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46618Peter J. Osterhaus: full of it ...

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  • Tony
    Dec 29, 2009

      "...The Seventh Kentucky and Forty-ninth Indiana were going ahead rapidly and soon developed the fact that all the ravines and gullies in front of them were full of the enemy's infantry."

      "...The position gained brought my line within 300 to 350 yards of the enemy's line, separated on the right of the public road by two deep ravines and [illegible] from the narrow strip of level ground described before, along the front and around my right flank, leaving between these two gullies at some places only a narrow ridge not more than from five to ten yards wide. The enemy occupied the slope near his line. On the left of the road another wide and deep ravine with very abrupt banks, and most densely covered with trees, brush and
      cane, forbids all passage of troops with any kind of order."

      "...In order to follow up the successes attained by the artillery and to get a thorough information of the strength of the enemy's forces and the ground before me, I ordered my line of skirmishers along the whole front to advance; they went forward and held every foot of ground thus gained. Therefore, I concluded to make a charge by the center of my lines (Forth-second Ohio, Sixteenth Ohio and Twenty-second Kentucky Infantry)..."

      The order of charge was bravely executed by the commander of the Forty-second Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Pardee and Major Worthington of the Twenty-second Kentucky leading their troops against a most terrific fire to the very edge of the first ravine, but it would have demanded too great a sacrifice of life to have persisted in this attack and I therefore withdrew the regiments behind a swell in the ground, leaving only a line of skirmishers on the ground gained."

      At this point, Osterhaus is facing a single brigade of infantry, enjoys an overwhelming artillery advantage, and has committed only 5 of his 8 regiments in two separate probes, the first with two regiments, the second with three regiments. One of the regiments in the second probe actually gained the crest of the ridge, only to find itself unsupported, and unaware that Osterhaus had ordered the units to withdraw.

      "The great strength of the Rebel position was potent and I was now convinced that only a flank movement could dislodge them from it. I gave my opinion to that effect to Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson, Chief of General Grant's staff, who fully concurred in it and promised the arrangement of the movement on the enemy's right flank by some regiments of General McPherson's Corps, who by this time (11 a.m.) had come within the reach of the battlefield. In order to give assistance to this movement, I had the ground thoroughly surveyed, but about three hours elapsed before the regiments could be brought on the ground."

      "...When a brigade of General McPherson's had arrived on the field, the commanding officer concluded before the flank movement I had recommended was begun, to attempt to force the enemy by an assault in front over the same ground my regiments had charged several hours before, consequently, he formed a line. The men advanced gallantly, but of course had to give way as soon as they came within range of the enemy's missiles."

      The brigade in question did not assault the Confederate position over the same ground attempted earlier. They attempted an assault on the rebel flank, but the ground over which they travelled was the narrow ridge top described by Osterhaus as being 30-80 feet wide, behind which the rebels had a refused flank and artillery support. So the assaulting troops quickly went to ground under the concentrated fire. McPherson then showed up, analyzed the terrain, and had one regiment climb hand-over-first down into the 200 foot deep bottoms described by
      Osterhaus himself as terrain that "forbids all passage of troops with any kind of order." It was this regiment that charged into the rebel rear and broke open the position.

      "...The enemy's attention being drawn to a great extent to the threatened attack on his right flank, he failed to oppose successfully the advances of the One Hundred Fourteenth Ohio and Forty-ninth Indiana. They thus could pass over the narrow defile in front of me and by turning to the right flank gained a position
      in the immediate neighborhood of the enemy...I immediately ordered the One Hundred Fourteenth Ohio and Forty-ninth Indiana to charge the crest of the hill, which was the nucleus of the Rebel position. I led the charge personally, ordering at the same time the Forty-second and One Hundred Twentieth Ohio and Sixty-ninth Indiana, and One Hundred Eighteenth Illinois Regiments to advance in eschelon.

      The charge was a complete success."

      At this point, Osterhaus is only facing a single regiment! His final charge involves only two of his eight regiments, and the icing on the cake is that the two regiments are not even in the same brigade!!

      The apex of this bungling is the fact that Osterhaus apparently had not communicated to McClernand that the Confederate position was about to be assaulted, and McClernand withdrew from the battle to make camp just as the Confederate retreat began. Due to McClernand's inability to see through Osterhaus' smoke screen, we get a repeat of the incident at Champion Hill that almost turned the tide at that battle, where Osterhaus again let his division sit unengaged for hours while the battle raged on nearby.
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