The Chickamauga Campaign: Volume I – A Mad Irregular Battle

October 18, 2014


Well, it is finally here.

Volume I is almost back from the printers, and will be ready to ship soon. If you want to place an order, now is the time. You can order signed copies through Savas-Beatie ( ) or unsigned copies through your usual outlets, once they get their books via distribution. If you want to buy it at the Chickamauga-Chattanooga Visitor’s Center, I imagine they will have copies within a month or so.

For me, this is the culmination of fifteen years’ study and work – a process that won’t finally draw to a close, I admit, until the final volume is published – all in good time.

Once I hold the first book in my hands, I will let everyone know.

March, 2015 Seminar

October 12, 2014

CCNMP Study Group 2015 Seminar in the Woods.

Mission Statement: “. . . for the purpose of preserving and suitably marking for historical and professional military study the fields of some of the most remarkable maneuvers and most brilliant fighting in the war of the rebellion.”

Tour Leaders: Jim Ogden and Dave Powell
Date: Friday, March 6, and Saturday, March 7, 2014; By bus and car caravan.

By Bus:
Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 – Resaca in 1863 and 1864.
By bus: We will drive to Resaca, which for a nearly week in September 1863, was the Army of Tennessee’s railhead while the Confederate army was concentrated at LaFayette. We will discuss Bragg’s logistics in 1863, the importance of the railroad, and the first steps taken by the Confederates to defend this location.

We will also spend time discussing the 1864 battle of Resaca, and explore the new state park covering that battle.

This will be a day-long tour, stopping for lunch, probably in Dalton.

On foot and by car caravan:
Saturday Morning: 8:30 a.m. to Noon. Liddell Attacks, September 19th
Saturday morning we will return to the vicinity of Winfrey Field, to explore the developing fight on September 19th. Our primary focus will be on St. John Liddell’s counter-attack against Baird’s division.

Saturday Afternoon: 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. John B. Turchin on September 19.
We will discuss Turchin’s fight in Brock Field, and then his counter-attack westward along the corridor of the Brotherton Road in response to A. P. Stewart’s breakthrough at about 4:00 p.m..

Cost: Beyond the fee for Friday’s Bus, there is no cost for tour participation. Meals lodging, transportation, and incidentals, however, are the individual’s responsibility.

Lodging and Meals: Everyone is responsible for their own lodging and meals

Note: Friday’s Tours will be by Bus. Pre-registration Fee: $45 Due by February 1st

Send to (and make checks payable to):
Dave Powell
522 Cheyenne Drive
Lake In The Hills IL 60156

Please also note that this fee is NON-REFUNDABLE after February 1st, 2014. Once we are committed to the bus, we will be charged the booking fee.

On-site Sign up Fee: $50

Things that catch my ear…

October 5, 2014

On September 23rd, Confederate soldier Larkin Poe rode a borrowed horse down the Brotherton Road, turning north on the LaFayette Road once he reached the Brotherton cabin. Inside, he found his father in law, George Brotherton, who joined him. A quarter-mile on, they stopped at the still-smoking ruins of his own farm, at the southern end of Poe Field. His acreage was still carpeted with bodies. His fences were destroyed, whatever crops they protected trampled. His wife Sarah and his two children (Hilliard, aged 2, and Gussie, just ten months old) were missing. The view was grisly, including a dead Federal whose legs had been burned away by the fire.

Poe was a member of Company K, the 4th Georgia Cavalry. He was a teamster, hauling supplies. He and his company camped at Jay’s Mill on the 22nd, and this was the first chance he had to find out what had become of his family.

Later that day, Poe discovered that his family survived, and were sheltering in a ravine with about two dozen other locals behind the Snodgrass farm. That was a relief, to be sure, but his farm was destroyed, and his dependents were now refugees. All Poe could do was leave them a sack of grain before he had to rejoin his command.

Harry Smeltzer, at Bull Runnings, likes to do a thing he calls “pulling threads.”

Last evening, I was listening to Slacker when a new song came on. The band was called “Larkin Poe.” That caught my attention. Couldn’t possibly be, right?

Here is their website:

Turns out I knew these singers previously, as the Lovell Sisters, having heard them on the radio and internet from time to time. In the internet age, though, no question goes unanswered for long.

From their own website:

We have a very colorful family history,” explains lead singer/guitarist Rebecca, 23, who also plays mandolin and violin. “There were a lot of creative, hot-headed, and intelligent branches that went against the grain in our family tree. Our paternal grandfather suffered from schizophrenia, while our great, great, great, great grandfather, Larkin Poe, was a Civil War wagon driver turned historian and a distant cousin to Edgar Allen Poe. Growing up with their crazy stories definitely shaded our perception of normal. As artists, I think some of those innate eccentricities, passed down from generation to generation, have been even further exaggerated in us!” Megan, 25, who contributes lapsteel and dobro to the line-up, chimes in, “As sisters, we just wanted to pick a band name that had familial significance, so we decided to tip a nod to our ancestors and take on the name Larkin Poe.”

So there you go. It’s the same guy. Will I buy this album? You bet. I Wonder if I should include it in my bibliography?

March, 2015

September 14, 2014

It will soon be time to post the information for the 2015 CCNMP Study Group. We have dates (March 6-7, 2015) and plenty of topics, but here is a question for you – What does everyone think of expanding the Study Group’s purview to the battle of Resaca, May 1864?

One topic suggested last year was to look at Confederate Logistics, including how Resaca fit into Bragg’s supply circumstances in September 1863. For the better part of a week, Resaca was Bragg’s railhead. Resaca’s defenses were first erected during this time frame, and it was garrisoned by militia and state troops.

But if we go to Resaca, it seems a shame to ignore the new state park, and the very interesting battle fought the very next spring. Almost nothing has been written on Resaca, and it is well worth a look.

So I would like to solicit some feedback – what do you think?

War is Hell . . . and adventure tourism

September 5, 2014

On this day 151 years ago, September 5, 1863, two great armies were stirring in North Georgia. William S. Rosecrans and the Army of the Cumberland had successfully crossed the Tennessee River, while in Chattanooga, Braxton Bragg was at last aware of his peril. 

And yet, war is as much waiting as it is marching and fighting. With time on thier hands, men find ways to occupy themselves. By sightseeing, for example. 

 Generals were not immune to playing tourist. On September 5th Rosecrans indulged his scientific proclivities and explored Hill’s Cave (now modern-day Cave Spring, Georgia.) During this adventure, he had a bad moment. “The General’s rather bulky form became wedged in a narrow passage. and for a few minutes it was a question whether the campaign might not have to be continued under the next senior general…He seemed pretty well frightened.” Fortunately, Rosecrans was extricated without harm, and the campaign would continue as intended. Supposedly Rosecrans left his name written on the wall there, as well.

 Also on the 5th, party of officers from the XXI Corps, including the corps chief of staff Colonel Lynn Starling and Major General Horatio Van Cleve made a point of visiting the cornerstone marking the boundaries of Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia. At the age of 53, Van Cleve was one of the oldest generals in the army, but he took a boyish delight in recording his trip to the stone, included in a letter to his wife: “Sept 5th 12 M,” he wrote, “I am now in the state of Georgia. Sept 5th, 12.2 M. Now in Alabama. Sept 5th 12.4 M. Now in Tennessee.”

It’s all fun and games until someone gets stuck in a cave.


The Chickamauga Campaign: Book update.

August 31, 2014

Time to check in. The book is nearly done with layout, and will soon go to the printer. Mr. Savas and I did have a conversation today concerning one issue – length. I seem to be a bit wordy. As it stood, the tome was pushing 800 pages. That’s a lot.

For those of you wishing to keep score, Scott Hartwig’s new book, “To Antietam Creek” weighs in at 794 pp – and Johns Hopkins, his publisher, priced the thing at $49.95. That’s a lot.

So we will tweak a couple of things to make sure the product matches the pricing. We are shooting for closer to 700 or 750 pp. We are working on the narrative flow, ending the action with the close of battle on the 19th. This means volume 2 will begin with the overnight conferences in both armies, as they prepare for battle on the 20th. I was conflicted about where to put those chapters, since they are really transitional pieces between the 19th and the 20th. The need to watch our page count helped tip them into Volume 2.

We are also trying to avoid excessive duplication in things like the bibliography. I hoping to to explore a creative alternative to putting the same bibliographic information in all three books – that seems very wasteful. Maybe we will make it abvailable online, or as a download, for the first two volumes. Ultimately, of course, the full bibliography will be in Volume 3.

This gestation has been a lot longer than I expected. But then, the research and writing took damn near 16 years. What else should I have expected? I don’t want to put a time frame on publication just yet, but we are really in the final stages.

I hope this book lives up to expectations. It certainly lives up to mine, and then some, but then, I might be a bit biased.

Leet’s Farmhouse

August 22, 2014

Leet's Farmhouse

I came across this photo some time ago. This is the house of Arthur Leet, of Leet’s Spring, scene of a sharp action between John T. Wilder’s Federals and John Pegram’s Confederate cavalry a week before the Battle of Chickamauga. Union and Confederate casualties were laid out on the porch.

I confess I don’t know if this an image of how the house looked at the time of the battle, or a postwar structure (in whole or part.) It is a somewhat grander affair than the more primative cabins found on the battlefield. Of course, Arthur Leet was fairly well-to-do by 1863, North Georgia standards.

Researching Atlanta

August 20, 2014

I have begun to spend some serious time digging through archives for the Atlanta Campaign. Previously, I have visited the University of Texas at Austin, the Bentley Library at University of Michigan, the Tennessee State Library and archives, and a couple of smaller sites. 

Most recently, I spent two days at Carlisle, at the hugely impressive US Army Heritage & Education Center.

So many of these places now allow digital photography of documents, which is a godsend to researchers. I now have nearly 2,000 digital images (jpegs and pdfs) of documents pertinent to the campaign, including hundreds of letters and diaries. 


Now, of course, all I have to do is sort them out… should be a snap.

Franz Sigel goes to New Market.

July 31, 2014

And now for something completely different…

Franz Sigel

It’s time to talk about Franz Sigel.

“What!” you exclaim? “Why on earth do we want to talk about Franz Sigel?”
Two reasons. One, he was the Union commander at the Battle of New Market, which I – being a graduate of VMI, have a vested interest in. After all, I escaped the “I” on numerous weekends over the years to do living history at New Market, so I do have a soft spot for the place. The second reason is a little more convoluted. John C. Breckinridge, who commanded a division at Chickamauga, commanded the whole Confederate army (which was only slightly larger than his old division) in the Shenandoah Valley that May 15th, 1864. I am interested in the subsequent careers of all the men who survived that bloodletting.

One of my side projects for the past couple of years has been a book on New Market. Yes, I know that Charles Knight came out with an excellent book on the battle just a few years ago. Charles’s work expanded the point of view to include a broader perspective than just the VMI Cadet’s role in this battle, and he succeeded – his book is well worth reading.

But, I feel that Franz Sigel gets short shrift. Maybe not as short a shrift as the diminutive German received at the hands of William C. Davis, in that historian’s own fine study of the same battle, now several decades old; but short shrift none-the-less.

Sigel tends to be universally dismissed as an idiot. And let’s face it, after years of studying Braxton Bragg, I know what that sort of dismissal looks like. My gut warned me to reject the notion: too pat, too easy, too dismissive. There is more at work here.

So I started to read the primary sources. Some very interesting things struck me. First and foremost, Ulysses S. Grant’s hand in this campaign is quite evident, and not for the better. Sigel was chosen for command of the Department of West Virginia without Grant’s input, and the new general-in-chief was none too happy about that. So Grant meddled. Initially, he approved a two-pronged scheme of maneuver, with General George Crook moving down the valley from the southern end, and Sigel marching up the valley from the northern end. Then Grant changed his mind, sending a Union officer named Edward O. C. Ord to West Virginia with orders to effectively replace Sigel, adding a third maneuver column from Beverly, and relegating Sigel to admin and supply duties.

This might not have been so bad had Ord been capable. Instead, Ord was a schemer, a careerist, and a moral coward. Ord hated the idea of having to serve under Sigel, and more importantly, once Ord got a look at the troops he was to command, he realized how unprepared for operations they actually were. Within a few days, Ord fled the department and begged Grant to be relieved, fearing that he might get stuck with the responsibility (and the blame) if things went wrong.

Grant, having already disrupted Sigel’s plans once, now did so again. He acquiesced to Ord’s request. This left Sigel in the lurch. Troops gathered at Beverly now marched back from whence they came, though awful weather, wasting weeks of important time that could have been spent in badly needed training.

And that was just the first of the multiple rugs pulled out from under the feet of Franz Sigel.

Missing Pieces

July 10, 2014

Even after all this time and effort, there are at least three organizations involved with the Chickamauga campaign which remain almost entirely unknown quantities. My files contain glimpses of these commands, but only that – glimpses. They are shadows, acting off-stage, or in the wings. We never get to see them center stage.
All three of them have to do with reconnaissance. Two of them are Confederate formations, one is Federal. All of them almost certainly played a role in the campaign between September 8th, when Bragg departed Chattanooga, and September 18th, when the battle actually began.

The first of these is the informal scout detachment drawn from John T. Wilder’s Lightning Brigade. By 1863, virtually every Union brigade and division had a mounted scout detachment, drawn from the command at large. Evidence of those Union scout detachments appears from time to time in the Official Records, usually garnering only a passing mention.
Wilder’s scouts had a more important role than most, given the parent brigade’s direct attachment to Army HQ, and the sorts of independent missions Wilder was usually selected to undertake. Unfortunately, despite the great amount of information we have on Wilder, there is almost nothing on the scouts. Even Richard Baumgartner’s outstanding “Blue Lightning” tome has no details.

The second group belongs to Joe Wheeler’s cavalry corps. Wheeler had an “elite battalion” drawn from his corps, a special detachment he used for scouting and important missions behind enemy lines. Where they spies? Commandos? Deep cover operatives? We don’t know. Given how badly Wheeler failed in intelligence gathering throughout the campaign, I tend to think they weren’t really tasked with scouting – I suspect they were more like Forrest’s escort company, a formation Wheeler kept close and used as his personal combat force, but that is only a guess.

The third group, also Confederate, is potentially the most interesting to me, because I know the least about it. In August 1863, in addition to calling out the Georgia State Line, the State of Georgia mobilized several home-guard cavalry regiments and battalions. The unit formed in Walker County was the 6th Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Georgia State Guard. The first five companies of this battalion were raised in Walker County. Company E, also known as the Pond Springs Cavalry, were local men right in McLemore’s Cove.

This battalion has no presence in the published official Records. You can find a few traces of it in the Georgia state records, but no hint as to what they did, how many men were activated, or where they went.
Today, if you go to the Cove Methodist Church and walk in the little cemetery there, in addition to the Widow Eliza Glenn’s grave, you will see a half-dozen or so men of the 6th Battalion buried here.

I wish I knew more about them.

Maybe someday.


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