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Some throughts on Chickamauga

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  • Stepehen D. Wakefield
    Dear Group- Although Chickamauga has always been the battle that I have found most interesting, due to distance I have not been able to visit it as much as I
    Message 1 of 10 , Jan 11, 2001
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      Dear Group-
      Although Chickamauga has always been the battle that I have found most interesting, due to distance I have not been able to visit it as much as I would like and therefore, I feel like I do not know it as well as Shiloh. Having said that I still have a few crack-pot ideas about the battle that I would like to get you folks imput on.
      First, I beleive that the  'commonly accepted'  story of this battle has as many myths and post war misconceptions as any.
       Lots and lots of post-war politics reasons for these myths. Just an example the "famed" and much ballyhooed concentration of Longstreet's two division to Bragg's army which allegedly made the Southern victory possible. In point of fact the Longstreet move west did not get that many actual muskets on the firing line in this battle, I do not have my notes right in front of me but my best recollection right now is that I think 4 brigades actually made it to the battle field in time to contribute. The real concentration that impacted the fight was the transfer of other units from Mississppi, East Tenn, and other garrisons in the deep south - all of which added many many more troops than the additions from the Army of Northern Virginia. In addition none of the Army of Northern Virginia artillery made it to the battlefield and none of the infantry units from the Army of Northern Virginia brought their transportation with them when they came West- this would prove an immense problem after the battle and in operations before Chattanooga. In short , the 'common story' of the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia coming West and tipping the scales in favor of the AoT I believe is highly exaggerated and pretty misleading.
      My second 'crack-pot' notion is that all this talk about the T.J.Wood created gap that proved fatal is pretty much fiction - because from the Northern point of view it makes for a nice excuse for Roscrans defeat. If one looks at the actual break through site on Wood's front and considers the depth of the assault columns and their covered approach- I find it very hard to beleive that Longstreet's assault could have been stopped by Wood's totally in place division. Longstreet's assault at Chickamauga was no duplication of the Pickett Charge. The assault columns were I think as many as 6 brigades deep and the approach was hidden by forest from Union artillery fire up until the last 400 yards or so. The Union troops that where in fact placed in the worst tactical position as a result of the Union army sliding to the North to fill Wood's position were those further to the south of the breakthough site- Davis' and Sheridan's divisions some of which were caught in the act of conducting their leftward shift by Hindman's CS troops in the initial assault.
      The real 'fatal' order' of the day at Chickamauga was the failure of Polk and Hill to get the crack of dawn daylight assault underway on time and correctly placed on the Union left. Four to five hours of daylight were inexcuseably provided Thomas's troops to more fully prepare their defensive positions around Kelly's farm and even still the  long delayed unsupported assault of Breckenridge's Division partially flanked the Thomas position. Lots of blame can be spread around for this glaring failure. The post battle explainations and excuses offered by Hill , Polk and to a certain extent Breckenridge sound an awful lot like High School boys Sunday morning explanations of why they missed or did not know about the Saturday nite curfew-- lots of mumbling, fidgeting, shirking responsibility and convoluted reasoning.
      A final 'crack-pot' notion that I would put forth now regards the lack of performance by the confederate Cavalry. Tons have been written and spoken about Stuart and the battle of Gettysburg, yet the Confederate cavalry's failures at Chickamauga have gone virtually without comment. While Forrest troopers did provide valuabe service on the 18tth in aiding approaching the Chickamauga Creek crossing they were far too small in number to make that approach with the speed called for Bragg's strategic plan to turn the Union Army away from Chattanooga and to fight a battle of destruction in the McLemore Cove pocket. Once again on the 19th Forrest did fight the troops , as dismounted infantry, well in the opening phases of the battle. Yet after noon on the 19th Forrest and his troopers became pretty much  spectators. A more active Forrest on the 20th I submit could have prevented or perhaps fatally delayed Granger's famous and decisive march to the sounds of the guns-- the end result of which was to save the Union Army's bacon on Snodgrass Hill. Having commented on Forrest it would seem appropriate to comment on Joe Wheeler except as near as I can figure his contribution to the battle was absolutely nil! Stationed on the far right Wheeler appears to have failed to perform any service whatsoever. He did not hold federal troops on the right, it is unclear -to me if he effectively reported his failure and lord knows he sure failed to pitch into the routed Union right which had to have been one of the best opportunitieds presented in the Civil War to any cavalry force. In short IMHO the Cavalry of the AoT at this battle put in one of the truly terrible perfornmances of the entire war. Of course lots of post-war political reasons that this apparent fact is kind of ignored in history.
      Well folks those are just a couple of my 'crack-pot' thoughts on this battle and I am sure some of you more knoweldgeable folks will show me the holes in my thinking-- thanks alot for your indulgence.
      Regards-
      Waefield
    • Stepehen D. Wakefield
      Dear Group- Although Chickamauga has always been the battle that I have found most interesting, due to distance I have not been able to visit it as much as I
      Message 2 of 10 , Jan 11, 2001
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        Dear Group-
        Although Chickamauga has always been the battle that I have found most interesting, due to distance I have not been able to visit it as much as I would like and therefore, I feel like I do not know it as well as Shiloh. Having said that I still have a few crack-pot ideas about the battle that I would like to get you folks imput on.
        First, I beleive that the  'commonly accepted'  story of this battle has as many myths and post war misconceptions as any.
         Lots and lots of post-war politics reasons for these myths. Just an example the "famed" and much ballyhooed concentration of Longstreet's two division to Bragg's army which allegedly made the Southern victory possible. In point of fact the Longstreet move west did not get that many actual muskets on the firing line in this battle, I do not have my notes right in front of me but my best recollection right now is that I think 4 brigades actually made it to the battle field in time to contribute. The real concentration that impacted the fight was the transfer of other units from Mississppi, East Tenn, and other garrisons in the deep south - all of which added many many more troops than the additions from the Army of Northern Virginia. In addition none of the Army of Northern Virginia artillery made it to the battlefield and none of the infantry units from the Army of Northern Virginia brought their transportation with them when they came West- this would prove an immense problem after the battle and in operations before Chattanooga. In short , the 'common story' of the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia coming West and tipping the scales in favor of the AoT I believe is highly exaggerated and pretty misleading.
        My second 'crack-pot' notion is that all this talk about the T.J.Wood created gap that proved fatal is pretty much fiction - because from the Northern point of view it makes for a nice excuse for Roscrans defeat. If one looks at the actual break through site on Wood's front and considers the depth of the assault columns and their covered approach- I find it very hard to beleive that Longstreet's assault could have been stopped by Wood's totally in place division. Longstreet's assault at Chickamauga was no duplication of the Pickett Charge. The assault columns were I think as many as 6 brigades deep and the approach was hidden by forest from Union artillery fire up until the last 400 yards or so. The Union troops that where in fact placed in the worst tactical position as a result of the Union army sliding to the North to fill Wood's position were those further to the south of the breakthough site- Davis' and Sheridan's divisions some of which were caught in the act of conducting their leftward shift by Hindman's CS troops in the initial assault.
        The real 'fatal' order' of the day at Chickamauga was the failure of Polk and Hill to get the crack of dawn daylight assault underway on time and correctly placed on the Union left. Four to five hours of daylight were inexcuseably provided Thomas's troops to more fully prepare their defensive positions around Kelly's farm and even still the  long delayed unsupported assault of Breckenridge's Division partially flanked the Thomas position. Lots of blame can be spread around for this glaring failure. The post battle explainations and excuses offered by Hill , Polk and to a certain extent Breckenridge sound an awful lot like High School boys Sunday morning explanations of why they missed or did not know about the Saturday nite curfew-- lots of mumbling, fidgeting, shirking responsibility and convoluted reasoning.
        A final 'crack-pot' notion that I would put forth now regards the lack of performance by the confederate Cavalry. Tons have been written and spoken about Stuart and the battle of Gettysburg, yet the Confederate cavalry's failures at Chickamauga have gone virtually without comment. While Forrest troopers did provide valuabe service on the 18tth in aiding approaching the Chickamauga Creek crossing they were far too small in number to make that approach with the speed called for Bragg's strategic plan to turn the Union Army away from Chattanooga and to fight a battle of destruction in the McLemore Cove pocket. Once again on the 19th Forrest did fight the troops , as dismounted infantry, well in the opening phases of the battle. Yet after noon on the 19th Forrest and his troopers became pretty much  spectators. A more active Forrest on the 20th I submit could have prevented or perhaps fatally delayed Granger's famous and decisive march to the sounds of the guns-- the end result of which was to save the Union Army's bacon on Snodgrass Hill. Having commented on Forrest it would seem appropriate to comment on Joe Wheeler except as near as I can figure his contribution to the battle was absolutely nil! Stationed on the far right Wheeler appears to have failed to perform any service whatsoever. He did not hold federal troops on the right, it is unclear -to me if he effectively reported his failure and lord knows he sure failed to pitch into the routed Union right which had to have been one of the best opportunitieds presented in the Civil War to any cavalry force. In short IMHO the Cavalry of the AoT at this battle put in one of the truly terrible perfornmances of the entire war. Of course lots of post-war political reasons that this apparent fact is kind of ignored in history.
        Well folks those are just a couple of my 'crack-pot' thoughts on this battle and I am sure some of you more knoweldgeable folks will show me the holes in my thinking-- thanks alot for your indulgence.
        Regards-
        Waefield
      • LWhite64@aol.com
        Wakefield, I dont think your ideas are crackpot at all. Most of the Interp. Staff at Chickamauga have them. You are right about Longstreet, he had on the
        Message 3 of 10 , Jan 11, 2001
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          Wakefield,
          I dont think your ideas are crackpot at all. Most of the Interp. Staff
          at Chickamauga have them. You are right about Longstreet, he had on the
          field with him, Robertson's brigade, Law's brigade, Benning's brigade,
          Humphrey's Brigade and Kershaw's Brigade. The troops sent from the
          Department of East Tennessee alone covered that amount of men. The real
          contribution was the East Tennessee Men and the troops from Mississippi.
          Also, Longstreet's front line was all AOT troops. The mass formation that he
          is credited with was accidental, rather than planned as well.
          I agree about Wood as well, even if he was in place that attack would
          have rolled over his line. Kind of a Missionary Ridge situation in reverse.
          Wood was a good officer and he had good troops, but a 200 yard field of fire
          wasnt going to stop that many troops. The Baggage situation is a big item
          that so often gets overlooked as to why there isnt an immediate pursuit, that
          along with ration and Ammo supply.
          The Cav in this campaign are nothing to credit, Wheeler did a very poor
          job as Bragg's eyes prior to the evacuation of Chattanooga. Forrest also
          delivered the mistaken info that Chattanooga was being evacuated after the
          Battle, which leads to Bragg's slow pursuit. As to what Wheeler was doing,
          he was fighting Fed Cav and ended up Captureing most of the Federal's wounded
          at the Hospitals in Crawfish Springs. All good points.

          Lee
        • LWhite64@aol.com
          Wakefield, I dont think your ideas are crackpot at all. Most of the Interp. Staff at Chickamauga have them. You are right about Longstreet, he had on the
          Message 4 of 10 , Jan 11, 2001
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            Wakefield,
            I dont think your ideas are crackpot at all. Most of the Interp. Staff
            at Chickamauga have them. You are right about Longstreet, he had on the
            field with him, Robertson's brigade, Law's brigade, Benning's brigade,
            Humphrey's Brigade and Kershaw's Brigade. The troops sent from the
            Department of East Tennessee alone covered that amount of men. The real
            contribution was the East Tennessee Men and the troops from Mississippi.
            Also, Longstreet's front line was all AOT troops. The mass formation that he
            is credited with was accidental, rather than planned as well.
            I agree about Wood as well, even if he was in place that attack would
            have rolled over his line. Kind of a Missionary Ridge situation in reverse.
            Wood was a good officer and he had good troops, but a 200 yard field of fire
            wasnt going to stop that many troops. The Baggage situation is a big item
            that so often gets overlooked as to why there isnt an immediate pursuit, that
            along with ration and Ammo supply.
            The Cav in this campaign are nothing to credit, Wheeler did a very poor
            job as Bragg's eyes prior to the evacuation of Chattanooga. Forrest also
            delivered the mistaken info that Chattanooga was being evacuated after the
            Battle, which leads to Bragg's slow pursuit. As to what Wheeler was doing,
            he was fighting Fed Cav and ended up Captureing most of the Federal's wounded
            at the Hospitals in Crawfish Springs. All good points.

            Lee
          • Stephen D Wakefield
            Some thirty years ago Professor Thomas Connelly in a lecture stated Joe Wheeler s Civil War reputation was totally based upon his service in the Spanish
            Message 5 of 10 , Jan 11, 2001
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              Some thirty years ago Professor Thomas Connelly in a lecture
              stated "Joe Wheeler's Civil War reputation was totally based upon his
              service in the Spanish American War." The more I read, the more
              convinced that Professor Connelly really knew what he was talking
              about on this score. IMHO of all the decisions that Bragg made the
              elevation of Joe Wheeler may have been the worst. With all its
              serious limitations I still marvel at what the AoT could have been
              with a cavalry commander that understood the recon and information
              gathering role that Stuart clearly understood. Oh for a Wade Hampton!
              Certainly food for throught for other posts.
            • Stephen D Wakefield
              Some thirty years ago Professor Thomas Connelly in a lecture stated Joe Wheeler s Civil War reputation was totally based upon his service in the Spanish
              Message 6 of 10 , Jan 11, 2001
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                Some thirty years ago Professor Thomas Connelly in a lecture
                stated "Joe Wheeler's Civil War reputation was totally based upon his
                service in the Spanish American War." The more I read, the more
                convinced that Professor Connelly really knew what he was talking
                about on this score. IMHO of all the decisions that Bragg made the
                elevation of Joe Wheeler may have been the worst. With all its
                serious limitations I still marvel at what the AoT could have been
                with a cavalry commander that understood the recon and information
                gathering role that Stuart clearly understood. Oh for a Wade Hampton!
                Certainly food for throught for other posts.
              • LWhite64@aol.com
                Bragg has been given a raw deal over the years for a number of things, but he did make a number of BIG mistakes and I agree that Wheeler was the biggest, next
                Message 7 of 10 , Jan 11, 2001
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                  Bragg has been given a raw deal over the years for a number of things, but he
                  did make a number of BIG mistakes and I agree that Wheeler was the biggest,
                  next to Missionary Ridge.  But in answer to why, I would say we look at the 4
                   major cav commanders in the spring of 63.  We have Earl Van Dorn, a man that
                  can do the job, but unfortunately he ends up on the wrong end of a jealous
                  husband's gun.  We have John Hunt Morgan the raider, we have Forrest,
                  talented but unpredictable and not that good at getting along with others,
                  and then we have Wheeler.  Well we also have Earl Van Dorn, West Point Class
                  of 42, and Joe Wheeler, West Point Class of 59.  Once again I think the Point
                  had a lot to do with it.

                  Lee
                • LWhite64@aol.com
                  Bragg has been given a raw deal over the years for a number of things, but he did make a number of BIG mistakes and I agree that Wheeler was the biggest, next
                  Message 8 of 10 , Jan 11, 2001
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                    Bragg has been given a raw deal over the years for a number of things, but he
                    did make a number of BIG mistakes and I agree that Wheeler was the biggest,
                    next to Missionary Ridge.  But in answer to why, I would say we look at the 4
                     major cav commanders in the spring of 63.  We have Earl Van Dorn, a man that
                    can do the job, but unfortunately he ends up on the wrong end of a jealous
                    husband's gun.  We have John Hunt Morgan the raider, we have Forrest,
                    talented but unpredictable and not that good at getting along with others,
                    and then we have Wheeler.  Well we also have Earl Van Dorn, West Point Class
                    of 42, and Joe Wheeler, West Point Class of 59.  Once again I think the Point
                    had a lot to do with it.

                    Lee
                  • jrayelliot@aol.com
                    Lee, Van Dorn that is interesting. I must confess I know very Little about him. I do not wish to detract from the present discussion but perhaps at a later
                    Message 9 of 10 , Jan 11, 2001
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                      Lee,
                      Van Dorn that is interesting. I must confess I know very Little about
                      him. I do not wish to detract from the present discussion but perhaps
                      at a later date you would share your thoughts on his abilities.

                      Ray



                      --- In civilwarwest@egroups.com, LWhite64@a... wrote:
                      > Bragg has been given a raw deal over the years for a number of
                      things, but he
                      > did make a number of BIG mistakes and I agree that Wheeler was the
                      biggest,
                      > next to Missionary Ridge. But in answer to why, I would say we
                      look at the 4
                      > major cav commanders in the spring of 63. We have Earl Van Dorn,
                      a man that
                      > can do the job, but unfortunately he ends up on the wrong end of a
                      jealous
                      > husband's gun. We have John Hunt Morgan the raider, we have
                      Forrest,
                      > talented but unpredictable and not that good at getting along with
                      others,
                      > and then we have Wheeler. Well we also have Earl Van Dorn, West
                      Point Class
                      > of 42, and Joe Wheeler, West Point Class of 59. Once again I think
                      the Point
                      > had a lot to do with it.
                      >
                      > Lee
                    • jrayelliot@aol.com
                      Lee, Van Dorn that is interesting. I must confess I know very Little about him. I do not wish to detract from the present discussion but perhaps at a later
                      Message 10 of 10 , Jan 11, 2001
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                        Lee,
                        Van Dorn that is interesting. I must confess I know very Little about
                        him. I do not wish to detract from the present discussion but perhaps
                        at a later date you would share your thoughts on his abilities.

                        Ray



                        --- In civilwarwest@egroups.com, LWhite64@a... wrote:
                        > Bragg has been given a raw deal over the years for a number of
                        things, but he
                        > did make a number of BIG mistakes and I agree that Wheeler was the
                        biggest,
                        > next to Missionary Ridge. But in answer to why, I would say we
                        look at the 4
                        > major cav commanders in the spring of 63. We have Earl Van Dorn,
                        a man that
                        > can do the job, but unfortunately he ends up on the wrong end of a
                        jealous
                        > husband's gun. We have John Hunt Morgan the raider, we have
                        Forrest,
                        > talented but unpredictable and not that good at getting along with
                        others,
                        > and then we have Wheeler. Well we also have Earl Van Dorn, West
                        Point Class
                        > of 42, and Joe Wheeler, West Point Class of 59. Once again I think
                        the Point
                        > had a lot to do with it.
                        >
                        > Lee
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