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6091Re: re Infantry support for Captain Millers battery in Piper Orchard

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  • joseph_pierro
    Jan 14, 2010
      OK, I see it (p. 294 in my edition).

      As I said, it's a loose term. Picture the scene. The CS line in the Sunken Road has been cracked. Senior commanders are riding to the scene, rallying whatever men are within earshot (and willing to make a stand), and throwing the whole in a mass back at the Union attackers.

      As Carman explains, a portion of this mob is left behind to "support" Miller's Battery. (How well they would have served in the event of a direct Union assault on the battery is debatable.)

      Miller's Battery IS essentially unsupported through much of the fighting. This scratch infantry support is only hastily assembled for the counterattack.

      But to show the difficulty of trying to talk about specific CS units at this point, look at Carman's last sentence of the same para (quoting from p. 294 of mine again):

      "In a general sense D. H. Hill's Division was on the left, but when the charge had reached its limit some of his men were on the
      extreme right of R. H. Anderson's.

      In other words, it's such a thrown-together force that you can't even distinguish one DIVISION from another. At this point, you're dealing with what is essentially an undifferentiated body of men in gray.

      I've read accounts from Miller's Battery that mention infantry accreting to them after the line collapsed, and that speak of a particular body being left with them in the countertattack, but as to the unit(s) that comprised it? I doubt they came from ANY one or two specific units. I know I've never see an account from a soldier in a particular infantry regiment who said, "I was one of the men detailed to support the battery."

      Short of finding a document like that, I don't think their identity can ever be known.

      This thread brings up one of the "noble lies" that writers often have to commit when writing about battles -- particularly Antietam. To make a narrative intelligible to a reader, there needs to be some understandable sequence and structure within which the reader can orient himself.

      The realities of combat, however, are far more chaotic.

      There's much I love about Sears's Landscape Turned Red, but those beautifully geometric maps -- with their straight lines of advance and retreat to specific portions of the field, and the clean rectangles of brigades and divisions -- are a pipedream. A necessary one, to be sure, and it does in the broadest outlines match the truth of where MORE men than not from a given command tramped relative to another unit, but you have to take such things with a LARGE grain of salt.
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