The Great Beefsteak Raid

Great Beefsteak Raid

One of the more colorful episodes in the siege of Petersburg, the Great Beefsteak Raid of September 14-17 helped cement Major General Wade Hampton III as a worthy successor to Jeb Stuart in command of the Army of Northern Virginia.  Learning that a large herd of cattle were being grazed by the Union at Edmund Ruffin’s plantation on Coggin’s Point on the James River, Hampton decided to launch a raid behind enemy lines with 3,000 troopers, capture the cattle and drive them back into Confederate lines to feed the Army of Northern Virginia that was on starvation rations.

Hampton and his men seized the herd on September 16, and got 2,468 of them back into Confederate lines on September 17.  Along with the cattle he brought back 304 Union prisoners, having suffered 61 Confederate casualties during the course of the raid.  President Lincoln referred to it as “the slickest piece of cattle stealing” he had ever heard of.  An exasperated Grant, when a reporter after the raid asked him when he expected to defeat Lee, snapped, “Never, if our armies continue to supply him with beef cattle.”

In 1966 a heavily fictionalized film on the beefsteak raid, Alavarez Kelly, was released.  Here is Hampton’s report on the raid: (more…)

Published in: on September 30, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Great Beefsteak Raid  
Tags: , , ,

September 28, 1864: Hood Launches His Tennessee Campaign

Franklin-Nashville_campaign_svg

After the fall of Altlanta, General John Bell Hood, commander of the Army of Tennessee, faced a quandry.  He confronted an army led by Sherman that heavily outnumbered his force.  Confederate manpower reserves were used up, and he could look for no further substantial reinforcements, while Sherman could rely upon an apparently inexhaustible flow of supplies and men from the North.  If Hood remained on the defensive the initiative remained with Sherman who was clearly readying his army to plunge into the heart of the Confederacy.

In these dire circumstances Hood hit upon the plan of heading north and forcing Sherman to follow him to protect his supply lines.  This would perhaps forestall a futher advance by Sherman into the deep South and with luck allow the Confederates to retake Atlanta and other occupied territory.

It was a desperate throw of the dice.  Moving north Hood moved ever closer to areas that the Union held in strength, and risked his Army being caught in a vice between Sherman and the forces that the Union could quickly amass due to their control of the rail net and the rivers of Tennessee.  However, it was probably the best of the very bad options confronting Hood.  Here are his comments on the start of his Tennessee campaign which appeared in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, condensed from his memoirs, Advance and Retreat: (more…)

Published in: on September 28, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 28, 1864: Hood Launches His Tennessee Campaign  
Tags: , ,

Mulan Meets My Little Pony

Something for the weekend.  I feel a bit silly this morning, so we have I’ll Make a Man Out of You from Mulan via My Little Pony.  This of course is in line with My Little Pony Cavalry Commander.   Recruiting Poster

Published in: on September 27, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Mulan Meets My Little Pony  
Tags: , , , , ,

Art Imitating Life and Life Imitating Art

I finished watching Ken Burns, The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History.  A fair amount of liberal hagiography for FDR and, especially, Eleanor, but on the whole I liked it, and I will review it in a future post.  However, I was struck by a vignette that occurred in the final episode.

By 1944 FDR was in visibly failing health.  Diagnosed with congestive  heart failure, Dr. Howard Bruenn, a Navy Lieutenant Commander and cardiologist, followed him everywhere.  He recommended extended bed rest which was an impossible diagnosis for a Commander-in-Chief during a World War.

At the Quebec Conference with Churchill, in the evening for entertainment, FDR had the film Wilson (1944) shown.  A film biopic of the life of Woodrow Wilson from his election as Governor of New Jersey in 1910, the movie is largely forgotten today.  It won several Oscars, but was a financial flop, people being too preoccupied with the current World War to want to see a movie about the first one.  Alexander Knox, relegated through most of his career in character actor roles, does a good job in the role of Wilson.  Making the dessicated, pedantic Wilson into a heroic figure was difficult, but the film, taking a fast and loose approach with much of the history of the period, and with the help of a majestic musical score, accomplishes the feat.  It is definitely worth watching. (more…)

Quotes Unworthy of Framing: Bishop Sheen

Bishop Sheen

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might find it interesting.)

 

 

“The very fact that in World War II we chose to fight in alliance with one form of totalitarianism against the other two forms, though all were intrinsically wicked, proves not only the basic sympathy between Western materialism and communism but also the grave mistake of trying to drive the Devil out with Beelzebub.”

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

The start of a new series.  In this set of posts we will take a look at truly foolish things said by people I generally admire.  First up, this gem from Bishop Sheen.

The idea that we chose to have the Soviet Union as an ally in the Second World War is a doozy.  Hitler made the choice when he invaded the Soviet Union.  If Bishop Sheen had then wanted us to be at war with both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, he would have had to have been content with Western casualty totals probably five times what they turned out to be, and his proposed course of action would have required the existence of Western leaders capable of explaining to puzzled populations why their nations were going to war with the Soviet Union that was holding down 80% of the Wehrmacht.  Such a policy would probably have resulted in an eventual renewal of the alliance between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany and led to a conflict that the Western Allies could not have won without resort to nuclear weapons, something that Bishop Sheen of course opposed.

At the end of the War we could of course have launched a new war to drive the Soviet Union out of Eastern Europe.  With the exception of General Patton, there was zero appetite among the Western Allies for a new conflict after the vast blood letting that had wrecked most of Europe.  I doubt if Bishop Sheen would have supported such a conflict for long, due to his coming out against the Vietnam War in 67.  When the going got tough geo-politically, Bishop Sheen tended to hit the road. (more…)

Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Unworthy of Framing: Bishop Sheen  
Tags: , ,

Shenandoah Valley: The Burning

 Shenandoah in Flames196

After his victory over Early at Fisher’s Hill, Sheridan decided that further pursuit of Early up the Valley would be pointless as Early’s force was too small to any longer pose a threat to Union control of the Shenandoah and his time would be better spent carrying out Grant’s wish expressed to General David Hunter that crows have to carry their own provisions over the Shenandoah Valley.  As Sheridan wrote to Grant: , “My judgment is that it would be best to terminate this campaign by the destruction of the crops, &c., in this valley, and the transfer of troops to the army operating against Richmond.”   Grant agreed, and Sheridan over the next two weeks conducted a march from Stanton north to Strasburg, a distance of 70 miles with his army covering a width of thirty miles.

 

On October 7, 1864 Sheridan reported to Grant:

I have the honor to report my command at this point to-night. I commenced moving back from Port Republic, Mount Crawford, Bridgewater, and harrisonburg yesterday morning. The grain and forage in advance of these points up to Staunton had previously been destroyed. In moving back to this point the whole country from the Blue Ridge to the North Mountains has been made untenable for a rebel army. I have destroyed over 2,000 barns filled with wheat, hay, and farming implements; over seventy mills filled with flour and wheat; have driven in front of the army over 4,[000] head of stock, and have killed and issued to the troops not less than 3,000 sheep. this destruction embraces the Luray Valley and Little Forst Valley, as well as the main valley. A large number of horses have been obtained, a proper estimate of which I cannot now make. Lieutenant John R. Meigh, my engineer officer, was murdered beyond Harrisonburg, near Dayton. For this atrocious act all the houses within an area of five miles were burned. Since I came into the Valley, from Harper’s Ferry up to Harrisonburg, every train, every small party, and every small party, and every straggler has been bushwhacked by people, many of whom have protection papers from commanders who have been hitherto in this valley. From the vicinity of Harrisonburg over 400 wagon-loads of refugees have been sent back to Martinsburg; most of these people were Dunkers and had been conscripted. The people here are getting sick of the war; heretofore they have had no reason to complain, because they have been living in great abundance. (more…)

Published in: on September 23, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Shenandoah Valley: The Burning  
Tags: , ,

Gettysburg Address in Pirate

(I originally posted this on The American Catholic on September 19, 2014, International Speak Like a Pirate Day, and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

 

Ar, it be about four score and seven years ago since our fathers made ye new nation, a liberty port for all hands from end to end, and dedicated t’ t’ truth that all swabs be created equal.

Now we be fightin’ a great ruckus, testin’ whether ye nation, or any nation so minted like it, can last through the long watch. We be met on a great boardin’ fight o’ that war. We have come t’ dedicate a spot o’ that field, as a final restin’ place for those who here swallowed the anchor forever that that nation might live. It be altogether fittin’ and proper that we be doin’ this.

But, truth be told, we can not set aside, we can not pray over, we can not hallow this ground. T’ brave swabs, livin’ and went t’ Davy Jones’ locker, who fit here, have blessed it, far over our poor power t’ add or swipe back. T’ world won’t writ what we say here, but it can never forget what those swabs did here. It be for us t’ livin’, rather, t’ be dedicated here t’  finishin’ t’ work which they who fit here have begun.   It be rather for us t’ be here dedicated t’ t’ great chore remainin’ before us—that from these honored swabs we take increased love t’ what they died for—that we here Bible swear that these shipmates shall not have went t’ Davy Jones’ locker for nothin’—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth o’ freedom—and that government o’ t’ crew, by t’ crew, for t’ crew, shall not perish from t’ earth. (more…)

Published in: on September 22, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,

September 21, 1864: Battle of Fisher’s Hill

Fisher's Hill

After his defeat at the Third Battle of Winchester on September 19, 1864, go here to read about it,  Early retired south to a strong position near Strasburg, Virignia, with his right anchored on the North Branch of the Shenandoah River, and his left on Fisher’s Hill, grandiloquently known during the Civil War as the Gibraltar of the Valley.  The position was a very strong one, but with only 10,000 men to cover four miles, Early did not have enough troops to man it adequately.

Sheridan with 29,000 men quickly decided that a frontal attack would be fruitless without a flank attack.  Crook was sent with his corps on an arduous march to flank the Confederate left on Fisher’s Hill.  Crook was in position to commence his attack at 4:00 PM on September 22, while Sheridan pressed Early from the front.  After some desultory fighting, the Confederate army routed.  Battle losses in dead and wounded were minimal, but  1000 Confederates were taken prisoner.  Early retreated to Waynesboro leaving Sheridan in undisputed control of the lower Valley, a control that Sheridan was going to use to destroy the granary of the Confederacy.

Here is Early’s report to General Robert E. Lee on the engagement: (more…)

Published in: on September 21, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 21, 1864: Battle of Fisher’s Hill  
Tags: , , ,

Kentucky Battle Anthem

Something for the weekend.  Kentucky Battle Song, sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.. The Civil War in border states was often literally a war of brother against brother.  Some 100,000 men of the Blue Grass State fought for the Union, while 25,000-40,000 served the Confederacy.  Written in 1863, lyrics and music by Charlie L. Ward, the song celebrates the Orphan Brigade and other Kentucky Confederate units who left their homes in Union controlled Kentucky to battle for the South.

Published in: on September 20, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Kentucky Battle Anthem  
Tags: , , , ,

September 19, 1864: Third Battle of Winchester

Third Battle of Winchester

Throughout the War control of the Shenandoah Valley, an incredibly fertile agricultural region had been hotly contested by the Union and the Confederacy.  So long as the Confederates controlled it, they not only reaped the crops, vital to feed Lee’s army, but they also had an avenue to launch sudden invasions of the North, shielded from Northern cavalry observation the Blue Ridge Mountains that marked the eastern border of the Valley.  On September 19, 1864 control of this militarily vital region swung, for the last time, in favor of the Union.

After his conference with Grant on September 16, Sheridan began a drive on Winchester to smash Early’s army.  Early hastily gathered together his scattered forces just in time before Sheridan attacked on the 19th.   The Confederates were heavily outnumbered, 12000 to 40000.    The narrow rode that Sheridan’s men had to take to attack gave Early time, that he took full advantage off, to entrench his force.

With numbers so overwhelmingly in his favor, Sheridan simply ordered a frontal attack against the entire Confederate line.  The attack made slow progress, aided by Brigadier General James Wilson, launching a turning movement with his cavalry against the Confederate right.

By the end of the day Early was in full retreat, a Union two division Union cavalry charge crushing his left flank.  It was a stunning Union victory.  They paid a high price for it, incurring 5,020 casualties to 3, 610 Confederate.  Church bells rang throughout the North in celebration of the victory.  Here is Sheridan’s account of the battle in his memoirs: (more…)