Re: Grant's orders to Prentiss
- --- In civilwarwest@y..., "josepharose" <josepharose@y...> wrote:
> Mr. Keene:And what evidence supports Prentiss? I previously posted a response
> When I state that there is nothing which contradicts Prentiss, I
> mean that no evidence advanced offers a contradictory position to
> his statement that Grant ordered him to "maintain that position at
> all hazards."
which suggested that the Prentiss version is suspect for a couple of
reasons. First, it was submitted months later, unavoidable given the
circumstances, but still months later. Second, the fact the wording
of his OR "hold at all hazards" differs from the wording in
Hickenlooper's account "hold at all costs" and also from the speech
which Prentiss gave after the war, where he merely says "hold the
position". This second point suggests that whatever orders he
himself received from Grant he passed on to Hickenlooper as "hold at
all costs". However, because Grant endorsed the speech version and
not the OR version, I suspect that the orders were less dramatic than
Prentiss would have us believe. Third, Prentiss's account of the
withdrawal just does not agree with other accounts. Again, we have
only his word for what was said to WHL Wallace. Given his penchant
for self-promotion, as exemplified by the anecdote I alluded to in an
earlier post, it is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility
that he added the "at all costs/hazards" phrase himself, to remove
responsibility for the loss of 2,000 men or to make his stand appear
> It's always possible to suggest that the writer of an OR was notNo it doesn't. But when he is the only writer who claims to have
> telling the truth. That kind of suggestion does not "contradict"
receieved an order which Grant does not acknowledge giving, and when
he is known to have blatantly engaged in self-promotion regarding his
role in the battle, I think it is fair to view his account with
skepticism. As for the Hickenlooper account, you yourself have
numerous times discarded the accounts of Grant's subordinates when
they agree with Grant's version so the same level of doubt has to be
assigned to Hickenlooper. There is simply no evidence that he heard
the orders given by Grant so it is possible that he received
embellished orders from Prentiss. I provided a fuller explanation of
my reasoning on this point in a previous post.
> 1) When the nest was breaking down that afternoon, Wallace,Then why didn't Hurlbut indicate that he had the same orders? We
> Prentiss, et al. had various ideas of staying or leaving. Such
> thoughts and discussions don't do anything to contradict Prentiss'
> statement that Grant ordered him after *10 AM* to "maintain that
> position at all hazards." The rule could not be so hard and fast to
> prevent officers in that vulnerable position from leaving or
> thinking about leaving.
have only Prentiss's account which relates what he and Wallace
discussed the situation prior to falling back. And the fact that
both Hurlbut and Wallace began to withdraw indicates that there was
no hard and fast order to "hold at all hazards". In fact, as Mr.
Keene correctly points out, the discussion between Prentiss and
Wallace indicates that there may have been no order to "hold at all
costs" and that Prentiss made the decision to stay on his own. One
further point is that the very fact that Prentiss discussed the
situation with Wallace, true or not, absolves Grant of any
responsibility for Prentiss's capture. Prentiss made the decision to
stay on his own. If there were orders to "hold at all hazards" also
issued to Wallace, he still made the correct decision to fall back
when the left flank withdrew, Prentiss did not.
Mr. Keene's point about "position" is also important to an
understanding of what orders were issued by Grant earlier in the day
or when he returned around 4:00. You have provided no evidence that
disputes Grant's claim to have returned to Prentiss's position later
in the day.
> 2) This is also so for Tuttle.the
> As to my agreement "that there is some basis to *suggest*
> that "Grant expected Prentiss to pull back with the other
> divisions," that is still not the same as stating that "Grant
> expected Prentiss to pull back with the other divisions." Even that
> statement, which is a leap from the initial suggestion, is a big,
> big leap from the supposition that Grant didn't give such an order
> in the first place. There's not even a direct connection between
> two latter statements.But you yourself have argued that the implied censure by Grant of
Prentiss was for not pulling back with the other divisions. If Grant
didn't believe Prentiss was ignoring orders why would he imply
censure? The editorial note in Grant's memoirs, which is mentioned
by Daniel in his book, is directed at Prentiss's failure to fall
back. In fact the very use of the word "failed" to fall back is very
telling. Note that Grant didn't write, "Prentiss did not fall back"
but "Prentiss failed to fall back".
> As opposed to this double leap into the logical unknown, there isAnd how many times have you discarded the OR of Grant subordinates
> Prentiss stating that Grant ordered him to "maintain that position
> at all hazards," Hickenlooper stating that Prentiss was ordered to
> hold at all costs; and Geddes being told by Prentiss to hold at all
> hazards. There was another subordinate (IIRC) who was maybe also
> ordered to do the same (maybe it was the battery with Geddes).
even when they agree with Grant's version? Without proof that
Hickenlooper heard the order given his testimony means nothing. He
may have gotten his orders direct from Prentiss. Do you have the
reports of anyone else, outside of Prentiss's command who received
these orders or heard these orders given? But even if these orders
were issued in the morning you have no evidence that Grant didn't
change them when he visited Prentiss later in the day. See the
discussion between Mr. Keene and myself about the possibilities of
what was discussed in that later visit. Why discard Grant's account
of his later visit to Prentiss?
> Unless there is something firm with which to oppose Prentiss'other
> statement, it should be allowed to stand. Have you read of any
> historians taking the position that Prentiss lied?No. But many historians take the position that Grant visited
Prentiss later in the day. To expect that an order given in the
morning, when Buell or Wallace were expected within a reasonable
timeframe, still holds later in the day when it was obvious that
neither Buell nor Wallace would be there is ridiculous. And you
still haven't adequately explained why Hurlbut and Wallace began a
withdrawal while Prentiss dragged his feet. Was he stupid? He knew
that the flanking divisions were withdrawing, so why wouldn't he do
likewise? If he was blindly following an order given hours
previously under better circumstances doesn't that say something
about his competence as a general? Especially since both Hurlbut and
Wallace realized the gravity of their situation.
> I would disagree with your suggestion that Prentiss' position wasBut the implication in Mr. Keene's interpretation is that the
> *defined* by the units on his flanks. Although he may have
> described it in that way, I can't see an historical basis for
> interpreting his orders using that definition.
defensive line was to be treated as a whole unit. Hurlbut the left,
Prentiss the center and Wallace the right. Do you know of any other
CW battle in which the flanking units are given discretionary orders
to hold while the center is given orders to "hold at all hazards"?
That would ridiculous. Wouldn't it have made more sense for Hurlbut
to withdraw, followed by Prentiss then by Wallace? That would be the
correct manner for withdrawing in the face of overwhelming enemy
attacks. Prentiss's version makes him seem incompetent, IMHO. He
watched while the flanks withdrew and the confederates surrounded him
and then decides to withdraw? Did he consider that by then he had
exhausted "all hazards?"
> JosephI think, that as often happened during the war, Grant's time may have
> P.S. What do you make of Grant's memoirs which state: "I was with
> [Prentiss], as I was with each of the division commanders that day,
> several times, and my recollection is that the last time I was with
> him was about half-past four, when his division was standing up
> firmly and the General was as cool as if expecting victory. But no
> matter whether it was four or later, the story that he and his
> command were surprised and captured in their camps is without any
> foundation whatever"? If Grant was with Prentiss when the flanks
> were collapsing, I would have expected Grant to mention that and to
> state what his new orders might have been. Maybe he was there
> earlier, before the collapse became apparent.
been off. Note that I am not implying Grant's time records were any
more inaccurate than anyone else's but merely that time keeping,
especially early in the war was not very accurate, especially in the
heat of battle. I also think that trying to make a case based on
Grant's remembrance of a specific time, written 20 yrs. after the
fact, is pretty lame.
According to Daniel's account, the left end withdrew around 4:00 but
the center lasted until between 4:45 and 6:00, with the actual line
breaking around the earlier time. Grant may have been there around
3:30 to 4:00; but it doesn't really matter. Grant's account was
meant to answer questions about whether Prentiss's troops were
surrounded in their camps. I certainly think he got his times wrong
but what do you make of his claim to have been with Prentiss prior to
The reason Grant didn't mention the collapse of Hurlbut's flank is
that it hadn't happened by the time he visited Prentiss and there is
nothing in his account which indicates that he should have known they
- This has been a most interesting discussion. Based on what Slippy
says, and the general chorus of agreement, am I correct in drawing
the conclusion that the pow-wow between Prentiss and Wallace was not
over whether to retreat, but whether to "shift left"? And how long,
approximately, were Prentiss's men out there on their own before they
--- In civilwarwest@y..., "bjer50010" <bjewell@i...> wrote:
> --- In civilwarwest@y..., "hartshje" <Hartshje@a...> wrote:
> > --- In civilwarwest@y..., "slippymississippi" wrote:
> > >
> > > Hurlbut only states that he notified Prentiss that he was
> > > left, not falling back. At the point that Hurlbut shifts to
> > > the attackers massing to his left , Prentiss speaks with
> > > and together they shift left to cover the position left by
> > > Hurlbut.
> > >
> > > Simultaneous to this, two massive assault columns are moving
> > > through the thickets towards Prentiss' left (Hurlbut) and right
> > > (Wallace). Soon after the shift was completed, Wallace was
> > > dead and his men routed. Hurlbut was thrown back in a near-
> > > At that point, troops were converging on roads *behind*
> > > position. Even if Prentiss had wanted to escape at the instant
> > > that Hurlbut began to withdraw, his path would have been
> > >
> > > The fact of the matter is that Prentiss did *indeed* attempt to
> > > flee the position after realizing his situation. However, the
> > > envelopment was complete and he was unable to cut his way out.
> > > I still maintain that the thickets and smoke prevented Prentiss
> > > from realizing both the urgency of Hurlbut's withdrawal and the
> > > extent to which Wallace's division had disintegrated. In fact,
> > > disintegration was probably more a result of the sudden and
> > > overwhelming artillery bombardment by the entire Confederate
> > > corps than the death of Wallace. At this point, the
> > > reports read that Prentiss' men attempted to fight their way
> > > but were finally overpowered.
> > >
> > > In light of Prentiss' self-serving claim to have saved the day,
> > > his belated attempt to abandon the position, I think his claim
> > > he was sacrificing his command in order to hold the position to
> > > bitter end is a bit overblown.
> > Slippy,
> > I think this is an excellent analysis of the events leading to
> > Prentiss' surrender. Thanks!! I think we should all just give
> > Prentiss credit for a courageous, hard-fought fight which,
> > incidentally, also helped save Grant's butt, whether or not
> > Prentiss' "sacrifice" was intentional.
> > Joe H.
> I completely agree with Joe H. Very interesting description of the
> final stages of Prentiss' stand. It does appear that once the
> gone there was almost no chance for Prentiss to get out. It also
> makes the issue of whether Grant issued orders to withdraw or not
> almost irrelevant. Prentiss and Wallace certainly deserve credit
> a courageous stand, but I do think Prentiss may have overstated his
> case somewhat.
> JB Jewell