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. 

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”

Expeditions Bold And Admirable: Conclusion

Conclusion of a series. You may read the Introduction, The First Battle of Hartwood Church, The Dumfries Raid and Raid on the Occoquon here.

Wade Hampton

The months of November and December, 1862 marked a transition in the career of Wade Hampton. For several weeks, Hampton and his brigade were thorn in the side of the Army of the Potomac. On three separate occasions, he led a handpicked force on expeditions behind the Union lines. At the behest of Robert E. Lee, Hampton crossed the Rappahannock on a scouting mission on November 27. The next day, he struck and captured a contingent of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry at Hartwood Church and confirmed that the Federals remained opposite the Confederate lines at Fredericksburg. On December 12, Hampton captured a sutler’s wagon train at Dumfries. A week later he fell on yet another supply train, this time near the village of Occoquon.

Hampton’s performance did not go unnoticed by his superiors, especially Le. At the end of February, 1863, Lee issued General Orders 29, announcing the recent successes of his cavalry to the army. Hampton’s actions were mentioned in the order. “The commanding general takes great pleasure in advertising to the promptness of the officers in striking a successful blow whenever the opportunity offered,” it read. “These deeds give assurance of vigilance, activity, and fortitude.”

By the beginning of the new year, Hampton had established himself as one of the most aggressive commanders in the Confederate mounted arm. Not surprisingly, his star would continue to rise in the coming months. Wounded on East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg, Hampton performed well during the Overland Campaign in the spring of 1864. After Stuart’s death in May, he became the senior Major General in the cavalry corps. His performance in stopping Philip Sheridan’s raid toward the Shenandoah Valley at Trevilian Station ultimately brought him corps command. Hampton continued to fight well during the Siege of Petersburg. Early in 1865, he was transferred south to face Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union armies in the Carolinas. In the middle of March, Hampton turned in his finest performance. After a masterful display of reconnaissance and planning, Gen. Joseph Johnston accepted Hampton’s proposal to attack Sherman outside Bentonville, North Carolina. Johnston struck on March 19 and temporarily delayed the Federal march. On the last of the day engagement, Hampton directed and led counterattacks against a enemy force that helped secure the Confederate line of retreat. At the end of the war Hampton had compiled a record that rivaled if not surpassed that of any of his peers.

 

 

 

 

 


Preservation News: June 1, 1864 at Cold Harbor

Recently the Civil War Trust announced an effort to preserve land related to the June 1, 1864 fighting at Cold Harbor. This combat has often been overshadowed by the Union assault which took place there on June 3. Cold Harbor had yet to become, in the words of Union staff officer Thomas Hyde, “the Golgotha of American history.” When I read through the announcement and examined the map which included the targeted tracts my eyes were immediately drawn to a particular segment of the property. It lays just north of the Cold Harbor Road and above and slightly to the right of the Miles Garthwright House.

On May 30, with Union cavalry operations heating up around Cold Harbor, Gen. Robert E. Lee began shuffling men there to secure the area. This effort continued the following day, as the Federal cavalry attacked and eventually captured the road junction. Late in the evening of the thirty-first, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George Meade also began to funnel infantry toward Cold Harbor. The crossroads was vitally important to the commanders. One road led directly to the Union supply base on the Pamunkey River while another ran directly to the Confederate capital at Richmond, less than a dozen miles to the southwest. Grant planned to attack there the next morning. The General-in-Chief, however, was asking too much of his soldiers.

Walking over the battlefield at Cold Harbor, one of the things that comes to mind is the condition of the men in both armies who fought there. The Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia had been locked in a desperate, non-stop campaign for nearly a month. They were completely exhausted. Grant’s expectation to immediately launch an assault following a harrowing night march was unrealistic. The first blue infantry to reach Cold Harbor was Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright’s VI Corps, which tramped in at about 10 a.m. It was not until 2:30 that afternoon that Wright’s last division arrive and deploy for battle. Wright was to coordinate the offensive with Maj. Gen. William “Baldy” Smith’s XVIII Corps, recently arrived from the Army of the James.  Smith’s orders had been botched, adding miles and hours to his march. His men finally arrived around mid-afternoon. The delay gave Wright’s men time to wait and contemplate the inevitable assault. Across the open space before them stood Brig. Gen. Robert Hoke’s division and Lt. Gen. Richard Anderson’s First Corps. The Confederates had spent much of the morning preparing and improving their defenses. Among those who waited anxiously to make the assault was a brigade commanded by a colonel from New York, Emory Upton.

A post war photo of Emory Upton. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I’ve always been fascinated by Upton. Socially awkward but incredibly brilliant, he was the Sheldon Cooper of his day.  Upton had been one of the few men to recognize that the technology of the 1860s, especially the rifled musket and the advent of field fortifications, had rendered the tactics of the day obsolete. Just weeks earlier, Upton led an attack on the Mule Shoe Salient at Spotsylvania. He massed his twelve regiments in a column, three across and four deep. His men were directed not to open fire as they stormed the enemy works. The bayonet assault was initially successful, however, supporting troops did not arrive in time to exploit the breach. Impressed with the effort, Grant utilized Upton’s methods and sent the II Corps crashing into the salient on May 12. Once again, the attack was not properly coordinated which allowed the Confederates to recapture and hold part of the line.

As time ticked away that afternoon, Upton prepared for the assault. He formed his regiments into two lines. The 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery formed the first, with battalions stacked upon one another. Behind them was the 5th Maine, 95th Pennsylvania, 96th Pennsylvania and part of the 121st New York.

The 2nd Connecticut, led by Col. Elisha Kellogg, was a new regiment which had spent much of the war in the Washington defenses. Due to losses sustained in the campaign, they were converted to infantry and sent south, arriving with the army on May 21. I wonder what it was like for those men, who had never seen combat, to prepare for the attack. What thoughts went through their minds? What feelings did they have? One thing, I think, was certain. Derisively viewed for their lack of experience by their sister regiments, whose own ranks had been depleted by casualties, the Nutmeggers wanted to prove they were up to the task which awaited them.

Upton likely planned for his lines to move forward in concert. The “Heavies” were to carry the brunt of the assault while the remaining regiments awaited the outcome. If they were successful, Upton would send his second line forward to exploit the breach. Should Kellogg meet stiff resistance, Upon would send individual regiments from the second line forward with the expectation that the additional weight would break the Confederate position.

Kellogg took his place at the head of his regiment. He ordered his men to unsling their knapsacks and any other accouterments that might impede their movement. Around 6 p.m. the blue soldiers moved forward. “The Second Connecticut…moved to the assault in beautiful order,” Upton wrote. “Crossing an open field, it entered a pine-wood, passed down a gentle declivity and up a slight ascent. Here the charge was checked. For seventy feet in front of the works the trees had been felled, interlocking with each other, and barring all further advance. Two paths, several yards apart, and wide enough for four men to march abreast, led through the obstructions. Up these, to the foot of the works, the brave men rushed, but were swept away by a converging fire…I directed the men to lie down, and not to return fire. Opposite the right of the regiment, the works were carried…in this position, without support on either flank, the Second Connecticut fought, when the enemy fell back to a second line of works.”

Watching from the rear, a member of the 121st New York wrote “as soon as the heavies began to charge, the Rebel works were bordered with a fringe of smoke from the muskets and the men began to fall very fast, and many wounded began going to the rear.” The 2nd Connecticut approached Brig. Gen. Thomas Clingman’s brigade and a section of the line held by the 51st North Carolina. Aghast, the Empire Stater observed the Connecticut soldiers “fall in all shapes. Some would fall forward as if they had caught their feet and tripped and fell. Others would fall backward. Others would stagger about a few paces before they dropped.” Among the dead was Kellogg. Wounded early in the attack, he remained at the front before being shot down, struck multiple times. Kellogg’s personal example helped ensure that his regiment would no longer be called “band box soldiers.”

Although Upton’s attack had ground to a halt, on his right, Union infantry overran part of Clingman’s line. Upton quickly pushed elements from the 2nd Connecticut to his right and over the works. He then shifted to the left and managed to capture that portion of the entrenchments from which the Confederates had so badly mauled his men only minutes before. Later on, he pressed his second line up to hold against enemy counterattacks. Elsewhere, other units from the VI and XVIII Corps achieved similar results. This temporary success prompted Grant to launch his famous army wide assault on June 3.

2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery Monument at Cold Harbor.

Today, a monument stands within the National Park Service boundary to the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery. Some of the ground over which the regiment traversed during their attack has been identified by the Trust for this purchase. It represents an opportunity to further pay tribute to the valor of  Upton, Kellogg, the men who followed them and the other soldiers who fought at Cold Harbor that share in our American experience.

 

 

 


George McClellan in 1861: A Glimpse of Foibles to Come (part two)

McClellan

We are pleased to welcome back guest author Jon-Erik Gilot

(part two of two)

Yesterday, I outlined some of the ways that George McClellan’s early war actions in western Virginia foreshadowed some of the problems that would become some of his best-remembered if least-desirable traits. Quarreling with subordinates and superiors was one hallmark trait. Micromanaging was another. His micromanagement, in turn, served as a manor contributing factor in another infamous McClellan trait . . . 

Slow Movement:

Numerous delays—either real or perceived—would slow McClellan’s movement during the western Virginia campaign and throughout the remainder of his service. He would describe his plan to Col. E. D. Townsend, stating he would not move “until I know that everything is ready, & then…move with the utmost rapidity & energy,” while reassuring his wife, Mary Ellen, that “I shall feel my way & be very cautious.”[1] Historian Fritz Haselberger noted that, between the battle at Philippi on June 3 and McClellan’s advance from Clarksburg to Buckhannon at the end of the month, it had taken McClellan 27 days to advance his army a mere 30 miles to occupy a town that had only been held by the Confederates for a matter of hours. Haselberger estimates that “it was merely a matter of getting up enough nerve to advance and occupy the town” that spurred McClellan’s eventual movement.[2]

McClellan was again slow to move in the face of the Confederates at Rich Mountain. Furious over Schleich’s unauthorized July 5-6 expedition that he feared had tipped his hand, it still took McClellan another five days to move a mere twelve miles ahead of Rosecrans’s July 11 attack at Rich Mountain. Following Irvin McDowell’s defeat at Manassas, General Winfield Scott ordered McClellan to advance down the Shenandoah Valley, to which McClellan responded with reasons why such a movement—which McClellan himself had suggested only days earlier—was impossible, ranging from homesick regiments to incapable officers. McClellan would be criticized for slow movement during some portion of each of his following campaigns; Lincoln referred to it as “the slows.” This sluggish movement can often be attributed to McClellan’s tendency to . . .

Overestimate Enemy Strength:

George McClellan was always outnumbered, or so he thought. While some of this could be chalked up to faulty intelligence, McClellan was apt to overestimate strength and underestimate the abilities of those below him. While his own forces in western Virginia numbered nearly 20,000 men, McClellan would routinely overestimate the strength of the Confederate forces in front of him, believing at one point that up to 50,000 Confederates were headed his direction, when in reality the Confederate strength in the area would muster less than 10,000 effectives. McClellan would estimate Confederate strength at Laurel Hill as high as 10,000, when in reality it was closer to 4,000. Confederates at Rich Mountain were likewise estimated at more than 5,000—the actual number being fewer than 1,500—giving McClellan’s 7,000 men a decided five-to-one advantage.

In the fall of 1861, McClellan would estimate Confederate strength around Manassas ludicrously high at 170,000. Constantly feeling outnumbered, McClellan would wear on the nerves of the Lincoln administration in his continual calls for reinforcements. This stigma would often cause McClellan to exhibit . . .

Indecisiveness:

In the spring of 1861, a civilian railroad director recalled that McClellan “can never make up his mind under two or three weeks on any matter and when he has made it up, is by no means certain about his decision.”[3] While McClellan would exhibit indecisiveness throughout the first campaign, it is nowhere better illustrated than in the face of the enemy at Rich Mountain.

On July 10, with the assistance of local intelligence, McClellan and Rosecrans devised a flanking movement around the Confederate works at Rich Mountain. The plan called for Rosecrans to take his brigade over five miles on a rugged path around the Confederate works, coming out on the Staunton & Parkersburg Turnpike in their rear. At the sound of Rosecrans becoming engaged in the Confederate rear, McClellan would launch a frontal assault on the Confederate works at Camp Garnett.

Rosecrans’s early morning march was more arduous than anticipated, setting back his timetable on the assault, which did not get off until midafternoon. The fight swirled around Rich Mountain for nearly four hours before the Confederate defenders fled over the mountain towards Beverly. Rosecrans had gained position behind the Confederate works at Camp Garnett, located two miles below at the base of Rich Mountain. He had heard no gunfire coming from Camp Garnett, where McClellan was to make a frontal assault. What had happened?

John Beatty of the 3rd Ohio would recall that on hearing Rosecrans become engaged, “General McClellan and staff came galloping up, and a thousand faces turned to hear the order to advance; but no order was given. The General halted a few paces from our line, and sat on his horse listening to the guns, apparently in doubt as to what to do; and as he sat there with indecision stamped on every line of his countenance, the battle grew fiercer in the enemy’s rear. Every volley could be heard distinctly.”[4]

McClellan vacillated on hearing the growing battle. Hearing cheers from the Confederate lines and fearing that Rosecrans had met with defeat, McClellan refused to commit his forces to battle, eventually calling off the retreat and calling his men off the line. Jacob Cox would recall that McClellan “showed the same characteristics which became well known later. There was the same overestimate of the enemy, the same tendency to interpret unfavorably the sights and sounds in battle, the same hesitancy to throw in his whole force when he knew a subordinate was engaged.”[5] Damning commentary from a capable, hard-fighting general.

Historian Russell Beatie picks apart McClellan’s decision-making at Rich Mountain. Beatie relates that “under almost any military circumstances, the first stroke of a flanking force must be immediately followed by the major attack, even a frontal assault against defensive works, or the flanking force will be destroyed and the plan aborted.” Beatie continued, believing that McClellan “drew negative conclusions from inconclusive and incomplete facts that supported by negative and positive inferences . . . McClellan had devised a plan in which he could not see the flanking column and knew his active part would begin on sound. In short, he did not carry out his role as he should have because he refused to make a frontal attack when circumstances demand it.”[6] How many later battles could the same have been said about McClellan?

Conclusion:

If not a benchmark, in hindsight we can at least agree that McClellan’s first campaign set a precedent for future expectations. This is not to say all of his qualities were poor, but that those poor qualities are what would come to define his Civil War service and our popular memory of him.

What do you think was McClellan’s biggest character flaw of the Civil War? What admirable traits did he impart on the Army of the Potomac?

————

[1] Sears, Papers…, 45, 46

[2] Haselberger, Fritz, Yanks from the South (The First Land Campaign of the Civil War: Rich Mountain, West Virginia), (Baltimore, MD: Past Glories, 1987), 159

[3] Beatie, Russell H., Army of the Potomac, Volume I, (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2002), 403

[4] Beatty, John, The Citizen-Soldier – The Memoirs of a Civil War Volunteer, (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1998), 25.

[5] Cox, Jacob D., “McClellan in West Virginia,” Battles & Leaders of the Civil War., Vol. I , 137

[6] Beatie, 413 – 414.


Expeditions Bold and Admirable: Raid on the Occoquan

Part three in a series. You may read the Introduction here, Part 1  here, and Part 2 here.

Wade Hampton

Major General James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart had been impressed with the recent actions of his subordinate, Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton. In the last week of November and second week of December, Hampton had led successful raids behind the Union lines. Following the Confederate victory at Fredericksburg, Stuart directed Hampton to ride north once again. On December 17, Hampton crossed the Rappahannock and headed for the Federal rear.

Hampton rode at the head of a handpicked force. It consisted of 100 men from the 1st South Carolina, 75 men from the 1st North Carolina, 2nd South Carolina and Cobb Legion, 80 men from the Phillips’ Legion and 60 from the Jeff Davis Legion. Just several days earlier, Hampton had captured an enemy sutler train at Dumfries and he hoped for similar results.

Hampton camped at Cole’s Store that night and then moved on to Kanky’s Store along Neabsco Creek the next morning. There his troopers surprised and captured a Federal picket post. Hampton then decided to move on to Occoquon, a small town which sat on the banks of a river of the same name. For this movement, he elected to divide his command. Doing so gave him the ability to capture any Federals in the village and the surrounding pickets while still maintaining the element of surprise. If he encountered stiff resistance, he could easily maneuver elements of his force to assist the others. Lastly, he would have added flexibility in covering a retreat.

Hampton dispatched Colonel Will Martin with the Jeff Davis Legion, 1st North Carolina and 2nd South Carolina along the river road to the village. Major Will Delony and the Cobb Legion were to march up the Telegraph Road. Hampton remained with the reserve which consisted with the 1st South Carolina and the Phillips’ Legion which moved along the Bacon Race Church Road.

Delony managed to capture 20 blue pickets outside the town before he rejoined Hampton. Meanwhile, Martin entered the village and found a wagon train from Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel’s XI Corps attempting to cross the river at a cable ferry. Martin hailed the train guard who quickly surrendered and sent word back to Hampton, who soon arrived in the town.  Hampton’s pleasure with Martin’s accomplishment was tempered with the news from one of the prisoners that 2,500 Union cavalry were marching south from Alexandria toward Occoquon. While the Confederates set about the task of ferrying the wagons across the river, Hampton sent Capt. Tillman Clarke and about 40 men from the 2nd South Carolina and Phillips’ Legion to guard Selectman’s Ford, a crossing point above the village.

The intelligence proved correct for shortly after Clarke departed, the blue column hove into view. Under the command of Col. Josiah Kellogg of the 17th Pennsylvania, it consisted of his regiment, a squadron from the 6th Pennsylvania under Col. Richard Rush, and elements from the 12th Illinois. As Kellogg approached the ferry, Hampton’s troopers opened fire and brought his advance to a halt. A new regiment, Kellogg’s men were at a disadvantage as they had yet to receive carbines. At Rush’s suggestion, Kellogg sent his squadron, supported by elements from the Seventeenth to force their way over Selectman’s Ford.

Waiting for Rush were Clarke’s sharpshooters, posted on high ground above the river. Clarke immediately sent a courier to Hampton informing him of the Federals’ appearance at the ford. Rather than hold off a superior force, Hampton judiciously decided to abandon his effort and withdraw. He sent Col. John Black of the 1st South Carolina to the rear with what wagons had been captured while Martin covered the retreat. Clarke was ordered to hold on for another hour and then abandon his position.

With Black and Martin moving, Clarke departed at his directed time. Kellogg and Rush followed, but Clarke launched a counterattack and drove back his antagonists. Clarke continued to skirmish with the blue troopers as Hampton and the rest of his men made their way south. Hampton proceeded to Greenwood Church and then headed for Cole’s Store. That night he camped along Tacket’s Fork of Cedar Run. On the morning of December 20, Hampton reached the safety of Confederate lines on the south bank of the Rappahannock.

The Occoquon Raid proved to be another boon for Hampton. He captured 150 Union soldiers and made off with 20 wagons and 30 stands of infantry arms. His operations in November and December had been nothing short of brilliant. Hampton had established himself as a rising star in the Army of Northern Virginia.