Friday, December 24, 2010

Failure in the Saddle Review

A new book that I would consider to be MUST reading for any Army of Tennessee aficionado is Dave Powell's newest, Failure in the Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest, Joseph Wheeler, and the Confederate Cavalry in the Chickamauga Campaign. I have chided Dave for several years that with this book he would never be able to come south again, due to daring to offer a critique of N.B. Forrest in this campaign, but after reading the complete book I have to say that any open minded student of Forrest and the western cavalry will learn a lot from this book and even if you don't agree with the analysis offered by Dave, I still think it gives you a lot to think about. With that though I do agree with the author on these subjects.
Forrest does not perform that well in this campaign, not all of this is his fault however, having to deal with several less than stellar subordinates, General John Pegram and Col. John S. Scott, as well as having to command a Corps for the first time. One thing that is often lost on Forrest is his rapid rise to commanding a corps, going from commanding a brigade in April to corps by September, with several intervals due to other factors. Forrest has a learning curve and its one that he benefits from, the Forrest of 1864 had to be made and the Chickamauga campaign was part of that. Dave is fair with Forrest and so although he fails at things, he does ultimately learn from his mistakes.
Forrest, however, is only part of this story. The other half belongs to "Fighting Joe" Wheeler, who really comes out of this looking bad. Wheeler never learned, and was a problem for the mounted arm of the Army of Tennessee. Wheeler should be held up with Leonidas Polk as one of the most incompetent high level leaders in the Confederate service.
I have often said that if the cavalry is the eyes and ears of an army, then the Army of Tennessee was blind and deaf during this campaign and Dave's book definitely cements that view. I high recommend it to anyone interested in the Chickamauga Campaign or the Army of Tennessee in general.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Union is Dissolved!

I have been wondering for several days what I was going to write this evening, I felt that I needed to note the evening of December 20th, 2010 with some posting in observance of the 150th Anniversary of the Secession of South Carolina, the first domino to fall that leads to the firing on Fort Sumter in April of 1861. So as I rode back from a trip to Shiloh and Corinth, I thought about all of the lives that this event impacted, almost all of the men that fought in those battles were living quiet and peaceful lives 150 years ago tonight, a year later they were embroiled in a bloody war due to the series of events that this one kicked into high gear. So while fellow bloggers are covering the modern commemoration/celebration in SC, or what the cause of this event was I will refer you to future brigade commander and General, Arthur M. Manigault who would recall with a Lost Cause slant:

"The election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States by the Republican party of the North, in October 1860, satisfied the people of the Southern States that the time long since foreseen by our wiser statesmen, had at last arrived when the South must withdraw from the Union. It was now evident that the party into whose hands the direction of the government had fallen would to a great extent pervert the Constitution to the advancement of their own ends, and denying us through the majority which they possessed in Congress, the rights and protection which it secured us, eventually bring about our complete and thorough ruin. To save themselves from the threatened danger, most of the Southern slaveholding States, with remarkable unanimity, one after another, called conventions of the people and passed Ordinances of Secession, beginning with South Carolina, on the 20th of December, 1860, and expresing a desire peaceably to withdraw from the Union, adopted a Constitution of their own, and formed a Government known as the Confederate States of America."

So readers, thus it began. The following morning the famous Evans and Cogswell Broadside proclaiming "THE UNION IS DISSOLVED" was posted.