March 2021 Seminar in the Woods

September 19, 2020

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.

COVID NOTICE: As of right now, we are planning on a normal weekend, with one day on the bus and one on foot in the park.

If the state of Covid in the country still requires some degree of distancing, we will eliminate the bus tour on Friday and substitute two other battle walks for Friday morning and afternoon.

If for some reason Covid has become so widespread to require complete cancellation, we will do so, but as of right now, we are planning to go forward.

All decisions regarding the tour bus and any need to cancel will be made by January 31st, before we must lock in the bus reservation.

Thank you for your understanding.

Tour Leaders: Jim Ogden and Dave Powell
Date: Friday, March 12, and Saturday, March 13, 2021; 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: Cavalry Actions in McLemore’s Cove
We will explore the southern end of McLemore’s Cove, including Dougherty’s Gap, and Blue Bird Gap in Pigeon Mountain. In the afternoon, we will examine the fighting around Glass Mill and Lee & Gordon’s Mills.
We will be taking a lunch break from about 11:30 to 1 PM.

Friday evening, 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Q&A Panel with Jim Ogden, Dave Powell, and others (as announced)
Site: Constitution Hall, 201 Forrest Road, Fort Oglethorpe, GA.

The reprise of the Annual free-form Question and Answer session.

Car Caravan – Saturday Morning, 8:30 to Noon: A. P. Stewart and Bate’s Breakthrough, 4 PM September 19.

On the afternoon of September 19, Confederate General A. P. Stewart’s three brigades were committed to action in the woods east of Brotherton Field. After several hours of see-saw action, Stewart’s brigades achieved two significant ruptures of the Union lines; Clayton’s Alabama Brigade pushed through Brotherton Field to emerge at the east edge of South Dyer Field, while Bate’s mixed Georgia-Tennessee Brigade drove northwest, into Poe Field. Exhaustion, a lack of support, and a vigorous Union response triggered the eventual retreat of Stewart’s forces. In the morning’s walk, we will consider the Confederate side of this fight, largely tracking Bate’s brigade.

Car Caravan – Saturday Afternoon, 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.: The Federals seal the breach – Brotherton Field, 5 pm September 19.

The Federal response to Stewart’s breakthrough was rapid and effective. A number of different brigades were ultimately involved in this response, including that of William B. Hazen, only recently disengaged from the fighting in Brock Field. We will track that response, following Hazen’s command from Poe Field to Brotherton Field.

Friday’s Tours will be by Bus. Pre-registration and Fee required: $45, due by February 1 2021.
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 2020 the Study Group donated $500 to the Jewell Monument fund, run by the Friends of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, for maintenance and restoration needs, and $500 to the American Battlefield Trust, in response to an appeal to help save several western battlefields, including a piece of Missionary Ridge.

Send to (and make checks payable to):
David Powell
1300 Mark Street
Bensenville IL 60106

This fee is NON-REFUNDABLE after February 1st, 2020. 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.

March 2020 Seminar in the Woods Update

January 13, 2020


The bus for Friday’s tour is officially FULL! All SOLD OUT.

Of course, there is no attendance limit or cost for Saturday’s tours, all are still welcome.

If you have any questions about if you reserved a seat – check you back to see if your check is cashed.

Or, send me an email at and I will verify.

To say again, Friday’s Bus Tour is SOLD OUT.

Negley’s Choice

December 15, 2019

Crossposted from Facebook:

QUESTION: Well, it’s been since October 5th since we’ve done a “Fridays with Dave” segment, and you’ve been pretty darn busy! You’ve been traveling, speaking, researching, and writing. I can only imagine the lifestyle of a jet-set Civil War historian lol. I hope we can slow you down for a few minutes and get your views on an important, but seldom talked about, episode of the Battle of Chickamauga.

This week I’d like to ask you about Union Major General James S. Negley. On the afternoon of September 19, it was Negley’s division that drove back elements of A.P. Stewart’s Confederate division who had actually achieved a breakthrough at the Brotherton farm when Van Cleve’s division had disintegrated. Negley held the Union line at the wood line on the western edge of the Brotherton field until relieved by Thomas Wood’s division mid-morning on September 20 (a controversy for another day). Negley’s division was rushed north (minus John Beatty’s brigade that was moved earlier) to reinforce Thomas. At some point Negley was also tasked with forming and being responsible for an “artillery reserve,” which was gathering on the ridge in the north Dyer Field. Then “The Breakthrough” happened.

Men from the divisions of Brannan, Negley, Van Cleve, and Wood all began rallying in the Snodgrass Hill and Horseshoe Ridge sector. Brannan and Negley had a quick conference in which it was agreed (at least in Brannan’s mind) that Brannan would defend the left of the Federal line and Negley the right. Many stayed, but in all the confusion, and to the great anger of Brannan, Negley ultimately abandoned the battlefield (without notifying anyone) before the first Confederate attack on Horseshoe Ridge with some 2,500 men and 35-40 pieces of artillery–all which were sorely needed on Horseshoe Ridge.

Can you shed some light on this little known but important episode of the battle?

DAVE POWELL: By the time of the battle, James Negley was one of the senior Major Generals in the army and well respected, though not a West Pointer. He was instrumental in defending Nashville in 1862, when the rest of the army went to Kentucky to chase Bragg. Fort Negley in Nashville is named for him.

His troops were among the last to reach the battlefield on September 19, having been left to defend Glass Mill that morning, where they had an engagement with Breckinridge’s Division of Hill’s Corps. As that fight concluded, Negley’s men were summoned north to the main battlefield, which is how they ended up counter-attacking through Dyer Field and then defending the line of Brotherton Farm overnight. Today, many of Negley’s regimental monuments mark their line on the western treeline of Brotherton Field.

Negley was detached from Thomas’s XIV Corps for much of this action, and Thomas wanted him back – him specifically, not just a division in his place, which is how we get to the controversy on the morning of September 20. Thomas bombarded army commander Rosecrans and Negley both with couriers (13 or so over a two hour time span) urging Negley to move to the Union right and prolong Thomas’s flank into McDonald Field.

At one point, Negley felt so pressed that he began to pull out of line without seeing his replacement; until severely reprimanded by Rosecrans for doing so. Rosecrans then relented enough to let John Beatty’s brigade depart ahead of the rest of the division, since Thomas’s need seemed so urgent. Beatty departed, leaving Negley to fret that his division would be dismembered and scattered in piecemeal fashion across the battlefield.

This is exactly what happened. Beatty arrived at the north end of Kelly Field, until Thomas directed him to stretch his frontage across a divisional width in McDonald Field. Beatty would not see his divisional commander again until after the battle. At about 9:45 a.m., Beatty’s thin line was struck and overrun by Breckinridge’s division of Hill’s Corps – the same men who faced his troops at Glass Mill on the other end of the Union line the day before.

In the meantime, with Wood’s men now up, Negley’s other two brigades departed for the Union left. This move was equally disjointed. On the way, Negley and his next brigade were met by yet another courier from Thomas, redirecting Negley, not to support Beatty, but to move to Snodgrass Hill and establish an artillery position there.

Negley never talked to Thomas in person that day, and never really seemed to grasp what Thomas intended. It appears that Thomas wanted Negley to establish a powerful artillery position on Snodgrass Hill, which could then fire into McDonald Field so as to break up any Confederate effort to turn Thomas’s left flank. Instead of holding that ground with a thin line, Thomas decided that he could better guard his flank with an artillery concentration, backed by Negley’s infantry on Snodgrass Hill.

Negley, however, never really grasped this concept. He deployed some troops and artillery on the open ridge of Snodgrass Hill, but facing southeast, not northeast (as he would have needed to if he were going to control McDonald Field) and deployed additional troops and artillery farther south, on what today is called Harker’s Knoll or the South Carolina Monument Knoll.

Further, Negley’s remaining brigade under Timothy Stanley never reached this new Snodgrass Hill position, but instead was pulled into the fighting raging to the east, in the woods south of McDonald Field, where John Beatty used it to support his own battered brigade as they ultimately repulsed Breckinridge’s command.

When the breakthrough happened, Negley witnessed the collapse of Wood’s and Brannan’s men, feeling singularly alone as he did so – bereft of Dick and Beatty, having not seen his corps commander or the army commander since 7:30 a.m.; and now watching thousands of Federal troops routed and streaming back from his old position. And he was sick. Very sick. In fact, he probably should not have tried to command his division that day. He had been ill for a week, down with something very much like dysentery, and he had only just returned to duty.

As Negley watched the situation deteriorate before him, he sought help. Curiously, he did not seek out Thomas, even though Thomas was not that far away. Negley knew that Thomas was at least as close as Kelly Field, and in fact, the burly Virginian was a lot closer: probably only a few hundred yards away, with Harker’s brigade of Wood’s division in North Dyer Field, where they were engaging John Bell Hood and his old command, the Texas Brigade.

Instead Negley dispatched two couriers to find William Rosecrans. This was a curious decision, since unlike Thomas, Rosecrans’s last known position was now on what was the other side of the Confederate breakthrough. Amazingly, both couriers got through, reaching Rosecrans and even returning with an answer to Negley’s plea for support. Unfortunately, no help was coming. Rosecrans had nothing to give. While those aides were away, Negley could directly observe an even more disturbing phenomenon. Confederate infantry (Arkansans of Govan’s Brigade) were moving across the LaFayette Road north of Snodgrass Hill, up in McDonald Field. To Negley, this movement suggested that he was about to have both flanks turned, not just the one.

Negley had no way of knowing, of course, that Govan’s Confederates were not turning his flank – instead, they were seeking escape after having their own flank turned by Federals in Kelly Field beating back yet another attack. Negley either failed to observe (or simply couldn’t see) Govan’s men moving back east across the LaFayette Road farther north a short time later.

Sometime shortly before 1:00 p.m. Negley met with John Brannan, whose division had been shattered in Poe Field after the breakthrough, and who was now seeking the next place to make a stand. Brannan was trying to rally a force on Hill One, some few hundred yards south of the Snodgrass Cabin. He intended to connect his reforming line’s left to Negley’s position on Snodgrass Hill, and further asked for the loan of a regiment to hold his right flank on Hill Two. Negley acceded, sending the large 21st Ohio to Brannan for that mission.

Brannan would later claim that Negley promised to hold his right flank securely during this meeting. Negley would later deny making any such overt promise, and of offering only the one regiment. Shortly after that meeting, Negley made the fateful decision that he must retreat or be surrounded and captured. As a result, Brannan’s right was completely uncovered by 1:00 p.m. or so.

Negley’s decision was astounding, mostly for what he failed to do – in his hurry to retreat, Negley never told Brannan he was going, nor notified the now-orphaned 21st Ohio, nor, in fact, several other of his own regiments. Negley did take with him three quarters of William Sirwell’s brigade and most of John Beatty’s brigade of his own division, part of John Connell’s brigade of Brannan’s command, half of George Dick’s brigade of Horatio Van Cleve’s division from the XXI Corps, and approximately 50 artillery vehicles gathered from all along the line. At a rough estimate, Negley departed the field with between 2500 and 3000 formed infantry, 35-40 guns, and numerous limbers and ammunition wagons. He told no one he was leaving, including at least three regimental commanders, who had to discover the departure for themselves and struggled to catch up.

It is important to note that Negley’s men were not under direct assault when he decided to leave. He made his decision in order to avoid what he saw as inevitable disaster, before it came to pass. It was a decision that would haunt him the rest of his life.

Union generals John Brannan and Thomas Wood were furious at him, accusing him of cowardice. More quietly, George Thomas also seethed, especially at losing the XIV Ammunition wagons. Lack of ammunition would force Thomas to abandon Snodgrass Hill by the end of the day. Negley went on sick leave right after the battle.

He never returned to command. He demanded, and received, a court of inquiry, which effectively cleared him of any technical wrongdoing, but no one wanted him back with the army. When he attempted to return in the Winter of 1864, Grant (then the commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi) had Negley intercepted at Nashville and ordered him back north across the Ohio River, out of the department. Negley returned to Pittsburgh to await orders that never came.

Undoubtedly sickness and exhaustion played a part in Negley’s fateful decision, but such excuses can only extend so far. Negley insisted that he never lost his nerve or his presence of mind that day – that composure backed up by testimony from his loyal aides – but the fractured, disjointed method of departure, with so many of his own men poorly informed, suggests otherwise.

Ominous Portents

October 17, 2019

Ulysses S. Grant’s rail route to Louisville also took him through Indianapolis, arriving there sometime in the afternoon of October 17. Stanton had waited for Grant’s train. While on the platform, Stanton met with Indiana’s powerful Republican Governor, Oliver P. Morton, who was stunned to learn that “relieving General Rosecrans . . . [was] the object of [Stanton’s] trip.”

Though Rosecrans was a Democrat, he was also very popular with the rank and file of the Army of the Cumberland, many thousands of which were Morton’s constituents; Morton himself “had great admiration” for Rosecrans. Stanton further astounded Morton when he told the Governor that Rosecrans had wired Lincoln on October 3rd, claiming that it “was useless to talk of putting down the rebellion and recommending an armistice with a view of agreeing on terms of peace.”

Had that been true, Morton would certainly have reason to be taken aback. But in relating this tale, Stanton did Rosecrans a great injustice: Rosecrans’s original dispatch said nothing of the kind. Instead, Rosecrans suggested to Lincoln that the Federal Government should offer a general amnesty to any Rebel deserters. While Lincoln agreed in concept, he also realized how such an offer would be perceived as weak in the wake of a defeat like Chickamauga, and politely rebuffed the idea as untimely. Besides, it far overstepped Rosecrans’ authority. Stanton took umbrage at this new example of Rosecrans’ temerity, and misrepresented it to Morton (and probably others) to further justify removing Rosecrans from command.

Grant’s train was just pulling out of Indianapolis when “a messenger came running up to stop it, saying the Secretary of War was coming into the Station and wanted to see me.” This was the first face-to-face meeting between the North’s most victorious field commander and the Secretary.

Boarding Grant’s car, Stanton accompanied him to Louisville. As was his wont, Stanton wasted little time in small talk. In his memoirs Grant recalled that “soon after we started the Secretary handed me two orders, saying that I might take my choice of them. The two were identical in all but one particular. Both created the ‘Military Division of the Mississippi,’ (giving me command) composed of the Departments of the Ohio, the Cumberland, and the Tennessee.” In one, Rosecrans was left in command, while in the second, Rosecrans was replaced by Thomas. “I accepted the latter.”


October 5, 2019

crossposted from Facebook:

A conversation with Chickamauga’s leading author.

QUESTION: Dave, as we all know, Chickamauga was the second-bloodiest battle of the entire Civil War. Only the Battle of Gettysburg was bloodier. When I was very young, for Christmas my Dad gave me the huge America Heritage History of the Civil War (remember that?). Having grown up close to the Chickamauga Battlefield, I was very disappointed to see that Chickamauga and Chattanooga were barely footnotes in that massive volume (they did earn one of the cool maps though!). Only recently, and largely through YOUR effort, has Chickamauga, and the Western Theater as a whole, begun to garner national attention. My question to you is, why do you think Chickamauga was so “forgotten” for so many years? Was it because it was a “hollow” victory? Was it because of largely unknown and “forgotten” commanders? Was it because no Lee or Grant or Stonewall or JEB fought here? Was it because of the Eastern press? Chickamauga is (and WAS) certainly worthy of study. By volunteering at the Visitor Center at Chickamauga I can attest that many visitors have recently “discovered” Chickamauga and are driving in to visit the field in growing numbers. So….why was Chickamauga forgotten and ignored for so long?

ANSWER DAVID POWELL: I do remember the American Heritage History of the Civil War. My Dad had a well-thumbed copy. I went out and bought a replacement a few years ago.

Interest – and tourism – at Chickamauga began less than three weeks after the battle. When Jefferson Davis visited the army in October of 1863, he requested a tour, and park lore tells us that soldiers created signboards identifying key features of the field – the first such markers, and forerunners of today’s surviving “Fingerboard” signs that still dot the park in places. In December, after the Confederates were driven off Missionary Ridge, Grant, Thomas, and numerous other Federals visited the field. Grant and Thomas cut walking sticks from some of the timber on the field.

In the 1870s and 1880s, the railroads promoted Chickamauga and other western battlefields, since so many of those fields lay alongside their tracks through Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. In 1892 the famous “Dixie Flyer” – first-class passenger service from origin points at Chicago and St. Louis all the way to Florida, via Nashville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta – began service. To promote it, the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis RR, along with the W & A (Western & Atlantic) published a guide highlighting those battlefields. In it, the guide described Chickamauga (incorrectly) as “the bloodiest battle of the war.” Reunions were held in Chattanooga for both sides, and, as evidence of the national interest, today you can travel to Civil War museums and memorial halls all over the country to find “Chickamauga Logs”: battle-scarred tree-trunks cut from the field and shipped everywhere. They were in such demand that there was actually a cottage industry of creating fake Battle Logs, embedding shells and shell fragments in drilled out tree-trunks to produce suitably impressive artifacts.

Certainly among the reasons Chickamauga and Chattanooga were selected to jointly form the country’s first National Battlefield Park was because of the importance of the campaign, and not the least, because so many soldiers from almost every state in the Union contributed men who fought there.

So the Veterans remembered.

But times change. The rise of the Lost Cause in Civil War lore was driven largely by prominent ex-Confederates who fought in the Army of Northern Virginia and for whom Robert E. Lee was Southern Manhood personified. The focus on Lee’s campaigns, and especially Gettysburg, was a natural outpouring of that. Lee and Jackson also caught the attention of a certain class of foreign officers, primarily British, who wrote extensively about the Eastern Theater.

As a result, by the time of the centennial, (1960s) the entire Western Theater had been eclipsed by the war in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Antietam and Gettysburg studies appeared frequently. What attention that was paid to the west centered largely on Grant, as a sort of curtain-raiser to his title bout with the southern heavyweight contender, Lee, in 1864. Sherman absorbed most of the remaining energy not absorbed by the East.

Chickamauga was the subject of one of the earliest battle studies, by Union participant John Turchin in the 1880s. After that, however, it barely merited a mention. Glen Tucker’s monograph appeared in 1961. No other single study of the battle would appear for another 31 years until Peter Cozzens tackled it in 1992. Chattanooga has done a little better, with modern studies by Cozzens, Wiley Sword, and a couple of others; but even the least decisive battles in the East (Fredericksburg, say) have had more works.

I think that as a study subject, Chickamauga suffers from a host of “problems.” Firstly, neither Bragg nor Rosecrans are first-rank personalities; certainly not A-list CW Celebrities. Secondly, The Army of Tennessee was an army ravaged by constant defeat; ill-fated and seemingly inept. The army’s tactical successes never produced lasting results, and thus, were seemingly wasted. There was no panache of victory as with the Army of Northern Virginia. Only frustration and confusion.

Thirdly, Chickamauga’s immense tactical complexity works against it. It was the most confusing battle of the war, bar none. The same ground exchanged hands repeatedly, and one side’s tactical advantage could be supplanted within just a short span of time by the other side’s resurgence. Regiments found themselves fighting over the same positions from multiple directions. For a modern historian untangling all this confusion represents a major investment of time and commitment. The sage of all Chickamauga Historians, Glenn Robertson, took decades to finally publish his work. My own efforts consumed nearly fifteen years. This is a very hard battle to digest and understand, let alone explain.

I have also noticed an upswing in interest, however, and I love to see it. At last Chickamauga is receiving the attention it deserves.

Chickamauga Study Group 2020 Seminar in the Woods

October 1, 2019

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 6, and Saturday, March 7, 2020; 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: Out of the Cove, and the Dry Valley Road
We will track the Union movements out of McLemore’s Cove, from Pond Spring and Gower’s Ford to Crawfish Spring, Rosecrans’ HQ at the Gordon-Lee Mansion, and then follow the Union retreat up the Dry Valley Road on September 20, 1863.
We will be taking a lunch break from about 11:30 to 1 PM. Lunch is on your own, it will not be provided.
We will also be walking more than usual on a Friday tour, as we explore the Dry Valley Road retreat route.

Friday evening, 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Q&A Panel with Jim Ogden, Dave Powell, and others (as announced)

Site: Constitution Hall, 201 Forrest Road, Fort Oglethorpe, GA
Reprise of the Annual free-form Question and Answer session.

Car Caravan – Saturday Morning, 8:30 to Noon: Bushrod Johnson’s advance, Afternoon of September 19.
At 2 pm on September 19, Bushrod Johnson’s division was attacked by the Federals of Hans Heg’s Brigade in the woods north of Viniard Field. In response, Bushrod Johnson counter-attacked, under orders from John Bell Hood. But Johnson’s front fractured, with Fulton’s and a portion of Gregg’s brigades veering northwest, ultimately striking into the south end of Brotherton Field, where at 4 pm they helped unravel the Union line there.

Car Caravan – Saturday Afternoon, 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.: Negley and Sirwell occupy Snodgrass Hill, morning til noon, September 20
Early on the morning of September 20, Union General James S. Negley received orders to pull out of line and move north to rejoin the rest of George Thomas’s XIV Corps in and around the Kelly Field Line. What did Thomas intend? What did Negley understand he was to do? Negley’s division became fragmented by those orders, and eventually, to his everlasting mortification, James Negley retired from the field at a crucial moment.

Friday’s Tours will be by Bus. Pre-registration and Fee required: $45, due by February 1 2019.

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 2019 the Study Group donated $500 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
1300 Mark Street
Bensenville IL 60106

This fee is NON-REFUNDABLE after February 1st, 2020. 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.


August 23, 2019


QUESTION: Dave, after the Battle of Chickamauga recriminations and finger-pointing ran rampant in the high command of both armies. With a Federal defeat, I’m sure both Army of the Cumberland commander William S. Rosecrans and division commander Thomas J. Wood had their detractors and supporters. Since it was Wood’s Division that left the gap on September 20, there were those on Rosecrans’ staff that blamed Wood totally for the mistake, but it seems Rosecrans himself did not blame Wood personally. Talk to us about the rumors and blaming that went on in the Federal army after the battle. In addition, who did the men in the ranks blame for their defeat?

ANSWER: While Thomas Wood would appear to be an obvious candidate for assigning blame, (and in fact did catch a lion’s share of that blame from Rosecrans partisans in years to come) initially, he was not targeted for the “fatal order of the day.” In Rosecrans’s report of the battle, Wood was named in Rosecrans’ “List of Special Mentions,” as well as praised by Thomas, Crittenden, and McCook. The fact that Wood’s division was not driven from the field but instead were crucial in helping to defend Horseshoe Ridge probably saved Wood from a court of inquiry – which, given his possession of Rosecrans’ written order, would almost certainly have cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Despite all the praise, however, the army fractionalized in the days after Chickamauga. Both Thomas Crittenden and Alexander McDowell McCook bore the brunt of criticism in the immediate aftermath of the battle, for having fled the field. Rightly or wrongly, the army feared serving under both men again – especially McCook, whose corps had now been routed on a field of battle for the third time in as many battles. Perryville, Stones River and Chickamauga added up to a record of failure the troops refused to ignore.

Some of Rosecrans’ staff soured on Wood for another reason: his vindictive campaign to have James S. Negley punished for that officer’s decision to abandon Snodgrass Hill just minutes before Wood’s own troops arrived there. Wood seems to have made a real pest of himself at army headquarters, as noted in Charles A. Dana’s gossipy (and equally vindictive) dispatches to Washington. Dana speculated that Wood might be grinding that axe against Negley to cover his own failures at the Brotherton farm.

Negley was ill and went home pending his own court of inquiry within days of reaching Chattanooga. His subsequent efforts to return were rebuffed, even after that court cleared him of wrongdoing as well. When the Federal army was reorganized that fall, the Union XX and XXI Corps were eliminated, removing the need for McCook and Crittenden; Negley’s Division was similarly broken up, obviating Negley’s position. Negley, understanding that this boded ill for his future as a soldier, attempted to return to the army over that winter, until no less a person than U. S. Grant ordered him out of the department.

Officially, Wood experienced no stigma from the “fatal Order.” He remained in active service, commanding a division of the IV Corps under Howard into 1864. He suffered a severe leg wound at Lovejoy Station in August of that year. He commanded troops at Nashville, and was promoted to Major General near the end of the war. He also served during reconstruction, but retired in 1868. His leg wound and a hernia suffered when his horse threw him at Chickamauga invalided him out of the service.

After the war, a number of Rosecrans partisans attempted to blame Wood for following the order. The most prominent of these was probably Capt. Henry Cist, who excoriated Wood in his History of the Army of the Cumberland, published in 1882. Wood, then living in Toledo, responded with alacrity, mounting a vigorous defense in the New York Times, dismissing Cist as a rear-echelon poseur. Cist, who wasn’t present on the battlefield, was actually with the Army of the Cumberland’s permanent headquarters in Chattanooga from September 9, 1863; thus Cist had no firsthand knowledge of what happened at the Brotherton Farm.

John B. Turchin, the expatriate Russian officer who commanded a brigade at Chickamauga, faulted Wood for following the order too quickly, though without the same degree of conspiratorial blame-finding Cist brought to the debate. Turchin’s history of the battle appeared in 1887, just one of many opinions expressed on the subject. Wood partisans (chief among them Emerson Opdycke of the 125th Ohio, a member of Wood’s old division) retaliated with published opinions of their own.

Interestingly, almost everyone seemed to forget McCook’s presence – even Wood, who mentioned McCook but also insisted that the decision was taken on his own responsibility – but it cannot be ignored that McCook directly influenced the decision to move immediately, and took responsibility for filling the resultant gap.

The rank and file of the Army of the Cumberland might not have known of the particulars of McCook’s involvement, but – as noted above – they definitely felt McCook was at fault. There was little grumbling among the troops when McCook and Crittenden departed the army.

In an interesting coda to the affair, McCook and Crittenden each held limited commands again. McCook was sent to Washington DC, where he was in command when Jubal Early assaulted the city’s defenses in July 1864. Crittenden was given a division in Virginia during the Spotsylvania Campaign, but lasted little more than a month until he requested to be relieved, feeling that he had been passed over in rank.

Study Group Donation

August 19, 2019

Hello to all who read here.

Yes, things have been slow lately, but I do have an announcement.
Every year about this time I decide where to commit the money we raised at the Study Group in March of 2019. In general, the group goal is to keep the funds local to the Chickamauga-Chattanooga area. And as so much money is raised for acquisition, but so little is raised for maintenance, I try to donate to monument repair where possible.

I also like to wait and see what special matching plans and contributions are offered over the course of the year – things like Brown’s Ferry, for example, might need our help.

This year I have committed $500 of the group’s money to the Jewel Monument Fund, which is a special project of the Friends of the National Parks organization for Chickamauga and Chattanooga. (they merged with the Moccasin Bend group a while back, and selected the new name.) Here is a link to the fund, in case anyone else wants to help out.

The fund (which also has a donation box in the Visitor’s Center, you might have seen it) helps to pay for the upkeep and repair of the park’s hundreds of monuments, markers, tablets, and assorted other objects.

This leaves the group with about $300. I use some of that as a “cushion reserve” for future expenses or donation to other worthy causes.

Thanks to all who attended and contributed.

Let’s have a picnic!

July 4, 2019

July 4, 1863. Where would I have like to have been?

At Gettysburg, watching the Army of the Potomac cautiously probe Lee’s positions?

Or maybe at Vicksburg, watching Ulysses S. Grant’s army enter the newly surrendered city?

Or, how about at Winchester, Tennessee?

                          William Rosecrans and staff in Tennessee.

On July 4, 1863, William S. Rosecrans declared the Tullahoma Campaign at an end. Braxton Bragg and the Army of Tennessee (CSA, this time) had escaped Middle Tennessee, and were even then crossing the Tennessee River towards Chattanooga. Bragg was at Bridgeport Alabama, where he did not tarry long.

Alexander McDowell McCook’s XX Corps came to rest at Winchester, having reached the end of their effective supply line, the railhead on the Nashville & Chattanooga Line which was still north of the Duck River. Bridges needs must be repaired, and until then, the Federals were all on short rations.

Which did not preclude McCook – one of the most popular officers in the army – from throwing a party. He arranged for a massive picnic, inviting 60 senior officers ranging from colonels to two-star generals. Rosecrans attended, as did David S. Stanley, Chief of Cavalry. Garfield, naturally enough, was also present. Both Thomas and Crittenden were both too far away to make the ride.

McCook constructed an outdoor “bower” to shade the attendees. Regimental bands provided entertainment. while artillery units fired salutes in honor of the day.

Of course, it being the Tullahoma Campaign, heavy rains moved much of the party indoors, where conditions were much more crowded. Still, the party was considered a great success.

So I might have wanted to sit in on that afternoon’s festivities.

Friday’s with Dave Powell #13

June 22, 2019

Reposted from the Facebook page:


A conversation with Chickamauga’s leading author.

QUESTION: Dave, a lot of visitors come to the battlefield and think of Wilder’s Brigade as a brigade of cavalry. Can you shed some light on this brigade of infantry originally in Joseph J. Reynolds’ Fourteenth Corps Division, its development, and its actions in the Battle of Chickamauga? As a follow-up, one does not hear much of Wilder’s Brigade after their wildly successful fighting at Chickamauga. Why is this?

DAVE POWELL: Wilder’s brigade never included any cavalry; instead the brigade was comprised of four (later five) regiments of infantry who mounted themselves initially on local livestock seized from Middle Tennessee in the spring of 1863. These four regiments were the 17th and 72nd Indiana, and the 98th and 123rd Illinois. Later, the 92nd Illinois joined them when the 92nd’s Colonel, Smith D. Atkins, agitated for a transfer to Wilder’s “fighting command” that summer.

Wilder always claimed that he conceived the idea for a brigade of mounted infantry, armed with Spencer repeating rifles, on his own, based on his frustrating experiences chasing Rebel raiders in 1862. This may well be, but in fact the concept dovetailed with a larger scheme that army commander William Rosecrans developed: to create a picked battalion of sharpshooters from each infantry brigade, mount them and arm them with similar weapons. These units, which Rosecrans dubbed “Elite Battalions” would serve as scouts and an elite strike force, mainly designed to counteract the Confederate superiority in cavalry. Rosecrans never got his elite battalions; the War Department said no. But he did get the go-ahead to mount several regiments of foot soldiers. When Wilder’s proposal reached him, Rosecrans quickly authorized the Indiana Colonel to proceed.

Wilder’s troops were the best-known of these forces, but at least one other regiment followed suit: the 39th Indiana in McCook’s 20th Corps. The 39th is less well-known, mainly because it never really served with Wilder’s command and later formally converted to become the 8th Indiana Cavalry, but it performed similar service in 1863.

Wilder’s brigade first proved their worth at Hoover’s Gap on June 24, 1863; during the opening stages of the Tullahoma Campaign. Wilder’s four regiments, supported by Eli Lilly’s 18th Indiana Battery, thundered through this gap in the Highland Rim (south of Murfreesboro) to seize its southern end and defend it against Confederate counterattacks for the rest of the day. The gap proved crucial in Rosecrans’s advance on Manchester Tennessee, and its capture forced Bragg to retreat from Shelbyville. According to Wilder, no less a figure than George Thomas informed him that capturing Hoover’s Gap so quickly saved the Federals a thousand casualties.

Though Wilder’s brigade nominally remained a part of Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds’ 4th Division, 14th Corps during the ensuing Chickamauga campaign, Wilder was not fond of Reynolds, who felt the brigade was too free in their foraging, and was therefore delighted when Rosecrans detached Wilder’s force to use it mainly as an army asset. During the entire Chickamauga campaign, Wilder acted independently of the division, usually reporting either directly to Rosecrans or to one of the Union corps commanders.

Wilder’s value was proven during the campaign. He helped deceive Bragg as to the Union army’s intentions prior to Chattanooga’s capture; and led Crittenden’s 21st Corps south along the railroad towards Dalton on September 10 and 11. Thomas wanted Wilder returned to his control during the advance on LaFayette, going so far as to write that he felt sure he would have captured the gaps in Pigeon Mountain by September 10, if Wilder had been with him.

Of course, Wilder’s role in the fighting on September 18-19-20 is justly famous. Elements of his brigade held Alexander’s Bridge on the 18th, and his whole brigade (minus the 92nd) was in action on the 19th, at Viniard Field, and on the 20th, at the Widow Glenn farm. His encounter with Charles A. Dana happened shortly after the action at the Glenn Cabin, where Dana attempted to order (or not, according to Dana) Wilder’s men to escort him back to Chattanooga.

John T. Wilder’s health was not good by 1863, and he took leave right after Chickamauga. He would return only intermittently, and never again commanded the brigade in an active campaign. The brigade’s next important service was in October, pursuing Joe Wheeler’s Rebel cavalry as it attacked Union supply lines in Tennessee. Under command of Col. Abram O. Miller of the 72nd Indiana the brigade attacked and shattered Wheeler’s troopers at Farmington, Tennessee, on October 7. They captured nearly 300 Rebels in that action.

As a result, the brigade, while it served well in 1864 and 1865, suffers from a lack of name recognition. The brigade was transferred to the Army of the Cumberland’s Cavalry Corps in 1864, and they served under Miller for the duration of the Atlanta campaign. In the fall of 1864, after Atlanta fell, the brigade was sent to Kentucky to obtain remounts; returning to the field only after the battle of Nashville. Miller and the Lightning brigade, however, were a key element of Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson’s celebrated cavalry raid across Alabama to Selma in 1865.

It is worth noting that neither Thomas nor Sherman used Wilder’s men in the way Rosecrans employed them; as a specialized army asset that could strike rapidly and hard, on missions of more than usual importance. In part, this was because by 1864 the Federal cavalry in general was greatly improved, both in skill and equipment. Spencer carbines were now in full production, and their rapid-shooting firepower was much more common in the army.

Also, however, Thomas and Sherman were simply more conventional thinkers than was Rosecrans; they took fewer risks and disliked unusual formations. Under Rosecrans, the Lightning Brigade drew special note; under Sherman and Thomas, they served as well but more anonymously.

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