The Man Who Helped Convert General Rosecrans

 

As faithful readers of this blog know, I have often written about General William Rosecrans, Union general and zealous Catholic convert.  One of the men who helped in the conversion process was Julius Garesché, who would serve under Rosecrans in the Civil War.

Rosecrans was fighting a huge battle at Stones River, go here to read about it, in Tennessee that would last from December 31, 1862-January 3, 1863. He succeeded in defeating Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee and drove him from central Tennessee. It was an important victory, a needed shot in the arm for the Union after the disaster of Fredericksburg. Lincoln wrote to Rosecrans:

“You gave us a hard-earned victory, which had there been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over.”

During that battle he was a man on fire, constantly charging to points of danger, heedless of risks to himself, rallying his men, inspiring them and beating off Confederate charge after Confederate charge. Rosecrans was in the maelstrom of particularly vicious fighting when his Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Colonel Julius  Garesché , a fellow Catholic who had been made a Knight of Saint Sylvester by Pope Pius IX, warned him about risking himself to enemy fire. “Never mind me, my boy, but make the sign of the cross and go in!” A moment later, a cannon shell careened into the general’s entourage, beheading Garesche and spraying his brains all over Rosecrans’ overcoat. Rosecrans’ mourned his friend, as he mourned all his brave men who died in that fight, but that didn’t stop him an instant from leading his army to victory.

I was going to do a blog post on Garesché, but I decided that I could not improve on the one done by Pat McNamara at his blog.  Go here to read it.

According to an article written by the late Dr. Homer Pittard, his death at Stones River had been prophesied by his priest brother: (more…)

Published in: on December 31, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Man Who Helped Convert General Rosecrans  
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October 4, 1862: Battle of Corinth

The Battle of Corinth, sometimes referred to as the Second Battle of Corinth to distinguish it from the siege of Corinth earlier in the year when the Union initially took the town, began at 10:00 AM on October 3, 1862.  Corinth was held by the Union Army of the Mississippi under General William Rosecrans, with a strenth of approximately 23,000 men.  Attempting to take the town was the Confederate Army of West Tennessee under General Earl Van Dorn, consisting of about 22,000.00 men.  Corinth was a major rail hub and thus a tempting target for the Confederacy.  Strategically Van Dorn was attempting to keep both Rosecran’s Army of the Mississippi and Grant’s Army of the Tennessee occupied and unable to send reinforcements to the Union Army of the Ohio under General Don Carlos Buell as it was pursuing the Confederate Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg which had invaded Union held Kentucky.  Grant’s Army was spread out with 7,000 under General Sherman at Memphis, 12,000 at Bolivar, Tennessee and 6,000 as a central reserve at Jackson, Tennessee.

The Confederates had fortified the town when they held it.  The Confederate lines were too extensive for Rosecrans’ force to man.  Rosecrans therefore constructed fortifications called the Halleck Line closer to the town.  Rosecrans planned to meet the Confederate attack  in the rifle pits of the old Confederate lines with a force of skirmishers, with his main force awaiting attack in the fortifications of the Halleck Line. (more…)

Published in: on October 4, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 4, 1862: Battle of Corinth  
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September 19, 1863: Battle of Chickamauga Begins

An intelligent observer of the American Civil War in early September of 1863 would have reached certain conclusions about the War thus far:

1.  The Union was losing the War in the East.  After many spectacular battles and huge casualties, the battle lines in Virginia remained much the same as they had early in the War:  the Union controlled the northern third of the Old Dominion state and the South controlled the Southern two-thirds.  A stalemate of more than two years duration favored the Confederacy.

2.  The War in the trans-Mississippi was a side show that could be ignored.

3.  In the West, between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, the Union was clearly winning, with control of the Mississippi wrested from the Confederacy, with New Orleans and large sections of Louisiana controlled by the Union, and with Tennessee largely under Union control.

4.  The northern Presidential election in 1864 would probably prove decisive.  If Lincoln could make progress in the East and continue to win in the West he would likely be re-elected.  If the Confederacy could maintain the stalemate in the East and reverse the Union momentum in the West, or at least slow it to a crawl, Lincoln would be defeated and the Confederacy would win its independence.

General Braxton Bragg, the irascible commander of the Army of Tennessee, clearly understood that the Confederacy could not continue losing in the West, and that is why he rolled the iron dice of war at Chickamauga in a desperate attempt to stop the offensive of Major General William Rosecrans and his Union Army of the Cumberland.  Bragg proved fortunate, and his hard luck army gave the Confederacy one of its great victories, and the chance to change the whole course of the War.

Below is the passage on Chickamauga from the memoir of John B. Gordon, who during the war rose from Captain to Major General in the Army of Northern Virginia.  Gordon did not fight at Chickamauga, but his wonderfully colorful account of the battle, ground he was familiar with from being reared there in his childhood,  written with his usual entertaining purple prose, captures well the facts of the battle, and how this victory was treasured by the South, even as its benefits to the Confederacy were ultimately thrown away due to a lack of pursuit and the desultory, and unsuccessful, siege of Chattanooga. (more…)

Published in: on September 19, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 19, 1863: Battle of Chickamauga Begins  
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The Tullahoma Campaign: Not Written in Letters of Blood

Tullahoma_Campaign

I beg in behalf of this army that the War Department may not overlook so great an event because it is not written in letters of blood.

Major General William Rosecrans to Secretary of War Stanton after the completion of the Tullahoma Campaign.

Mention Gettysburg and almost all Americans will recall that it was a battle fought during the Civil War.  Mention the Tullahoma campaign, and almost all Americans will give a blank stare.  A pity, because the almost bloodless campaign demonstrates one of the finest pieces of generalship to be found in the War.

After the battle of Murfreesboro in December 31, 1862 to January 2, 1863, the two opposing armies seemed to go into suspended animation for a period of half a year.  Bragg withdrew his Army of Tennessee to 30 miles south of Murfreesboro at Tullahoma, Tennessee and contented himself with observing Rosecrans and his Army of the Cumberland and awaiting events.  Rosecrans seemed content to stay in Murfreesboro indefinitely, reinforcing and resupplying his army.  Calls to remove Rosecrans became frequent, along with frequent entreaties for Rosecrans to attack Bragg.  Rosecrans refused to move until he was ready.  On June 23, 1863 he was ready.

Here is the account of the campaign written by Union Lieutenant-Colonel Gilbert C. Kniffin in 1887 for The Century Magazine and which later appeared in Battles and Leaders.  I admire both its conciseness and its accuracy: (more…)

Published in: on September 17, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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September 19, 1862: Battle of Iuka

A rather small battle, the battle of Iuka is notable for bringing General William Rosecrans to national attention, putting him on the path to eventual command of the Army of the Cumberland, and marking the beginning of the feud between Rosecrans and Ulysses S. Grant.

After the fall of Corinth, Mississippi in the aftermath of the Battle of Shiloh, the Civil War in northern Mississippi had entered a quiet phase.  This was shattered with Bragg’s invasion of Kentucky, with Confederate forces detailed to keep Grant busy at Corinth so that his Army of the Tennessee could not reinforce Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio in its operations against Bragg’s Army of Tennessee.  Confederate General Sterling Price, with his miniscule Army of the West, seized Iuka, a Union supply depot, about 20 miles east of Corinth, on September 14, 1862.  Price was to wait at Iuka to be joined by General Earl Van Dorn and his 7000 man Army of West Tennessee.

Grant, who was in overall command at Corinth, reacted by ordering General O. C. Ord to take three Army of the Tennessee divisions and attack from the North, while General Rosecrans took his 4500 man Army of the Mississippi and attack from the south.  The orders were Grant’s, but Rosecrans devised the plan.  Grant would accompany Ord’s force.

Having separated columns attack simultaneously is always a tricky business and so it turned out in this case.  On September 19, Rosecrans arrived at Iuka, and the battle began when his leading unit was attacked by a Confederate division at 4:30 PM.  Hard fighting ensued until nightfall, with Iuka still in Confederate control.  Ord, who was four miles from Iuka, had been ordered by Grant not to attack until he could hear the sound of Rosecrans’ attack.  Ord never heard the sound of fighting due to a strong north wind creating an acoustic shadow.

During the night Price withdrew from Iuka, not wishing to be trapped between Ord and Rosecrans.  Rosecrans found himself a national hero for taking Iuka, in spite of the escape of Price’s army.  Grant’s intial comments after the battle were quite laudatory to Rosecrans:

I cannot speak too highly of the energy and skill displayed by General Rosecrans in the attack, and of the endurance of the troops under him. General Ord’s command showed untiring zeal, but the direction taken by the enemy prevented them from taking the active part they desired.

However, Grant soon came in for newspaper criticism blaming him for Ord not attacking on the 19th.  False rumors began to circulate that Grant had been drunk.  Grant from that time forward had a decidedly cool opinion of General Rosecrans.  Here is Rosecrans’ report on the battle: (more…)

Published in: on September 19, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 19, 1862: Battle of Iuka  
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