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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Reward: $100 (One hundred dollars)

I'll pay $100 to the first person to reach me with the Letter of William S. Hubbard to "Dear Father," June 25, 1864.  Hubbard belonged to the 16th Virginia Infantry.  His letter describes his role in Mahone's attack on II Corps June 22, 1864.  I have seen this letter cited to Petersburg National Battlefield Park, but the response I have received from the park is that the letter is not there.  

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Staff officers v. Field and General officers

It is clear that Lt. Col. G. Moxley Sorrel led the flank attack of May 6, 1864 in the Wilderness.  Brig. Gen. William Mahone, the ranking officer involved. later claimed credit for the attack but all the evidence points to Sorrel as the leader of the attack. Sorrel was on the staff of Longstreet's Corps.

On June 23, 1864, the evidence points to Capt. Victor Jean Baptiste Girardey as the officer who led the Florida Brigade of Mahone's Division into position to cut off part of the Vermont Brigade of VI Corps near the Gurley House south of Petersburg.  Col. David Lang, the commander of the brigade, later claimed he led the brigade's attack, but the division commander, Mahone, vouched for Girardey.  Maybe we can harmonize these accounts by saying that Girardey led the Florida Brigade into position and Lang led the attack.  Girardey was on the staff of Mahone's Division.

A similar situation arose on July 30, 1864.  Girardey led the Virginia Brigade of Mahone's Division into position to attack at The Crater.  Girardey gave the order to attack while in front of the left of the brigade.  Colonel David Addison Weisiger, commander of the Virginia Brigade, may have given the order to attack while in front of the right of the brigade.  He certainly claimed to have done so.  Girardey had long since died, on August 16, 1864 to be exact.

On the whole, the evidence supports the staff officers over the field and general officers.  Girardey may have been the finest divisional staff officer of the war.  He was promoted to brigadier general after The Crater and died shortly afterward at Second Deep Bottom, August 16, 1864.  He may have been the actual leader of Wright's Georgia Brigade at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A preview of "The Petersburg Regiment, 12th Virginia Infantry:" Federals faced by 12th Virginia Infantry and Mahone's Brigade

A preview from The Petersburg Regiment, 12th Virginia Infantry, Copyright John Horn 2016:

Table 7:  The Petersburg Regiment Compared with Some Foes[1]

            Sometimes, despite the confusion of battle (particularly in woods), it is possible to identify the particular enemy regiment or regiments opposing the 12th Virginia or a portion thereof in a given fight.  The Petersburg Regiment compared very favorably with the average Union regiment, which lost about five percent.  It often met some of the best regiments in the Federal army, yet compared favorably with some of them as well.
Regiment                                                         Killed or Died of        Percentage
(Foe of 12th Virginia at)                                 Wounds during War    Lost during War
5th New Hampshire                                        295*                            11.8%*[2]
 (Seven Pines, June 1, 1862)              

20th Indiana                                                    201*                            14.3%*
87th New York                                                 29                                2.8%
(King’s School House, June 25, 1862)

1st United States Sharpshooters                     153*                            10.9%*
(Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862)

18th New York                                                 39                                3.5%
31st New York                                                  71                                7.6%
95th Pennsylvania                                           182*                              9.2%
(Crampton’s Gap, September 14, 1862)        

8th Pennsylvania Cavalry                                 60
(Chancellorsville, April 30-May 1, 1863)

1st Delaware                                                   158*                              7.6%
12th New Jersey                                              177*                              9.5%
106th Pennsylvania                                         104                                9.7%
(Gettysburg, July 2, 1863)                 

140th Pennsylvania                                         198*                            17.4%*
(Bradshaw’s Farm, May 8, 1864)      

51st Pennsylvania#                                         177*                              8.6%
(Spotsylvania, May 12, 1864)

1st Vermont Heavy Artillery                          164*                              7.1%
62nd New York                                                98
(Gurley House, June 23, 1864)                      

Regiment                                                         Killed or Died of        Percentage
(Foe of 12th Virginia at)                                 Wounds during War    Lost during War
14th New York Heavy Artillery                     226*                              9.0%
(Globe Tavern, August 19, 1864)

155th New York                                             115                              13.8%*[3]
170th New York                                             129                              12.8%*
(Second Reams Station, August 25, 1864)

63rd Pennsylvania#                                         186*                            13.8%*
105th Pennsylvania+                                       245*                            12.2%*
(Burgess Mill, October 27, 1864)

12th Virginia                                                  159*                            10.3%*

Average Union Regiment                                                                     5.0%

* Meets criterion for inclusion in Fox’s Fighting 300 Regiments (130 or 10% killed or died of wounds).
# Lost a flag to the 12th Virginia that day.
+ Lost two flags to the 12th Virginia that day.

[1] My figures come from Fox, Regimental Losses; Samuel P. Bates,  History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, Prepared in Compliance with Acts of the Legislature (5 Volumes) (Harrisburg, 1869); and Frederick Phisterer, New York in the War of the Rebellion (5 Volumes) (Albany, 1912).
[2] Adjusted by Fox to 17.9%. 
[3] Despite the percentage loss, Fox did not include the 155th among his Fighting 300 Regiments.  

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Abraham Lincoln, Military Meddler

            Unless Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant or Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman succeeded in capturing or destroying at least one of their objectives (Richmond, the Army of Northern Virginia, Atlanta, or the Army of Tennessee) by November, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln could scarcely hope to win re-election.  If Lincoln met with defeat, the country could expect its then current division to become permanent.  A Democrat would occupy the White House who would, in Lincoln’s words, “have secured his election on such ground that he could not possibly save [the Union].”[1]
No one had done more than Lincoln himself to create this predicament.  Earlier that year, before the president appointed Grant general-in-chief of the Union’s armies, Grant had intended to begin the Campaign of 1864 in the east by transporting his army by sea to Suffolk, Virginia.  He would thus have arrived bloodlessly at a position similar to his present one, which had cost more than 72,000 casualties to reach.[2]  From Suffolk, he would have headed inland along the Blackwater River against the railroads connecting Richmond with the Deep South.  Lincoln had objected to Grant’s plan because a move by sea would leave Washington unprotected, something the president’s party could not tolerate.[3]  Such a move would create another problem for Lincoln.  It would admit the correctness of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s bloodless move by sea to the York-James Peninsula in 1862, though McClellan’s campaign there had ended in failure and mutual recriminations.  Such an admission would never do, because the 1864 presidential election was shaping up as a contest between Old Abe and Little Mac. 
Lincoln had also meddled in the Campaign of 1864 in the west by insisting on the Red River Expedition into northwest Louisiana.  This deprived Sherman of about 10,000 soldiers he was counting on for the beginning of his campaign in north Georgia.[4]  It also precluded an expedition aimed at Mobile that would have tied up enemy troops sent to defend Atlanta.[5]  Against a more capable opponent than Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, Sherman’s campaign might never have gotten going.[6]  Denied about 10,000 more troops on veteran furloughs, Sherman had to reduce the scope of his plans in a manner that significantly slowed the progress of his campaign.[7]
In the furor over the casualties incurred as a result of the change of plans in the east that Lincoln had foisted on Grant, most of the criticism fell upon the general-in-chief.  His nickname of “Unconditional Surrender,” based on his initials and earned at Fort Donelson—his first great victory—changed to “Unceasing Slaughter” during his gory progress from the Rapidan to the James.  That Grant never complained about the Rail-Splitter’s meddling, and just kept going forward, forged a bond of absolute loyalty between Lincoln and his general-in chief. 

[1] Abraham Lincoln, “Blind Memorandum,” August 23, 1864.  Abraham Lincoln Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 
[2] Grant’s casualties came to approximately 72,526.  He had lost about 54,926 in the Overland Campaign.  General summary from the Rapidan to the James River, May 5-June 24, 1864, War of the Rebellion:  A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 70 vols. in 128 parts (Washington, D.C., 1880-1901) Series 1, 36, 1:188 (cited hereinafter as OR, with no series indicated unless it is other than Series 1.  He had lost around 11,386 in his assaults on Petersburg.   Edward H. Bonekemper, III. A Victor, Not a Butcher: Ulysses S. Grant's Overlooked Military Genius (Washington, D.C., 2004), 313.  During May, the Army of the James lost approximately 6,214, which I include in Grant’s losses.  Return of Casualties in the Union Forces, commanded by Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, U. S. Army (compiled from nominal lists of casualties, returns, &c.), May 5-31, OR 36, 2:18; Return of Casualties in the Union Forces, commanded by Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, U. S. Army, June 1-14, OR 36, 2:19.
[3] U. S. Grant, Major-General, to Maj.-Gen. H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief of the Army, January 19, 1864, OR 33:394-395; William Glenn Robertson, Back Door to Richmond:  The Bermuda Hundred Campaign, April-June 1864 (Cranbury, N.J., 1987), 13-14; John Horn, The Petersburg Campaign:  June 1864-April 1865 (Conshohocken, Pa., 1993), 12-13; Richard M. McMurry, Atlanta 1865:  Last Chance for the Confederacy (Lincoln, Neb., 2000), 12.  For the case in favor of a movement by sea against Richmond’s communications, see William Swinton, Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac, A Critical History of Operations in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania from the Commencement to the Close of the War, 1861-1865 (New York, 1882), 406-409.  For the case against a movement by sea against Richmond’s communications, see Andrew A. Humphreys, The Virginia Campaign of ’64 and ’65:  The Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James (New York, 1883), 7-9.  Grant’s memoirs, which include his official report in the appendix to vol. 2, fail to mention this matter.  U. S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (2 vols.) (New York, 1886), 2:124-145, 555-632.
[4] Albert Castel, Decision in the West:  The Atlanta Campaign of 1864 (Lawrence, Kan., 1992), 66, 90, 99, 118; McMurry, Atlanta 1864, 52, 54-55. 
[5] Ibid., 51. 
[6] The record shows that Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant “Gus” Beauregard, though he had no better relations with Confederate President Jefferson Davis than Johnston, offered a better choice.  Unlike Johnston, who had scarcely tried to relieve Vicksburg during the summer of 1863, Beauregard had successfully defended Charleston.  In the spring of 1864, while Johnston steadily retired toward Atlanta, Beauregard gave battle to Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler and bottled him up in Bermuda Hundred, then successfully defended Petersburg against assaults by first Butler and afterward Grant.  At times during August 1864, Beauregard counterattacked the Unionists as effectively as Gen. Robert E. Lee.  See John Horn, The Siege of Petersburg:  The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864 (El Dorado Hills, Ca., 2015), 179-183, 290, 293.
The problem for Davis lay in that if Beauregard had defended Atlanta, who would have defended Petersburg other than Johnston?  In that case, the Cockade City could expect, like Atlanta, to fall into Federal hands and take Richmond along with it before the November election.
[7] McMurry, Atlanta 1864, 55, 57-58; Castel, Decision in the West, 99, 121, 123.
[8] Welch citing Furgurson on Cold Harbor.  #