Follow by Email

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.