Missing Pieces

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=37332

I wish I knew more about them.

Maybe someday.

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7 Responses to “Missing Pieces”

  1. jfepperson Says:

    Fascinating.

  2. lwhite1864 Says:

    Dave, Had an ancestor in the 6th, he was in the Villanow area though, know he eventually deserted though.

  3. Dave Powell Says:

    Was he in the “Dirt Town Rangers?” I think that was D Company. I suspect a lot of these guys might be classified as deserters. They were called up in Aug 63 for six months’ service, but I doubt many of them stuck around through the winter. By the spring of 64, just finding horses to mount anyone with was getting very difficult anywhere north of Atlanta.

  4. Larry J. Daniel Says:

    Hi Dave.
    Good to see you back in May at Chattanooga. A question about the cavalry. In the spring of 1863, a staggering 32% of the A of T was mounted. I have a document in which Bragg says that if it were up to him he would put half of his cavalry into the infantry. Question: why didn’t he? Were there legalities involved? Of course it was done when the Trans-Miss. troopers crossed in 1862. In Longacre’s book on the A of T’s cavalry he never really addressed the issue of excessive cavalry numbers. What say you?
    Larry Daniel

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Hi, Larry.

      The amount of resources the Confederacy invested in the western theater are a bit shocking, I agree. I think Bragg’s hands were tied on this one. Remember that Joe Johnston conceived of Van Dorn’s Cavalry Corps as a sort of mobile reserve, an alternative to shuttling infantry back and forth betweeh Miss and TN; technically Bragg was only loaned that corps in Feb 63. Secondly, I think too many other Confederates had an inflated opinion of what all those cavalry could accomplish, based on the 62 raiding strategy that seemed to work so well. They didn’t anticipate Union efforts to negate that strategy, including Grant’s return to riverine warfare.

      I am not sure about the legality of dismounting them – as far as I know, that wasn’t a problem, as the number of dismounted cav units fighting as infantry in the AOT already. 1st Florida, the Arkansas Mounted Rifles, etc.

      I just don’t think Bragg had a free hand here. Johnston was in control of the theater, and seemed to put more reliance on the cav, not less.

      • Bruce Allardice Says:

        Just a random observation: it appears the cavalry units that were dismounted came from smaller states with little political pull in Richmond–e.g., Florida, Arkansas, TX, Missouri–or from states so distant from the zone of operations that getting remounts was difficult.

  5. Bruce Allardice Says:

    Dave, the Lt. Colonel of the 6th GA Bn. GSG was Augustus B. Culberson (1823-89), a Lafayette lawyer who had represented Walker County in the state legislature. After the war he moved to Atlanta. He’s buried in Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta.
    The Wheeler’s Scouts you mention would (I think–several units claimed that designation at some time during the war) be commanded by Col. William Stewart Hawkins, who’s in my “Confederate Colonels” book. Hawkins was a bright young college grad, a poet of note, and was the nephew of General A. P. Stewart. He died soon after the war, in Nashville. I’ve tried like heck to find if he left any papers, or anything of use, but no luck. His poetry (written while in Union prison and elsewhere) is online everywhere.

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