Turning Points: Crossing the Mississippi
by Jeffry D. Wert
The crossing of the Mississippi by Grant’s Army of the Tennessee at Bruinsburg, Mississippi is the focus of this issue’s Turning Points column. Jeffrey Wert discusses Grant’s plan to have Admiral David D. Porter run the Vicksburg batteries with transports lashed to his ironclads’ sides. No less a man than Grant’s chief subordinate William T. Sherman opposed the plan. In the end, Porter was able to move past the Vicksburg fortifications with the loss of only one transport, and his ships ferried portions of John McClernand’s XIII Corps and James B. McPherson’s XVII Corps across the mighty Mississippi on April 30, 1863. Grant’s biggest problem to that point had simply been to put his men into a position to face the enemy. He was now on solid ground on the same side of the river as the Confederates, and he was about to make history.
Gallery: A Hartwell Man
Submitted by John E. Skelton, great-great-grandson of John Hamilton Skelton
John E. Skelton was born in 1827 in Elbert County, Georgia. He started practicing law in 1858 and continued to do so until the war broke out. Skelton formed Company C, 16th Georgia Infantry, also known as “the Hartwell Infantry”. Skelton and his unit were a part of Howell Cobb’s Brigade in Magruder’s Division during the Seven Days. Skelton and his command fought at South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg, where he was captured and exchanged within 13 days. In early 1863, John and the 16th Georgia fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and by November John had been promoted to major and placed in charge of the regiment. In that capacity, Skelton and the 16th participated in the sieges of Chattanooga and Knoxville. In 1864, back in Virginia, John and the 16th fought through the Overland Campaign at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, the North Anna, and Cold Harbor, and moved on to Petersburg. Skelton was again captured near New Market, Virginia in August 1864, and he remained in the Federal prison at Fort Delaware until July 1865. Skelton married soon after the war and had 10 children. He served in a variety of public roles after the war and died in 1893 at the age of 66.
Irregulars: The Quartermasters
by Eric Ethier
Quartermasters of the Union and Confederate armies are detailed in this edition of “Irregulars”. Quartermasters, says Eric Ethier, “were responsible for providing uniforms, rifles, canteens, entrenching tools, wagons, horses–virtually all of their respective armies’ needs save ammunition (Ordnance) and food (Commissary).” Montgomery Meigs, the Quartermaster General of the Union, and Abraham C. Myers and Alexander R. Lawton, his Confederate counterparts, had to deal with many different people, businesses, and foreign countries in an effort to supply their respective soldiers. Quartermasters were often considered cowards, says the author, because they were tucked safely away in the rear of the army. In addition to supplying the army, quartermasters had to set up transportation and keep it running smoothly, including in the aftermath of battles. Ethier goes on to chronicle examples of corruption in the quartermaster departments early in the war, but concludes that despite the negative view of their courage, quartermasters were absolutely vital to a well run and successful fighting machine.
Civil War Today: Gambling With Gettysburg
by Keith E. Miller
Keith Miller, a member of the anti-Casino group No Casino Gettysburg, discusses the ongoing struggle between those who insist that a casino will benefit the local economy versus those who believe this idea is “as offensive as a ‘Ground Zero Casino and Resort’” and is one which will ruin the Gettysburg experience forever. Some groups are caught in the middle, including the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association. A vote is forthcoming later this year.
In Their Footsteps: Cavalry at the Battle of Gettysburg
by Jay Wertz
Jay Wertz discusses the role of Union and Confederate cavalry in and around Gettysburg during the three day battle.
Behind The Lines: Crossroads of Nations
In “A Letter From Civil War Times”, the importance of Vicksburg is discussed, especially in relation to Gettysburg. Civil War Times concludes that vicksburg is just as important as its much more famous cousin. The following two paragraphs also discuss tactical battles studies and broader looks at the war:
Sometimes it’s hard to avoid looking at a battle as though it is an island unto itself. It’s particularly difficult when you’re standing on the very ground where that battle took place, or you’re engrossed in a well-written, well-researched study of it–especially one that is dense with eyewitness accounts. Nonetheless, no battle, no matter how gripping it is, exists in a vacuum. Losing sight of the big picture of the war, and a particular battle’s effect on it, creates the risk of not fully appreciating why that battle is so important in the first place.
Focusing only on the big picture has significant pitfalls too, though. It is disturbing to hear people label detailed tactical studies of battles as little more than irrelevant antiquarianism. The answer seems to lie somewhere in the middle: Study the battle down to the level of subtlety and intricacy, but never lose sight of its context and importance in the grand scheme. It’s impossible to completely grasp a battle’s impact without considering not only what came before and after, but also what was happening at the same time.
The Fall of Vicksburg
by Edwin C. Bearss
This article is an excerpt from Ed Bearss’ book Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War. The format of the book, for those unfamiliar with it, is set to sound like one of Bearss’ famous battlefield tours. Here the famous author and tour guide covers the Siege of Vicksburg from May 18 to July 4, 1863.
The Battle After the Battle: Confederates Struggle to Memorialize Their High Water Mark
by Jennifer Murray
Jennifer Murray penned this historiographical look at “the Second Battle of Gettysburg”, a fight between veterans of both sides over where Confederate monuments would be allowed to be placed. The Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, created on April 30, 1864, had created a “line of battle” rule which stated that all monuments must be placed in a line of battle where a unit started an attack or defense. This prevented former Confederates from establishing monuments within the Union lines at “the Angle” on Cemetery Ridge and on Little Round Top. Confederates of Pickett’s Division and William C. Oates of the 15th Alabama tried and failed to get monuments erected within the Union lines at these locations, though a monument to Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Armistead was finally allowed near the Angle. Confederate monuments today tend to be dedicated by state rather than to individual regiments. These monuments, erected generations later, tend to perpetuate the “Lost Cause” view of the Confederacy, according to the author. She concludes that the Federals were just as successful at winning this postwar battle at Gettysburg since the “vast majority of the monuments there are dedicated to Federals.”
‘It is a Wonder That More Were Not Killed.’: How the 17th Maine Helped Transform a Gettysburg Wheatfield into a Legend
by Jeffry D. Wert
The 17th Maine Infantry, raised in the aftermath of the Union failure in front of Richmond during the Seven Days, gave as good as it got behind a small stone wall in Gettysburg’s Wheatfield. The III Corps regiment of around 350 men was commanded at Gettysburg by Lt. Colonel Charles B. Merrill, and they had already seen combat at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. At Gettysburg, they were in Regis De Trobriand’s Brigade of Birney’s Division. With the rest of the III Corps, these men moved forward on the afternoon of July to occupy a controversial advanced position which Meade had earlier overruled. Daniel Sickles, the III Corps commander, was the man responsible for this move. By the time they stopped, the Maine men found themselves on the far left of De Trobriand’s line, facing south behind a low stone wall in the famous Wheatfield. There, they faced a frontal attack by George T. “Tige” Anderson’s Georgians, and later a flank attack by the South Carolina brigade of Joseph Kershaw. Eventually the 17th Maine was ordered to retreat across the Wheatfield and they formed along the Wheatfield Road. Later in the day, they counterattacked with some success, but eventually they had to fall back. In the fierce fighting, the regiment lost 18 killed and mortally wounded, 112 wounded, and 3 missing, or 38% of the number originally engaged. The regiment was praised all the way up to the division level in commanders’ reports following the battle. These men and others had attained “redemption for the star-crossed Army of the Potomac.”
The Vicksburg Cyclorama: Virtual Reality and Authentic Controversy
by Noel G. Harrison
Noel Harrison describes the origins of the Vicksburg Cyclorama and how it interpreted arguments between members of McClernand’s XIII Corps and other men who had belonged to the Army of the Tennessee. Here is another historiographical look at a “battle” fought after the war was over. The makers of this cyclorama, Joseph Bertrand and Lucien Sergent, chose Grant’s interpretations of the battle, though Harrison rightly points out that McClernand and his men had the last laugh due to the physical and interpretive loss of the piece of art.
My War: ‘You May Judge How It Was When I Tell You How We Got Along’
by Michael Fitzpatrick
George W. W. Hawk enlisted in the 139th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on August 9, 1862. The men of the 139th thought they were signing up for only nine months, but in reality it was a three year regiment. That time difference ultimately cost Hawk his life. He was wounded at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864, and died as a result on September 12 of that year. In a series of letters from the Mud March of January 1863 to his last letter from the hospital in 1864, Hawk relates his experiences to his parents and his four younger sisters.
Civil War Times Album of the Late War
In this edition of Album of the Late War, CWT looks at General Phillipe Regis de Trobriand’s activities after the war, “Bonnie Blue Flag” composer Edward O. Eaton, and a field officer’s sword carried at Gettysburg, among other things.
Reviews: Books and Other Media
Books reviewed in this issue:
1. Fighting With Jeb Stuart: Major James Breathed and the Confederate Horse Artillery by David P. Bridges
2. The Devil’s Own Work: The Civil War Draft Riots and the Fight to Reconstruct America by Barnet Schecter
1. The Journal of Jane Howison Beale, Fredericksburg, Virginia, 1850-1862 by Jane Howison Beale
Frozen Moment: Not Just Any Speech
This issue’s Frozen Moment depicts President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, delivered on November 19, 1863.