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Re: Col Breckinridge's account of Snake CreekGap/Resaca

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  • 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 1 of 5 , Apr 2, 2002
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      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 2 of 5 , Apr 2, 2002
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        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 3 of 5 , Apr 2, 2002
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          "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 4 of 5 , Apr 2, 2002
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            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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