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Col Breckinridge's account of Snake CreekGap/Resaca

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  • wh_keene
    David Woodbury wrote: As far as I am aware, Breckinridge does not offer a precise head count for the CSA forces there. He appears to be very close on his
    Message 1 of 5 , Apr 2, 2002
      David Woodbury wrote: "As far as I am aware, Breckinridge does not
      offer a precise head count for the CSA forces there. He appears to be
      very close on his estimation of Union strength (and perhaps
      underestimates McPherson's strength). My question remains, is there
      anything at all in his account which would lead you to believe he
      underestimated Confederate strength? If you wish us to discount
      Breckinridge's account based on the notion that he didn't realize how
      many Confederates were in the works at Resaca, I think we'll need
      something more to go on."

      Accoridng to how you referenced him, Breckinridge offers a precise
      unit count of the CSA forces in Resaca: only Cantey and his own
      brigade. Thus not only does he state clearly how many brigades are
      present but he identifies clearly which brigades these are. These
      brigades have a head count associated with them. Both on the unit
      count and the head count, Breckinridge is incorrect.

      Lets see if your statements can stand up to the same criticism you
      aim at me: What head count does McPherson offer for the CSA force in
      Resaca? What unit count does he offer? Does McPherson give any
      quantitative assessment of the CSA force in Resaca? If you wish us
      to discount McPherson's account as being an overestimation, "I think
      we'll need something more to go on."


      I don't have a copy of Battles & Leaders but assuming it matches the
      article in the Century, which I can access on line, I offer the
      following additional comments on Breckinridge's account:

      --he says that Snake Creek Gap was well know to both armies and had
      been used by both armies for moving men. This agrees with my
      contention that Snake Creek Gap was an obvious route between Villanow
      and Resaca and would be known to Johnston.

      --he says that McPherson's plan was to hold the railroad. Sherman;s
      order to McPherson indicates this is not true.

      --he says that on the morning of the 8th, McPherson's movements were
      discovered, though its exact intention was still uncertain, and that
      on the evening of the 8th Grisby's brigade was ordered to the mouth
      of Snake Creek Gap. This information suggests that McPherson's
      movement was not a surprise.

      --he says Grisby had been informed that a company of Georgia troops
      was supposed to be guarding the mouth of the gap. This indicates
      that someone somewhere in the chain of command thought that steps had
      already been taken to guard the mouth of the gap.

      --he says that the engagement with the federal advance at the mouth
      of the gap and the skirmishing along the way, slowed McPherson's
      adavance. This suggests McPherson's movement was not so free and
      easy.

      --he says that prompt information was sent to headquarters of
      McPherson's movements. This indicates a flow of information about
      McPherson early in the day.

      --he says, as was discussed above, that Resaca was defended "only" by
      Cantey and his brigade. Other sources indicate this to be untrue.

      --he says "there was no possibility of our receiving any
      reinforcements that afternoon and night." Johnston's message to
      Cantey that day indicates a brigade is on its way, that he can call
      on Martin for support and that additional forces will be sent if he
      is attacked.

      --he says that "McPherson knew that Hooker had failed in his attempt
      to seize Dug Gap". The correspondence on that day does not indicate
      McPherson knew anything about this but rather indicates that
      McPherson had difficulty signaling to Hooker.

      --though he said that a serious attack would capture Resaca, he goes
      on to say "The intrenchments at Resaca were formidable, and when
      McPherson felt the lines, the response was resolute and spirited."
      This description of the strength of position and spirited defense
      supports McPherson's qualitative assessment of Resaca.

      --he says "In our ranks he was accounted the equal, perhaps the
      superior, of Sherman." Seems Breckinridge agrees with me that
      McPherson was one of the best.

      --he has Hood present during the afternoon of the 9th. If this is
      so, it indicates that Johnston was able to react very fast. Yet in
      the correspondence Hood doesn't tell Johnston he is in Resca until
      late morning the next day.
    • wh_keene
      Breckinridge s account in the Century is a critique of Johnston s account which appeared several issues earlier. I am not sure if Johnston s account appears
      Message 2 of 5 , Apr 2, 2002
        Breckinridge's account in the Century is a critique of Johnston's
        account which appeared several issues earlier. I am not sure if
        Johnston's account appears in Battles & Leaders. A couple of
        interesting points about Johnston's account relative to the
        discussion at hand:

        --He speaks of how the advantage of mountain positions was not as
        great some claim. I can't comment on whether this is so or not, but
        it speaks to his frame of mind.

        --He says that the building of light intrenchements for 3000 to 4000
        men at Resaca was for the express purpose of defending the railroad
        bridge against a move through Snake Creek Gap. This could be
        hindsight, but then again why were 4,000 men intrenched at Resaca?

        --He also refers to improving the roadways between Dalton and Resaca
        for the purpose of quick communication. Here is another reference to
        the road building which Wayne has spoken of and which pays off very
        well in thwarting Sherman's plans.

        --He indicates that Martin was to cover the Oostenaula. This goes to
        Johnston's frame of mind as to what position needed to be defended:
        he was focused on river crossings more than mountain gaps.

        --Like Breckinridge, he claims that on the 8th information was
        received as to McPherson's location.
      • David Woodbury
        ... As I mentioned, he did not give a head count. And as virtually all sources agree, he was right about two brigades defending Resaca. ... First, you wondered
        Message 3 of 5 , Apr 2, 2002
          At 8:38 PM +0000 4/2/02, wh_keene wrote:
          > Both on the unit
          >count and the head count, Breckinridge is incorrect.

          As I mentioned, he did not give a head count. And as virtually all
          sources agree, he was right about two brigades defending Resaca.

          >Lets see if your statements can stand up to the same criticism you
          >aim at me: What head count does McPherson offer for the CSA force in
          >Resaca? What unit count does he offer? Does McPherson give any
          >quantitative assessment of the CSA force in Resaca? If you wish us
          >to discount McPherson's account as being an overestimation, "I think
          >we'll need something more to go on."

          First, you wondered whether Breckinridge had underestimated CSA
          strength at Resaca. But his estimation of McPherson's strength was
          apparently pretty close, and he does corroborate other sources which
          put two brigades of Confederates in the Resaca works. If you're
          guessing that he may have been underestimating CS strength, I cannot
          imagine what you're basing that guess upon. I think whatever other
          troops were there (Arkansas troops from Mobile? Existing garrison?)
          were probably counted in the 4,000, or considered by Breckinridge to
          be part of Cantey's brigade.

          As for McPherson overestimating the enemy, it's a logical deduction.
          All told, McPherson outnumbered the defenders at Resaca something
          like four- or five-to-one. But one of the reasons he gave for
          withdrawing was that they "displayed considerable force." This is
          consistent with the notion that he overestimated enemy strength. By
          contrast, nothing about what Breckinridge wrote, and nothing about
          what we know of CSA strength after the fact, is consistent with the
          notion that Breckinridge underestimated CS strength at Resaca.

          I'm not sure what points you're trying to make in the dozen excerpts
          of Breckinridge's account, unless it's to challenge his credibility?
          I'll respond to some of those 12 snippets here...

          >--he says that Snake Creek Gap was well know to both armies and had
          >been used by both armies for moving men. This agrees with my
          >contention that Snake Creek Gap was an obvious route between Villanow
          >and Resaca and would be known to Johnston

          And that is more, absolutely damning evidence that when a Federal
          army traversed Snake Creek Gap unopposed, Johnston was caught off
          guard in a big way.

          >--he says that prompt information was sent to headquarters of
          >McPherson's movements. This indicates a flow of information about
          >McPherson early in the day.

          And yet, Johnston says he did not learn of it until after noon. It is
          information that did not flow to the top until McPherson's infantry
          divisions were already on Johnston's side of Rocky Face Ridge. Had
          McPherson made his "bold attack" as ordered, the railroad might very
          well have been severed before Johnston even received this "prompt
          information." That's another bad sign: the information, though
          prompt, was too late for him to have stopped the Federal column. As I
          see it, that's being "caught off guard."

          >--though he said that a serious attack would capture Resaca, he goes
          >on to say "The intrenchments at Resaca were formidable, and when
          >McPherson felt the lines, the response was resolute and spirited."

          So?

          >This description of the strength of position and spirited defense
          >supports McPherson's qualitative assessment of Resaca.

          It does not, in the slightest, negate the idea that McPherson
          overestimated enemy strength.

          >--he says "In our ranks he was accounted the equal, perhaps the
          >superior, of Sherman." Seems Breckinridge agrees with me that
          >McPherson was one of the best.

          Sherman's record as a tactical commander was probably his greatest
          shortcoming as a general. It's not something McPherson should have
          wanted to emulate. In any event, such a compliment from Breckinridge
          does nothing to further your argument, does it?

          >--he has Hood present during the afternoon of the 9th. If this is
          >so, it indicates that Johnston was able to react very fast.

          Sending one man and his staff on a train was not the kind of
          reinforcement likely to stop five veteran infantry divisions. When
          Hood got there, it was all over but the shouting. The three divisions
          he was to command there had not yet arrived, and Hood halted their
          movement toward Resaca.

          David
        • wh_keene
          And as virtually all sources agree, he was right about two brigades defending Resaca. Do they—please indicate which sources are these? Do these sources say
          Message 4 of 5 , Apr 2, 2002
            "And as virtually all sources agree, he was right about two brigades
            defending Resaca."

            Do they—please indicate which sources are these?
            Do these sources say Resaca was defended only by the specific
            brigades of Grisby and Cantey?
            How big was Cantey's brigade? Connolley, just as an example, says
            1,500. Do you believe him?
            You earlier said Grisby had less than 500. Are you standing by that?
            You have earlier said that Resaca was held by 4,000. Do you stand by
            that?


            "First, you wondered whether Breckinridge had underestimated CSA
            strength at Resaca."

            First, I originally wondered whether Breckinridge had underestimated
            the CSA strength in a qualitative manner. You quoted Breckinridge
            stating that one attack from McPherson would capture Resaca. I
            questioned whether this was an overestimation. At that point I
            hadn't even considered the idea that Breckinridge might have
            underestimated numberically. I was purely interested in whether
            Breckinridge underestimated the defensive ability of the force.
            Since you then asked "Is there anything at all in his account which
            would lead you to believe he underestimated Confederate strength" and
            at the same time you provided additional information as to what
            Breckinridge said, I then saw that he did not fully identify the
            units defending Resaca.


            "…or considered by Breckinridge to be part of Cantey's brigade."

            Oh, I see. In order to make Breckinridge work for you, he has to be
            unable to tell the difference between what is Cantey's brigade and
            what is not Cantey's brigade. Fine, so maybe Breckinridge does get
            the amount of men in Resaca right. We return to my original point—
            does he underestimate the strength of this force to defend Resaca?


            "As for McPherson overestimating the enemy, it's a logical deduction."

            First, not my question at all. If you are going to get all excited
            about estimation of numbers, then where are your numbers. To echo
            you, my question still stands. Nor is yours a logical deduction.
            Breckinridge describes the position as formidable and defended with
            spirit. Amazingly, your only reaction to that was "So?" Does
            Breckinridge loose credibility when he says something that agrees
            with McPherson?


            "All told, McPherson outnumbered the defenders at Resaca something
            like four- or five-to-one."

            So we are back to the question of how many men McPherson had with
            which to attack Resaca on the afternoon of the 9th. To repeat myself
            from several previous messages, did McPherson have all his men in
            front of Resaca at that time? If you insist on including numbers not
            actually present in front of Resaca, then why don't we count other
            men under McPherson's command like Blair's Division and men left from
            Vicksburg to Decatur. Then McPherson outnumbered Resca by a good
            deal more.


            "But one of the reasons he gave for withdrawing was that
            they "displayed considerable force." This is
            consistent with the notion that he overestimated enemy strength."

            Not so. 4,000 men in prepared positions can display considerable
            force. See Breckinridge's account.


            "And yet, Johnston says he did not learn of it until after noon."

            Where does he say this? Why does this matter? Johnston has the
            information and is able to respond prior to McPherson being able to
            attack Resaca.


            "...the information, though prompt, was too late for him to have
            stopped the Federal column."

            Johnston sought to protect the railway and particularly the bridge at
            Resaca. In this he suceeded.


            >This description of the strength of position and spirited defense
            >supports McPherson's qualitative assessment of Resaca.

            "It does not, in the slightest, negate the idea that McPherson
            overestimated enemy strength."

            Since you have been unable to show what McPherson's quantitative
            estimate of enemy strength was, we only have his qualitative estimate
            to go on. Lo and behold, McPherson and Breckinridge describe
            (qualitatively) the defense of Resaca in the same way.


            "Sherman's record as a tactical commander was probably his greatest
            shortcoming as a general. It's not something McPherson should have
            wanted to emulate. In any event, such a compliment from Breckinridge
            does nothing to further your argument, does it?"

            In what way did I or Breckinridge say that McPherson was, or wanted,
            to emulate Sherman's tactical record? I brought this point up
            because it was one of several point that Breckinridge made with which
            I agree and with which you do not.


            "Sending one man and his staff on a train was not the kind of
            reinforcement likely to stop five veteran infantry divisions."

            Did I say it was? I used it as an idication of the speed in which
            Johnston takes some action with respect to McPherson.


            "When Hood got there, it was all over but the shouting."

            Not according to Breckinridge. He says that Hood arrived while
            skirmishing was going on and that Hood said to him "We must hold
            until night."


            "The three divisions he was to command there had not yet arrived, and
            Hood halted their movement toward Resaca."

            Agreed. I did not say otherwise.
          • David Woodbury
            ... I will have to have a look at these Century articles before responding. In Johnston s memoirs, he speaks of receiving a report from Cantey on the evening
            Message 5 of 5 , Apr 2, 2002
              At 8:54 PM +0000 4/2/02, wh_keene wrote:
              >--Like Breckinridge, he claims that on the 8th information was
              >received as to McPherson's location.

              I will have to have a look at these Century articles before
              responding. In Johnston's memoirs, he speaks of receiving a report
              from Cantey on the evening of the 9th, informing him that Cantey had
              been fighting McPherson till dark. If he expected this might happen,
              one would expect him to dispatch three divisions of infantry to the
              crisis point before rather than after the fact.

              David
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