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A Waste Of Powder and Shell: The Failure Of Lee’s Artillery at Gettysburg

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yet another article from my text on Gettysburg.

I hope you enjoy,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Edwin_Forbes_Pickett's_Charge

Many times battles are won or lost due to organizational failures as much as they are by tactical decisions. One of the issues that plagued Robert E Lee at Gettysburg was the effects of the army reorganization prior to and after Chancellorsville. While much attention is given to the reorganization of the Second Corps following the death of Stonewall Jackson and its division between A.P. Hill and Richard Ewell, less attention is given to the reorganization of the artillery.

Following Chancellorsville Lee abolished his artillery reserve and split all artillery between the three corps of his army. Each corps now had its own artillery reserve while divisions maintained control of their own organic batteries. Each corps had its own artillery reserve commander. The reorganization had been delegated by Pendleton to Porter Alexander and Jackson’s Corps Artillery Chief Colonel Stapleton Crutchfield. 1 The initial reorganization approved by Lee on April 16th 1863 retained a 36 gun general reserve was retained, but after Chancellorsville the battalions assigned to it were distributed to the corps. 2 While the reorganization did give the corps commanders more firepower it took away the ability of the army commander to have a ready reserve of firepower that could be used at when he needed.

At Gettysburg the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia was assigned to each of the three army corps. First Corps under James Longstreet was assigned 5 battalions with 21 total batteries of 84 guns. Longstreet’s artillery chief was Colonel James B Walton, though during the battle Longstreet would come to rely on Lieutenant Colonel Edward Porter Alexander as his de facto artillery chief. Richard Ewell’s Second Corps also had five battalions of artillery, again with 21 assigned batteries totaling 84 guns. The chief of Second Corps artillery was Colonel J. Thomson Brown. Lastly A. P. Hill’s Third Corps had five battalions composed of 20 batteries with 80 guns under direction of Colonel Lindsey Walker. 3

It was an idea the Union army had experimented with but Henry Hunt had the wisdom to retain the reserve. 4 The actions of the union artillery reserve on the second day were in large measure responsible for breaking the back of Confederate assaults on both flanks of July 2nd. The the fact Meade and his artillery Chief Henry Hunt had this reserve available and not split up among the various army corps gave them a flexibility in employing massed firepower at critical points throughout the battle.

The head of the Army of Northern Virginia’s artillery Brigadier General William Pendleton, given the inflated title of “General in Chief Artillery” had his actual role “deflated to purely advisory.” 5 However as Lee’s advisor he was still the senior artilleryman in the army and Lee issued orders regarding the employment of the artillery through him. Pendleton was a 1830 graduate of West Point but had left the army to enter the Episcopal Priesthood. A “well meaning bumbler” 6 he owed his appointment to his “friendship with both Lee and Davis.” 7 He had no combat experience prior to the war, had missed the war with Mexico, shared in the responsibility for the disaster at Malvern Hill and he “lacked any instinct for the battlefield.” 8

At Gettysburg Pendleton was especially ineffectual and his role on July 3rd was to sow confusion in Confederate artillery units as he “sought to supervise the whole artillery operation.” 9 Though his administrative skills should have made him effective in the advisory role he contributed to the failure of the attack.

Since the Confederates were more than 200 miles from their nearest artillery depot the amount of ammunition for the operation was always an issue. This became critical after the first two days of battle because Pendleton did not keep track of his ammunition expenditure and failed to let Lee know of ammunition shortages, information that might have made Lee reconsider the ill-fated attack of July 3rd.

During the day of July 3rd without a real job of his own to do Pendleton moved batteries on his own authority without coordination with the commanders to which they belonged. Even more importantly he placed the artillery ammunition supply trains too far to the rear to resupply the guns. This was discovered by Alexander during the great artillery barrage when his ammunition ran low and he had to tell Longstreet and Pickett at a critical point that he could not maintain his fire much longer. Pendleton who should have ensured that the ammunition was located where it needed to be instead “lurked about the artillery corps commanders and gave them the impression that he was exercising the supervisory control implied by his title.” 10 As a result “some of the guns remained mute and their gunners stood helpless during the cannonade and charge.” 11

With Longstreet’s First Corps given the assignment of breaking the center of the Federal line priority of fires was given to him. Lee had high expectations of the artillery. Alexander recorded that Lee’s intent was “First, to give the enemy the most effective cannonade possible. It was not meant simply to make a noise, but to try to cripple him-to tear him limbless, as it were, if possible….” 12 Lee wanted the artillery from all of his corps to concentrate on the Federal position. In theory the exterior lines that his army occupied which were such a disadvantage to him in the attack should have allowed Ewell’s and some of Hill’s batteries to enfilade the Federal position, in a sense creating a cross fire.

This should have been the job of Pendleton as the General in Chief of Artillery, but as noted he was not effective in coordinating anything. It was the biggest artillery operation ever attempted by the Army of Northern Virginia and it required a great deal of coordination, “assigning or approving the best firing positions, specifying targets, ordering and coordinating the fire of a dozen artillery battalions of three army corps” 13 and a host of other important details, which Pendleton, though he claimed to have given “earnest attention” to all of these matters fell short. Alexander noted “our line was so extended that all of it was not well studied, and the officers of the different corps had no opportunity to examine each other’s ground for chances to cooperate.” 14

Instead the real responsibility for the artillery battle fell upon the shoulders of three corps artillery commanders, each unaware of what the other was doing. “Alexander did not know what Lindsey Walker was doing with Hill’s artillery and Walker was apparently not even sure of what he was doing himself.” 15 While Porter Alexander attempted to provide what Lee and Longstreet required Ewell’s artillery took almost no part in the battle and Hill’s artillery under Walker was largely ineffectual in large part because it had spent much of its ammunition supporting a meaningless skirmish prior to Pickett’s attack. Likewise, Second Corps artillery badly needed supervision as Crutchfield was now wounded and out of action. 16

As a result “two thirds of Lee’s guns were idle or improperly employed.” Instead of shattering Meade’s lines as Lee intended “the guns achieved little beyond adding to the terrifying noise, and overshooting, scaring the men in Meade’s noncombatant services…” 17 In all at least 58 guns assigned to support the attack never fired a shot.

When the bombardment began at 1:07 P.M. Henry Hunt described the sight as “indescribably grand.” but he noted that “most of the enemy’s projectiles passed overhead, the effect being to sweep all the open ground in our rear, which was of little benefit to the Confederates – a mere waste of ammunition.” 18 Their target, a thin infantry and gun line was hard to hit and complicating matters was the smoke which obscured their view and “the inferior quality of their fuzes.” 19

Command, control, logistics and organization helped make the largest artillery attack on American soil fall far short of what Robert E. Lee expected. As Lee stood by Alexander watching the battered remnants of Pickett’s division return from the assault Alexander noted that “at this moment he must have foreseen Appomattox.” 20

                                                          Notes

1. Golay, Michael To Gettysburg and Beyond: The Parallel lives of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Edward Porter AlexanderCrown Publishers Inc. New York 1994 p.1552

2. Coco, Gregory A. A Concise Guide to the Artillery at GettysburgColcraft Industries Ortanna PA 1998 p.43

3 Ibid.

4 Dowdey, Clifford Lee and His Men at Gettysburg: The Death of a Nation, Skyhorse Publishing New York 1958 p.284

5 Sears Stephen W Gettysburg Houghton Mifflin Company Boston and New York 2004 p.377

6 Ibid Dowdey, p.284

7 Ibid. Sears p.377

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid. Dowdey p.285

10 Ibid. p.286

11 Coddington, Edwin The Gettysburg Campaign, a Study in Command A Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster New York 1968 p.499

12 Trudeau, Noah Andre Gettysburg A Testing of Courage Harper Collins New York 2002 pp.444-445

13 Ibid. Sears p.379

14 Alexander, Edward Porter The Great Charge and the Artillery Fighting at Gettysburg in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War edited by Bradford, Neil Meridian Press New York 1989 p.395

15 Ibid. Dowdey p.286

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 Hunt, Henry The Third Day at Gettysburg in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War edited by Bradford, Neil Meridian Press, New York 1989 p.386

19 Ibid. Sears p.381

20 Ibid. Alexander p.397

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Confederate Artillery Organization 1861-1865

confederate-artillery

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yes, indeed, another of my articles dealing with Civil War artillery. Geeks, wonks, and buffs rejoice.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

At the beginning of the war the Confederacy hastily formed an artillery service. As in the Union army the basic unit was the battery, and these batteries were initially assigned to infantry brigades. As such, the Confederate organization had the same problems as their Union counterparts. Infantry commanders with little or no understanding in the use and deployment of their artillery frequently interfered with their artillerymen. Since the Confederates had very little field artillery to begin the war and most was concentrated in the east, Confederate tactical and organizational developments began with the Army of Northern Virginia and were later introduced to other commands.

The artillery was assigned to brigades, but Confederate divisions did have an artillery chief, however, these officers had “difficulty supervising the batteries. The brigade commanders resented the artillery chief’s intervention, and the entire system created divided authority and responsibility.” [1] Like the Army of the Potomac, the Confederates formed an artillery reserve under Brigadier General William Pendleton a graduate of West Point where he graduated a year behind Robert E. Lee and classmate of Joseph Johnston. Pendleton organized and commanded a battery at First Manassas. Joseph Johnston recognized his administrative ability, thus a personal relationship as well as “circumstance and a certain aptitude for organization give him an advancement to the post chief of artillery.” [2] When Lee took command of the army outside of Richmond Pendleton found himself busy. “With Lee’s encouragement…Pendleton, culled the unattached artillery around Richmond, with a view of transferring guns to field batteries.” [3] Lee retained Pendleton as artillery chief after the Seven Days even though his “performance in the campaign had revealed his serious shortcoming as an artillery commander,” [4] as well as in the organization of the Army’s artillery.

In June 1862 Lee had Pendleton revise the regulations governing the artillery. These regulations “centralized all batteries under a chief of artillery for each division.” [5] This was a step forward but effectiveness was undercut by the brigade commanders who had operational control once they were attached. Likewise, while the organization gave great flexibility to the artillery, the “parochialism of the division itself now became the problem. There was no mechanism to mass guns from more than one division except by drawing on the reserve.” [6]

Pendleton’s lack of ability was demonstrated at both Antietam and Chancellorsville and as artillery chief he was slow to introduce organizational changes to improve the effectiveness of the artillery. Lee treated Pendleton with deference and although he recognized Pendleton “could not compare with Alexander or a handful of other officers in the artillery in ability and execution. Lee understood that and slowly pushed Pendleton into roles of decreasing importance and responsibility.” [7] After the Seven Days, Porter Alexander wrote: “Our artillery, too, was even in worse need of reorganization. A battery was attached, or supposed to be, to every brigade of infantry. Besides these, a few batteries were held in reserve under old General Pendleton. Naturally our guns & ammunition were far inferior to the enemy’s, & this scattering of the commands made it impossible ever to mass our guns in effective numbers. For artillery fire loses effect if scattered.” [8]

WNPendelton

Brigadier General William Pendleton, CSA

One are that the Confederates advanced more rapidly than the Union was in the appointment of field grade officers in the artillery. The first Confederate Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin, successfully urged the Confederate Provisional Congress to authorize the appointment of “officers of artillery above the rank of captain, without reference to the number of batteries under the actual command of the officers so appointed, not to exceed in number, however, one brigadier general for every eighty guns, and one major for every sixteen guns.” Additional officers of the rank of captain and first lieutenant (not to exceed eighty) were authorized in April 1862.” [9] This gave the Confederates a good sized corps of field grade artillery officers from which they would need to eventually staff artillery battalions in 1863. Among these officers were Porter Alexander, Thomas Rosser, Stapleton Crutchfield, and John Pelham.

alexander

Brigadier General Edward Porter Alexander 

During the winter of 1862-1863 Pendleton belatedly complained to Lee about the organizational weaknesses and limitations of the artillery arm of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. That process had begun during the summer of 1862 and Pendleton “delegated reorganization to Alexander and Col. Stapleton Crutchfield, Jackson’s chief.” [10] Alexander and Crutchfield developed “the first modern battalion system in artillery organization.” [11] Pendleton, Crutchfield, and Alexander “recommended consolidating every four batteries into a battalion, with one battery assigned to each division.” [12] The commander of the artillery battalion supporting each division became the chief of the divisional artillery. Each corps had its own senior artillery staff officer, usually a Colonel or Lieutenant Colonel, however as Alexander noted, at first the chief “was little more than the title given to the ranking battalion commander. But in battle he occupied himself principally with his own battalion.” [13] In addition to the battalions attached to each division, “each corps had two battalions, which it could employ in conjunctions with divisions for heavy, concentrated fire.” [14]

Lee approved the changes on February 16th 1863, in time for the coming spring and summer campaigns, and “completed the reorganization during the winter when he assigned a field grade officer to each battalion and reduced the artillery reserve to six batteries.” [15]

After Chancellorsville all of the batteries that had been Lee’s artillery reserve were reassigned to the various corps. Pendleton’s duties were now restricted to advising Lee on artillery matters while remaining Lee’s spiritual adviser, and unofficial enforcer of morality in the Army of Northern Virginia. While this was a great step forward to give Lee’s Corps commanders control of their artillery gave took, the reorganization took away any flexibility that Lee might need to send artillery where it was needed in the Gettysburg campaign of 1863, and Pendleton, although having no command authority interfered with the Confederate artillery preparations for Pickett’s Charge by redeploying artillery batteries that Alexander had designated for the mission and removing the artillery train to the rear without Alexander’s knowledge, thus ensuring that Alexander could not resupply his caissons or guns during that fateful attack.

The Confederate artillery organization remained the same throughout the remainder of the war, its battalion structure was very similar to the later Union organization of the artillery brigades which were assigned to divisions, despite the difference in nomenclature. The pioneering work in organizing artillery battalions and brigades that were for practical purposes assigned to the same division would be the basis of modern artillery organization and would be adopted by the European armies of Britain, France, Austria, and Prussia in the years following the war.

Notes

[1] Ibid. McKenny The Organizational History of Field Artillery 1775-2003 p.59

[2] Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee’s Lieutenant’s a Study in Command, One volume abridgement by Stephen W Sears, Scribner, New York 1998 p.35

[3] Glatthaar, Joseph T. General Lee’s Army from Victory to Collapse The Free Press, Simon and Schuster, New York and London 2008 p.131

[4] Wert, Jeffry D. A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee’s Triumph 1862-1863 Simon and Schuster, New York and London 2011 p.64

[5] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.131

[6] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.132

[7] Ibid. Glatthaar General Lee’s Army from Victory to Collapse 2008 p.340

[8] Ibid. Alexander Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander p.104

[9] Ibid. McKenny The Organizational History of Field Artillery 1775-2003 p.61

[10] Golay, Michael. To Gettysburg and Beyond: The Parallel Lives of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Edward Porter Alexander, Crown Publishers, New York 1994 p.135

[11] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.132

[12] Ibid. Glatthaar General Lee’s Army from Victory to Collapse 2008 p.249

[13] Ibid. Alexander Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander p.168

[14] Ibid. Golay To Gettysburg and Beyond: The Parallel Lives of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Edward Porter Alexander p.249

[15] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.132

 

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A Magnificent Display: The Artillery at Pickett’s Charge

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I am continuing to edit, update and revise my Gettysburg text and today I am putting out an article dealing with the artillery at Pickett’s Charge. The artillery engagement was the largest ever conducted on the American continent. I am in the process of combining two chapters into one to make the text flow better. While not a final effort, I will be adding to this as I work my way through the text, I wanted to present it now as I will be published a section on what soldiers went through while waiting to go into action yesterday and will be putting out the section on Pickett’s Charge tomorrow.

Like all of my writings I do my best to convey the human element and the suffering involved in battle as in our day too few people, even military personnel see it first hand, and I will be doing more to revise this chapter in the coming weeks and months.

I hope that you enjoy.

Peace

Padre Steve+

24 pound field howitzers

Confederate Guns on Seminary Ridge

Indescribably Grand… a Mere Waste of Ammunition: The Confederate Artillery at Pickett’s Charge

Many times battles are won or lost due to organizational failures as much as they are by tactical decisions. One of the issues that plagued Robert E Lee at Gettysburg was the effects of the army reorganization prior to and after Chancellorsville. While much attention is given to the reorganization of the Second Corps following the death of Stonewall Jackson and its division between A.P. Hill and Richard Ewell, less attention is given to the reorganization of the artillery.

Following Chancellorsville Lee abolished his artillery reserve and split all artillery between the three corps of his army. Each corps now had its own artillery reserve while divisions maintained control of their own organic batteries. Each corps had its own artillery reserve commander. The reorganization had been delegated by Pendleton to Porter Alexander and Jackson’s Corps Artillery Chief Colonel Stapleton Crutchfield. [1] The initial reorganization approved by Lee on April 16th 1863 retained a 36 gun general reserve was retained, but after Chancellorsville the battalions assigned to it were distributed to the corps. [2] While the reorganization did give the corps commanders more firepower it took away the ability of the army commander to have a ready reserve of firepower that could be used at when he needed.

At Gettysburg the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia was assigned to each of the three army corps. First Corps under James Longstreet was assigned 5 battalions with 21 total batteries of 84 guns. Longstreet’s artillery chief was Colonel James B Walton, though during the battle Longstreet would come to rely on Lieutenant Colonel Edward Porter Alexander as his de facto artillery chief. Richard Ewell’s Second Corps also had five battalions of artillery, again with 21 assigned batteries totaling 84 guns. The chief of Second Corps artillery was Colonel J. Thomson Brown. Lastly A. P. Hill’s Third Corps had five battalions composed of 20 batteries with 80 guns under direction of Colonel Lindsey Walker. [3]

It was an idea the Union army had experimented with but Henry Hunt had the wisdom to retain the reserve. [4] The actions of the union artillery reserve on the second day were in large measure responsible for breaking the back of Confederate assaults on both flanks of July 2nd. The fact Meade and his artillery Chief Henry Hunt had this reserve available and not split up among the various army corps gave them a flexibility in employing massed firepower at critical points throughout the battle.

WNPendelton

Brigadier General William Pendleton

The head of the Army of Northern Virginia’s artillery Brigadier General William Pendleton, given the inflated title of “General in Chief Artillery” had his actual role “deflated to purely advisory.” [5] However as Lee’s adviser he was still the senior artilleryman in the army and Lee issued orders regarding the employment of the artillery through him. Pendleton was an 1830 graduate of West Point but had left the army to enter the Episcopal Priesthood. A “well meaning bumbler” [6] he owed his appointment to his “friendship with both Lee and Davis.” [7] He had no combat experience prior to the war, had missed the war with Mexico, shared in the responsibility for the disaster at Malvern Hill and he “lacked any instinct for the battlefield.” [8]

At Gettysburg Pendleton was especially ineffectual and his role on July 3rd was to sow confusion in Confederate artillery units as he “sought to supervise the whole artillery operation.” [9] Though his administrative skills should have made him effective in the advisory role he contributed to the failure of the attack.

Since the Confederates were more than 200 miles from their nearest artillery depot the amount of ammunition for the operation was always an issue. This became critical after the first two days of battle because Pendleton did not keep track of his ammunition expenditure and failed to let Lee know of ammunition shortages, information that might have made Lee reconsider the ill-fated attack of July 3rd.

During the day of July 3rd without a real job of his own to do Pendleton moved batteries on his own authority without coordination with the commanders to which they belonged. Even more importantly he placed the artillery ammunition supply trains too far to the rear to resupply the guns. This was discovered by Alexander during the great artillery barrage when his ammunition ran low and he had to tell Longstreet and Pickett at a critical point that he could not maintain his fire much longer. Pendleton should have ensured that the ammunition was located where it needed to be instead “lurked about the artillery corps commanders and gave them the impression that he was exercising the supervisory control implied by his title.” [10] As a result “some of the guns remained mute and their gunners stood helpless during the cannonade and charge.” [11]

fig66

With Longstreet’s First Corps given the assignment of breaking the center of the Federal line priority of fires was given to him. Lee had high expectations of the artillery. Alexander recorded that Lee’s intent was “First, to give the enemy the most effective cannonade possible. It was not meant simply to make a noise, but to try to cripple him-to tear him limbless, as it were, if possible….” [12] Lee wanted the artillery from all of his corps to concentrate on the Federal position. In theory the exterior lines that his army occupied which were such a disadvantage to him in the attack should have allowed Ewell’s and some of Hill’s batteries to enfilade the Federal position, in a sense creating a cross fire.

This should have been the job of Pendleton as the General in Chief of Artillery, but as noted he was not effective in coordinating anything. It was the biggest artillery operation ever attempted by the Army of Northern Virginia and it required a great deal of coordination, “assigning or approving the best firing positions, specifying targets, ordering and coordinating the fire of a dozen artillery battalions of three army corps” [13] and a host of other important details, which Pendleton, though he claimed to have given “earnest attention” to all of these matters fell short. Alexander noted “our line was so extended that all of it was not well studied, and the officers of the different corps had no opportunity to examine each other’s ground for chances to cooperate.” [14]

Parrott-Answer-LRESM

Instead the real responsibility for the artillery battle fell upon the shoulders of three corps artillery commanders, each unaware of what the other was doing. “Alexander did not know what Lindsey Walker was doing with Hill’s artillery and Walker was apparently not even sure of what he was doing himself.” [15] While Porter Alexander attempted to provide what Lee and Longstreet required Ewell’s artillery took almost no part in the battle and Hill’s artillery under Walker was largely ineffectual in large part because it had spent much of its ammunition supporting a meaningless skirmish prior to Pickett’s attack. Likewise, Second Corps artillery badly needed supervision as Crutchfield was now wounded and out of action. [16]

As a result “two thirds of Lee’s guns were idle or improperly employed.” Instead of shattering Meade’s lines as Lee intended “the guns achieved little beyond adding to the terrifying noise, and overshooting, scaring the men in Meade’s noncombatant services…” [17] In all at least 58 guns assigned to support the attack never fired a shot.

When the bombardment began at 1:07 P.M. Henry Hunt described the sight as “indescribably grand.” but he noted that “most of the enemy’s projectiles passed overhead, the effect being to sweep all the open ground in our rear, which was of little benefit to the Confederates – a mere waste of ammunition.” [18] Their target, a thin infantry and gun line was hard to hit and complicating matters was the smoke which obscured their view and “the inferior quality of their fuzes.” [19]

Command, control, logistics and organization helped make the largest artillery attack on American soil fall far short of what Robert E. Lee expected. As Lee stood by Alexander watching the battered remnants of Pickett’s division return from the assault Alexander noted that “at this moment he must have foreseen Appomattox.” [20]

“The Artillery…Must Concur as a Unit” Henry Hunt and the Union Artillery at Pickett’s Charge

henryhunt

Major General Henry Hunt

Major General Henry Hunt the Chief of Union artillery was the admitted expert of all the artillerymen present at Gettysburg. Prior to the war he had taught artillery theory and tactics at West Point and written the Army’s artillery doctrine. However, he was no mere theoretician. He was an excellent battlefield leader who had a keen eye to assess the tactical situation and effectively employ his batteries. Hunt also understood the change in warfare brought about by small arms, particularly the rifled musket and that artillery had become a support weapon instead of an assault weapon, something that Lee had not yet fully appreciated as we have seen from his use of artillery.

fig59

The employment of fires is an important part of military art and to be effective it must be understood and used in concert with maneuver. As George Patton wrote in “War as I Knew ItBattles are won by fire and by movement. The purpose of the movement is to get the fire in a more advantageous place to play on the enemy. In contrast to Lee and his employment of artillery at Gettysburg which was ineffective in large part because he declined to use maneuver to his advantage, Meade, Hancock, Hunt and the various Union Corps commanders used their artillery to maximum effect taking advantage of their interior lines.

After Hooker’s disastrous experiment at Chancellorsville to decentralize the command and organization of the artillery Hunt was give a free hand to reorganize the artillery of the Army of the Potomac. The changes were sweeping. Batteries were removed from divisions and consolidated into brigades for each corps. Additionally Hunt created an Artillery Reserve of five Brigades totaling 21 batteries which could be employed to support the army at any given point and provided both him and the army commander a flexible and powerful source of firepower. Hunt put his best veteran artillerymen in charge of these brigades, and their deployment was in the hands of Hunt and the corps commanders. [21] At Gettysburg the changes would be of decisive importance.

cemeteryridgearty

Hunt had been very active on July 2nd in working with Meade, Hancock and vital in ensuring that Sickles beleaguered command received batteries from the artillery reserve. He was not present at the council of war held that night but was informed of the decision to remain upon his return from his last inspection of his lines and supervision of artillery at Culp’s Hill. In his inspection of the Federal artillery positions he took charge and moved units as needed and coordinated his work with the brigade commanders of each corps ensuring that they understood their part in the next day’s action.

Unlike his Confederate counterpart William Pendleton, Hunt went into battle on July 3rd with very definite ideas of how he was going to employ his artillery and developed a detailed plan of fire support. Hunt’s artillery regulations dictated that in the attackthe artillery is employed to silence the batteries that protect the [enemy] position. In the defense it is better to direct its fire on the advancing troops. [22]

cemeteryridge

One of his most critical decisions was in relation to the Artillery Reserve to address Meade’s concerns about an attack on the Union center. About 11 A.M. Hunt went to Cemetery Hill where he was able to gain a good view of Confederate preparations. He wrote that Here a magnificent display greeted my eyes. Our whole front for two miles was covered by batteries in line or going into position. Never before had such a sight been witnessed on this continent, and rarely if ever abroad…” [23]Hunt placed twenty batteries of his artillery reserve along Cemetery Ridge and laid out a deadly latticework of crossfire lanes designed to scourge the fields in front of every living thing. [24] Hunt was aided in his efforts by the commander of the Artillery Reserve Brigadier General Robert O. Tyler who was able to increase the number of guns available through repairs and reconditioning. [25]

92681186b29b70439321935b2ab79a62

As Hunt examined the situation before him he had to discern what the Confederate intentions were. He thought there was the possibility that Lee might use them to cover a move of infantry to support Ewell but he dismissed that as he did the possibility of Lee withdrawing his army. Despite the fact that he could not see the deployment of the Confederate infantry massing for the assault Hunt was convinced that the attack would hit the center. In light of his understanding of the how artillery should be employed in the defense he grasped the essence of the situation-that the duty of the artillery was not to combat the opposing ones, but to reserve themselves to smash the infantry assault. [26]

As such his guns, both of the artillery reserve as well as II Corps deployed on Cemetery Ridge was confronted with an artilleryman’s dream. He was posted on the high groundwith clear fields of fire. He had 119 guns of high quality massed in battery, with plentiful reserves and sufficient ammunition. He was positioned to catch an infantry attack in a deadly crossfire. His brigade commanders were chosen by him and trained by him. [27] This total included the guns on Cemetery Hill as well as Cemetery Ridge.

Notes

[1] Golay, Michael To Gettysburg and Beyond: The Parallel lives of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Edward Porter Alexander Crown Publishers Inc. New York 1994 p.155

[2] Coco, Gregory A. A Concise Guide to the Artillery at Gettysburg Colcraft Industries Ortanna PA 1998 p.43

[3] Ibid.

[4] Dowdey, Clifford Lee and His Men at Gettysburg: The Death of a Nation, Skyhorse Publishing New York 1958 p.284

[5] Sears Stephen W Gettysburg Houghton Mifflin Company Boston and New York 2004 p.377

[6] Ibid Dowdey, p.284

[7] Ibid. Sears p.377

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid. Dowdey p.285

[10] Ibid. p.286

[11] Coddington, Edwin The Gettysburg Campaign, a Study in Command A Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster New York 1968 p.499

[12] Trudeau, Noah Andre Gettysburg A Testing of Courage Harper Collins New York 2002 pp.444-445

[13] Ibid. Sears p.379

[14] Alexander, Edward Porter The Great Charge and the Artillery Fighting at Gettysburg in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War edited by Bradford, Neil Meridian Press New York 1989 p.395

[15] Ibid. Dowdey p.286

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid

[18] Hunt, Henry The Third Day at Gettysburg in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War edited by Bradford, Neil Meridian Press, New York 1989 p.386

[19] Ibid. Sears p.381

[20] Ibid. Alexander p.397

[21] Sears, Stephen W. Gettysburg. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston and New York 2003 p.32

[22] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two Fredericksburg to Meridian Random House, New York 1963 p.545

[23] Hunt, Henry The Third Day at Gettysburg in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War edited by Bradford, Neil Meridian Press, New York 1989 p.385

[24] Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2002 p.486

[25] Ibid. Sears p.375

[26] Stewart, George R. Pickett’s Charge: A Micro-History of the Final Attack at Gettysburg, July 3rd 1863 Houghton Mifflin Company Boston 1959 p.131

[27] Ibid. Sears p.376

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The Most Scientific and Resourceful of All: General Edward Porter Alexander

alexander

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I am getting ready to conclude my latest Gettysburg Staff Ride with my students from the Staff College. It has been a fantastic experience again. Right now I am getting ready to turn in for the night after having dinner and drinks with my students. In the morning we will be walking the ground of Pickett’s Charge before heading to General Meade’s headquarters and the Soldier’s Cemetary where President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

As part of what I have been doing on the site I have been periodically interspersing and publishing short articles about various commanders at Gettysburg. I did one on The Union cavalry commander, John Buford yesterday. 

These articles are all are drawn from my student text and will likely become a book in their own right when I finish the chapter on the Union commanders.  The reason is I am going to do this is because I have found that readers are often more drawn to the lives of people than they are events. As I have noted before that people matter, even deeply flawed people, and we can learn from them. Sometimes good and even honorable people serve malignant causes, while bad or even wicked people support good causes, usually for selfish reasons, but that is the constant quandary that human beings find themselves.

Today’s article is about Confederate General Edward Porter Alexander. Alexander directed the Confederate artillery during Pickett’s Charge and because he was not a terribly high ranking officer is comparatively little known.

However, Alexander is another interesting character. He was one of the most gifted and brilliant artillery commanders of the war and after the war went on to serve the country with distinction after following his re-integration back into the ranks of American citizens.

Alexander wrote a narrative of the war that is considered by historians to be one of the best and most objective accounts written by any Confederate. However, he was very much a military man and never fully grasped the political and ideological nature of the war, not the profound social effects of the Union victory. I hope you enjoy. Until tomorrow. 

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

Though he was only a Colonel commanding an artillery battalion in Longstreet’s First Corps at Gettysburg, Edward Porter Alexander needs to be mentioned in this text because during the battle he assumed tactical command of the largest concentration of Confederate artillery during the entire war. Likewise his contributions to the writing history of the war are incredibly important and provide some of the most balanced views of the war written by any participant on the Confederate side.

Alexander was born in Washington Georgia in 1835. He attended West Point and graduated third in his class in 1857. One of his classmates was Marcus Reno who was second in command of the ill-fated fight of Custer’s 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn.

Alexander was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers and served as an instructor at West Point. He realized after the John Brown raid that if war came he would fight for the Confederacy. He was married to Bettie Mason in April 1860 and was thereafter assigned to duty at Fort Steilacoom, Washington. He wrestled with his the decision to leave the army, his father was one of the Georgia legislators who voted for secession and like many Southern officers he decided to resign. He wrote about Lincoln, “If he is elected I believe that in the interests of humanity, civilization, and self-preservation call on the South to secede, I’ll go my arm, leg, or death on it.” [1]

His commander Major James McPherson who later had a prominent part in Sherman’s campaigns attempted to talk Alexander into remaining in the army on the west coast, but Alexander refused. McPherson graciously allowed Alexander and his bride to return to the East in a leave status. Bettie too was “upset by this decision and seriously questioned whether other alternatives were possible.” [2] But Alexander saw no other option. McPherson graciously allowed Alexander and his bride to return to the East in a leave status. When he got back to the South he resigned his commission after the election of Lincoln and on July 2nd 1861 Captain Alexander reported for duty at Manassas as an artillery officer. The professional artillerymen believed that Alexander “was the most scientific and resourceful of all.” [3]

Promotion came at regular intervals for Alexander. Initially he served as Beauregard’s Signals officer, and was appointed as the Chief of Ordnance for the Army of Northern Virginia, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was made an artillery battalion commander after Antietam, and at Fredericksburg his battalion was in the thick of the fighting along Marye’s Heights. With each new battle Lee and Longstreet “had come to rely increasingly on Alexander’s eager intelligence, regularly assigning him duties more properly those of Col. James Walton, Longstreet’s nominal chief of artillery, or even Brig. Gen, William N. Pendleton, the artillery chief of the Army of Northern Virginia.” [4] So trusted was he that he “had nearly a free hand in organizing the Fredericksburg defenses” [5] and his work was instrumental in turning back the Army of the Potomac in its bloody repulse.

During the winter of 1862-63 Alexander worked with Pendleton and Colonel Stapleton Crutchfield to reorganize the artillery in February 1863. He and his battalion were in the thick of the fighting at Chancellorsville where he also assumed command of Second Corps artillery when Crutchfield was wounded. [6] He was promoted to Colonel prior to Gettysburg and then Brigadier General of Artillery in February 1864. He was in the action in the Wilderness campaign and at Petersburg where he was badly wounded.

After recovering he rejoined the army and was present at the surrender at Appomattox where in the hours before the surrender he advocated beginning a guerrilla campaign in order to continue the war. This Lee was unwilling to do and Lee reminded Alexander and the other officers present that such was not an honorable course of action. Lee told Alexander:

“We have simply now to face the fact that the Confederacy has failed. And as Christian men, Gen. Alexander, you & I have no right to think for one moment of our personal feelings or affairs. We must consider only the effect which our action will have upon the country at large.” [7]

After Lee’s monologue Alexander later wrote “I was so ashamed of having proposed such a foolish and wild cat scheme that I felt like begging him to forget he had ever heard it.” [8] When Alexander saw the gracious terms of the surrender he was particularly impressed with how non-vindictive the terms were, especially in terms of parole and amnesty for the surrendered soldiers.

Sadly, Alexander really did not have any political vision or understanding of the meaning of the war. When asked about his “Confederate allegiance, Alexander had a straightforward explanation. “We didn’t go into our cause,” he said; “we were born into it.” [9] This is something that men like Virginian George Thomas who remained loyal to the Union would have certainly contested. Thomas’s loyalty resulted in him being rejected and disowned by his family during and after the war.

Alexander adjusted to peace and went into railroads, becoming highly successful railroad president as well as one of the more circumspect of the Confederate officers who wrote histories of the Civil War. His book Military Memoirs of a Confederate published in 1907 infuriated many associated with the myth of the lost cause for he dared to criticize the generalship of both Lee and Jackson. However, the book gained the praise of many reviewers for Alexander’s objectivity. The Nation wrote of it “No preceding book by a Southern officer surpasses this in good temper wise discrimination and graphic portrayal.” But the review also noted that Alexander “all but ignored social issues and barely touched on the merits and questions in dispute.” [10] A reviewer in the American Historical Review wrote: “He criticizes alike Confederate friend and Federal foe, the justice for which, in some cases, may be disputed, but the good temper showed must be conceded.” [11]

Alexander became a close friend of President Grover Cleveland and the President, recognizing Alexander’s talent sent him to “be the U.S. boundary arbitrator between Nicaragua and Costa Rica; a job that needed to be done prior to going ahead with plans for building the Panama Canal.” [12] As in nearly everything he did he was successful, but the cost was great. Bettie was experiencing severe health problems and died a month after he returned in 1899. He remarried in 1901 but his health continued to decline. He suffered a series of strokes, and he died in 1910 in Savannah.

Notes

[1] Golay, Michael To Gettysburg and Beyond: The Parallel Lives of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Edward Porter Alexander Crown Publishers, New York 1994 p.74

[2] Ibid. Wilson and Clair They Also Served p.116

[3] Ibid. Freeman Lee p.44

[4] Ibid. Golay To Gettysburg and Beyond p.109

[5] Ibid. Golay To Gettysburg and Beyond p.109

[6] Ibid. Freeman Lee p.486

[7] Alexander, Edward Porter. Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander edited by Gary Gallagher University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 1989 p.532

[8] Ibid. Golay To Gettysburg and Beyond p.262

[9] Ibid. Golay To Gettysburg and Beyond p.vii

[10] Ibid. Golay To Gettysburg and Beyond p.329

[11] Ibid. Golay To Gettysburg and Beyond p.329

[12] Ibid. Wilson and Clair They Also Served p.117

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“Our Army Would Be Invincible If…” Pt.5 Stuart’s Cavalry

This is the fourth part of my re-written chapter on the leadership of Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg. Today is a look at the leaders of Major General J.E.B Stuart as well as three other generals, Brigadier General John Imboden who commanded an independent cavalry brigade, Lee’s Chief of Artillery, Brigadier General William Pendleton, and Major General Isaac Trimble. This like the previous sections of this chapter of my Gettysburg text is interesting because it shows the complexities of the lives and personalities of the men leading these units. Professional soldiers, volunteers with little military experience, soldiers, lawyers, engineers and politicians they are an interesting collection of personalities; some surrounded in myth and others practically unknown. I think it is important for anyone studying a war, a campaign, or a battle to at least look at the lives of the men who planned and fought it. In doing so, even those that oppose what they did in rebelling against the United States can find in them some measure of humanity, and sometimes even gain a sense of empathy for some of them.   

That is why when we look at the lives of soldiers, we have to take the time to at least try to understand the nuance, the contradictions, their strengths and weaknesses as leaders, as well as a measure of their character.

As I get ready to take another group of students to Gettysburg I will be doing more work on my text, editing previously written chapters and writing a chapter similar on the leaders of the Army of the Potomac.

Have a great night

Peace

Padre Steve+

Stuart’s Cavalry Division

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Major General J.E.B. Stuart C.S.A.

The Cavalry Division was commanded by Major General J.E.B. Stuart. While it was considered a division, Stuart’s command was the size of a Union Army Corps with over 10,000 troopers assigned. Despite its large size at Gettysburg the Division was split by agreement of Lee and Stuart. Stuart who had five brigades at his immediate disposal would take three of them, Hampton’s, Rooney Lee’s and Fitz Lee’s on an ill-fated mission which would leave him and them out of the fight during the most important part of the movement to and first two days of battle. His raid causes him “to be absent on the day of all days when he could reconnoiter the Federal position.” [1] Two, Robertson and Grumble Jones’s would remain guarding passes along the Blue Ridge long after that mission had any relevance. Imboden’s would be far to the west and Jenkin’s ere with Ewell’s vanguard in the advance north.

Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart was the son of a former congressman whose family went back five generations in Virginia. He graduated thirteenth in a class of forty-six at West Point in 1854. Classmates included Dorsey Pender and Oliver O. Howard. A fellow cadet who would serve under Stuart during the war, Fitzhugh Lee wrote:

“His distinguishing characteristics were a strict attention to his military duties, an erect, soldierly bearing, an immediate and almost thankful acceptance of a challenge from any cadet to fight, who might in any way feel himself aggrieved, and a clear, metallic, ringing voice.” [2]

At West Point Stuart was noted for his “lifelong religious devoutness. When he was at West Point he was known as a “Bible Class Man.” [3] Stuart was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and assigned to the Mounted Rifles, which Stuart noted was “a corps which my taste, fondness for riding, and my desire to serve my country in some acceptable manner led me to select above all the rest.” [4] Stuart would serve with the Mounted Rifles for about a year before being selected to serve in one of the first Cavalry regiments formed, the First Cavalry at Jefferson Barracks Missouri.

In the pre-war years the young officer developed a solid reputation in the army where he served on the frontier and in “Bleeding Kansas.” In those years Stuart “was already a young officer of great promise, a natural horseman with a reputation for dash and bravery gained in countless clashes with Indians throughout the West, and for steady competence in the pro- and antislavery warfare of Kansas.” [5]

In 1859 Stuart was on leave visiting Washington D.C. and staying with the Lee’s at Arlington. He was visiting the War Department when news came of John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry. He was given a letter to take to Lee which ordered Lee to take command of troops to suppress the rebellion. Stuart accompanied Lee on the mission and was send by Lee to present terms of surrender to the raiders, who at the time were still nameless to the Federal authorities. Stuart entered the building and was confronted by Brown who he had previously met in Kansas. After some fruitless negotiation, Stuart realized that Brown was not about to surrender. At some time Stuart broke away and motioned for the Marines to move in. “Three minutes after Stuart had given his signal, the affair was over.” [6]

Stuart resigned his commission when Virginia seceded from the Union in April 1861, while his father-in-law, Colonel Philip St. George Cooke remained in Union service. He commanded the 1st Virginia Cavalry in the Valley and at First Manassas and was promoted to Brigadier General in September 1861. The following month he was given command of the army’s cavalry brigade and distinguished himself in the eyes of both General Joseph Johnston and Robert E. Lee. Johnston wrote to President Jefferson Davis praising the young brigadier “He is a rare man…wonderfully endowed by nature with the qualities necessary for an officer of light cavalry….If you add to this army a real brigade of cavalry, you can find no better brigadier-general to command it.” [7]

Lee came to share that opinion and over the course of his service Stuart had come to:

“demonstrate a real talent for the most mundane and most essential role cavalry played in this war – reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. No intelligence source surpassed his eye for seeing and evaluating a military landscape or an enemy’s strengths and dispositions.” [8]

This would be something that Lee came to rely and which he would dearly miss at Gettysburg.

Despite his excellence in this “most mundane” task Stuart developed a flair and passion for the spectacular, which was first demonstrated during the Seven Days, where he took his cavalry on a circuit of McClellan’s army which not only gathered a significant amount of intelligence also unnerved the Army of the Potomac. His raid was “flawlessly executed….” And Stuart “became a hero to his troopers and one of the idols of the public.” [9] Lee wrote that Stuart’s operation “was executed with great address and daring by accomplished officer.” [10] The raid did have its detractors, especially among the infantry and it also revealed something to Stuart that appealed to his own vanity, “that raiding would easily garner headlines in the Richmond papers.” [11]

Stuart Lee’s staff secretary, Colonel Robert Taylor noted that Stuart was “possessing of great powers of endurance, courageous to an exalted degree, of sanguine temperament, prompt to act, always ready for fight – he was the ideal cavalryman.” [12] Stuart also kept a lively headquarters. Taylor remarked “How genial he was! There was no room for “the blues” around his headquarters; the hesitating and desponding found no congenial atmosphere at his camp; good will, jollity, and even hilarity, reigned there.” [13]

Stuart always had his African-American banjo player with him and frequently sang around camp and on campaign. That was not always appreciated by some other officers. Wade Hampton, who in time became Stuart’s right-hand man was not impressed with the atmosphere at Stuart’s headquarters and “was not certain that he could flourish, or even survive, among such people….” [14] Lafayette McLaws wrote home complaining not only about Stuart but others:

“Stuart carries around with him a banjo player and special correspondent. This claptrap is noticed and lauded as a peculiarity of genius, when, in fact, it is nothing more but the act of a buffoon to get attention.” [15]

But Stuart was always aware of his own mortality and there was a serious side to him, often expressed in his faith, which impressed those around him. His West Point classmate and friend, Oliver O. Howard wrote:

“J.E.B. Stuart was cut out for a cavalry leader. In perfect health, but thirty-two years of age, full of vigor and enterprise, with the usual ideas imbibed in Virginia concerning State Supremacy, Christian thought and temperate by habit, no man could ride faster, endure more hardships, make a livelier charge, or be more hearty and cheerful while so engaged. A touch of vanity, which invited the smiles and applause of the fair maidens of Virginia, but added to the zest and ardor of Stuart’s parades and achievements.” [16]

At Chancellorsville Stuart assumed acting command of Jackson’s Second Corps which he led well during the battle, even impressing the infantry, who had long derided Stuart and his cavalry. Leading by example “seemed on fire.” Stuart sang as he led the Stonewall Brigade into action and “the troops joined him, singing while they loaded and fired.” One officer stated “Jeb impressed himself on the infantry.” [17]

Some believed that Stuart should have been appointed to command Second Corps after Jackson’s death, but evidently Lee valued Stuart’s role as a cavalry commander more and despite his accomplishments refused to proffer the command to Stuart. Colonel Rosser told Stuart, who was grieving the loss of his friend Jackson “On his death bed Jackson said that you should succeed him, and command his corps.” Stuart responded “I would rather know that Jackson said that, than to have the appointment.” [18] One wonders what might have occurred during the Gettysburg campaign if Stuart had commanded Second Corps and left the cavalry to someone like the accomplished and level headed Wade Hampton.

Stuart was mortally wounded less than a year after Gettysburg at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, upon his death Hampton was promoted to command what was left of the Cavalry Corps.

Hampton

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Brigadier General Wade Hampton C.S.A. 

Brigadier General Wade Hampton is one of the fascinating and complex characters in either army who served at Gettysburg. He defies a one dimensional treatment or stereotype. His complexities, contradictions and character make him one of the most interesting men that I have written about during my study of this battle.

Wade Hampton III was one of the richest, if not the richest man in the Confederacy when the war broke out. He had inherited his family’s expansive plantation and many slaves and studied law at the College of South Carolina. As a slave owner he expressed an aversion for the institution, ensured that his slaves were well cared for by the standards of his day, including medical care, he never condemned slavery or worked for the abolition of a system that had made him and his family quite prosperous. He served in the South Carolina legislature and Senate, where he took an “active and prominent role in the public debate on many issues. He was vocal not only on the perils of reopening the African slave trade but also on whether and how his state should seek redress of wrongs, real and imagined, by the federal government.” [19]

As a state senator Hampton was pragmatic, and while he defended the South’s economic interests in slavery, Hampton cautioned against the rhetoric of secessionist fire-breathers. His argument was about “the preservation of the South’s political power and her social and economic institutions, now threatened by the short sighted policies of otherwise good and decent men.” [20] He did not wish to do anything that would lead to the destruction of the South, and he felt that the “only viable course was moderation, conciliation, compromise….” [21]

Hampton was a classic rich “Southern moderate He had opposed secession, and the fire eaters repulsed him.” [22] However, when Lincoln called for volunteers Hampton volunteered to serve in a war that he did not want, which would cost him dearly, and change him from a moderate to a vociferous opponent of most Reconstructionist policies.

Volunteering at the age of forty-three, Hampton had no prior military training. However, he had great organizational skill, leadership ability and a tremendous care and compassion for those who served under his command. Using his own money Hampton organized what would now be called a combined arms unit, the Hampton Legion, which comprised eight companies of infantry, four of cavalry and a battery of light artillery. He was careful in the appointment of the Legion’s officers choosing the best he could find.

Hampton rapidly rose to prominence as a respected officer and commander despite his lack of military training or experience. His soldiers fought well and took over command of an infantry brigade on the Peninsula, and was promoted to Brigadier General in May of 1862 and given command of a cavalry brigade serving under J.E.B. Stuart in July and he “became Stuart’s finest subordinate.” [23] As a brigade, and later division commander, Hampton had “little fondness or respect for Stuart. He regularly criticized Stuart for pampering the Virginia regiments and assigning his South Carolinians to the more arduous tasks.” [24]

During the war he was wounded several times, including at             Gettysburg where he took two sabre cuts to the head. Eventually he took command of the Cavalry Corps after Stuart was killed in action. He fought in nearly every cavalry engagement under Stuart and led his own raids deep into Union territory. He fought well, but “hated the war. In October 1862 he wrote home: “My heart has grown sick of the war, & I long for peace.” [25] Hampton was “one of only three civilians to attain the rank of Lieutenant General in Confederate service.” [26]At Petersburg his son Preston was mortally wounded and died in his arms even as his other son Wade IV was wounded when coming to Preston’s aid. Douglass South Freeman wrote of Hampton:

“Untrained in arms and abhorring war, the South Carolina planter had proved himself the peer of any professional soldier commanding within the same bounds and opportunities. He may not have possessed military genius, but he had the nearest approach to it.” [27]

The war that he opposed cost him the life of his brother, one of his sons and his livelihood. “His property destroyed, many of his slaves gone, and deep in debt from which he would never recover, Hampton faced the future with $1.75 in his pocket.” [28] The war changed the former moderate into a man who sought vindication in some ways, but reconciliation with the black population.

Hampton again entered politics and became the first post-Reconstruction Governor of South Carolina when President Rutherford Hayes withdrew the Federal troops which had supported the Reconstructionist governor. During his campaign and during his terms as Governor, Hampton “opposed the South’s imposition of so-called “black codes” which so restricted the freedom of former slaves as virtually to return them to civility.” [29] Unlike many in the post-reconstruction South Hampton won the thanks of African Americans for condemning whites that would vote for him if they thought that he would “stand between him and the law, or grant him any privileges or immunities that shall not be granted to the colored man.” [30]

Hampton came to dominate South Carolina politics for fifteen years, after two terms as Governor he served as a U.S. Senator until 1891 when a political enemy won the governorship and forced him from the Senate. When he died on April 11th 1902 his final words were “God bless my people, black and white.” [31]

Like so many leaders of so many tumultuous eras, Hampton was complex and cannot be easily classified. He was certainly not perfect, but in war and in peace gave of himself to his state and community.

Rooney Lee

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Brigadier General William Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee C.S.A.

Brigadier General William Fitzhugh Lee, who went by his nickname “Rooney” to distinguish himself from his cousin Fitzhugh Lee, was the second son of Robert E. Lee. He was educated at Harvard and received a direct commission into the Army in 1857, which he resigned in 1859 to manage the White House planation which had been left to him by his grandfather. When war came Lee volunteered for service and was named Colonel of the 9th Virginia Cavalry earning the trust and respect of Stuart and the quiet admiration of his father.

Rooney Lee was promoted to Brigadier General in September 1862 and was wounded at the Battle of Brandy Station as the Gettysburg campaign began and while convalescing was captured by Union forces. He was replaced by Colonel John R. Chambliss, an 1853 graduate of West Point who had left the army after a short amount of active service prior to the war. He was viewed as a competent cavalry tactician and “there was no perceptible anxiety when “Rooney” Lee’s brigade came under Chambliss’ command.” [32]

He was paroled and exchanged in March of 1864. He was promoted to Major General in April 1864 and served until his surrender with the army at Appomattox. After the war he would return to farming and serve in the Virginia legislature and as a Congressman.

Robertson

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Brigadier General Beverly Roberson C.S.A.

Brigadier General Beverly Roberson was a native Virginian who graduated from West Point in 1849. Most of his service was spent on the frontier with the Second Dragoons where for part of his service he served under command of J.E.B. Stuart’s father-in-law Colonel Philip St. George Cooke who “commended him repeatedly in dispatches.” [33]

Robertson was a veteran of much Indian service and “in person the embodiment of the fashionable French cavalry officer of the time.” [34] Robertson was dismissed from the U.S. Army in August 1861 when it was discovered that he had accepted an appointment in the Confederate army in April 1861.

Robertson’s Confederate service was less than distinguished. He never meshed with Jackson when he commanded Jackson’s cavalry, and Stuart was less than impressed when Robertson’s brigade was assigned to his command. During the Second Manassas campaign Stuart observed Robertson’s less than stellar performance, and his centrality to “so many cavalry quarrels” convinced Stuart that the old regular army veteran and West Pointer “must go. Within a month Robertson was transferred. He would finally go, as one of Stuart’s staff noted, “much to the joy of all concerned.” [35]

Robertson and his brigade were transferred to North Carolina, but returned to the Army of Northern Virginia to participate in the Gettysburg campaign. It was far too easy for Lee to obtain. D.H. Hill commanding in North Carolina “characterized Robertson’s command as “wonderfully inefficient,” [36] and Robertson would prove that again in the coming campaign where he would fail “miserably in his primary duty.” [37] After Gettysburg Robertson was relieved and reassigned to the Department of South Carolina where he served with little distinction until the end of the war.

Fitzhugh Lee

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Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee C.S.A.

Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee was a nephew of both Robert E. Lee and Confederate Adjutant General Samuel Cooper. He “graduated forty-fifth in a class of forty-nine at West Point in 1856.” [38] He was wounded on the frontier and was an instructor at West Point when Virginia seceded. He resigned his commission and was appointed as a Captain. Through his friendship with Stuart he was promoted to Colonel and given command of the First Virginia Cavalry after Grumble Jones was reassigned to the 7th Virginia. He and Stuart “shared a frolicsome nature and hearty laughter, but Lee’s abilities as a horse soldier were limited.” [39]

Wade Hampton held Lee in low regard, and Hampton believed that that Lee was representative of the “most objectionable qualities of the Virginia aristocrat – vanity, ostentation, pomposity, and condensation.” [40] Despite a condition which includes arthritis which hampers him he “fights hard and learns much of the art of command.” [41] He serves until the end of the war, finally surrendering his command in North Carolina.

After the war Fitz Lee enters politics, is elected governor of Virginia and following his defeat in attempting to become U.S. Senator was appointed as counsel-general in Havana by President Grover Cleveland. When the United States went to war with Spain, Lee was appointed as a Major General of Volunteers and serves honorably. Wade Hampton, whose regard for Lee did not increase during the war told his son Albert, who had volunteered to serve on Lee’s staff “Under no circumstances would he have a sin of his ever serve under “such an imperious blowhard as Robert E. Lee’s nephew continued to be.” [42] Lee was retired from the United States Army in 1901 with the rank of Brigadier General and died in Washington D.C. on April 28th 1905.

“Grumble” Jones

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Brigadier General William “Grumble” Jones C.S.A.

Another of the old army cavalrymen to serve under Stuart was Brigadier General William “Grumble” Jones. Jones was an 1848 graduate of West Point and served on the frontier. In 1852 he and his new bride were in a shipwreck, and she was swept out of his arms and drowned. “Jones never recovered in spirit. Embittered, complaining, suspicious he resigned from the army” [43] in 1857 and returned to Virginia.

Jones raised a company at the beginning of the war, and served under Stuart at First Manassas, and from the beginning took a dislike to his young superior. He grumbled to his men that he “would take no orders from that young whippersnapper.” [44] When Stuart was promoted he was made Colonel of the 1st Virginia Cavalry. The assignment did not go well for him. His loathing for Stuart grew and one officer wrote that it “ripened afterwards into as genuine hatred as I ever remembered to have seen.” [45] His hatred of Stuart expanded into a hatred for his Lieutenant Colonel, Fitzhugh Lee, who was a close friend of Stuart. Jones was unpopular with the regiment and Lee much admired and the situation became so bad that Jones was reassigned to command the 7th Virginia Cavalry. Jones performed well in this duty, well enough to warrant promotion and he was promoted to Brigadier General in September 1862. The promotion allowed Lee to send Jones to serve in the Shenandoah Valley away from Stuart since their relationship was so toxic and Jones’s hatred of Stuart “bordered on pathological.” [46]

The need for cavalry for the upcoming invasion of Pennsylvania forced Lee to bring Jones and his command back to the Army of Northern Virginia. Stuart expressed his misgiving to Lee but was given no choice in the matter. Since Jones “had the biggest brigade in the division and had the reputation of being the “best outpost officer” [47] Stuart solved his problem by leaving Jones with Robertson to guard the passes of the Blue Ridge.

After Gettysburg Jones clashed again with Stuart over not being recommend for promotion when the division became a corps. The affair was so explosive and Jones reportedly “cursed him venomously” [48] an offense so great that Stuart had him arrested and court-martialed. The court found him guilty, and although Lee had great respect for Jones’s abilities as a brigade commander he wrote to Jefferson Davis:

“I consider General Jones a brave and intelligent officer, but his feelings have become so opposed to General Stuart that I have lost all hope of his being useful in the cavalry here… He has been tried by court-martial for disrespect and the proceedings are now in Richmond. I understand he says he will no longer serve under Stuart and I do not think it advantageous for him to do so.” [49]

Jones was assigned to command in Southwestern Virginia where “organized a cavalry brigade and rendered excellent service.” [50] In June of 1864, his understrength command was defeated and he was killed at the Battle of Piedmont. Douglas Southall Freeman called his death “a tragic end to a tragic life.” [51]

Jenkins

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General Albert G. Jenkins C.S.A.

General Albert G. Jenkins was another anomaly in the Army of Northern Virginia. He was a native of the far western county of Virginia, Cabell County which was one of the six counties to secede from Virginia after Virginia seceded from the Union. He had no previous military training and like many of the Confederate volunteer officers was a lawyer and politician before the war. At the outset of the war he raised a company of volunteer cavalry from that area, which grew to become the 8th Virginia Cavalry.

Jenkins was promoted to Brigadier General and he and three regiments of his brigade were requisitioned by Lee for the invasion of Pennsylvania. The brigade was badly needed but the troops “had not been well schooled in cavalry tactics or in hard fighting at close quarters. Some had the complex of home guards, and some preferred the life of a guerilla to that of a trooper, but many were good raw material” [52] who Lee hoped could be wielded into a good cavalry force.

Jenkins was wounded on July 2nd in an action east of Gettysburg and his brigade was commanded by a subordinate during the final cavalry clash on July 3rd 1863. Jenkins and his brigade returned to the Valley where he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain in May of 1864.

Attached or Staff Officers: Imboden, Pendleton and Trimble

Imboden

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Brigadier General John Imboden C.S.A.

Brigadier General John Imboden commanded a cavalry brigade which operated independently of Stuart’s division during the campaign. Imboden had no prior military experience before the war. He was a graduate of Washington College and a lawyer in Staunton Virginia. He raised a volunteer battery of light artillery, occupied “Harpers Ferry less than thirty hours after Virginia’s secession from the Union.” [53]

Imboden fought at Manassas where he and his battery gave a respectable performance. After Manassas Imboden raised another unit, “the 1st Virginia Partisan Rangers (later called the 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry)” [54] and operated primarily in the valley and western Virginia. His command expanded in size and he was promoted to Brigadier General in January 1862.

His command during the Gettysburg campaign included the 18th Virginia Cavalry, the previously mentioned 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry, a battery of artillery and several other partisan units. Imboden and his unit had been on “irregular, detached duty, and many of his men had recently been recruited, some from the infantry service.[55] Imboden’s “brigade” was “more an assortment of armed riders even more unruly and untrained than Jenkins’ and possessing a well-developed proclivity to rob civilians, especially of their horses.” [56] However, they were useful for foraging and guarding supply bases and wagon trains during the march north. It was of dubious value in fighting “pitched battles with veteran enemy cavalry” [57] and would not be used in that capacity. Lee and Stuart did understand the limitations of such irregular formations.

During the march north Imboden’s command slipped away and when found was discovered to be “resting idly at Hancock Maryland, more than fifty miles from Chambersburg When this became known it was to provoke the wrath of Lee as did few events of the war.” [58] Imboden and his brigade served well during the army’s withdraw from Gettysburg, protecting the wounded and the trains. Overall Imboden was not well respected by Lee, Stuart or Early who he later served under and the brigade was not an effective fighting force. As such Lee sent it back to the Valley after Gettysburg.

Pendleton

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Brigadier General William Pendleton C.S.A. 

Brigadier General William Pendleton graduated fifth in his class at west Point in 1830, in the class behind Robert E. Lee and was commissioned as an artillery officer. He spent little time on active service and spent most of his active duty in hospitals battling the effects of “fever, nausea, and paralyzed limbs from an illness that may have been yellow fever.” [59] He resigned his commission in 1833, became a teacher and then entered the ministry as an Episcopal Priest. He pastored Grace Episcopal Church in Lexington where after John Brown’s raid he was asked to assist and train some men who had formed a battery of artillery. When war came he was elected Captain of the battery and served at First Manassas. Joseph Johnston appointed Pendleton as Chief of Artillery as he does have a certain amount of organizational skill, and “Johnston appointed him to the post more for his administrative ability, not for his tactical control of cannon on the battlefield.” [60]

When Lee took command he kept Pendleton in the position, in large part due to their friendship and spiritual connection as Episcopalians. As an artillery commander Pendleton showed his limitations during the Malvern Hill, Antietam and Chancellorsville, all of which harmed Confederate efforts on the battlefield. A junior officer remarked: “Pendleton is Lee’s weakness…. He is like the elephant, we have him and we don’t know what on earth to do with him, and it costs a devil of a sight to feed him.” [61]

His miserable performance “makes the younger men of the artillery wonder if he has the basic qualities of command.” [62]As such Lee removed him from command and returned him to his staff position and his “impatient subordinates hoped that would sever him from any combat role.” [63] At Gettysburg, Pendleton’s interference in moving the artillery trains to the rear and repositioning batteries without informing Porter Alexander, would again prove harmful to Confederate efforts.

Pendleton’s relationship with Lee, and his impact as a spiritual leader kept him with the army, today it would be argued that such a man should have been the senior chaplain of the army rather than remain in any form of combatant role. He did have a major effect on many leaders and soldiers as a source of spiritual encouragement. In fact, he “played such an invaluable role in the spiritual well-being of the army, travelling throughout the army and offering Divine Liturgy so frequently that Lee was loath to remove him as artillery chief, even when more accomplished and capable officers were available.” [64] A junior officer remarked: Pendleton was with Lee at Appomattox and after the war the two remained close, Pendleton helping to secure Lee’s appointment at Washington College and Lee serving on the vestry of Pendleton’s parish. When Lee died it was Pendleton who conducted the last rights as the family gathered around Lee’s deathbed. [65]

Trimble

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Major General Isaac Trimble C.S.A.

Major General Isaac Trimble was a General without a command. One of the oldest Confederate Generals at Gettysburg, William “Extra Billy” Smith was older, Trimble graduated from West Point in 1822 and served as a lieutenant of artillery for ten years. He resigned in 1832 and spent the years before the war “as engineer for a succession of Eastern and Southern roads then being constructed.” [66] At the time of secession “Trimble was general superintendent of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad, and Marylanders regarded him as one of their most distinguished citizens.” [67] He immediately went to Virginia and was appointed as a Colonel of Engineers and was rapidly promoted to Brigadier General. At First Manassas it was his skill with railroads that enabled the troops from the Valley to join with P.T.G. Beauregard’s forces, it was “an assignment that would have overtaxed the ingenuity of any railroad man.” [68] Likewise, it was the first and last time that the Confederacy would use railroads to their fullest advantage.

Trimble led a brigade of Ewell’s division with great verve and skill during the Valley campaign, during the Seven Days and Cedar Mountain. One officer remarked that “there was enough fight in old man Trimble to satisfy a herd of tigers.” [69] His abilities were such that Stonewall Jackson “had him ticked for future command of his own division.” [70] However his was severely wounded at Second Manassas and still convalescing when Lee named Allegheny Johnson to command Jackson’s old division.

Having recovered Trimble was given command of the forces that were to protect Lee’s supply line in the Shenandoah Valley, but “when he reached his new post he found no troops.” [71] This would have deterred or discouraged many an officer, but Trimble wasted no time and riding alone sought out Lee and reported to the army commander at Chambersburg on June 27th 1863. Lee who admired Trimble’s aggressiveness sent him on to Ewell, who he had previously served under as “as a sort of general officer without portfolio.” [72] The old but fiery general would get his chance in battle commanding Pender’s old division during Pickett’s Charge. Badly wounded in the assault he never commands again. He survived the war and died in 1888.

Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would go into the Gettysburg Campaign with two new and untried corps commanders. Of nine infantry division commanders four were new to division command and another who had never commanded a division in combat. “At brigade level more than one third of the commanders lacked serious combat experience,” [73] of the infantry brigade commanders First Corps was in the best shape with ten of eleven assigned commanders having experience in command at that level, and most were of sound reputation and seasoned by combat. Second Corps was worse off, with six of thirteen assigned brigade commanders new to command, and two of the experienced brigade commanders were not competent to command at that level. Third Corps had nine of its thirteen commanders who had experience as brigade commanders; however, one of them, Brockenbrough was of little value despite being experienced. The Cavalry division too was a mixed bag of solid commanders, especially Wade Hampton but it too suffered its share of less than effective leaders and formations.

Douglas Southall Freeman wrote that the reorganization necessitated by the losses:

“involved an admixture of new units with old, it broke up many associations of long standing, and it placed veteran regiments of a large part of the army under men who were unacquainted with the soldiers and methods of General Lee. The same magnificent infantry were ready to obey Lee’s orders, but many of their superior officers were untried and were nervous in their new responsibilities.” [74]

Had the new commanders had been given a chance to work together in their new command assignments, especially those who had been promoted and or working with new subordinates or superiors before going into action, Lee might have achieved better results. But as Lee told Hood “this army would be invincible if…” In May and June of 1863 Lee did not believe that he had time to do this.

As we know, “if” is the biggest two letter word in the English language, and these men, as Barbara Tuchman noted would be “made bold by the moment, some irresolute, some carefully judicious, some paralyzed and powerless to act.”

[1] Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenants p.34

[2] Davis, Burke J.E.B. Stuart: The Last Cavalier Random House, New York 1957 p.20

[3] Ibid. Tagg The Generals of Gettysburg p.356

[4] Ibid. Davis J.E.B. Stuart p.27

[5] Ibid. Korda Clouds of Glory p.xxv

[6] Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee an abridgment by Richard Harwell, Touchstone Books, New York 1997 p.101

[7] Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenants p.149

[8] Sears, Stephen W. To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York, 1992 p.167

[9] Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenants p.158

[10] Ibid. Wert A Glorious Army p.26

[11] Ibid. Guelzo, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.54

[12] Taylor, Walter. General Lee: His campaigns in Virginia 1861-1865 With Personal Reminiscences University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln Nebraska and London, 1994 previously published 1906 p.92

[13] Ibid. Taylor General Lee p.92

[14] Longacre, Edward G. Gentleman and Soldier: The Extraordinary Life of General Wade Hampton Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville TN 2003 p.83

[15] Ibid. Davis J.E.B. Stuart p.264

[16] Ibid. Girardi. The Civil War Generals p.255

[17] Ibid. Wert A Glorious Army p.198

[18] Ibid. Davis J.E.B. Stuart p.299

[19] Ibid. Longacre, Gentleman and Soldier pp.26-27

[20] Ibid. Longacre, Gentleman and Soldier p.28

[21] Ibid. Longacre, Gentleman and Soldier p.28

[22] Goldfield, David. America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation Bloomsbury Press, New York 2011 p.399

[23] Ibid. Wert A Glorious Army p.64

[24] Ibid. Glatthaar, General Lee’s Army p.352

[25] Ibid. Goldfield, America Aflame p.399

[26] Ibid. Warner Generals in Gray p.123

[27] Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenants p.770

[28] Ibid. Goldfield, America Aflame p.399

[29] Ibid. Longacre, Gentleman and Soldier p.265

[30] Ibid. Longacre, Gentleman and Soldier p.265

[31] Ibid. Longacre, Gentleman and Soldier p.276

[32] Ibid. Tagg The Generals of Gettysburg p.365

[33] Ibid. Warner Generals in Gray p.259

[34] Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenants p.286

[35] Ibid. Davis J.E.B. Stuart p.159

[36] Ibid. Sears. Gettysburg p.57

[37] Ibid. Wert A Glorious Army p.227

[38] Ibid. Warner Generals in Gray p.178

[39] Ibid. Wert A Glorious Army p.64

[40] Ibid. Longacre, Gentleman and Soldier pp.84-85

[41] Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenants p.36

[42] Ibid. Longacre, Gentleman and Soldier p.275

[43] Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenants p.427

[44] Ibid. Davis J.E.B. Stuart p.54

[45] Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenants p.427

[46] Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.15

[47] Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.111

[48] Ibid. Davis J.E.B. Stuart p.352

[49] Ibid. Davis J.E.B. Stuart p.352

[50] Ibid. Warner Generals in Gray p.167

[51] Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenants p.723

[52] Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenants p.532

[53] Brown, Kent Masterson Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, & the Pennsylvania Campaign University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London, 2005 p.81

[54] Ibid. Warner Generals in Gray p.147

[55] Ibid. Freeman Lee p.306

[56] Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.17

[57] Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.17

[58] Ibid. Freeman Lee p.551

[59] Ibid. Tagg The Generals of Gettysburg p.371

[60] Ibid. Wert A Glorious Army p.16

[61] Ibid. Tagg The Generals of Gettysburg p.373

[62] Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenants p.35

[63] Ibid. Sears. Gettysburg p.57

[64] Ibid. Glatthaar, General Lee’s Army p.239

[65] Ibid. Thomas Robert E. Lee p.415

[66] Ibid. Warner Generals in Gray p.147

[67] Ibid. Dowdy. Lee and His Men at Gettysburg p.129

[68] Ibid. Freeman Lee p.173

[69] Ibid. Pfanz Ewell p.152

[70] Ibid. Dowdy. Lee and His Men at Gettysburg p.129

[71] Ibid. Dowdy. Lee and His Men at Gettysburg p.129

[72] Ibid. Dowdy. Lee and His Men at Gettysburg p.130

[73] Ibid. Wert A Glorious Army p.217

[74] Ibid. Freeman Lee p.306

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The Ideological & Religious Foundations of the American Civil War

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

This is another chapter of my Gettysburg text in which I lay out the ideological foundations of the Civil War. These are important not only to understand that war, but also to shed light on ongoing controversies in our own time in the United States, as well as understanding civil wars and conflicts in other nations.

Peace

Padre Steve+

slave-back

“At length on 12th April, the tension could no longer bear the strain. Contrary to instructions, in the morning twilight, and when none could see clearly what the historic day portended, the Confederates in Charleston bombarded Fort Sumter, and the thunder of their guns announced that the argument of a generation should be decided by the ordeal of war. A war, not between two antagonistic political parties, but a struggle to the death between two societies, each championing a different civilization…” [1]

One can never separate war and the means by which it is fought from its political ends. War according to Clausewitz is an extension or continuation of politics. When the motivation behind those politics becomes more extreme and powerful, when the politics becomes more than disagreement, but where the ideologies behind the politics evokes hatred between peoples, war can come close to reaching the abstract concept of absolute or total war . Clausewitz wrote:

“The more powerful and inspiring the motives for war, the more they affect the belligerent nations and the fiercer the tensions that precede the outbreak, the closer will war approach its abstract concept, the more important will be the destruction of the enemy, the more closely will the military and the political objects of war coincide, and the more military and less political will war appear to be….” [2]

The American Civil War was the first modern war based on the advancement of technology and the changing character of war. But it was also a modern war which reached back to the most primal urges of the people involved. It was caused by the clash of radically different ideologies, ideologies which championed two very different views of civilization, government, economics and the rights of people. “Like the total wars of the twentieth century, it was preceded by years of violent propaganda, which long before the war had obliterated all sense of moderation, and had awakened in the contending parties the primitive spirit of tribal fanaticism.” [3] It was preceded by the fracturing of political parties and alliances which had worked for compromise in the previous decades to preserve the Union even at the cost of maintaining slavery. Far from being irrational as some have posited, the actions and behavior of politicians in both the North and the South was completely rational based on their conflicting ideologies and views of their opponents. The “South’s fears of territorial and economic strangulation and the North’s fears of a “slave power” conspiracy are anything but irrational, and only someone who refuses to think through the evidence available to Americans in the 1850s would find either of them at all illogical.” [4]

The very realistic fears of both sides brought about clash of extremes in politics which defied efforts at compromise and was already resulting in violent and bloody conflicts between ideologues in Kansas, Missouri and Kentucky years before the firing on Fort Sumter. For both sides their views became a moral cause that bordered on religious faith. British theorist and military historian J.F.C. Fuller wrote of it:

“As a moral issue, the dispute acquired a religious significance, state rights becoming wrapped up in a politico-mysticism, which defying definition, could be argued for ever without any hope of a final conclusion being reached.” [5]

That is why it impossible to simply examine the military campaigns and battles of the Civil War in isolation from the politics, polices, and the competing philosophy and theology which undergirded the arguments of both sides that brought on the war.

Some might wonder where this fits in a text that is about a specific campaign and battle in a war, but for those entrusted with planning national defense and conducting military campaign the understanding of why wars are fought, in particular the ideological causes of war matter in ways that military planners, commanders and even elected political leadership often overlook. Colin Gray notes: “Wars are not free floating events, sufficient unto themselves as objects for study and understanding. Instead, they are entirely the product of their contexts they are entirely the product of their contexts.” [6]

Studying the context of the American Civil War is very important in understanding not just it, but also civil wars in other nations which are currently raging. The study of these contexts brings an American or Western historical perspective to those wars, not so much in trying to place a western template over non-western conflicts; but a human perspective from our own past from which we can gain insight into how the people, even people who share a common language, religion and history, can war against each other in the most brutal of fashions.

For American and western political and military policy makers this is particularly important in Iraq where many Americans have fought, and the related civil war in Syria which has brought about the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Thus the study of the American Civil War, from the cultural, economic, social and religious aspects which divided the nation, helps us to understand how those factors influence politics, policy and the primal passions of the people which drive them to war.

The political ends of the Civil War came out of the growing cultural, economic, ideological and religious differences between the North and South that had been widening since the 1830s. The growing economic disparity between the Slave and Free states became more about the expansion of slavery in federal territories as disunion and war approached; for a number of often competing reasons. These differences were amplified by the issue of slavery led to the substitution of stereotypes of each other and had the “effect of changing men’s attitudes toward the disagreements which are always certain to arise in politics: ordinary, resolvable disputes were converted into questions of principle, involving rigid, unnegotiable dogma.” [7]

This was driven both by the South’s insistence on both maintaining slavery where it was already legal and expanding it into new territories which was set against the vocal abolitionist movement and the even more powerful economic concerns of many Northern industrialists who were not so idealistic, and much more concerned with “economic policy designed to secure Northern domination of Western lands than the initial step in a broad plan to end slavery.” [8]

This completion between the regions not only affected politics, it affected religion and culture In the South it produced a growing culture of victimhood which is manifest in the words of Robert Toombs who authored Georgia’s declaration of causes for secession:

“For twenty years past, the Abolitionists and their allies in the Northern states, have been engaged in constant efforts to subvert our institutions, and to excite insurrection and servile war among us…” whose “avowed purpose is to subject our society, subject us, not only to the loss of our property but the destruction of ourselves, our wives and our children, and the dissolution of our homes, our altars, and our firesides.” [9]

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As the differences grew and tensions rose the South became ever more closed off from the North. “More than other Americans, Southerners developed a sectional identity outside the national mainstream. The Southern life style tended to contradict the national norm in ways that life styles of other sections did not.” [10] The complex relationship of Southern society where the “Southern bodies social, economic, intellectual, and political were decidedly comingled” [11] and politics of the South came more to embrace the need for slavery and its importance, even to poor whites in the South who it did not benefit and actually harmed economically: “the system of subordination reached out still further to require a certain kind of society, one in which certain questions were not publically discussed. It must give blacks no hope of cultivating dissention among the whites. It must commit nonslaveholders to the unquestioning support of racial subordination….In short, the South became increasingly a closed society, distrustful of isms from outside and unsympathetic to dissenters. Such were the pervasive consequences of giving top priority to the maintenance of a system of racial subordination.” [12]

Liberator.JPG

Southern planters declared war on all critics of their “particular institution” beginning in the 1820s. As Northern abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and his newspaper The Liberator grew in its distribution and began to appear in the South various elected officials throughout the South “suppressed antislavery books, newspapers, lectures, and sermons and strove generally to deny critics of bondage access to any public forum.[13] In response to the proliferation of abolitionist literature in the South, John C. Calhoun proposed that Congress pass a law to prosecute “any postmaster who would “knowingly receive or put into the mail any pamphlet, newspaper, handbill, or any printed, written, or pictorial representation touching the subject of slavery.” [14] Beginning in 1836 the House of Representatives passed a “gag rule” which “banned all petitions, memorials, resolutions, propositions, or papers related in any way or to any extent whatever to the subject of slavery.” [15] This was challenged by former President John Quincy Adams in 1842 as well as by others so that in 1844 the House voted to rescind it. However Southern politicians “began to spout demands that the federal government and the Northern states issue assurances that the abolitionists would never be allowed to tamper with what John Calhoun had described as the South’s “peculiar domestic institution.” [16] The issue of slavery more than any other “transformed political action from a process of accommodation to a mode of combat.” [17]

Around the same time as the gag rule was played out in Congress the Supreme Court had ruled that the Federal government alone “had jurisdiction where escaped slaves were concerned” which resulted in several states enacting “personal liberty laws” to “forbid their own elected officials from those pursuing fugitives.” Southern politicians at the federal and state levels reacted strongly to these moves which they believed to be an assault on their institutions and their rights to their human property. Virginia legislators said these laws were a “disgusting and revolting exhibition of faithless and unconstitutional legislation.” [18]

The issue of slavery shaped political debate and “structured and polarized many random, unoriented points of conflict on which sectional interest diverged.” [19] As the divide grew leaders and people in both the North and the South began to react to the most distorted images of each other imaginable- “the North to an image of a southern world of lascivious and sadistic slave drivers; the South to the image of a northern world of cunning Yankee traders and radical abolitionists plotting slave insurrections.” [20]

ruffin

Edmund Ruffin

Among the people most enraged by Northern opposition to slavery was Edmund Ruffin. Ruffin was a very successful farm paper editor, plantation owner and ardent old line secessionist from Virginia. In 1860 the then 67 year old Ruffin helped change the world forever when, according to popular legend he pulled the lanyard which fired the first shot at Fort Sumter. While he was there and probably was given the honor of firing the first shot from his battery; other guns from other emplacements may have fired first. [21]

Ruffin was a radical ideologue, he had been passionately arguing for secession and Southern independence for fifteen years. Ruffin “perceived the planter civilization of the South in peril; the source of the peril was “Yankee” and union with “Yankees.” Thus he preached revolution, Ruffin was a rebel with a cause, a secular prophet…” [22] He was a type of man who understood reality far better than some of the more moderate oligarchs that populated the Southern political and social elite. While in the years leading up to the war these men, including John Calhoun attempted to secure the continued existence and spread of slavery within the Union through the Congress and the courts, as early as 1850, Ruffin recognized that in order for slavery to survive the slaveholding South would have to secede from the Union. Ruffin and other radical secessionists believed that there could be no compromise with the north. In 1850 he and James Hammond attempted to use a meeting in Nashville to “secure Cooperative State Secession and wrote to Hammond, against those who sought to use the meeting to preserve the Union, “If the Convention does not open the way to dissolution…I hope it shall never meet.” [23] He believed that in order to maintain the institution of slavery the slave holding states that those states had to be independent from the North.

Ruffin’s views were not unique to him, the formed the basis of how most slave owners and supporters felt about slavery’s economic benefits, Ruffin wrote:

“Still, even this worst and least profitable kind of slavery (the subjection of equals and men of the same race with their masters) served as the foundation and the essential first cause of all the civilization and refinement, and improvement of arts and learning, that distinguished the oldest nations. Except where the special Providence and care of God may have interposed to guard a particular family and its descendants, there was nothing but the existence of slavery to prevent any race or society in a state of nature from sinking into the rudest barbarism. And no people could ever have been raised from that low condition without the aid and operation of slavery, either by some individuals of the community being enslaved, by conquest and subjugation, in some form, to a foreign and more enlightened people.”[24]

The Ante-Bellum South was an agrarian society which depended on the free labor provided by slaves and in a socio-political sense it was an oligarchy that offered no freedom to slaves, openly discriminated against free blacks and provided little hope of social or economic advancement for poor and middle class whites.

Over a period of a few decades, Northern states abolished slavery in the years after the United States had gained independence.

The South tied its economy and society to the institution of slavery, and was not content to see it remain just in the original states of the Old South.

The expansion of slavery was essential to its continued maintenance in the states where it was already legal. “Because of the need to maintain a balance in the Senate, check unruly slaves, and cultivate fertile soils, many planters and small plantation owners- particularly those living in the southern districts of the cotton states- asserted that their survival depended on new territory.” [25] In those decades “a huge involuntary migration took place. Between 800,000 and 1 million slaves were moved westward….” [26]

The need for slaves caused prices to soar. In some older states like Virginia where fewer slaves were required the exportation of slaves became a major industry:

“male slaves were marched in coffles of forty or fifty, handcuffed to each other in pairs, with a long chain through the handcuffs passing down the column to keep it together, closely guarded by mounted slave traders followed by an equal number of female slaves and their children. Most of them were taken to Wheeling, Virginia, the “busiest slave port” in the United States, and from there they were transported by steamboat to New Orleans, Natchez, and Memphis.” [27]

In the years the before the war, the North embraced the Industrial Revolution leading to advances which gave it a marked economic advantage over the South. The population of the North also expanded at a clip that far outpaced the South as European immigrants swelled the population.

The divide was not helped by the various compromises worked out between northern and southern legislators. After the Missouri Compromise Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. It is hushed indeed for the moment, but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. A geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.”[28]

The trigger for the increase in tensions was the war with Mexico in which the United States annexed nearly half of Mexico. The new territories were viewed by those who advocated the expansion of slavery as fresh and fertile ground for its spread. Ulysses S Grant noted the effects of the war with Mexico in his memoirs:

“In taking military possession of Texas after annexation, the army of occupation, under General [Zachary] Taylor, was directed to occupy the disputed territory.  The army did not stop at the Nueces and offer to negotiate for a settlement of the boundary question, but went beyond, apparently in order to force Mexico to initiate war….To us it was an empire and of incalculable value; but it might have been obtained by other means.  The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war.”[29]

In the North a strident abolitionist movement took root. It developed during the 1830s in New England as a fringe movement among the more liberal elites, inspired by the preaching of revivalist preacher Charles Finney who “demanded a religious conversion with a political potential more radical than the preacher first intended.” [30] Finney’s preaching was emboldened and expanded by the American Anti-Slavery Society founded by William Lloyd Garrison “which launched a campaign to change minds, North and South, with three initiatives, public speeches, mass mailings and petitions.” [31] Many of the speakers were seminary students and graduates of Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, who became known as “the Seventy” who received training and then “fanned out across the North campaigning in New England, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan[32] where many received hostile receptions, and encountered violence. Garrison used his newspaper, The Liberator to “pledge an all-out attack on U.S. slavery.” [33]

The abolition movement aimed to not only stop the spread of slavery but to abolish it. The latter was something that many in the North who opposed slavery’s expansion were often either not in favor of, or indifferent to. The movement was a boost by the huge popularity of Harriett Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin “a vivid, highly imaginative, best-selling, and altogether damning indictment of slavery” [34] the abolitionist movement gained steam and power and “raised a counterindignation among Southerners because they thought Mrs. Stowe’s portrait untrue…” [35] The images in Stowe’s book “were irredeemably hostile: from now on the Southern stereotype was something akin to Simon Legree.” [36]

The leaders of the Abolitionist movement who had fought hard against acts the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott decision were now beginning to be joined by a Northern population that was becoming less tolerant of slavery and the status quo. With the formation of the Republican Party in 1854, a party founded on opposition to the expansion of slavery in the territories found a formidable political voice and became part of a broad coalition of varied interests groups whose aspirations had been blocked by pro-slavery Democrats. These included “agrarians demanding free-homestead legislation, Western merchants desiring river and harbor improvements at federal expense, Pennsylvania ironmasters and New England textile merchants in quest of higher tariffs.” They also made headway in gaining the support of immigrants, “especially among the liberal, vocal, fiercely anti-slavery Germans who had recently fled the Revolution of 1848.” [37] One of those German immigrants, Carl Schurz observed that “the slavery question” was “not a mere occasional quarrel between two sections of the country, divided by a geographic line” but “a great struggle between two antagonistic systems of social organization.” [38]

In light of the threat posed to slavery by the emerging abolitionist movement forced slaveholders to shift their defense of slavery from it being simply a necessary evil. Like in the North where theology was at the heart of many abolitionist arguments, in the South theology was used to enshrine and defend the institution of slavery. The religiously based counter argument was led by the former Governor of South Carolina, John Henry Hammond. Hammond’s arguments included biblical justification of blacks being biologically inferior to whites and slavery being supported in the Old Testament where the “Hebrews often practiced slavery” and in the New testament where “Christ never denounced servitude.” [39] Hammond warned:

“Without white masters’ paternalistic protection, biologically inferior blacks, loving sleep above all and “sensual excitements of all kinds when awake” would first snooze, then wander, then plunder, then murder, then be exterminated and reenslaved.” [40]

Others in the South, including politicians, pundits and preachers “were preaching “that slavery was an institution sanction by God, and that even blacks profited from it, for they had been snatched out of pagan and uncivilized Africa and been given the advantages of the gospel.” [41]

Slave owners frequently expressed hostility to independent black churches and conducted violence against them, and “attacks on clandestine prayer meetings were not arbitrary. They reflected the assumption (as one Mississippi slave put it) “that when colored people were praying [by themselves] it was against them.” [42] But some Southern blacks accepted the basic tenets do slave owner-planter sponsored Christianity. Douglass wrote “many good, religious colored people who were under the delusion that God required them to submit to slavery and wear their chains with weakness and humility.” [43]

furman

The political and cultural rift began to affect entire church denominations, beginning with the Methodists who in “1844 the Methodist General Conference condemned the bishop of Georgia for holding slaves, the church split and the following year saw the birth of the Methodist Episcopal Church.” The Baptists were next, when the Foreign Mission Board “refused to commission a candidate who had been recommended by the Georgia Baptist Convention, on the ground that he owned slaves” [44] resulting in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Baptist split is interesting because until the early 1800s there existed a fairly strong anti-slavery movement in states such as Kentucky, while in 1790 the General Committee of Virginia “adopted a statement calling slavery “a violent deprivation of the rights of nature, and inconsistent with a republican government; and therefore [we] recommend it to our brethren to make use of every legal measure, to extirpate the horrid evil from the land.” [45] However, in many parts of the Deep South there existed no such sentiment and in South Carolina noted Baptist preachers including “Richard Furman, Peter Bainbridge, and Edmund Botsford were among the larger slaveholders.” [46] Furman wrote a defense of slavery in 1822 where he made the argument that “the right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures by precept and example.” [47] After a number of slave uprisings, including the Nat Turner Revolt in Virginia, pro-slavery voices “tended to silence any remaining antislavery voices in the South.” [48] These voices grew more ever more strident and in 1835 the Charleston Association “adopted a militant defense of slavery, sternly chastising abolitionists as “mistaken philanthropists, and denuded and mischievous fanatics.” [49] Those who met in Augusta Georgia to found the new Southern Baptist Convention indicated that “the division was “painful” but necessary because” our brethren have pressed upon every inch of our privileges and our sacred rights.” [50] Since the Baptist split was brought about by the refusal of the Triennial Convention to appoint slaveholders as foreign missionaries the new convention emphasized the theological nature of their decision:

“Our objects, then, are the extension of the Messiah’s kingdom, and the glory of God. Not disunion with any of his people; not the upholding of any form of civil rights; but God’s glory, and Messiah’s increasing reign; in the promotion of which, we find no necessity for relinquishing any of our civil rights. We will never interfere with what is Caesar’s. We will not compromit what is God’s.” [51]

Of course what was Caesar’s was obviously the institution of slavery.

The last denomination to split was the Presbyterians in 1861 who, “reflecting the division of the nation, the Southern presbyteries withdrew from the Presbyterian Church and founded their own denomination.” [52] Southern churches and church leaders were among the most enthusiastic voices for disunion and secession. The preachers who had called for separation from their own national denominations years before the war now “summoned their congregations to leave the foul Union and then to cleanse their world.” [53] The Reverend William Leacock of Christ Church, New Orleans declared in his Thanksgiving sermon “Our enemies…have “defamed” our characters, “lacerated” our feelings, “invaded “our rights, “stolen” our property, and let “murderers…loose upon us, stimulated by weak or designing or infidel preachers. With “the deepest and blackest malice,” they have “proscribed” us “as unworthy members… of the society of men and accursed before God.” Unless we sink to “craven” beginning that they “not disturb us,…nothing is now left us but secession.” [54]

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Bishop and General Leonidas Polk

From “the beginning of the war southern churches of all sorts with few exceptions promoted the cause militant” [55] and supported war efforts. Bishop Leonidas Polk, the Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana, who had been a classmate of Jefferson Davis at West Point was commissioned as a Major General and appointed to command the troops in the Mississippi Valley. Polk did not resign his ecclesiastical office, and “Northerners expressed horror at such sacrilege, but Southerners were delighted with this transfer from the Army of the Lord.” [56] Lee’s chief of Artillery Brigadier General William Pendleton was also an academy graduate and an Episcopal Priest. By its donations of “everything from pew cushions to brass bells, Southern churches gave direct material aid to the cause. Among all the institutions in Southern life, perhaps the church most faithfully served the Confederate Army and nation.” [57]

Sadly, the denominational rifts persisted until well into the twentieth century. The Presbyterians and Methodists both eventually reunited but the Baptists did not, and eventually “regional isolation, war bitterness, and differing emphasis in theology created chasms by the end of the century which leaders of an earlier generation could not have contemplated.” [58] The Southern Baptist Convention is now the largest Protestant denomination in the United States and many of its preachers are active in often divisive conservative social and political causes. The denomination that it split from, the American Baptist Convention, though much smaller remains a diverse collection of conservative and progressive local churches. Some of these are still in the forefront of the modern civil rights movement, including voting rights, women’s rights and LGBT issues, all of which find some degree of opposition in the Southern Baptist Convention.

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Dred Scott

As the 1850s wore on the divisions over slavery became deeper and voices of moderation retreated. The trigger for the for the worsening of the division was the political battle regarding the expansion of slavery, even the status of free blacks in the north who were previously slaves, over whom their owners asserted their ownership. Southerners considered the network to help fugitive slaves escape to non-slave states, called the Underground Railroad “an affront to the slaveholders pride” and “anyone who helped a man or woman escape bondage was simply a thief” who had robbed them of their property and livelihood, as an “adult field hand could cost as much as $2000, the equivalent of a substantial house.” [59]

In 1856 the Supreme Court, dominated by southern Democrats ruled in favor of southern views in the Dred Scott decision one pillar of which gave slavery the right to expand by denying to Congress the power to prohibit slavery in Federal territories. The decision was momentous but it was a failure, but it was a disaster for the American people. It solved nothing and further divided the nation:

“In the South, for instance, it encouraged southern rights advocates to believe that their utmost demands were legitimatized by constitutional sanction and, therefore, to stiffen their insistence upon their “rights.” In the North, on the other hand, it strengthened a conviction that an aggressive slavocracy was conspiring to impose slavery upon the nation, and that any effort to reach an accommodation with such aggressors was futile. While strengthening the extremists, it cut the ground from under the moderates.” [60]

The decision in the case is frightening when one looks upon its tenor and implications. The majority opinion which was written by Chief Justice Roger Taney was chilling, not only in its views of race, but the fact that blacks were perpetually property without the rights of citizens. Taney wrote:

“Can a negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guaranteed by that instrument to the citizen?…It is absolutely certain that the African race were not included under the name of citizens of a state…and that they were not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word “citizens” in the Constitution, and therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remain subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them” [61]

The effect of the ruling on individuals and the states was far reaching. “No territorial government in any federally administered territory had the authority to alter the status of a white citizen’s property, much less to take that property out of a citizen’s hands, without due process of law or as punishment for some crime.” [62] Free slaves were no longer safe, even in Free States from the possibility of being returned to slavery, because they were property.

But the decision had been influenced by President-Elect James Buchanan’s secret intervention in the Supreme Court deliberations two weeks before his inauguration. Buchanan hoped by working with the Justices that he save the Union from breaking apart by appeasing slave owners and catering to their agenda. “The president-elect wanted to know not only when, but if the Court would save the new administration and the Union from the issue of slavery in the territories. Would the judges thankfully declare the explosive subject out of bounds, for everyone who exerted federal power? The shattering question need never bother President Buchanan.” [63] In his inaugural address he attempted to camouflage his intervention and “declared that the Court’s decision, whatever it turned out to be, would settle the slavery issue forever.” [64]

But Buchanan was mistaken, the case made the situation even more volatile as it impaired “the power of Congress- a power which had remained intact to this time- to occupy the middle ground.” [65] Taney’s decision held that Congress “never had the right to limit slavery’s expansion, and that the Missouri Compromise had been null and void on the day of its formulation.” [66]

The decision ignited a firestorm in the north where Republicans now led by Abraham Lincoln decried the decision and southerners basked in their judicial victory. Northerners quite rightly feared that an activist court would rule to deny their states the right to forbid slavery. As early as 1854 Lincoln posed the idea that the Declaration of Independence was “the standard maxim of free society …constantly spreading and deepening its influence,” ultimately applicable “to peoples of all colors everywhere.” [67]

But after the Dred Scott decision Lincoln warned that the Declaration was being cheapened and diluted. Not only that, Lincoln asked the logical question regarding Taney’s judicial activism. How long would it be, asked Abraham Lincoln, before the Court took the next logical step and ruled explicitly that:

“the Constitution of the United States does not permit a state to exclude slavery from its limits?” How far off was the day when “we shall lie down pleasantly thinking that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free; and shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State?” [68]

Lincoln discussed the ramification of the ruling for blacks, both slave and free:

“to aid in making the bondage of the Negro universal and eternal….All the powers of the earth seem rapidly combining against him. Mammon is after him; ambition follows, and philosophy follows, and the theology of the day is fast joining the cry. They have him in his prison house;…One after another they have closed the heavy doors upon him…and they stand musing as to what invention, in all the dominions of mind and matter, can be produced the impossibility of his escape more complete than it is.” [69]

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Jefferson Davis

In response to the decision the advocates of the expansion of slavery not only insisted on its westward expansion in Federal territories but to Panama, Nicaragua and Cuba as well. In 1857 Jefferson Davis further provoked northern ire when he insisted that “African Slavery as it exists in the United States is a moral, a social, and a political blessing.” [70]

Southern leaders poured political, human and economic capital into the struggle for the imposition of slavery on the Kansas Territory. Victory in Kansas meant “two new U.S. Senators for the South. If a free labor Kansas triumphed, however, the North would gain four senators: Kansas’s immediately and Missouri’s soon.” [71]

Rich Southerners recruited poor whites to fight their battles to promote the institution of slavery. Jefferson Buford of Alabama recruited hundreds of non-slaveholding whites to move to Kansas. Buford claimed to defend “the supremacy of the white race” he called Kansas “our great outpost” and warned that “a people who would not defend their outposts had already succumbed to the invader.” [72] To this end he and 415 volunteers went to Kansas, where they gained renown and infamy as members of “Buford’s Cavalry.” The day they left Montgomery they were given a sendoff. Each received a Bible, and the “holy soldiers elected Buford as their general. Then they paraded onto the steamship Messenger, waving banners conveying Buford’s twin messages: “The Supremacy of the White Race” and “Kansas the Outpost.” [73] His effort ultimately failed but he had proved that “Southern poor men would kill Yankees to keep blacks ground under.” [74]

The issue in Kansas was bloody and full of political intrigue over the Lecompton Constitution which allowed slavery, but which had been rejected by a sizable majority of Kansas residents, so much so that Kansas would not be admitted to the Union until after the secession of the Deep South. But the issue so galvanized the North that for the first time a coalition of “Republicans and anti-Lecompton Douglas Democrats, Congress had barely turned back a gigantic Slave Power Conspiracy to bend white men’s majoritarianism to slavemaster’s dictatorial needs, first in Kansas, then in Congress.” [75]

Taking advantage of the judicial ruling Davis and his supporters in Congress began to bring about legislation not just to ensure that Congress could not “exclude slavery” but to protect it in all places and all times. They sought a statute that would explicitly guarantee “that slave owners and their property would be unmolested in all Federal territories.” This was commonly known in the south as the doctrine of positive protection, designed to “prevent a free-soil majority in a territory from taking hostile action against a slave holding minority in their midst.” [76]

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Abraham Lincoln

Other extremists in the Deep South had been long clamoring for the reopening of the African slave trade. In 1856 a delegate at the 1856 commercial convention insisted that “we are entitled to demand the opening of this trade from an industrial, political, and constitutional consideration….With cheap negroes we could set hostile legislation at defiance. The slave population after supplying the states would overflow to the territories, and nothing could control its natural expansion.” [77] and in 1858 the “Southern Commercial Convention…” declared that “all laws, State and Federal, prohibiting the African slave trade, out to be repealed.” [78] The extremists knowing that such legislation would not pass in Congress then pushed harder; instead of words they took action.

In 1858 there took place two incidents that brought this to the fore of political debate. The schooner Wanderer owned by Charles Lamar successfully delivered a cargo of four hundred slaves to Jekyll Island, earning him “a large profit.” [79] Then the USS Dolphin captured “the slaver Echo off Cuba and brought 314 Africans to the Charleston federal jail.” [80] The case was brought to a grand jury who had first indicted Lamar were so vilified that “they published a bizarre recantation of their action and advocated the repeal of the 1807 law prohibiting the slave trade. “Longer to yield to a sickly sentiment of pretended philanthropy and diseased mental aberration of “higher law” fanatics…” [81] Thus in both cases juries and judges refused to indict or convict those responsible.

There arose in the 1850s a second extremist movement in the Deep South, this one which had at its heart the mission to re-enslave free blacks. This effort was not limited to fanatics, but entered the Southern political mainstream, to the point that numerous state legislatures were nearly captured by majorities favoring such action. [82] That movement which had appeared out of nowhere soon fizzled, as did the bid to reopen the slave trade, but these “frustrations left extremists the more on the hunt for a final solution” [83] which would ultimately be found in secession.

Previously a man of moderation Lincoln laid out his views in the starkest terms in his House Divided speech given on June 16th 1858. Lincoln understood, possibly with more clarity than others of his time that the divide over slavery was deep and that the country could not continue to exist while two separate systems contended with one another. The Union Lincoln “would fight to preserve was not a bundle of compromises that secured the vital interests of both slave states and free, …but rather, the nation- the single, united, free people- Jefferson and his fellow Revolutionaries supposedly had conceived and whose fundamental principles were now being compromised.” [84] He was to the point and said in clear terms what few had ever said before, in language which even some in his own Republican Party did not want to use because they felt it was too divisive:

“If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.” [85]

Part of the divide was rooted in how each side understood the Constitution. For the South it was a compact among the various states, or rather “only a league of quasi independent states that could be terminated at will” [86] and in their interpretation States Rights was central. In fact “so long as Southerners continued to believe that northern anti-slavery attacks constituted a real and present danger to Southern life and property, then disunion could not be ruled out as an ugly last resort.” [87]

But such was not the view in the North, “for devout Unionists, the Constitution had been framed by the people rather than created as a compact among the states. It formed a government, as President Andrew Jackson insisted of the early 1830s, “in which all the people are represented, which operates directly on the people individually, not upon the States.” [88] Lincoln like many in the North understood the Union that “had a transcendent, mystical quality as the object of their patriotic devotion and civil religion.” [89]

Lincoln’s beliefs can be seen in the Gettysburg Address where he began his speech with the words “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…” To Lincoln and others the word disunion “evoked a chilling scenario within which the Founders’ carefully constructed representative government failed, triggering “a nightmare, a tragic cataclysm” that would subject Americans to the kind of fear and misery that seemed to pervade the rest of the world.” [90]

Those same beliefs were found throughout the leaders of the Abolition movement, including Theodore Parker who said “The first [step] is to establish Slavery in all of the Northern States- the Dred Scott decision has already put it in all the territories….I have no doubt The Supreme Court will make the [subsequent] decisions.[91]

Even in the South there was a desire for the Union and a fear over its dissolution, even among those officers like Robert E. Lee who would resign his commission and take up arms against the Union in defense of his native state. Lee wrote to his son Custis in January 1861, “I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than the dissolution of the Union…I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation…Secession is nothing but revolution.” But he added “A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets has no charms for me….” [92] The difference between Lee and others like him and Abraham Lincoln was how they viewed the Union, views which were fundamentally opposed.

In the North there too existed an element of fanaticism. While “the restraining hand of churches, political parties and familial concerns bounded other antislavery warriors,” [93] and while most abolitionists tried to remain in the mainstream and work through legislation and moral persuasion to halt the expansion of slavery with the ultimate goal of emancipation, there were fanatical abolitionists that were willing to attempt to ignite the spark which would cause the powder keg of raw hatred and emotion to explode.

Most prominent among these men was John Brown. Brown was a “Connecticut-born abolitionist…a man with the selfless benevolence of the evangelicals wrought into a fiery determination to crush slavery” [94] who as early as 1834 was “an ardent sympathizer the Negroes” desiring to raise a black child in his own home and to “offering guidance to a colony of Negroes on the farm of the wealthy abolitionist Gerrit Smith at North Elba New York.” [95] Brown regarded moderate free-staters with distain and in Kansas set about to change the equation when he and a company of his marauders set upon and slaughtered the family of a pro-slavery settler at Pottawatomie Creek. [96]

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John Brown

Brown was certainly “a religious zealot…but was nevertheless every much the product of his time and place….” [97] Brown was a veteran of the violent battles in Kansas where he had earned the reputation as “the apostle of the sword of Gideon” as he and his men battled pro-slavery settlers. Brown was possessed by the belief that God had appointed him as “God’s warrior against slaveholders.” [98] He despised the peaceful abolitionists and demanded action. “Brave, unshaken by doubt, willing to shed blood unflinchingly and to die for his cause if necessary, Brown was the perfect man to light the tinder of civil war in America, which was what he intended to do.” [99]

Brown’s attempt to seize 10,000 muskets at the Federal armory in Harper’s Ferry Virginia in order to ignite a slave revolt was frustrated and Brown captured, by a force of U.S. Marines led by Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart. Brown was tried and hung, but his raid “effectively severed the country into two opposing parts, making it clear to moderates there who were searching for compromise, that northerner’s tolerance for slavery was wearing thin.” [100]

It now did not matter that Brown was captured, tried, convicted and executed for his raid on Harper’s Ferry. He was to be sure was “a half-pathetic, half-mad failure, his raid a crazy, senseless exploit to which only his quiet eloquence during trial and execution lent dignity” [101] but his act was the watershed from which the two sides would not be able to recover, the population on both sides having gone too far down the road to disunion to turn back.

Brown had tremendous support among the New England elites, the “names of Howe, Parker, Emerson and Thoreau among his supporters.” [102] To abolitionists he had become a martyr “but to Frederick Douglass and the negroes of Chatham, Ontario, nearly every one of whom had learned something from personal experience on how to gain freedom, Brown was a man of words trying to be a man of deeds, and they would not follow him. They understood him, as Thoreau and Emerson and Parker never did.” [103]

But to Southerners Brown was the symbol of an existential threat to their way of life. In the North there was a nearly religious wave of sympathy for Brown, and the “spectacle of devout Yankee women actually praying for John Brown, not as a sinner but as saint, of respectable thinkers like Thoreau and Emerson and Longfellow glorifying his martyrdom in Biblical language” [104] horrified Southerners, and drove pro-Union Southern moderates into the secession camp.

The crisis continued to fester and when Lincoln was elected to the Presidency in November 1860 with no southern states voting Republican the long festering volcano erupted. It did not take long before southern states began to secede from the Union. South Carolina was first, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Many of the declarations of causes for secession made it clear that slavery was the root cause. The declaration of South Carolina is typical of these and is instructive of the basic root cause of the war:

“all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.”[105]

Throughout the war slavery loomed large. In his First Inaugural Address Lincoln noted: “One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.”[106] Of course he was right, and his southern opponents agreed.

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Alexander Stephens

Alexander Stephens the Vice President of the Confederacy noted in his Cornerstone Speech of March 21st 1861 that: “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”[107]

Thus the American ideological war was born, as J.F.C. Fuller wrote:

After the bloody battle of Antietam, Lincoln published the emancipation proclamation in which he proclaimed the emancipation of slaves located in the Rebel states, and that proclamation had more than a social and domestic political effect, it ensured that Britain would not intervene.

In his Second Inaugural Address Lincoln discussed the issue of slavery as being the cause of the war:

“One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”[108]

When Edmund Ruffin pulled the lanyard of the cannon that fired the first shot at Fort Sumter it marked the end of an era and despite Ruffin, Stephens and Davis’ plans gave birth to what Lincoln would describe as “a new birth of freedom.”

When the war ended with the Confederacy defeated and the south in ruins, Ruffin still could not abide the result. In a carefully crafted suicide note he sent to his son the bitter and hate filled old man wrote on June 14th 1865:

“… And now with my latest writing and utterance, and with what will be near my last breath, I here repeat and would willingly proclaim my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule — to all political, social and business connections with Yankees, and the perfidious, malignant and vile Yankee race.” [109]

Though Ruffin was dead in the coming years the southern states would again find themselves under the governance of former secessionists who were unabashed white supremacists. By 1877 many southerners we taking as much pride in the “Lost Cause” as Northerners took in Appomattox.[110] This led to nearly a hundred more years of effective second class citizenship for now free blacks who were often deprived of the vote and forced into “separate but equal” public and private facilities, schools and recreational activities. The Ku Klux Klan and other violent organizations harassed, intimidated, persecuted and used violence against blacks. Lynching was common and even churches were not safe. It would not be until the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s that blacks would finally begin to gain the same rights enjoyed by whites in most of the south.

Ruffin outlived Lincoln who was killed by the assassin John Wilkes Booth on April 14th 1864. However the difference between the two men was marked. In his Second Inaugural Address Lincoln spoke in a different manner than Ruffin. He concluded that address with these thoughts:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” [111]

Though the issues may be different in nations where the United States decides to intervene to prevent humanitarian disasters, prevent local civil wars from becoming regional conflagrations, or to provide stability after a civil war, the controversies and conflicts brought on by the ideological, social and religious divides in the Ante-Bellum United States provide planners and commanders a historical example, drawn from our own American history of the necessity of understanding the political, ideological, economic, social and religious seeds of conflict. By taking the time to look at our own history, planners, commanders and policy makers can learn lessons that if they take the time to do so will help them understand such factors in places American troops and their allies might be called to serve. It also shows, through the wisdom of Britain’s non-intervention the importance of staying out of some conflicts.


Notes

[1] Fuller, J.F.C.. The Conduct of War 1789-1961 Da Capo Press, New York 1992. Originally published by Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick N.J p.98

[2] Clausewitz, Carl von. On War Indexed edition, edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1976 pp.87-88

[3] Ibid. Fuller The Conduct of War 1789-1961 p.99

[4] Guelzo Allen C. Fateful Lightening: A New History of the Civil War Era and Reconstruction Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 2012 p.95

[5] Fuller, J.F.C. Decisive Battles of the U.S.A. 1776-1918 University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln 2007 copyright 1942 The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals p.174

[6] Gray, Colin S. Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace, and Strategy Potomac Book, Dulles VA 2009 p.3

 

[7] Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis: America before the Civil War 1848-1861 completed and edited by Don E. Fehrenbacher Harper Collins Publishers, New York 1976 p.43

[8] Egnal, Marc Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War Hill and Wang a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux New York 2009 p.6

[9] Dew, Charles B. Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville and London 2001 p.12

[10] Thomas, Emory The Confederate Nation 1861-1865 Harper Perennial, New York and London 1979 p.5

[11] Ibid. Thomas The Confederate Nation p.5

[12] Ibid. Potter The Impending Crisis pp.457-458

[13] Levine, Bruce Half Slave and Half Free: The Roots of the Civil War Revised Edition, Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York 1992 and 1995 p.166

[14] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening pp.50-51

[15] Ibid. Levine Half Slave and Half Free pp.169-170

[16] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening pp.51-52

[17] Ibid. Potter The Impending Crisis p.43

[18] Ibid. Levine Half Slave and Half Free pp.169-170

[19] Ibid. Potter The Impending Crisis p.43

[20] Ibid. Potter The Impending Crisis p.43

[21] Catton, Bruce The Coming Fury Phoenix Press, London 1961 pp.314-315

[22] Ibid. Thomas The Confederate Nation p.1

[23] Freehling, William W. The Road to Disunion Volume One: Secessionists at Bay Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 1990 p.481

[24] Ruffin, Edmund The Political Economy of Slavery in McKitrick, Eric L. ed. Slavery Defended: The Views of the Old South. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall/Spectrum Books, 1963.Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/lincolns-political-economy/ 24 March 2014

[25] Ibid. Egnal Clash of Extremes pp.125-126

[26] Korda, Michael. Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2014 p.203

[27] Ibid. Korda Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee p.203

[28] Jefferson, Thomas Letter to John Holmes dated April 22nd 1824 retrieved from www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/159.html 24 March 2014

[29] U.S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant New York 1885 pp.243-245

[30] Ibid. Freehling The Road to Disunion Volume One p.289

[31] Ibid. Egnal Clash of Extremes:pp.125-126

[32] Ibid. Egnal Clash of Extremes p.125

[33] Ibid. Freehling The Road to Disunion Volume One p.12

[34] Ibid. Catton Two Roads to Sumter p.94

[35] Ibid. Catton Two Roads to Sumter p.94

[36] Ibid. Catton Two Roads to Sumter p.94

[37] Catton, William and Bruce, Two Roads to Sumter: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis and the March to Civil War McGraw Hill Book Company New York 1963, Phoenix Press edition London p.123

[38] Ibid. Levine Half Slave and Half Free p.15

[39] Ibid. Freehling The Road to Disunion Volume One p.29

[40] Ibid. Freehling The Road to Disunion Volume One p.29

[41] Gonzalez, Justo L. The History of Christianity Volume 2: The Reformation to the Present Day Harper and Row Publishers San Francisco 1985 p.251

[42] Ibid. Levine Half Slave and Half Free p.116

[43] Ibid. Levine Half Slave and Half Free p.116

[44] Ibid. Gonzalez The History of Christianity Volume 2 p.251

[45] McBeth, H. Leon The Baptist Heritage Broadman Press, Nashville TN 1987 p.383

[46] Ibid. McBeth The Baptist Heritage p.384

[47] Ibid. McBeth The Baptist Heritage p.384

[48] Ibid. McBeth The Baptist Heritage p.384

[49] Ibid. McBeth The Baptist Heritage p.384

[50] Shurden, Walter B Not a Silent People: The Controversies that Have Shaped Southern Baptists Broadman Press, Nashville TN 1972 p.58

[51] Ibid. Shurden Not a Silent People p.58

[52] Ibid. Gonzalez The History of Christianity Volume 2 p.251

[53] Freehling, William. The Road to Disunion Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 2007 p.460

[54] Ibid. Freehling The Road to Disunion Volume II p.462

[55] Thomas, Emory The Confederate Nation 1861-1865 Harper Perennial, New York and London 1979 pp.245-246

[56] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume One: Fort Sumter to Perryville Random House, New York 1963 1958 p.87

 

[57] Ibid. Thomas The Confederate Nation p.246

[58] Ibid. McBeth The Baptist Heritage pp.392-393

[59] Goodheart, Adam. Moses’ Last Exodus in The New York Times: Disunion, 106 Articles from the New York Times Opinionator: Modern Historians Revist and Reconsider the Civil War from Lincoln’s Election to the Emancipation Proclamation Edited by Ted Widmer, Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, New York 2013 p.15

[60] Ibid. Potter The Impending Crisis p.291

[61] Guelzo Allen C. Fateful Lightening: A New History of the Civil War Era and Reconstruction Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 2012 p.91

[62] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening pp.91-92

[63] Freeling, William. The Road to Disunion Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 2007 p.115

[64] Ibid. Freeling, The Road to Disunion Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 p.109

[65] Ibid. Potter The Impending Crisis p.291

[66] Ibid. Levine Half Slave and Half Free p.210

[67] Ibid. Catton Two Roads to Sumter p.139

[68] Ibid. Levine Half Slave and Half Free p.211

[69] Ibid. Catton Two Roads to Sumter p.139

[70] Ibid. Catton Two Roads to Sumter p.142

[71] Ibid. Freeling, The Road to Disunion Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 p.124

[72] Ibid. Freeling, The Road to Disunion Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 p.125

[73] Ibid. Freeling, The Road to Disunion Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 p.126

[74] Ibid. Freeling, The Road to Disunion Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 p.126

[75] Ibid. Freeling, The Road to Disunion Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 p.142

[76] Ibid. Catton Two Roads to Sumter p.142

[77] McPherson, James. The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 1988 p.102

[78] Ibid Freeling, The Road to Disunion Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 p.183

[79] Ibid. McPherson The Battle Cry of Freedom p.103

[80] Ibid. Freeling The Road to Disunion Volume II p.183

[81] Ibid. McPherson The Battle Cry of Freedom p.103

[82] Ibid. Freeling The Road to Disunion Volume II p.185

[83] Ibid. Freeling The Road to Disunion Volume II p.185

[84] Gallagher, Gary The Union War Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA and London, 2011 p.47

[85] Lincoln, Abraham A House Divided given at the Illinois Republican Convention, June 16th 1858, retrieved from www.pbs.org/wgbh/ala/part4/4h2934.html 24 March 2014

[86] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.55

[87] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.55

[88] Ibid. Gallagher The Union War p.46

[89] Ibid Gallagher The Union War p.47

[90] Ibid Gallagher The Union War p.47

[91] Wills, Garry. Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, New York 1992 p.114

[92] Korda, Michael. Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2014 p.221

[93] Ibid. Freeling The Road to Disunion Volume II p.207

[94] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.81

[95] Ibid. Potter The Impending Crisis p.211

[96] Ibid. Potter The Impending Crisis pp.211-212

[97] Ibid. Levine Half Slave and Half Free p.197

[98] Ibid. Freeling The Road to Disunion Volume II p.207

[99] Ibid. Korda, Clouds of Glory p.xviii

[100] Ibid. Korda Clouds of Glory p.xxxix

[101] Ibid. Catton Two Roads to Sumter p.187

[102] Ibid. Potter The Impending Crisis p.381

[103] Ibid. Potter The Impending Crisis p.375

[104] Ibid. Catton Two Roads to Sumter p.187

[105] __________ Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. Retrieved from The Avalon Project, Yale School of Law http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_scarsec.asp 24 March 2014

[106] Lincoln, Abraham First Inaugural Address March 4th 1861 retrieved from www.bartleby.com/124/pres31.html 24 March 2014

[107] Cleveland, Henry Alexander H. Stevens, in Public and Private: With Letters and Speeches, before, during and since the War, Philadelphia 1886 pp.717-729 retrieved from http://civilwarcauses.org/corner.htm 24 March 2014

[108] Lincoln, Abraham Second Inaugural Address March 4th 1865 retrieved from www.bartleby.com/124/pres32.html 24 March 2014

[109] Edmund Ruffin (1794-1865). Diary entry, June 18, 1865. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress Retrieved from http://blogs.loc.gov/civil-war-voices/about/edmund-ruffin/ 24 March 2014

[110] Millet Allen R and Maslowski, Peter. For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America The Free Press, a division of McMillan Publishers, New York 1984 p.230

[111] Ibid. Lincoln Second Inaugural Address

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“We had Nothing to do but to Obey the Orders” Final Confederate Preparations for Pickett’s Charge

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While James Longstreet was depressed and many Confederate commanders who had seen the carnage of attacking the entrenched Federal army on July 2nd doubted whether any assault could break the Federal line, Robert E. Lee held on to the hope that one more assault would carry the day. It had to, “the importance with which his whole strategy had invested in this battle and the stubbornness which had driven him on at Gaines’s Mill, Malvern Hill, and Antietam, impelled Lee to still try another major attack on July 3.” 1 His partial success on July 2nd also “persuaded Lee that with the proper coordination and support of artillery, it was still possible to assault and break through Meade’s front.” 2 Convinced that his men could conquer the Federal position, and encouraged by the small successes of the second day “the general plan of attack was unchanged.” 3

However the real problem was not breaking through the line, but “how to stay there and exploit the advantage once the enemy’s line was pierced.” 4 Lee’s tactical problem remained the same as it had on July 2nd, when the power of the rifled musket and massed artillery on the defense cut his assaulting troops to ribbons, even though they inflicted heavy casualties on the Federal army, especially Sickles’ badly exposed III Corps in the Wheat Field and the Peach Orchard. His problem was how to break the enemy’s line and then exploit the breakthrough in order to gain not only a victory, but destroy the Army of the Potomac as a fighting force in the process.

As we have already discussed, on the new battlefield of the Civil War where the killing power of entrenched troops on the defense had grown exponentially as compared to the Napoleonic era or even the Mexican War, of which Lee and so many commanders were veterans. As Russell Weigley noted that by the time an attacking force was able to breach a prepared defensive position, “almost invariably, by that time the attacker had lost so heavily, and his reserves were so distant, that he could not hold on against a counterattack by the defending army’s nearby reserves.” 5 And like his assaults at Gaines’s Mill, Malvern Hill and those at Gettysburg on July 2nd, the assault of July 3rd by the divisions of Pickett, Pettigrew and Trimble would meet a similar bloody repulse, only Lee refused to accept it. Colonel Porter Alexander, commanding Longstreet’s corps artillery noted that “even if the attack was “entirely successful, it can be only be at a very bloody cost” 6 while Brigadier General A.R. Wright, whose brigade had actually reached Cemetery Ridge on July 2nd told Alexander “The trouble is not going in there…the problem is to stay there after you get there.” 7

With a fresh army, or perhaps a number of fresh divisions, Lee’s plan might have had a chance to succeed. But Lee had already lost heavily on July 1st and 2nd and in the process shattered the divisions of Heth, Pender, Rodes, Johnson, Hood and McLaws and suffered serious casualties to the divisions of Early and Anderson. As far as infantry he had very little left, only Pickett’s short handed division which was missing two of its five brigades, with which to mount a frontal assault that would further decimate his army and render it incapable of further offensive operations, even if he drove Meade from his positions on Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge.

But Robert E. Lee was not deterred, over the past year of action “Lee had developed extremely high expectations of his enlisted men” 8 He had seen them overcome adversity as well as defeat far larger forces, but this time the open terrain, the superiority of the Federal artillery, the excellent position that Meade’s army occupied and his own lack of fresh troops and scarcity of artillery ammunition, combined with poor staff work and bad organization would ensure that this assault would be more than they could handle. Unlike Longstreet, Lee was never in awe “of the formidable character of the Union position…and he felt sure his incomparable infantry if properly handled could take any height.” 9

But even Porter Alexander, like most in the Army, held Lee in such esteem that regardless of the situation they implicitly trusted his judgment. As the preparations were made in the morning initially “believed that it would come out right, because General Lee had planned it.” 10 As he weighed the matter more fully Alexander told Longstreet “if there is any alternative to this attack, it should be carefully considered before opening our fire, for it will take all the artillery ammunition we have left to test this one thoroughly, and if the result is unfavorable, we will have none left for another effort.” 11

Once again Lee’s lack of clarity and vagueness in his orders and the reluctance of a subordinate to carry them out hindered Lee’s plan. Lee and Longstreet “had not reached a clear understanding on the nature, extent, and direction of his offensive operations” 12 and somehow, in “the strange, undeclared conflict of wills that had begun thirty-six hours before, neither general was thinking clearly. As Longstreet would now do anything to avoid assuming responsibility for a full-scale attack, Lee would do anything to get him to move out.” 13

Pickett’s division had arrived at Marsh Creek was of Gettysburg after a long and tiring forced march from Chambersburg at about 4 p.m. on July 2nd. Lee informed Pickett that he would not be needed that day and to rest his troops, and for whatever reason they remained in that position until about 4 a.m on July 3rd. Neither Lee nor Longstreet ordered them up earlier, where they might have been in position for an earlier assault on the Federal center, an attack that might have been coordinated with Ewell’s attack on Culp’s Hill which went off about 4 a.m.

Some of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of Longstreet, who still determined to find a way to turn the Federal left flank had his staff planning throughout the night for a way to execute that attack, but Lee was remiss in not clearly communicating his intent to his subordinate, to include what he expected him to do as well as when and where he expected him to do it. These questions were not cleared up until after sunrise on July 3rd, when Lee reiterated his plans to Longstreet and A.P. Hill.

Lee decided to attack the Federal center, where Cemetery Ridge was less commanding than Cemetery Hill, or the Round Tops which had been so costly to attack on the first two days of battle. All of Pickett’s division arrived behind Seminary Ridge between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on the morning of July 3rd. There it joined the other units assigned to the attack by Lee. Those units, apart from Pickett all came from A.P. Hill’s Third Corps, Longstreet having convinced that the badly cut up divisions of Hood and McLaws remain in place on the south end of the battlefield to protect the flank. Longstreet was of the opinion, and gained Lee’s concurrence that if those units joined the assault that the flank would be exposed to the well dug in and reinforced Federal units on and around the Round Tops, as Longstreet explained, “To have rushed forward with my two divisions, then carrying bloody noses from their terrible conflict the day before, would have been madness.” 14

The decision to leave these two divisions in place resulted in a change of plan as to where the Confederate assault would be directed. Lee initially planned for Longstreet’s corps to continue its push in the south, from the positions they had taken near Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, the Peach Orchard and the Wheat Field. In that attack Hood’s division now lead by Evander Law, would be on the extreme right, McLaws division in the center attacking from the Wheat Field and Peach Orchard and Pickett on the left, supported by some of A.P. Hill’s Third Corps. However, with the change of plan Pickett’s division was now on the left of the attack, while Heth’s division, now commanded by Johnston Pettigrew would be in the center supported by Lane’s and Scales’ brigades of Dorsey Pender’s division, now commanded by Isaac Trimble, who had taken command only that morning. The selection of Heth’s division to join the attack now “provided a focal point for the attack, since it was roughly opposite the Federal center; then, too, there was a concealed position to the right of Heth’s line that offered room enough for Pickett’s men.” 15 This necessitated a change to the intended target of the attack, which Lee now identified as the “small clump of trees” visible in the center of the Federal position.

Lee discounted the terrain as a factor, thinking that the fences that criss-crossed the open field between the two opponents was of little concern. The open ground lent itself to the “massive attack on the scale that Lee visualized” but would “expose his men to a raking fire from enemy muskets and artillery.” 16 Lee hoped to reduce this danger with an overwhelming artillery barrage, but while Longstreet opposed the attack, and other Confederate commanders such as Armistead and Garnett realized the near hopelessness of the attack but maintained a silence, William Mahone, whose brigade was part of Anderson’s division and not assigned to the attack was mortified. Mahone begged Anderson to observe the battlefield and told him his honest opinion of the coming attack: “That no troops ever formed a line of battle that could cross the plain of fire to which the attacking force would be subjected, and…that I could not believe that General Lee would insist on such an assault after he had seen the ground.” 17 But Lee was determined and Anderson refused to confront Lee, saying “in substance, that we had nothing to do but to obey the orders.” 18

Mahone was right both about the ground and the fires that the attacking Confederates would encounter. While the fences along the Emmitsburg road in Pickett’s area were not much of a factor, they were on Pettigrew’s front. The Plum Run Valley which cut across the battlefield was a wide swale which “was truly a valley of death; Union artillery placed on Little Round Top could easily fire up its shallow groove as if it were a bowling alley, and Federal infantry could easily counterattack into it.” 19 In front of Pettigrew the ground formed “a natural glacis. In short, it naturally sloped at a steeper angle, forcing the attacker to literally walk up directly into the muzzles of the defending infantrymen.” 20 Whether Lee recognized it or not the ground itself offered major obstacles that the attacking Confederates would have to negotiate under heavy artillery and musket fire.

From a command, control and coordination aspect there was little to be commended in Lee’s plan. The artillery support, nominally to be conducted by all the Confederate artillery from all three corps was not well coordinated and lacked an overall commander, this ensured that the “corps artillery commanders acted independently, without a firm understanding of the crucial importance of their roles.” 21 Porter Alexander, who had the heaviest responsibility only had operational control of the batteries of First Corps and a few from Third Corps, the rest of the artillery battalions remained under their respective corps artillery commanders. Additionally, the senior artilleryman present, who had no command authority, Brigadier General William Pendleton moved batteries committed to Alexander and the infantry assault without telling him, and removed the artillery trains far to the rear where the ammunition needed to sustain an attack was out of reach when needed. Additionally the batteries of Third Corps did not conserve their limited ammunition and became involved in a long battle over the Bliss farmhouse between the lines, thus limiting their ability to take part in the attack. Likewise the guns of Second Corps, some of which could have had good enfilade fire on Cemetery Hill took little part in the action.

Of the three infantry divisions allotted to the attack, only one, Pickett’s actually belonged to the corps commander leading the attack, and the two divisions from Third Corps were badly cut up from the battle on July 1st and commanded by new commanders, neither who had commanded a division, and one of who, Trimble had never worked with or even met his subordinate commanders until that morning. Additionally, the two brigades assigned from Pender’s division were units that had been heavily engaged, there were two other brigades, those of Mahone and Posey from Anderson’s division, which “yet to see see serious action” and were “just as fresh as Pickett’s division, yet they were overlooked and not even assigned a supporting role.” 22

Despite his objections to it and the challenges posed by the attack, James Longstreet earnestly worked to make it succeed. Longstreet, Pickett and Pettigrew attempted to smooth out communications to “avoid mistakes and secure proper coordination between various units.” 23 However, despite his good intentions, Longstreet made a number of mistakes which could be best described as “lapses of thought.” He failed to “explain the details of the attack to all levels of command in all units…he failed to communicate effectively with anyone outside of First Corps, even though Third Corps troops would make up more than half of the attackers.” He left the artillery plan to Alexander and failed to develop a detailed plan that would determine if the artillery bombardment had weakened the Federals enough “to justify sending in the infantry.” He also did not appreciate the weakened condition of the attached Third Corps units and more importantly seemed to give little thought to the placement of Pickett’s troops in relationship to Pettigrew. This left a 400 yard gap between the Pickett and Pettigrew’s divisions, a gap that would cause problems during the attack, as it necessitated “a significant and difficult left oblique movement by the Virginians across the valley, under artillery fire.” 24

Despite Longstreet’s lapses the fact was that Lee reviewed the plans, and troops dispositions late in the morning. Lee had gone up and down the line inspecting it, but somehow he too “did not detect the hidden flaws in the deployment of his troops and the layout of its batteries.” 25 Likewise he seemed to continue the passive role that he had maintained throughout the battle. Alexander spelled this out in a private letter noting that “The arrangement of all the troops,… must have been apparent to Gen Lee when he was going about the lines between 11 & 12, & his not interfering with it stamps of his approval.” 26

About noon the approximately 13,000 troops in the attacking divisions continued to make their individual preparations for the attack. As they did this “a great stillness came down over the field and over the two armies on their ridges…the Confederates maintaining their mile wide formation along the wooded slope and in the swale, the heat was oppressive.” 27 Pickett wrote his young fiancee “the suffering and waiting are almost unbearable.” 28

Notes

1 Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis 1973 p.117 

2 Fuller, J.F.C. Grant and Lee: A Study in Command Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis 1957 pp. 198-199 

3 Guelzo, Allen C. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion Vintage Books, a Division of Random House, New York 2013 p.375

4 Ibid. Weigley The American Way of War p.117 5 Ibid. Weigley The American Way of War p.117

6 Korda, Michael. Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E Lee Harper Collins Books, New York 2014 p.591

7 Coddington, Edwin B. The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command A Touchstone Book, New York, 1968 p.459

8 Hess, Earl J. Pickett’s Charge: The Last Attack at Gettysburg University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London 2001 p.13

9 Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command p.457

10 Golay, Michael To Gettysburg and Beyond: The Parallel Lives of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Edward Porter Alexander Crown Publishers, New York 1994 p.167

11 Freeman, Douglas Southall. Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command One Volume Abridgment by Stephen Sears, Scribner New York 1998 p.592

12 Ibid. Coddington Gettysburg: A Study in Command p.454

13 Dowdy, Clifford Lee and His Men at Gettysburg: The Death of a Nation originally published as Death of a Nation Skyhorse Publishing New York 1958 p.258 

14 Trudeau, Noah Andre Gettysburg a Testing of Courage Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2002 p.441

15 Ibid. Trudeau Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage p.441

16 Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.459

17 Ibid. Trudeau Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage p.458

18 Ibid. Trudeau Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage p.458

19 Ibid. Hess Pickett’s Charge p.79

20 Ibid. Hess Pickett’s Charge p.81

21 Wert, Jeffery D. Gettysburg Day Three A Touchstone Book, New York 2001 p.126

22 Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.462

23 Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.491

24 Ibid. Hess Pickett’s Charge p.32

25 Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.492

26 Ibid. Wert. Gettysburg Day Three p.128

27 Foote, Shelby The Civil War a Narrative: Fredericksburg to Meridian Vintage Books a Division of Random House, New York 1963 p.539

28 Ibid. Dowdy Lee and His Men at Gettysburg p.281

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