Study Group update

February 13, 2016

Hello, just a quick update. We now have 38 folks signed up. The bus holds 55, so we still have room. I expect, based on previous history, that we will have about 45 – 50 folks, so if you want to make sure you have a seat ( in case of last minute surges) get your reservation in soon.

Here is the link providing full details.

Looks like we made the right call on Resaca – the park is still not open, though things are progressing. It looks like the grand opening will be on May 13, 2016. A few more details here.

On Friday, we will be stopping first at Cameron Hill in Chattanooga, to discuss the Confederate dispositions to defend the town, and also view the forbidding terrain on the north bank. After that, we will head west towards Jasper, and then up the Sequatchie Valley for a ways before we ascend the western side of Walden Ridge.

We will be tracking the route of the 21st Corps, and more specifically, Wilder’s, Minty’s, Hazen’s, and Wagner’s brigades as they conduct their deception operations in front of Chattanooga.

This part of the campaign is not much traveled by tour groups; it is remote and time-consuming – hard to squeeze into a conventional tour. The ongoing success of the CCNMP Study Group has allowed us to explore many such secondary sites, as well as enjoy some of the best scenery in the southeastern United States.

See you in just about a month.




A day in a life . . .

February 6, 2016

Thousands of young men experienced the whirlwind that was the battle of Chickamauga. Approximately 125,000 combatants were on the field, with perhaps another 10-15,000 nearby, or present but considered non-combatants. All of those who survived its fury would have stories to tell.


tourgeeBut of course, most of those men went on to lead full lives. Lieutenant Albion Tourgee (left) of the 105th Ohio was only 25 in September of 1863; Private Dankmar Adler of Battery M, the 1st Illinois Light Artillery was 19. They were both small cogs in the vast war machine that was the Army of the Cumberland.

Tourgee was a native-born American from Ohio, born to a family of Methodist farmers. He was enrolled at Rochester University in New York until he joined the army in 1861.

Dankmar Adler was a German Jew, son of a rabbi; he and his father immigrated to the United States in 1854, when he was only 10 years old. Adler had some schooling but no college. He was working as a draftsman in Chicago before he enlisted.Adler

Both men fought at Chickamauga. Tourgee emerged unscathed, while Adler (right) suffered what was reported as a minor wound to his foot. Neither of their contributions were unusually heroic or noteworthy, though they did not shirk from their duties, which is perhaps heroic enough for any man caught up in the vast conflagration of a Civil War battle.

They would, however, leave their mark on the nation.

After the war Tourgee became a lawyer, a newspaperman, a novelist, and a judge. Not in Ohio – instead he went to North Carolina, where he attempted to help make reconstruction work. He was an abolitionist who fought passionately for equal rights for all citizens, a cause he espoused in both his books and on the bench. Despite the failure of reconstruction, he continued to be a part of the civil rights struggle all through the 1880s and 1890s.

In the America of the Gilded Age, fighting racism was a losing battle, but Tourgee was not one to quit. He also could not win. He was a co-chief counsel for Homer Plessy, the plantiff in the landmark Supreme Court case of Plessy vs. Ferguson, in which Plessy lost and “Seperate but equal” became the law of the land. Jim Crow would hold sway for the six decades.

Dankmar Adler’s impact on the United States was more concrete.


After the war Adler returned to his job as draftsman for a Chicago architect. He spent the next 15 years as an employee and later partner of several architects. In 1880, he formed his own firm, hiring Louis Sullivan to work with him.

The firm of Adler and Sullivan, of course, became famous. Sullivan designed the first modern skyscraper, a steel-framed building concept that could rise to dizzying heights. Adler’s specialty was acoustics, building a number of superb auditoriums, halls, and synagogues.


And, of course, before Sullivan and Adler split, the firm gave another aspiring architect his start: Frank Lloyd Wright.

I confess I find Adler’s acoustical talents most interesting. What must he made of the unholy chorus that was the battle of Chickamauga? And what of those cannon? Modern soldiers where ear protection to prevent damage, but such was unheard-of in the Civil War.

Tourgee and Adler might have only been spear-carriers in the drama of 1863, but they took leading roles on later stages.

More on Adler’s postwar career

For your listening pleasure…

January 11, 2016

Time for a musical interlude:

From time to time, I discover a musical connection to Chickamauga. I stumbled across the band  “Larkin Poe” a while back, for example, and noted their connection to the battle.

And “Uncle Tupelo” had a song titled “Chickamauga” on their 1993 Album Anodyne. Uncle Tupelo has long since broken up, but the song lives on in occasional performances by subsequent bands, Son Volt and Wilco.

But Jimmy Driftwood?

New to me, if not to the world. Check it out.


Glory or the Grave makes the History Book Club

January 5, 2016

I have been reliably informed that Glory or the Grave, Volume II of The Chickamauga Campaign, is the January 2016 selection of the History Book Club.


The Chickamauga Campaign cover low res

Thank you, HBC, and the good folks at Savas-Beatie. This is very cool.

More Angry Generals

December 26, 2015

d h Hill 2

Daniel Harvey Hill did not shine at Chickamauga. To many students of the Civil War, Hill is famous for three things: South Mountain, annoying Robert E. Lee, and authoring a marvelously unreconstructed mathematics textbook after the war. Some think that D. H. Hill received short shrift from Lee, and that Daniel Harvey might have made a better corps commander than either Richard Ewell or Ambrose Powell Hill (D. H.’s cousin) had D. H. been  promoted instead of banished from the Army of Northern Virginia.

I am less sanguine about that. . .

From Glory or the Grave:

                Lieutenant General Daniel Harvey Hill was not having one of his better days. While his men were turning George Thomas’s flank, Hill was focused on a different conflict, locked in a battle of wills with almost every other commander in the Confederate Right Wing. At the moment his primary adversary seemed to be Maj. Gen. William H. T. “Shotpouch” Walker.

What followed could have been a farce written by Gilbert and Sullivan if it were not for the soldiers’ lives being thrown away in the meanwhile. “General Hill informed me . . . that he wanted a brigade,” Walker reported. This should not have been a problem: “I told him that there was one immediately behind him.” In response, Hill “remarked that he wanted Gist’s brigade.” Walker explained that Gist’s men were at the rear of his column, just catching up, and would take the longest to go into action. No matter, Hill was adamant. Gist was present for this exchange, having just reported to Walker and been informed that he was going to command Ector and Wilson as well as his own formation. The South Carolinian was flattered, noting that Hill insisted on “Gist . . . saying he had heard of that brigade.”

walker 2 001                                                                           Leonidas Polk

Throughout this exchange Polk remained mute. Not so the irascible Walker, who was growing increasingly irate and not shy about expressing that anger. Various subordinates and staff officers watched in alarm. Walker’s other divisional commander, St John Liddell, was also present and no doubt recalled Walker’s similar diatribe against General Polk on September 13th.  Walker, noted Liddell, “severely criticized and loudly found fault with the propriety of Hill’s plans . . .” Eventually, they hammered out an arrangement of sorts: Colquitt would go in to support Breckinridge’s attack, coming up on what was thought to be Breckinridge’s left rear, in place of Helm. Gist would move Ector and Wilson up to support Colquitt.

This was the Army of Tennessee at its worst. Walker wanted to concentrate his command and use it en masse¸ while Hill and Polk seemed intent on trickling troops into the fight one brigade at a time. Hill was also being mulishly obdurate. Despite being granted almost complete control of the whole attack by Polk, Hill would later complain bitterly about how the assault was conducted, almost as if he were a spectator rather than the tactical commander. In  his report Hill ranted at how useless the whole fight had been, railing at “the faultiness of our plan of attack,” and waxed hyperbolic when he complained that “never in the history of war had an attack been made in a single line without reserves or a supporting force;” all the more unfortunate because it was against a fortified enemy.

Two decades later, writing for Century Magazine, Hill still described the attack as a “desperate, forlorn hope.” Here he further lamented about faulty reconnaissance, suggesting that if only time had been taken to better understand the Union position, the morning’s bloody frontal assaults need not have been conducted. Of course, it was Hill who made that reconnaissance, Hill who determined the alignment of his two divisions, Hill who failed to grasp the extent of Breckinridge’s success, Hill who could have called on Walker’s entire corps as support, and Hill who initially refused most of that corps when it was offered to him.

Few if any officers in military annals have ever complained about receiving too many reinforcements!


Update on the Study Group

December 8, 2015

Eufala battleline

Currently, reservations for the study group are at 14 – plus three for cadre (Jim Ogden and myself, basically) and the park. This is a fine start, about equal to last year, and we had a pretty full bus last March.

So to make sure you have a seat, please reserve your space now!

Brown's ferry map

Last year, we had such a strong response that we were able to donate $900 to the Civil War Trust, which went towards land acquisition at Brown’s Ferry and around Dalton Georgia. (see map, above – we contributed to that yellow patch.) Even better,  we did so at about a 4 to 1 match.

Here’s the link to the details

Angry Generals

December 6, 2015

I time for a short excerpt:


The Chickamauga Campaign cover low res

Early on the morning of Sunday September 20, somewhere near smoldering remains of the Alexander cabin, Captain J. Frank Wheless found himself caught in the middle of what would be one of the most significant controversies of the war: The three-way train wreck of miscommunication between Confederate Generals Braxton Bragg, Leonidas Polk, and Daniel Harvey Hill.


Frank Wheless was a 24-year old from Clarksville, a combat veteran of the 1st Tennessee Infantry, now serving on Polk’s staff. When at dawn, Polk awoke and waited for the expected roar of D. H. Hill’s attack, he was greeted only by silence. Discovering that the previous night’s orders were never delivered, Polk immediately dispatched Wheless with replacement instructions.


Wheless soon found Hill, in company with both divisional commanders Patrick Cleburne and John C. Breckinridge. Wheless attempted to deliver his orders (made out to Cleburne and Breckinridge, because Polk thought Hill was missing.) Hill intercepted them. The captain would get no satisfaction from Hill, only an argument that an immediate attack was impossible now, the men had to eat.

The frustrated staffer rode away. He soon met his boss, Polk, along the Alexander Bridge Road.

[the following is excerpted from Glory or the Grave,]


            “Wheless dutifully explained his discussion with Hill, doing little to hide his irritation with the North Carolinian. “General,” he burst out, “you notice General Hill says it will be an hour or so before he is ready to make the attack. I am confident that it will be more than two hours before he is ready.” This statement was recorded in an official declaration Wheless drafted just ten days after the battle. Polk “asked, with surprise, why I thought so. I answered, ‘General Hill seems to me perfectly indifferent.’ General Polk responded quickly and with decision. ‘Well, Sir. Well Sir. I must go and see to this myself.’” After Polk dictated a quick note to Bragg outlining Hill’s reasons for delay, the Bishop ordered Wheless to stay put, establishing Right Wing headquarters on the spot, and rode off to find Hill.”


“Not fifteen minutes later, Bragg rode up and demanded Polk’s whereabouts. Wheless explained all that had passed, outlining the previous night’s confusion. He also emphasized Hill’s delays, eager to deflect Bragg’s obvious anger away from Polk and toward Hill. Bragg wasn’t swayed. When Wheless repeated his story of the two-hour delay to the army commander, Bragg sarcastically inquired “how [Wheless] expected General Hill to make the attack before he received orders to do so.” Flustered, Wheless only made things worse by pointing out that when he (Wheless) left Bragg the night before he was under the impression that Bragg had going to issue orders to Hill in person, outlining the plans for the 20th. Polk’s orders, averred the captain, were only confirming instructions that were supposed to have been already given “so that there could not possibly be any mistake.”

“Wheless’s not-quite-so-subtle effort to shift blame away from the bishop and this time onto Bragg himself only deepened the army commander’s anger toward Polk and, by extension, Wheless. Sensing his blunder, Polk’s staff officer quickly changed tack, steering matters back to the subject of Hill’s recalcitrance. Here he stumbled again, however, by adding in the detail of Cleburne’s remark about the Federals felling trees. “‘Well sir, is this not another important reason why the attack should be made at once?’” snapped the incensed army commander. Wheless agreed;  but, he rejoined, “‘it did not seem to impress General Hill in that way.’”

“Without another word Bragg rode on to find Polk and/or Hill, leaving the discomfited Wheless in his wake. By 7:30 a.m., the Confederate right was buzzing with angry generals, each surrounded by a sub-swarm of agitated staff officers. Despite the hive of activity and authority no attack was forthcoming.”


Wheless would later write out a sworn statement supporting his boss, Polk, as part of the defense Polk assembled for what all expected would be the court-martial of the century, at least as far as the Army of Tennessee was concerned. Polk, of course, never sat before such a court – President Davis talked Bragg out of holding a public spectacle and instead arranged for Polk to be transferred to Mississippi.

When I first wrote this passage, I wondered what was going through Wheless’s mind as he found himself in the middle of the maelstrom. His loyalty to Polk is obvious in his statement, as his his animosity towards Hill; but was he cowed by Bragg’s obvious short-tempered displeasure?

Apparently not. Instead, after Polk’s departure, Bragg offered Wheless a job on his own staff, as an assistant inspector-general. He was sent to Giffin, Georgia. In February, 1864, Frank Wheless resigned his commission, claiming disability for further field service, and instead entered the Confederate Navy as a paymaster, serving in North Carolina. Near the end of the war Wheless was transferred again, to the James River Squadron, where he was re-united with Bragg – once again, Bragg offered him an army commission as a Lieutenant Colonel, IG Branch.

Wheless refused that commission. The end of the war was apparent, and he saw no point in changing services a second time. At the end, Wheless helped evacuate the Confederate Treasury from Richmond, accompanying it, along with Davis and the rest of the fleeing Confederate Government, as far as Abbeville South Carolina. There he helped disburse the last of the funds to Davis’s cavalry escort, and having done all he could, left the service of the rapidly disintegrating Confederacy.

Frank Wheless died on August  10, 1891, at the age of only 52.

And I still wonder how often, in later years, his thoughts went back to that critical morning, when for a little while, the fate of the Confederacy seemed to be in his hands.

2016 CCNMP Study Group: March 11-12th.

October 6, 2015


It’s time to post information about the March 2016 Study Group tour. See below:

CCNMP Study Group 2016 Seminar in the Woods.


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.


Tour Leaders:  Jim Ogden and Dave Powell

Date: Friday, March 11, and Saturday, March 12, 2016; 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: Feint, Deception and Maneuver: Union Operations north of Chattanooga.

Note: Since we cannot guarantee that Resaca Battlefield will be open in March 2016 (still) we have decided to explore other aspects of the campaign for Chattanooga.


On Friday we will visit historical sites associated with Wagner, Hazen, Minty and Wilder’s operations north of Chattanooga, prior to the battle of Chickamauga.


NEW! Friday evening, 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – site TBA – Q&A Panel with Jim Ogden, Dave Powell, and Emerging Civil War Author Lee White. (possibly others)


Car Caravan – Saturday Morning, 8:30 to Noon: Van Cleve enters the fight.

We will explore Van Cleve’s Union division, and the September 19th fighting in the woods between Brock and Brotherton Fields.


Car CaravanSaturday Afternoon, 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.: Breckinridge attacks!

We will explore John C. Breckinridge’s September 20th attack that turned Thomas’s flank and penetrated to Kelly Field.


Cost: Friday’s Tours will be by Bus. Pre-registration Fee: $45 Due by February 1st, On-site Sign up Fee: $50 


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, 2015. Once we are committed to the bus, we will be charged the booking fee.


September 21, 1863. “Bragg . . . was cheered long and hard.”

September 21, 2015

Chickamauga sparked a rare moment of celebration within the Army of Tennessee. Never before had Bragg’s army gained such a clear-cut, unequivocal triumph. 

From the Diary of Surgeon Ropert P. Myers, 16th Georgia: 

Sept 21, 1863. (Chattanooga)

Genl Bragg rode down the lines today, and was cheered long and hard. He had no uniform on, simply a loose blouse. He rode a beautiful bay horse, his staff and escort very large – quite different from the Genls of the Army of Northern Virginia, Genl Lee and all his Lieuts & Majors were accompanied with a small staff and escort.

When Bragg reached the vicinity of Kelly Field, he encountered Major General John C. Breckinridge. For once, personal enmity was set aside. 

From the letters of E. John Ellis, 16th & 25th Louisiana, Adams’s Brigade, Breckinridge’s Division: 

Field before Chattanooga, Oct 4th, 1863

My Dear Brother,

[On Monday September 21st] Bragg rode along the lines where all of the troops were Bivouacked amidst the wildest enthusiasm of his victorious army. As he passed our brigade I noticed Gen. Breckinridge down among the men, with his hat off, whooping as lustily as any private. I am glad they have buried the hatchet. Breckinridge though not much of a military man is the impersonation of all that is gallant, chivalrous & generous; while Bragg is truly a great man.

September 20, 1863.

September 20, 2015

The combat of the 19th proved inconclusive. Not so that of the 20th. Confederates under John C. Breckinridge came near success early on Sunday when they turned George Thomas’s left, but were repulsed. Their success, however, only strengthened Thomas’s concern for his northern flank, and redoubled calls for reinforcements. By 11 a.m, the Union right was dangerously weakened in order to meet those calls. James Longstreet’s attack against the newly-vacated line in Brotherton Field quickly overwhelmed those few defenders – the men of Jefferson C. Davis’s small division – quickly. Then Hindman’s troops assailed Horseshoe Ridge.

Four days later, Private Joel H. Puckett of the 24th Alabama recounted that morning’s experiences to his wife:

Camp near Chattanooga, Sept 24, 1863

Dear Mollie,

Sunday morning we charged his breastworks and drove him about a mile. Our reg was engaged from nine to twelve A.M. [p.m.] Here we sustained a heavy loss in our company. Mollie here at one time I bid you goodbye for ever. Loften was killed in the first charge. We captured a great many waggons, 8 pieces of artillery, lots or Ordinance, small arms canteens etc.

We rested until 3 p.m. Our company was thrown out as skirmishers and when we found him [the Federals] he was on a Vicksburg hill in mass. Our reg charged that hill three times. Many a brave man fell, but we piled that ground with Yankee slain. Our division was fighting McCooks Corpse and we still had that hill to take inch by inch.

I saw many wounded by my side, and thank God we slept that night on the battlefield, and the Yankees never stopped till they reached Chattanooga. I took one prisoner by myself and help to take others. [G]ot me a pair of blue pants, a splendid pr of boots, 3 rings shell [?] an gutta percha [gum blanket] a fine tooth comb and 80 dols in green back, also 2 zinc canteens.

A. Loften was shot in the head. Pate in arm – amputated. Clordy knee – leg amputated. Hooper – head. Moor – hand. Archibald – shoulder and foot. Leonard – arm amputated. These were the worst wounded. Our reg lost 114 killed and wounded. The enemy’s loss was immense. I only speak of the battle where I saw it. The rest of us are all well.

J. H. Puckett.




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