149th Recap

It’s been a good week.

I got back from Chickamauga mid-week, after Jim Ogden’s Jay’s Mill talk on Tuesday night. The battle walks this year were more in-depth than I have seen in previous years, a nice mix of detail and overview that appeal to me, and I think, to the rest of the audiences we saw this past week. We had some big turnouts, with no less than 57 people attending our Viniard Field walk on Saturday.

Chris Evans asked for some comments on the walks, and so I will try and recap those I attended or participated in.

On Saturday morning, I followed Mr. Ogden down to Thedford’s and Dalton’s (Hunt’s) Fords. Jim talked about the crossings there by Buckner’s Corps, (Stewart’s and Preston’s Divisions) and how tentative they seemed. Bragg’s original plan was to mass three corps (Buckner, plus Hood and Walker) across West Chickamauga Creek by early on the 18th, and then pivot southwest to strike the Union flank at Lee & Gordon’s Mills. Thanks largely to Minty and Wilder, that did not happen. Buckner, however, faced no real opposition on the 18th, and most of his time was taken up with waiting for other Rebels. only a brigade from each division managed to get across the Creek by first light on the 19th. We discussed Buckner’s unwillingness to take much iniatitive, and also the geography problem created by using these two fords – a big northward bend in the Creek at Hall’s ford means that Buckner was depoying in a cul-de-sac, and would have to shift position quite a bit in order to get at any Yankees.

On Saturday afternoon, we tackled Viniard Field. This is a hard walk to do in the time alotted, given the back and forth nature of the fighting here. We did four stands, and covered things in pretty fair detail, I think, but any way you slice it the fight there is a confusing one. I was surprised that we had such a large turnout, and pleased that they all stuck with us all the way through.

On Sunday Morning, I tagged along on part of Jim’s walk discussing Breckinridge and his attack on the morning of September 20th. I had to break away after about 15 minutes to go sign books in the bookstore, and as much fun as that is, I would have liked to follow Jim. he did tell me that the group got into a bit of a discussion on the employment of Hardee’s tactics vs. Casey’s tactics within the Army of the Cumberland, which sounded interesting. In a nutshell, the old tactics called for all the regiments in a brigade to line up side by side, while using Casey’s, the regiments would form in two lines, one behind the other, in more of a square formation.

At midday, I led a walk looking at the “the Fateful Order Of the Day.” This one spent time at the Brotherton House and then at the Wood divisional Tablet on the west side of Brotherton Field – more talk than walk. I like to focus on the largely ignored presence of Alexander McDowell McCook, and the impact of two other orders that I think usually get overlooked in any discussion of Wood. Rosecrans’ order to Wood is well known – “Close up and support Reynolds.” This order was written at 10:45 a.m., delivered at about 10:55, and being executed by 11:15 or 11:20 – with Longstreet attacking between 11:15 and 11:30, to disastrous (for the Federals) result.

Less well known are two orders written at 10:10 and 10:30 a.m., from Rosecrans to McCook, both of which were received by McCook at about 10:50 or 10:55 – probably literally within minutes of McCook riding up to find Wood getting his order from Rosecrans. The two earlier orders informed McCook that Rosecrans was sending Sheridan to Thomas, and also that the right flank of the army was about to be drawn back west and north. In short, Rosecrans was shifting his entire line. With the order to Wood seen in that context, McCook’s haste can be seen as a little more understandable, if still a disaster in the making.

When I first started studying Chickamauga, I accepted the Wood-as-Snidely-Whiplash style villian of this story, but both Dr. Robertson and Jim Ogden have, through their own takes on the issue, challenged me into revising my thinking. Now I think there isn’t a villian, per se, just a bad situation unfolding dangerously quickly.

Lee White’s Sunday evening walk focused on Cleburne’s night attack on the 19th. Lee outlined the situation that led to the attack, and led some discussion on whether it was a good idea. he explained the difficulties concerning night attacks in general, and finished up with General Smith, the 77th Pennsylvania, and the story told by their tablets on the field. Lee was tired, having played artilleryman all day in Poe Field, but I thought he rose to the occaision very well. It was very dark when we finished, which set the tone nicely.

The Park Superintendent, Cathy Cook, attended all the walks on Sunday. I managed to chat with her a little, and hope to have further opportunity to do so in the future.

I think the 150th is on track to be very interesting indeed.

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13 Responses to “149th Recap”

  1. Long range planning for the Sesquicentennial | To the Sound of the Guns Says:

    […] that… well Chickamauga just finished what sounds like a superb 149th anniversary observance. Jim Ogden and the staff there will not disappoint for the […]

  2. Mark McLain Says:

    1000 am was a little late to be doing so much shuffling to the line. Maybe shifting the line to where Mendenhall set up his artillery and then across to where Rosecrans had his HQ? That seems to have been a more defensible position than out exposed at the edge of Brotherton Field with the right flank hanging in the air.

    Enjoyed meeting with you briefly on the 16th – you were talking with the other fellow about Kindle books in the afternoon. Your book made the battlefield much more accessible. I would have enjoyed more time – especially since Oregon is such a long ways away.

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Mark,

      It was nice to meet you, and thanks for the kind words.

      10 am was indeed too late to be shufflng troops around the line. But in fact, Rosecrans was making adjustments and tweaks to his line all morning long, which is the larger problem. He created several potential crises that morning, but the Confederates weren’t there to take advantage of them. Finally, with Wood, they were…

  3. Mark McLain Says:

    You mention above that Rosecrans was going to pull back to the west and north. Was he pulling back to the hill line Mendenhall was on – over to Poe Field from the SC Monument and towards his HQ to the south. The later seems a better place for Sheridan’s men and the fields in front and uphill position easier to defend. Of course, easy for me to see today with plenty of sleep. Reading through some of your blog material I appreciate seeing Rosecrans’ night meeting in another light as with Woods. I guess you can say that Rosie was at least somewhat proactive with his line while Bragg was the other extreme – too hands off. Longstreet too after the initial sections of his attack?

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Mark, Where Rosecrans intended to form a new line is unclear. He didn’t establish the Mendenhall gun line, that was done at Crittenden’s direction and with Mendenhall’s discretion as to placement. That said, it does seem like Mendenhall’s position would have been a useful one, coving large fields of fire to both the east and south.

  4. Chris Evans Says:

    Great report.

    I wish I could have been on the tour. That is the sort of detail I like when walking the ground. As I posted before the Viniard Field tour would be really fascinating as there was so much hellacious and confusing fighting.

    Chris

  5. Chris Evans Says:

    I am in agreement that there was no particular villain in the ‘Fatal Order’ controversy. I’ve never really felt badly against Wood. There was just a tremendous amount of confusion on that battlefield.

    Chris

  6. John Foskett Says:

    Dave: Thanks for the update on the Wood issue. That’s certainly a more nuanced (and plausible) perspective than the traditional story of Tom Wood doing the “I’ll show him” routine.

  7. Chris Evans Says:

    Now if you read Bierce on Pickett’s Mill a person may find Wood a villain there.

    Chris

  8. BillF Says:

    Was at Chickamauga last weekend and was shocked to see the number of plaques and medallions missing from the monuments on Horseshoe/Snodgrass Ridge. It’s appalling to think that so many people have so little respect for what happened there. Is there anything the Park Service can do about that? I know it’s an isolated area, and that’s why it’s the scene of the thefts.

  9. David Moore Says:

    If there is a villain at Chickamauga isn’t it the people who weren’t there like Burnside and the officials in Washington who seemed both clueless and erroneous at the same time?

    • dempster holland Says:

      WE enjoyed your cpan talk. Col Garesche was my great grand
      fathers brother. Another relative namd Salazar(father of the
      marathon runner) wants to canonize Col Julius Garesche. My
      mother, Dorothy Garesche Hiolland, wrote a family history

  10. Dale Says:

    The Villians of Chickamauga would no have been the officers in the capitol or General Burnside because they had no real knowledge of what was happening in this event.

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