A Bit on Volume 3

October 8, 2016

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This morning I dropped the last signed pre-order for The Chickamauga Campaign, Volume Three: Barren Victory in the mail. With every new release, I have a batch of books that need to be signed and sent off – I take it as a great honor that readers will pay that bit extra for the personal touch.

This year I shipped 60 books – 51 copies of Barren Victory, and 8 or 9 copies of older titles. Interestingly enough, this is about double each of what I signed and packaged for Vols. I and II.The trend line is positive.


Here is a picture of that shipping process, just commencing. Note all the boxes on the back wall, by the window; I’ll be needing warehousing soon. Also, the maps you see on that table beneath the books are of Moccasin Bend. I have been hard at work drawing troop movements for the next project, the Maps of Chattanooga. Need to speed that one up.


This year I sent off books to three distant lands (four if you count Texas – just kidding) Norway, the Philippines, and the UK. The gentleman from Norway has ordered the previous volumes, as well; I assume he has a connection to Union Colonel Hans Heg, a native of Norway who was mortally wounded at Chickamauga. There is a statue of Heg in Lier, his birthplace, some distance southwest of Oslo. I’ve always been unable to successfully download a good picture of that monument, so instead, here is one from Madison Wisconsin, where the good Colonel stands guard over the capitol.


Those overseas books cost a pretty penny to ship, by the way – I am doubly impressed by the effort those folks made to obtain my work.

I trust that the sharp increase in signed-book order volume bodes well for overall sales. I know we did a brisk business at the park.

My thanks to all who ordered.


CCNMP Study Group 2017 Seminar in the Woods.

September 25, 2016

 It’s that time of year again…









Mission Statement: The purpose of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Study Group is to create a forum to bring students of the American Civil War together to study and explore those events in the fall of 1863 that led ultimately to the creation of the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, as well as explore other nearby Civil War-related sites.

Tour Leaders:  Jim Ogden and Dave Powell

Date: Friday, March 10, and Saturday, March 11, 2017; By bus and car caravan.

All tours begin and end at the Visitor’s Center.

By Bus:

Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00: Battle of Resaca, May 14 – 15, 1864

On Friday we will expand our horizons to explore the nearby, brand new battlefield park at Resaca. We will move through Snake Creek Gap, and following McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee, and will subsequently examine the fighting that raged across Camp Creek Valley, the area now west of modern Interstate 75.

Friday evening, 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Q&A Panel with Jim Ogden, Dave Powell, and Lee White.

 Site: Constitution Hall, 201 Forrest Road, Fort Oglethorpe, GA

 Last year we held our first-ever free-form Q & A session. It was a success, one which we shall repeat going forward.


Car Caravan – Saturday Morning, 8:30 to Noon: Breckinridge Repulsed!

 On Saturday Morning we will explore the Union counter-attacks that drove Breckinridge’s Confederate infantry out of the north end of Kelly Field, restoring the integrity of General Thomas’s Union position there, and consider the impact that action had on the rest of the Union army.





woods-division-20th-pm-146Car CaravanSaturday Afternoon, 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.: Breakthrough

 On Saturday Afternoon we will explore the conditions that created the infamous “Fatal Order,” sent by William Starke Rosecrans to divisional commander Thomas Wood; the roles of Generals Thomas and McCook in that order, as well as examining the advance of Fulton’s Brigade, Johnson’s Confederate division through the resultant gap in the Union Right.






 Friday’s Tours will be by Bus. Pre-registration and Fee required: $45, due by February 1 2017.

 Sign-up after February 1 or on-site Fee (based on space available): $50 

 Saturday: no charge.

Fees raised in excess of our costs (as well as any donations) will be used to support the causes of battlefield preservation, interpretation, and renovation.

 In 2016 the Study Group donated $450 to the Civil War Trust, helping to preserve battlefield land around Dalton, Georgia; and $450 to the Jewell Monument fund, run by the Friends of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, for maintenance and restoration needs.

 Send to (and make checks payable to):

David Powell

522 Cheyenne Drive

Lake in the Hills IL 60156

This fee is NON-REFUNDABLE after February 1st, 2017. Once we are committed to the bus, we will be charged the booking fee, no matter what.  

Please note that everyone is responsible for their own lodging, meals, snacks and incidentals.

Thank you, see you in March.


Home again…

September 18, 2016

Here was my work station on Friday and Saturday:


We sold a lot of books. I think everyone was happy.

I made it home about noon today, after a comfortable drive. Hope to see all my North Georgia friends again in March.

Signing Barren Victory at Chickamauga

September 16, 2016

Chattanooga from the Cravens House

I will be signing books today at the Chickamauga Visitors Center, Fort Oglethorpe Georgia. 153 years ago today, Confederate troops were marching north from LaFayette, and Union forces were coalescing around Lee & Gordon’s Mills.

I will be here to help commemorate the fateful battle of Chickamauga, in attendance on today, Friday, September 16, and tomorrow, Saturday September 17.

I will be signing all of my books, including Barren Victory, volume 3 of The Chickamauga Campaign, brand new at this venue.


The trilogy completed

The Chickamauga Campaign cover low res

The cover of the Harwell Award-winning Volume 2 of The Chickamauga Campaign

Upcoming Events

September 10, 2016

Volume 3 is here!


All three volumes, side by side: complete at last!

On Tuesday, September 13, I will be at the Atlanta Civil War Round Table to accept the Richard B. Harwell Award, and to speak about Chickamauga. Please join us, if you are able.

About the Round Table

I will also be signing copies of all my books at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Visitor’s Center on Friday, September 16 & Saturday, September 17 – in conjunction with the 153rd commemoration of the battle of Chickamauga. We will be debuting Volume 3 there, as well.

Commemoration information

Volume 3 looks great, by the way. It runs to 379 pages, and is (in my humble opinion) jam-packed with information. The detailed breakdown of strengths and losses is extensively footnoted, and should be especially useful to any researcher of the battle.

I can’t believe that this rock has finally been rolled all the way to the top of the hill.



A Pursuit: Two Views

September 7, 2016

Braxton Bragg’s many critics, in the years that followed Chickamauga, would argue that his failure to follow up his victory with a pursuit ultimately doomed the Confederacy. Lafayette McLaws denied this. After all, McLaws argued he knew there was a pursuit – he commanded it.

On September 22nd, McLaws, Nathan Bedford Forrest (and some Yankees) had an encounter just outside Chattanooga. What transpired between the two men? Here are two very different views on the matter:


Forrest and his Escort, charging, from the Tennessee State Library and Archives         

Sometime after 1:00 p.m. Colonel Holman tested the main Union defenses. Dibrell had left Holman with orders to proceed up the Rossville Road “as far as possible in the direction of Chattanooga.” He pressed to within a half-mile of the place until he came upon Union entrenchments manned by elements of Thomas’s XIV Corps. Holman dismounted both regiments and probed the forts. His first effort was rebuffed with loss. To support this thrust, Captain Morton unlimbered his four guns and opened fire. Holman’s line pressed forward once more, but soon came tumbling back. These Federals were more than just a mere rearguard.

Holman was contemplating his next step when “Forrest came dashing up at full speed, followed by his escort, and asked impatiently (emphasizing the questions with an oath) ‘What have you stopped here for? Why don’t you go on into Chattanooga?’” The corps commander was in his usual lather, and still convinced Rosecrans was in full retreat. Momentarily stupefied by the sudden appearance of his superior and the series of rapid-fire queries, Holman hastily explained that “the enemy in considerable force was strongly entrenched not more than two hundred yards in front.” Forrest scoffed, adding that “he believed he could take Chattanooga with [just] his escort.” True to his nature, Forrest accepted nothing as fact until he had seen it demonstrated with his own eyes, and so proceeded to test the theory personally. “Putting spurs to horse, he and a portion of his escort galloped in the direction of the enemy,” leaving Holman to watch in dust-covered astonishment. Within minutes they were back, having suffered a “hot fire” that cost Forrest yet another mount—this one also shot in the neck—and left several empty saddles among the escort.

A short time later, General McLaws appeared up the Rossville Road, at the head of his division. McLaws’s march had not passed without incident. After broaching McFarland’s Gap, he reported, his column “became constantly engaged . . . sometimes with quite large organized bodies, but they gave way after some fighting.” The “organized bodies” consisted of Federals from Minty’s rearguard, which skirmished with Brig. Gen. William T. Wofford’s Georgians at the head of McLaws’s column. Conspicuously, McLaws made no mention of seeing any Rebel cavalry until he encountered Forrest and his men somewhere on the Rossville Road. Wheeler’s Corps, which should have been equally active in the Chattanooga Valley supporting his movement, had yet to put in any notable appearance. At the Watkins farmstead, where the Moore Road branched off from the La Fayette Road to turn toward Missionary Ridge, Forrest and McLaws conferred.[1]

Descriptions of this meeting contradict one another. Forrest’s biographers insist that Forrest was still full of fight, remaining convinced that every hour lost was a disaster for Confederate arms, and that Rosecrans must be attacked before he escaped the trap of Chattanooga. Accordingly, “Forrest . . . proposed that they should venture an attack in the still demoralized condition of the enemy.” According to their pens, McLaws refused. His orders, he insisted, were to merely picket the roads into Chattanooga.[2]

McLaws recalled the encounter very differently. According to the Georgian, once Wofford “drove the enemy into the works about town, of course my further advance was checked, as my force was entirely too small to risk an assault.” Instead, McLaws deployed his main line astride the intersection at the Watkins House, seized Watkins Hill as an artillery platform, and ordered his men to throw up defensive works of their own. While in the process of doing so, continued McLaws, Forrest rode up. Just moments earlier, with Holman, the big cavalryman was all afire to pursue, heedless of caution, until he led his escort forward toward the enemy lines. Now—at least according to McLaws—he was just the opposite. “Gen. Forrest joined me with a small body of cavalry,” recalled McLaws, “and told me that I was risking the loss of my command, as the rest of the army was not within seven miles of me.” (This was not entirely accurate, for Frank Cheatham’s division was even then occupying Missionary Ridge at the Sutton house, but Cheatham’s troops were at least two miles distant, and the bulk of the army was indeed much farther away.) As McLaws related the tale, Forrest now counseled immediate retreat. “I told him it was not my intention to retire unless driven back,” insisted McLaws. Forrest next offered to scout McLaws’s right flank, where there was a gap between his infantry and Cheatham’s men. “He was gone perhaps half an hour, when he re-appeared riding a broken-down horse and with but two or three men. . . . [H]e had not gone over half a mile,” recalled McLaws, “when he came upon a considerable body of infantry . . . who ordered them to surrender. The only reply he gave was for his men to charge, he leading it.”[3]

The Confederate pursuit had been thoroughly blunted. It was clear to McLaws, if perhaps not to Forrest, that only a well-prepared large-scale assault could capture Chattanooga. Accordingly, McLaws determined to hold his ground and wait for reinforcements. Cheatham left his troops and made his way forward to visit McLaws about 10:00 p.m. that night. Cheatham “told me that he had been ordered to report to me with his division,” recalled McLaws, “but on crossing Missionary Ridge, had encountered such a large force of the enemy . . . that he deemed it wise to return to the ridge.” McLaws ordered Cheatham to stay where he was, and “to hold his command in readiness to come to my assistance” should the Yankees attack. No support was needed. The Federals were content to rest and strengthen their earthworks.[4]

[1] Lafayette McLaws, “Chickamauga,” Cheeves Family Papers.

[2] Jordan and Pryor, Forrest’s Cavalry, 353.

[3] Lafayette McLaws, “Chickamauga,” Cheeves Family Papers. McLaws may well have been relating a version of the same incident described by Holman.

[4] Ibid.


Where does the money go?

August 29, 2016

Last March, the Chickamauga Study Group raised $900 towards Civil War preservation. Every  year, at some point, I ask those present where they would like to see the money go. Truth be told, there are always more causes than cash.

In 2015, we donated approximately $900 to the Civil War Trust’s appeal for Brown’s Ferry.

This year, many of us were aware of a similar appeal being readied for land purchase at Rocky Face Ridge, outside of Dalton Georgia. That appeal was made public a couple of months ago.


But some on the bus raised a good point – that money raised by the Chickamauga Study Group should be going to efforts to help Chickamauga, as well. I agree with this. Also, I am increasingly concerned with the growing maintenance backlog at our National Parks – we save lots of land, but who will interpret it, preserve it, repair the monuments, and the like?

In order to support both causes, I have decided to split the donations.

$450 went to the Civil War Trust, for their Rocky Face Ridge appeal; that money will be leveraged with a 15 to 1 match. Great news.

$450 also went to the Jewell Memorial Restoration Fund, managed by the Friends of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, for the purpose of repairing and restoring monuments.

Here is the Friends website:


and the link directly to the Jewell fund information


Thanks to everyone who contributed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

August 25, 2016

Some of you probably know that I am a member of Emerging Civil War, the group of historians who both blog and write on all aspects of the war. Sometimes deciding where to post something is a bit of a toss-up: should it go here, or there?

Recently I have begun a series of posts over on ECW that ties in well with this readership and subject, as well.

In order to keep current without too much spamming, I thought I would link posts between the two sites.

Here is the first of those, over on Emerging Civil War:

Longstreet goes West, Part One: Machiavellian or Misunderstood?

Bad news from Chattanooga

August 19, 2016

Another excerpt from Volume 3: Barren Victory; detailing the reaction of various members of the administration in Washington upon learning the details of Rosecrans’s defeat:


Lincoln standingThrough the night and into the early morning hours of September 21, telegraph wires across the North hummed with constant activity. In Washington DC, President Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and Union General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck waited for news, pouncing on every morsel, and firing off wire after wire in response. To Rosecrans, Lincoln wrote at 12:35 a.m.: “Be of good cheer. We have unabated confidence in you and in your soldiers and officers. . . . I would say save your army by taking strong positions until [Maj. Gen. Ambrose] Burnside joins you, when I hope you can turn the tide. . . . We shall do our utmost to assist you.” Burnside, whose forces in East Tennessee were the closest possible source of reinforcements for the Army of the Cumberland, now figured prominently in Lincoln’s thoughts. At 2:00 a.m., the President wired a terse, unequivocal order to Burnside: “Go to Rosecrans with your force without a moment’s delay.”

To those around him, the President clearly appeared downbeat. He had been so for several days, fearing the worst. Those fears were now confirmed. In the small hours of Monday morning he visited his private secretary, John Hay, barging into Hay’s bedroom while the latter was still abed. “Well, R[osecrans] has been whipped as I feared. I have feared it for several days. I believe I feel trouble in the air before it comes,” blurted the frustrated commander-in-chief. On the subject of Burnside, Lincoln vented his spleen. “Instead of obeying the orders . . . and going to R[osecrans],” he exploded in clear disgust, “[he] has gone up on a foolish affair to Jonesboro to capture a party of guerrillas.”[1]

Halleck StandingEspecially vexing was the discovery that Robert E. Lee sent Longstreet’s entire corps to reinforce Bragg, all done directly under the nose of a curiously passive Union Maj. Gen. George G. Meade. Meade and the Army of the Potomac sat quietly at Culpepper, Virginia, while Lee coolly reduced his own forces by a third. “I asked what Meade was doing with his immense army,” noted Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles in his diary, given “Lee’s skeleton and depleted show . . .” Again Lincoln gave voice to his dismay. “It is . . . the same old story of this Army of the Potomac. Imbecility, inefficiency – don’t want to do – is defending the capital. . . . Oh, it is terrible, terrible, this weakness, this indifference, of our Potomac generals.” Welles felt Halleck should share equally in the blame. “General Halleck has earnestly and constantly smoked cigars and rubbed his elbows,” snorted a derisive Welles, “while the rebels have been vigorously concentrating their forces to overwhelm Rosecrans.”

[1] Martin Burlingame and John R. Turner Ettlinger, Inside Lincoln’s White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay (Southern Illinois University Press, 1997), 85. Prior to the fight at Chickamauga, Burnside and Rosecrans had been in regular communication. With the capture of Chattanooga on September 9, it looked to both men as if Bragg were retreating, leaving Burnside nothing to fear from that quarter. Accordingly, Burnside took that part of his force not tied down occupying Knoxville towards Jonesboro Tennessee, near the Virginia-Tennessee border, to try and secure his northern flank. A small force of Confederates under Major General Samuel Jones still controlled southwest Virginia and, if reinforced, could pose a threat to Burnside’s control of East Tennessee. At Jonesboro, Burnside was about 100 miles northwest of Knoxville, and more than 200 miles from Chattanooga.

Bragg vs. Longstreet

August 16, 2016


Sometime on the morning of September 21, Braxton Bragg and James Longstreet had their first post-victory meeting. Bragg conferred with Longstreet twice before: near midnight on the 19th, when Longstreet reached Bragg’s headquarters after an circuitous journey from the Catoosa Platform; and about mid-afternoon on September 20, after Longstreet’s breaking of the Union line at Brotherton cabin, but while the fight for Horseshoe Ridge still raged.

In that first meeting, Bragg outlined his plans after a day of frustration, probably hoping that Longstreet could change the dynamic. In the second, Bragg seemed entirely pessimistic, borne down by the failures on the Confederate Right, while Longstreet was ebullient, energized by his tremendous success. The contrasting attitudes of this last meeting could not help but weigh on Longstreet’s mind.

They met again when Bragg rode up to Longstreet’s headquarters, now somewhere near the Dyer House, at about 8:00 a.m. This proved to be a fateful encounter.

[Ecerpted from Volume 3]

Bragg left no record of their exact conversation. Longstreet described it variously, outlining the same basic course each time. It was clear to both men the Federals had disengaged successfully, and now held Rossville in sufficient strength to make a frontal attack there unpalatable. Accordingly, Longstreet advocated a solution that would have been right at home in Virginia: a turning movement. The Army of Tennessee, he argued, should move northeast, cross the Tennessee River upstream from Chattanooga, and operate either against Ambrose Burnside at Knoxville, Rosecrans’s supply line back to Bridgeport, or more daringly, march back into Middle Tennessee. Longstreet’s accounts are vague on details, offering up different versions of the discussion in his multiple descriptions of the encounter, but they all follow the same general course.

Longstreet recorded his first account of the meeting just four days later on September 25 in a confidential wire to Secretary of War James Seddon. In it, Longstreet “suggested at once to strike at Burnside, and if he made his escape, to march upon Rosecrans’ communications upon rear of Nashville.” The next version came in his official report, written sometime in October. Here Longstreet said he advocated “crossing the river above Chattanooga, so as to make ourselves sufficiently felt on the enemy’s rear as to force his evacuation of Chattanooga, and indeed, force him back upon Nashville, and if we should find our transportation inadequate for a continuance of this movement, to follow up the railroad to Knoxville, destroy Burnside, and from there threaten the enemy’s railroad communications in rear of Nashville.” In an 1884 letter to D. H. Hill, Longstreet explained that he was “laying a plan by which we might overhaul the enemy at Chattanooga, or between that point and Nashville.” In 1904 memoirs, the Georgian reiterated the version of the plan found in his official report: Cross the Tennessee, force Rosecrans out of Chattanooga, and then move on either Knoxville or Nashville.

Far from being fully formed, Longstreet’s concept was really only a broad strategic outline. The variations in objective (the destruction of Burnside, flanking Rosecrans out of Chattanooga, or moving into Middle Tennessee) were simply the possibilities that suggested themselves to Longstreet as he contemplated what should come next, and should not be regarded as anything more definite. All three options were equally feasible and strategically sound, supposing the army could move with alacrity. His thinking foundered, however, on the shoals of logistical reality.

Longstreet had only recently arrived in North Georgia, and so had no way of knowing that the Army of Tennessee was crippled by a lack of transportation. Bragg’s army may have recently doubled in size in terms of combat power, but all those reinforcements greatly complicated his army’s logistical problems. None of Longstreet’s nor W. H. T. Walker’s men brought with them their own wagons from, respectively, Virginia or Mississippi. This lack only exacerbated a problem Bragg already faced. When he was operating in Tennessee, Bragg couldn’t fully feed the men he had because, as historian Thomas Connelly observed, “Bragg’s own transportation system had been on the verge of collapse since early 1863.”

Unless the army’s supply trains could be vastly and rapidly augmented, the Rebels could not venture more than a few miles from a secure rail-head. Longstreet’s men were already feeling the effects of that limitation. Just that morning, Longstreet “complained to Bragg that many of his men needed provisions, and as his staff officers had not been provided with the means of supplying the troops, he [Longstreet] could do nothing” about the problem.

Unfortunately for the Confederates, neither could Bragg. The Western & Atlantic Railroad, over which all of this logistical traffic must flow, was stressed to the breaking point. The rail line had spent the past week shuttling Longstreet’s infantry to the front—a high priority for Bragg’s army. The result was that the army was much stronger, and had won a decisive tactical victory, but the men were now short on rations. Catoosa Platform, where the rail line terminated, was 12 miles distant from the McDonald farmstead, which now marked the center of mass for Bragg’s army. Ideally, Bragg wanted to advance the army’s rail depot northward to Chickamauga Station, about 15 miles beyond Catoosa and just a couple of miles from McDonald’s, but to do so the intervening line through Ringgold would have to be put back into service. Most significantly, four bridges destroyed by Forrest’s men would have to be repaired before the rail-head could be advanced. Bragg had already begun that job, ordering at least one company of the newly formed 3rd Confederate Engineers onto the task on September 17, but the work was nowhere close to complete by the morning of the 21st.

Another huge obstacle to Longstreet’s plans was the Tennessee River itself. The drought had made the Tennessee fordable in many places, at least by infantry and cavalry. Even some artillery might be rafted across. Crossing an entire army and keeping it supplied indefinitely, of course, required bridges. And bridging materials Bragg had in sufficient supply. In fact, he probably had more bridging assets than did Rosecrans. Back in July, during the retreat to Chattanooga, the Rebels had sufficient pontoons to span the Tennessee twice, once at Battle Creek and again at Kelly’s Ferry. In August, these same pontoons were towed to Chattanooga, where later that month some of them formed the swinging bridge that occupied John T. Wilder’s attention while Eli Lilly’s guns shelled the city. A couple of weeks later, while he was preparing to abandon Chattanooga, Bragg ordered the bridges taken up and shipped south.

On the 21st of September, Bragg’s pontoon train was all the way back at Cartersville Georgia, more than 60 miles to the south. Moving the boats back north would also require the use of the railroad—once again at the expense of other supplies like rations and ammunition. Once at Catoosa, more horses and mules would have to be assigned to pull those pontoons, a further drain on the army’s already limited supply of livestock. However feasible that task might be in the long term, it certainly could not be accomplished quickly.

The final problem with this solution, as Bragg saw it, was that Longstreet’s proposed movement would mean exposing the Army of Tennessee’s supply line to a direct thrust by Rosecrans. Despite all the new Confederate reinforcements, Bragg still harbored the misapprehension that the Union army was “now more than double our numbers.” Who would defend Ringgold and/or Chickamauga Station once the army was on the far side of the Tennessee? To Bragg, the risks seemed too great. Moving the Army of Tennessee back into its namesake state exposed the Rebels to the very real danger of being isolated and destroyed in turn, more so than such a move threatened Rosecrans’s Federals. It was far more likely that Union reinforcements could be quickly sent to defend Stevenson and Bridgeport than could more Rebels be stripped from other departments to defend Ringgold.

For all of these reasons, Bragg understood that Longstreet’s concept was simply impractical. However, he failed to make that point clear to Old Pete. According to Longstreet, Bragg told him just the opposite. “He stated that he would follow that course,” claimed the Georgian in his memoirs. Whether Bragg did a poor job of updating Longstreet, or Longstreet simply ignored the facts in order to further his own idea, this fundamental divide would produce no end of difficulties between these two men in the days to come.

This fundamental misunderstanding between the men would vastly complicate Bragg’s future tenure in command. Longstreet did not instigate the mutiny which was to soon ravage the Army of Tennessee’s command structure – the seeds of that “revolt of the generals” lay elsewhere. But when the time came to choose sides, Longstreet chose unhesitatingly: in opposition to Braxton Bragg.

How would you choose?