Thursday, June 5, 2008

Linear Tactics at Chickamauga

For several weeks now, Patrick, Lee, and I have been discussing the usage of linear style tactics during the war, specifically at Chickamauga. I will let them comment on their research, but I found a very interesting account while doing some research for a tour I will be conducting concerning Brig. Gen. Matthew Ector's Confederate brigade and Col. Ferdinand Van DerVeer's Federal brigade. In 1913, Oscar P. Heath, a former member of Battery I, 4th United States Artillery, wrote a personal account of the Battle entitled "The Battle of Chickamauga: As I Saw It."

Many historians, myself included, used to picture these nice, neat, linear formations of men moving across fields and through woods, halting and trading volley after volley with their foes. Now, not saying this never occurred, but by 1863, most soldiers and their officers were more interested in self preservation and the preservation of their commands. Therefore, I submit this excerpt for your consideration.

Heath states, "...wavering under the awful slaughter in their rank they halted, and, delivering a deadly volley into our ranks, they threw themselves at full length on the ground, and lying on their backs so as to expose themselves as little as possible they loaded their muskets, then turning over and resting on one knee they delivered their fire, then threw themselves on their backs to load as before. Our infantry followed their example and for the next half hour an almost muzzle to muzzle (we were about fifty yards apart) musketry fire was maintained"(5).


Lee White said...

To add to this, Liet. Col. Bishop of the 2nd Minnesotta would remember, "Our men were ordered to lie down and hold their fire until they could see the enemy...our men were cautioned now to 'shoot to kill,' and we opened with file firing...Our big guns were loaded with canister, which opened great gaps in the enemy's columns at each discharge, while the withering fire of our infantry was thinning their ranks..."

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