May 15, 1864: Battle of New Market

“And New Market’s young cadets.”

Southern Birthright, Bobby Horton

New_Market_svg

John C. Breckinridge, fourteenth Vice-President of the United States and current Confederate Major General, had a big problem.  His task was to hold the Shenandoah Valley, the bread basket of the Army of Northern Virginia, for the Confederacy, and he was confronted with two Union columns seeking to rendezvous at Staunton, Virginia and place the Valley under Union control.  One column under George Crook was coming from the West Virginia.  The second column under Franz Sigel was coming down the Valley.  Sigel had twice the men that Breckinridge could muster, 9,000 to 4000, but Breckinridge saw no alternative but to march north and engage Sigel before the two Union columns could join against him.

 

The Confederacy by this time was robbing the cradle and the grave to fill out its ranks.  In the cradle contingent with Breckinridge were 257 cadets of the Virginia Military Institute, who ranged in age from 15-24.

 

Breckinridge brought Sigel to battle at mid-morning on May 15, 1864 south of New Market.  With detachments Sigel’s force was down to 6,000 men.  However, 2 to 3 was still very poor odds for an attacking army. (more…)

Published in: on May 15, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on May 15, 1864: Battle of New Market  
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Field of Lost Shoes

Field of Lost Shoes, a film on the role played by cadets of the Virginia Military Institute at the battle of New Market on May 15, 1864, is in limited release now.  If I cannot see it in a theater, I will certainly buy it on dvd when it comes out.  Here is my post on the battle of New Market that I ran earlier this year.

“And New Market’s young cadets.”

Southern Birthright, Bobby Horton

New_Market_svg

John C. Breckinridge, fourteenth Vice-President of the United States and current Confederate Major General, had a big problem.  His task was to hold the Shenandoah Valley, the bread basket of the Army of Northern Virginia, for the Confederacy, and he was confronted with two Union columns seeking to rendezvous at Staunton, Virginia and place the Valley under Union control.  One column under George Crook was coming from the West Virginia.  The second column under Franz Sigel was coming down the Valley.  Sigel had twice the men that Breckinridge could muster, 9,000 to 4000, but Breckinridge saw no alternative but to march north and engage Sigel before the two Union columns could join against him.

 

The Confederacy by this time was robbing the cradle and the grave to fill out its ranks.  In the cradle contingent with Breckinridge were 257 cadets of the Virginia Military Institute, who ranged in age from 15-24.

 

Breckinridge brought Sigel to battle at mid-morning on May 15, 1864 south of New Market.  With detachments Sigel’s force was down to 6,000 men.  However, 2 to 3 was still very poor odds for an attacking army. (more…)

Published in: on October 16, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Field of Lost Shoes  
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March 6, 1862: Battle of Pea Ridge Arkansas Begins

The largest battle fought in the Trans-Mississippi, the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas was also notable in that it was one of the few major battles of the Civil War in which the Confederates outnumbered the Union troops.  Union Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis, leading the 10,500 troops of the Army of the Southwest.  Curtis had pursued the Confederate Missouri State Guard out of Missouri.  In Benton County Arkansas, anticipating a Confederate offensive, Curtis took up defensive positions along the north bank of Sugar Creek.  Half of the Union army consisted of recent German immigrants, proudly serving under General Franz Sigel (I fights mit Sigel!), a German immigrant himself, and a hero of the 1848 revolts in Germany.

Curtis was correct.  Confederate Major General Earl Van Dorn, one of the more colorful Confederate generals of the War, had been placed in overall command of the Trans-Mississippi District, and he took command of the 16,000 men of the newly created Army of the West.  His plan was simple:  manuever around to the rear of Curtis’ force, destroy it, and march into Missouri and gain that state for the Confederacy.  Leading his troops on a three day forced march, and leaving his supply wagons behind to make better time, the Confederates arrived at Bentonville, Arkansas, north of Curtis’ army, on March 6, 1862, all of them tired and hungry.

Curtis was quite aware of the oncoming Confederates and had brought his scattered units together behind Little Sugar Creek.  Desultory fighting occurred on the 6th, but the battle did not begin in earnest until the 7th.  Curtis had his troops on the northern bluffs of Little Sugar Creek along the Telegraph Road.

Van Dorn’s right under Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch struck the Union forces at Leetown, beginning a fierce firefight. McCulloch’s attack met with success, overrunning a Union battery.  The fighting went on for several hours and was hard-fought, General McCulloch and his successor in command Brigadier General McIntosh being numbered among the slain.  The Confederates ultimately retreated at around 3:30 PM, the Confederate command structure shattered by the heavy fighting, and the troops demoralized.

A separate engagement erupted at Elkhorn Tavern, northeast of the fighting at Leetown, at 9:30 AM, when Confederate cavalry bumped into Union infantry.  Van Dorn, cautious, waited to launch an attack until he had fully deployed Major General Sterling Price’s division.  After a long afternoon of fighting, Price took Elkhorn Tavern, with his advance finally halted by the Union forces a quarter-mile south of Elkhorn.  A brief Union counter-attacked petered out in darkness at 6:30 PM. (more…)

Published in: on March 6, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 6, 1862: Battle of Pea Ridge Arkansas Begins  
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