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Snake Creek: essential questions

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  • David Woodbury
    Questions for Will: Please answer the following so that I might better understand your thinking in this ongoing exchange: (1) Do you think that Johnston
    Message 1 of 10 , Apr 2, 2002
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      Questions for Will:

      Please answer the following so that I might better understand your
      thinking in this ongoing exchange:

      (1) Do you think that Johnston thought Snake Creek Gap was guarded,
      and so did not give it any further thought? Or, do you think that in
      dispatching Grigsby's brigade, he thought they would be the first CS
      troops to guard/block the Gap? Or, do you think in dispatching
      Grigsby's brigade, Johnston thought they would bolster troops
      (militia?) already guarding the Gap?

      (2) Do you see anything at all in McPherson's army coming through
      Snake Creek Gap that has the makings of a potentially major disaster
      for Johnston?

      Thanks,
      David
    • wh_keene
      Question (1): Do you think that Johnston thought Snake Creek Gap was guarded, and so did not give it any further thought? Or, do you think that in dispatching
      Message 2 of 10 , Apr 2, 2002
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        Question (1):
        "Do you think that Johnston thought Snake Creek Gap was guarded, and
        so did not give it any further thought? Or, do you think that in
        dispatching Grigsby's brigade, he thought they would be the first CS
        troops to guard/block the Gap? Or, do you think in dispatching
        Grigsby's brigade, Johnston thought they would bolster troops
        (militia?) already guarding the Gap?"


        Answer (1):
        I think that Johnston thought Snake Creek Gap was guarded but not
        defended. By this I mean he thought it was watched by Wheeler's men,
        by Cantey and possibly by these Georgia troops Grisby refers to (I
        don't know what to make of this) He also directed an additional
        force, Grisby's, be sent there once, in my opinion, he thought
        McPherson was about to make use of the Gap.

        To further elaborate: I don't think Johnston intended any of these--
        Wheeler's scouts, Georgia troops or Grisby's brigade--to defend the
        gap. Rather, I think he intended them to be scouts and skirmishers:
        provide information about the enemy and slow the enemy down.

        I think that he planned to defend Resaca at Resaca rather than by
        holding the gap.



        Question (2):
        "Do you see anything at all in McPherson's army coming through Snake
        Creek Gap that has the makings of a potentially major disaster for
        Johnston?"

        No. I am assuming that you mean McPherson's army as actually
        configured. If McPherson's army had included a division or two of
        cavalry, then my answer would be different.



        I would like to answer another question you asked seperately: "Why
        is the "obvious" route left open."

        Why Johnston chose (in my opinion) not to defend the gap is something
        I can not answer definitevly as he does not say. Though I am not
        sure why he made this choice nor am I sure he made the right choice,
        I still think this is the choice he made. I can hypothesize a reason
        why he did it.

        There are several parts of McPherson's journey that are left open.
        For example, Johnston does not defend Ship's Gap. Too far, I
        suppose. Could this reason apply to Snake Creek Gap? Maybe.

        Starting on the 7th he thinks McPherson may be after Resaca but he
        can't be sure, could be Rome too or somewhere else. To send Cantey's
        men to Snake Creek Gap would be to commit them to that choice. As
        long as he keeps Cantey's men along the rail line he can use them to
        support other locations if McPherson goes elsewhere and he can also
        use other forces to support Cantey if McPherson goes to Resaca. But,
        if he sends Cantey to the Snake Creek Gap he cannot reposition them
        if McPherson goes elsewhere and he cannot support Cantey if McPherson
        overwhelms him.

        Johnston only defended a couple of gaps in the Dalton area. The gaps
        Johnston chose to defend either included the railroad in the gap or
        were within easy reach of the railway. Snake Creek Gap, which he
        did not defend, was separated from the railway by 6-8 miles of
        difficult terrain.



        To finish up with some other items from other messages:

        With regard to Kilpatrick's comment on Martin, I still disagree.
        Operating on someone's flank does not mean miles away. Kilpatrick
        did not say "operating beyond", "operating in the vicinity of", or
        some such. We knew that 2 days before Martin was ordered to Calhoun
        in order to watch the river crossings from there to Rome. We also
        know that Cantey was in contact with Martin and was directed to turn
        to Martin for support. However, we do not know what Martin was up to
        that day except for the reference from Kilpatrick. McPherson's
        report focuses on the activity with Dodge's force. There is little
        at all about Logan's divisions. There is also little detail as to
        who his men were skirmishing with. But we do know that they were
        skirmishing all day with someone. Could be just Grisby but could
        also include someone from Martin's force.


        Your answer about Sherman's comment was "Right. Nothing saved him but
        the fact that he could move fast over a good road, and Sherman could
        not."

        Right. So now your agreeing with me. Ok, back to my original
        point: Sherman excuses his own situation by external factors (the
        terrain), but he blames McPherson personally when McPherson was faced
        with the very same terrain problem he was. You see, I don't believe
        McPherson had the time or the force to do any effective damage to the
        railroad on May 9th. To borrow from Sherman, nothing saved Johnston
        on the 9th but the impossible terrain between Snake Creek Gap and
        Resaca.


        Rearding when on the 9th Johnston learns of McPherson you wrote: "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."

        He says the same thing in the Century article. However, this does not
        preclude there having been information about McPherson sent earlier
        by Grisby.


        You also added "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."

        First, during much of the day the rest of the union army did its job
        of holding Johnston in place. Second, he waited until he thought the
        additional force was truly necessary at Resaca. I don't see that he
        waited too long.


        A couple of other interesting thoughts:

        In the ORs there is a message from Johnston to Cantey on the 9th with
        no time indicated. This message directs Cantey as to what to do if
        attacked. I would love to find out what time this message was sent.

        At the end of the day on the 9th, someone (not Johnston or Mackall
        but can't remember who and too lazy to look right now) writes that
        the enemy have taken Resaca. Why? Did the writer make a mistake in
        repeating Johnston's message or does Johnston himself think this?
        One thought I had is this: the detachment McPherson sends north from
        Resaca apparently cuts the telegraph line. If this causes a blackout
        in the information flow from Cantey to Johnston does he think this
        means Resaca has fallen?
      • David Woodbury
        ... I think this may be an important juncture in our exchange (a signal to lurkers to wake up again ). If McPherson had had adequate cavalry, how would your
        Message 3 of 10 , Apr 3, 2002
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          At 7:28 AM +0000 4/3/02, wh_keene wrote:
          >[dw] Question (2):
          >"Do you see anything at all in McPherson's army coming through Snake
          >Creek Gap that has the makings of a potentially major disaster for
          >Johnston?"
          >
          >No. I am assuming that you mean McPherson's army as actually
          >configured. If McPherson's army had included a division or two of
          >cavalry, then my answer would be different.

          I think this may be an important juncture in our exchange (a signal
          to lurkers to wake up again <g>). If McPherson had had adequate
          cavalry, how would your answer be different? And isn't this strictly
          a shortcoming on the Federal side that has nothing to do with how the
          Confederates would have been able to respond? Are you ultimately
          saying that Johnston was not caught off guard because the Federals
          failed to configure McPherson's column with adequate cavalry?

          David
        • David Woodbury
          ... But you said it was the obvious route to Resaca. And Resaca was deemed important enough for fortifications and thousands of troops. Indeed, as it turned
          Message 4 of 10 , Apr 3, 2002
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            At 7:28 AM +0000 4/3/02, wh_keene wrote:
            >Johnston only defended a couple of gaps in the Dalton area. The gaps
            >Johnston chose to defend either included the railroad in the gap or
            >were within easy reach of the railway. Snake Creek Gap, which he
            >did not defend, was separated from the railway by 6-8 miles of
            >difficult terrain.

            But you said it was the obvious route to Resaca. And Resaca was
            deemed important enough for fortifications and thousands of troops.
            Indeed, as it turned out, the Federal lodgement there caused Johnston
            to abandon his otherwise impregnable line in very short order.
          • David Woodbury
            Will, Just a quick note to say I am not ignoring those points of yours I did not respond to tonight -- even on the West Coast it s damn late right now.
            Message 5 of 10 , Apr 3, 2002
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              Will,

              Just a quick note to say I am not ignoring those points of yours I
              did not respond to tonight -- even on the West Coast it's damn late
              right now. <g> I'll try to catch up on the morrow.

              David
            • wh_keene
              I think this may be an important juncture in our exchange (a signal to lurkers to wake up again ). Really? I thought there were junctures of greater
              Message 6 of 10 , Apr 3, 2002
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                "I think this may be an important juncture in our exchange (a signal
                to lurkers to wake up again <g>)."

                Really? I thought there were junctures of greater import. When
                someone else mentioned the cavalyr situation before I agree
                emphatically and no one said a thing.

                Before you get too excited let me make some things clear.

                Whether or not McPherson had this cavalry would not effect the
                following: Johnston was not surprised (or caught off-gaurd, since you
                like that phrase) that (a) McPherson might come through Snake Creek
                Gap or (b) Resaca was the target.

                Whether or not McPherson had this cavalry would not change his
                offensive capability to assault Resaca itself. What it would change
                is his ability to get sufficient force in a timely manner to points
                along the rail line between Resaca and Tilton and have this force do
                damage to the rail line. In that is the possibility to make Johnston
                give up Dalton without the rest of Sherman's army having budged.
                Whether that would be a disaster for Johnston's army, I am not sure.




                --- In civilwarwest@y..., David Woodbury <woodbury@s...> wrote:
                > At 7:28 AM +0000 4/3/02, wh_keene wrote:
                > >[dw] Question (2):
                > >"Do you see anything at all in McPherson's army coming through
                Snake
                > >Creek Gap that has the makings of a potentially major disaster for
                > >Johnston?"
                > >
                > >No. I am assuming that you mean McPherson's army as actually
                > >configured. If McPherson's army had included a division or two of
                > >cavalry, then my answer would be different.
                >
                > I think this may be an important juncture in our exchange (a signal
                > to lurkers to wake up again <g>). If McPherson had had adequate
                > cavalry, how would your answer be different? And isn't this
                strictly
                > a shortcoming on the Federal side that has nothing to do with how
                the
                > Confederates would have been able to respond? Are you ultimately
                > saying that Johnston was not caught off guard because the Federals
                > failed to configure McPherson's column with adequate cavalry?
                >
                > David
              • wh_keene
                I did say it was an obvious route to Resaca. Do you disagree? There are several obvious points along the route from LaFayette to Resaca but Johnston did not
                Message 7 of 10 , Apr 3, 2002
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                  I did say it was an obvious route to Resaca. Do you disagree? There
                  are several obvious points along the route from LaFayette to Resaca
                  but Johnston did not defend any of the route. He only defended
                  Resaca itself.

                  If I understand what you have said, you think that Johnston expected
                  maybe a raid-size force at Resaca. Why in your opinion did Johnston
                  not defend the gap? Why in your opinion did Johnston defend Resaca?

                  McPherson's lodgement at Sugar Valley did not cause Johnston to
                  abandon Dalton at all. Sherman's decision to have the bulk of the
                  army follow McPherson did cause Johnston to move from Dalton. Seems
                  to me that Dalton could only be considered impregnable if attacked
                  head on through Buzzard's Roost.

                  --- In civilwarwest@y..., David Woodbury <woodbury@s...> wrote:
                  > At 7:28 AM +0000 4/3/02, wh_keene wrote:
                  > >Johnston only defended a couple of gaps in the Dalton area. The
                  gaps
                  > >Johnston chose to defend either included the railroad in the gap or
                  > >were within easy reach of the railway. Snake Creek Gap, which he
                  > >did not defend, was separated from the railway by 6-8 miles of
                  > >difficult terrain.
                  >
                  > But you said it was the obvious route to Resaca. And Resaca was
                  > deemed important enough for fortifications and thousands of troops.
                  > Indeed, as it turned out, the Federal lodgement there caused
                  Johnston
                  > to abandon his otherwise impregnable line in very short order.
                • wh_keene
                  David, In my previous message I said When someone else mentioned the cavalry situation before I agree emphatically and no one said a thing. Looking back to
                  Message 8 of 10 , Apr 3, 2002
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                    David,

                    In my previous message I said "When someone else mentioned the
                    cavalry situation before I agree emphatically and no one said a
                    thing."

                    Looking back to see who it was that I agreed with ...

                    ... it was you!! :)

                    See your message 10238 and my response 10239 both from Saturday
                    evening.


                    Yours,

                    Will
                  • David Woodbury
                    ... So, you would agree that had McPherson s column been configured differently -- specifically, were there sufficient cavalry -- he would likely have damaged
                    Message 9 of 10 , Apr 3, 2002
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                      At 3:46 PM +0000 4/3/02, wh_keene wrote:
                      > What it would change
                      >is his ability to get sufficient force in a timely manner to points
                      >along the rail line between Resaca and Tilton and have this force do
                      >damage to the rail line. In that is the possibility to make Johnston
                      >give up Dalton without the rest of Sherman's army having budged.
                      >Whether that would be a disaster for Johnston's army, I am not sure.

                      So, you would agree that had McPherson's column been configured
                      differently -- specifically, were there sufficient cavalry -- he
                      would likely have damaged the railroad, and perhaps caused Johnston
                      to abandon his position at Dalton?

                      This is where I don't get your insistence that Johnston wasn't caught
                      off guard by this maneuver. You are effectively saying, but for a
                      logistical shortcoming on the Federal side, Johnston's whole position
                      at Dalton might have been rendered untenable, yet Johnston was not
                      surprised.

                      David
                    • David Woodbury
                      ... To the first question, I think it was an oversight. To the second, it was to defend the railroad bridge. ... McPherson s lodgment in Snake Creek Gap gave
                      Message 10 of 10 , Apr 3, 2002
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                        At 3:47 PM +0000 4/3/02, wh_keene wrote:
                        >Why in your opinion did Johnston
                        >not defend the gap? Why in your opinion did Johnston defend Resaca?

                        To the first question, I think it was an oversight. To the second, it
                        was to defend the railroad bridge.

                        >McPherson's lodgement at Sugar Valley did not cause Johnston to
                        >abandon Dalton at all. Sherman's decision to have the bulk of the
                        >army follow McPherson did cause Johnston to move from Dalton. Seems
                        >to me that Dalton could only be considered impregnable if attacked
                        >head on through Buzzard's Roost.

                        McPherson's lodgment in Snake Creek Gap gave Sherman a highway to the
                        east side of Rocky Face Ridge. As soon as Sherman began to move
                        toward it, Johnston kissed his impregnable position goodbye, and hit
                        the road. Because the Federals seized Snake Creek Gap, Johnston was
                        compelled to assume a weak position at Resaca.

                        David
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