Monday, August 12, 2019

He almost got away: Holcombe Legion and the night after South Mountain.


    Sometimes you just find accounts that make a person laugh out loud. As I was reading through an account by a member of Holcombe Legion (SC), I stumbled across one such account. William P. Dubose was adjutant of the infantry portion of Holcombe's Legion (he later served as chaplain). In September 1862, he had been ordered to take a small group of his soldiers and scout towards the battle field of the previous day at South Mountain, trying to ascertain if Federal troops are still around. Dubose has moved his men forward, and then leaves then while he scouts on ahead. He actually flanks a Federal line, coming up in their rear.
Private Jackon A. Davis of Co. E, Holcombe Legion (LOC)

   In the darkness, Dubose has not seen anything, when all of a sudden, he hears "Halt!"

   I stopped immediately, wondering whether it was the voice of the enemy or one of my own men in search of me. I could see one or two figures not more than twenty steps in front of me, but I could not distinguish the uniform. Robert Rutledge's cloak [which Dubose had borrowed] as a civilian's, with a c cape falling over the arms with slits in the side of the body for armholes. My arms were within the slits, holding the pistol [also borrowed]. I quietly cocked it and slowly moved over to the figures before me, which were between me and my own men. They made no movement as I approached and I hoped very strongly still that they were my men. As I approached to within a very few feet my immediate antagonist and myself, simultaneously recognized each other as enemies. He thought I was one of his own men. As he jerked up his gun, I was near enough to ward it off with one hand and with the other attempt to draw my pistol from without the cloak. In the necessary scuffle, the pistol being cocked, discharged itself prematurely. At once, thinking himself shot, with a load yell, the man dropped his gun and precipitated himself upon me. Instantly the woods were alive. My effort then was simply to get away. In the scuffle that ensued, I several times nearly did so, but my antagonist was a much larger and stronger man that I was, and I finally had to surrender to numbers."

Dubose was captured, and spent the next several weeks at Fort Delaware as a prisoner of war. This account was found in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Surprisingly, there appears to be no history of Holcombe Legion.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Purging the Army of Northern Virginia


   A couple of weeks ago, while filming a short interview with Chris Mackowski of Emerging Civil War (we were at the American Battlefield Trust's Teacher's Institute), I made a comment about the purging of officers from the Army of Northern Virginia after Robert E. Lee was assigned command in June 1862. I had never really counted until today, but fifteen men who were brigade or division commanders during the Seven Days battles were not with the Army of Northern Virginia when it surrendered at Appomattox Court House in April 1865 (this excludes those who died or were killed in action). Did Lee have these officers transferred on purpose? A good question.

Here are the fifteen and what became of them:

John B. Magruder - sent to Trans-Mississippi Department after the Seven Days.

William H. C. Whiting - reassigned to the Military District of Wilmington. Died as a prisoner of war in New York on March 10, 1865.

Richard Taylor - transferred to the Trans-Mississippi Department July 1862.

Bradley Johnson - with the Army of Northern Virginia until 1864, when consolidation removed him from command. Finished the war as commander at Salisbury Prison.

D. H. Hill - shuffled back to North Carolina in February 1863. Commanded a corps in the Army of Tennessee during the Chickamauga-Chattanooga Campaign. Had further run-ins with high command, but finished the war commanding a corps at Bentonville.

Boswell Ripley - bounced around between South Carolina and the Army of Northern Virginia. Commanded a division in the Army of Tennessee during the battle of Bentonville.

Robert Toombs - resigned March 4, 1863, after not getting the promotion he thought he deserved. Later served in the Georgia militia.

Howell Cobb - in November 1862, transferred in November 1862 to the District of Middle Florida. Later in the Georgia Militia.

Stephen D. Lee - November-December of 1862 transferred to Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana. In mid-1864 was a corps commander in the Army of Tennessee.

Roger Pryor - brigade was broken apart in the spring of 1863 and Pryor resigned.

William S. Featherston - transferred to Vicksburg in early 1863, and later commanded a brigade in the Army of Tennessee

Ambrose R. Wright - wounded in 1864, and transferred to Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

John G. Walker - transferred to the Trans-Mississippi department after the Maryland campaign.

Benjamin Hunger - relieved of field duty July 12, 1862, and spent most of the war as an inspector of artillery in the Trans-Mississippi department.

Theophilus Holmes - transferred to Trans-Mississippi department July 30, 1862.

Did Lee have some of these men transferred to get them out of his hair? All four most senior major generals in the army when Lee took command were soon elsewhere. While Margruder did an outstanding job fooling McClellan at Yorktown, there were numerous complaints leveled at him following the Seven Days battles, mostly for being drunk. He was very quickly assigned to the Trans-Mississippi Department, but on returning to Richmond to answer the rumors against him, he leveled charges against Lt. Col. R.H. Chilton of Robert E. Lee's staff. That surely did not help his cause.

William Whiting's feud was with Jefferson Davis They had butted heads in late 1861, declining command of a Mississippi brigade. Whiting was gone on sick leave, and when he returned, found his division under the command of John B. Hood.

Benjamin Huger feuded with Joseph E. Johnston over the Seven Pines battle. Johnston claimed that Huger was not ready to attack when ordered. Huger wanted charges preferred. Richard Taylor wrote that "Magruder is charged with incompetency and loss of head, and much blame attached to both his and Huger's slowness." (Davis, The Confederate General, vol. 3, 129)

Lee might have been trying to get rid of Theophilus Holmes prior to the Seven Days battles. There is a letter from Lee to the Secretary of War, dated June 19, 1862, stating that Lee "recommended General Huger's orders to be issued from the Adjutant and Inspector General's Office." (OR 1, vol. 11, pt. 3, 609.)

Lee, of course, was remaking the Army of Northern Virginia. He wanted younger,  more aggressive commanders to take charge of his divisions.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Now taking orders


Friends, I am now taking pre-orders for signed copies of Lee's Body Guard: The 39th Battalion Virginia Cavalry. I expect to mail copies toward the end of next week (The official release date is July 29). The 39th Battalion was recruited to serve as scouts, couriers, and guides for Army of Northern Virginia staff. Members of the battalion were in service from the battle of Second Manassas, all the way to Appomattox. They witnessed Jackson's mortal wounding, and carried the flag of truce when Lee went to meet with Grant. This is my twenty-fourth book, and my fourth regimental. Signed copies are $20, including shipping. You can order via my website,  (please use paypal button), or via the mail. PO Box 393, Crossnore, NC  28616. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Visiting the Ox Hill Battlefield


   Over the years, I have had a chance to visit every battlefield where the Branch-Lane fought, walking the ground where they fought, save one: the battle of Ox Hill, or Chantilly. On a recent visit to Washington, D. C., I remedied that omission. I have checked that battlefield off my list and can say I've trod everywhere they fought, and marched, and camped.

    So why have I not visited the Ox Hill battlefield? Well, there is really nothing left. We'll come back to that.

   The battle of Ox Hill came at the end of the Second Manassas Campaign, and the beginning of the Maryland Campaign. Stonewall Jackson had swung around the flank and into the rear of the Federal army under John Pope. After capturing the Manassas Depot of August 27, Jackson fell back into a defensive position and waited for the Federals to attack. They did just that on August 29, and it was a hard fight for Jackson. Lee, with Longstreet's corps, came up later that day, and on August 30, attacked Pope's flank in the "largest, simultaneous mass assault of the war." The left flank of the Federals was crushed, and they started falling back towards Washington City. The battle of Second Manassas produced an estimated 22,000 casualties.

Monuments to the two Union generals killed.
   Even though they had borne the brunt of the fighting, Jackson 's corps was sent to follow up the attack. He hoped to cut off the Federal retreat and destroy Pope's army in detail. According to the National Park Service, by  "Making a wide flank march, Jackson hoped to cut off the Union retreat from Bull Run. On September 1, beyond Chantilly Plantation on the Little River Turnpike near Ox Hill, Jackson sent his divisions against two Union divisions under Kearny and Stevens. Confederate attacks were stopped by fierce fighting during a severe thunderstorm. Union generals Stevens and Kearny were both killed. Recognizing that his army was still in danger at Fairfax Courthouse, Maj. Gen. Pope ordered the retreat to continue to Washington. With Pope no longer a threat, Lee turned his army west and north to invade Maryland, initiating the Maryland Campaign and the battles of South Mountain and Antietam."
   
American Battlefield Trust map of the Ox Hill battlefield.
   Branch's brigade was involved early on in the fighting. They were ordered to deploy (with Brockenbrough's brigade) about five that afternoon (September 1), and moved off to their right. Rain soon began to fall in torrents. Capt. James S. Harris, 7th North Carolina State Troops, wrote that the two brigades "scaled a high fence on the right of the road, advanced through an open field and body of woods to a fence near the foot of a hill where the battle was immediately joined. In front there was a meadow, and beyond that, a large field of standing corn which rendered the exact location of the enemy's line uncertain, until by the smoke of the battle and growing darkness, it could be outlined by the flashes of his guns.... Finding his ammunition was nearly out, Gen. Branch applied to Gen. Jackson for help, stating that his 'guns were wet,' to which Jackson curtly replied, 'tell Gen. Branch I have no troops to send him, the enemy's guns are wet, also, and if pressed he must hold his position with the bayonet.'" Of course, Branch did hold, and other troops came up. But the darkness and rain, after two hours of fighting, brought the battle of Ox Hill to an end. The Federals were to escape into the defensives of Washington. Lee, knowing he did not have enough men to lay siege or assault the Federal capital, and not really being able to supply his men so exposed, moved off toward Maryland.
Current image of the battlefield. 

   So, why have I never visited the Ox Hill battlefield? Probably because only 4.8 acres (out of 300) are preserved as a park. The rest of the battle was lost to development in the 1980s. And it was a fight to have those 4.8 acres secured from development.  It was that second fight at Ox Hill that led to the founding of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites. This group later merged with the American Battlefield Protection Foundation to become the Civil War Preservation Trust, then renamed the Civil War Trust, and more recently, the American Battlefield Trust. Over 50,000 acres of battlefield land has been preserved. I've been a member for probably 20 years, and I am a charter member of the American Battlefield Trust.
   
   The position where Branch's brigade fought is in a condo development, probably along Sleepy Lake Drive. There is really not anything to see. But we were staying in Chantilly, and it was only a couple of miles away, on a late Saturday afternoon, and worth a visit to me so I could cross it off the list.
 
   In preserving 50,000 acres of battlefield land, the American Battlefield Trust is doing an amazing thing. I don't always agree with them (Danville was not the last Confederate capital), but I am proud to be a member. Let me encourage you to check them out (click here).

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Another type of courier


For the past several months, I posted several times on the role of couriers, mounted couriers, within the Army of Northern Virginia. Of course, this has coincided with my work on Lee's Body Guard, my new history of the 39th Battalion Virginia Cavalry. Recently, while reading a set of letters from William C. McClellan, a member of the 9th Alabama Infantry, I found another reference to couriers, a different type of courier.

Pamplin Historical Park
McClellan and the 5th Alabama were stationed near "Louis House" in January 1862. In a letter home to his father that month, McClellan talks about being on guard duty. Usually, every morning, several details were made from the troops in camp. Some were detailed to work on fortifications, others to gather wood, and yet others for guarding various structures. McClellan writes on January 22 that "we have 30 guards every day, guard mountain [mounting] at 8, o'clock. there is 2 orderlies selected from the guard who have the cleanest guns and present the most Soldierly appearance. one of the orderlies waits on the Col. the other reports to The Adjutant. I am almost certain to be one of the orderlies. I have nothing to do but sit by old [Col. Samuel] Henrys fire and chat [with] him during the day and make one trip to Wilcoxs head quarters a half mile off to carry the daily report." (John C. Carter, ed., Welcome the Hour of Conflict: William Cowan McClellan and the 9th Alabama, 130)

A few notes about guards, gleaned from the Confederate Regulations, are useful. Camp or garrison guards were to serve for twenty-four hours. They were often notified the evening before that they had been selected for guard duty. That morning, the fell in and were inspected by their company's first sergeant, then marched to the regimental parade ground. The guard detail was formed by the sergeant major, inspected, and then turned over to the adjutant. It is not just privates serving in this detail, but an officer and NCO's as well. The men are then inspected a second time, and the musicians paraded. The old officer of the guard then passes along old or standing orders to the new officer of the day. Then comes the process of visiting each post and replacing the old guard with the new guard. Guards are supposed to be replaced every two hours.

There are a few things to unpack from McClellan's letter. McClellan was on guard detail, probably the men who guarded the camp stockade or jail. This is different from being on picket detail, although the formation of the picket detail was probably done at the same time. As the war progressed, entire companies, or at times regiments, were detailed as pickets for several days at a time. McClellan tells us that out of the thirty guards, two are selected to serve as orderlies. He does not elaborate on further responsibilities (probably anything the colonel or adjutant needed them to do). McClellan's letter does not mention being rotated every two hours. After delivering the daily report to the general's headquarters (Cadmus Wilcox, in this case), McClellan simply sat by the colonel's fire and chatted with the colonel (and presumably, whoever else came along).

Regimental commanders do not typically have aides or couriers who are appointed to their staffs. Generals, on the other hand, do. Brig. Gen. James H. Lane used two of his younger brothers in this role during the war. I imagine that if the army was active, but still in camp, say preparing for a march, that the daily orderly could get tired trotting back and forth between regimental and brigade headquarters.

McClellan's story is just one more little piece of the story.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Brigade Medical Care

Mt Jackson Confederate Hospital 

   Over the past few months, I have noticed a interesting trend: people really seem to like the chapter on Brigade Medical Care in General Lee's Immortals, my history of the Branch-Lane brigade. Dr. Jonathan M. Steplyk, in his review in Civil War Monitor, wrote: " Hardy’s work in the chapters on medicine and prisons is especially commendable. In many unit histories, men are lost to death, wounds, and capture, but, almost by necessity, the focus tends to fix on those men remaining to do the fighting. Hardy’s approach ensures that the stories of wounded men and prisoners do not disappear from the narrative." Gary Lee Hall recently wrote in a review in Confederate Veteran: "The chapter entitled 'Brigade medical Care' is particularly moving and provides light into the experience of those wounded and ill." And, this past Saturday, while signing books at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center, a patron told me the book/chapter was going to be used in the collection at Elmwood House as they build a new hospital exhibit.  

   So what about this chapter has captivated people's attention?

   When I sat down to write General Lee's Immortals, I wanted to write more than a brigade history: I wanted to not only write a history of the Branch-Lane brigade, but also to explain how a brigade worked or, at times, did not work (I explain that in the introduction).  That holds true for the chapter on brigade hospital care. While there are some great books on Civil War medicine and hospitals, I'm not really aware that anyone has ever tackled something on such a scale. Of course, I started with the regiment, explaining the roles of surgeon, assistant surgeon, and steward, examining how a person became a doctor in the mid-nineteenth-century South. The role of the regimental surgeon, et. al. is examined next, then sick call, followed by hospitals. Diseases come next, then an exploration of battlefield hospital care, battlefield burials, and PTSD. The best I recall, this chapter was somewhere around 10,000 words, before editing.

   Besides a plethora of personal observations from members of the Branch-Lane brigade who were doctors, or who were sick or wounded, I relied on a few good sources to build this chapter: Cunningham's Doctors in Gray; Humphrey's Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War; Calcutt's Richmond's Wartime Hospitals; and Schroeder-Lein's The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine. There are others, but this is what I used, besides a few period texts.

 Maybe, when I get Feeding the Army of Northern Virginia finished, it might be time to look at the medical history of the Army of Northern Virginia...


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

War Stuff, Scott's Military Dictionary, and the Articles of War.


   Recently, I acquired a copy of Joan Cashin's War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War. (Cambridge, 2018). Overall, it is a good read, a short introduction to the environmental aspects of the war. I guess my biggest objection was the overemphasis on the surrender of the Lee's army. Lee's surrender did not bring about the end of the war. While Lee's capitulation had much symbolic meaning, the Army of Northern Virginia was trapped and disintegrating.  Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee, three times the size of Lee's forces, was sitting on a wealth of supplies and had plenty of opportunities for escape. But, I digress. Cashin's tome has chapters on how the war affected people, timber, habitat, and the subject I'm most interested in at the present: sustenance.
   In the chapter on sustenance, Cashin compares three period books to the letters and reminisces of soldiers and civilians, both Blue and Gray, regarding provisions. Those three tomes are The Revised United States Army Regulations of 1861, Henry Lee Scott's Military Dictionary, and the Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States. The latter was published in 1863. Scott's Military Dictionary was published in 1861 (I have an 1864 reprint of this book). Cashin uses Scott's to define terms found in the Articles of War, terms like foraging, allowances, supplies, and the responsibilities of the quartermaster's department. Scott's is a great help in increasing our understanding of the way people in 1861 perceived certain terms or roles. However, since Scott's was not published until 1861, how many copies of this work made it into the hands of Federal officers during the course of the war? Furthermore, did any of those volumes ever make it into Southern hands?
New York Times April 1861
   The first reference I can find to Scott's Military Dictionary comes in April 1861, when the New York Times makes mention of the book in a list of military manuals being published by D. Van Nostrand. It simply lists the book as being "in press..." By June, Nostrand is advertising the book as being available in a few days. The Buffalo Commercial advertises it as available on July 18, at a cost of $5, while it is available for purchase at a book shop in Cleveland, Ohio, by the end of the month. (Cleveland Daily Leader July 21, 1861). Of course, it is not an issued manual, like The Revised United States Army Regulations of 1861. Scott's does not appear in any advertisements in Southern towns during the war, save Nashville and Port Royal (SC), after they have come under Union control.
   Since Scott's Military Dictionary might not be a viable option for defining terms found in the Articles of War for Southern officers, were could they turn? Of course, there is the regular dictionary. Webster's Dictionary (1828) defines foraging as "Collecting provisions for horse and cattle, or wandering in search of food; ravaging; stripping." Allowance: "to restrain or limit to a certain quantity of provision or drink." Supply: "to fill up, as any deficiency happens; to furnish what is wanted."
   A glance at a few advertisements in 1861 in Southern newspapers does not show any military dictionaries for sale. Beard's Book-Store, advertising in the The Yorkville Enquirer (SC) on January 3, 1861, had Hardee's Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics; McMomb's Militia Tactics; Cavalry Tactics, LaSal's School of Guides; Infantry Camp Duty; and The Rifle, and How to use it. J. W. Randolph, bookseller, advertising in the Richmond Dispatch on July 15, 1861, had available Science of War; Cavalry Out Post Duty; Volunteer's Manual; Volunteer's Handbook; Hardee's Tactics; and Mahan's Out-Post Duty. No military dictionaries.   There were other military dictionaries out there. Simes Military Dictionary (1776); Duane's A Military Dictionary (1810); Rose's Military Dictionary (1815); and possibly a few others. But just how many people would have had a military dictionary lying about at home on the mantel of the fireplace? Probably very few.  
   Cashin targets Articles 52 and 54. Article 52 states that "Any officer or soldier who shall misbehave himself before the enemy... or who shall quit his post or colors to plunder and pillage... being duly convicted thereof, shall suffer death, or such other punishment as shall be ordered by the sentence of a general court-martial." (493) Article 54: "  All officers and soldiers are to behave themselves orderly in quarters and on their march; and whoever shall commit any waste or spoil, either in walks or trees, parks, warrens, fish-ponds, houses or gardens, corn-fields, inclosures of meadows, or shall maliciously destroy any property belonging to the inhabitants of the United States unless by order of the then command-in-chief of the armies of the said States, shall (besides such penalties as they are liable to by law) be punished according to the nature and degree of their offense, by the judgement of a regimental or general court martial." (493-494, The Revised United States Army Regulations of 1861.) Of course, when the Confederate States printed its own versions of the Articles of War beginning in 1861, these were translated verbatim, save for the substitution of "Confederate States" for "United States."
 Cashin goes on to state that when the Confederate regulations were published in 1863, they were verbatim, except the "volume added the statement that the rebel army's 'wanton destruction' of private property was 'disgraceful' and on par with the enemy's behavior." (75) I wish Dr. Cashin had provided a better source for this, except Confederate Regulations pages 407-420. I cannot seem to find this phrase in my 1863 reprint. Also, one other little gripe: she writes on page 76: "They resurrected old ways of cooking, making molasses from maple trees as their grandmothers did." Um, we make maple syrup from maple trees. Molasses is made from sugar cane.
   In War Stuff, Cashin subdivides the chapter into sections looking at the Food Environment; New Things to Eat; New Foodways, Especially Meat; Civilians and their Provender; General Pope's orders of 1862; Confederate Regulation; Impressment; and Hungry People. Overall, it is an interesting read.