Seminar 2015

Through the woods

Back from another weekend in the woods of North Georgia. I am a bit late in writing up anything on the 2015 CCNMP Seminar in the Woods because I came down sick just after I returned home (with an ineffective trip to Knoxville to give a CWRT talk – failed – in between) and haven’t been functioning well.

We had 30+ attendees, despite the record storms sealing off the north and northeast from Chickamauga during the week leading up to the seminar. We have a sizeable sum of money left over after expenses, and this year, by consensus, we are going to use it to support the Civil War Trust’s ongoing preservation efforts at Brown’s Ferry and around Dalton Georgia – both very worthy sites. More on that later when I contact the trust about the specific donations.

On Saturday afternoon, I had a bit of a funny – and humbling – moment. Just when you think you know the battlefield really well…

We were following John Turchin’s brigade, moving through the woods south of Brock Field (at the time, those woods were clear, just more of the much larger historic Brock Field.) We were tracking the markers for the 36th and 92nd Ohio, who moved in line facing south across the south end of the field. We were moving east, and in the middle distance – say 100 yards through the leafless timber – was another bright blue War Department tablet. It was facing east, not south.

That confused me. Who was that, I wondered. Suddenly, I was dislocated on what I have come to regard as “my” own battlefield. Was it a Union battery tablet? It couldn’t be another Union brigade, I thought, for I didn’t know of another tablet down here. I do know that some of the accounts of Dodge’s brigade, of Johnson’s 2nd Division XX Corps claim to have come down this far, but I didn’t know of a tablet to them. Could it be a tablet new to me?

Still confused, I called a head to Jim Ogden, the Park Historian. He would know, right? After all, it it is anyone’s battlefield, It’s Jim’s to call his own. I asked who’s tablet that was ahead of us. Jim, a little nonplussed, looked back at me and said, “Turchin’s.” He obviously wanted to ask if I needed a lie-down or something, but was too polite to say so in front of the group.

That snapped things into place. I had simply – like so many before me – lost my situational awareness on the battlefield.

IMG_1015

Above is a picture of the tablet. To be fair, it is confusingly placed. In addition to facing east (when we generally know that Turchin’s line faced south) it is also placed at the left end of Turchin’s line, beyond even the position marker for the 11th Ohio (the small stone pillar, not this tablet.) Typically, a brigade tablet is supposed to be placed in the center of the brigade line, oriented so that as you read it you face the way the brigade faced. This is important, because often these tablets use directions and distances that only make sense if everything is oriented correctly.

The tablet is actually only to the 11th Ohio of Turchin’s Brigade, which is another rarity. War Department tablets were placed for every brigade and battery as well as higher echelons – divisions, corps, and even the armies. They were not placed or authorized for individual regiments. As we stood in front of the tablet, I asked Jim if he was aware of any other tablet on the field (note, not monument, there is a difference) that was essentially marking the actions of a single regiment. He said no, at least not offhand. Neither could I.

The 11th Ohio’s commander was Philander P. Lane, a machinist and businessman from Cincinnati Ohio, and a man who prospered after the war, though he suffered from his various war wounds. In addition to the usual regimental history, Lane was the subject of a biography, published in 1920, of his wartime service – rare for a Colonel.  He held regimental reunions on his estate in Norwood Ohio, and clearly he pulled some weight in postwar Ohio politics.

I’ve yet to ferret out other connections, though one important link seems likely. Cincinnati was also home to Henry Van Ness Boynton and Henry M. Cist, two very important players in the post-war Chickamauga story – with Boynton, formerly commander of the 35th Ohio, was the Cincinnati Gazette’s Washington DC correspondent, and eventually became the park’s first and most influential historian.

Lane died in 1899, though he was an invalid for the last decade of his life, having suffered a stroke in 1889, before the park was established.

So if I got lost on my favorite piece of battlefield, one I should (by now) know intimately, at least I proved once again my own adage – that every time I come to the field I still learn something new.

Hopefully, over time I will find out a bit more about Colonel Lane and the “regimental” tablet.

 

 

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12 Responses to “Seminar 2015”

  1. Tom DeFranco Says:

    Looks like you have another appendix you can add to Volume III, Dave.

  2. Ted Savas Says:

    No more appendices in Vol. 3, Tom. Or Dave. So speaketh the Publisher. 🙂

  3. Mark Says:

    That biography is online at http://archive.org/stream/philanderplaneco00scot/philanderplaneco00scot_djvu.txt

    I’d like to say that even though the park at Resaca wasn’t open for us this year, that the journey around the Rocky Face line was quite an education. To see the ground is so much more explanatory than to just read about it. Now you get to expand ‘your battlefield’ a bit more. Thanks for another great tour.

  4. OhioatPerryville Says:

    Lane was an iron worker and machinist before the war and a manufacturer of engines and milling machinery after the war (from Hunt’s Colonels in Blue). He seemingly was a man of some money. His grave is located about 10 minutes from the house. I’ll take a look at his grave site and see if his headstone is representative of his station in life. Many graves in Spring Grove are rather ornate.

    And Mark is spot on, spending time at Rocky Face was enlightening. Tough ground to fight on. I am amazed that Federal troops even tried to take Dug Gap as that is one long steep approach.

  5. Pat McCormick Says:

    Tip #1: When you’re about to ascent a 600-yard switchback on Potato Hill, don’t leave your hiking stick on the bus.

  6. OhioatPerryville Says:

    The elevation change was probably 300-400 feet from the kiosk to the earthworks, with a 600 yard trail distance. That is a 17-23% incline…good trails are built around 10%…so it was a steep sucker with or without a hiking stick!

  7. Don VanDerveer Says:

    Dave,

    The 11th Ohio tablet you picture is a little different from the others I remember. I noticed this during the walk but didn’t comment then. The tablets I remember had code numbers in the upper left corner and a C or U in the upper right corner. Is it possible this is not a park service tablet and one that was put up privately?

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Don,

      I am pretty sure it is a park tablet. No tablets were put up without Boynton’s approval, and several people had extended fights with Boynton over various issues and wording. I do wonder if there is more detail in the Aquila Wiley papers, which contain a lot of the Ohio state commission paperwork, but I have to find the time to go to Cleveland and check.

  8. Robert Fugate Says:

    Dave, very interesting post. I’ve seen his name a number of times but didn’t know much about him. Finished your first volume and thought it was great – very much looking forward to the next. In the meantime, while waiting on publication of volume 2, I read Gracie’s Truth About Chickamauga and have a request. Would you consider doing a post about the controversies covered in Gracie’s book, how other historians have viewed them, and how you went about your analysis of the charges Gracie made? I think it would be very interesting to understand your take on the issues raised in the book. Thanks very much, and forgive my deviating from the Ducat topic here in the comment chain.

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Robert, That is an interesting idea, but I am not sure it is digestable in a blog post. Gracie’s book is pretty convoluted, and he jumps around quite a bit. It might take a bit more than a post. Ted Savas and I even discussed the possibility of a booklet or small book – what leapt to my mind was the book Scott Hartwig wrote exploring the history in Killer Angels. It was called A Killer Angels Companion. – exploring Gracie’s take on the battle.

      • Robert Fugate Says:

        A small book on it would be very interesting. In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to wait till your volume 2 comes out. I’ve got my list of Gracie’s controversial assertions and am curious to see your views on them. My list includes the following:
        – Thomas received Rosecrans’ withdrawal order and immediately ordered a retreat, not using his discretion to remain till dark
        – retreat from Horseshoe/Snodgrass sector was around sunset (6PM) not 7PM-8PM as recorded by the Park Service
        – Granger failed to command the sector and left the field prematurely
        – Brannan deliberately sacrificed the Lost Regiments to gain time for his troops to retreat
        – monuments on Harker’s Ridge should face south not east
        – monuments on Hill 1 imply that Van Derveer’s brigade was the main force there, despite presence of Harker and others
        – Boynton falsely claimed credit for 35th Ohio that they repulsed repeated attacks after dark and were last to leave field
        – the final stand occurred earlier than recorded by the Park Service and was in/near Snodgrass field not back on the wooded ridge
        – Negley saved the artillery park and was unjustly accused by Brannan and Wood to cover their own issues
        – the whole Federal action was a lot more chaotic and disorderly than was reported by the generals, Van Derveer and Boynton
        Thanks!

  9. Dave Powell Says:

    Robert, thanks for that list. That about covers it. More to come…

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