Archive for June 2009
Currently reading… Attack and Die: Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage by Grady McWhitney and Perry D. Jamieson. Incredible statistics describing the carnage resulting from Confederate offensives against fortified positions.
I ran across this excellent photo of Grant’s staff pictured below in City Point, Virginia on the Army Heritage Collection Online site. According to the writing on the matting, included are: 1st Lieut. William McKee Dunn, Jr. (seated left), Lt. Col. E. S. Parker (larger man seated to left of door), and Lt. Col. Theodore Shelton Bowers (standing to right of door). That accounts for only three of the eight men pictured although it’s unclear whether all of the men are in the military. A very similar photo appearing in the book, The Life of General Ely S. Parker, indicates that the building pictured was the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac and was taken in 1864 by legendary Civil War photographer Mathew B. Brady. (1) This would have been one of 22 log cabins that were built to house Grant and his staff and formed the headquarters on the James River. Originally quartered in tents, as the siege of Petersburg extended and the weather deteriorated, Grant had the cabins erected. His cabin had two rooms, one in the front for carrying on war matters and a room at the rear for his quarters. I am unsure whether this is Grant’s cabin. The town is known today as Hopewell. (2)
William McKee Dunn, Jr.: Undoubtedly the youngest of the men pictured, Dunn joined the army at age 18 as a private and became an aid-de-camp to General Sullivan in March of 1863 and then to Grant in October of the same year. He served with Grant through the rest of the war eventually being promoted to captain. Sources indicate that he had occasional charge of Grant’s son Jesse. (3)
Ely Samuel Parker: A highly educated Seneca Indian, Parker was refused entry to the bar and initially entry to the Union Army because of he was not considered an American citizen. He was trained as an engineer and became friends with Grant prior to the war. Grant brought him to his staff at Vicksburg. On August 30 1864, he was officially appointed as Grant’s private secretary by General Order No. 249. Parker eventually rose to the rank of Brevet Brigadier General. He was frequently referred to as simply “the Indian.” (1) His biography is available on Google Books here.
Theodore. Shelton Bowers: On March 8, 1866, the New York Times reported the horrific death of then General T. S. Bowers in an accident while attempting to jump on to the rail car carrying Grant after the party dropped Grant’s son at West Point. You can read that account here. (4)
1 The life of General Ely S. Parker: Last Grand Sachem of the Iroquois and Grant’s Military Secretary, Arthur Caswell Parker, (Buffalo, New York: Buffalo Historical Association, 1919).
2 Grant’s Headquarters, a site maintained by the National Park Service accessed on June 28, 2009 here.
T. Harry Williams’ essay, “The Military Leadership of North and South” in the book Why the North Won the Civil War is outstanding.
His point that the Industrial Revolution had the “immediate consequence of making the Northern generals less inclined to deal out destruction” was an epiphany. So much of what I’ve read until now points to the advantages of the North because of more and better “everything.” That this affluence in war-making capacity contributed to the early lack of engagement of the North’s generals now makes perfect sense.
“They could secure material so easily that they refused to move until they had received more than they needed — after which they were often so heavily laden the could not move.” (Williams, 50 – 51)
Likewise, the “poverty of Southern resources” explains the scrappy nature of the generals of the Confederacy.
The lesson is timeless and as important to business – my field of battle – as the military.
Got my new Kindle 3 DX yesterday in the mail. Larry has commandeered my smaller Kindle 2. Actually we’ll share. It’s nice to be a two Kindle family. See my other posts on my Kindles here. Oh and any book I downloaded on my Kindle 2 is available to load on the new Kindle as well.
I wrapped up reading Lincoln and His Generals by T. Henry Williams and found it quite good.
I confess to being impressed by the extent to which Lincoln became an able strategist by the mid-point of the war. No doubt contributing to this was Halleck’s liaise-faire attitude. Lacking a strong military leader and much in the way of battle successes, Lincoln obviously felt compelled to step in and fill the strategic voids for his armies.
I was also struck by the characteristics that Lincoln valued and devalued in his generals. The lesson would serve many aspiring to leadership today. The takeaway?
Do the best you can with what you’ve been given.
Communicate minimally but effectively “up.”
Respect and follow the leadership of the man in charge when it is offered. Don’t argue with him excessively.
Don’t aspire to take his job, at least overtly.
Don’t criticize or blame others. Respect your subordinates enough to let them do their jobs.
Do not overly criticize them either. Control yourself and your emotions.
Be manically focused on getting the job at hand done.
Be informed by the past but fully engaged in the realities of the present.
For Grant and Lincoln, this latter point meant something more than merely implementing Jominian tactics. It appears that together, they evolved toward the modern notion of war as “total” in Clausewitzian terms. Is it possible that only Lincoln saw this truth in the war’s earliest years? I say yes.
In June 6th’s post I mentioned I was reading a review copy of The State of Jones: The Small Southern County That Seceded from the Confederacy by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer. This update: their description of the Battle of Corinth is outstanding, albeit gruesome. I will file the book in numerous places on my virtual bookshelves as it covers a great deal of ground: the experience of soldiers, rich versus poor in the military of the Confederacy, unionists in the South, the experience of slaves, etc., etc.
This sample of the telling of the Battle of Corinth…
“[Brigadier General Martin] Green ordered the men forward. ‘With a wild shout,’ the Mississippians leaped across a railroad cut with the rest of the brigade. A command came to charge at the the ‘double-quick.’
It was the last order that could be heard, as at least fifty Federal guns opened fire on them. the trembling thunder of artillery was joined by the shrieking, concussive outbursts of shells and the short, almost muffled spat-spat-spat of Springfield rifles, hammers hitting soft gunpowder, followed by the metallic raking of ramrods. ‘The very atmosphere seemed filled with shot, shell, grape and canister,’ General Green reported.
Suddenly it seemed as if they were in a rainstorm of blood. Horses plunged and caterwauled, and men screamed incoherently. There was something about such a charge that forced the breath from men’s throats, almost reflexively, without their even knowing it. As one Mississippi soldier recorded in his diary, ‘I always said, if I ever went into a charge, I wouldn’t holler. But the very first time I fired off my gun, I hollered as loud as I could, and I hollered every breath until I stopped!” (p. 33)
Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn (Army of West Tennessee) was later court-marshaled for his neglect in taking care of logistical details and forcing his army to march and fight the Battle of Corinth with insufficient water and food. The charges were dropped.
When Grant became General in Chief of northern armies in 1864, he was 42 years old, 5’8″ tall and weighed 135 pounds.
The good folks at Doubleday sent me a review copy of The State of Jones: The Small Southern County That Seceded from the Confederacy by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer. It is available for pre-order now from WigWags Books and will be published on June 23rd.
- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday (June 23, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385525931
- ISBN-13: 978-0385525930
- Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
This is the story of Newton Knight who was a Unionist living in Mississippi and strongly anti-slavery. The authors suggest that he was “the South’s strangest soldier.”
Some quick facts:
- In Jones County Mississippi, fifty-three men had not only fought as anti-Confederate guerrillas, but formally enlisted in the Union army in New Orleans
- Knight’s group of guerrillas “remained unconquered though surrounded by Confederate Armies from start to finish.”
- Jones was drafted into the Confederate army but refused to fight and eventually deserted.
- Knight had two families, one white and one black. His black family was with a slave named Rachel who was owned by his family and who helped him during the war. He acknowledged her children as his own.
I profess to getting behind in my reading for school because of this book. I promise to write a proper review after I’m finished reading it. I can say that it is VERY well written.
Newton Knight’s story is being made into a film currently in production. Filmmaker Gary Ross is writer, director, and one of several producers.
Sally Jenkins is an award-winning journalist currently with the Washington Post. She has authored eight books, three of New York Times bestsellers.
John Stauffer is Professor of English and African American Studies and Chair of the Committee on Higher Degrees in the History of American Civilization at Harvard.
His prior book, GIANTS: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, I mentioned in a previous post which you can read here.