The Civil War (Western Theater):
A Guide to Several Battlefields
By J. Brent Norlem
This is Part Five of a Five-Part Article
1. In his postwar memoir “Advance and Retreat” (hard to find, but worth the effort) John Bell Hood states that the first time he ever saw Confederate soldiers run was at the Battle of Nashville. It apparently didn’t occur to him that perhaps he had drained his ill-fed and poorly clothed troops of all they had to give at the Battle of Franklin, and that the assault of fresh, well-fed, and well-equipped Federals at Nashville was more than the badly battered Confederate survivors of Franklin could stand.
2. French Camp Academy is a highly regarded Christian boarding school for children from broken homes. There are 12 residence homes staffed by house parents who lovingly treat each child like their own biological offspring. The comprehensive scholastic program is accredited by the Mississippi Department of Education; there is a full athletic program; and there is a required work-study program (a number of the children work part time at the Natchez Trace Historic Village). French Creek Academy boasts the largest astronomical observatory in Mississippi, a 100,000-watt radio station, and an impressive music department. It is worth the extra 15 to 20 minutes to drive through the campus.
3. Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, C.S.A., was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He was an artillery officer in the United States Regular Army (which may in part explain the superb placement of artillery at Vicksburg) and fought in the Mexican-American War alongside Ulysses S. Grant. Because he married a Southern woman and served many years in the South, he felt a deep attachment to the region, and resigned his Federal commission to fight for the Confederacy. Though he defended Vicksburg to the best of his ability, a significant number of Southerners suspected him of treachery in surrendering because of his Northern birth. Few of these suspicious souls could have come under fire during the seige, or seen starving children in caves.
4. Lt. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was probably the best of all of the Confederate generals but was never able to exercise his full potential. An 1829 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York (13th among 46 cadets), Johnston was the first USMA graduate to achieve the rank of brigadier general in the United States Regular Army, thus reaching a higher Regular Army rank than did his 1829 classmate Robert E. Lee (2nd among 46 cadets). Johnston resigned his commission in 1837 and studied civil engineering. He was involved in heavy fighting in 1838 against the Seminoles in Florida, leaving him with a permanent head scar. Rejoining the Regular Army, he was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant of Engineers, then breveted a captain for his civilian actions against the Seminoles and his explorations of the Everglades. He was wounded twice in major battles of the Mexican-American War and after the war was posted to California. He was appointed Quartermaster General of the United States Regular Army in June 1860. A Virginian by birth, he resigned his commission when Virginia seceded in 1861, the highest-ranking Regular Army officer to do so. Commissioned a major general in the Virginia Militia, he relieved Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in command at Harpers Ferry and organized the Confederate Army of the Shenandoah. Johnston brought forces from the Shenandoah to reinforce those of Brig. Gen. P. T. G. Beauregard.
After First Bull Run, Johnston, Beauregard, and William Porcher Miles designed the Confederate Battle Flag; Johnston had the idea to make the flag square. In August 1861 Johnston was promoted to Lieutenant General in the Confederate Army (equivalent to a four-star full general in today’s United States Army) but he was irate that three others outranked him. He believed that as he had been the senior officer to resign from the United States Regular Army, he should not have date of rank behind Samuel Cooper, Albert Sydney Johnston, and Robert E. Lee (only P. T. G. Beauregard had later date of rank). This perceived slight caused animosity between Johnston and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Johnston was given command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and led it in 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign of the Federal Army. He employed a series of strategic retreats to preserve his army while delaying the Federal forces until the Federals were within five miles of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. He then attacked, fighting the inconclusive Battle of Seven Pines, which caused faltering Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan to re-think his campaign. Johnston was wounded on the second day of the battle and replaced by Lt. Gen. Robert E. Lee. Recovering from his wound, Johnston was given command of the Confederate Department of the West, the central command of the Western Theater, which gave him control of the Army of Tennessee, commanded by Maj. Gen. Braxton Bragg, and the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, commanded by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton. When Bragg resigned his command following the Battles for Chattanooga, Davis reluctantly replaced him with Johnston. Trying to preserve the Army of Tennessee while attempting to reorganize and re-equip it, Johnston employed the same strategy of strategic withdrawals he had used against McClellan’s juggernaut during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, falling back to more defensible positions. The much greater Federal forces invariably flanked Johnston’s army, forcing him ever closer to Atlanta.
Infuriated by what he perceived as timidity by Johnston, Davis replaced him with Lt. Gen John Bell Hood. This decision was one of the most controversial of the war. The Confederate citizenry demanded the return of Johnston following the debacles of Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville, and Sherman’s march across Georgia. Davis appointed Johnston to a new command, comprised of remnants of forces in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Johnston enjoyed one last flash of success 19 March 1865 at the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, but learning of Lee’s surrender, he surrendered his army to Sherman two weeks later, despite Davis’s orders to continue the struggle. The only monument to Johnston is in Georgia.
5. Vicksburg’s surrender took place in the shade of an old oak tree “made historical by the event.” In his “Personal Memoirs,” Ulysses S. Grant describes the fate of the hapless oak: “It was but a short time before the last vestige of its body, root and limb had disappeared, the fragments taken as trophies. Since then the same tree has furnished as many cords of wood, in the shape of trophies, as the True Cross.”
6. Hurricane Katrina, the costliest and one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States, was the sixth-strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the third-strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in the United States. Katrina formed 23 August 2005 over the Bahamas and crossed southern Florida as a moderate Category 1 hurricane, causing deaths and flooding there, before strengthening rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm weakened before making its second and third landfalls as a Category 3 storm on the morning of August 29 in southeast Louisiana and at the Louisiana-Mississippi state line. The storm surge caused severe damage along the Gulf Coast, devastating the Mississippi cities of Bay St. Louis, D’Iberville, Gautier, Gulfport, Long Beach, Moss Point, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula, Pass Christian, and Waveland. In Biloxi it did extensive damage to Beauvoir, home of Jefferson Davis following the Civil War, and an adjacent Confederate cemetery. In Louisiana, the New Orleans federal flood protection system failed in more than 50 places. Nearly every levee in metro New Orleans breached as Hurricane Katrina passed east of the city, subsequently flooding 80 percent of the city and many neighboring areas for weeks.
7. Lt. Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, C.S.A., of Louisiana, was the first important Confederate general of the Civil War. Called “the Napoleon in gray,” he commanded the Southern forces in the 12 April 1861 assault of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, that began the war. Three months later he commanded the victorious Confederate forces at the 1st Battle of Bull Run near Manassas, Virginia. Born near New Orleans, he graduated second in the Class of 1838 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, excelling both as an artilleryman and a military engineer. During the Mexican-American War he was breveted captain after the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco and to major after the Battle of Chapultepec where he was twice wounded. He served 1858-1861 as chief engineer in charge of drainage at New Orleans and supervised the construction of the Federal Customs House in that city. He returned to the USMA in 1861 to teach, becoming superintendent of the school five days before he resigned his commission when Louisiana seceded. He entered the Confederate Army as a brigadier general in March 1861 and was promoted July 1861 to lieutenant general, becoming one of only eight full generals to serve the Confederacy during the Civil War. After the 1st Battle of Bull Run, Beauregard advocated a standard battle flag for all Confederate forces and, as noted above, collaborated with Joseph E. Johnston and William Porcher Miles in designing one. He advocated garrisoning New Orleans with a strong force but was overruled by President Jefferson Davis, resulting in continuing and increasing animosity between Beauregard and Davis that undoubtedly was damaging to Beauregard’s career.
Transferred to Tennessee, Beauregard assumed command of Confederate forces in the Battle of Shiloh when the commander, the highly capable Lt. Gen. William Sydney Johnston, was mortally wounded early in the first day of the battle. Although quite successful the first day, Beauregard halted the attack, believing the Federal force to be thoroughly defeated. He was forced to retreat the second day to Corinth, Mississippi, by a concerted Federal counterattack commanded by Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who had received reinforcements. Beauregard was later forced out of the rail center of Corinth by a Federal force commanded by Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, after which he was relieved of command by Lt. Gen. Braxton Bragg. He was then given command of coastal defenses in Georgia and South Carolina, successfully defending Charleston, 1862-1864, from several Federal attacks. He assisted Lee in defending Richmond, thrashed Federal forces under Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, and successfully held Petersburg, Virginia, until Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia invested it. Likely to rid Lee of a constant irritation, Beauregard was appointed “commander of Confederate forces in the West,” a position of negligible power, as the western forces were engaged elsewhere in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, and he could do nothing to oppose Sherman’s inexorable march across Georgia. In late April 1865, Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston surrendered their forces to Sherman in North Carolina.
8. Barataria Bay, Louisiana, was the base of a pirate colony, the “Kingdom of Barataria,” led by Jean Baptiste Lafitte and his older brother, Pierre, descendants of Spanish Jews exiled to France. Allegedly, Lafitte was a friend of Napoleon Bonaparte and tried to help Napoleon escape from exile at St. Helena; the attempt failed. Lafitte claimed he ruled “a thousand men,” and he led whatever was the true number in helping Gen. Andrew Jackson defeat the British in the Battle of New Orleans. (The men brought by Lafitte were artillery experts and were doubtless of major assistance to Jackson.) Though Hollywood has twice made a hero of Lafitte, he and brother Pierre, heavily involved in espionage, were double agents, and their true loyalty to the United States is suspect. Lafitte was run out of New Orleans in 1817, two years after the legendary battle, and relocated to Galveston Island, Texas, established “the Kingdom of Campeche,” and engaged in a slave-running enterprise with James Bowie. In 1821, a U.S. Navy warship evicted him from Galveston and from the northern Gulf of Mexico in general. The Lafittes, especially Jean, remain folk heroes with the people of Louisiana, particularly those in rural areas, and merchants continue to enjoy profits from hawking Lafitte-related souvenirs to tourists. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, a bar on Bourbon Street in the Vieux Carre (French Quarter), New Orleans, is one of the oldest continuously operating bars in the nation and claims to have been a front for Lafitte’s various enterprises in New Orleans, but there is no solid evidence to support this. Today there is the 20,000-acre Barataria Nature Preserve, there is the Louisiana Cajun village named Lafitte, Chalmette has a street named for Lafitte, and of course there is the huge Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.
9. During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, Americans employed the British method of identifying large-bore weapons, i.e., they named a cannon by type and the weight of the projectile it fired. Thus, there were 12-pounder Napoleons, 6-pounder mountain howitzers, 100-pounder Columbiads (Rodmans), and the like. During the Civil War, the Federal Army (and by extension, the Confederates, though their pieces were inconsistently identified) continued this practice but also began identifying some artillery pieces by their types and sizes of their bores, e.g., 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, 13-inch seige mortars, 20-inch Columbiads (Rodmans), etc. This practice continues today, sometimes without apparent logic, e.g., during the Korean War there were 60mm, 81mm, and 4.2-inch mortars, 105mm, 155mm, and 8-inch howitzers, and the like.
Any large, smoothbore, muzzle-loaded weapon used before the invention of rifled guns can correctly be called a cannon. Technically, a rifled large-bore weapon is called a gun or a rifle. Guns fire projectiles at higher velocities and flatter trajectories than cannons, with greater accuracy and range. An exception are the shorter-barreled, rifled howitzers, which are designed to lob projectiles at a high angle over obstructions.
Mortars, always smoothbore until the Korean War, are used much like howitzers – they lob projectiles in high arcs over obstructions, and into such defensive works as trenches. The most famous mortar of the Civil War was the Dictator, a 13-inch seacoast mortar used by Federal forces against the well-entrenched Confederates at Petersburg, Virginia. The largest gun in Confederate use during the Civil War was the 7-inch Brooke Rifle (these were manufactured in England). The 1861 3-inch Ordnance Rifle was undoubtedly the best all-around artillery piece of the Civil War. Used by both sides (the Confederates captured numerous Ordnance Rifles), it was highly accurate and relatively easy to transport, firing a Hotchkiss or Schenkl projectile 2,000 yards at five degrees elevation, using a one-pound powder charge. The 3-inch Ordnance Rifles remained in use by the United States Army until the 1880s when they finally were replaced with breech-loading guns. The Ordnance Rifles are sometimes referred to erroneously as Rodmans, probably because of similarity in shape. However, there is no other connection between the two. Another heavily used series of guns were the Parrott Rifles, made at Cold Spring, New York, patented in 1861. The original Parrotts were 10-pounders, but 20-pounders and 30-pounders soon followed. Eventually, huge 100-, 200-, and 300-pounder Parrotts were produced. By the end of the war, the Parrotts, like the Ordnance Rifles, were in use by both sides. Another series commonly used during the war were the huge Columbiads, which, as noted, were also called Rodmans after their manufacturer – heavy iron cannons that could lob enormous projectiles propelled by large powder charges. They were used largely for coastal defense and were normally emplaced in permanent fortifications.
Accurate, long range, breech-loading Whitworth Rifles manufactured in England were used by both sides, though not nearly enough were imported to meet Confederacy needs. The Whitworths were not as popular as other cannons or guns because of problems with its breech-loading mechanism. Garrison or seige mortars ranged from the brass 5.8-inch (24-pounder) Coehorn mortar to 8 and 10-inch iron mortars that were highly portable and could be carried along with an infantry unit on the march as well as used for garrison defense. Seacoast mortars, also called heavy mortars, came in 10- and 13-inch bores and were usually permanently emplaced for seacoast defense. A few such mortars were also mounted on railroad flat cars, presaging the German use of gigantic railway artillery during World War I.
10. At the end of the first day’s fighting at Shiloh, a worried William Tecumseh Sherman approached Ulysses S. Grant, who was sheltering under a tree from the pouring rain, smoking one of his seemingly interminable cigars while reviewing the day and planning for the next: “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” Grant looked up. “Yes,” he said, followed by a puff of his cigar. “Yes. Lick ‘em tomorrow, though.”
11. In 1766, the river where the Battle of Stones River would be fought was named for the hunter Uriah Stone, i.e., Stone’s River, with an apostrophe in “Stone’s.” It was Stone’s River at the time of the battle, and it was Stone’s River for decades after, but sometime in the 20th Century the apostrophe got dropped, possibly when the battlefield became part of the National Park System; it became Stones River on maps, travel brochures, etc., and remains so to this day. Incidentally, Stone was a “longhunter.” Longhunters were 18th Century explorers and hunters who conducted expeditions into the frontier wilderness for as long as six months – forerunners, in some ways, of the 19th century Mountain Men. Information gathered by the longhunters was important to the early settlement of Kentucky and Tennessee. Many longhunters were employed by land surveyors, and some guided settlers to southeastern Kentucky and Middle Tennessee.
12. Lt. Gen. Braxton Bragg, C.S.A., was graduated in 1837, fifth in a class of 50, from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, after which he served in the Second Seminole War in Florida. During the Mexican-American War he won several commendations and promotions for distinguished and gallant conduct. He resigned his commission in 1859 to become a sugar planter at Thibodaux, Louisiana, serving simultaneously in the Louisiana Militia, where he was promoted to major general in February 1961. He was commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate Army in March 1861, then promoted to major general in September 1861, assigned to command the Army of Mississippi. After the Seige of Corinth, Lt. Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, C.S.A., left the army allegedly because of “illness.” He did not report his leaving to President Jefferson Davis and was thus absent without leave for two weeks. Davis had been seeking a replacement for Beauregard because of his poor performance at Corinth and in June 1862 seized this opportunity to replace him with Bragg, who thus became commander of the Army of Tennessee.
Bragg had enormous military talent but also had a profound flaw – a severely abrasive personality. This deep-seated disorder may have had its roots in Bragg’s childhood when his mother was imprisoned for a time and other children teased him cruelly as only children can. His own troops tried to assassinate him in August and September 1847, though he was not injured in either attempt. There is a story about him serving in two capacities at a frontier post where he managed to quarrel with himself. Though apocryphal, the tale illustrates Bragg’s image and reputation. (Note – the word “brag” does not derive from Bragg.)
There is no doubt that troops under his command were some of the most soldierly of either side. A strict disciplinarian, he enforced military policies and regulations to the letter. When he took his forces to Corinth, Mississippi, he was charged with improving the discipline of the troops already stationed there, a task which he apparently accomplished with relish. Unfortunately for him and the Confederacy, his irritable and pugnacious attitude diminished his overall effectiveness, not only among the enlisted men but with his officers as well.
Bragg invaded Kentucky in August 1862, an excellent strategic maneuver that was partially successful. He moved north into Kentucky in cooperation with Lt. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith who led an army based in Knoxville, Tennessee. Bragg’s Army of Tennessee captured more than 4,000 Federal troops at Munfordville, Kentucky and moved north to Bardstown, today essentially a southern suburb of Louisville, where 4 October he participated in the inauguration of Richard Hawes as provisional Confederate governor of Kentucky. The corps of the Army of Tennessee commanded by Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk won a tactical victory 8 October at Perryville over a Federal army commanded by Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell. Bragg’s generals, Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee, Kirby Smith and Polk, pleaded with Bragg to follow up Polk’s victory with another attack. Bragg agreed, then decided suddenly to retreat to Knoxville, Tennessee. As one observer wrote, this was “a perplexity and vacillation that had become simply appalling to Smith, and Hardee, and Polk.” It should be carefully noted, though, that the performance of these generals had much to do with Bragg’s decision to retreat, a decision which under analysis reveals careful consideration by Bragg fueled by an intense desire to keep his army as undamaged and well-supplied as possible.
Bragg’s Army of Tennessee nearly defeated the Federal Army of the Cumberland in the Battle of Stones River, but an ill-conceived 3 January 1863 attack that he ordered resulted in 38 percent casualties for a force commanded by Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge. Though Bragg was roundly condemned by his generals for his handling of the battle, he was by no means the only contributor to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Franklin Cheatham was reported by several sources as being so drunk that he fell off his saddle during an attack. Based on what we know today, the best Confederate generalship exhibited during the battle was that of Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne. It does appear that some generals may have been trying to obfuscate their own ineptitude during the three-day battle by laying blame for everything that went awry at Bragg’s doorstep – not surprising, considering Bragg’s personality.
The acme of Bragg’s Confederate generalship occurred during 19-20 September 1863 when he suddenly turned on the overconfident pursuing Army of the Cumberland, defeating it decisively in the Battle of Chickamauga and forcing it to retreat into Chattanooga where it was quickly and effectively beseiged by the Confederates. The Battle of Chickamauga reflects outstanding tactical planning and execution.
By the time of the Battle of Chickamauga, Bragg’s generals, and Maj. Gen James Longstreet, on loan from Lt. Gen. Robert E. Lee, were in open rebellion against him. Bragg offered to resign to resolve the crisis but President Jefferson Davis refused his resignation. Davis, unable to solve the dilemma without cashiering his good friend Bragg, or crippling the Army of Tennessee by removing its senior officers, attempted to mollify the generals by placing Beauregard in a “supervisory” capacity in the Western Theater, theoretically Bragg’s superior, though the level and nature of Beauregard’s authority was never clarified, leaving the pot about to boil over. Davis’s problem was solved when the Federals established the “Cracker Line” to supply the troops in Chattanooga, followed by the Battles for Chattanooga with the Federals smashing the Confederate encirclement. When the Federals climbed the virtually vertical sides of Missionary Ridge and swarmed over the Confederate garrison, Bragg resigned his command of the Army of Tennessee, to be replaced by Lt. Joseph E. Johnston. There is little doubt that inattention by subordinates to Bragg’s orders at the best, naked insubordination at the worst, contributed greatly to the success of the Federal breakout at Chattanooga.
Bragg was ordered to Richmond, Virginia, in December 1864, where he served as military adviser to Jefferson Davis, a post originally filled by Robert E. Lee. Bragg was able to improve the supply situation, reduce corruption, and reorganize the conscription system. He then commanded the defenses of several Confederate cities. In the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, his performance resulted in the loss of the city, but he then won a victory over the Federals at Kinston, North Carolina. As the war neared its end Bragg served as a corps commander in the Army of Tennessee and fought at the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina. When Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, Bragg fled with Jefferson Davis through the Carolinas and Georgia.
13. More than two-thirds of Tennessee – the eastern and central sections especially – are part of what the National Biological Information Center refers to as the Southern Appalachia Regional Node. Like the rest of Appalachia, this region comprises multiple north-to-south mountain ranges and ridges (individual mountains average about 3,000 feet above sea level, with Mount Mitchell, North Carolina, the highest in the Appalachian Chain at 6,684 feet above sea level) with deep, sometimes wide, valleys between them. Depressions in these mountains and ridges which allow relatively easy passage from one valley to the next are regionally termed “cuts.” In Europe and in the western United States, such passages are called “passes.” Because traffic necessarily funneled through these cuts, settlements often grew next to them.
14. When the Civil War began, John T. Wilder set out to form his own artillery battery, casting two cannons in his foundry, only to find that the State of Indiana already had its quota of artillery batteries. Wilder then joined the 17th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a captain and was soon promoted to lieutenant colonel. The 17th Indiana regularly skirmished with Confederate cavalry. Frustrated because there was not enough cavalry to protect the infantry, Wilder applied to have his men mounted. His application was granted in February 1863 and the Wilder’s Brigade of Federal cavalry became official. Wilder wanted his cavalry to have the best weapons available, and he attended a demonstration of Christopher Spencer’s new lever action repeating rifle. Unable to obtain Spencers through official channels, Wilder took out a bank loan to finance their purchase, his troopers agreeing to have an amount deducted regularly from their pay to reimburse him. The men of Wilder’s Brigade received their Spencers in May 1863, becoming one of the first units of the Federal Army of the Cumberland to be equipped with the weapons. The Spencer-armed unit became known as “Wilder’s Flying Brigade” because of its speed of response. At the opening of the Chickamauga Campaign, the brigade was comprised of the 97th, 98th, and 123rd Illinois and the 17th and 72nd Indiana regiments, with artillery support supplied by Capt. Eli Lilly’s 18th Indiana Artillery Battery of six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.
15. The Spencer repeating rifle was a manually operated, lever action breech-loading rifle with a seven-round tubular magazine in its butt, using .56-56 caliber (actual projectile diameter was .52 inches) rimfire self-contained all-metal blackpowder cartridges. Adopted by the Federal Army, it was popular (especially the lighter, shorter carbine version used by units of the Federal cavalry) but did not replace the standard-issue Enfield and Springfield rifles. A lever was worked to feed cartridges from the magazine and to extract fired cases. The hammer was then cocked manually, making the weapon ready to fire. When empty, the tubular magazine could be rapidly reloaded by dropping cartridges into the tube or by use of the Blakeslee Cartridge Box.
Development of the weapon was completed by Christopher Spencer in 1860 but the highly conservative War Department thought it too wasteful of ammunition. Spencer was eventually able to gain the attention of President Abraham Lincoln, who invited him to a shooting match and demonstration of his rifle. Impressed, Lincoln ordered adoption of the rifle. (The story is told in the fascinating book “Lincoln and the Tools of War” by Robert V. Bruce .) The United States Navy almost immediately adopted the Spencer repeating rifle, with the Army following suit some months later. One of the first combat uses of the Spencer was at the Battle of Hoover’s Gap where the Federal cavalry “Lightning Brigade” effectively demonstrated the superiority of its firepower. A soldier armed with a Spencer could fire 20 or more aimed rounds a minute, while one armed with an Enfield or Springfield could fire a maximum of three aimed rounds a minute. During the Gettysburg Campaign, two regiments of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer were armed with Spencer carbines, using them effectively against the Confederate cavalry. The Confederates occasionally captured Spencers, but their use was limited to the ammunition at hand, as insufficient copper was available to manufacture the Spencer cartridge cases. Almost 200,000 Spencer rifles and carbines were manufactured, marking the first time a removable-magazine breech-loading infantry rifle was adopted by any nation. After the Civil War many surplus Spencer carbines were sold to France where they were used against Germany in the 1880 Franco-Prussian War. Although Spencer went out of business in 1869, ammunition for the weapons was sold extensively through the 1920s and is still available from specialty cartridge manufacturers today.
Some sources claim that the Spencer was termed by the Confederates “that damned Yankee rifle that could be loaded on Sunday and fired all week,” but the same claim is made by other sources for the Henry manually operated, lever action breech-loading rifle with a tubular magazine positioned beneath its barrel that fired a more powerful .44 caliber cartridge. (The Henry design, acquired by Oliver Winchester, was the father of the famed 1873 Winchester lever action rifle.) Perhaps the Confederates used the same epithet for both weapons.
16. Eli Lilly’s first command in the war (as a captain) was “Lilly’s Jackass Battery,” six 12-pounder mountain howitzers drawn by jackasses instead of horses, regarded as the best-organized, most effective Federal artillery battery of the war. After the war Lilly became a cotton planter in Mississippi but was ruined by drought. He found work in 1867 in Indianapolis with a wholesale grocery and druggist. The drug business was sold to a local entrepreneur, ultimately being acquired by Lilly and a partner, who went into the drug business in Paris, Illinois, as Binford & Lilly. The venture was successful; Lilly, meanwhile, was enticed by the possibilities of drug manufacturing. In 1873 he returned to Indianapolis to found the drug manufacturing firm of Johnston & Lilly. In 1876 he left that firm and went into business for himself. Blessed with Lilly’s inventive ability and machinery design talent, the business prospered as Eli Lilly & Co. Today the firm has some 40,000 employees world-wide.
18. A canister round consisted of a thin metal cage holding 27 cast iron balls. As the round was fired, the cage disintegrated, freeing the balls and turning the cannon or rifle into a giant and extremely lethal shotgun. When artillerymen were faced with a great number of attackers, they loaded two canister rounds, one on top of the other, i.e., double canister. The terrible effect of double canister is reflected in the number of casualties in such close-run battles as Franklin and the third day of Gettysburg where double canister wreaked carnage on courageous Confederates during Pickett’s Charge.
19. The State of Georgia, the first state to preserve and protect battlefields of the Civil War, cooperated extensively with the National Park Service in establishing the Georgia section of the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, as it did in establishing the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield. The superb Georgia Blue and Gray Trail boasts some of the best-preserved and best-maintained Civil War sites in the nation, including the battlefields of Ringgold, Tunnel Hill, Dalton, Resaca, and Allatoona, and dozens of other important sites. The Blue and Gray Trail is a work in progress, as the State of Georgia attempts to regain as much original battlefield terrain as possible. One excellent example of this zeal is Tunnel Hill. In the 1990s, the tunnel was boarded up, and a fence prevented access to the battlefield area. Now the railroad tunnel itself has been restored and is open to the public, and a visitor center has been built. Regular battle reenactments are conducted periodically at the site. Another site, a true gem of preservation, is Pickett’s Mill Battlefield, the site of a bloody and costly encounter, where almost the entire battlefield is kept in pristine 1864 condition, as though the combatants had been there only days ago. As at Tunnel Hill, a visitor center has been built and is staffed with knowledgeable Georgia State Park personnel. Sadly, only markers and monuments trace the elements of the Battle of Atlanta. There is an Atlanta History Center containing thousands of Civil War artifacts and portraying the events of the battle accurately. And there is the Cyclorama, in Grant Park, which houses “The Battle of Atlanta,” a magnificent enormous circular painting of the 22 July 1864 battle, unveiled in 1892.
20. For instance, regarding the 20th President of the United States: “James Garfield served as Major General William S. Rosecrans’ Chief of Staff at Chickamauga. Four months after becoming President, Garfield was shot in the back by a disgruntled office seeker. Garfield died two months later on 19 September 1881, the 18th Anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga,” and “Ambrose Bierce, American writer of the late 19th Century and author of ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,’ ‘Chickamauga,’ and other Civil War stories, served as topographical engineer (map maker) on General William B. Hazen’s staff during the Chickamauga Campaign.”
22. Maj. Gen. Patrick Ronayne Cleburne was born in Ovens, County Cork, Ireland to Dr. Joseph Cleburne and his wife (who died when Patrick was 18 months old; he was orphaned at 15). He intended to follow in his father’s footsteps as a physician but in 1846 failed his medical examinations. Feeling disgraced, he enlisted in the 41st Regiment of Foot, British Army, eventually promoted to corporal. After three years, Cleburne bought his discharge and emigrated with two brothers and a sister to the United States. Following a short stay in Ohio, he settled in Helena, Arkansas, where he became a pharmacist and was accepted into the upper echelons of the town’s social order. By 1860, Cleburne had become a naturalized citizen of the United States and a successful lawyer, and was well-liked and respected by the citizens of Helena. As the secession crisis came to a boil, Cleburne allied himself with the South out of love for the people who had accepted him so fully. As the crisis neared the breaking point, Cleburne enlisted in the Yell Rifles (a local militia company) as a private but was quickly elected captain. When Arkansas joined the Confederacy, the Yell Rifles became part of the 1st Arkansas Infantry, later renumbered the 15th Arkansas Infantry, of which Cleburne was elected colonel, being promoted to brigadier general 4 March 1862.
Cleburne fought in the Battle of Shiloh, the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, where he was wounded in the face, and the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky. When the Army of Mississippi retreated from Perryville to Tennessee and amalgamated with the Army of Kentucky into the Army of Tennessee in late 1862, Cleburne was elevated to division command. Cleburne’s division adopted a regimental flag comprised of a blue field with a white “moon” in its center. In the Battle of Stones River, his division advanced its flag three miles, routing the Federal right wing and driving it back to the Nashville Pike and its final line of defense. During the 1863 campaigns of the Army of Tennessee, Cleburne’s division executed a rare night attack in the Battle of Chickamauga and likely saved the Army of Tennessee from catastrophe at the Battle of Ringgold Gap, where it protected the army’s rear as it retreated from Chattanooga. Cleburne and his division were awarded a citation of gratitude from the Confederate government for their Ringgold stand. Cleburne earned the sobriquet “The Stonewall of the West” for his tactical use of terrain, his ability to hold a position when others had failed, his adroitness at being able to embarrass a much larger force, and his ability to envision the broader strategic implications of a situation. Federal troops (the author’s great-grandfather was one) dreaded the appearance of Cleburne’s divisional blue and white flag across from them on the battlefield.
Cleburne, a pragmatist (like Ulysses S. Grant) was well aware by 1864 that the Confederacy was losing the war because of the severe drains on both manpower and materiel. In 1864 he approached Maj. Gen. Braxton Bragg and the other senior officers on the Army of Tennessee with a proposal to emancipate slaves and enlist them in the Confederate army. This proposal was greeted with shock and extreme hostility, and mention of it was forbidden by President Jefferson Davis. Some scholars believe that this proposal was why Cleburne never achieved the rank of lieutenant general, but it’s highly likely that equal reasons were his Irish heritage (this was 98-plus years before the presidency of John F. Kennedy) and his not being a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy.
Before the military campaigning season of 1864, Cleburne became engaged to Susan Tarleton of Mobile, Alabama. The marriage would never take place, as Cleburne was killed 30 November in the poorly conceived and ill-directed attack on prepared Federal fortifications in the Battle of Franklin. Cleburne argued vehemently against the attack several times but was forced to defer to the commander of the Army of Tennessee, Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood. At Winstead Hill, from which Hood would direct the battle, fellow Arkansan Brig. Gen. Daniel C. Govan, commander of the right brigade of Cleburne’s two-brigade front during the battle, saluted Cleburne and complained to his superior about the folly of a direct attack on well-prepared defensive works, saying few of them would ever see Arkansas again. “Well, Govan,” Cleburne replied, “if we are to die, let us die like men.” Cleburne was watched closely by the Federals behind those works as he led his division forward toward the Fountain Branch Carter cotton gin immediately east of the Columbia Pike. He was unhorsed, his steed wounded by artillery fire. An aide offered him his horse, and Cleburne was mounting the animal when it was killed by another artillery round. The last the Federals saw of him, he was in front of his division, his sword in his right hand, waving his troops on with his kepi, held in his left. He got close enough that the Federals could see the details of his uniform. Then he was killed by a single shot to the chest. Cleburne was interred at St. John’s Church near Mount Pleasant, Tennessee, a spot he had greatly admired for its beauty. In 1870, he was re-interred at Helena, Arkansas, in Maple Hill Cemetery overlooking the Mississippi River. A number of geographic entities are named for Cleburne, including Cleburne County, Alabama, Cleburne County, Arkansas, City of Cleburne, Texas, and Lake Pat Cleburne, Texas.
Arguably, Cleburne was the best Confederate general of the Western Theater after Joseph E. Johnston. Both men are prime examples of how a fractious and vacillating Confederate government squandered the potential of some of its best military leaders, at the same time rewarding less capable officers who managed to ingratiate themselves with President Jefferson Davis or the Confederate Congress. Had Cleburne been in command during the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863, the Battles of Columbia, Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville in 1864 might never have taken place. Had he been in command at Franklin, that battle would have been fought entirely differently.
Bobrick, Benson. “Testament: A Soldier’s Story of the Civil War” (2003).
Cozzens, Peter. “No Better Place to Die: The Battle of Stones River” (1990).
Cozzens, Peter. “The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battles For Chattanooga” (1994).
Cozzens, Peter. “This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga” (1992).
Dyer, John P. “The Gallant Hood” (1950).
Hart, B. H. Liddell. “Sherman: Soldier, Realist, American”
Kaltman, Al. “Cigars, Whiskey & Winning: Leadership Lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant” (1998).
McDonough, James Lee & Thomas L. Connelly. “Five Tragic Hours: The Battle of Franklin” (1983).
Sword, Wiley. “The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah: Spring Hill, Franklin & Nashville” (1992).
Tucker, Glenn. “Chickamauga: Bloody Battle in the West” (1960).
Watkins, Samuel R. (Ruth Ashby Ed.) “The Diary of Sam Watkins, a Confederate Soldier (in My Own Words)” (2003). ●