Browsing "American Military Genius"

Conquest, Not Union

On April 12, 1864, Fort Pillow, located north of Memphis on the Mississippi River, was surrounded by some 1,500 troops under Gen’s. Nathan Bedford Forrest and James Chalmers. After sending an ultimatum to surrender or suffer “no quarter” and the enemy rejecting capitulation, Forrest’s men attacked and caused most of the enemy’s 600 soldiers to flee into the river. As northern colored troops were half of the fort’s garrison, they suffered great loss along with their white counterparts, and the usual cries of “massacre” were heard from northern reporters anxious to sell newspapers to a gullible public. The Radical Republicans were also quick to establish a congressional committee to investigate Fort Pillow for political purposes.

This pattern was repeated late in the war as the northern public was fed atrocity stories of Georgia’s Andersonville prison stockade. Missing from the stories were the pleas of President Davis and other Southern leaders for prisoner exchanges, including safe passage for medical supplies and food to sustain the inmates. These were all refused by Grant, with Lincoln’s approval.

Conquest, Not Union

“What exactly did the [Committee on the Conduct of the War] uncover and how objective was its investigation? Critics have assumed that the committee deliberately exaggerated Southern atrocities to smear Forrest’s reputation, inflame public sentiments, and serve its own narrow partisan agenda.

The committee’s most thorough historian, T. Harry Williams, for instance, argues that Benjamin Wade used this investigation, as well as previous atrocity reports, as a means to create a consensus for an even more radical reconstruction. By deliberately exaggerating Rebel brutalities, he would cause the public to support a reconstruction policy that would treat the South as a conquered territory.

There is little doubt that the issue of reconstruction was on the minds of committee members and other Republicans during the Fort Pillow investigation. George Julian, chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, was already busy sponsoring legislation to confiscate the large holdings of Rebel planters and redistribute them to veterans of the Union armies, both white and black.

In remarks to the House of Representatives shortly after Fort Pillow, Julian castigated the Confederates as “devils” and argued that the [alleged] massacre provided additional reasons to support the program of confiscating [Southern property].

Even before the war, there were many in the North who viewed the South as backward and in need of radical reordering along the outline of Northern free labor institutions. The war accelerated such beliefs. “The war is quickly drawing to an end,” the Continental Monthly predicted in the summer of 1862, “but a greater and nobler task lies before the soldiers and free men of America – the extending of civilization into the South.”

In formulating its Fort Pillow findings, the committee reflected Northern opinion as much as it sought to shape it.”

(“These Devils Are Not Fit to Live on God’s Earth”: War Crimes and the Committee on the Conduct of the War, 1864-1865”. Bruce Tap. Civil War History – A Journal of the Middle Period, John Hubbell, ed. Kent State University Press, June 1996, Vol. XLII, No. 2, pp. 121-122)

May 3, 2024 - American Military Genius, Race and the South, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Fiscally-Responsible Future Confederate General

Fiscally-Responsible Future Confederate General

Basil W. Duke of Kentucky first achieved notoriety as a colonel and second-in-command to brother-in-law General John Hunt Morgan. Upon Morgan’s death in September 1864, Duke assumed command; during President Jefferson Davis’s flight from Richmond, he was escorted by some of Duke’s cavalry. Below he speaks of Albert Sidney Johnston who he considered to be one of the great men who defended the American South.

Fiscally-Responsible Future Confederate General

“He was appointed paymaster in the United States Army, October 31, 1849. The appointment gave him the nominal rank of major but conferred no authority or command. It necessitated, however, much travelling and upon the frontiers of Texas where his duties were performed, a great deal of arduous work, not unaccompanied by danger. He accepted the office only because he hoped it would assist him ultimately to enter [front line command].

In 1853 he sold his plantation, which he had greatly improved, upon terms which enabled him to discharge his entire indebtedness; but, by a curious freak of fortune, he had no sooner obtained relief from a condition which had long oppressed him than he was confronted with another which threatened him even more seriously.

He discovered that someone was systematically plundering the US government funds placed in his charge. His accounts were kept very carefully, and he could detect almost the exact dates at which the money was taken, although he failed for some months to catch the thief. As much as $1700 were stolen from the fund in 1853. He made no report of these losses to the US government but bore them himself; thereby forfeiting the almost entire benefit of his meager salary, besides being harassed with the constant fear that the robberies might eventually amount to sums so large that that he would not be able to replace them.

All efforts to discover the perpetrator of the thefts was for a long time unavailing, although every device and the utmost vigilance was employed; but in 1855 they were brought home to a Negro servant of General Johnston, who had been for years in constant attendance upon him, was a great favorite and implicitly trusted.

Indignation against the Negro was strongly aroused among all who had known of these peculations, and there was a general clamor for his exemplary punishment. General Johnston was urged to compel him to reveal the names of his accomplices, as it was believed that other parties had incited him to the thefts.

General Johnston would not listen to this suggestion. “Evidence so obtained is worthless,” he said, “is worthless. Besides the whipping will not restore what is lost; and it will not benefit the Negro whom a lifetime of king treatment has not made honest. It would be a mere act of revenge to which I cannot consent.”

His friends, however, insisted that the Negro should be sold so that the proceeds of the sale might in part replace the money he had stolen. General Johnston agreed to do this permitting the Negro to select his new master but informing the purchaser of the crime he had committed.”

(The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, 1911. Cooper Square Press, 2001. pp. 110-111.)

Mar 1, 2024 - American Military Genius, Patriotism, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on West Points of the Confederacy

West Points of the Confederacy

The Virginia Military Institute furnished the most generals of any Southern military school, 20; VMI also furnished 92 colonels, 64 lieutenant-colonels, 107 majors, 310 captains and 221 lieutenants. Author Bruce Allardice points out that though the North in 1861 “had a two-to-one advantage over the South in West Point-trained officers, this was counter-balanced by the six-to-one edge the South enjoyed in men who had attended private military schools.”

West Points of the Confederacy

When Francis Henley Smith, an 1833 graduate of West Point, assumed the superintendency of the newly established VMI, he sought to make it “the West Point of the South.” Since many Southern schools modelled themselves after VMI, often hiring its graduates as teachers, the VMI model, with its distinctly non-military spread throughout the South. By 1843 South Carolina had converted its Columbia Arsenal and Charleston Citadel into interconnected military schools; in addition to the education, the cadets relieved the State of the expense of providing guards for its armories.

If the Civil War had taken place five or ten years later, the State military school programs would have given the South a huge edge over the north in potential officer candidates with military training. In 1861 the programs in many of the Southern States had scarcely begun; the numbers educated were small and the graduates too young to play a significant part in the war.

Douglas Southall Freeman recognized that Virginia’s VMI graduates “constituted a large, immediate and indispensable officers reserve corps” at the start of the war and concluded “that the Army of Northern Virginia owed to the Institute such excellence of regimental command as it had. I do not believe the campaign of 1862 could have been fought as successfully without VMI men.”

Almost to a man, the cadets, former and present, joined the Southern armies. And whereas 304 West Point graduates joined the Southern army, at least 12,000, and possibly many more, matriculants of ninety-six Southern military schools donned the Rebel grey and filled the high ranks of command. Thirty-seven of the matriculants became Confederate generals, about 8 percent of the total number of Confederate generals.”

(West Points of the Confederacy: Southern Military Schools and the Confederate Army. Bruce Allardice. Civil war History – A Journal of the Middle Period. Vol. 43, No. 4, December 1997, pp. 315; 317; 321-322)

Jul 31, 2023 - American Military Genius, Historical Accuracy, Memorials to the Past, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Defeat Did Not Come from Lack of Material

Defeat Did Not Come from Lack of Material

The following is underscored by the words of Gen. U.S. Grant, III in a Sept. 1960 centennial address in Oswego, NY. He refers to the Cambridge Modern History’s assertion that: “between Oct. 26, 1864 & Jan. 1865 it was possible for 8.5 million pounds of meat, 1.5 million pounds of lead, 2 million pounds of saltpeter, 546,000 pairs of shoes, 316,000 blankets, 500,000 pounds of coffee, 69,000 rifles and 43 cannons came into the port of Wilmington alone.” (New York History, Jan. 1961, pg. 49).  

Defeat Did Not Come from Lack of Material

“Despite its obvious economic impact, the north’s naval cordon never really prevented the American Confederacy from acquiring more plentiful supplies of blankets, clothing and armaments than it had men to employ. Stephen Wise, the foremost contemporary expert on the blockade-running trade, concluded unequivocally: “Defeat did not come from a lack of material.”

Confederate States agents operating primarily in England and France under the direction of Ordnance Chief Josiah Gorgas’ specially established Bureau of Foreign Supplies provided a steady stream of wares despite limited means. By 1864 cotton sold at twenty-eight pence per pound compared to only nine pence in 1860. This seller’s market funded a massive Confederate credit line.

During the last six months of 1864, purchasing agents obtained $45,000,000 of credit on the basis of only $1,500,000 of government cotton. As the war continued and Southern resources dwindled, this trade increased in importance to the Confederate States war effort.

During the second half of the war, at least 127 known British-built steamers did much to sustain the South’s war effort. An estimated sixty percent of the Confederate States total small arms, one third of its lead shot, and two thirds of its gunpowder had slipped through the north’s blockade. The most celebrated State-owned and operated vessel, North Carolina’s Ad-Vance, made eight round trips from Nassau between June 1863 and September 1864 before her eventual capture. As a result of this, Tar Heel troops enjoyed better and more plentiful supplies than any other State troops as a direct result.”

(“A Notorious Nest of Offense: Neutrals, Belligerents and Union Jails for Blockade Runners. Samuel Negus, TCU, 2010, pp. 8-9)

Jul 1, 2023 - American Military Genius, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Neglect of the South’s Navy

Neglect of the South’s Navy

Neglect of the South’s Navy

“John Newland Maffitt was convinced that Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory failed to understand the needs of the Confederacy; and Mallory dismissed Maffitt as commander of the Florida in 1862 at Mobile Bay, and finally, Mallory showed favoritism to a small circle of friends.

In perceptive reflections, Maffitt summarized the important role of sea power in the war. He belonged essentially to what might be termed “western theater school of thought.” Particularly critical, as Maffitt now saw it, was the fall of New Orleans which occurred in the spring of 1862, relatively early in the war and which was the result of superior northern sea power.

“The grand mistake of the South was neglecting her navy. All our army movements out west were baffled by the armed federal steamers which swarmed on western waters, and which our government had provided nothing to meet.”

Maffitt – perhaps thinking of his dismay at the outcome of his discussion with Mallory in Montgomery – pointed out that prior to the capture of New Orleans, the South should have had a navy strong enough to prevent its capture and to hold the Mississippi River and its tributaries.  Concluded Maffitt, “This would have prevented many disastrous battles; it would have made Sherman’s march through the country impossible, and Lee would have still been master of his lines . . . neglect of the navy proved irremediable and fatal.”

There were other factors contributing to the fall of New Orleans, such as the general poverty of the South, and high water in the river that sept away obstructions, but Maffitt was generally correct in his assessment of sea power in the war.

The setback at New Orleans, which Confederate Secretary of War James A. Seddon termed the “darkest hour of the struggle,” had been foreshadowed at Port Royal, where Maffitt’s suggestions were ignored just as they had been at Montgomery. Northern success at Port Royal [and at Roanoke Island, North Carolina] prepared the way for more important operations against Southern fortresses. It is doubtful if the north would have risked its fleet at New Orleans without the precedent of Port Royal.”

(High Seas Confederate: The Life and Times of John Newland Maffitt. Royce Shingleton. University of South Carolina Press. 1994. pp. 102-103)

Jun 25, 2022 - American Military Genius, Foreign Viewpoints    Comments Off on Sir Garnet Wolsely’s Two American Heroes

Sir Garnet Wolsely’s Two American Heroes

Field Marshal Wolsely (1833-1913 became one of the most admired and influential British generals who served in the Crimea, India, Canada, West Africa, China and Egypt, and played a central role in modernizing the British army of his period. He became commander-in-chief of all British forces from 1895-1900.

Sir Garnet Joseph Wolsely’s Two American Heroes

War Office, London

8th December 1883

 

“My Dear Miss S.,

I have long been collecting the letters of eminent people but have had much difficulty in obtaining those of the great men on your side of the Atlantic. I have only known two heroes in my life, and General R. E. Lee is one of them, so you can understand how I value one of his letters. I believe that when time has calmed down the angry passions of the “North,” General Lee will be accepted in the United States as the greatest General you have ever had, and second as a patriot only to Washington himself.

Stonell Jackson, I only knew slightly, his name will live forever also in American history when that of Mr. U.S. Grant has been long forgotten, such at least is my humble opinion of these men when viewed by an outside student of military history who has no local prejudice.

That [letter] of General Beauregard is one that I shall always prize. I am indeed very grateful to you for telling me to keep it.  Again, thanking you most sincerely for your kindness to me in this matter, believe me to remain,

Very faithfully yours, Wolsely.

 

Mar 4, 2022 - American Military Genius, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on The Greatest Cattle Victory of the War

The Greatest Cattle Victory of the War

The Greatest Cattle Victory of the War

From a history of Company C, Twenty-eighth North Carolina.

“After retiring from the fights at Ream’s and Malone’s stations in late July 1864 many sharp encounters took place between the hostile cavalry forces, the most brilliant of all those affairs was the dash made by Gen. Wade Hampton into the federal lines in September.

It was known that Grant had a large drove of cattle grazing near Sycamore Church in Prince George county, the information gained by Hampton from a letter to Grant which was intercepted. Hampton at once determined to secure the beeves which were much needed by our army.

Hampton’s force left Petersburg on the 14th of September and arrived at Sycamore Church the night of the 15th; at daylight on the morning of the 16th he surprised and stormed the enemy position, capturing their works and camp, taking three hundred prisoners and all the cattle, about twenty-five hundred in number.

Hampton set off on his return with the beeves and Fitzhugh Lee as his rearguard. The entire column stretched out over a line of four miles but were skillfully handled despite having to drive off enemy cavalry from time to time. He finally reached Petersburg safely with all his captives at 6AM the morning of September 17th having lost only fifty men during the expedition.

This was the greatest cattle victory during the war and a nice presentation by Gen. Hampton to the hungry soldiers of the Confederacy who enjoyed steak for breakfast, steak for dinner and steak for supper.”

(The Catawba Soldier of the Civil War, George W. Hahn, Clay Publishing Company, 1911, pp. 171-172)

 

Helot Rhett Butlers

It is said that one of the most distinguishing achievements of the American Confederacy was the ingenuity of Southern authorities and businessmen meeting the challenge of a naval blockade of its coasts. They answered the challenge with swift, light draft blockade runners fueled with quick-burning Welsh coal while utilizing two Southern-friendly islands, Bermuda and the Bahamas, for supply transshipments.

Gen. U.S. Grant, III, stated in 1961 that “if the Cambridge Modern History is correct in its allegation that between October 26, 1864 and January 1865 it was still possible for 8,632,000 lbs. of meat, 1,507,000 lbs. of lead, 1,933,000 lbs. of saltpeter, 546,000 pairs of shoes, 316,000 blankets, half a million pounds of coffee, 69,000 rifles and 43 cannons to run the blockade into the port of Wilmington alone, while cotton sufficient to pay for these purchases was exported, it is evident that the blockade runners made an important contribution to the Confederacy’s ability to carry on.” (New York History Quarterly, Vol. XLII, No. 1, January 1961, pp. 49-50).

Helot Rhett Butlers

“There were, of course, precedents for blockade evasion in the history of warfare. One striking parallel to the Southern problem occurred in 425 B.C., during the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians had succeeded in trapping a portion of the Spartan land forces on the island of Sphacteria, off the coast of Pylos, and thus, by maintaining a blockade, learned what the federal navy and government would in time come to understand: a blockade immobilized, perhaps, some of the enemy’s forces, restricted his strategy, and imposed attrition, but it did not of itself bring him to capitulation.

Thucydides records that much time was consumed in the blockade of the island because the Spartans had not stood idly by while the cream of their land forces was being starved to death.

“The fact was,” he wrote, “that the Lacedaemonians had made the advertisement for volunteers to carry into the island ground corn, wine, cheese, and any other food useful in a siege; high prices being offered, and freedom promised to any of the Helots who should succeed in doing so . . . In short, both sides tried every possible contrivance, the one to throw in provisions, the other to prevent their introduction.”

Thucydides reasoned well in considering the material inducement offered the Helots to undertake running the blockade. Those men of the Confederacy who were interested in bringing in supplies from abroad, and who were not involved in the trade officially, had rich material benefits in mind.”

(Ploughshares into Swords: Josiah Gorgas and Confederate Ordnance, Frank E. Vandiver, Texas A&M Press, 1994, excerpt pg. 85)

Mar 21, 2021 - American Military Genius, Memorials to the Past, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Commendable Deeds Transmitted to Posterity

Commendable Deeds Transmitted to Posterity

Ancient historians emphasized the study of past figures and societies to improve our own moral character. Polybius wrote that “not only is there no more authentic manner of preparing for political life than by studying history,” but there is no better teacher of the ability to endure with courage “the vicissitudes of Fortune than a record of other’s catastrophes.”

Commendable Deeds Transmitted to Posterity

“We are told by the historian of an earlier age that whenever the renowned men of the Roman commonwealth looked upon the statues of their ancestry, they felt their minds vehemently excited to virtue. It could not have been the bronze or marble that possessed this power, but the recollection of great actions which kindled a generous flame in their souls, not to be quelled until they also, by virtue and heroic deeds, had acquired equal fame and glory.

When a call to arms resounds throughout the land and a people relinquish the pleasant scenes of tranquil life and rally to their country’s call, such action is the result of an honest conviction that the act is commendable.

In recalling such an epoch, the wish that a true record of the deeds done should be transmitted to posterity must dominate every patriot heart. Loyalty to brave men, who for four long years of desolating war – years of undimmed glory – stood by each other and fought to the bitter end with indomitable heroism which characterized the Confederate soldier, demands from posterity a preservation of the memories of the great struggle.  We cannot find in the annals of history a grander record or prouder roll of honor, nor more just fame for bravery, patient endurance of hardships, and sacrifices.

The noble chieftain, Robert E. Lee said: “Judge your enemy from his standpoint, if you would be just.” Whatever may be said of the contention between the two great sections of the Union, whether by arbitration of council every issue might have been settled and a fratricidal war averted, there will be but one unalterable decree of history respecting the Confederate soldier.

His deeds are heroism “are wreathed around with glory,” and he will ever be honored, because he was not only brave and honorable, but true to his convictions.”

(Military History of Florida, Col. J.J. Dickison: Confederate Military History, Vol. XI, Confederate Publishing Co., 1899, excerpt. pp. 3-4)

Jan 17, 2021 - American Military Genius, Carnage, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Myth of Saving the Union, No Compromise, Pleading for Peace, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots, Uncategorized    Comments Off on “Not Since Hermann Destroyed the Roman Legions”

“Not Since Hermann Destroyed the Roman Legions”

The Wilderness battle was fought July 1-3, 1864: 104,000 Union troops versus 61,000 Southern. Once again the carnage was appalling and once again Lincoln had the opportunity to end the struggle against the South’s independence as the British did some eighty years earlier with the colonies. Several peace conferences committed to saving the lives of soldiers and civilians alike would end in failure as Lincoln stood firm in his conviction to rule all the American States, and nearly half in subjugation.

“Not Since Hermann Destroyed the Roman Legions”

“Before the close of the day Grant’s army was on the south side [of the Rapidan], four thousand wagons filled with forage and ammunition, beef-cattle, cavalry, artillery and infantry. This feat was so pleasing that Grant regarded it as a great success and “undoubtedly a surprise to Lee.” The ensuing night the Union army entrenched and camped in the Wilderness, that tangled forest in which Hooker had come to grief.

Now that Grant was busy with his operations, Lee had not been idle. He had observed the movements of the enemy from every angle and had made a report to his government. Yet the crushing numbers of the enemy gave him concern. He made no excuses, raised no questions and expressed no doubts, but he must have more troops.

By April 30 the federal plans had been foreseen by Lee, precisely as they had been worked out by General Grant, and he had prepared his line of defense. In the Wilderness, he would attack Grant’s army on its left flank and throw it back on the Rapidan. He would make a strategic offensive and concentrate his forces and shut Grant up in that dense jungle.

Of this strategy of Lee’s it must be said it was one of his boldest and most skillful. His proposed plan, experts declare, broke all modern precedent – it was to be a duel in the dark. Such an engagement had not been fought since Hermann destroyed the Roman legions in the forest of Teutoburg.

But Lee was not bound by rule. He practiced his own theory of the art of war and, in the coming campaign, was to furnish such an example of the use of natural features to neutralize a superior force as will always be a model. Grant’s telegraph lines were to be rendered useless, his artillery rendered useless, his artillery wholly ruled out, the guns, three hundred of them, to stand silent. Cavalry was to be still more useless.

Five times the federal charge was made and five times it failed. [The last days’ assault] lasted but sixty minutes, yet it was one of the most disastrous Union defeats of the war. Six thousand Union soldiers were killed or wounded in an hour, and Cold Harbor passed into history with Fredericksburg. The fatality among the Union officers was astounding; they literally went forward and led their men into battle and death.  The loss to Lee’s army was slight.”

(Robert E. Lee: A Biography, Robert W. Winston, William Morrow & Co., 1934, excerpts pp. 291-292; 306-307)

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