Archive for September, 2017

Seminar Time: 2018

September 20, 2017

It is almost time to start public announcement of the 2018 CCNMP Seminar in the woods. A full announcement will follow, but just to let everyone know:

The dates for next year’s programs will be Friday March 9 and Saturday March 10, 2018.

We will again have a bus for Friday, and will be on foot (car caravan) for Saturday.

I am also happy to announce that the group raised considerable funds last year. $500 was donated to the Civil War Trust, to be spent on land acquisition in the Chattanooga Area, and we also gave $500 to the Jewel Monument Fund, which is a special fund administered by the Friends of the Park intended to aid monument restoration and repair.

 

 

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“There is a day when I will get revenge from deserters.”

September 8, 2017

 

On September 8, 1863, Braxton Bragg abandoned the city of Chattanooga to Union forces without a battle. He hoped that this evacuation would be temporary, and that as soon as Rosecrans were defeated, his men would return.

I think this was a more dangerous and difficult decision than is usually realized. Despite an influx of new troops over the past few days, the Army of Tennessee’s morale was in a precarious state. Memphis and Nashville were already in Union hands, and had been since 1862. Knoxville was abandoned on September 1, with Bragg’s decision to pull Buckner south to join him instead of oppose Ambrose Burnside’s invading Federals coming from Kentucky.

And now Chattanooga, the last of Tennessee’s significant cities, would be given up as well.

Capt. Julius Gash commanded company D of the 6th North Carolina Cavalry, a part of Buckner’s command. His men were from Western North Carolina, and thus not overly committed to the Confederate cause in any case; abandoning East Tennessee hit them hard.

On September 5 – three days before Chattanooga was ordered evacuated – Gash wrote a letter home, expressing both his frustration and the perilous, fragile state of his regiment’s morale.

I quote parts of it below:

Charleston Tenn,

Sept 5th 1863

“Dear Col.”

“There are a good many troops at this place moving about but I have no idea if they intend fighting at this point. The infantry is all moving below [Chattanooga]. There will be a big two-horse fight somewhere in the country (but I know not when it will come off) upon which depends the fate of Tennessee and in fact has something to do with the fate of the Confederacy. I am strong in the faith that we are destined to be victorious in the pending battle. 

The officers of our command played the Devil generally while they were at the [Cumberland] Gap. Myself among the rest. We were a little fearful we could be gobbled up at the Gap & sent all our trunks to Knoxville for safekeeping and now the Yanks have possession & as a matter of course they are all ‘gone-up’ for ninety.

My company papers, receipts, muster-rolls and all gave up. I don’t care a D[am]n. My company has about gone up too! All deserted or at home without leave. Twenty-five men of our Regt started home about a week ago, but were nearly all apprehended! Two of my company among them. Gen. Buckner says he intends to shoot every man of them, and I do hope to God he will. 

Beard’s battalion and ours have been consolidated and formed the 66th N. C, Regt. [6th NC Cavalry] Both battalions can make about two good companies. There are now from both battalions 35 men in arrest who Buckner says he is going to have shot. 

Since the big stampede two of my men have deserted. Dick Osteen who had just returned from home, and the last man I would thought of deserting; and John C. Edney, who was a liut [Lieutenant] in Balums’ Co[mpany]. You know him very well, I guess. Dick was very much alarmed at Loudon. He told some of the boys that day if another Cannon ever got a chance at him it would be smart and sure enough that night he ‘took up his bed’ and skedaddled. 

I have learned during this war that there is no confidence to be placed in white men. I’ll swear men have deserted my company who I had the most implicit confidence in and men too who have been for near twelve months good soldiers as I thought was in the Confederate Army. I wish I could express the contempt I naturally cherish for a deserter, and men who will at this particular time desert. I do candidly think they ought to be shot. I think it is nothing more than what they justly merits. 

Why! Confound a man who is void enough of principal to desert his country in so perilous a time as now. Should all things work together for good and I live to see this difficulty adjusted. There is a day when I’ll get revenge from deserters, mark it. You are probably tired of this subject and so am I, for when I think of deserters I get so mad it bothers me to keep from saying Cuss words. 

Truly Yours,

Jule.” 

To me, Captain Gash’s letter illustrates the precarious morale precipice the Army of Tennessee skirted in early September. Yes, Gash’s company was probably not composed of ardent secessionists to begin with, but clearly they were losing even lukewarm enthusiam for the war.

If Bragg had suffered a defeat at Chickamauga, would his army have come unraveled? Arguably not, since the Army of Tennessee did rebound after Chattanooga – but what if they had a Chattanooga wihout the tonic of Chickamauga just two months before?