Archive for August, 2018

An Uncompromising Secessionist

August 12, 2018

Miller bookHere we have another Lieutenant, George Knox Miller, of the 8th Confederate Cavalry. The 8th was a “mixed” unit, comprised of four companies of Mississippians and six companies from Alabama. Miller was from Talledega, but he got around – he had attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and worked in Memphis for a time.

The “Confederate” designation of the 8th should not be confused with the Confederate Regular Army. That organization was different; the 8th Confederate was a volunteer unit, and bore the designation only because its organization crossed state lines.

Confederate personal accounts are much more rare then Federal ones, and letter collections as good as Millers – all the more rare. The first letter in this collection is written on June 14, 1860; the last, 23 February 1865. He went all through the war, with periodic lapses where letters did not survive or he was incapacitated. They are all addressed to his wife, Celestine, a.k.a. “Cellie.”

Miller’s letters are articulate, opinionated, and well-written. They should be, given his education; they definitely measure up. Knox reports on unit news, war news, and gives considerable detail about his own unit’s movements and actions. He provides ample details (he’s a keen observer, God’s gift to historians.) Miller’s letter of 10 January 1863, for example, describing Murfreesboro, runs for four and a half pages.

Here’s a quick passage concerning Miller’s actions on December 26, in a skirmish with the Federals:

I was on foot and went a little in advance of our lines to find better ground for some of the boys who were very much exposed, and just as I knelt at the root of a tree and was drawing a bead upon a big rascal, a minie ball grazed my pantaloons just above the knee. No great damage was done except tearing the yellow cord that I wear on my pants for a stripe. I had bark knocked into my eyes several times but was not hurt in the least.

It was an inconsequential skirmish, but Miller still conveys the feel of the fight. He has a knack for describing such actions.

The editing, by Richard M. McMurry, is outstanding, informative without being intrusive. McMurry is one of the best of his class of Civil War historians, and it shows in his notes to each letter.

Be forewarned, reader, few Confederate sources will be as richly rewarding to read. As we progress, Union sources will outnumber Confederate sources Рsuch is life with the Army of Tennessee.

The Rough Side of War

August 6, 2018

IMG_0282As promised, here is the first of a series of books I feel are critical to understanding the armies that fought at Chickamauga.

Arnold Gates, ed., The Rough Side of War, The Civil War Journal of Chesley A. Mosman. Garden City, NY: The Basin Publishing Co., 1987.

Lieutenant Chesley Mosman served in the 59th Illinois Infantry. He enlisted in Marine Prairie, Illinois, in 1861; in a regiment first designated the 9th Missouri Infantry. He served in Thomas Wood’s Division of the 21st and 4th Corps. Though his first two journals for 1861 have been lost, his surviving journals begin in January, 1862, and run all the way to December 31, 1865.

Along the way, Mosman writes wonderfully detailed journal entries describing both his immediate circumstances (weather, camp life, etc.) and his thoughts on everything from questions of the day to military affairs. At 448 pages, this book is no quick read, but it is rewarding.

I have come to rely on it heavily, and cite it often.

Here is a snippet from his entry for September 2, 1863 – which runs to a full page of text.

It seems queer for Rosecrans to move his men down in rear of the Rebel Army and thus invite an attack, but such is war. They call it flanking the enemy out of his position, but one is reminded of old General Willich, who when informed by a frightened staff officer that the enemy had passed round his flank and got in rear of him, replied “Vell, vell, vat of dat? When he is in my rear aint I in his rear?” We must always remember that there are two rears – one for each army – in War, but I’ll let old Rosey boss the job.

Mosman’s journal is a vital resource for anyone studying the Army of the Cumberland, fully equal to Sam Watkins’ famous work from the Confederate perspective, “Company Aitch.”

Spend some time with Mosman.

Some worthy causes

August 5, 2018

Hello, fellow Chickamaugites. Or Chickamaugans. (I’m not sure which is more correct. Pick one.)


First, some business to conduct. Every year in March, we raise a substantial sum over and above our costs, which can be put towards worthy causes. I made a $500 donation to the American Battlefield Trust (formerly the Civil War Trust) back in the spring, but I usually wait several months to donate all the available money, in case a late-breaking opportunity comes along.

American Battlefields Trust

Since August has rolled around, I feel the need to live up to my responsibilities and finish the donations. I decided to give another $500 to the Battlefield Trust, since there was an opportunity to support a nearly 5 to 1 match for some ground at Shiloh, and as has become customary I have also sent $500 of the group’s money to the Jewell Monument Fund, administered by the Friends of the Parks at Chickamauga – now also rebranded as NPP: National Parks Partners, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Moccasin Bend.

National Parks Partners

The monument fund reserves money for restoration and the maintenance of the park’s hundreds of monuments, markers, and interpretive signs. Acquiring new sites is wonderful, but we also need to keep up the sites we have.

This leaves us $135 left in the group fund, to cover any incidentals that arise as we get ready for next March’s tours. Info on those tours (March 8-9, 2019) will be forthcoming next month.

Second, I want to alert you that I will be soon start posting an irregular series on books that pertain to this blog’s subject – specifically, memoirs, correspondence and diaries written by the men of both the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of Tennessee.

I don’t intend to review new books, but rather, alert readers to some of the better older volumes to see the light of publication over the years.