Secessionville, Part 3

by Brett Schulte on September 8, 2005 · 0 comments

Secessionville: Assault On Charleston by Patrick Brennan

Chapter 3
1. Just as the Campaign was about to begin, Roswell Ripley and two more regiments were sent north to Richmond. Ripley, a cantankerous sort, thought Pemberton was incompetent and this low opinion was at least partly responsible for his transfer. Ripley wanted out from under Pemberton. This hurt the Confederates, and caused Gov. Pickens a great deal of anxiety, because Ripley knew the defenses of Charleston inside and out. His replacement, Hugh Mercer, was an unknown entity. Due to this change, Pemberton reorganized his entire Department. It’s interesting to note that both Patrick Brennan and Tim Smith (in his book Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg) both refer to Pemberton as a “bureaucrat”, or a “desk General”. At any rate, he did seem to enjoy reorganizing his Department at regular intervals.

2. I found it interesting that Lee’s advice to Pemberton during a time of shrinking manpower and threatening Yankee movements was to essentially abandon the Charleston-Savannah Railroad and just concentrate on defending those two major cities. Brennan points out that had Isaac Stevens’ plan (he wanted to hit the railroad at Pocotaligo and then move north on Charleston to isolate the city) been followed, Charleston might have been in big trouble. As it was, since Benham dismissed Stevens’ plan, Lee’s advice turned out to be sound. It is also interesting (to me anyway), that Pemberton found himself in a similar situation at Vicksburg less than a year later. His attempt to defend that city and not to contest Grant’s advance forcefully and purposefully beyond the Big Black River caused him to be holed up in the Mississippi River port permanently. Pemberton also seems to have had a habit of doubting himself at key moments. That is a serious weakness in a commanding General, and one that’s bound to make people regard you as incompetent.

3. The Federals advanced on James Island from the southwest (Wright’s Division overland by way of Johns Island) and the south (Stevens’ Division by sea) from June 2-5, 1862. A lot of these troops seemed to be newly brigaded, and the march of Wright’s Division at least showed less than ideal precision and cohesion. Regardless, by June 5, there were two Northern Divisions either on or next to James Island, at the doorstep of Charleston.

Chapter 4
1. Isaac Stevens had seen that there was little room to land all of the Northern troops on Sol Legare Island, so he ordered elements of the 79th NY, 100th PA, and 28th MA regiments to advance in a northerly direction and clear the entire island of Confederates. Meanwhile, the 24th SC had been ordered to recover Chichester’s three guns stuck in the mud at the north end of the island. These competing aims led to the short but sharp “Action at Sol Legare Island”. The 28th MA performed poorly, and the 24th SC, supported by the Eutaw Battalion, drove the three Federal regiments back and captured 20+ men of Captain Cline’s detachment of the 100th PA. These were the first Union soldiers captured in the Campaign. Federal gunboats then threw shells at the Confederates and forced them back. They left Chichester’s guns, and the Northerners managed to extricate two of the guns and bring them back to camp.

2. I just noticed that although the maps go down to regimental and even company levels, not one map so far has the map scale printed on it. This will make it tough for wargamers to create scenarios based on the maps in this book. Also, no scale can oftentimes make judging the distances involved nearly impossible. I’m not sure why this was omitted, but it is definitely a small negative.

3. Pemberton responded to the Union operation by ordering more regiments to the Charleston area. However, Alexander Lawton’s large Georgia Brigade was instead sent to Richmond. In addition, Pemberton made things worse by constantly giving direct orders to States Rights Gist instead of following the proper channel of command and sending orders to Hugh Mercer.

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