Preservation Opportunity in the Western Theater

Our friends at the Civil War Trust sent along this announcement and opportunity to preserve more battlefield ground in the Western Theater. Continue reading for more information about this opportunity and how you can get involved.

“With the exception of Virginia, no state endured more significant Civil War battles than Tennessee. It was in Tennessee — during the war’s early stages — where Gen. Ulysses S. Grant first gained national recognition by demanding and securing the “unconditional surrender” of a Confederate army at Fort Donelson. In 1863, the nation’s gaze was again fixed upon the Volunteer State as Union and Confederate troops vied for control of Chattanooga. And it was in Tennessee that Gen. John Bell Hood launched a last-ditch effort to strike back at the Yankees, resulting in inconceivable suffering at Franklin and ultimate defeat at Nashville.

In recognition of the state’s importance during our nation’s defining conflict, you and I have already saved 3,491 acres in Tennessee, allowing future generations to walk the ground where history was made.

Today, we have the opportunity to save an additional 15 acres at three battlefields in Tennessee: Fort Donelson, Brown’s Ferry (near Chattanooga), and Franklin. We will be adding to the 639 acres we have already saved at these three battlefields—more tiles in the mosaic of Tennessee’s rich Civil War heritage. Thanks to a magnificent $21.17-to-$1 match, you and I can save this land—worth a combined total of $1.5 million—for just $73,250!

Help us build on our previous successes in Tennessee and save these three Tennessee battlefields.

’Til the Battle is Won,

Jim
Jim Lighthizer, President
Civil War Trust

P.S. Please join our efforts to save 15 acres at Fort Donelson, Brown’s Ferry, and Franklin. 

General Orders Number 6: The Creation of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps

Joseph Hooker

The opening months of 1863 marked the beginning of a season of change for the Army of the Potomac. Major General Ambrose Burnside, who had directed the disastrous Fredericksburg Campaign and subsequent “Mud March”, had been replaced by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker. With a profound appreciation of his command’s condition, Hooker instituted a series of reforms to help improve the army’s morale and restore it to fighting condition. A system of furloughs was implemented, rations improved and corps insignia adopted. But on February 5, 1863, 155 years ago today, Hooker issued General Orders Number 6. This directive would have a lasting impact on the army in the months and years to come.

Paragraph 3 of the order stated: “The cavalry of the army will be consolidated into one corps, under the command of Brigadier-General Stoneman, who will make the necessary assignments for detached duty.”

Under previous commanders, the Union horsemen had been parceled out to the various corps and later grand divisions. Although Burnside and his predecessor, George McClellan, had maintained separate brigades, reserves and divisions throughout their tenures, the troopers lacked overarching cohesion. Under General Orders Number 6, for the first time, the mounted arm would operate under the direction of one commander who reported directly to army headquarters.

The commanding general’s choice to lead the corps was a logical one. A West Point graduate, George Stoneman brought experience with cavalry and at the command level to the post. Prior to the war he had been assigned to the 1st U.S. Dragoons and 2nd U.S. Cavalry. During his time with the dragoons, he had served as Acting Assistant Quartermaster and Adjutant, positions that would improve his administrative skills, a trait that were invaluable to a corps commander. Stoneman had also been McClellan’s cavalry chief, a position he held for over a year and more recently, the head of the III Corps in the Army of the Potomac.

George Stoneman

Hooker’s directive had finally placed his horsemen under a similar organizational structure as their Confederate counterparts. The order marked a new chapter in the history the Federal mounted arm. It was the genesis of the Union cavalry’s ascendance to superiority in the Eastern Theater.

 

Steve Bartman and the Battle of Chancellorsville

In the past few weeks ESPN has been re-running the Alex Gibney film Catching Hell. The film focuses on Chicago and it’s reaction to Steve Bartman in 2003 after the Cubs lost that year’s National League Championship Series (NLCS). There is also a discussion of Boston and Bill Buckner after his error in the 1986 World Series.

Watching the film, I was struck by the group reaction to the Bartman play among the Cub fans and certain players, which led directly to the team’s collapse in Game 6. As I thought about it, I realized the Bartman story can help people understand the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville in 1863. 

For those who may not be familiar with the story: In 2003 the Cubs had enjoyed a magical regular season that raised hopes in Chicago. They entered the playoffs looking for the first World Series appearance since 1945 and their first title since 1908 (95 years at the time), and led the NLCS 3 games to 2 over the Florida Marlins (now Miami Marlins), having lost Game 5 in Miami. Game 6 occurred in Chicago on October 14, and the Cubs led 3-0 going into the top of the 8th inning. A foul ball along the third base line was deflected by a fan (later identified as Steve Bartman), and the Cub outfielder, Moises Alou, reacted in frustration. The Marlins started a flurry of hits, helped by a flubbed shortstop play by Alex Gonzalez that would have ended the inning with the Cubs up 3-1 or 3-2; instead, Florida buried the Cubs with 8 runs in the 8th, and the Cubs could score no more. Game 7 the next night went back and forth, but the Marlins again (for the third straight game) beat the Cubs and went on to their second World Series in franchise history, eventually defeating the New York Yankees. Steve Bartman, meanwhile, became the scapegoat in Chicago, blamed for the defeat.

In the film, Cub fans going to Game 6 are seen admitting their nervousness, and one stated “I’ve never been so nervous before a game.” Steve Lyons, who called the game for Fox Sports, said the whole stadium was “waiting for something crazy to happen.” Some people felt it in the 7th Inning Stretch, when Bernie Mac sang “champs” in Take Me Out to the Ballgame. But the Bartman play in the 8th (in the words of Cubs 1st Baseman Eric Karros) “took the air out of the stadium.” The team seemed to tense up, and that explains both Gonzalez’ error and the meltdown of Chicago pitching. After Game 6 many in Chicago felt it was already over; some Cubs players even booked flights home after Game 7, expecting not to go to the World Series.

This, in broad parallel, is the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville. After an energetic winter and spring during which Major General Joseph Hooker reformed, rebuilt, and re-energized the army, in late April 1863 it set off for its next contest against Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The last clear-cut offensive victory the Army of the Potomac had won over the Confederates was at Williamsburg, almost exactly a year earlier. A year is a long time to an army in combat, and that record weighed on the Federals as much as the 95-year drought weighed on the Cubs in 2003. Indeed, a sense of nervous energy emanates from some of Hooker’s statements before the battle and the way some of his commanders strained to get into the fight.

Lee’s unexpected strong reaction on May 1 caused Hooker to pull back, and a strange lethargy set in among the Federals. Seizing the opening created by this passivity, Lee flanked the Army of the Potomac, launching Stonewall Jackson’s famed flank attack on the evening of May 2. Jackson’s corps routed the Union XI Corps on the army’s western flank, driving it back over 2 miles before darkness ended the fighting. The attack did not win the battle, but left the Confederates threatening to win. A strong Federal defense, and/or a resolute counterattack, would recover the Army of the Potomac’s fortunes.

Yet the Army of the Potomac was like the Cubs after Bartman – the air had gone out of them. The troops themselves fought well on May 3, but the leadership was defeated and steadily pulled back. Hooker also ordered the 20% of his army at Fredericksburg to save the other 80% at Chancellorsville – a panicked order which shows how far he had melted down mentally.

Even thought the fighting on May 3 ended with the Federals in a strong position south of U.S. Ford, the battle was all but over in the mind of Hooker and many of his commanders. After some skirmishing on May 4 and 5, the Army of the Potomac quit the field. After the battle the XI Corps became the scapegoat for the army because of its failure to hold Jackson – much like Steve Bartman became the scapegoat for the foul ball play in 2003.  In both cases, the overall group saw these events as the turning points where it all went wrong and spiraled into the inevitable defeat.

The next time Catching Hell is on, take the time to watch it, as the group dynamics among the Chicago Cubs fans and players echo those of the Army of the Potomac leadership 140 years before.

Top: Steve Bartman and Moises Alou go for a foul ball in Game 6, with one out in the Top of the 8th. 

Bottom: Jackson’s flank attack on May 2.

Notice the reorientation of the Union line and the isolated position of the XI Corps “behind” the new Union position.

A Presidential Review That Didn’t Go Very Well

ECWer Stephen Davis of Cumming, Georgia, is finishing up his book on the generalship of John B. Hood, which will be published later this year by Savas Beatie. From it Steve draws the following story:

During the war President Jefferson Davis visited the Army of Tennessee three times, reviewing the troops on each occasion. His last review, held on September 26, 1864,when Hood’s army was encamped at Palmetto, Georgia, proved to be least successful, at least in terms of the reaction of the officers and men.

That morning Davis, Hood and maybe others–Maj. Gen. Howell Cobb and Tennessee Gov. Isham Harris were also at Palmetto then–passed before the troops. “President Davis is here, and is expected to review the troops today,” wrote Col. Lovick P. Thomas of the 42nd Georgia; “we are arranging to be under arms at 8 one half o’clock this morning.” Robert M. Magill, 39th Georgia, entered in his diary that day, “Monday, 26th.–Jeff Davis to come round at 9 a.m. Everything has to be cleaned up.”

According to one press report, Davis “was received by the men with great applause and made them a speech.” “Cheer after cheer went forth as he passed by accompanied by the music from each band,” recorded Capt. William Dixon of the 1st Georgia. Brig. Gen. Francis Shoup, Hood’s chief of staff, was also positive. “The President and General Hood, with their respective staffs, rode out to the front today,” he recorded on the 26th, “and were enthusiastically received by the troops.” In truth, some Rebs  seem to have hallooed vociferously. “The President together with Genl’s Hood, Hardee &c road past on splendid chargers, bowing and touching their hats,” Lt. Marcus Ely of the 54th Georgia wrote his wife the next day, “and we in return flourished our old hats and yelled like a set of maniacs. Splendid bands were discoursing sweet music all along the line–colors were flying &c–taking in all we had quite a gala day.”

Capt. Samuel Foster of the 24th Texas, in Granbury’s brigade of Cleburne’s division, recorded a funny incident during Davis’ review.

Now it so happened that F R Lubbock late Governor of Texas was on Davis’ staff, and he naturally supposing that the Texas soldiers would be glad to see him, thought he would take this occasion to introduce himself and we would give him a grand cheer–He made a serious mistake and so spoiled the whole thing. He stoped in front of an Irish (Brigade) Regt. just on our right before he got to us. Thinking he had found us, rode square up about the centre pulled off his hat and says “I am Governor Lubbock of Texas” and just when he expected to hear a big cheer, an Irishman says, “An who the bloody H–l is governor Lubbock?” with that peculiar Irish brogue, that made the Governor wilt. He turned his horse and galloped on to catch up with the President and party and pass by us without even looking at us.

Others, however, noted a more sullen reaction by the men. Capt. Benjamin L. Posey of the 36th Alabama wrote a week later, “there was an absence of enthusiasm” among the troops.

Things got uglier when some malcontents began to call out for a return of their old commander. Corporal Magill recorded, “pretty  weak cheering. Some shouting Johnston. Give us Johnston again.”

Davis and Hood could only ride on, doubtless chastened. “I regretted I should have been the cause of this uncourteous reception to His Excellency,” Hood admitted in his memoirs. He was right. “The troops did not like Hood,” Robert Patrick of the 4th Louisiana entered in his diary after the review. Yet it was not Hood’s doings alone that the men objected to; it was the president’s as well. According to a correspondent of the Montgomery Mail, the soldiers’ cool response to the president reflected their lingering resentment that he had fired Old Joe. “The feeling in the army for Gen. Johnston is yet as enthusiastic as it was when he bade the troops a sad farewell,” the reporter claimed. “The sullen glances which were cast at the President, while here, were marks of the displeasure entertained in his presence….They wished, in their own blunt way, to give expression to the estimation in which they held Mr. D.” And they clearly did so, according to Brig. Gen. Arthur Manigault’s postwar recollection. “No cheers saluted him, countenances were depressed and sullen,” he remembered. “‘Give us Johnston! Give us our old Commander!’  and other remarks of a similar nature” were shouted; “this happened in many brigades.”

Officers tried to still the outbursts. “Arrests and threats of punishment alone prevented the cry from becoming loud and general,” Manigault remembered.

One could not help remarking the expression of President Davis’s countenance as he passed. He looked thin, care-worn, and angry. A scornful expression rested on it. He scarcely deigned to lift his hat from his head as we saluted. General Hood, with the Corps commanders, their staffs, and a large escort, accompanied him. All looked uneasy and apprehensive. I never remembered taking part in an affair of the kind so cheerless and unsatisfactory as this one was, where everyone seemed anxious to have it over.

    After the war James H. McNeilly, chaplain of the 49th Tennessee, recalled an incident of the Palmetto review.

Our colonel was an enthusiastic man, and several who knew his temperament warned him not to call for cheers for the President. They told him that our men would not do anything to insult him, but they would not cheer him. So they urged the colonel to remain quiet in his position while the President passed, and the men would present arms and salute. He promised to do as advised. The President passed the Mississippi division and was greeted with ringing cheers. Our colonel’s enthusiasm got away with him. As the President came opposite us our colonel spurred his horse out of the line and, swinging his hat about his head, cried: “Three cheers for our President!” but there was no response. The men were as silent as the grave. I never pitied a man more than I did the crestfallen colonel as he got back into line. We all loved him, for he was a grand man and a lovable one, but the men felt that they had warned him. Mr. Davis passed on as if not noticing, saluting us as he rode by.

Davis never again visited the Army of Tennessee; the war ended seven months after his Palmetto review. Given the lukewarm reception he got from Hood’s men, he would have had little reason to want a repetition of the experience.

Preservation News: CVBT Announces Preservation Award Recipient

Our friends at the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust have recently released their Winter 2017-2018 newsletter, On the skirmish line. In this latest issue, they share the news of the recent recipient of their Dr. Michael P. Stevens Preservation Award, D.P. Newton. Keep reading below for the full story on this exciting announcement.

“The CVBT Board of Directors chose D.P. Newton to be the recipient of its Dr. Michael P. Stevens Preservation Award, which was created to recognize an individual or an organization that has made a significant and sustained contribution to our understanding of Civil War history. The recipient does not get to keep the award itself, which remains in the CVBT office, but they do get to keep a $1,000 contribution to that individual or organization.

We have said this before, but it bears repeating. The cash award does not come from CVBT member donations. Instead, it comes exclusively from the CVBT board itself, our way of honoring Dr. Mike. The recipients can use those funds in any way they see fit, although most use them to continue their respective preservation missions.

D.P. Newton is a native of Stafford County, Virginia who made his living as a waterman.
In his off-time, he explored the many places around his home that were associated with the Civil War, but he did more than just casually get out-and about with a metal detector. He has systematically and methodically recovered artifacts from thousands of hut holes in hundreds of Union winter camps, and developed maps and notes that are a significant resource for additional study. He has also explored the vast Federal supply depot at Aquia Creek Landing, as well as the shore batteries along the Potomac River that effectively blocked maritime access to Washington D.C. and which were subsequently shelled by the Union navy.

A lifetime of metal detecting provided a substantial collection of artifacts, some of them quite rare, and D.P. eventually decided to present them to the public. He worked diligently to adapt an old brick school house into a museum, whose setting is also of interest. The school house, now a museum, sits across the road from White Oak Church, a
sanctuary that dates back to Colonial days. The Union Sixth Corps had its camp in the White Oak area during the winter of 1862-63.

As for the museum itself, visitors can see the usual collection of bullets, belt buckles, projectiles, bottles, bayonets, etc., but there is so much more. As an example, D.P. has re-established a camp site, with three winter huts, in intricate detail. He displays a collection of coins and medallions that were adapted by soldiers to be identification tags. He has a section of timbers from an actual corduroy road. He found almost every piece of a 13-inch mortar round, fired from a Union naval vessel at one of the Stafford shore batteries. He built a replica cannon, in exact detail, that greets visitors at the museum entrance.

And then there are the maps and the notes. There are those relic hunters who find their metal artifacts and move on. D.P. Newton would take the extra steps to make sure that what he found in the field would be useful to other types of research. The White Oak Museum houses D.P.’s documentation of the camps he has searched and the historic sites he has explored. D.P. Newton has done a phenomenal job in establishing the means to display a lifetime of dedicated work and research. We are all the richer for his efforts and it is the CVBT’s great pleasure to recognize him with our Dr. Michael P. Stevens
Preservation Award. SL”

The Decision to Attach William F. Smith to the Army of the James

General William F. “Baldy” Smith

Emerging Civil War welcomes back guest author Sean Chick

Major General William Farrar Smith is one of the Civil War’s most controversial commanders. He was twice removed from command. He was once considered for an army command. He was one of the few men to befriend Ulysses Grant and lose Grant’s full confidence. That loss started the moment Grant posted Smith to command of XVIII Corps.

Smith was known throughout the army as “Baldy” to distinguish him from the eleven other generals with his surname. Smith ran a relaxed headquarters, serving champagne and fine food. He was popular with his subordinates but hypercritical of his superiors. He was a schemer who undermined his superiors. He was also given to bouts of poor health due to his previous exposure to malaria.

In 1862, Smith was a rising star, noted for his bravery at the Seven Days and Antietam. At Fredericksburg, he led the VI Corps. However, in early 1863, he made several mistakes. First, he condemned his superior, Major General Ambrose Burnside, in messages sent to Abraham Lincoln. Second, he was a friend and supporter of Major General George McClellan even after McClellan’s removal. Smith also wanted to attack Richmond by using the peninsula approaches, although Lincoln vehemently opposed such a strategy. All three factors led to his dismissal from the Army of the Potomac. The Senate also failed to confirm his nomination to major general.

After leading militia forces during General Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania, Smith was sent to the Army of the Cumberland. It was his finest hour. Working as chief engineer, he managed the “Cracker Line” which saved the army under siege in Chattanooga. He also bickered with Major General William S. Rosecrans. When Major General Ulysses S. Grant took over at Chattanooga, Grant was impressed with Smith’s abilities. He also knew that Smith was no friend of Rosecrans, a man Grant detested.

In early 1864, Grant got Smith a promotion to major general. Yet, what Grant was going to do with Smith was unclear. Smith was rumored to be the replacement for Major General George Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac. Meade however was humble, dutiful, and pliant in his meeting with Grant. Despite pressure to relieve Meade, he stayed in command. Smith might have been made a corps commander, but he had many enemies in the army, in particular Burnside. Grant needed to find a new home for Smith.

On April 1, 1864 Grant, accompanied by Smith, Brigadier General John Rawlins, and Colonel Cyrus B. Comstock, went to Norfolk to meet with Major General Benjamin Butler. In a war noted for contentious personalities, few could compete with Butler. He was an accomplished politician, lawyer, and businessman. In the American Civil War, he became famous for being among the first generals who refused to return escaped slaves and for his stormy administration of New Orleans. Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward wanted Butler to command the drive on Vicksburg. Butler turned them down. Instead, he made speeches in the North, tacitly setting himself up as an alternative to Lincoln. In November 1863, Butler was given the Department of Virginia and North Carolina to mollify him.

Grant discussed strategy with Butler, and they decided to attack Richmond, or at least threaten the Confederate capital. Smith was not present at every meeting, and soon found out he would command XVIII Corps under Butler’s newly minted Army of the James. Why Grant chose Smith for the XVIII Corps is at first not hard to fathom. Smith was a good engineer. He was widely considered one of the Union’s best tacticians, and he could be innovative. Butler had never led troops into a major battle, and Smith could offer good advice and a steady hand. Smith had also long favored an offensive similar to what Butler was attempting. Yet, there was probably a less kindly reason for Smith’s placement. In Butler’s department, Grant had no one who could monitor the situation. In addition, if Butler needed to be removed, Smith was the obvious choice.

Smith’s presence though was insidious. He wanted an independent command and sent reports to Grant with Grant’s permission. This was a poor decision, since Grant was giving Smith a chance to bad-mouth Butler. It also showed that Grant did not wholly trust Butler. In addition, Smith was being assigned to an officer with a tongue so acidic that Confederate Lieutenant General Richard Taylor once wrote “in the war of epithets he [Butler] has proved his ability to hold his ground against all comers as successfully as did Count Robert of Paris with sword and lance.” (Taylor, Destruction and Reconstruction, 112) It was practically pre-ordained that Smith and Butler would bicker.

Grant and some of his generals

Smith proved to be a liability. He did not wholly agree with Butler’s plan to take Bermuda Hundred and threaten Richmond. He favored making City Point the main base with Petersburg as the target, but he did not make his point to Butler. Throughout the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, he quarreled with Butler on tactical decisions. On the eve of the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, Smith told his friends Major General Phillip Sheridan and Brigadier General James Wilson that Butler should be removed. It was understood that Sheridan and Wilson would say as much to Grant when they next saw him.

Grant hardly seemed surprised by Smith’s machinations, and admitted to Major General Henry Halleck that the discord in the Army of the James could be Smith’s fault. Grant’s solution was to have XVIII Corps transferred to Meade’s command and then sent to attack Petersburg, but not under Butler’s supervision. The solution failed, and Smith and Meade started to bicker. Smith also failed to take Petersburg on June 15. Grant at first praised Smith for his leadership in the battle, but with hindsight, he became more critical. By July 1864, Smith was removed.

Grant was a capable manager of men during the Civil War. Although known to hold grudges, he promoted men who were friendly with each other, creating a relatively positive command atmosphere. Grant’s lieutenants were not perfect, but with few exceptions they were not incompetent. Unlike Major General John Pope, Grant successfully managed many difficult personalities in the eastern theater despite being an outsider. However, the question of what to do with Smith was vexing, given his character and reputation. Sending him to Butler kept Smith away from men such as Burnside, but the alternative proved to be no better. Smith’s feud with Butler was a major source of woe in the Union high command. As Grant wrote in his memoirs, “I was not long in finding out that the objections to Smith’s promotion were well founded.” (Grant, Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Vol. 2, 367)