Thursday, May 15, 2008

Georgia's sons: William J. Hardee

Of the 17 men who would rise to the rank of lieutenant general in the Confederate States army, William J. Hardee was the lone Georgian. Born in Camden County in October of 1815, nine months after Andrew Jackon's victory at the Battle of New Orleans, Hardee was the son of John Hardee, a Georgia Congressman. Like many other young men of military bent, Hardee aspired to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, but was unable to secure an appointment until he was 19 years old, joining the Class of 1838. At his graduation he ranked 26 in a class of 45 cadets.

A respectable military career followed, including service in the Seminole and Mexican Wars, a return to West Point as commandant in the 1850's, and the writing of the seminal instruction book Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics (often simply known as Hardee's Tactics). The latter would be consulted frequently by officers and instructors on both sides during the War, as they sought to master the fine arts of drilling in the School of the Soldier, the Company, and the Battalion.

If there was any doubt where Hardee's main loyalty lay during the Secession crisis, he settled it by his activities: during the winter of 1860-1861, under special commission from Georgia governor Joseph Brown, he and several associates traveled to New York to purchase weapons and equipment from Northern arms manufacturers, for shipment back to Georgia. When the war finally came in the spring of 1861, he found himself in Florida, attempting to capture Federal-held Fort Pickens. It was there that Hardee also ran into the man who would prove to be his bete noir: Braxton Bragg.

After brief service in the southern Missouri/northern Arkansas corridor, Hardee was transferred to Kentucky/Tennessee sector of the Western Theater, where he would spend the rest of his Confederate career. Under the commands of A. S. Johnston, P.G.T. Beauregard, Bragg, Joseph Johnston, and John Bell Hood, Hardee directed anywhere from one-third to one-half of the Army of Tennessee's infantry. His corps inaugurated the battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862), shattered the Federal right wing at Stone's River (December 31, 1862 - January 2, 1863), and vainly held the Missionary Ridge position outside Chattanooga during the battles there (November 23 - 25, 1863).

During the Atlanta Campaign, Hardee stood mainly on the defensive throughout the series of battles from Dalton to the Chattahoochee. Upon Hood's accession to command, Hardee's corps became the primary offensive force in the battles of Peachtree Creek (July 20, 1864) and Atlanta (July 22, 1864). But the cost of these defeats, and the growing strain between Hardee and Hood, with the latter holding Hardee primarily responsible for the losses, disheartened "Old Reliable". After the fall of Atlanta he succeeded in wrangling a transfer from Hood's army to command of the Georgia coastal defenses.

Hardee's post-Atlanta career was anticlimactic; with barely 10,000 men, he could not hope to hold Savannah against Sherman's 60,000-man army, and was compelled to evacuate the city in late December, 1864. During the Carolinas Campaigns, Hardee served again under Joseph Johnston (and, no doubt regrettably, in close proximity to Bragg). As if the defeat of the Confederacy was not enough, Hardee's own son was killed in action during the last few weeks of the war.

Hardee made the best of what he could in the defeated South, working in the insurance and railroad industries in Alabama. During a family vacation in Virginia, he died on November 6, 1873, at age 58.

In his reference work Generals In Gray (1959), Ezra Warner considered Hardee, "Along with Stonewall Jackson and of the oustanding corps commanders in the Confederate service."Considering that Hardee never achieved any battlefield successes that came even close to matching those of Jackson or Longstreet, this assessment is difficult to understand. However, the caliber of the officers and men of the Federal army that Hardee fought were arguably superior to those in Virginia; Jackson and Longstreet themselves might have been hard-pressed to achieve these same successes in the Western Theater. While Hardee may not have been as great a commander as any of Lee's lieutenants, it can be said without a doubt that he gave his all to the Cause he fought for.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Georgia's sons at Kennesaw

From time to time, I will highlight the life and career of
various native sons of the Peach state that fought at
Kennesaw Mountain. To get started, let's meet the men
of general rank* from Georgia:

William J. Hardee,

lieutenant general

William H. T.


major general

Joseph Wheeler, major general

Robert H. Anderson,

brigadier general

John C. Carter,
brigadier general

Henry D. Clayton,
brigadier general

Alfred Cumming,
brigadier general

Matthew D. Ector,

brigadier general

James T. Holtzclaw,

brigadier general

Alfred Iverson,

brigadier general

John K. Jackson,

brigadier general

Thomas M. Scott,

brigadier general

Marcellus A. Stovall,
brigadier general

The average age of these 12 gentlemen was 37, the

oldest being Hardee (48) and the youngest Carter

(26). More than half of them had some previous military

experience, either as graduates of the U.S. Military

Academy at West Point (Anderson, Cumming,

Hardee, and Walker), or as officers in the U.S. Army

before the war (Iverson), or as officers in the state

militia (Jackson and Stovall). Of the remaining five,

four (Carter, Clayton, Ector, and Holtzclaw) had

backgrounds in law and politics; while Scott, about

whose prewar activities little is known, was a planter

in Louisiana.

All but Carter and Walker would survive the war.

* Rank given is final rank attained, not necessarily
rank at the time of the battle.

Source: Generals in Gray (1959) by Ezra J. Warner

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Artillery at Kennesaw

Kennesaw Mountain NBP has begun its spring/ summer
activities, including a series of lectures on aspects of the
battle and the time period. Last night (May 12th) was
"Artillery at Kennesaw Mountain" by Danny Brown . Mr.
Brown introduced us to the main types of artillery* and
projectiles** in use by both armies at the time, and then
discussed some particulars about artillery positions along
the Kennesaw line, who held them, and what took place.

A lot of this was fairly common knowledge (at least to us
buffs), but some important points stuck out:

1. The movies got it all wrong (again, this isn't news to
serious students of the war)! Those pluming geysers of
smoke and debris that shoot up in Gettysburg during
Pickett's Charge, as the Confederates come under Union
artillery fire? Well...they weren't that big. According to
Mr. Brown, the ratio of gunpowder to projectile in those
days was about 1 to 10. Granted, a pound of gunpowder
is still a pound of gunpowder, but it's not going to make
that big of an eruption when it goes off. A more accurate
portrayal would have been a greater number of smaller
"puffs". Apparently, those director types have been
watching too much All Quiet On The Western Front.

2. Speaking of shrapnel, turns out that this nasty little
projectile was in fact the type most commonly used, even
though everyone loves to talk about the deadliness of
cannister. Mr. Brown pointed out how difficult it was for
artillerists to fire cannister effectively, since it had a lower
margin of error for overshoots and incorrect fuse settings.
To drive home this point, he read from a dispatch from
the chief of artillery for the Confederate Army of
Tennessee, some time after the battle of Stones River
(December 31st, 1862 - January 2nd, 1863), in which
the army's depots were requested to cease sending
forward cannister, since the army's artillery crews had
arrived at a workaround: cutting the fuses short for
shrapnel rounds, so that they might burst upon
discharge, just like cannister.

3. Those guns shot off a lot of rounds! Mr. Brown proved
this by reading from a summary of all ammunition fired
by a single battery (group of four to six guns) in Sherman's
army, the 5th Battery, Indiana Light Artillery. Between
the campaign's beginning in May, 1864, and its ending in
early September, these Hoosiers shot off between 3- and
4,000 plus rounds of solid shot, shell, case, and cannister.
And this was but one four-gun battery out of more than
250 guns in Sherman's immense force! Without even
taking the Confederates' 150+ guns into account, there
are potentially tens of thousands of artillery shell relics
to be gleaned from the countryside between Dalton and
Jonesboro (so as long as you don't make the mistake of
trying to dig them up at Kennesaw, which is a Federal
no-no, punishable by fines and jail time). So if you're a
relic hunter in the area...there's no better time than the
present to get out and get to digging!

4. Considering how difficult it was to coordinate a
combined artillery barrage, most artillery exchanges
were probably closer to a Bruce Willis/Cybill Shepherd
fight on Moonlighting than the 19th-century
equivalent of "shock and awe". In other words, batteries
would probably have shot off enough rounds to get the
other side irritated; then they would respond in kind;
then the first side would start it all over again. Sustained
exchanges between two opposing sets of batteries were
probably the exception, rather than the rule. Still, for
men trying to sleep, catch their breath, or maintain
some grasp on sanity, these "annoyance" barrages
were extremely distressing.

5. Perhaps the greatest inaccuracy, in Mr. Brown's
opinion, about battle reenactments, is the small
number of horses. A typical four-gun battery would
have required between 60 and 70+ horses, to pull
the guns, the ammunition chests, the caissons, the
battery wagon and traveling forge, and to carry the
battery and section commanders, who had to stay
mounted in order to observe the effect of their fire.
That means literally thousands of horses for an army
the size of Johnston's (60,000+) to say nothing of
Sherman's (100,000+). How many horses do you
see at the usual reenactment?...That's what I thought.

6. Contrary to popular belief, artillery crewmen went
into battle on foot; they did not ride on the back of the
limber chests (except for short distances under dire
emergencies). And why not? Well, according to Mr.
Brown, who had the distinct pleasureof riding on
one once, the experience could be nerve-wracking
(rough paraphrase): "a springless vehicle, flying at
often breakneck speeds across rutted fields and
rutted roads, with only a single handle to cling to."

* By this point, they were the 12-lb. Napoleon gun/howitzer (the most common
type; you see it at most of the battlefield parks), the 3-inch ordnance rifle,
the 10-lb. Parrott rifle, and (occasionally) the James rifle.

** Solid shot, for extreme range; shell, for long range; case (shrapnel), for
medium- to close-range; and cannister, for extremely-close range.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lee the snarky

Just when you think you have your historical icons pegged...they prove just how human they are.

While surfing through the Civil War blogs this morning, I came across the following Lee quote, from Don Hogan's Civil War Markers. Conventional wisdom is that Lee was humble and self-effacing about his own abilities, and willing to accept criticism from the public about his perceived failures. But what are we to make of this?

"We made a great mistake in the beginning of our
struggle, and I fear, in spite of all we can do, it will
prove to be a fatal mistake. We appointed all our
worst generals to command our armies, and all our
best generals to edit the newspapers."
Lee the snarky and sarcastic? How does that fit into the easy characterization of the "Marble Man"?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Nothing But Victory: A Review

Three dozen armies, North and South, fought in the American
Civil War. The vast majority of these were temporary organizations,
absorbed into larger forces as the war progressed.
Only seven rose to national prominence. Six of these---the
Confederate armies of Northern Virginia and of Tennessee,
and the Federal armies of the Potomac, the Cumberland, the James,
and the Ohio---have been the subject of full-length studies.
The last, the Federal Army of the Tennessee, was for a long time the
only army of the war not covered by a modern scholarly work.

Stephen Woodworth's Nothing But Victory: The Army of the
Tennessee 1861-1865
has finally filled that void. Through more
than 600 pages of concise prose, across eight major campaigns
and scores of battles large and small, Woodworth details the
operations of the military organization that he claims helped to
crush the Southern Confederacy to a greater degree than any
other Federal army. By the final page, as the Grand Review of
the Armies in Washington concludes and the veterans make
their way back home, the basis for this claim is more than
compelling; it is virtually indestructible.

Woodworth's book divides the
army's career into three major
sections: its beginnings in 1861
and its initial battles for
Tennessee; its reknowned
campaign against the
Mississippi fortress of
Vicksburg; and its closing
operations in Georgia and
the Carolinas. Every
major battle is covered---
Fort Donelson, Shiloh,
Champion's Hill,
Missionary Ridge,
Kennesaw, Atlanta---

in addition to the smaller engagements that cost fewer
casualties but still produced strong pyschological effects
on the troops. Along the way he introduces us to the
major figures---Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh
Sherman, James B. McPherson---as well as the
lesser lights: the ever-conspiring John McClernand,
the occasionally besotted Stephen Hurlburt, the
dashing and inspirational John Logan, and many
others who served at lower levels. We also
get a thorough look at the life of the common soldiers
of the Army of the Tennessee through their letters,
diaries and regimental memoirs. There is hardly a
man in the ranks whose life has not been laid bare
for us by the final chapter.

For most of the book Grant is the central character, not
surprising since he was the army's first and longest-tenured
commander. Woodworth aims to show that it was Grant's
personality--- simple, unassuming, yet dogged and determined
to win---that shaped the army's character from the beginning
and lasted long after he had departed to higher levels of
command. By creating a legacy of pressing onward relentlessly,
maintaining the initative---and, of course, winning battles---
Grant guaranteed that the officers and men of the Army of the
Tennessee would hold to these principles under subsequent
commanders and different circumstances. Perhaps the finest
example of this is seen in the chapter on the Carolinas Campaign,
when the army's "bummers" (unofficial and unorganized private
foragers) rally to the sound of gunfire and, on their own volition,
force the opposing Confederates out of the town of Fayetteville,
North Carolina. One could look in vain for a similar occurence in
the annals of the Army of the Potomac or the Cumberland. With
this sort of mindset, and the firm determination to accept, as the
title suggests, "nothing but victory", it is inevitable that the men
of the Army of the Tennessee would be the ones to march through
six Rebel states, defeating every enemy force thrown in their way,
to arrive in Washington not only undiminished in strength, but
numerically and physically stronger than when they had started
out from the training camps of Cairo, Illinois.

Since Woodworth's book is concerned with the complete
war experience of the Army of the Tennessee, he wisely avoids
excessive analysis of any one battle, instead painting the general
ebb and flow of the action without losing sight of the private in
the ranks. Nor does he delve too deeply into social or political
matters; the army's changing policy towards slaves is addressed
sparingly, and the intrusion of politics into the army's business is
dealt with only when it becomes onerous, as it does with
McClernand's continual and annoying habit of politicking in the midst
of military operations. A "fog of war" is draped over the the
motivations and squabbles of the opposing Confederates,
appropriately since this is a story about the Army of the Tennessee
and not about its enemies. Woodworth relies heavily on first-hand
accounts of the events, rather than offical reports or post-war
posturings. The result is a sense of immediacy, a feeling that all
hangs in the balance until the battle smoke clears, even though
the army's ultimate triumph is never really in doubt.

One major flaw of the work is its almost complete lack of maps.
A single frontispiece map showing the entire theater of the army's
operations over the course of four years is all that is provided.
Given the confusing nature of some of the engagements, such as
those at Iuka or Tunnel Hill, it is easy to get lost tactically. Even
broad maps showing movements at the divisional level would have
been helpful. It will behoove the reader to have at hand the
Official Records Atlas, in order to resolve this confusion.
Hopefully future editions will correct this deficiency.

Though Woodworth's thesis on the Army of the Tennessee's
importance to the North's final victory is welcome and needed,
he sometimes veers into questionable territory when
analysing the merit of individual commanders. General William
S. Rosecrans may not have been in the war-winning
"triumvirate" of Grant, Sherman and Sheridan, but his record
hardly merits Woodworth's wholly negative evaluation, which
seems even less gracious than Grant's own (though considering
Grant's central position in the army's legacy, this is perhaps
unavoidable). John McClernand's several battlefield successes
at Arkansas Post and Port Gibson are credited to him grudgingly
at best. Likewise, the seasoned reader of Civil War history will
surely raise his eyebrows when confronted with Woodworth's
characterization of mediocre late-war army commander Oliver
O. Howard as a "solidly competent" officer whose defeats in
Virginia were due to his "superiors' misjudgment and...impossible
situations". And in view of a number of modern studies pointing
to the increased depravity exhibited by soldiers on both sides as
the war progressed, it isdifficult to accept Woodworth's contention
that the Army of the Tennessee actually behaved itself as if at
Sunday school while marching through Georgia and South Carolina.

But even if some of Woodworth's conclusions are suspect, the
accomplishments of the army he has chronicled are not. Nothing
But Victory
should prove a worthy addition to the ever-
increasing catalog of essential Civil War reading. If the key to
truly understanding the outcome of the war lies in looking
beyond battle-torn Virginia, past the Appalachian Mountains,
to the heartland of both the North and the South, then the
campaigns of the Army of the Tennessee are both a proper
starting point and an inescapable ending. Woodworth has
given us both.