Friday, April 6, 2012

Twas on the 6th of April, just at the break of day...

150 years ago it ended, if there was any niave notion left that the war was going to be short it died along with thousands of young men in the thickets and farmfields around the primative little Shiloh Church. The blood spilled that day would have drowned James Chestnut. Shiloh was the first battle for most of the regiments that would in a few months become the Army of Tennessee. This brutal birth forever scared many units like the 15th Arkansas Infantry. The 15th Arkansas was originally designated the 1st Arkansas, but lost that designation to a regiment sent to Virginia in 1861, and contained young men who were on the make and strongly supported secession. The 15th elected Patrick Cleburne as their Colonel and would make up one of the regiments of his brigade when he was promoted to Brigadier General. At Shiloh they led his brigade into action as the skirmishers for his command under the command of Lieutenant Colonel A.K. Patton. During the early phases of the fighting along the marshy banks of Shiloh branch and the mud slick slopes of Shiloh Hill the 15th suffered severely. The Arkansasans would continue to fight through the rest of the battle and at the end only a handful of men remained to leave the field with their battle ravaged flag. The 15th had entered the mist that April morning as a regiment of young men seeking a chance to prove themselves, to see the elephant, and they left the field a broken company, only 58 men were standing. In the days and weeks that followed men returned to the ranks, but not enough to enable the regiment to stand on its own, for the rest of its career the 15th would have to be consolidated with other regiments to field a regimental strength. The shadow of Shiloh would haunt the survivors of the 15th Arkansas for the rest of the war.

Friday, February 24, 2012

2012 a Year for Western Theater Books or how I am going to be in the poor house.

Looking through a number of the University Press Catalogs recently it has occured to me that I'm going to be a very poor man soon. Several important books are about to come out that will contribute greatly to the study of the Western Theater and the Army of Tennessee. A few of the choice ones are:

George Henry Thomas: As True as Steel by Brian Steel Wills
Dr. Wills has been working on this one for sometime and weighting in at 600 pages this is sure to be the definitive Thomas biography. I'm really looking forward to this one. Plus I can justify reading it since it ties into my current work on Hood's Georgia and Tennessee Campaign. Look for this one in the next few weeks.

Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, and Occupation by Timothy B. Smith
Another one I'm looking forward to. Before Chattanooga, Before Vicksburg, there was Corinth. Sitting on the Backbone of the Confederacy, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad the loss of this important railroad town just added to the devastation of 1862 on the Confederacy. Although in recent years there has been work, notably by Peter Cozzens, on Corinth, they have focused on the October 1862 fight. Tim's work will cover the that as well as the often overlooked fighting for the town in May of that year. This one will fill that void. Look for it in May, just in time for the 150th.

Granbury's Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates by John R. Lundberg
Another one that Ill be able to justify reading. This one should be a good read on one of the Army of Tennessee's star fighting brigades. Look for it in March as well.

Marching With Sherman: Though Georgia and the Carolinas with the 154th New York by Mark H. Dunkelman
Mark continues the story of the 154th New York with this study, another one that will definately be worth check out. Coming out in April.

By the Noble Daring of Her Sons: The Florida Brigade of the Army of Tennessee by Jonathan C. Sheppard

The poor Florida Brigade will finally be getting a history of its own. General J.J. Finley's Brigade got off to a rocky start, their first battle being the debacle at Missionary Ridge. The Brigade came together after Chickamauga when General Bragg pulled all of the Florida units in the Army of Tennessee together and created this unit. Finley's Brigade did not have a stellar career like Granbury's but was more representative of most of the ill starred Army of Tennessee. This is another I can justify reading and one that I am really looking forward to. It will be out in June.

So there you have a list of upcoming Army of Tennessee related titles. Looks like its going to be a good year for reading.

Monday, January 16, 2012

150 Mill Springs

January 19th marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Mill Springs aka Fishing Creek, Kentucky. This Battle would mark the first blow against the Confederate defensive line in Kentucky, the rise of George Henry Thomas to the National stage, and the death of a Confederate General. Much could be said about this engagement, but we will look at the story of one of the dead.
As the Battle began to turn sharply agains the Confederates the engagement began to center on a struggle for a line along a 8 foot high split rail fence defended by first the 4th Kentucky Infantry (US) and then reinforced by the 2nd Minnesota Infantry, on the other side was the 15th Mississippi and 20th Tennessee Infantries. The 15th had stuggled the longest and the ground lay strewn with the Mississippians in a final bid to try to take the position the 20th Tennessee pitched into the fray. The fighting along the fence was brutal with men being shot and bayonetted at point blank range. The Confederates however were unable to mount the fence and drive their blue clad foes back and first the 15th Mississippi broke and fled across the frozen cornfield they had advanced across earlier that morning and then after one final try Col. Joe Battle ordered his Tennesseeans to withdraw as well, but on the regiment's right, 1st Lieutenant Bailey Peyton, Jr. was not willing to let the fight go and ordered his Company A, The Hickory Guards to charge forward again. Yelling "Come on Hickory Guards!" the Nashville based company followed into a hail of bullets, which was more than they could stand. Company A halted and then fled to the rear, but not Lieutenant Peyton. The charge had carried him to within about 10 yards of the line and now with his men retreating the 29 year old officer stood alone facing the Federal line. A call was made for him to surrender he answered by opening fire with his pistol and the stunned Federals, wounding a Lieutenant in Company I of the 2nd Minnesota. He continured to fire until Pvt. Adam Wickett pushed his musket through the fence and fired. The buck and ball charge struck Peyton full in the left side of the face, killing him instantly and ending the fighting on that part of the field. Peyton's body along with his commander, General Felix Zollicoffer, would later be transported through the lines to Nashville. Peyton would make his way back to his home town of Gallatin for burial.
Bailey Peyton was an example of the reckless and highly motivated first round of Confederate soldiers that enlisted in 1861 and also an example of the division that was witnessed in many Tennessee families during the war. Young Peyton's father was an ardent Unionist and a well respected citizen, having served as an officer in the War with Mexico, as a State Represenative, as US Minister to Chile, and a famed juror. His son had against his wishes supported secession and joined the Confederate Army. Now the elder Peyton buried his rebel son, who disappointed him by his choice but took comfort in the fact that his son had not died a coward.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Creighton and Crane, 7th Ohio

I have developed a special affinity for the 7th Ohio over the last few years, mainly from telling their story at the Battle of Ringgold Gap. This past Fall, after learning that my favorite Band was playing a headline show in Cleveland, decided to visit Cleveland and find the graves of Colonel William Creighton and Lieuteant Colonel Orrin Crane, both as you may remember were killed at Ringgold. This trip to Cleveland turned into an adventure as I landed as the city received its first snow of the year and soon turned into a Winter Wonderland. I was armed with my somewhat trusty GPS and managed to find my way, very slowly, to Woodland Cemetery where they are buried, not far from a monument to the 7th Ohio. Creighton and Crane had both been members of the Cleveland Greys before the war and had become good friends, they went to war together, and they died together. Its only fitting that they now rest side by side.
I also made a short trip to the Western Reserve Historical Society Museum and learned a little more about the men of the 7th Ohio. The region was largely settled by immigration from Conneticut, so a New England sense was exhibited here, and a very dedicated Abolitionist mindset took hold with many of the inhabitants of the area. So a little more comes out about the men of the 7th.

2011 Wrap Up

2011 proved to be a very busy year with work at CHCH and at home. At work it was the regular slate of programs and tours but with the addition of being our "reenactor coordinator" for the new park movie, basically recruting young skinny guys for the film, the end product will be good, telling the story of the battle from the soldier's perspective instead of the Generals. I have also been pegging away at my book on Hood's Tennessee Campaign, its always funny that I seem to find all sorts of other things when Im in the midst of a bigger project.
Finally, not to make it seem like it has been all work, but I did a lot of traveling this past year, A LOT. I attended the 150th Anniversary of Manassas and managed to by the end of the year visit every NPS Civil War Battlefield in the East. My last trip was the week before Christmas and had a definite Chattanooga theme, visiting the graves of Col. William Creighton and Liet. Orin Crane of the 7th Ohio in Cleveland, then visiting the park near that small, south central Pennsylvania college town to see the monuments for the troops of Geary's Division, and finally visiting the grave of young Lieutenant Edward Geary. A whrilwind trip to wrap up a whirlwind year. I hope to make a few postings about these stops in the next few days.


Well one of my resolutions for this year is to bring some life back into the blog. Between work and writing a book, there has been very little time to devote here, but I think I have found a solution, so we shall see. Hope everyone has a great 2012!