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High command

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  • philip@twinoaks.org
    Hello Civil War West Discussion Group, I just joined this group last week, went back and read all of the messages since January( just to get up to speed), and
    Message 1 of 10 , May 23, 2000
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      Hello Civil War West Discussion Group,
      I just joined this group last week, went back and read all of the
      messages since January( just to get up to speed), and now it
      appears that the group is either dying or at the very least
      slumbering. The most recent messages almost all involve fine
      points about artillary, and May has had only eight contributions to
      the discussion.
      Part of the reason I have been reading the archive of messages
      is to see whether you folks would hit on the subject that I am most
      interested in. You have hit all around it, but never really mentioned
      it. I think that it may be a critical piece to understanding the war in
      the west, and may be one of the more important reasons for the
      loss of the war. It is a speculative subject, or at least I am not
      aware of any studies verifying or denying this theory.
      There has been much discussion about the military genius of
      Nathan Bedford Forrest. There is much agreement about the
      talents of Pat Cleburn. Both of these men exhibited traits that
      demanded further investigation into whether they should have been
      promoted to command the AoT. Almost all discussions of
      Richmonds choices were largely limited to Johnston, Bragg, and
      finally Hood. I maintain that this was no mistake, and that it may
      have cost the war.
      Nathan Bedford Forrest's name cannot be mentioned without
      the words military genius following close behind, and yet he
      remained a cavalry officer commanding relatively few men and, to
      my knowlege, was never offered command of an army. If he was
      such a genius, then why not? His talents may have proved just as
      effective in a larger sphere. We will never know. As an aside, I
      cannot help adding to the comments defending Forrest in spite of
      his having been a slave trader. It has been pointed out that we
      should not judge him by 20th century standards, and I agree. In
      his favor, I believe that he was a man of honor. He fervently
      believed in the Code of the Southern Gentleman. His was quick to
      protect his honor and lived a chivalrous life toward women. He was
      also a rough and a profane man. He came from a humble
      background, and was not above grabbing a subordinate officer, who
      refused to pull his own weight, by the scruff of the neck and
      throwing him overboard. He must have been tremendously
      powerful. To reach down and haul a Yankee soldier onto his
      saddle as a shield must have taken enormous strength. But I
      maintain that he was judged by 19th century standards and found
      wanting. Slave traders were considered a low bunch of characters
      by the very people they sold to. Southern high society would not,
      could not, ever fully accept him into their midst.
      The aristocracy was a very select crowd. It is the definition of
      an aristocracy to be select. It was the aristocracy that pushed for
      war, and it was the aristocracy that prosecuted it. Their definition
      of the ultimate attainment of society was one in which this select
      group of people was allowed to pursue all of humankind's greatest
      callings (arts, sciences, politics, and military) because of the
      leisure time afforded to them by the labor of others. This select
      group maintained a monopoly on the state goverments of the
      South. It was these same legislatures that selected the
      conventions for secession. I do not maintain that they dragged the
      South into the war unsupported by the general populace at all, but
      they certainly knew that once secession came, and if the North
      invaded, then the other 75% of the population would immediately
      rise to protect their homes and their lands from the invaders,as all
      good Americans would. The aristocracy prosecuted the war for the
      South. I believe the evidence is there. Nathan Bedford Forrest and
      Pat Cleburn were not of the aristocracy, and I expect were
      repugnant to them. Pat Cleburn was an Irishman of humble
      beginnings, just one step above the Negro in those days. It was
      probably a stretch to promote those guys as far as they did, but
      after all, things were pretty desperate.
      Now let's look at the other side. Abraham Lincoln was a hick
      from Illinois. He was an embarrassment to high society in
      Washington, but they learned to tolerate him. He certainly had no
      hesitation about promoting whoever aided his ability to prosecute
      the war. We are all familiar with the long sad list of generals that
      he went through before he found the one. Lincoln's relentless
      search was strictly a talent search, and instead of restricting the
      pool from which he was allowed to choose from(as the South did),
      he was ever widening it. Many of the same people who spend time
      touting N.B. Forrest and Pat Cleburn also spend a fair amount of
      time degrading Grant and Sherman. But look where they came
      from. Grant was pretty much a failure at everything that he did
      other than wage war. He had quit his army career with a drinking
      problem, and didn't accomplish much more than that until the war.
      Sherman was a volatile character who turned down a commission
      in the early stages of the war because of his disgust with the
      politicians who brought about that awful mess, and later had a
      'nervous breakdown' that many thought signaled the end of his
      career. In spite of these beginnings, both of these men were
      catapaulted to the commands of large armies that eventually wore
      down their opponents and won the war. Incidentally, I don't agree
      that Grant was a poor general. One of you pointed out very clearly
      the striking characteristics of the map of the campaign that
      eventually holed Lee up in Richmond and Petersburg. That dance
      of those two armies as they moved, sidestepping as they went, is
      the most eloquent testimony to Grant's generalship. He was pitted
      against a brilliant and wily opponent who would have taken
      advantage of any serious misstep that he made. He only made
      one: the Wilderness. He almost lost it there. I don't agree that
      Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor were two battles where Lee beat
      Grant, as someone has suggested. He was experimenting with
      trying to break through entrenchments. There were numerous
      generals in the first World War who spent four years trying to do
      the same thing and lost a lot more men than Grant. Grant almost
      cooked Lee's goose at Spotsylvania when Lee pulled his artillary
      too soon. Grant is also the only man who ever stole the march on
      Lee. Imagine his exultation to have left Lee wondering where his
      army had gone when he crossed the James on the way to
      Petersburg. Imagine his fury when he failed to take the city in
      time. The turning point of the war was when Grant turned toward
      Richmond after the Wilderness in stead of retreating as so many
      other generals had done.
      So I maintain that one of the most important reasons why the
      South lost the war was that an aristocracy will always fail against a
      democracy, given enough time. At the beginning of the war, the
      South had the greatest talent. The aristocracy naturally trained
      their sons in the arts of riding and shooting. They sent their sons
      for military training. They were by nature more militant than the
      North. But as time went on, that select group would get narrower
      and narrower as death took its toll. In the North, with a larger
      population to begin with, and with a policy of promoting talent
      regardless of their backgrounds, it was merely a matter of time.
      Philip Callen
    • Bill Brown
      ... Clearly, Forrest was a excellent cavalry commander on the division/brigade level and operating as an independent commander, but I have serious doubts at
      Message 2 of 10 , May 24, 2000
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        >Nathan Bedford Forrest's name cannot be mentioned without
        >the words military genius following close behind, and yet he
        >remained a cavalry officer commanding relatively few men and, to
        >my knowlege, was never offered command of an army. If he was
        >such a genius, then why not? His talents may have proved just as
        >effective in a larger sphere.

        Clearly, Forrest was a excellent cavalry commander on the division/brigade
        level and operating as an independent commander, but I have serious doubts
        at his ability as leading anything higher than a division. He was brave in
        combat, but a divisional commander can not get into "personal" fights and
        still overall handle more than two brigades in action aganist the enemy.
        Look at times when he operated within the scope of an army, his abilities
        do not stack up aganist a commander such as Wade Hampton or David Gregg.
        At Chattanooga, he could have materially assisted the Confederate defense,
        but he allowed himself to get in a personal confrontation with Gen. Bragg.
        At Franklin and Nashville, his cavalry did not assist General Hood's
        attempted advance nor stop Gen. Wilson's cavalry.

        >Nathan Bedford Forrest and
        >Pat Cleburn were not of the aristocracy, and I expect were
        >repugnant to them. Pat Cleburn was an Irishman of humble
        >beginnings, just one step above the Negro in those days. It was
        >probably a stretch to promote those guys as far as they did, but
        >after all, things were pretty desperate.

        Steven Woodworth has made a good point that Cleburne was part of that
        Anti-Bragg cabel, and a student of Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee. This fact
        alone probably were strikes aganist promoting Cleburne to corps commander.
        Major General W. J. Walker probably used the weapon of rumor to keep
        Cleburne from corps level to benefit Gen. Walker.

        Thanks,
        Bill


        "When it comes to War, I do not like to take sides!"
        Sgt. Schutz [Hogan's Heroes]

        *******************************
        William H. (Bill) Brown, C.A.
        Governors' Records Archivist
        North Carolina State Archives
        4614 Mail Service Center
        Raleigh, NC 27601-4614
        919-733-3952 (T), 919-733-1354 (F)
        wbrown@...
        *******************************

        "Opinions expressed in this message may not represent the policy of my
        agency."
      • charles tinder
        ... He came from a humble background, and was not above grabbing a subordinate officer, who refused to pull his own weight, by the scruff of the neck and
        Message 3 of 10 , Jun 3, 2000
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          --- In civilwarwest@egroups.com, philip@t... wrote:
          He came from a humble
          background, and was not above grabbing a subordinate officer,
          who
          refused to pull his own weight, by the scruff of the neck and
          throwing him overboard. He must have been tremendously
          powerful. To reach down and haul a Yankee soldier onto his
          saddle as a shield must have taken enormous strength.
          Philip Callen

          Can you give me a reference or references to the incident of
          Forrest using a yankee soldier as a shield?
          Was told this by a memember of a cw club online but no sources
          have been produced so far. Was told it happened at Shiloh when
          Forrest was in same area as U.S.Grant. We recently had a discussion
          on Forrest at Fort Pillow.
          I have 3 books on Forrest and also Mortons book on the Artillery of
          NBForrest's Cavalry, but no mention is made of this incident.
          Chuck in Illinois
        • charles tinder
          ... He came from a humble background, and was not above grabbing a subordinate officer, who refused to pull his own weight, by the scruff of the neck and
          Message 4 of 10 , Jun 3, 2000
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            --- In civilwarwest@egroups.com, philip@t... wrote:
            He came from a humble
            background, and was not above grabbing a subordinate officer,
            who
            refused to pull his own weight, by the scruff of the neck and
            throwing him overboard. He must have been tremendously
            powerful. To reach down and haul a Yankee soldier onto his
            saddle as a shield must have taken enormous strength.
            Philip Callen

            Can you give me a reference or references to the incident of
            Forrest using a yankee soldier as a shield?
            Was told this by a memember of a cw club online but no sources
            have been produced so far. Was told it happened at Shiloh when
            Forrest was in same area as U.S.Grant. We recently had a discussion
            on Forrest at Fort Pillow.
            I have 3 books on Forrest and also Mortons book on the Artillery of
            NBForrest's Cavalry, but no mention is made of this incident.
            Chuck in Illinois
          • philip@twinoaks.org
            To: civilwarwest@egroups.com From: charles tinder Date sent: Sat, 03 Jun 2000 15:35:57 -0000 Send reply
            Message 5 of 10 , Jun 5, 2000
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              To: civilwarwest@egroups.com
              From: "charles tinder" <carpmaster@...>
              Date sent: Sat, 03 Jun 2000 15:35:57 -0000
              Send reply to: civilwarwest@egroups.com
              Subject: [civilwarwest] Re: High command

              > --- In civilwarwest@egroups.com, philip@t... wrote:
              > He came from a humble
              > background, and was not above grabbing a subordinate officer, who
              >
              > refused to pull his own weight, by the scruff of the neck and
              > throwing him overboard. He must have been tremendously powerful.
              > To reach down and haul a Yankee soldier onto his saddle as a
              > shield must have taken enormous strength.
              > Philip Callen
              >
              > Can you give me a reference or references to the incident of
              > Forrest using a yankee soldier as a shield?
              > Was told this by a memember of a cw club online but no sources have
              > been produced so far. Was told it happened at Shiloh when Forrest was
              > in same area as U.S.Grant. We recently had a discussion on Forrest at
              > Fort Pillow.
              > I have 3 books on Forrest and also Mortons book on the Artillery of
              > NBForrest's Cavalry, but no mention is made of this incident.
              > Chuck in Illinois

              Hi Chuck,
              Someone else has already responded to this, but I thought I would,
              too. I found two references to the incident: one in Shelby Foote's
              trilogy, and one in Jack Hurst's biography of Forrest. The incident
              is supposed to have taken place after Shiloh when Forrest was in
              charge of the rear-guard action. Hurst seems to have reason to
              believe that the story was first told by Forrest's son to a biographer.
              So maybe the story is apocryphal just keeps being repeated
              because it sounds so great (that's redundant isn't it?). I have no
              knowlege of primary sources that would verify it.
              Philip
            • philip@twinoaks.org
              To: civilwarwest@egroups.com From: charles tinder Date sent: Sat, 03 Jun 2000 15:35:57 -0000 Send reply
              Message 6 of 10 , Jun 5, 2000
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                To: civilwarwest@egroups.com
                From: "charles tinder" <carpmaster@...>
                Date sent: Sat, 03 Jun 2000 15:35:57 -0000
                Send reply to: civilwarwest@egroups.com
                Subject: [civilwarwest] Re: High command

                > --- In civilwarwest@egroups.com, philip@t... wrote:
                > He came from a humble
                > background, and was not above grabbing a subordinate officer, who
                >
                > refused to pull his own weight, by the scruff of the neck and
                > throwing him overboard. He must have been tremendously powerful.
                > To reach down and haul a Yankee soldier onto his saddle as a
                > shield must have taken enormous strength.
                > Philip Callen
                >
                > Can you give me a reference or references to the incident of
                > Forrest using a yankee soldier as a shield?
                > Was told this by a memember of a cw club online but no sources have
                > been produced so far. Was told it happened at Shiloh when Forrest was
                > in same area as U.S.Grant. We recently had a discussion on Forrest at
                > Fort Pillow.
                > I have 3 books on Forrest and also Mortons book on the Artillery of
                > NBForrest's Cavalry, but no mention is made of this incident.
                > Chuck in Illinois

                Hi Chuck,
                Someone else has already responded to this, but I thought I would,
                too. I found two references to the incident: one in Shelby Foote's
                trilogy, and one in Jack Hurst's biography of Forrest. The incident
                is supposed to have taken place after Shiloh when Forrest was in
                charge of the rear-guard action. Hurst seems to have reason to
                believe that the story was first told by Forrest's son to a biographer.
                So maybe the story is apocryphal just keeps being repeated
                because it sounds so great (that's redundant isn't it?). I have no
                knowlege of primary sources that would verify it.
                Philip
              • mobile_96
                ... incident ... biographer. ... Thats not the first story to be made real from everyone quoting a bad source. But not going to put it in that pile for a while
                Message 7 of 10 , Jun 5, 2000
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                  --- In civilwarwest@egroups.com, philip@t... wrote:

                  >
                  > Hi Chuck,
                  > Someone else has already responded to this, but I thought I would,
                  > too. I found two references to the incident: one in Shelby Foote's
                  > trilogy, and one in Jack Hurst's biography of Forrest. The
                  incident
                  > is supposed to have taken place after Shiloh when Forrest was in
                  > charge of the rear-guard action. Hurst seems to have reason to
                  > believe that the story was first told by Forrest's son to a
                  biographer.
                  > So maybe the story is apocryphal just keeps being repeated
                  > because it sounds so great (that's redundant isn't it?). I have no
                  > knowlege of primary sources that would verify it.
                  > Philip

                  Thats not the first story to be made real from everyone quoting a bad
                  source. But not going to put it in that pile for a while yet. Member
                  of a cw club online was told this by a tour guide at Shiloh. I didn't
                  find anything in my OR-CD or in the Navy OR-CD, but think I'll go
                  back and try again. Wish I knew someone that has the new 2nd set of
                  the OR that has finally been published (100 Vol.)so they could take a
                  look for me. Even a mention in a diary or a letter, by someone at
                  Fallen Timbers might shed some light.
                  Anyway thanks for the info.
                  Chuck in Illinois
                • mobile_96
                  ... incident ... biographer. ... Thats not the first story to be made real from everyone quoting a bad source. But not going to put it in that pile for a while
                  Message 8 of 10 , Jun 5, 2000
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                    --- In civilwarwest@egroups.com, philip@t... wrote:

                    >
                    > Hi Chuck,
                    > Someone else has already responded to this, but I thought I would,
                    > too. I found two references to the incident: one in Shelby Foote's
                    > trilogy, and one in Jack Hurst's biography of Forrest. The
                    incident
                    > is supposed to have taken place after Shiloh when Forrest was in
                    > charge of the rear-guard action. Hurst seems to have reason to
                    > believe that the story was first told by Forrest's son to a
                    biographer.
                    > So maybe the story is apocryphal just keeps being repeated
                    > because it sounds so great (that's redundant isn't it?). I have no
                    > knowlege of primary sources that would verify it.
                    > Philip

                    Thats not the first story to be made real from everyone quoting a bad
                    source. But not going to put it in that pile for a while yet. Member
                    of a cw club online was told this by a tour guide at Shiloh. I didn't
                    find anything in my OR-CD or in the Navy OR-CD, but think I'll go
                    back and try again. Wish I knew someone that has the new 2nd set of
                    the OR that has finally been published (100 Vol.)so they could take a
                    look for me. Even a mention in a diary or a letter, by someone at
                    Fallen Timbers might shed some light.
                    Anyway thanks for the info.
                    Chuck in Illinois
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