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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Beware Unreliable Alabama Archives Figures

Recently, I've been seeking statistics on Confederate regiments to help me put into perspective the killed and mortally wounded in the 12th Virginia Infantry, the Petersburg regiment, compared with other units.  One place this has taken me is to the website of Alabama's archives, which states at that the 8th Alabama lost 300 killed or mortally wounded of 1,377.  That the Alabama Archives express killed and dead of wounds exclusively in round numbers while giving unrounded totals of disease deaths, leads me to credit instead a recent history of the 8th Alabama indicating that the 8th lost 226 killed or dead of wounds out of 1,421 enrolled.  Linda L. Green, First, for the Duration:  The Story of the Eighth Alabama Infantry, C.S.A., (Westminster, Md., 2008), 201.  It appears that Ms. Green actually counted.  I have looked at the Alabama Archives for casualty figures on one regiment after another, and I have yet to see one which does not express killed or mortally wounded in round numbers.  The figures from the Alabama Archives are not trustworthy.  The 8th Alabama was a great regiment and its losses require no exaggeration.  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Lyrics: "A Soldier's Life is Always Gay."

The 12th Virginia Infantry, the Petersburg Regiment, left the Cockade City on May 14, 1862, singing "A Soldier's Life Is Always Gay."  By July 31, 1863, a tradition had developed that singing the song would bring on a battle the next day, and after the regiment sang it that night, a battle took place August 1.  Only the chorus was published by Capt. Richard Manson after the war in The Sunny South (Atlanta).  I finally found the words on the internet here,  The chorus was employed in many variations of the song, which alludes to Shakespeare's As You Like It.

We're the boys that's gay and happy,
Wheresoever we may be;
And we'll do our best to please you,
If you will attentive be.

So let the wide world wag as it will,
We'll be gay and happy still,
Gay and happy, gay and happy,
We'll be gay and happy still.

We envy neither great nor wealthy,
Poverty we ne'er despise,
Let us be contented, healthy,
And the boon we dearly prize.

So let the wide world wag as it will,
We'll be gay and happy still,
Gay and happy, gay and happy,
We'll be gay and happy still.

The rich have cares we little know of,
All that glitters is not gold,
Merit's seldom made a show of,
And true worth is rarely told.

So let the wide world wag as it will,
We'll be gay and happy still,
Gay and happy, gay and happy,
We'll be gay and happy still.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Salt Creek Civil War Round Table

Last Friday night, March 18, I had a very pleasant time at the Salt Creek Civil War Round Table in Downers Grove, Illinois, about twenty miles from where I live.  Approximately thirty people attended.  I talked for around an hour about the 39th Illinois, the only regiment from Illinois in Grant's army during August 1864.  The 39th was known as the "Yates Phalanx" after Governor Yates of Illinois, who helped find the regiment a place in the army (the soldiers had previously offered their services to Missouri, which had declined).  I focused on Company G, "the Preacher's Company," so called because it was recruited by a preacher.  And it was recruited partially in Tinley Park, Illinois, where I have my law office.  Company G included Private Henry M. Hardenbergh, depicted in the Keith Rocco painting that hangs in the Tinley Park village hall and provides the basis for the dust jacket of my book, "The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864" (SavasBeatie, 2015).  Hardenbergh carried the colors of the 39th on August 16, 1864, when the 39th, part of the Western Brigade of Alfred H. Terry's X Corps division stormed Confederate earthworks north of Fussell's Mill about twelve miles southeast of Richmond.  In the earthworks stood Girardey's (Wright's) Georgia brigade of Mahone's division, thinly stretched.  Hardenbergh went down with a bullet in the shoulder during the initial onslaught.  Another soldier picked up the flag.  Hardenbergh picked himself up and after the breakthrough captured the flag of an Alabama regiment to the south of the Georgians, killing its color bearer.  For this he received a commission as a lieutenant in the 36th United States Colored Troops and a Medal of Honor.  They came posthumously, though.  He was killed on Bermuda Hundred August 28, 1864.  Now he lies in Poplar Grove National Cemetery, about six miles south of Petersburg.  The 39th was quite a good regiment.  It is one of Fox's 300 Fighting Union Regiments, with more than 130 killed during its service, even though its men did not consider themselves to have begun fighting until Second Drewry's Bluff, May 16, 1864.  (Their first action had been at Kernstown in the Shenandoah Valley in March 1862, the only battle Stonewall Jackson ever lost in the Shenandoah.)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rigdon's 48th Georgia and 10th Alabama

I only had to glance at John C. Rigdon's books on the 48th Georgia and 10th Alabama to see a pattern developing.  His books on Georgia regiments are very handy and allow one to compile statistics on those regiments so that they can be compared with the Union regiments in Fox's Regimental Losses and, of course, such other Confederate regiments have statistics available.  The book on the 10th Alabama is even less informative that the book on the 48th North Carolina.  The information on all the Alabama soldiers is just rank in, rank out--even more disappointing than on the 48th North Carolina.

On the other hand, the book on the 48th Georgia is just as good as the book on the 22nd Georgia.  The 48th was a real tiger of a regiment, with at least 198 killed or mortally wounded.  The pattern I see indicates that Rigdon's books on Georgia regiments are worth purchasing, his books on regiments from other states not su much.  Therefore I have ordered three Rigdon books on Georgia regiments.  This time they will be regiments from the Army of Northern Virginia's First and Second Corps, as well as a book on a regiment from the Army of Tennessee.  Meanwhile I am counting the soldiers in the 48th Georgia to see what percentage of killed and wounded it had.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Rigdon's 48th North Carolina

John C. Rigdon's book on the 48th North Carolina Infantry arrived today.  It proved disappointing after reading his book on the 22nd Georgia.  On the positive side, the 48th North Carolina book contained a memoir.  On the negative side, and this may not have been any fault of Rigdon's, too many companies listed nothing but a soldier's rank in and his rank out--nothing about what happened to him while in service.  Some of the companies have quite a bit of information.  You can tell from the statistics on the companies that have them that this was a regiment of which Fox would be proud, but I'm not inclined to project the regiment's losses in killed and wounded on the basis of half its companies.  I'm hoping that Rigdon's books on the 10th Alabama and 48th Georgia prove more informative.  They are due to arrive tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rigdon's Regimentals

I just skimmed John C. Rigdon's Historical Sketch and Roster of the Georgia 22nd Infantry Regiment.  163 of its 1,241 soldiers were killed or mortally wounded, 13.1% of its enrollment.  The book is like an H. E. Howard book except that it includes a memoir by a soldier, Memoir of William Brock Judkins, Carnegie Library, Rome, Georgia.  Judkins says that on the charge at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, "Genl Wright [was] in command, but was not in charge, he was not well, but his Adjutant Genl. Geroda was in command, or led the brigade...."  Rigdon, 22nd Georgia, 131.  The Judkins memoir is not very helpful for the siege of Petersburg, because he was wounded in May and did not return until just before Hatcher's Run in February, 1865, and his account of that fight is rather confused.

Rigdon has churned out ten or twenty of these books, mostly about Georgia regiments.  I've ordered three more--48th NC, 48th GA, and 10th AL.  Including a memoir makes them, in my opinion, superior to the H. E. Howard Virginia Regimentals.

Friday, March 11, 2016

William F. Fox, "Regimental Losses in the American Civil War"

Recently, I mentioned this book in passing, but it deserves a post by itself.  Fox ascertained regimental losses, principally of Union regiments, but to a lesser degree of Confederate regiments.  He has selected 300 Union regiments on the basis of either 130 killed or mortally wounded or ten percent killed or mortally wounded, and he has designated them as the Fighting 300.  His numbers aren't infallible.  I've observed what appears to be at least one omission on his part, the 155th New York of the Corcoran Legion in Gibbon's division, despite its loss of more than ten percent killed or mortally wounded.  Still, they give a good idea of which regiments shed the most blood.  Later in the book, Fox provides a table of Confederate regiments that lost more than forty percent in individual actions.  Because data on Confederate regiments was harder to find, his table is not exhaustive.  I'm currently working on the history of a regiment (12th Virginia Infantry) that lost more than forty percent on at least two occasions (Crampton's Gap, September 14, 1862, and Globe Tavern, August 19, 1864) yet does not appear on the table.  I'm sure plenty of other Confederate regiments belong there too.

Fox does not confine himself entirely to regiments.  He has tables on brigade losses and he devotes some time to larger units.  For example, he identifies Richardson's division of the Second Corps as the Union division with the heaviest losses.  He achieves this by keeping separate Birney's and Humphreys' divisions of the Third Corps even though they were consolidated under Mott before the war's end.  (By that time they had been merged into the Second Corps.)  Fox does not point this out, but the Second Corps (including the consolidated Third) accounts for a full quarter of the Fighting 300 regiments of the Union army.  Mott's division, the consolidation of the old Third Corps divisions in the Second Corps, had a full half of the Fighting 300 regiments of the entire Second Corps.  However you slice that, the Second Corps was in Fox's terms the fightingest corps in the Union army.

If there's a downside to Fox's book, it's that it dwells on the passive side, taking it rather than dishing it out.  The latter is what's important, because to paraphrase General Patton, we don't want to die for our country, we want our opponent to die for his country.  Livermore and Dupuy provide better indices of dishing it out, Livermore in the short term and Dupuy over longer periods.  The pinnacle of hits per thousand inflicted by Union forces occurred at Ezra Church (310), Chickamauga (292) and Gettysburg (272).  Confederates inflicted their highest hits per thousand when behind fortifications--Port Hudson (438 and 460), and Fort Wagner (631).  Dupuy would divide those Confederate results by 1.6 for fortifications, but Fort Wagner still exceeds anything else on Livermore's charts.

I was drafting this post when I did a chart on my 12th Virginia manuscript that called into question the accuracy of Fox's estimate of the average Confederate regiment's losses at almost ten percent.  I had read the H. E. Howard histories of the 6th, 16th and 41st Virginia, which surprised me.  These regiments belonged to the same brigade as the 12th Virginia but suffered significantly fewer casualties.  To some degree, this is because the letters, diaries and memoirs from the 12th reveal casualties that do not appear in the H. E. Howard rosters.  But the 12th suffered 10.3% losses, while the 6th and 16th lost 7.5% each.  (I haven't yet calculated the 41st Virginia's loss percentage, but I counted 105 killed or mortally wounded in the roster as opposed to 159 in the 12th.)  I think some of the difference comes from the 12th being first in the brigade's line of march and the rest of the difference from sheer chance.  The 12th had the worst casualties in the brigade at Second Manassas, got the worst assignments at Chancellorsville, was the farthest out front in the Wilderness, was out in front again at Bradshaw's Farm, and got chewed up worse than the rest of the brigade at Globe Tavern and Hatcher's Run.

Even more surprising was the Howard history of the 9th Virginia of Armistead's Brigade.  The author of the Howard history found seventy-three killed or mortally wounded of 1,901 men on the rolls in the first 1986 edition.  He found seventeen more men and three more combat fatalities in the second edition, 1988.  I subtracted 241 men who transferred out of the regiment with their companies before the fighting started.  The 9th lost 4.5% killed or mortally wounded of 1,677 on the rolls, less than Fox's estimate for the average Union regiment, much less the average Confederate regiment.  I suppose somebody must be below average, but I would not have expected that of a regiment that began its combat career at Seven Pines near the 12th and 41st Virginia.  Fox could still be right about the average killed or mortally wounded for each side, but H. E. Howard certainly did Civil War scholars a signal service when he started publishing the Virginia Regimental Series.  They give a pretty good idea of the losses suffered by Virginia units.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Help! What Do You Make of This Table?

As I compare the 12th Virginia Infantry with other regiments, I see that something is wrong with this table.  Particularly with the 9th and 41st Virginia.  Maybe the H. E. Howard books on those regiments are wrong and low in their count of killed or mortally wounded.  Maybe Fox (Regimental Losses in the American Civil War) was wrong to think that the average loss in Confederate regiments was almost ten percent.  I counted the killed and mortally wounded in the roster of the 41st Virginia and was surprised to see that the number was so low.  The 41st went into action beside the 12th at Seven Pines and fought in practically all of the same actions as the 12th for the rest of the war.  On the other hand, in counting the 41st's casualties, I did not have the benefit of all the letters, diaries, memoirs and newspapers that I examined in writing a history of the 12th.  

Table 7:  The Petersburg Regiment (12th Virginia Infantry)Compared with Some Friends

            Readily available statistics exist for relatively few regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia, but the following suggest that within that army, the 12th Virginia may have been slightly below average.  It was slightly above average for the Confederate States Army as a whole, where the average regiment lost almost ten percent killed or mortally wounded.

                                                                        Killed or Died of                       Percentage
Regiment                                                          Wounds during War                 Lost during War
8th Alabama                                                     226*                                        15.9%*

9th Alabama                                                     142[1]*

7th North Carolina                                            179*

17th Mississippi                                                182[2]*

18th Mississippi                                                209*

42nd Mississippi                                               188[3]*

6th Virginia                                                       124                                            7.5%

9th Virginia                                                         73                                            3.8%

16th Virginia                                                       92[4]*                                         7.5%

41st Virginia                                                     105

12th Virginia                                                   159*                                        10.3%*

Average Confederate Regiment                                               “almost   10.0%”

* Meets criterion for inclusion in Fox’s Fighting 300 Regiments (130 or 10% killed or died of wounds).

[1] An indeterminate number of others died of wounds.
[2] Numbers available for nine of ten companies; probably lost about 200.
[3] Up to March, 1865; probably lost around 200.
[4] The 16th Virginia fought with only seven companies.  Trask, 16th Virginia Infantry, 9.  The equivalent of 130 killed or mortally wounded among ten companies for a seven company regiment is ninety-one.

So was Fox wrong?  Or are the H. E. Howard regimental histories wrong?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

History to Burnside: Disobey Meade's Orders!

A few weeks ago I posted the question, "Ought Burnside to Have Turned a Blind Eye at the Crater?"  The post observed that Burnside had already disregarded Meade's instruction to clear obstructions because that might have alerted the Confederates (who were already alerted) to the possibility of a mine.  I suggested that he ought to have gone the whole nine yards on disobeying orders and disregarded Meade's (and Grant's) orders to put a white division in the lead.  My authority for this idea?  Grant's testimony at the congressional inquiry on the Crater.  Grant conceded that the mine attack on July 30, 1864, would have been successful had the black division--trained for the task--led.  I brought up von Seydlitz, who disobeyed Frederick the Great and told him (after disobeying three orders in the same action), "My head is at Your Majesty's disposal after the battle, but during the battle please permit me to use it in your service."  I brought up Nelson, who put his blind eye  to the telescope at the Battle of Copenhagen when an irresolute superior raised the signal flag to withdraw.

Here's another commander who distinguished himself by disobeying orders--Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.  Ordered to adopt a defensive posture when he landed in Libya in 1941, he promptly went on the offensive and swept the British back into Egypt.  The unpredictable German fooled the British similarly on other occasions as well.  Rommel's disobedience had a peculiar twist.  Through Ultra, his enemies were reading his orders.  By disobeying orders, he confounded a foe who considered the battle all sewn up.  

Of course, if Burnside had disobeyed orders, he would have had to succeed at the Crater.  It was Grant's opinion that Burnside would have succeeded if he had disobeyed orders and allowed the African-American division lead, but Grant does not seem to have known about the complexity of the bomb-proofs, traverses and cavaliers behind Pegram's Salient.  These works made penetrating beyond the Crater more akin to advancing through the multiple lines IX Corps attacked near Fort Mahone on April 2, 1865, than to getting through the relatively simple works that VI Corps took on the same day.  VI Corps succeeded, and IX Corps failed (as it did at the Crater).  Then there was the killing ground set up by the Southern artillerists when it became apparent that the Northerners were mining Pegram's Salient.

While I must defer to Grant's judgment, we will never really know.