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Re: OR's - Breckinridge's Report for Stones River

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  • aot1952
    P.s.- Also before I forget I think it is also interesting to look at Van Cleve s (Beatty s US Division) losses. This was the Union division that Breckenridge
    Message 1 of 11 , Jul 1, 2002
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      P.s.-
      Also before I forget I think it is also interesting to look at Van
      Cleve's (Beatty's US Division) losses. This was the Union division
      that Breckenridge was being asked to assault in what conventional
      wisdom ( Breckenridge's side of the story)tells us was a 'suicide'
      attack. This US division's total battle losses were reported as
      1526. Now these numbers were not substantially different from
      Breckenridge's (no matter which set of 'cooked books' one might use.)
      Although the US losses are not presented in a break down form between
      Dec 31 and Jan 2. When comparing these US losses with the CS losses
      for the assault I think further questions are raised as to exactly
      how suicidal the CS assault in fact was, I mean looks to me like the
      federals were pretty seriously punished. Of course,another factor
      that kind of gets lost in Breckenridge's side of this story is that
      the objective of the assault was in fact over run.
      Sorry but got to run..
      Wakefield

      --- In civilwarwest@y..., "aot1952" <wakefield1952@m...> wrote:
      > Mr. Joe-
      > No question about it and I have long agreed with your conclusion
      that
      > someone was trying to "cook the books". However, unlike you I am
      not
      > as ready to jump to the conclusion that it was Bragg and not
      > Breckenridge who was the Chef.
      > Although I also feel that the whole exercise of 'counting' losses
      to
      > prove or imply just how determined an assault may or may not have
      > been may be a little too Hood-like to be particularly revealing.
      > However, I do think the differing numbers is indicative of the fact
      > that two divergent stories of the January 2 assault were being told.
      > Wakefield,
      >
      >
      > >
      > > This is what I have found so far. In Vol.20, Chap.32, on page
      > 787
      > > in Breckinridge's battle report, he states:
      > >
      > > "Many of the reports do not discriminate between the losses of
      > > Wednesday and Friday. The total loss of my division, exclusive
      of
      > > Jackson's command, is 2,140 of which I think 1,700 occurred on
      > > Friday."
      > >
      > > So he is saying he lost 440 men on the 31st. He also reported a
      > > strength of 5,663. On page 779, Hardee reports Breck's loss at
      > 2,068
      > > (not much difference), but on page 780 reports Breck's strength
      at
      > > 6,824. Furthermore, Bragg attached an addendum to Breck's report
      > > (this is on page 789). Bragg states the following:
      > >
      > > "The tabular statement No. 7, February 8, 1863, accompanying my
      > > report of the battle, shows the force of this division on
      > Wednesday,
      > > December 31, to have been 7,053. The loss of Wednesday, the
      31st,
      > > was 730, not 440 as made by the division commander; and the loss
      on
      > > Friday, the 2nd, was 1338, not 1,700. The loss of Wednesday,
      440,
      > > stated by the division commander, deducted from his whole
      strength,
      > > leaves 6,613. Deducting again the regiment and battery he was
      > > ordered to leave out, and adding the two batteries of Captain
      > > Robertson, leaves him still with over 6,000 infantry and
      artillery,
      > > instead of 4,500, with which he says he made the attack; and
      > > correcting his error in making the loss too small on Wednesday
      and
      > > too large on Friday, he still has understated his force by more
      > than
      > > one-fourth." Braxton Bragg, General, Commanding
      > >
      > > Bragg uses Hardee's total casualty figure. Hardee stated the
      > > difference in strengths reported by him and Bragg was due to the
      > > exchanging of some regiments in reorganization. I find it
      > > interesting that Jackson's brigade (which lost 303 men) is not
      > > included with Breck's others in the casualty count. I am
      thinking
      > > that it was considered detached (as reported by Hardee), and yet
      I
      > > think both Hardee and Bragg seem to be including it for strength
      > > purposes, but excluding it in regards to casualties. I find it
      > > interesting that Bragg states as a fact (without offering any
      > > evidence) that Breck's loss on the 31st was 730. Where did he
      get
      > > that figure? If you add Jackson's 303 to Breck's 440 you would
      get
      > > 743!! But Hardee's casualty number of 2,068 does not include
      > > Jackson's brigade, which is reported seperately as 303.
      > >
      > > My opinion, for what it's worth, is Bragg is trying to "cook the
      > > books" in his favor to cover his butt. But then again, in your
      own
      > > immortal words Wakefield, "I could be wrong!"
      > >
      > > Best Regards,
      > > Joe H.
    • ltcpataylor
      One of the biggest conceptual problems with a lot of Civil War tactics is that the generals involved were generally devotees of Baron Henri Jomini. Mahan
      Message 2 of 11 , Jul 1, 2002
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        One of the biggest "conceptual" problems with a lot of Civil War
        tactics is that the generals involved were generally devotees of
        Baron Henri Jomini. Mahan taught Jomini at West Point (required 4th
        year course in military tactics and strategy) and considered Napoleon
        to be the "God of War". Jomini had been a staff officer under
        Napoleon and his writings greatly influenced American military
        thought up until about 1985 when we re-discovered Clauswitz. Jomini
        made sense to Americans. He tried to define, scientifically, the
        rules of warfare and one of those inscruitable "laws" was that the
        attacker must outnumner the defender at least three-to-one in order
        for an attack to suceed. The American MIlitary loved Jomini because
        he attemted to codify numerical formulae for fighting, and since this
        concept fit well into the engineer-oriented curriculae at West Point,
        Jomini was an easy sell.

        It is said that opon opening the saddle bags of any ranking officer
        in the US Civil War there were two books that would be found, the
        Bible and Jomini's "Art of War". In fact in 1861 it is said that
        publishers coould not keep "The Art of War" and Hardee's Drill Manual
        in stock. At Fredricksburg (Sorry I know one of those wimppy ETO
        battles) Chamberlain wrote a letter to his wife thanking her for
        sending him two things; warm socks and his copy of Jomini's "Art of
        War" (in the original French).

        So when we look at the "why" of some of these decisions I think it is
        important to remember the initial training that many of these
        generals had at West Point. Besides, these rules seemed to make
        sense and they seemed to work well, and they fit into the military
        mindset of "trained professionals". Additionally, remember that
        armies and officers tend to fight as they were trained and up until
        recently changing mindsets on the battlefield was difficult. So
        regardless of the numbers, if Breckenridge percieved that he didn't
        have the correct ratio to attack he probably would have antimated
        that fact to his superiors. Perhaps his perceptions also became a
        self-fulfilling prophecy for disaster?

        Pete Taylor
        Clarksburg, WV
      • hartshje
        Wakefield, Yes, Van Cleve was roughly handled and in fact routed. But he, too, fought a hard fight on Dec 31st against Cleburne s division. So how much did
        Message 3 of 11 , Jul 1, 2002
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          Wakefield,

          Yes, Van Cleve was roughly handled and in fact routed. But he, too,
          fought a hard fight on Dec 31st against Cleburne's division. So how
          much did HE suffer the first day? At any rate, Breckinridge had
          considered the assualt doomed because of the massed artillery the
          Yankees had on the west side of the river, and he had 1,000 yards of
          open ground to cover in his attack (Pickett, Pettigrew & Trimble
          could relate!) Breckinridge actually got lucky at first, because the
          Union infantry was not concentrated as it should have been (and was
          expected to be). And once the Yankees were pushed back, Mendenhall's
          guns could not fire without hitting their own men. This is what
          enabled the Confederates to get as far as they did. And yes, you are
          correct that they then overshot the mark, pursuing the fleeing
          Federals toward the ford. But once they topped the hill, they became
          exposed to the enemy artillery, not to mention infantry fire, from
          the west bank. The hill was untenable to begin with. Also, Bragg
          could have easily taken the hill the previous day without an attack.
          It was not manned until later by Union troops, although I think it
          still would have been untenable by the Confederates. If Bragg
          thought the hill so important, why did he wait until the enemy
          occupied it to try taking it?

          As far as the question of believing Breckinridge over Bragg, I can
          only say that I make my decision based on the characters of the two
          men, Bragg's history of bad (or no) decisions, and an intuition that
          tells me a hands-on division commander knows his losses much better
          than an army commander notorious for his ignorance of the front-line
          situation.

          Joe H.



          --- In civilwarwest@y..., "aot1952" <wakefield1952@m...> wrote:
          > P.s.-
          > Also before I forget I think it is also interesting to look at Van
          > Cleve's (Beatty's US Division) losses. This was the Union division
          > that Breckenridge was being asked to assault in what conventional
          > wisdom ( Breckenridge's side of the story)tells us was a 'suicide'
          > attack. This US division's total battle losses were reported as
          > 1526. Now these numbers were not substantially different from
          > Breckenridge's (no matter which set of 'cooked books' one might
          use.)
          > Although the US losses are not presented in a break down form
          between
          > Dec 31 and Jan 2. When comparing these US losses with the CS losses
          > for the assault I think further questions are raised as to exactly
          > how suicidal the CS assault in fact was, I mean looks to me like
          the
          > federals were pretty seriously punished. Of course,another factor
          > that kind of gets lost in Breckenridge's side of this story is that
          > the objective of the assault was in fact over run.
          > Sorry but got to run..
          > Wakefield
          >
          > --- In civilwarwest@y..., "aot1952" <wakefield1952@m...> wrote:
          > > Mr. Joe-
          > > No question about it and I have long agreed with your conclusion
          > that
          > > someone was trying to "cook the books". However, unlike you I am
          > not
          > > as ready to jump to the conclusion that it was Bragg and not
          > > Breckenridge who was the Chef.
          > > Although I also feel that the whole exercise of 'counting' losses
          > to
          > > prove or imply just how determined an assault may or may not have
          > > been may be a little too Hood-like to be particularly revealing.
          > > However, I do think the differing numbers is indicative of the
          fact
          > > that two divergent stories of the January 2 assault were being
          told.
          > > Wakefield,
          > >
          > >
          > > >
          > > > This is what I have found so far. In Vol.20, Chap.32, on
          page
          > > 787
          > > > in Breckinridge's battle report, he states:
          > > >
          > > > "Many of the reports do not discriminate between the losses of
          > > > Wednesday and Friday. The total loss of my division, exclusive
          > of
          > > > Jackson's command, is 2,140 of which I think 1,700 occurred on
          > > > Friday."
          > > >
          > > > So he is saying he lost 440 men on the 31st. He also reported
          a
          > > > strength of 5,663. On page 779, Hardee reports Breck's loss at
          > > 2,068
          > > > (not much difference), but on page 780 reports Breck's strength
          > at
          > > > 6,824. Furthermore, Bragg attached an addendum to Breck's
          report
          > > > (this is on page 789). Bragg states the following:
          > > >
          > > > "The tabular statement No. 7, February 8, 1863, accompanying
          my
          > > > report of the battle, shows the force of this division on
          > > Wednesday,
          > > > December 31, to have been 7,053. The loss of Wednesday, the
          > 31st,
          > > > was 730, not 440 as made by the division commander; and the
          loss
          > on
          > > > Friday, the 2nd, was 1338, not 1,700. The loss of Wednesday,
          > 440,
          > > > stated by the division commander, deducted from his whole
          > strength,
          > > > leaves 6,613. Deducting again the regiment and battery he was
          > > > ordered to leave out, and adding the two batteries of Captain
          > > > Robertson, leaves him still with over 6,000 infantry and
          > artillery,
          > > > instead of 4,500, with which he says he made the attack; and
          > > > correcting his error in making the loss too small on Wednesday
          > and
          > > > too large on Friday, he still has understated his force by more
          > > than
          > > > one-fourth." Braxton Bragg, General, Commanding
          > > >
          > > > Bragg uses Hardee's total casualty figure. Hardee stated the
          > > > difference in strengths reported by him and Bragg was due to
          the
          > > > exchanging of some regiments in reorganization. I find it
          > > > interesting that Jackson's brigade (which lost 303 men) is not
          > > > included with Breck's others in the casualty count. I am
          > thinking
          > > > that it was considered detached (as reported by Hardee), and
          yet
          > I
          > > > think both Hardee and Bragg seem to be including it for
          strength
          > > > purposes, but excluding it in regards to casualties. I find it
          > > > interesting that Bragg states as a fact (without offering any
          > > > evidence) that Breck's loss on the 31st was 730. Where did he
          > get
          > > > that figure? If you add Jackson's 303 to Breck's 440 you would
          > get
          > > > 743!! But Hardee's casualty number of 2,068 does not include
          > > > Jackson's brigade, which is reported seperately as 303.
          > > >
          > > > My opinion, for what it's worth, is Bragg is trying to "cook
          the
          > > > books" in his favor to cover his butt. But then again, in your
          > own
          > > > immortal words Wakefield, "I could be wrong!"
          > > >
          > > > Best Regards,
          > > > Joe H.
        • aot1952
          Mr. Joe- Not sure I can do much of a job but I will try to answer your various questions and observations point by point. First you observed- Yes, Van Cleve
          Message 4 of 11 , Jul 2, 2002
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            Mr. Joe-
            Not sure I can do much of a job but I will try to answer your various
            questions and observations point by point.
            First you observed-
            "Yes, Van Cleve was roughly handled and in fact routed. But he, too,
            fought a hard fight on Dec 31st against Cleburne's division. So how
            much did HE suffer the first day?"
            The quick answer is I do not know. Van Cleve and Sam Beaty who
            assumed command on Jan.1, 1863 neither attempted to break out their
            losses between Dec 31st and Jan 2nd.
            True, two of Van Cleve's three brigades were brought back over
            Stone's River late on December 31st to help stem the tide against
            Cleburne's CS Division. These two brigades (Beaty's and Fyfee's)
            participated in the final repulse of Cleburne's division. Certainly
            this constituted rough work however the after action reports do not
            indicate that the two brigades were roughly handled nor do they
            report that they were broken in their defense. At any rate I would
            think that it would be a fair guess that certainly Van Cleve's
            Division was probably not anymore seriously depleted by having 2/3s
            of its strength fighting on the 31st than Breckenridge which had 3 of
            its four brigades or 3/4ths of its strength being thrown against the
            Round Forest on the 31st. In short just my rough guess but it seems
            that any losses suffered on the 31st where pretty much a 'wash'.
            Next you stated-
            "At any rate, Breckinridge had
            considered the assualt doomed because of the massed artillery the
            Yankees had on the west side of the river, and he had 1,000 yards of
            open ground to cover in his attack (Pickett, Pettigrew & Trimble
            could relate!)"

            According to Union Left Wing artillery chief Mendenhall's post-battle
            report if Breckenridge opposed the assault at 2 p.m. when he received
            his orders because the federals had massed artillery on the west side
            of the river, then Breckenridge was clairvoyant. Mendenhall indicates
            in his report that only 15 guns were in fact in position west of the
            River at 4 p.m. when Breckenridge's assault actually started. How
            Breckenridge could have anticipated that Mendenhall would assemble
            nearly 50 guns in the hour between the start of Breckenridges assault
            and its cresting of the objective Hill is truly something to ponder.
            As far as the estimate of 1000 yards of open ground approach there
            seems to be quite a bit of conflicting testimony. Although
            Breckenridge gives some various differing distances in his report
            the following I think is at least one estimate of how far he
            thought the distance to be covered was- "To reach him it was
            necessary to cross an open space 600 or 700 yards in width, with a
            gentle ascent. The river was several hundred yards in rear of his
            position, but departed from it considerably as it flowed toward his
            left. " At another place in the report Breckenridge states the
            distance to be travelled was 1600 yards. At any rate most reports
            seem to agree that a significant part of the approach was through
            heavy woods. So maybe Breckenridge `s reference to the 600 or 700
            yards was the final approach.


            Next you state-
            "Breckinridge actually got lucky at first, because the
            Union infantry was not concentrated as it should have been (and was
            expected to be). And once the Yankees were pushed back, Mendenhall's
            guns could not fire without hitting their own men. This is what
            enabled the Confederates to get as far as they did. And yes, you are
            correct that they then overshot the mark, pursuing the fleeing
            Federals toward the ford. But once they topped the hill, they became
            exposed to the enemy artillery, not to mention infantry fire, from
            the west bank. The hill was untenable to begin with. "

            The only way I know to respond is to use Breckenridge's own words
            again where he seems to imply ( at least to me) is that the reason he
            could not hold the position was because of massive union forces
            flanking him on the right ( that area which the cavalry should have
            been covering) and directly counter- attacking.--
            "The second line had halted when the first engaged the enemy's
            infantry, and laid down under orders; but very soon the casualties in
            the first line, the fact that the artillery on the opposite bank was
            more fatal to the second line than the first, and the eagerness of
            the troops, impelled them forward, and at the decisive moment, when
            the opposing infantry was routed, the two lines had mingled into one,
            the only practical inconvenience of which was that at several points
            the ranks were deeper than is allowed by a proper military formation.
            A strong force of the enemy beyond our extreme right yet remained on
            the east side of the river. Presently a new line of battle appeared
            on the west bank directly opposite our troops and opened fire, while
            at the same time large masses crossed in front of our right and
            advanced to the attack. We were compelled to fall back. "

            Later Breckenridge talks about the artillery fire which he says made
            the crest of the hill untenable but once again he does not seem to
            say that it was the artillery which forced him to retire-
            "It now appeared that the ground we had won was commanded by the
            enemy's batteries, within easy range, on better ground, upon the
            other side of the river. I know not how many guns he had. He had
            enough to sweep the whole position from the front, the left, and the
            right, and to render it wholly untenable by our force present of
            artillery and infantry. The infantry, after passing the crest and
            descending the slope toward the river, were in some measure
            protected, and suffered less at this period of the action than the
            artillery."

            Finally Breckenridge's addendum to his report sums up why
            Breckenridge believes the assault failed-
            "And in regard to the action of Friday, the 2d of January, upon which
            the commanding general heaps so much criticism, I have to say, with
            the utmost confidence, that the failure of my troops to hold the
            position which they carried on that occasion was due to no fault of
            theirs or of mine, but to the fact that we were commanded to do an
            impossible thing. My force was about 4,500 men. Of these, 1,700
            heroic spirits stretched upon that bloody field, in an unequal
            struggle against three divisions, a brigade, and an overwhelming
            concentration of artillery, attested our efforts to obey the order."

            Not to be unduly critical of Breckenridge but where did he come up
            with THREE divisions of Union infantry? I can not help but wonder
            about the rest of his assessment when he so clearly missed the mark
            on this item and also it seems to be somewhat at odds with
            Breckenridges earlier statements that stated the flank movement was
            the cause for his withdrawal.



            You next stated-"Also, Bragg
            could have easily taken the hill the previous day without an attack.
            It was not manned until later by Union troops, although I think it
            still would have been untenable by the Confederates. If Bragg
            thought the hill so important, why did he wait until the enemy
            occupied it to try taking it?"

            I believe that Rosecrans in his report states that he ordered Van
            Cleve's Division to occupy the high ground east of McFadden's Ford at
            3 am on January 1st and this order was immediately executed. It
            appears then from the records that the hill in question was in fact
            occupied by the Federals by dawn on January 1st. I do not believe
            that three of Breckenridge's brigades returned to the west side of
            the river until well after sun up on January 1st. Thus while Bragg
            certainly could have attempted the assault one day earlier it would
            not have been against an undefended hill. Also the reports seem to
            indicate that Breckenridge did not report the federals occupation of
            the high ground to headquarters on January 1st.

            Finally you observe-
            "As far as the question of believing Breckinridge over Bragg, I can
            only say that I make my decision based on the characters of the two
            men, Bragg's history of bad (or no) decisions, and an intuition that
            tells me a hands-on division commander knows his losses much better
            than an army commander notorious for his ignorance of the front-line
            situation."
            I certainly find John C. Breckenridge to be an interesting character
            but I also find him to be the ultimate POLITICAL appointee. I confess
            that there was nothing in his prior command performance at Shiloh
            that would lead me to refer to him as a 'noted hands on' Division
            commander. In fact this was arguably his first time ever commanding a
            Division in combat. From all confederate accounts of the January 2nd
            assault it seems that a very cogent and believable story can be made
            that he failed to properly coordinate with his cavalry flanking force
            and that Breckenridge simply lost control of his Division. The
            brigade reports (even good friend and fellow Kentuckian Preston)
            acknowledge that the two lines of assault became jumbled and
            disorganized as the division swept over the hill and went beyond its
            stated objective. Heck even Breckenridge seems to grudgingly admit
            this although he minimizes the importance.
            Further it appears that Breckenridge and yes maybe even Bragg failed
            to coordinate with available cavalry units to help protect the right
            flank of the assault column. Breckenridge nowhere explains why he did
            not coordinate better with Pegram's available cavalry force. The
            closest he comes is stating he sent staff officers to make contact
            and they never did. Pillow in his report (a story in itself) clearly
            states that when he asked Breckenridge whether he had talked to the
            cavalry Pillow was told that Breckenridge had not and apparently that
            Breckenridge had not even thought to make contact. As friend Gideon
            states- "General Bragg asked, "Why did not General Breckin-ridge
            protect you from the flanking force by the large body of cavalry I
            had placed under his orders?" I replied I did not know he had any
            cavalry under his orders. General Bragg then said that he had a large
            force of cavalry placed under his orders for the express purpose of
            providing for such a contingency. I remarked to him that I saw a
            large body of cavalry on the heights to my right and below the ford
            when Negley crossed the river, but that it did not make any attempt
            to arrest the advance of the flanking force, and I felt certain it
            could not have received orders to do so."

            Once again I really do not want to be overly petty and I do hope that
            you do not think I am splitting too many hairs. But as I indicated
            initially the "infamous" January 2nd suicide assault upon closer
            examination does not appear to me to have been a totally hopeless
            attempt by Bragg just to kill off Kentucky people. Apparently people
            ( at least the Kentucky folks) tend to forget that only one of
            Breckenridge's brigades were Kentuckians. Gibson's Louisianans and
            Pillows Tennessee's as well as Preston's troops are not too often
            mentioned. The Hill was over run. Breckenridge's opposition to the
            charge based upon the artillery concentration that was not there at
            the time of his alleged opposition seems problematic. The story goes
            on but it seems to me that it is pretty fair to say that Breckenridge
            certainly contributed his fair share to the failure of the assault,
            by losing control of his assault column and also by failing to
            protect his right flank which he , himself seems to say at the time
            was the actual cause for his withdrawal. All the blame does not fall
            upon Bragg.
            Now of course the fact that the Hill was not an essential objective
            is a whole different kettle of fish and just like real source for
            this animosity between Bragg and the Kentucky folks is probably a
            topic for a whole new post.

            I apologize for going on and hope I have not tried too many people's
            patience. Of course as always I could be totally wrong-
            Wakefield
          • hartshje
            ... Well, Mr. Wakefield, you have certainly given me a lot to chew on here. I appreciate your very detailed presentation, and will try to digest it all and
            Message 5 of 11 , Jul 2, 2002
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              --- In civilwarwest@y..., "aot1952" <wakefield1952@m...> wrote:
              > Mr. Joe-
              > Not sure I can do much of a job but I will try to answer your
              > various questions and observations point by point.
              >

              Well, Mr. Wakefield, you have certainly given me a lot to chew on
              here. I appreciate your very detailed presentation, and will try to
              digest it all and dig deeper into the points you have made. I don't
              think you are splitting hairs. These are two very divergent stories
              that have unfolded, and I am definitely not dismissing the version
              you have uncovered. I suspect (as with most things) the truth lies
              somewhere in between. I will get back to you.

              Joe H.
            • aot1952
              On your point that the truth probably lies somewhere in between I would certainly agree. Wakefield ... to ... don t ... stories
              Message 6 of 11 , Jul 3, 2002
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                On your point that the truth probably lies somewhere in between I
                would certainly agree.
                Wakefield

                --- In civilwarwest@y..., "hartshje" <Hartshje@a...> wrote:
                > --- In civilwarwest@y..., "aot1952" <wakefield1952@m...> wrote:
                > > Mr. Joe-
                > > Not sure I can do much of a job but I will try to answer your
                > > various questions and observations point by point.
                > >
                >
                > Well, Mr. Wakefield, you have certainly given me a lot to chew on
                > here. I appreciate your very detailed presentation, and will try
                to
                > digest it all and dig deeper into the points you have made. I
                don't
                > think you are splitting hairs. These are two very divergent
                stories
                > that have unfolded, and I am definitely not dismissing the version
                > you have uncovered. I suspect (as with most things) the truth lies
                > somewhere in between. I will get back to you.
                >
                > Joe H.
              • hartshje
                Wakefield, In Message #12443 you made quite a lengthy reply to my statements about Breckinridge s Jan 2d assault at Stones River. Below, I have ... I don t
                Message 7 of 11 , Jul 8, 2002
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                  Wakefield,

                  In Message #12443 you made quite a lengthy reply to my statements
                  about Breckinridge's Jan 2d assault at Stones River. Below, I have
                  excerpted your main points, followed by my own return comments:

                  > Van Cleve and Sam Beatty, who assumed command on Jan.1, 1863,
                  > neither attempted to break out their losses between Dec 31st and
                  > Jan 2nd. True, two of Van Cleve's three brigades were brought back
                  > over Stone's River late on December 31st to help stem the tide
                  > against Cleburne's CS Division. These two brigades (Beatty's and
                  > Fyfee's) participated in the final repulse of Cleburne's division.
                  > Certainly this constituted rough work however the after action
                  > reports do not indicate that the two brigades were roughly handled
                  > nor do they report that they were broken in their defense. At any
                  > rate I would think that it would be a fair guess that certainly Van
                  > Cleve's Division was probably not anymore seriously depleted by
                  > having 2/3s of its strength fighting on the 31st than Breckenridge
                  > which had 3 of its four brigades or 3/4ths of its strength being
                  > thrown against the Round Forest on the 31st. In short just my rough
                  > guess but it seems that any losses suffered on the 31st were pretty
                  > much a 'wash'.

                  I don't know about it being a "wash". The likelihood is that on
                  the 31st Breckinridge did suffer more heavily than VanCleve. But
                  I don't see how that relates. Bragg claims Breckinridge lost 700 men
                  that day, Breckinridge claims 400. I believe the difference comes
                  from Jackson's brigade, which remained detached when Breckinridge went
                  back to the east side of the river. Breckinridge claimed a total of
                  2,100 casualties in his report, but that DID NOT INCLUDE Jackson,
                  who's losses were reported by Hardee seperately as an independent
                  brigade. What Bragg did was to take Breckinridge's report of 2,100
                  casualties and subtract 700 for the 31st and then claim only 1,400
                  were lost on Jan 2nd, when Breckinridge puts the loss at 1,700.
                  Bragg also makes the same error to exaggerate Breckinridge's strength
                  for the assault, using the pre-battle return for all five brigades,
                  then subtracting a loss of 700 on the Dec 31st, and claiming that
                  Breckinridge had about 1,000 more men for the assualt than he
                  actually had.


                  > According to Union Left Wing artillery chief Mendenhall's post-
                  > battle report if Breckenridge opposed the assault at 2 p.m. when he
                  > received his orders because the federals had massed artillery on
                  > the west side of the river, then Breckenridge was clairvoyant.
                  > Mendenhall indicates in his report that only 15 guns were in fact
                  > in position west of the river at 4 p.m. when Breckenridge's assault
                  > actually started. How Breckenridge could have anticipated that
                  > Mendenhall would assemble nearly 50 guns in the hour between the
                  > start of Breckenridges assault and its cresting of the objective
                  > Hill is truly something to ponder.

                  Unfortunately, I cannot seem to locate Mendenhall's report in the
                  O.R.'s. However, James L. McDonough in "Stones River – Bloody
                  Winter in Tennessee" pages 180, 181 uses as his source writings by
                  Edwin C. Bearss, and states that UP UNTIL MID-AFTERNOON there were
                  six Union batteries of 24 guns posted on the west bank of the ford.
                  In addition, there was a 6-gun battery (3rd Wisconsin) with
                  VanCleve's division (under Beatty). This would make a total of
                  30 guns that Breckinridge would have seen in his reconnaisance.
                  15 more guns were brought up AFTER the attack was underway. Your
                  post says exactly the opposite of this. Please point me to the report
                  you referenced. Also, 12 more guns at a mile distance would add
                  their enfilading fire during the assault, making the total 57 guns.


                  > As far as the estimate of 1000 yards of open ground approach there
                  > seems to be quite a bit of conflicting testimony. Although
                  > Breckenridge gives some various differing distances in his report
                  > the following I think is at least one estimate of how far he
                  > thought the distance to be covered was- "To reach him it was
                  > necessary to cross an open space 600 or 700 yards in width, with a
                  > gentle ascent. The river was several hundred yards in rear of his
                  > position, but departed from it considerably as it flowed toward his
                  > left. " At another place in the report Breckenridge states the
                  > distance to be travelled was 1600 yards. At any rate most reports
                  > seem to agree that a significant part of the approach was through
                  > heavy woods. So maybe Breckenridge `s reference to the 600 or 700
                  > yards was the final approach.

                  We can definitely agree on this point. The open field leading up
                  to the hill was about 650 yards. The approach prior to reaching the
                  field was more or less wooded. Still, that's a long way to go against
                  an enemy on higher ground who knows your coming, and you know he has
                  at least 30 guns in place. I wouldn't want to do it!


                  > Breckenridge's own words seem to imply (at least to me) that the
                  > reason he could not hold the position was because of massive Union
                  > forces flanking him on the right (that area which the cavalry
                  > should have been covering) and directly counter-attacking.--
                  > "The second line had halted when the first engaged the enemy's
                  > infantry, and laid down under orders; but very soon the casualties
                  > in the first line, the fact that the artillery on the opposite bank
                  > was more fatal to the second line than the first, and the eagerness
                  > of the troops, impelled them forward, and at the decisive moment,
                  > when the opposing infantry was routed, the two lines had mingled
                  > into one, the only practical inconvenience of which was that at
                  > several points the ranks were deeper than is allowed by a proper
                  > military formation. A strong force of the enemy beyond our extreme
                  > right yet remained on the east side of the river. Presently a new
                  > line of battle appeared on the west bank directly opposite our
                  > troops and opened fire, while at the same time large masses crossed
                  > in front of our right and advanced to the attack. We were compelled
                  > to fall back. "
                  > Later Breckenridge talks about the artillery fire which he says
                  > made the crest of the hill untenable but once again he does not
                  > seem to say that it was the artillery which forced him to retire--
                  > "It now appeared that the ground we had won was commanded by the
                  > enemy's batteries, within easy range, on better ground, upon the
                  > other side of the river. I know not how many guns he had. He had
                  > enough to sweep the whole position from the front, the left, and
                  > the right, and to render it wholly untenable by our force present
                  > of artillery and infantry. The infantry, after passing the crest
                  > and descending the slope toward the river, were in some measure
                  > protected, and suffered less at this period of the action than the
                  > artillery."

                  The enemy artillery made the hill untenable, but the counter-
                  attacking Union forces were the immediate cause of the retreat.
                  Breckinridge was not going to be able to hold that hill regardless.
                  In reference to the cavalry, I agree that Bragg and Breckinridge are
                  equally culpable here, and some fault must lay with Pegram and
                  Wharton, who were in plain view of the battle, and should have
                  shown some initiative here. Be that as it may, when Breckinridge
                  first broke the Union line, only 3 regts. of Grose's brigade still
                  remained on the Confederate right flank. The strong force that
                  moved against the right later was from the Union divisions that
                  counter-attacked over the river after the Confederates fell back
                  from the artillery and infantry fire coming from the west bank.
                  Even if the cavalry had come up, they were not going to stop the
                  Union counter-attack (see my next paragraph below as to why.)


                  > Finally Breckenridge's addendum to his report sums up why he
                  > believed the assault failed--
                  > "And in regard to the action of Friday, the 2d of January, upon
                  > which the commanding general heaps so much criticism, I have to
                  > say, with the utmost confidence, that the failure of my troops to
                  > hold the position which they carried on that occasion was due to no
                  > fault of theirs or of mine, but to the fact that we were commanded
                  > to do an impossible thing. My force was about 4,500 men. Of these,
                  > 1,700 heroic spirits stretched upon that bloody field, in an
                  > unequal struggle against three divisions, a brigade, and an
                  > overwhelming concentration of artillery, attested our efforts to
                  > obey the order."
                  > Not to be unduly critical of Breckenridge but where did he come up
                  > with THREE divisions of Union infantry? I can not help but wonder
                  > about the rest of his assessment when he so clearly missed the mark
                  > on this item and also it seems to be somewhat at odds with
                  > Breckenridge's earlier statements that stated the flank movement
                  > was the cause for his withdrawal.

                  I think now you are just trying to see if I am still paying
                  attention. In fact, Breckinridge did directly fight against Beatty's
                  division, Palmer's division, Negley's division, and Morton's Pioneer
                  Brigade. In support of these, and joining in the counter-attack were
                  Davis' division and one brigade of Johnson's division. As I stated
                  above, I don't think the Confederate cavalry was going to hold back
                  all these Yankees.


                  > You next stated-"Also, Bragg could have easily taken the hill the
                  > previous day without an attack. It was not manned until later by
                  > Union troops, although I think it still would have been untenable
                  > by the Confederates. If Bragg thought the hill so important, why
                  > did he wait until the enemy occupied it to try taking it?"
                  > I believe that Rosecrans in his report states that he ordered Van
                  > Cleve's Division to occupy the high ground east of McFadden's Ford
                  > at 3 am on January 1st and this order was immediately executed. It
                  > appears then from the records that the hill in question was in fact
                  > occupied by the Federals by dawn on January 1st. I do not believe
                  > that three of Breckenridge's brigades returned to the west side of
                  > the river until well after sun up on January 1st. Thus while Bragg
                  > certainly could have attempted the assault one day earlier it would
                  > not have been against an undefended hill. Also the reports seem to
                  > indicate that Breckenridge did not report the Federals occupation
                  > of the high ground to headquarters on January 1st.

                  You are definitely correct about the time of the Federal's
                  occupying the hill. That was my error. But having said that,
                  Rosecran's did abandon the hill on Dec 31st to fight off Bragg's
                  assaults west of the river. If the hill was of strategic value to
                  Bragg, he had a perfect chance THEN to have Breckinridge seize the
                  hill, instead of using four of his brigades in fruitless, piecemeal,
                  bloody frontal assualts against the Round Forrest. But even if that
                  HAD been done, I don't see how the hill could have been retained for
                  long when it was commanded by the higher ground on the west bank.
                  Then we probably would have seen a massive bombardment and infantry
                  assault by the Federals on January 1st, instead of the historical
                  fight that occurred on the 2nd.


                  > I certainly find John C. Breckenridge to be an interesting
                  > character but I also find him to be the ultimate POLITICAL
                  > appointee. I confess that there was nothing in his prior command
                  > performance at Shiloh that would lead me to refer to him as
                  > a 'noted hands on' Division commander. In fact this was arguably
                  > his first time ever commanding a division in combat. From all
                  > Confederate accounts of the January 2nd assault it seems that a
                  > very cogent and believable story can be made that he failed to
                  > properly coordinate with his cavalry flanking force and that
                  > Breckenridge simply lost control of his Division. The brigade
                  > reports (even good friend and fellow Kentuckian Preston)
                  > acknowledge that the two lines of assault became jumbled and
                  > disorganized as the division swept over the hill and went beyond
                  > its stated objective. Heck even Breckenridge seems to grudgingly
                  > admit this although he minimizes the importance. Further it
                  > appears that Breckenridge and yes maybe even Bragg failed to
                  > coordinate with available cavalry units to help protect the right
                  > flank of the assault column. Breckenridge nowhere explains why he
                  > did not coordinate better with Pegram's available cavalry force.
                  > The closest he comes is stating he sent staff officers to make
                  > contact and they never did. Pillow in his report (a story in
                  > itself) clearly states that when he asked Breckenridge whether he
                  > had talked to the cavalry Pillow was told that Breckenridge had not
                  > and apparently that Breckenridge had not even thought to make
                  > contact.

                  Well, I never said he was a "noted" hands-on commander. What I
                  meant was that a division commander who is with his division during
                  a battle is more intimate with the condition of his troops and their
                  losses than an army commander would be, especially one like Bragg,
                  who was usually too remote from the front line to really know what
                  was going on.


                  > Once again I really do not want to be overly petty and I do hope
                  > that you do not think I am splitting too many hairs. But as I
                  > indicated initially the "infamous" January 2nd suicide assault upon
                  > closer examination does not appear to me to have been a totally
                  > hopeless attempt by Bragg just to kill off Kentucky people. The
                  > Hill was overrun. Breckenridge's opposition to the charge based
                  > upon the artillery concentration that was not there at the time of
                  > his alleged opposition seems problematic. The story goes on but it
                  > seems to me that it is pretty fair to say that Breckenridge
                  > certainly contributed his fair share to the failure of the assault,
                  > by losing control of his assault column and also by failing to
                  > protect his right flank which he, himself seems to say at the time
                  > was the actual cause for his withdrawal. All the blame does not
                  > fall upon Bragg.

                  I will agree with you that Breckinridge certainly DID NOT do an
                  outstanding job on this day, and Bragg is not the only one to blame
                  for the failure of this assualt. But he sure is to blame for
                  ordering it. And, if he had managed things better on Dec 31st, the
                  Union army probably wouldn't even have been around on Jan 2nd. But
                  then again, I could be WRONG!

                  This has been a great debate. Thanks much for your input.
                  Respectfully,
                  Joe H.
                • aot1952
                  Mr. Joe- I am sorry I have not responded to your lengthy post sooner. I have been kind of tied up with real life work and I have not had time to check the
                  Message 8 of 11 , Jul 13, 2002
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                    Mr. Joe-
                    I am sorry I have not responded to your lengthy post sooner. I have
                    been kind of tied up with 'real life' work and I have not had time to
                    check the Discussion group for the last week or so. Please accept my
                    apologizes for leaving you hanging. You have given some interesting
                    food for throught with your last throughtful post. I will need to try
                    and find sometime to chew on what you have provided. I will try and
                    do so sometime in the future. I am feeling kind of lazy this week end
                    and really do not want to do the hard work of actually digging thru
                    all the books! Forgive me it has been a long week.
                    I like you have found this discussion interesting. To the extent that
                    it has brought into sharper focus that there is lots more to this
                    incident than the 'simple conventional wisdom' explanation I think it
                    has been very benefical to me.
                    Regards-
                    Wakefield
                  • hartshje
                    ... No apologies necessary on this end. You did a great service to us all with your Rosy-Halleck dialogue posting. I know that took a lot of time and effort.
                    Message 9 of 11 , Jul 13, 2002
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                      --- In civilwarwest@y..., "aot1952" <wakefield1952@m...> wrote:
                      > Mr. Joe-
                      > I am sorry I have not responded to your lengthy post sooner.

                      No apologies necessary on this end. You did a great service to us
                      all with your Rosy-Halleck dialogue posting. I know that took a lot
                      of time and effort. Thanks.

                      Joe H.
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