rapidan. Though unsucessful, the Federals inflicted twice as many casualties as they suffered during these maneuvers, subtracting another 4,000 men from the Army of Northern Virginia it could ill afford to lose.

The glimmer of southern optimism that had flared after Chickamauga died in November. When he heard the news of Chickamauga, War Department clerk John B. Jones had written: "The effects of this great victory will be electrical. The whole South will be feared again with patriotic fervor, and in the North there will be a corresponding depression... They must now see the impossibility of subjugating the Southern people." But 2 months later Jones confessed despair at Bragg's "incalculable disaster." Another southern official wrote of "calamity...defeat...utter ruin. UInless something is done...we are irretrievably gone." And at the end of 1863 diarist Meary Chestnut found "gloom and unspoken despondency hanging like a pall everywhere."

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Question for BobbyLayne: In that last section, McPhearson makes a comparison between Thomas's charge at Missionary Ridge and Pickett's charge at Cemetary Ridge. How accurate do you think this is? And if they are comparable, why did one succeed and the other fail? TIA

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Interesting, TF...will take a look at it later. I wonder if that is what HPS did with Campaign Corinth and the other titles that succeeded Battleground. The Tiller game engine is essentially turn based hex war gaming loaded into a PC, but the new game has an entirely different engine from what I understand.

timschochet - played both the Avalon Hill fb games, and Bowl Bound! was my favorite. Loved the 32 original teams from 1960-70. Later they came out with another set from the 70s/80s, but wasn't the same (diminishing returns or something). Was so awesome because they included so many rivalries.

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Question for BobbyLayne: In that last section, McPhearson makes a comparison between Thomas's charge at Missionary Ridge and Pickett's charge at Cemetary Ridge. How accurate do you think this is? And if they are comparable, why did one succeed and the other fail? TIA

Interesting...hmmm, my knee jerk reaction is not a good comparison, but from the standpoint that both seemed impregnable I can see why it makes for an interesting discussion.In both cases it came down to hard close-in fighting, but at Gettysburg you had difference makers like the 8th Ohio hitting the north flank at the beginning of the charge, the difficulty getting over the heavy fences on both sides of the Emmittsmburg Road, McGilevy's 41-gun line (hidden from Seminary Ridge) which tore into the ranks from an oblique angle, the three large Vermont regiments (9 month men at that) swinging out and hitting the Virginians in the southern flank just as they were nearing the stone wall...well, lots of things went right for the Yankees that day. To be honest, I have read several books....at least 8-10...on the Army of Tennessee and specifically the Chattanooga siege. To this day I am baffled as to how they lost Missionary Ridge. The cannons not depressing far enough was one factor...but it never should have happened regardless. Edited by BobbyLayne

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So the Confederates had lost Vicksburg, lost at Gettysburg, lost Chattanooga, lost nearly half their army, lost any chance of recognition from the European powers. Plus they were blockaded and starving, the slaves on the verge of revolt, the armies demoralized. The rational question becomes, why didn't they simply surrender at the end of 1863? A negotiated surrender at that point might have resulted in an amnesty for Confederate soldiers and politicians, and much of the South would have escaped the death and destruction that seemed inevitable.

I haven't studied this question- the sources I'm using don't deal with it exactly- but I have some ideas, and BL and others can tell me if they think I am right: first off, the main Southern strategy after Gettysburg became to exhaust the North, to simply make it too costly for the North to conquer the south. It should be noted that the Germans and Japanese had the same strategy during the last part of World War II, and this failed as well. But as McPhearson notes in his epilogue, this strategy succeeded in the American Revolution and the Vietnam War. In both of those conflicts, there were times when it appeared the Americans and North Vietnamese were in as bad or worse situations as the South was in late 1863, yet they ended up winning, because the British in the first instance and the Americans in the second simply got tired of fighting. Therefore, despite all of the problems the South had, this remained a reasonable strategy: the South was a big place, and it would be very hard to conquer.

Second, the South still had Robert E. Lee, and despite his defeat at Gettysburg he still had the aura of invincibility around him. And indeed, as we shall see, Lee would proceed to rewrite war strategy at this dark hour for the South, and introduce the world to the horrific reality of modern warfare which would result in the catastrophe of the World War I trenches.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Americans don't surrender.

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Question for BobbyLayne: In that last section, McPhearson makes a comparison between Thomas's charge at Missionary Ridge and Pickett's charge at Cemetary Ridge. How accurate do you think this is? And if they are comparable, why did one succeed and the other fail? TIA

Interesting...hmmm, my knee jerk reaction is not a good comparison, but from the standpoint that both seemed impregnable I can see why it makes for an interesting discussion.In both cases it came down to hard close-in fighting, but at Gettysburg you had difference makers like the 8th Ohio hitting the north flank at the beginning of the charge, the difficulty getting over the heavy fences on both sides of the Emmittsmburg Road, McGilevy's 41-gun line (hidden from Seminary Ridge) which tore into the ranks from an oblique angle, the three large Vermont regiments (9 month men at that) swinging out and hitting the Virginians in the southern flank just as they were nearing the stone wall...well, lots of things went right for the Yankees that day. To be honest, I have read several books....at least 8-10...on the Army of Tennessee and specifically the Chattanooga siege. To this day I am baffled as to how they lost Missionary Ridge. The cannons not depressing far enough was one factor...but it never should have happened regardless.
Divine providence. When those men charged, there was no order - it was just an experience of mass psychology. Truly amazing that they carried the day.

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1864

At the start of 1864 the progress of Union arms seemed assured. Congress had revived the rank of lieutenant general (last held by George Washington), and Lincoln had promoted Grant to this rank with the title of general in chief. Henry W. Halleck stepped down to the post of chief of staff. Grant designated Sherman as his successor to command western armies and came east to make his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac. Though Meade remained in charge of this army subject to Grant's strategic orders, Phil Sheridan also came east to take over its cavalry. With the Union's three best generals-Grant, Sherman, Sheridan- in top commands, the days fo the Confederacy appeared numbered.

After their setbacks during the latter half of 1863, rebel armies had suffered through a hard winter of short rations. The Confederate Congress abolished substitution and stretched the age limits of the draft from 17 to 50. Despite these efforts to maintain the army's strength, southern forces were less than 50% of the North as the long winter drew to a close.

But there were flaws in the Union sword and hidden strengths in the Confederate shield. Northern success paradoxically created military weakness, as the Yankees had lots of new places to govern, shrinking their manpower. These subtractions from Union forces reduced the odds against the Confederacy. In spite of defeat at Gettysburg and the hardships that followed, the morale of the Army of Northern Virginia remained high. These lean, tough veterans had become a band of brothers fighting from motives of pride in themselves, comradship with each other, and devotion to Marse Robert. Many of them also shared Lee's sentiments, expressed on the eve of the 1864 military campaign:

If victorious, we have everything to to hope for in the future. If defeated, nothing will be left for us to live for.

Lee thought the Yankees were overstretched. He hoped to exploit this weakness in such a manner as to influence the 1864 presidential election in the North. If southern armies could hold out until the election, war weariness in the North might cause the voters to elect a Peace Democrat who would negotiate Confederate independence. Grant was well aware of these southern hopes. But he intended to crush rebel armies and end the war well before November.

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1864, Continued

Grant did not confine his attention solely to Virginia. Instead, believing that the various northern Armies in the past had "acted independently and without concert, like a balky team, no two ever pulling together," he worked out plans for coordinated advances on several fronts to prevent any one of the Confederate armies from reinforcing another. "Lee's Army will be your objective point," Grant instructed Meade. "Wherever Lee goes, there will you go also." Sherman received orders "to move against Johnston's army, to break it up, and to get into the interior of the enemy's country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their war resources."

These 2 main Union armies would have a numerical advantage of nearly 2 to 1 over their adversaries, but Grant issued additional orders to increase the odds. On the periphery of the main theaters stood 3 northern armies commanded by political generals whose influence prevented even Grant from getting rid of them: Benjamin Butler's Army of the James on the Peninsula; Franz Sigel's scattered forces in West Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley; and Nathanial Banks's Army of the Gulf in Louisiana. Grant directed Banks to plan a campaign to capture Mobile, after which he was to push northward and prevent rebel forces in Alabama from reinforcing Johnston. At the same time Butler was to advance up the James to cut the railroad between Petersburg and Richmond and threaten the Confederate capital from the south, while Sigel moved up the Valley to pin down its defenders and cut Lee's communications to that region. Lincoln was delighted with Grant's strategic design.

But the three peripheral generals bungled their jobs. The first to fail was Banks. The administration shared responsibility for this outcome, for it diverted Banks from the attack on Mobile to a drive up the Red River in Louisiana to seize cotton and expand the area of Union political control in the state. Only after achieving these objectives was he to turn eastward against Mobile. As it turned out, Banks achieved none of the goals except the seizure of a little cotton- along with the wanton destruction of much civilian property, an outcome that hardly won the hearts and minds of Louisianians for the Union.

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Not to digress again, but I am reading a great book about Antietem by Sears (the author, not the retailer). My daughter got me his books on Gettysburg and Antietam for my birthday. Very good author.

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Not to digress again, but I am reading a great book about Antietem by Sears (the author, not the retailer). My daughter got me his books on Gettysburg and Antietam for my birthday. Very good author.

Stephen Sears is terrific! Landscape Turned Red was the first book I read of his, and I probably have a half dozen titles in my library. His Gettysburg volume Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage by Noah Trudeau (ETA:mixed these up, BUT no matter, Sears is more accessible) was probably the best book covering the entire campaign since Coddington's 1968 masterpiece (which most still consider the bible). To the Gates of Richmond is another enjoyable title of his.

It's funny, a lot of folks don't like Sears because he is such a jerk off in person. He totally rags on Civil War bores, claims he never even visits battlefield (I don't believe him, I think he just likes to tweak people who spend all their free time stomping around NMPs). Anyway, I just think its funny how so many people I know hate him, but I think he right there with Harry Pfantz as the greatest ACW author of the last 30 years.

So we're rolling into 1864...my least fav part of the war. Big fan of Grant, but I have always thought it is just so depressing. Its like....Americans love rooting for the underdog...and just about the time you get all caught up in the fascinating characters that made up the Confederacy, and you start what-iffing them to independence, then Grant/Sherman come along and snuff out all the fun. I really should make a point of reading Lee's Miserables.

Anyway, when it comes to the Overland Campaign, nobody does it better than Gordon Rhea; these are all individual titles, and highly recommended:

[*]The Battle Of The Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864

[*]The Battles For Spotsylvania Court House And The Road To Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864

[*]To the North Anna River: Grant And Lee, May 13-25, 1864

[*]Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864

Edited by BobbyLayne

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1864, Continued

Bank's nemesis was Richard Taylor (the son of Zachary Taylor), who had learned his fighting trade as a brigade commander under Stonewall Jackson in 1862. Taking command of some 15,000 men after the loss of southern Louisiana to the Union, Taylor prepared to defend what was left of the state in which he had gained wealth as a planter. Banks had been humiliated in Virginia by Jackson; he suffered the same fate 1,000 miles away at the hadns of Stonewall's protege. On April 8, Taylor struck the vanguard of Banks's army at Sabine Crossroads 35 miles south of the Union objective of Shreveport. Driving the routed Yankees pell-mell back to their supports. Taylor came on and attacked again next day at Pleasant Hill. This time the bluecoats held, forcing the rebels in turn to recoil after taking sharp punishment.

Despite this success, Banks was unnerved by the nonarrival of a cooperating Union force pushing south from Little Rock (it had been deflected by guerillas and calvary harrassment) and by the abnormally low Red River, which threatened to strand the already damaged Union gunboat fleet above the rapids at Alexandria. Banks decided to retreat. Disaster to the gunboats was averted by the ingenuity of a Wisconsin colonel who used his lumbering experience to construct a series of wing dams that floated the fleet through the rapids. The dispirited army did not get back to southern Louisiana until May 26, a month too late to begin the aborted Mobile campaign. As a consequence Joseph Johnston received 15,000 reinforcements from Alabama. Moreover, 10,000 soldiers that Banks had borrowed from Sherman for the Red River campaign never rejoined the Union army in Georgia. Instead they remained in the Tennessee-Mississippi theater to cope with threats by Forrest against Sherman's rail communications. Banks was superseded as department commander and returned to his controversial role as military administrator of Louisiana's reconstruction.

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1864, Continued

Butler and Sigel fared no better than Banks in their assignments to hold rebel legs. Butler had a real chance to achieve the glory that had eluded him since the war's early days. With 30,000 men drawn from coast operations in the Carolinas he steamed up the James River and landed midway between Richmond and Petersburg on May 5. The two cities were defended by only 5,000 troops plus hastily mobilized government clerks serving as militia. Their commander- none other than P. G. T. Beauregard, who was transferred from Charleston to southside Virginia- had not yet arrived on the scene. If Butler had moved quickly to cut the railroad between Petersburg and Richmond he might have smashed into the capital against little opposition. Lee could do nothing to prevent this, for he was otherwise engaged with the Army of the Potomac 60 miles to the north. But the squint-eyed Union commander fumbled his chance. Instead of striking fast with overwhelming force, he advanced cautiously with detached units, which managed to tear up only a few miles of track while fending off rebel skirmishers. Not until May 12, a week after landing, did Butler get his main force on the March for Richmond. By then Beauregard had brought reinforcements from the Carolinas and was ready to meet Butler on almost even terms. On May 16 the Confederates attacked near Drewry's Bluff, 8 miles south of Richmond. After severe casualties on both sides, the rebels frove Butler's men back to their trenches across a neck between the James and Appomattox rivers. There the southerners entrenched their own line and sealed off Butler's army, in Grant's caustic words, "as if it had been in a bottle strongly corked."

Grant received the news of Butler's corking about the same time he learned of a similar setback to Franz Sigel in that vale of Union sorrows, the Shenandoah Valley. With 6,500 men Sigel had advanced up the Valley to capture Staunton, whence Lee's army received some of its meager supplies. Before Sigel could get there, however, former U.S. Vice President John C. Breckinridge, now commanding a scraped-together rebel force of 5,000, attacked Sigel at New Market on May 15 and drove him back. This small battle was marked on one side by Sigel's skill at retreating and on the other by a spirited charge of 247 cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, ages 15 to 17, who were ever after immortalized in southern legend. Convinced that Sigel "will do nothing but run; he never did anything else," Halleck and Grant prevailed upon Lincoln to remove him from command.

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The "New Market" Cadets

In the spring of 1864, with the Union Army advancing in the Shenandoah Valley, the superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute volunteered to send the Corps of Cadets to the aid of the Confederate army.

Of the almost 280 cadets who marched into the Battle of New Market, four were killed during the fighting, one died later that day, and five more would eventually die from wounds they received. Another 45 were wounded, but survived.

What follows are brief biographies of selected cadets from the battle, and some of their stories as young men who excitedly marched off to serve the Cause.

John Sergeant Wise was a cadet at VMI at the time of the Civil War. He was one of the many cadets to fight at the Battle of New Market. During the battle of New Market was injured when a cannon ball shell exploded in his face, also injuring four other cadets around him. After the war was over he was given a medal for fighting in the war. He later went on to be a member of the U.S. Congress from Virginia, and ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Virginia.

William Henry Cabell, a 16 year old, enrolled at the Virginia Military Institute in January, 1862. Once when he was on sick leave he snuck away from home, and fought with his older brother, who was a Confederate officer, in a battle near Richmond. He even participated in a bloody charge that won the battle. After the battle he was forced to return to VMI by his parents. He was eighteen when the VMI corps were called to aid the Confereracy, and he fought side by side with his younger brother. After all the carnage that occurred he found his brother's body along with two others, killed by a single cannon shell.

Samuel Houston Letcher started off his war career at age fifteen, fighting in the trenches around Richmond, Virginia. In February 1864, he entered VMI, and less than 3 months later was one of the many cadets that left VMI, headed for the upcoming battle at New Market. At the time of the battle, his father was the Governor of the state of Virginia.

Bolling Walker Barton was an 18 year old VMI cadet in 1864. He had five brothers who fought for the Confederate army. One was killed in 1862 at the Battle of Winchester. Another was killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg. He had another brother who lost a leg, and died due to injury at the First Bull Run in 1863. His fourth brother fought with the 33rd Virginia Infantry, having been wounded seven times and having 5 horses killed under him.

Samuel Atwill was on the front lines at the Battle of New Market. He was shot in the leg, and continued to suffer from his injury after the battle. On July 3, 1864, Atwill sent a letter to General Smith asking for money to help in his recovery. Several days later, Atwill died a slow and painful death from lockjaw.

William Hugh McDowell was in the front lines of the battle of New Market. The seventeen year old McDowell was shot straight through the heart, dying instantly. His father was devastated, saying the news had come upon him like a "clap of thunder."

John Cabell Early first served in the Confederate army at the age of 13. Not old enough to fight, he served by carrying supplies to the soldiers on the battlefield. At age 15 he became a courier. His last battle he attended before being sent back home by his uncle, General Jubal Early, was the Battle of Gettysburg.

Donald Allen was a 16 year old cadet in 1864. Two of his brothers graduated from VMI before him, one was killed fighting at Battle of Gaines' Mill in 1862, the other brother was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. When Donald Allen was accepeted to VMI, his mother wrote a letter to the headmaster thanking him for accepting her son, and informing him of the death of her other two boys.

Charles Carter Randolph was in the Civil War at age sixteen, serving as a courier to General "Stonewall" Jackson at the Second Battle of Manassas and at Antietam. Jackson sent him to The Virginia Military Institute because of the many dangerous risks he took to get the couriers across battle lines. At the Battle of New Market, Randolph was wounded and lost hearing in one of his ears. His older brother also fought in the war and was killed in Richmond three days earlier.

Thomas Herbert Shriver was eager to fight. He got his chance at the age of seventeen in the Battle of Gettysburg, also fighting with the cavalry in northern Virginia, where he served as a guide on staff with General J.E.B Stuart. Since he was still young, Shriver's commanding officers sent him to VMI to become a student.

Franklin Graham Gibson, age nineteen, was wounded in New Market. He was shot seven times, shattering his leg from the knee down, part of his cheek was blown off, he lost two fingers. They thought that he wouldn't make it through the amputation, but he survived and went on to become a teacher and a lawyer.

Thomas Garland Jefferson, the great-great grandson of Peter Jefferson, was 17 years old when he fought with the VMI corps. Three days after the battle he died from injuries, and on June 3, 1864, his father gave the permission to move his body to Lexington to be reburied in the VMI cementery with the other cadets that died during the battle.

Jaqueline Beverly Stanard, 19, was tasked with guarding the suppy wagons while the battle was taking place. He disobeyed the order and refused to stay with the wagons on the day of the battle. Stanard was killed in the fighting, and later John Wise would write that Stanard had confided to him days earlier that he was sure he was not going to survive the battle.

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The Wilderness, Part 1

The failure of Grant's leg-holders in Virginia complicated the task of skinning Lee. The Armies of the Potomac and of Northern Virginia had wintered a few miles apart on opposite sides of the Rapidan. As the dogwood bloomed, Grant prepared to cross the river and turn Lee's right. He hoped to bring the rebels out of their trenches for a showdown battle somewhere south of the Wilderness, that gloomy expanse of scrub oaks and pines where Lee had mousetrapped Joe Hooker exactly a year earlier. Remembering that occasion, Lee decided not to contest the river crossing but instead to hit the bluecoats in the flank as they marched through the Wilderness, where their superiority in numbers- 115,000 to 64,000- would count for less than in the open.

Accordingly on May 5, 2 of Lee's corps coming from the west ran into 3 Union corps moving south from the Rapidan. FOr Lee this collision proved a bit premature, for Longstreet's corps had only recently returned from Tennessee and could not come up in time for this first day of the battle of the Wilderness. The Federals thus managed to get more than 70,000 men into action against fewer than 40,000 rebels. But the southerners knew the terrain and the Yankees' preponderance of troops produced only immobility in these dense, smoke-filled woods where soldiers could rarely see the enemy, units blundered the wrong way in the directionless jungle, friendly troops fired on each other by mistake, gaps in the opposing line went unexploited because unseen, white muzzle flashes and exploding shells set the underbrush on fire to threaten wounded men with a fiery death. Savage fighting surged back and forth near two road intersections that the bluecoats needed to hold in order to continue their passage southward. They held on and by dusk had gained a position to attack Lee's right.

Grant ordered this done at dawn next day. Lee likewise planned a dawn assault in the same sector to be spearheaded by Longstreet's corps, which was on the march and expected to arrive before light. The Yankees attacked first and nearly achieved a spectacular success. After driving the rebels almost a mile through the woods they emerged into a small clearing where Lee had his field headquarters. Agitated, the gray commander tried personally to lead a counterattack at the head of one of Longstreet's arriving units, a Texas brigade. "Go back, General Lee, go back!" shouted the Texans as they swept forward. Lee finally did fall back as more of Longstreet's troops double-timed into the clearing and brought the Union advance to a halt.

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From the memoirs of Charles Venable, aide de camp to Robert E. Lee:

On the morning of the 5th General Lee, though generally reticent at table on military affairs, spoke very cheerfully of the situation, having learned that Grant was crossing at Germanna Ford and moving into the Wilderness. He expressed his pleasure that the Federal general had not profited by General Hooker's Wilderness experience, and that he seemed inclined to throw away to some extent the immense advantage which his great superiority in numbers in every arm of the service gave him. On the 5th Ewell marched on the old turnpike, and Hill on the Plank road, and the cavalry on a road still farther to the right into the Wilderness. Lee rode with Hill at the head of his column. He was at the front in the skirmish at Parker's Store and moved with the advance to the field on the edge of the forest which became the scene of the great conflict on the Plank road.

Riding on in advance of the troops, the party, consisting of Generals Lee, Hill, and Stuart and their stamounted and sat under the shade of the tree,, when a party of the enemy's skirmishers deployed from a grove of old-field pines on the left, thus revealing the close proximity of Grant's forces, and the ease of concealing movements in the Wilderness.

Hill's troops were soon up and in line, and then began on the Plank road a fierce struggle, nearly simultaneously with that of Ewell's forces on the old turnpike. Thus was inaugurated a contest of many battles, in which the almost daily deadly firing did not cease for eleven long months.

Heth's and Wilcox's divisions, under Lee's eye, maintained themselves well against the heavy assault of the Federal forces which greatly outnumbered them; Ewell's corps did good work on the old turnpike in its contest with Warren's corps, and Rosser's cavalry on the right had driven Wilson back. Lee slept on the field not far from his line of battle, sending orders to Long street to make a night march and reach the front by daybreak on the 6th.

On that morning serious disaster seemed imminent. Longstreet did not arrive in time to reenforce Lee's line of battle in the position it held at the close of the engagement of the preceding evening. Hancock's well-planned attack on our right forced the two Confederate divisions from their position, and it seemed at one moment that they would sweep the field. Lee gave orders to get his wagon trains ready for a movement in retreat, and sent an aide to quicken the march of Longstreet's two divisions. These came soon, a little after sunrise, at double-quick, in parallel columns, down the Plank road. Lee was in the midst of Hill's sullenly retreating troops, aiding in rallying them, and restoring confidence and order, when Longstreet's men came gallantly in and reformed the line of battle under his eye. Lee's presence at the front aroused his men to great enthusiasm. He was a superb figure as he sat on his spirited gray with the light of battle on his face. His presence was an inspiration. The retreating columns turned their face front once more, and the fresh divisions went forward under his eye with splendid spirit. It was on this occasion that the men of the Texas brigade (always favorites of the general), discovering that he was riding with them into the charge, shouted to him that they would not go on unless he went back. The battle line was restored early in the morning.

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Nice job highlighting the VMI cadets, timschochet. I was in New Market on business a few years ago, and pretty much everybody who lives around there (including those who know little or nothing of the ACW) still know of their legendary role at the 1864 battle.

The 40 days of near continuous contact in what is known as the Overland Campaign is, IMO, the fiercest fighting in the entire war. The level of carnage at battles like Shiloh and Antietam and Gettysburg and Chickamauga is staggering. Then came the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor...and holy cow, the horror just goes to a whole other level.

Bravery and courage was part of it, but it goes so far beyond that, to a point that can only be called mass insanity.

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Nice job highlighting the VMI cadets, timschochet. I was in New Market on business a few years ago, and pretty much everybody who lives around there (including those who know little or nothing of the ACW) still know of their legendary role at the 1864 battle.

The 40 days of near continuous contact in what is known as the Overland Campaign is, IMO, the fiercest fighting in the entire war. The level of carnage at battles like Shiloh and Antietam and Gettysburg and Chickamauga is staggering. Then came the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor...and holy cow, the horror just goes to a whole other level.

Bravery and courage was part of it, but it goes so far beyond that, to a point that can only be called mass insanity.

I think there's a lot of factors here. As I noted before, the South by all logic should have surrendered what was a hopeless battle. They were in a worse situation, for instance, than France in 1940. But Americans don't know how to surrender. I'm not sure how aware the average Southern soldier was of their desperate situation, but because the Confederacy enjoyed a free press critical of the government, we have to assume that they knew more than, for example, the German soldier of late 1944, who thanks to Goebbels believed they were still winning the war. I think that while some Southerners were confident, others were desperate, but that desperation turned into hatred by 1864, and a feeling of "well, if we're going to lose, first we're going to kill as many Yankees as possible."

On the Northern side, for the first time on the Eastern battlefield there was a general in Grant who never backed away from battle. But this in turn makes me wonder about his humanity. There are many great generals in history who managed to win battles and still avoid great numbers of casualties. Grant and Lee were not two of these generals. At least Lee spoke, sometimes teary-eyed, of the bravery of his soldiers. One wonders if to Grant they were anything but numbers to be expended. Perhaps I am being too cynical here.

After covering the Overland campaign, I am going to take a break from the main battle narrative to discuss several events of interest before finishing the Civil War narrative. Here is what I have mind:

The treatment of native Americans during the Civil War (especially in Colorado.)

Andersonville and the POW camps.

These two issues must be discussed at some length, as they are among the most unfortunate affairs in the history of the United States. Then:

The 54th Massachusetts (which the film Glory is based on.)

The use of balloons in the Civil War.

The C.S.S. Hunley- One of my alltime favorite Civil War stories.

There's probably more stuff outside of the narrative that I want to cover; we'll see.

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The Wilderness, Part 2

The initiative now shifted to the Confederates. By mid-morning Longstreet's fresh brigades drove the bluecoats in confusion almost back to their starting point. The southerners' local knowledge now came into play. Unmarked on any map, the roadbed of an unfinished railroad ran past the Union left. Vines and underbrush had so choked the cut that an unwary observer saw nothing until he stumbled into it. One of Longstreet's brigadiers knew of this roadbed and suggested using it as a concealed route for an attack against the Union flank. Longstreet sent 4 brigades on this mission. Shortly before noon they burst out of thickets and rolled up the surprised northern regiments.

Then tragedy struck the Confederates as it had done a year earlier only 3 miles away in this same Wilderness. As the whooping rebels drove in from the flank they converged at right angles with Longstreet's other units attacking straight ahead. In the smoke-filled woods Longstreet went down with a bullet in his shoulder fired by a Confederate. Unlike Jackson, he would eventually recover, but he was out of the war for 5 months.

With Longstreet's wounding the steam went out of this southern assault. Lee straightened out the lines and renewed the attack in late afternoon. Combat raged near the road intersection amid a forest fire that ignited Union breastworks. The Federals held their ground and the fighting gradually died toward evening as survivors sought to rescue the wounded from cremation. At the other end of the line General John B. Gordon, a rising brigadier from Georgia, discovered that Grant's right flank was also exposed. After trying for hours to get his corps commander Richard Ewell to authorize an attack, Gordon went to the top and finally obtained Lee's permission to pitch in. The evening assault achieved initial success and drove the Federal flank back a mile while capturing 2 northern generals. Panic spread all the way to Grant's headquarters, where a distraught brigadier galloped up on a lathered horse to tell the Union commander that all was lost- that Lee was repeating Jackson's tactics of a year earlier in these same woods.

But Ulysses S. Grant was not Joseph Hooker. He did not share the belief in Robert E. Lee's superhuman qualities that seemed to paralyze so many eastern officers. Grant told the brigadier:

I am heartily tired of hearing what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land on our rear and on both our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do.

Grant soon showed that he meant what he said.

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I think the last post was the second time John B. Gordon has been mentioned in this thread (BL mentioned his role at Gettysburg), and he is truly one of the more fascinating characters in the Civil War.

Like Forrest, he had no formal military training. Per Wiki:

Gordon was an aggressive general. In 1864, Gordon was described by General Robert E. Lee in a letter to Confederate President Jefferson Davis as being one of his best brigadiers, "characterized by splendid audacity".

Gordon was a brigadier general and brigade commander in D.H. Hill's division in the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. During the subsequent Seven Days Battles, as Gordon strode fearlessly among his men, enemy bullets shattered the handle of his pistol, pierced his canteen, and tore away part of the front of his coat. He was wounded in the eyes during the assault on Malvern Hill.

Assigned by General Lee to hold the vital sunken road, or "Bloody Lane", during the Battle of Antietam, Gordon's propensity for being wounded reached new heights. First, a Minié ball passed through his calf. Then, a second ball hit him higher in the same leg. A third ball went through his left arm. He continued to lead his men despite the fact that the muscles and tendons in his arm were mangled, and a small artery was severed by this ball. A fourth ball hit him in his shoulder. Despite pleas that he go to the rear, he continued to lead his men. He was finally stopped by a ball that hit him in the face, passing through his left cheek and out his jaw. He fell with his face in his cap and might have drowned in his own blood if it had not drained out through a bullet hole in the cap.

Unbelievable! As noted in the last post, Gordon might have become a Southern legend had Ewell taken his advice more quickly and attacked the Union flank- many historians believe that would have resulted in a great Confederate victory in the Wilderness. Gordon went on to fight to the last, literally; he surrendered at Appomattox only upon being ordered by Lee to do so, and apparently with great reluctance. After the war he served as governor of Georgia, and as a U.S. Senator and also as titular head of the Ku Klux Klan in that state.

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John B. Gordon was a fascinating character. As a soldier, though, here is what really makes him special: he never ran into the Peter principle. At every level of command, he excelled. He started out being elected captain of a company of mountaineers, advanced to Brigadier General by November 1862, and ended the war a corps commander and Major General.

Postwar, he was not...the most honest memoirist. He liked to make the story a little more interesting, shall we say. In fact, a good rule of thumb is if Gordon wrote, you better have corroborating sources. But you cannot question his bravery; everyone who served with him agreed he was hell on the battlefield.

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Spotsylvania Part 1

Both of Grant's flanks had been badly bruised, and his 17,500 casualties in 2 days exceeded the Confederate total by at least 7,000. Under such circumstances previous Union commanders in Virginia had withdrawn behind the nearest river. Men in the ranks expected the same thing to happen again. But Grant had told Lincoln that "whatever happens, there will be no turning back."

While the armies skirmished warily on May 7, Grant prepared to march around Lee's right during the night to seize the crossroads village of Spotsylvania a dozen miles to the south. If successful, this move would place the Union army closer to Richmond than the enemy and force Lee to fight or retreat. All day Union supply wagons and the reserve artillery moved to the rear, confirming the soldiers' weary expectation of retreat. After dark the blue divisions pulled out one by one. But instead of heading north they turned south. A mental sunburst brightened their minds. It was not "another Chancellorsville...another skedaddle" after all. "Our spirits rose," recalled one veteran who remembered this moment as a turning point in the war. Despite the terrors of the past 3 days and those to come, "we marched free. The men began to sing." For the first time in a Virginia campaign the Army of the Potomac stayed on the offensive after its initial battle.

Sheridan's cavalry had thus far contributed little to the campaign. Their bandy-legged leader was eager to take on Jeb Stuart's fabled troopers. Grant obliged Sheridan by sending him on a raid to cut Lee's communications in the rear while Grant tried to pry him out of his defenses in front. Agressive as always, Sheridan took 10,000 horsemen at a deliberate pace southward with no attempt at deception, challenging Stuart to attack. Stuart could never refuse such a challenge as this one.

The plumed cavalier chased the Yankees with only half his men (leaving the others to patrol Lee's flanks at Spotsylvania), nipping at Sheridan's heels but failing to prevent the destruction of 20 miles of railroad, a quantity of rolling stock, and 3 weeks of supplies for Lee's army. On May 11, Stuart made a stand at Yellow Tavern, only 6 miles north of Richmond. Outnumbering the rebels by 2 to 1 and outgunning them with rapid-fire carbines, the blue troopers rolled over the once-invincible southern cavalry and dispersed them in two directions. A grim bonus of this Union victory was the mortal wounding of Stuart- a blow to Confederate leadership next only to the death of Jackson a year and a day earlier.

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Yellow Tavern Part 1

History.net offers an absolutely excellent description of the Battle of Yellow Tavern. It is lengthy but well worth the read. I will post in 5 posts, beginning now:

When the Battle of the Wilderness ended on May 7, 1864 it left Robert E. Lee marginally the master of the battlefield, but the Confederate general's first major confrontation with the new commander of the Union Army, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, was, in fact, very different from Lee's victory on the same ground at Chancellorsville a year earlier. Then, the Federal Army of the Potomac, under Major General Joseph Hooker, had retreated in disorder. Grant, in contrast, ignored his tactical defeat and ordered the Army of the Potomac, under Major General George Gordon Meade, to resume its advance toward Richmond. Grant's action served ominous notice to the Confederacy that the Union had a leader who was not at all intimidated by Lee's legendary reputation-and one who was determined to bring the Civil War to a close by any means necessary.

During the Union advance on Spotsylvania, Meade fell into a heated argument with the commander of his cavalry corps, Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan. Meade claimed that Sheridan's cavalry had impeded the progress of the Union infantry. Underlying the dispute was the issue of control; thus far in the Wilderness campaign, some of Sheridan's officers had been getting orders from him and some had gotten them directly from Meade. Sheridan thought his cavalry would be more effective if he had more latitude. In the midst of the mutual recriminations between Meade and Sheridan, the name of Sheridan's Confederate counterpart came up — Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown Stuart, better known as Jeb Stuart, whose dashing and audacious cavalry exploits had made his name as celebrated as Lee's. "Never mind Stuart", Meade remarked. "He will do about as he pleases anyhow."

"Damn Stuart", snapped Sheridan. "I can thrash hell out of him any day." Later, when Meade mentioned Sheridan's remark to Grant, Grant simply replied: "Did Sheridan say that? Well, he generally knows what he's talking about. Let him start right out and do it."

Grant was satisfied that Little Phil was not idly boasting. They had served together in the west, where Sheridan had consistently displayed the sort of aggressiveness that Grant favored — the sort that did what had to be done. If Sheridan was as unawed of Stuart as Grant was of Lee, then Grant was eager to give the diminutive but pugnacious Ohioan the chance to put his cavalry where his mouth was-and to demonstrate what he could do with a free hand. On that very night, Grant authorized Sheridan to take his entire corps toward Richmond, skirting the right flank of the Army of Northern Virginia. Sheridan's principal objective was not to gather intelligence or to take real estate. As one of his officers summarized it, Our move would be a challenge to Stuart for a cavalry duel behind Lee's lines, in his own country.

Sheridan's idea was not unprecedented, but Union success in executing such a plan was. Notwithstanding the valor of a number of regiments within its ranks, the history of the Union cavalry corps in Virginia had generally been less than brilliant. Union horse soldiers had never played a key role in a major Union victory in Virginia, although they came close on one occasion–the Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, a colossal equestrian collision in which the Yankee troopers came within an ace of overrunning Stuart's headquarters. Almost was not good enough, however; not only did Brandy Station end inconclusively, but in the subsequent skirmishes at Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville, Stuart's gray knights went on to thwart three attempts by their Federal counterparts to locate the Army of Northern Virginia as it made its way northward on the offensive that would ultimately lead Lee to Gettysburg.

One of Sheridan's junior officers, Theophilus F. Rodenbough, described the preparations for the expedition: The command was stripped of all impediments, such as unserviceable animals, wagons and tents. The necessary ammunition train, two ambulances to a division, a few pack-mules for baggage, three days' rations and a half-day's forage carried on the saddle, comprised the outfit.

At six o'clock on the morning of May 9, Sheridan's force, accompanied by six batteries of horse artillery, moved south at a carefully measured, energy-conserving pace along Telegraph Road, which led from Fredericksburg to Richmond. Stretching for 13 miles, the Union column was hardly operating incognito. Within two hours of getting underway, first contact was made with the enemy when elements of Brig. Gen. Williams C. Wickham's Confederate brigade began to make harassing attacks on the rearmost units.

Wickham's hit-and-run attacks did not even slow Sheridan's progress. The general himself, when told that his column had come under fire from enemy cavalry, confidently roared out for all to hear: Keep moving, boys. We're going on through. There isn't cavalry enough in all the Southern Confederacy to stop us. Meanwhile, the Federal vanguard, Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer's Michigan Brigade from Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt's 1st Division, was forging ahead toward Beaver Dam Station, a terminal for the Virginia Central Railroad. As fortune would dictate, Custer's men arrived just as 400 Union troops, captured by the Confederates in the Battle of the Wilderness, were about to be loaded aboard a train for transport to Richmond. When ordered to march double time the few hundred remaining feet to the station, the prisoners halted and refused to move, even when their Confederate captors threatened to fire on them. Then, seeing their threats to be futile, the Rebel cavalry formed a battle line between the prisoners and Custer's charging column.

The ensuing clash was short-lived, and few of the Confederates got away. Most ended up prisoners, while their former captives were liberated. One of the Southerners was a squeaky-voiced teenager who, as much to the annoyance of several of his comrades as to the prisoners, had taunted the captive Yankees incessantly, his favorite refrain being, Well, boys, Daddy Lee has got you! One of the Union prisoners, John Urban of the Pennsylvania Reserves, later wrote: After the fight was over, we found our tormentor in the hands of the cavalry, and he was the most frightened man I ever saw. Some of the boys could not help but tease him about the change of affairs. One of them exclaimed: "Well, my lad, Daddy Grant has got you!"

In addition to freeing the prisoners, Custer occupied the station, where he found vast stores of pork, cornmeal, fish, sugar, rum, medical supplies and a trainload of flour. Custer then had the station and several adjacent buildings burned. The Union troops took what they could of the Rebel stores, including several barrels of whiskey-until Sheridan rode up and ordered the barrels destroyed. Even so, many troopers managed to get some of the whiskey into their canteens, some scooping it from the ground before it vanished into the soil. Custer's men also destroyed two locomotives and 100 train cars and tore up 10 miles of adjacent railroad track and telegraph lines before camping for the night.

While Sheridan was beginning his drive on Richmond, Stuart spent May 8 guiding and deploying the men of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's corps, now under the command of Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson following the wounding of their commander during the Battle of the Wilderness. In a reprise of his activities at Chancellorsville a year earlier, Stuart was commanding infantry as well as dismounted cavalry during the desperate fighting at Spotsylvania when word reached him that Sheridan was on the move.

Stuart's first reaction was a fateful miscalculation that could only have been the product of misjudging the enemy's intentions. Apparently expecting only a typically timid Union cavalry raid and not wanting to deprive Lee of the services of his cavalry corps (as he had been accused of doing at Gettysburg), Stuart committed only three of his six brigades — roughly 4,500 horsemen — to the task of opposing Sheridan. Taking Brig. Gen. James Byron Gordon's brigade of North Carolina cavalry with him, Stuart joined up with the cavalry division of Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Fitz Lee and set out to intercept the Federal force. He spent the night riding on a westerly circuit toward Beaver Dam Station, arriving there on the morning of May 10. By that time, Sheridan's force had resumed its march on Richmond and was 30 miles to the south.

Sheridan was confident that he could do better. For one thing, his Richmond raid was to involve 10,000 cavalrymen against what he knew to be only about half that number of Confederates. More important, he had set a goal and would stick to it, unlike his immediate predecessor, Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasanton, who had a habit of arbitrarily changing his objective from gathering intelligence to engaging Stuart in decisive battle — and, in consequence, failed to accomplish either.

Edited by timschochet

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Yellow Tavern Part 2

If Sheridan wanted a fight with Stuart, he had picked the right place to provoke it. Beaver Dam Station had been the main supply depot for Lee's army, and Stuart was undoubtedly upset when he surveyed the destruction he had failed to prevent. Moreover, Stuart's wife and children were staying nearby at Beaver Dam plantation, the home of Edmund Fontaine. Upon arriving at the station, Stuart let his men rest while he and one of his staff officers, Major Andrew Reid Venable, rode the mile and a half to Beaver Dam. There, Stuart met his wife, Flora, who assured him that everyone was safe. Not taking the time to dismount, Stuart exchanged a few words with Flora from the saddle, then kissed her goodbye and left to rejoin his men. During the ride back, the usually ebullient Stuart was at first Silent, and then told Venable that he had never expected to survive the war–a remark he usually made in jest, but this time with a certain seriousness. Stuart added that he would not want to live if the Confederacy lost the war.

Although Sheridan's route put him in a position to threaten the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad, Stuart deduced from local residents that the Federal column's target was the city of Richmond itself. He decided to send Gordon's brigade down the route taken by Sheridan while he and Fitz Lee led the remaining two brigades along an alternate route that he hoped would place them ahead of the enemy column. In so doing, Stuart took a divided cavalry force that was already less than half the strength of Sheridan's and subdivided it even further.

Stuart's main force reached Hanover junction shortly after nightfall, where a courier from Gordon's brigade informed him that the Union cavalry was camped near Ground Squirrel Bridge on the South Anna River, 20 miles north of Richmond and 10 miles from Stuart's position. Stuart wanted to continue without delay, but Fitz Lee persuaded him to allow his men and horses, whose energy had been sapped by the hot sun, to eat and rest until one in the morning. Stuart and Venable rode 2 1/2 miles ahead to Taylorsville, where they caught three hours of sleep.

After resuming its movement, Stuart's column crossed the South Anna at dawn on May 11 and came upon another stretch of railroad track near Ashland that had been destroyed by a detachment from Sheridan's force. As the Confederates reached Telegraph Road and made their way south along that highway, Stuart's adjutant, Major Henry B. McClellan, noted, He was more quiet than usual, softer, and more communicative. McClellan, who had been Stuart's adjutant since May 1863, was the first cousin of George B. McClellan, the Union general around whose army Stuart's cavalry had famously ridden in June 1862.

Along the way, Stuart received another message from Gordon, who told him that two of Sheridan's divisions had left Ground Squirrel Bridge and were moving toward Richmond along Mountain Road-ironically, the same road along which Stuart had commenced his audacious circuit of McClellan's army. By 10 a.m., Stuart's force had reached the junction where Telegraph and Mountain roads merged into Brook Turnpike, which ran directly into Richmond, six miles to the south. A half-mile south of the intersection lay an abandoned stagecoach inn called Yellow Tavern. Stuart had two choices as to what he could do when the Federals arrived: he could make a stand directly in their path, or he could try to position his force to strike the enemy column in the flank as it advanced. He preferred the second option, but sent McClellan to see General Braxton Bragg, then President Jefferson Davis' military adviser in Richmond, to make sure that the city's defenses were sufficient to repulse Sheridan's force should the flank attack fail.

McClellan had not yet returned when Sheridan's cavalry approached. The Union commander had already learned of Stuart's whereabouts and could not have been more pleased his men and mounts were well-rested, whereas he knew Stuart had been urging his horses to the death in order to place his forces ahead of the Federal column. Moreover, Stuart was out of time and low on manpower-with Gordon's force trailing Sheridan but too far back to coordinate with him, Stuart had only 3,000 effectives against 10,000 Federals. A head-on confrontation was out of the question. Instead, Stuart led his troopers alongside Mountain Road, rather than across it. Although Stuart's decision to fight dismounted meant that one out of every four men would have to hold the others' horses, further depleting his numbers, he chose strong defensive positions. Wickham's troops occupied a ridgeline roughly perpendicular to Telegraph Road, facing south-southwest. Brigadier General Lunsford L. Lomax's brigade held another ridge parallel to Telegraph Road, facing west, with the 10 guns of Captain William Griffin's Baltimore Light Artillery emplaced on a hill near the end of Lomax's line.Had Sheridan actually been moving on Richmond, he could have passed Stuart's positions without making a serious fight of it. Stuart then could have linked up with Gordon and fallen on the rear of the Federal column, trapping it against Richmond's defenses. But Richmond had never been Sheridan's objective–Stuart was. At about 11 a.m., Colonel Alfred Gibbs' reserve brigade of Merritt's lst Division turned south off Mountain Road, made contact with Lomax's forces and immediately began probing his line. Behind Gibbs' unit came Colonel Thomas Devin's brigade, which rode farther south, seeking the Confederates' left flank. One of Devin's regiments, the 6th New York, got on the Brooks Turnpike, engaged a small Confederate force and chased it three miles south to the outskirts of Richmond. Another, the 17th Pennsylvania, found the left flank of Stuart's line and assaulted it, while the 5th and 6th Michigan regiments of Custer's brigade attacked the 15th Virginia in the Rebel center.

Defending the Confederate left was Colonel Henry Clay Pate's 5th Virginia Cavalry. Pate had first met Stuart in Kansas in 1856, when Stuart had been in a U.S. Army force that rescued Pate from captivity in the hands of an armed Free-State faction led by John Brown. Later, Stuart had taken sides with Brig. Gen. Thomas Rosser during a feud with Pate that resulted in Pate being court-martialed. Now, Stuart rode up and exhorted him to hold his position at all costs. I will do it, Pate said firmly and extended his hand, which Stuart shook warmly. As promised, the dismounted troopers of the 5th Virginia drove back the Union assault. By that time, however, Lomax's forces had been pushed back, and Stuart's entire line lay roughly north to south alongside Telegraph Road. Meanwhile, Henry McClellan rode back from Richmond, only to see his way barred by Union flankers. He took a cross-country detour and finally reached Stuart during a lull in the fighting at 2 p.m. His news was encouraging. Bragg could muster 4,000 troops, counting convalescents pressed into service, to defend Richmond. In addition, he had ordered General P.G.T. Beauregard, at that time holding off a Union offensive up the James River east of Richmond, to detach three brigades to assist against the new threat from the north.

Stuart, sanguine as ever now that battle had been joined, spent an hour reviewing the situation with McClellan and Venable. He dispatched a messenger to Bragg, requesting that he march some of his forces to strike Sheridan from the south while Stuart's force hung on the Federals' flank. With Gordon's brigade closing in from the north, Stuart remarked, "I cannot see how they can escape."

Meanwhile, Sheridan was making plans, too, and they had nothing at all to do with escape. First, he shifted Custer's brigade to the right of the Union line, with Colonel George H. Chapman's brigade of Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson's 3rd Division to Custer's left. Reacting to the threat, dismounted Confederate troopers and the Baltimore Light Artillery began to open fire on Custer's men. Custer responded in turn by ordering his 5th and 6th Michigan regiments to dismount and drive the Rebels back. Unfortunately, the overeager colonel of the 5th Michigan led his men forward before waiting for the 6th. They had advanced 100 yards when they suddenly came under a murderous crossfire from the woods to their left and rear. Custer rode up and ordered the troops to lie down, although he himself remained in the saddle until the 6th Michigan arrived. After placing the 6th to the left of the bloodied 5th, Custer then led both regiments until they had driven the Confederates back to their main line on the ridge. When the Michiganders reached the edge of the woods, Custer ordered them to stand fast while he reconnoitered.

Custer observed that his two reserve regiments, the 1st and 7th Michigan, were being raked by Griffin's artillery, which was well screened by trees on its hilltop position. Custer later reported that "from a personal examination of the ground I discovered that a successful charge might be made upon the battery of the enemy by keeping well to the right." Custer went to Merritt and told him, "I am going to charge that battery," to which Merritt, knowing of Custer's eye for terrain, replied: "Go in, General. I wilt give you all the support in my power." Sheridan soon joined Merritt and, when told of Custer's planned charge, exclaimed, "Bully for Custer! I'll wait and see it." Custer chose the Wolverines of his 1st Michigan for the charge and also drew the 1st Vermont Cavalry, a unit that had been part of an earlier command of his, from Chapman's brigade. Just before 4 p.m., the 5th and 6th Michigan resumed their advance on foot in hopes of drawing Confederate attention. While the Federal horse artillery pounded the enemy battery, Custer placed himself at the head of the 1st Michigan and led it up the hill at a walk while the brigade band played Yankee Doodle. When the Federal column emerged from the cover of trees at a trot, Griffin's guns turned to face it and commenced firing with ball and canister. Five times Custer's men paused to remove fences from their route; then they filed, three troopers at a time, across an old bridge over a deep ditch.

Edited by timschochet

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Yellow Tavern Part 3

Finally, at a distance of 200 yards from the enemy battery, the Wolverines, with swords drawn, broke into a gallop and gave a terrifying yell. Standing gamely by their guns, the Marylanders exacted a heavy toll with double-shotted canister before being overrun, many gunners being sabered where they stood. At the same time, the 7th Michigan and lst Vermont joined in the cavalry charge, while the rest of Merritt's lst Division cheered them on. Taking the lead, the 7th Michigan drove the Southerners back another 400 yards at the cost of heavy casualties, including Major Henry W. Granger, shot through the head and heart as he led the charge. Meanwhile, Chapman's brigade renewed its assault on the Confederate center and Wilson led his dismounted troopers against the enemy right.

In the next few minutes, Stuart and his staff seemed to be in several places at once as they rode to rally their beleaguered troops. Seeing Griffin's battery being overwhelmed, Stuart brought up his only reserves–80 troops of the 1st Virginia Cavalry-and led them at full gallop toward the endangered left flank, shouting, "Charge, Virginians, and save those brave Marylanders!" When nearby Confederate troops firing from behind trees were felled by a barrage of Spencer carbine rounds, Stuart galloped into the open, commenting calmly to his worried aide, Major Venable, "I don't reckon there is any danger." The 1st Virginia crashed into Custer's troopers, and a swirling melee ensued. Heartened by the sight of Stuart's countercharge, the original defenders of Lomax's line, who had withdrawn to a creek bed, rallied and staged their own counterattack on foot. Stuart next turned up on Telegraph Road, shouting out to Company G of the lst Virginia Cavalry: "Boys, don't stop to count fours. Shoot them! Shoot them!"

Cantering on alone, Stuart joined Company K of the 1st Virginia just as the 1st Michigan made another mounted charge. "Bully for old K", bellowed Stuart, waving his saber, "Give it to them, boys!" The Rebel line dissolved as the Union cavalrymen broke through, only to fall into confusion themselves. Drawing his nine-shot LeMat revolver, Stuart fired at the Federals as they swept past. Behind him, some of the Virginians rallied and launched another counterattack that managed to drive the disorganized Yankees back once more.

As the fleeing Federals passed by him again, a jubilant Stuart emptied his pistol at them. One dismounted member of the 5th Michigan, a 48-year-old private named John A. Huff, paused long enough to spot the familiar tall, red-bearded Rebel with the plumed hat and the red silk-lined cape, 30 feet away. A former Berdan's Sharpshooter who had won a prize as that regiment's best shot, Huff took quick aim with his .44- caliber revolver, squeezed off a round and then resumed his flight. Struck in the right side below the ribs, Stuart reeled, losing his hat but remaining in the saddle. As he clasped his side, one of his troopers shouted," General, are you hit?"

"I'm afraid I am," replied Stuart. As men gathered around him, he said, "Go and tell General Lee and Dr. Fontaine to come here." Captain George W. Dorsey, commanding Company K, tried to lead Stuart's horse to the rear, but it began to panic. Stuart asked to be taken off his shying mount, and Dorsey propped him against a tree. When Dorsey called for another horse, Stuart told him, "Dorsey, save your men!" Dorsey answered that he would have to refuse that order, insisting that his first duty was to get his commander to safety. Another horse was found, and only after Stuart was led from the field did Dorsey return to his company.

Galloping across the length of the rapidly disintegrating Confederate line, Fitz Lee joined his wounded commander, who ordered him to take command: "Go ahead, Fitz, old fellow, I know you will do what is right!"

Finally, Stuart's staff surgeon, Dr. John Boursiquot Fontaine, arrived with his ambulance. As Stuart began the difficult journey to Richmond, he noticed Confederate troops leaving the field, and began to cry out desperately: "Go back! Go back and do your duty, as I have done mine, and our country will be safe. Go back! Go back! I had rather die than be whipped."

Edited by timschochet

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Yellow Tavern Part 4

For an hour after Stuart was carried from the field, Sheridan kept up the pressure on the Confederate line. While Custer and Chapman continued to drive Lomax's brigade back, Gibbs and Devin hammered at Wickham's line. Conceding the hopelessness of the situation, Lee pulled his entire division back four miles, retiring across the north fork of the Chickahominy River to regroup. Brushing aside what remained of Lee's shattered division, Sheridan led his force southward toward the Mechanicsburg Turnpike and Richmond's outer line of defense, which he reached that evening. I could capture Richmond, if I wanted, but I can't hold it, he told one of his officers. It isn't worth the men it would cost. Instead, he suddenly wheeled his force eastward. He planned to cross the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge, placing the river between himself and any Confederate pursuers. After making their way downstream, the Union troops would then recross the river and join Butler's army at Haxall's Landing on the James River, four miles south of Richmond. There, they could be resupplied with food and ammunition, both of which were nearly exhausted.

Sheridan's movement was hindered by Confederate torpedoes (buried artillery shells equipped with tripwires to serve as land mines) laid along his intended route. After suffering several casualties, the Union commander used two dozen Confederate prisoners to locate and disarm the shells. His progress was also slowed by a rainstorm so violent that it toppled the steeple of St. John's Church in Richmond. The drenched Federals did not reach Meadow Bridge until daylight, by which time they found that both the highway and railroad bridge had been set on fire by Confederates. Although most of the flames had been doused by the previous night's downpour, the bridge needed some reflooring, which was begun after dismounted troopers from Custer's brigade dashed across to secure the far bank.

As Sheridan had anticipated, Lee's and Gordon's reorganized cavalry and Bragg's infantry caught up with his force and attacked his flanks and rear. Elements of Brig. Gen. David M. Gregg's 2nd Division and Wilson's 3rd Division held them off while troopers from Merritt's division joined Custer's men in repairing the bridge. Just as the repairs were being completed, Gordon led another charge against Gregg's rear guard, but the attack faltered when Gordon was cut down. At that point, Sheridan's three divisions made their way across the bridge and proceeded without further incident to link up with Butler at Haxall's Landing. After four days of rest and replenishment, Sheridan's cavalry set out to rejoin the Army of the Potomac.

Sheridan's foray had not been without cost-in all, he lost 625 men killed, wounded or missing. But he had done great material damage, recovered nearly 400 Union prisoners and left about 300 Confederate prisoners with Butler. While their respective cavalry corps dueled at Yellow Tavern, the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia were locked in a far bloodier struggle at Spotsylvania Court House. On the night of May 12, as fighting at the Confederate salient called the Mule Shoe reached its peak, General Robert E. Lee received a telegram. For several moments he was speechless, then he said to his staff: " Gentlemen, we have very bad news. General Stuart has been mortally wounded. "Later that night, Lee remarked, "I can scarcely think about him without weeping."

While Lee wept, Jeb Stuart's agonizing, six-hour journey ended at the home of his brother-in-law, Dr. Charles Brewer, on Grace Street in Richmond. The telegraph lines out of Richmond had been cut by the Federals, but eventually a message sent via Lynchburg and Gordonsville reached Stuart's wife at Beaver Dam Station around noon on May 12. Flora Stuart, her children and two male escorts left by private train for Richmond an hour later. Their ride ended at Ashland, where the tracks had been torn up by Sheridan's men, but some wounded Confederate cavalry officers insisted on putting their ambulance at Flora's disposal so that she and her party could resume their sad trek. Meanwhile, Stuart was making thorough arrangements with Henry McClelIan as to the disposal of his belongings. Artillery was heard outside the city, and McClellan told Stuart that it was Sheridan moving east down the Chickahominy, with Fitz Lee's troopers endeavoring to trap him. "God grant that they may be successful," said Stuart, "but I must be prepared for another world."

Edited by timschochet

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Yellow Tavern. Concluded

As McClellan was leaving, President Davis arrived and asked how Stuart was. "Easy," replied Stuart, "but willing to die, if God and my country think I have fulfilled my destiny and done my duty."

As the afternoon wore on, Stuart's condition worsened. His intestines as well as numerous blood vessels had been severed, and he was probably suffering from internal hemorrhaging and peritonitis. Told by Brewer that he probably would not survive the night, he said: "I am resigned if it be God's will, but 1 would like to see my wife …But God's will be done."

Just after 7 p.m., the Episcopal Reverend Joshua Peterkin gathered all in the household around Stuart's bed and led them in prayer, followed by Stuart's favorite hymn, Rock of Ages. Stuart tried to sing along, but he was too weak. When it was over, he told Brewer, "I am resigned; God's will be done." He then fell unconscious and died shortly after, at 7:38-27 hours after being wounded. At about 8 o'clock, Flora Stuart reached the hickahominy in driving rain-only to find the bridge destroyed. After fording the river about a mile downstream, Flora and her children finally reached her brother's house at 11:30. The quiet that greeted her was enough to tell her that she had arrived too late. She would wear the black of mourning for the remaining 49 years of her life.

At 5 p.m. on May 13, Reverend Peterkin held a funeral service for Stuart at St. James Church. Eight general officers bore his coffin. From the church, the Confederate cavalier was transported to Holly, wood Cemetery, where Episcopal Reverend Charles Minigerode committed his mortal remains to the earth, near the grave of his daughter, also named Flora, who had been buried there the previous fall. Stuart was not to be the only senior cavalry officer whose further services would be denied to the Confederacy in the wake of Yellow Tavern. Colonel Henry Clay Pate died during the battle while fulfilling his vow to defend Stuart's left flank. And on May 18, six days after being shot at Meadow Bridge, Brig. Gen. James B. Gordon died of his wound.

Yellow Tavern marked the sad end of a legendary career. Jeb Stuart, who had left the battlefield crying, "I had rather die than be whipped," had indeed been whipped-and subsequently died as well. Although widely regarded as America's greatest cavalry commander, the dashing cavalier in gray had blundered throughout his last fight, all of his errors stemming from the fundamental, fatal mistake of failing to gauge his adversary's intentions. On the other hand, notwithstanding the fact that his troopers had outnumbered their Rebel opponents by more than 3-to-1, Phil Sheridan had made good his impulsive boast to Meade with a convincing and satisfying victory. The 17th Pennsylvania's historian summed it up: It was the first opportunity the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac had to show what they could do under an efficient leader. The praises for General Sheridan were on every tip.

Demoralized by its first clear-cut defeat of the war and by the toss of its illustrious commander, the Army of Northern Virginia's cavalry corps was down, but far from out. Stuart's place was taken by Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton, a South Carolinan giant who made up for whatever he lacked of Stuart's panache with a more practical attitude and a firmer sense of discipline–including self-discipline that would make him a worthy match for Sheridan. Nevertheless, something intangible went out of the cavalry when Stuart died. He was its heart, if not always its brains, and the war seemed more brutish–and increasingly more hopeless–without him.

Edited by timschochet

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Spotsylvania Part 1

All day Union supply wagons and the reserve artillery moved to the rear, confirming the soldiers' weary expectation of retreat. After dark the blue divisions pulled out one by one. But instead of heading north they turned south. A mental sunburst brightened their minds. It was not "another Chancellorsville...another skedaddle" after all. "Our spirits rose," recalled one veteran who remembered this moment as a turning point in the war. Despite the terrors of the past 3 days and those to come, "we marched free. The men began to sing." For the first time in a Virginia campaign the Army of the Potomac stayed on the offensive after its initial battle.

One of the most important events in the history of the AoP. For the first time a Union general stayed on the offensive after being attacked by Bobby Lee. That night, everything changed.

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Spotsylvania Part 2

While the cavalry played its deadly game of cut and thrust near Richmond, the infantry back at Spotsylvania grappled like muscle-bound giants. By this stage of the war the spade had become almost as important for defense as the rifle. Wherever they stopped, soldiers quickly constructed elaborate networks of trenches, breastworks, artillery emplacements, traverses, a second line in the rear, and a cleared field of fire in front with the branches of felled trees (abatis) placed at point-blank range to entangle attackers. At Spotsylvania the rebels built the strongest such fieldworks in the war so far. Grant's two options were to flank these defenses or smash through them; he tried both.

On May 9 he sent Winfield Scott Hancock's 2nd Corps to turn the Confederate left. But this maneuver required the crossing of a meandering river twice, giving Lee time to switch 2 divisions on May 10 to counter it. Believing that this weakening of the Confederate line made it vunerable to assault, Grant ordered 5 divisions to to attack the enemy's left-center on a mile-wide front during the afternoon of May 10. But they found no weakness, for Lee had shifted those reinforcements from his right.

Farther along toward the center of the line, however, on the west face of a salient jutting out a half-mile along high ground and dubbed the Mule Shoe because of its shape, a Union assault achieved a potentially decisive breakthrough. Here Colonel Emory Upton, a young and intensely professional West Pointer who rarely restrained his impatience with the incompetence he found among fellow officers, made a practical demonstration of his theory on how to attack trenches.

With 12 picked regiments formed in 4 lines, Upton took them across 200 yards of open ground and through the abatis at a run. Not stopping to fire until they reached the trenches, screaming like madmen and fighting like wild animals, the first line breached the defenses and fanned left and right to widen the breach while the following line kept going to attack the second network of trenches 100 yards farther on. The 3rd and 4th lines came on and rounded up 1,000 dazed prisoners. The road to Richmond never seemed more open. But the division assigned to support Upton's penetration came forward half-heartedly and retreated wholeheartedly when it ran into massed artillery fire. Stranded without support a half-mile from their own lines, Upton's regiments could not withstand a withering counterattack by rebel reinforcements. The Yankees fell back in the gathering darkness after losing 25% of their numbers.

Their temporary success, however, won Upton a battlefield promotion and persuaded Grant to try the same tactics with a whole corps backed by follow-up attacks all along the line.

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The 93rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry at Spotsylvania:

GEN. GRANT finding, upon sending out reconnaissances, that Gen. Lee had fallen back upon stronger entrenchments, awaiting a further attack, and finding it useless to again bring on another engagement, determined to throw his army between Lee's army and Richmond.

The Regiment lay quiet on the 7th until ordered to march to Spotsylvania,which was reached too late to attack that day, and next morning preparations were made to make a general attack, but postponed until the 9th. and thus was entered upon the first of that wonderful series of flank movements that have become the admiration of the world.

The Regiment, with the Sixth Corps, took the Chancellorsville road, reached the old battlefield at daylight; and halted for breakfast near the ruins of the old Chancellor House. Gen. Lee anticipating Gen Grant's flanking movements had hastened Ewell's and a part of Longstreets Corps. On an inner road to Spotsylvania, upon finding Grant had withdrawn from Wilderness Run.

The Sixth Corps reached Spotsylvania at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and; by reason of the intense heat, exhausted by marching and fighting since May 4th, many men fell by the wayside. The Corps rested for two hours. when it was ordered to support Warren's Fifth Corps, which had become hotly engaged.

We pressed along a narrow road leading through a thick growth of timber until we came to where the Fifth Corps was engaged. Line of battle was formed, but an attack was delayed.A wooded ravine at a little distance from our front concealed a Rebel line of battle, and in our rear were dense woods, extending to the road, along which our line was formed.

The woods were on fire, and the hot blasts of air which swept over us, together with burning heat of the sun rendered our position a very uncomfortable one. Before long, however the Corps was ordered to the left, and took a position on the left of Warren's corps. our secound division was formed in three lines of battle, with the view of attacking the Rebels, and soon after dark, all things being ready,our Division moved forward to attack, but finding the Rebels too strongly posted, the attack was relinquished, although this was done after some desperate fighting by our Division.

There was brisk skirmishing along the whole line on the 9th, our Corps placed in the left center. Our Second Division was formed in a clearing on the side of a hill which sloped gradually until it reached a swamp,which however, turned and passed our line at our left. About three hundred yards in front of us was a strip of woods one-fourth of a mile wide, and beyond the woods and open field where the Rebels was posted behind formidable earthworks.On our right has a dense forest, along which the 93rd touched with its line.

Our whole line was strengthened with breastworks of rails and logs, as which were procured almost under the Rebel guns, while the heavy mists of the morning concealed the men from view. Over the rails and logs, earth was thrown to protect the men from shot and shell. There was little fighting on the 9th, but on this day Gen. Sedgwick, the beloved Commander of the Sixth Corps was killed, and the Corps and army lost a most distinguished Soldier.

Gen. Sedgwick was struck by a ball while on foot, directly in rear of the 14th New Jersey, First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Corps. Gen. Sedgwick was, as was his custom, posting a battery—the First Massachusetts—then earthworks at that point forming an angle, which he regarded as of great importance. Gen. Sedgwick while posting the battery noticed a member of Company G of that Regiment moving in a stooping position toward his company in the breastworks. Gen. Sedgwick smiled, and playfully raised his foot toward the cautious comrade, saying pleasantly and good humoredly: What are you dodging for? They cannot hit an elephant that far."

Just then he recieved the fatal shot. below the left eye, the ball passed out at the back of his head, and he never uttered one word after receiving the fatal shot. His body was placed in an ambulance and while passing to the rear the ambulance passed along the 93rd Regiment, and never had such a gloom rested upon the whole army on account of the death of one man as came over it as when the heavy tidings passed along the lines that the noble and beloved old Commander of the Sixth Corps had been killed.

There was some picket firing during this Monday night, but no attack and the wearied and fatigued soldiers threw themselves upon the ground to rest. Our position on Tuesday morning, the 10th, remained the same as on the 9th. During this day both armies gathered their strength and perfected their plans for a renewal of the contest, on a scale of magnificence seldom if ever witnessed by any army before. This was destined to be a day of most fearful carnage, and desperate attempts on the part of eaeh army to crush the other by the weight of its terrible charges.

The activity of the skirmishing, along the line, early in the morning, steadily increased in severity until it became a roll of battle. During all the battles in the Wilderness artillery had been useless, except when here and there a section could be brought in to command the road, like that at the Brock Road and Orange Plank Road, where the 93rd.was stationed on May 6th, but now all the artillery on both sides was brought into work. It was the terrible cannonading of Malvern Hill, with the fierce musketry of Gaine's Mill combined, that seemed fairly to shake the earth and skies. Never during the war had the two armies made such a gigantic struggle for the destruction of each other.

Hancock and Warrens Corps resisted the charges of the enemy, which were repeatedly hurled like an avalanche against our breastworks, hoping by the very momentum of the charge to break through our lines, but a most withering storm of leaden and iron hail would set the Rebels wavering,and finally send them back to the woods and their earth works in confusion,leaving the ground at each time with an additional layer of their dead.

In turn the Second and Ninth Corps made charges, and in turn they too would be forced to seek shelter behind their defenses Thus the tide of battle along our right rolled to and fro, While the horrid din of musketry and artillery rose and swelled as the storm grew fiercer..

Our Sixth Corps was not called upon until t' 6 o'clock in the afternoon, then it was to make one of the most notable charges on record. Col. Upton was given twelve regiments, which assembled on the open space in front of our works, silently entered the strip of woods which was between our line and that of the Rebels. Passing through to the further edge of the woods, the twelve regiments were formed in columns of three lines, each line consisting of four regiments. Our Second Division acted as support to that charge.

At the time of forwarding our artillery from the eminences in the rear opened a terrific fire, sending shells howling and shrieking over us and the charging column, and plunging in the works of the Rebels. Col. Upton's clear voice rang out: "Attention battalions ! Forward; doublequick; Charge !" And with a cheer, which were answered by the wild yell of the Rebels, the charging column forwarded, amidst a sheet of flame which burst from the rebel line, and the leaden hail swept the ground over which the column was advancing, while the grape and canister of the Rebel batteries came crashing through our ranks at every step, and scores and hundreds of our brave fellows fell, literally covering the ground.

But nothing daunted the noble fellows rushed upon the defenses, leaping over the ditch in front, and mounted the breastworks. The Rebels made a determined resistance, and a hand to hand fight ensued. until with their bayonets our men had filled the rifle pits with bleeding Rebels. About two thousand of the surviving Rebels surrendered and were immediately marched to the rear under guard. Without halting, the impetuousately rushed toward the second line of works, which was equally as strong as the first. The resistance here was less stubborn than at the first line. Yet the Rebels refused to yield until forced back at the point of the bayonet.

The noble heroes of the old Sixth Corps, which never failed to achieve the possible, rushed from the woods, on to the third line of defences which was also captured, although the ranks of the charging column had become fearfully thinned. Finding that re-inforcements were reaching the Rebels, while our column was every moment melting away, a retreat was ordered, and there was not even time to bring away the six pieces of artillery which we had captured,but were filled with sod and abandoned. The charging column returned to our defenses, leaving the dead and most of the wounded in Rebel hands.

The night of the 10th was passed in quiet and the 11th was passed in making new arrangements and although skirmishing was kept up along our line, no general engagement resulted. During the night the Second Corps took up a positiion between the Sixth and Ninth Corps,which was not before occupied. This line made here a sharpe angle and by seizing this angle, it was hoped to turn the right flank of Lee' s Army. Between the position of the Second Corps and the Rebel works, the ground was covered with vines and underbrush, and as it neared the defences ascended abruptly to a considerable height.

At the grey light of the morning of the l2th. the 93rd was moved from its position in the woods in the front to an open field in the rear,and an opportunity was given to boil coffee and for breakfast. Every officer and veteran knew that more desperate work was on hand for the day, and while partaking of the repast, Captain Riehard G. Rogers, of co. D came walking along the line of co. I, and upon reaching co. D, said to the writer: I would give my right arm if I had no need to go into battle this day. This surely was a premonition of death, for it was followed by his being mortally wounded and died two days afterward.

When all was in readiness, the Regiment with the Corps en-masse, rapidly advaneed across the field, a thick fog concealing our movement. As our column reached near the rifle pits of the Rebels, a storm of bullets met it; but charging impetuously up the hill and over the vorks, the Rebels, surprised and overpowered, gave way; those who could escaping to the second line in the rear, though thousands were obliged to surrender on the spot, so complete had been the surprise. Our victorious column now pushed forward on toward the second line of works, but here the enemy by this time fully prepared for an attack, the resistance became more stubborn, and the battle now raged with greatest fury.

The Sixth Corps occupied the works taken by the Second Corps, and the Rebels made the most desperate efforts to retake them. by forming their troops in heavy columns and hurling them against us with tremendous force. Our First Division held the center of the line of our corps, at a point known as "The Angle." This was the key to the whole position, and the Sixth Corps held it- Our forces held the Rebel works from the left as far as this "Angle," and the Rebels still held the rest of the line. Whoever could hold "The Angle" would be the victors; for with "The Angle," either party could possess themselves of the whole line of works. Hence the desperate efforts to drive us from this position.

The First Division of our Corps being unable to hold and maintain the position alone, our Seeond Division was sent to its aid. And now, as we of the Second Division took our places in the front, the battle became a hand to hand combat. A breastwork of logs separated us from the Rebels. Our men would reach over this partition and discharge their muskets in the face of the Rebels, and in return would receive the fire of the Rebels at the same close range. Finally the men began to use their muskets as clubs and then rails were used.

The men on both sides were willing thus to fight from behind the breastworks, but to rise up and attempt a charge in the face of the Rebels, so near at hand, and so strong in numbers, required unusual bravery. Yet the 93rd, with its noble and brave comrades of the First Brigade, and with those of the rest of our Second Division, Sixth Corps, did rise up, made the charge, and drove the Rebels back and we held "the angle" ourselves-—known the world over as "The Bloody Angle." Thus was verified those words which became famous of Gen. Grant: "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer."

The trees in front of the position held by our Sixth Corps during this remarkable struggle, were literally cut to pieces by bullets. Even trees more than a foot in diameter were cut off by the constant action of the bullets, and it was the long continued, fearful musketry battle between our Sixth Corps and the Rebels, which cut down those trees.

The confliet now became more and more bloody, and soon the Fifth Corps. joined the Sixth Corps, and at 10 o'clock the battle rolled along the whole line, and the terrible fighting continued until 11 o'clock, when there was a lull in musketry, but the artillery continued its work of destruction Thus the second line of works of the enemy was taken, but not without fearful loss to both armies.

Our Sixth Corps had fought at close range for eight hours. Behind the works the Rebel dead were lying, literally piled one upon another, and wounded men were groaning under the weight of dead bodies of their companions On the morning of the 13th, Captain Charles W. Eckman, of co. H. of the 93rd, and the writer, made a close inspection of the Rebel breastworks at "The Bloody Angle" and counted the dead and wounded five bodies deep, with living and wounded Rebels beneath their dead, and the breastworks filled up with Rebels to the very top of them.

The trophies of this famous charge, were

Major General Edward Johnson with his whole Rebel division,

Brig. Gen. George H. Stuart, a brigade of Gen. Early's division,

a whole Rebel regiment and including between 3,000 and 4,000 prisoners.

We also captured between 30 and 40 guns in this charge in the

first assault in the morning by the Second and the Sixth Corps.

Gen.Wright, commander of the Sixth. Sorps. was wounded, but not severly.

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Spotsylvania, Part 3

As a cold, sullen rain set in on the morning of May 13, 1864, reports by rebel patrols of Union supply wagons moving to the rear caused Lee to make a wrong guess about Grant's intentions. Believing that the wagon traffic presaged another flanking maneuver, Lee ordered the removal of 22 guns in preparation for a quick countermover. The apex of the salient defended by these guns was exactly the point that Hancock's corps planned to hit at dawn on May 12. Too late the guns were ordered back- just in time to be captured by yelling bluecoats as 15,000 of them swarmed out of the mist and burst through the Confederate trenches. Advancing another half-mile and capturing most of the famed Stonewall division, Hancock's corps split Lee's army in two.

At this crisis Robert E. Lee came forward with a reserve division. As he had done 6 days previously in the Wilderness, Lee started to lead them himself in a desperate counterattack. Again the soldiers- Virginians and Georgians this time- shouted "Captain Lee to the rear!" and vowed to drive back "those people" if Marse Robert would only stay safely behind. Lee acceded, and the division swept forward. Their counterattack benefited from the very success of the Yankees, whose rapid advance in rain and fog had jumbled units together in a disorganized mass beyond control of their officers. Forced back to the toe of the Mule Shore, bluecoats rallied in the trenches they had originally captured and then turned to lock horns with the enemy in endless hors of combat across a no-man's land at some places but a few miles wide.

As I read about this now it's hard to imagine. The insanity of this war was at it's height at Spotsylvania, where the two armies blindly smashed into each other. Had I lived at the time on either side I would have had strong doubts that the United States could ever survive such carnage.

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Spotsylvania Part 4

While this was going on the Union 5th and 9th Corps attacked the left and right of the Confederate line with little success. while the 6th Corps came in on Hancock's right to add weight to a renewed attempt to crush the salient. Here was the famous Bloody Angle of Spotsylania. For 18 hours in the rain, from early morning to midnight, some of the war's most horrific fighting raged along a few hundred yards of rebel trenches.

"The flags of both armies waved at the same moment over the same breastworks," recalled a 6th Corps veteran, "while beneath them Federal and Confederate endeavored to drive home the bayonet through the interstices of the logs." Impelled by a sort of ferocity, soldiers on both sides leaped on the parapet and fired down at enemy troops with bayoneted rifles handed up from comrades, hurling each empty gun like a spear before firing the next one until shot down or bayoneted themselves. So intense was the firing that one point just behind the southern lines an oak tree nearly two feet thick was cut down by minie balls.

Hand-to-hand fighting like this usually ended quickly when one side broke and ran, but today neither line broke and few men ran. It became an atavistic territorial battle. Blood flowed as copiously as the rain, turning trench floors into a slimy ooze where dead and wounded were trampled down by men fighting for their lives. "I never expect to be fully believed when I tell what I saw of the horrors at Spotsylvania," wrote a Union officer, "because I should be loath to believe it myself were the case reversed."

Long after nightfall Lee finally sent word to exhausted Confederate survivors to fall back to a new line a half-mile in the rear which his engineers had worked feverishly to fortify. Next morning the Bloody Angle contained only corpses. Union soldiers on a burial detail found 130 dead southerners piled several deep in one area of trench measuring 200 square feet, and buried them by simply pushing in the parapet on top of them.

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The oak tree you mention at the end of the 2nd paragraph is in the Smithsonian; it was 22 inches thick. Remember, too, the minie ball had a conical cavity at its base and was made of soft lead. Honestly, it is hard to imagine how many thousands of times that tree was hit during the 18-20 hours of continuous hand-to-hand fighting at the Bloody Angle.

This battle has such a surreal element to it...just very hard to imagine the scope of the horror.

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"If it takes all summer"

As the armies battered each other in Virginia, citizens back home crowded newspaper and telegraph offices in a mood of "painful suspense." The day before the Bloody Angle, Grant had sent a dispatch to Washington declaring that:

I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.

Newspapers picked up this phrase and made it as famous as "Unconditional Surrender." Coupled with reports describing the Union advance southward from the Wilderness, Grant's dispatch produced jubilant headlines in Northern newspapers: "The End Draws Near", "Grant approaches Richmond", etc.

Lincoln feared that such high expectations would boomerang if the turned out to be overly optimistic- as indeed they did. "The people are sanguine," he told a reporter. "They expect too much at once. I am very glad at what has happened; but there is a great deal still to be done." When it became clear on May 17 that Grant had not broken Lee's lines at Spotsylvania and that Butler had been "bottled up" south of Richmond, the northern mood turned "despondent." The appalling casualty rate did not help morale. From May 5 through May 12 the Army of the Potomac lost some 32,000 men killed, wounded, and missing- a total greater than for all Union amies combined in any previous week of the war. As anxious relatives scanned the casualty lists, a pall of gloom settled over hundreds of northern communities.

Lee's casaulties had been proportionately as great- about 18,000- and his loss of 20 of 57 commanders of infantry corps, divisions, and brigades was devastating. Yet it could truly be said that both sides had just begun to fight. Each army made good about half of its losses by calling in reinforcements. 6 brigades from the Richmond front and 2 from the Shenandoah Valley joined Lee. Grant received a few thousand new recruits and combed several heavy artillery regiments out of the Washington defenses and converted them to infantry. Lee's replacements were higher in quality though lower in number than Grant's, for the southerners were combat veterans, while the new Yankee soldiers had seen no real fighting during 2-3 years of garrison duty. These facts would have an effect in the immediate battles to come.

Next up: Cold Harbor

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Cold Harbor Part 1

After the Bloody Angle Grant wasted no time licking his wounds. During the next week he tried several maneuvers on Lee's flanks and another assault up the middle. Aided by rains that slowed Union movements, the rebels countered all these moves. All that the Yankees could show for these 6 days of maneuvering and fighting were 3,000 more casualties. Recognizing the impossibility of loosening the Confederate hold on Spotsylvania by head-on attacks or short-range flanking efforts, Grant decided to lure Lee out by another race 25 miles south toward a rail junction just beyond the North Anna River. Lee detected the move by a reconnaissance in force on May 19 that cost him a thousand men and blooded one of Grant's converted heavy artillery divisions.

Holding the inside track, Lee got his army behind the North Anna River before the Union vanguard arrived. Entrenching a strong position on the south bank, the Confederates fought several small actions against probing bluecoats. Grant decided to move 20 miles downriver for another attempt to get around Lee's right. The Federals crossed the Pamunkey River unscathed, only to fight the rebels, who again moved on shorter interior lines, entrenched behind Totopotomy Creek 9 miles northeast of Richmond. Although half-staved from lack of rations, the southerners were still full of fight. After 2 days of skirmishing at the end of May the Yankees sidled southward once more- moving to their left as always, to maintain a short, secure supply line via the tidal rivers controlled by the navy.

Grant's objective was a dusty crossroads named Cold Harbor near the Gaines' Mill battlefield of 1862. Sheridan's cavalry seized the junction after an intense fight on May 31 with southern horsemen commanded by Lee's nephew Fitzhugh Lee. Next day Sheridan's troopers held on against an infantry counterattack until Union infantry came up and pushed the rebels back. During the night of June 1-2 the remainder of both enemies arrived and entrenched lines facing each other for 7 miles from the Totopotomy to the Chickahominy. To match additional southern reinforcements from south of the James, Grant pried one of Butler's corps from the same sector.

At Cold Harbor, 59,000 Confederates confronted 109,000 Federals. Both armies had thus built themselves back almost up to the numbers with which they had started the campaign 4 long weeks earlier.

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As mentioned earlier, Gordon Rhea's entire Overland Campaign series of books is outstanding. One of the best is a fortnight that didn't even involve a major battle:

To the North Anna River: Grant And Lee, May 13-25, 1864

Its a fascinating account because this brief respite from a major battle gives great insight into Grant and Lee. Both were aggressive and willing to attempt unorthodox operational maneuvers in quest of a tactical advantage that might lead to a decisive battle. Grant's goal was not to capture Richmond, but to destroy Lee's army. During the period covered here, as in the campaign's earlier stages, Grant kept Lee off balance with a series of feints and maneuvers that, as presented by Rhea (a practicing attorney), should discredit once and for all Grant's image as an unsophisticated grappler. He was frustrated by Lee's ability to match him thrust for thrust. Wherever Grant moved, Lee responded. It is also noteworthy that Rhea does not fall into the trap of Foote and so many other historians of crediting Lee with anticipating Grant's every move through logical deduction (it always amazes me how writers will grant Lee christ-like qualities).

Anyway, its a bit of a departure from normal ACW micro-history books, and surprisingly fast paced and suspenseful considering it is really nothing more than a bridge between the slaughter in the Mule Shoe and the murderous repulse at Cold Harbor.

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Cold Harbor Part 2

These 4 weeks had been exhausting as well as bloody beyond all precedent. The Federals had suffered some 44,000 casualties, the Confederates about 25,000. This was a new kind of relentless, ceaseless warfare. These two armies had previously fought several big set-piece battles followed by the retreat of one or the other behind the nearest river, after which both sides rested and recuperated before going at it again. Since the beginning of this campaign, however, the armies had never been out of contact with each other. Some kind of fighting along with a great deal of marching and digging took place almost every day and a good many nights as well. Mental and physical exhaustion began to take a toll; officers and men suffered what in later wars would be called shell shock. Two of Lee's unwounded corps commanders, A.P. Hill and Richard Ewell, broke down for a time during the campaign and Ewell had to be replaced by Jubal Early. Lee fell sick for a week. On the Union side an officer noted that in three weeks men had grown "thin and haggard." Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. noted in his diary:

The experience of these twenty days seems to have affed twenty years to their age. Many a man has gone crazy since this campaign began from the terrible pressure on mind and body.

All of this was on Grant's mind as he pondered his next move. Another flanking maneuver to the left would entangle his army in the Chickahominy bottomlands where McClellan had come to grief. And it would only drive Lee back to the Richmond defenses, which had been so strengthened in the last two years that the usual defensive advantage of fieldworks would be doubled. Another dozen Union regiments were scheduled to leave the army when their time expired in July; this factor also argued against postponement of a showdown battle.

Grant's purpose was not a war of attrition- though numerous historians have mislabeled it thus. From the outset he had tried to maneuver Lee into open-field combat, where Union superiority in numbers and firepower could cripple the enemy. It was Lee who turned it into a war of attrition by skillfully matching Grant's moves and confronting him with an entrenched defense at every turn. Although it galled Lee to yield the initiative to an opponent, his defensive strategy exacted two enemy casualties for every one of his own. This was a rate of attrition that might stun northern voters into denying Lincoln re-election and ending the war. To avoid such a consequence Grant had vowed to fight it out on this line if it took all summer.

"This line" had now become Cold Harbor, and the results of a successful attack there might win the war. If beaten, the Confederates would be driven back on the Chickahominy and perhaps annihilated. Grant knew that the rebels were tired and hungry; so were his own men, but he believed they had the edge in morale. He wrote to Halleck:

Lee's army is really whipped. The prisoners we now take show it, and the action of his army shows it unmistakably. A battle with them outside of intrenchments cannot be had. Our men feel that they have gained the morale over the enemy and attack with confidence.

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Cold Harbor, Part 3

And so Ulysses S. Grant ordered an assault at dawn on June 3, 1864. The outcome revealed his mistake in two crucial respects. Lee's army was not whipped, nor did Grant's men attack with confidence. Indeed, hundreds of them pinned slips of paper with name and address on their uniforms so their bodies could be identified after the battle. At dawn came the straight-ahead assault delivered primarily by 3 corps on the left and center of the Union line. A sheet of flame greeted the blue uniforms with names pinned on them. The rebels fought from trenches described by a newspaper reporter as:

intricate, zig-zagged lines within lines, lines protecting flanks of lines, lines built to enfilade opposing lines...works within works and works without works.

Although a few regiments in Hancock's 2nd Corps- the same that had breached the Angle at Spotsylvania- managed to penetrate the first line of trenches, they were quickly driven out at the cost of 8 colonels and 2,500 casualties.

Elsewhere along the front the result was worse- indeed it was the most shattering Union repulse since the stone wall below Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg. The Yankees suffered 7,000 casualties this day; the Confederates fewer than 1,500. By early afternoon Grant admitted defeat and called off further efforts. "I regret this assault more than any I have ever ordered," he said that evening. Meade wrote dryly to his wife:

I think Grant has had his eyes opened, and is willing to admit now that Virginia and Lee's army is not Tennessee and Bragg's army.

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Cold Harbor, Part 3

And so Ulysses S. Grant ordered an assault at dawn on June 3, 1864. The outcome revealed his mistake in two crucial respects. Lee's army was not whipped, nor did Grant's men attack with confidence. Indeed, hundreds of them pinned slips of paper with name and address on their uniforms so their bodies could be identified after the battle. At dawn came the straight-ahead assault delivered primarily by 3 corps on the left and center of the Union line. A sheet of flame greeted the blue uniforms with names pinned on them. The rebels fought from trenches described by a newspaper reporter as:

intricate, zig-zagged lines within lines, lines protecting flanks of lines, lines built to enfilade opposing lines...works within works and works without works.

Although a few regiments in Hancock's 2nd Corps- the same that had breached the Angle at Spotsylvania- managed to penetrate the first line of trenches, they were quickly driven out at the cost of 8 colonels and 2,500 casualties.

Elsewhere along the front the result was worse- indeed it was the most shattering Union repulse since the stone wall below Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg. The Yankees suffered 7,000 casualties this day; the Confederates fewer than 1,500. By early afternoon Grant admitted defeat and called off further efforts. "I regret this assault more than any I have ever ordered," he said that evening. Meade wrote dryly to his wife:

I think Grant has had his eyes opened, and is willing to admit now that Virginia and Lee's army is not Tennessee and Bragg's army.

Nearly 20 years later, Grant wisely made no attempt to rationalize Cold Harbor in his excellent Memoirs.

Book recommendation: Ernest Furguson's "Not War but Murder: Cold Harbor 1864"

"Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864" by Gordon C. Rhea is another excellent micro-history of this part of the Overland Campaign.

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Okay, in the last 4 weeks I have completed -

Landscape Turned Red

Chancellorsville

Gettysburg ...all by Stephen Sears

Before that I read Vicksburg (again)

and The Battle of Pea Ridge

I need some new suggestions.

I have read the Catton books and the condensed DuPuy books.

Give me some suggestions on good books to read preferrably battle, political and tactical in nature.

Any good reads on Chickamauga, Shiloh, Spotsylvania, Bull Run, Donelson, Murfreesboro...anything. I need a fix.

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People (well, at least me) are still reading, Tim. :thumbup:

Good to know. At least Grant had some excuse- this was a new form of warfare. The infantry charge that Napoleon had perfected was over. But 60 years after Cold Harbor, what excuse did the British and French generals have at the Somme? They didn't lose 7,000 men, they lost hundreds of thousands- the cream of British and French youths- in a matter of minutes. These men had learned nothing from Cold Harbor.

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People (well, at least me) are still reading, Tim. :goodposting:

Good to know. At least Grant had some excuse- this was a new form of warfare. The infantry charge that Napoleon had perfected was over. But 60 years after Cold Harbor, what excuse did the British and French generals have at the Somme? They didn't lose 7,000 men, they lost hundreds of thousands- the cream of British and French youths- in a matter of minutes. These men had learned nothing from Cold Harbor.
I have always been somewhat of a Civil War enthusiast....but this thread really spurred me on to a reading frenzy and the more I read the more incredible this time period seems. Thanks for the efforts here. When you get to the Reconstruction, lets start over again.

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People (well, at least me) are still reading, Tim. :goodposting:

Good to know. At least Grant had some excuse- this was a new form of warfare. The infantry charge that Napoleon had perfected was over. But 60 years after Cold Harbor, what excuse did the British and French generals have at the Somme? They didn't lose 7,000 men, they lost hundreds of thousands- the cream of British and French youths- in a matter of minutes. These men had learned nothing from Cold Harbor.
It's hard to say. Certainly, word didn't travel as easily, but you would think military men would take note of what worked, and what didn't.But even such, you would think the Union learned at Fredericksburg (or by what happened at Gettysburg) - you don't just charge an entrenched enemy, whether that entrenchment is an actual trench, or a wall. I guess that shows just hard it really is to adapt and change. If a man is taught to do it one way for decades, and all of a sudden that way isn't working anymore, it can be tough.

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Okay, in the last 4 weeks I have completed -

Landscape Turned Red

Chancellorsville

Gettysburg ...all by Stephen Sears

Before that I read Vicksburg (again)

and The Battle of Pea Ridge

I need some new suggestions.

I have read the Catton books and the condensed DuPuy books.

Give me some suggestions on good books to read preferrably battle, political and tactical in nature.

Any good reads on Chickamauga, Shiloh, Spotsylvania, Bull Run, Donelson, Murfreesboro...anything. I need a fix.

This isn't quite what you asked for (battle, tactics, etc), but have you read any diaries? Some are rather bland, but some are at least pretty interesting. The one mentioned by Tim in a recent post - Oliver Wendell Holmes - is a pretty good one. Linky here. Maybe a few others can chime in with some.

Diaries are not going to give any huge insights on battles or strategy or anything, but they do give an interesting perspective from people on the ground, as it happened.

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Okay, in the last 4 weeks I have completed -

Landscape Turned Red

Chancellorsville

Gettysburg ...all by Stephen Sears

Before that I read Vicksburg (again)

and The Battle of Pea Ridge

I need some new suggestions.

I have read the Catton books and the condensed DuPuy books.

Give me some suggestions on good books to read preferrably battle, political and tactical in nature.

Any good reads on Chickamauga, Shiloh, Spotsylvania, Bull Run, Donelson, Murfreesboro...anything. I need a fix.

This isn't quite what you asked for (battle, tactics, etc), but have you read any diaries? Some are rather bland, but some are at least pretty interesting. The one mentioned by Tim in a recent post - Oliver Wendell Holmes - is a pretty good one. Linky here. Maybe a few others can chime in with some.

Diaries are not going to give any huge insights on battles or strategy or anything, but they do give an interesting perspective from people on the ground, as it happened.

One of the Vicksburg books I read was comprised of diary entries from the besieged civilians in the town. It was a very interesting read.

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People (well, at least me) are still reading, Tim. :goodposting:

Good to know. At least Grant had some excuse- this was a new form of warfare. The infantry charge that Napoleon had perfected was over. But 60 years after Cold Harbor, what excuse did the British and French generals have at the Somme? They didn't lose 7,000 men, they lost hundreds of thousands- the cream of British and French youths- in a matter of minutes. These men had learned nothing from Cold Harbor.
It's hard to say. Certainly, word didn't travel as easily, but you would think military men would take note of what worked, and what didn't.But even such, you would think the Union learned at Fredericksburg (or by what happened at Gettysburg) - you don't just charge an entrenched enemy, whether that entrenchment is an actual trench, or a wall. I guess that shows just hard it really is to adapt and change. If a man is taught to do it one way for decades, and all of a sudden that way isn't working anymore, it can be tough.
It's important to note too that the Confederates didn't learn it either until it was too late. If the South had realized the revolution in warfare that had made trench warfare so difficult to assault, they simply would have resorted to it in 1861 and beaten back all Union assaults, concentrating on finding ways to break the blockade. About a year of this might have been enough to gain their independence.Of course, this sort of defensive fighting went completely against the southern mindset, especially early, when they considered the Yankees to be "rabble" that would be easily defeated. They only switched to it when they were forced to out of desperation, and by then it was too late.

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One of the Vicksburg books I read was comprised of diary entries from the besieged civilians in the town. It was a very interesting read.

That sounds interesting. What was the name of it?

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One of the Vicksburg books I read was comprised of diary entries from the besieged civilians in the town. It was a very interesting read.

That sounds interesting. What was the name of it?
Vicksburg - 47 Days of Siege by AA HoehlingThe book itself encapsulated numerous diary entries but approached it from a human perspective - not a tactical, military perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Give me some suggestions on good books to read preferrably battle, political and tactical in nature.

Any good reads on Chickamauga, Shiloh, Spotsylvania, Bull Run, Donelson, Murfreesboro...anything. I need a fix.

www.civilwarinteractive did an online poll in 1998 and repeated it in 2008; suffice to say every single book on this list has merit.

The Top 50 Best Civil War Books

First column was its rank two years ago; fourth column is what it was ranked in the last survey.

May not be THE DEFINITIVE list, but its a pretty good one. FWIW, I own 41 of them.

Tried to find the original list but I don't think it was archived/preserved.

You may also find this book review blog useful:

Civil War Books and Authors

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