October 3, 1864: Sherman’s Pursuit of Hood Begins

 

Franklin-Nashville_campaign_svg

Hood’s movement north seemed to be working.  On October 3, 1864 Sherman began his pursuit to protect his supply lines.  Below is his account of this in his memoirs, in which he mentions a telegram to Grant in which he describes what he would ultimately do:  leave Thomas to deal with Hood while he marchs with the forces under his command to the sea.  However, Sherman would lose a month before Grant agreed to this plan.

 

 

 

Forrest having already made his appearance in Middle Tennessee, and Hood evidently edging off in that direction, satisfied me that the general movement against our roads had begun. I therefore determined to send General Thomas back to Chattanooga, with another division (Morgan’s, of the Fourteenth Corps), to meet the danger in Tennessee. General Thomas went up on the 29th, and Morgan’s division followed the same day, also by rail. And I telegraphed to General Halleck

I take it for granted that Forrest will cut our road, but think we can prevent him from making a serious lodgment. His cavalry will travel a hundred miles where ours will ten. I have sent two divisions up to Chattanooga and one to Rome, and General Thomas started to-day to drive Forrest out of Tennessee. Our roads should be watched from the rear, and I am glad that General Grant has ordered reserves to Nashville. I prefer for the future to make the movement on Milledgeville, Millen, and Savannah. Hood now rests twenty-four miles south, on the Chattahoochee, with his right on the West Point road. He is removing the iron of the Macon road. I can whip his infantry, but his cavalry is to be feared.

There was great difficulty in obtaining correct information about Hood’s movements from Palmetto Station. I could not get spies to penetrate his camps, but on the 1st of October I was satisfied that the bulk of his infantry was at and across the Chattahoochee River, near Campbellton, and that his cavalry was on the west side, at Powder Springs. On that day I telegraphed to General Grant:

Hood is evidently across the Chattahoochee, below Sweetwater. If he tries to get on our road, this side of the Etowah, I shall attack him; but if he goes to the Selma & Talladega road, why will it not do to leave Tennessee to the forces which Thomas has, and the reserves soon to come to Nashville, and for me to destroy Atlanta and march across Georgia to Savannah or Charleston, breaking roads and doing irreparable damage? We cannot remain on the defensive. (more…)

October 2, 1780: Death of Major John Andre

 

After a court martial composed of senior generals of the Continental Army, Major John Andre, who had been captured on a mission to Major General Benedict Arnold who was about to betray West Point to the British, was executed on October 2, 1780.  Andre made a positive impression on all American officers who came in contact with him, universally praised for his courage and good humor in adversity.  However, the rules of war were the rules of war.  He had been captured in civilian garb within enemy lines on the mission of a spy.  He must therefore meet the fate of a spy.  Andre appealed his sentence to Washington, not to spare his life, but that his mode of execution be an honorable firing squad rather than the dishonorable gallows.  Washington declined the appeal although he esteemed Andre, in his phrase, as an “accomplished man and gallant officer.”

We have an eyewitness account of Andre’s death from James Thatcher, a surgeon in the Continental Army:

October 2d.– Major André is no more among the living. I have just witnessed his exit. It was a tragical scene of the deepest interest. During his confinement and trial, he exhibited those proud and elevated sensibilities which designate greatness and dignity of mind. Not a murmur or a sigh ever escaped him, and the civilities and attentions bestowed on him were politely acknowledged. Having left a mother and two sisters in England, he was heard to mention them in terms of the tenderest affection, and in his letter to Sir Henry Clinton, he recommended them to his particular attention. The principal guard officer, who was constantly in the room with the prisoner, relates that when the hour of execution was announced to him in the morning, he received it without emotion, and while all present were affected with silent gloom, he retained a firm countenance, with calmness and composure of mind. Observing his servant enter the room in tears, he exclaimed, “Leave me till you can show yourself more manly!” His breakfast being sent to him from the table of General Washington, which had been done every day of his confinement, he partook of it as usual, and having shaved and dressed himself, he placed his hat upon the table, and cheerfully said to the guard officers, “I am ready at any moment, gentlemen, to wait on you.” The fatal hour having arrived, a large detachment of troops was paraded, and an immense concourse of people assembled; almost all our general and field officers, excepting his excellency and staff, were present on horseback; melancholy and gloom pervaded all ranks, and the scene was affectingly awful. I was so near during the solemn march to the fatal spot, as to observe every movement, and participate in every emotion which the melancholy scene was calculated to produce.

Major André walked from the stone house, in which he had been confined, between two of our subaltern officers, arm in arm; the eyes of the immense multitude were fixed on him, who, rising superior to the fears of death, appeared as if conscious of the dignified deportment which he displayed. He betrayed no want of fortitude, but retained a complacent smile on his countenance, and politely bowed to several gentlemen whom he knew, which was respectfully returned. It was his earnest desire to be shot, as being the mode of death most conformable to the feelings of a military man, and he had indulged the hope that his request would be granted. At the moment, therefore, when suddenly he came in view of the gallows, he involuntarily started backward, and made a pause. “Why this emotion, sir?” said an officer by his side. Instantly recovering his composure, he said, “I am reconciled to my death, but I detest the mode.” While waiting and standing near the gallows, I observed some degree of trepidation; placing his foot on a stone, and rolling it over and choking in his throat, as if attempting to swallow. So soon, however, as he perceived that things were in readiness, he stepped quickly into the wagon, and at this moment he appeared to shrink, but instantly elevating his head with firmness he said, “It will be but a momentary pang,” and taking from his pocket two white handkerchiefs, the provost-marshal, with one, loosely pinioned his arms, and with the other, the victim, after taking off his hat and stock, bandaged his own eyes with perfect firmness, which melted the hearts and moistened the cheeks, not only of his servant, but of the throng of spectators. The rope being appended to the gallows, he slipped the noose over his head and adjusted it to his neck, without the assistance of the awkward executioner. Colonel Scammel now informed him that he had an opportunity to speak, if he desired it; he raised the handkerchief from his eyes, and said, “I pray you to bear me witness that I meet my fate like a brave man.” The wagon being now removed from under him, he was suspended, and instantly expired; it proved indeed “but a momentary pang.”

Andre, who wrote poetry in his spare time, had a poem in his pocket written by Jehoida Brewer in 1776 that Andre had transcribed during his captivity from memory: (more…)

Published in: on October 2, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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K-K-K-K-Katy

Something for the weekend.  KK-K-K-Katy, one of the more popular songs of 1918.  Our times do not have a monopoly on silly music. Kids were still singing this in the Sixties when I was growing up.

 

 

Published in: on October 1, 2022 at 5:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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Our Under Studied Civil War

 

 

It seems shockingly counter-intuitive to suggest that the Civil War is under studied. Beginning while the War was being waged, and continuing to the present day, there have been an avalanche of books about that conflict. However, certain aspects of the War have been understudied. With the advent of almost cost free e-publishing, the legions of amateur Civil War scholars can help rectify this situation. I expect to retire in approximately a decade. If God grants me a long life and good health after retirement I will attempt to aid in shedding light and analysis on facets of the War which have received comparatively little scholarship. Here are ten such areas. I would note that the inclusion of an area for further work does not mean that books and articles have not been written on the subject, but that they are comparatively sparse, especially in reference to topics that receive endless treatment.

The Trans Mississippi- Both the Union and the Confederacy frequently used the conflict beyond the Mississippi as a dumping ground for failed and/or troublesome Generals and that perceived taint has apparently descended down the years to make this the most ignored theater of the War. This has helped give a false impression of the War overall. In the far West the War was fought to the knife and the knife to the hilt, engendering hatreds that lingered for generations after the last shot was fired. The conflict was important with the Union dedicating manpower and resources against local Confederate forces that could have been better spent elsewhere. If the Union had lost the War, the conflict in the Trans Mississippi might well have been blamed for being a drain on Union military and naval resources.

Jefferson Davis-Unsurprisingly, the scholarship on Davis is infinitesimal when compared to the mountain of studies on Lincoln. That imbalance will never be addressed, nor should it be. However, the day to day activities of Jefferson as commander in chief do need a serious and comprehensive study.
United States Colored Troops-Some 180,000 blacks fought for the Union, most in the United States Colored Troops. The scholarship on this organization is limited, weak and much of it dated.

Regimental histories-In the decades immediately following the Civil War, many regimental histories were written, most by former members of the regiments. Although there is valuable history contained in these tomes, the scholarship usually ranged from non-existent to shoddy. Modern regimental histories, in the mode of the pioneering history of the 20th Maine, aren needed. Here, especially, amateur scholars could be quite helpful.

Alcohol and the Civil War-Alcohol tends to be mentioned in most Civil War histories only in reference to General Grant. It was a hard-drinking time and drunkenness was a common problem among officers and men. Alcohol and its impact on the Civil War awaits good, and detailed, studies.

Artillery-Compared to the infantry and cavalry, books on Civil War artillery have been relatively few in numbers. The men who served the king of battle deserve better.

Logistics-Serious consideration of logistics and its impact on Civil War operations tends to be scarce in most histories. A logistical history of the Civil War needs to be written.

Foreign Volunteers-For decades after the Civil War Heroes von Borcke proudly flew the Stars and Bars from the battlements of his Prussian estate, a memento of his service under Jeb Stuart. Considering how many of them there were, the foreign volunteers who fought for the Union and the Confederacy have received little attention in most histories.

Staff work-Ah, the Remfs, always unloved by the frontline soldiers in every conflict. Nonetheless, staff work often determines the success or failure of most military operations, and the scholarship devoted to this important topic is minuscule.

War Governors-Considering the key role they played, the war governors, Union and Confederate, have received, the majority of them, relatively little scholarly attention.

In regard to America’s greatest war, much work remains to be done. Scholars, to your key boards!

Published in: on September 30, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Zorro: Foe of Big Government?

When I was a small boy, I loved watching the old Walt Disney show Zorro.  I have read recently that Disney, a political conservative, used the Zorro show to argue against big government.  There are some episodes that support this, involving outrage by the people over unjust taxes.  The fictional character Zorro fought against tyrannical government in Old California, and I guess Disney decided that this was  a good story line for how he viewed big government. (more…)

Published in: on September 29, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln Courtesy of Walt Disney

Not bad as a simplified version of Lincoln and his role in American history.  The speech of the animatronic Lincoln consists of a compilation from various Lincoln speeches and writings:

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.

What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not our frowning embattlements, our bristling sea coasts. These are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.

At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, that if it ever reach us, it must spring from amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be the authors and finishers. As a nation of free men, we must live through all times, or die by suicide. (more…)

Published in: on September 28, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Legal v. Illegal Rebellions

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnOjeca4z14

 

Toranaga: “[Another person] says that the Netherlands were vassals of the Spanish king until just a few years ago. Is that true?”

Blackthorne: “Yes.”

Toranaga: “Therefore, the Netherlands – your allies – are in a state of rebellion against their lawful king?”

Blackthorne: “They’re fighting against the Spaniard, yes, but – ”

Toranaga: “Isn’t that rebellion? Yes or no?”

Blackthorne: “Yes. But there are mitigating circumstances. Serious miti- ”

Toranaga: “There are no ‘mitigating circumstances’ when it comes to rebellion against a sovereign lord!”

Blackthorne: “Unless you win.”

Toranaga looked at him intently. Then laughed uproariously. “Yes, Mister Foreigner…you have named the one mitigating factor.”

James Clavell, Shogun

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Hattip to commenter Dale Price for the idea of linking George Washington and Shogun.  Language advisory as to the below video:

 

Published in: on September 27, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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September 26, 1918: The Meuse-Argonne Offensive Begins

 

The Offensive opened with a six hour bombardment, brief by Great War standards.  In the three hours prior to H hour the Americans fired off more munitions than both sides fired off in the four years of the American Civil War.   Ten American divisions, approximately 260,000 men, advanced along with 700 tanks.  The attack is largely initially successful with some 23,000 German troops captured, with American advances up to six miles.  Here is General Pershing’s report on the first four days of the Offensive:

 

Following three hours of violent artillery fire of preparation, the Infantry advanced at 5.30 a.m. on September 26th, accompanied by tanks. During the first two days of the attack, before the enemy was able to bring up his reserves, our troops made steady progress through the network of defences. Montfaucon was held tenaciously by the enemy and was not captured until noon of the second day.

By the evening of the 28th a maximum advance of 11 kilometres had been achieved and we had captured Baulny, Epinonville, Septsarges, and Dannevoux. The right had made a splendid advance into the woods south of Brieullessur-Meuse, but the extreme left was meeting strong resistance in the Argonne.

The attack continued without interruption, meeting six new divisions which the enemy threw into first line before September 29th. He developed a powerful machine-gun defence supported by heavy artillery fire, and made frequent counter-attacks with fresh troops, particularly on the front of the Twenty-eighth and Thirty-fifth Divisions.

These divisions had taken Varennes, Cheppy, Baulny, and Charpentry, and the line was within 2 kilometres of Apremont. We were no longer engaged in a manoeuvre for the pinching out of a salient, but were necessarily committed, generally speaking, to a direct frontal attack against strong, hostile positions fully manned by a determined enemy.

By nightfall of the 29th the First Army line was approximately Bois de la Cote Lemont-Nantillois-Apremont – southwest across the Argonne. Many divisions, especially those in the centre that were subjected to cross-fire of artillery, had suffered heavily. The severe fighting, the nature of the terrain over which they attacked, and the fog and darkness sorely tried even our best divisions.

On the night of the 29th the Thirty-seventh and Seventy-ninth Divisions were relieved by the Thirty-second and Third Divisions, respectively, and on the following night the First Division relieved the Thirty-fifth Division.

The critical problem during the first few days of the battle was the restoration of communications over “No man’s land.” There were but four roads available across this deep zone, and the violent artillery fire of the previous period of the war had virtually destroyed them. The spongy soil and the lack of material increased the difficulty. But the splendid work of our engineers and pioneers soon made possible the movement of the troops, artillery, and supplies most needed. By the afternoon of the 27th all the divisional artillery, except a few batteries of heavy guns, had effected a passage and was supporting the infantry action.

The initial stage can be rated a success, but with grave deficiencies shown in American training and leadership and hence the pause for reorganization and to replace the initial attacking divisions.  The Offensive would resume on October 4, 1918.

 

Published in: on September 26, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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September 25, 1918: The Meuse-Argonne Offensive is About to Begin

 

One hundred and four years ago the Meuse-Argonne Offensive is about to begin.  We will be covering it in detail.  In reading about the Offensive, it should be recalled that American divisions were twice the size of European divisions, and with the losses most German and Allied divisions, other than most American divisions, had sustained, the American divisions were often close to triple the size of those divisions.   Here is General Pershing writing about the American forces on the eve of the great battle:

Meuse-Argonne, First Phase

On the night of September 25th, the 9 divisions to lead in the attack were deployed between the Meuse River and the western edge of the Argonne Forest.

On the right was the Third Corps, Maj. Gen. Bullard commanding, with the Thirty-third, Eightieth, and Fourth Divisions in line; next came the Fifth Corps, Maj. Gen. Cameron commanding, with the Seventy-Ninth, Thirty-seventh, and Ninety-first Divisions; on the left was the First Corps, Maj. Gen. Liggett commanding, with the Thirty-fifth, Twenty-eighth, and Seventy-seventh Divisions.

Each corps had 1 division in re serve and the Army held 3 divisions as a general reserve. About 2,700 guns, 189 small tanks, 142 manned by Americans, and 821 airplanes, 604 manned by Americans, were concentrated to support the attack of the infantry.  We thus had a superiority in guns and aviation, and the enemy had no tanks.

The axis of the attack was the line Montfaucon-Romagne-Buzancy, the purpose being to make the deepest penetration in the centre, which, with the Fourth French Army advancing west of the Argonne, would force the enemy to evacuate that forest without our having to deliver a heavy attack in that difficult region.

Published in: on September 25, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Over There!

Something for the weekend.  George M. Cohan wrote Over There, the song which will always be associated with America in World War I.  He was immortalized by James Cagney in the 1942 film biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Dying on November 5, 1942 of stomach cancer, Cohan saw the film shortly before its release in a private screening.  I do not know if the ending of the film in the clip brought tears to his eyes, but it always does mine.  Cohan wrote the song in under two hours on April 7, 1917, two days after the US declared war on Imperial Germany.  Over There would be introduced to the public during a Red Cross benefit in New York City during the fall of 1917, and swiftly became the American anthem for the war effort.  Son of Union veteran Jeremiah Cohan, who lied about his age to serve as a Union surgeon’s orderly during the Civil War, Cohan attempted to enlist during World War I in the Army but was rejected due to his age.  I have always liked this song.  It has a brash exuberance matched with a determination to accomplish a hard task, traits which have served the US well in dark times.  We could use much more of that spirit today.

 

Published in: on September 24, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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