Sunday, January 18, 2015

General Lee's Command style, Winter 1864-65

This January 19th marks Robert E. Lee's 208th Birthday. It is only
fitting that I post this article.

Each one of us, at one time or another, have come across a boss or supervisor who has so lacking in ability that it boggles the mind on how they could have possibly risen to the position of authority. A person cannot be respected as a leader if they always talk down and belittle their coworkers and subordinates. Thankfully there comes the opposite end of the spectrum. People who stand head and shoulders above the rest with their ability to command, delegate and communicate.
Some of us have the gift of"Constructively criticism" and the ability to get a point across without damaging the working dynamic.

The following is an excerpt from Reminiscences of The Civil War

"The left of my line rested on the west bank of Hatcher's Run. A.P. Hill's Corps was on the east side, with it's right flank upon the same stream. The commanding general directed that I build a fort at the left of my line, and that A.P. Hill construct a similar one near it on the opposite side of the run.General Hill became ill after the order was received, and the construction of his fort was not pressed. Indeed, the weather was so severe and the roads so nearly impassable that there was no urgent necessity for the haste. General Lee, however, who habitually interested himself in the smaller as well as the larger matters connected with the army, did not forget these forts. Riding up to my Headquarters on a cold morning in January, 1865, he requested me to ride with him to see the forts. As we mounted he said: "We will go by General ----'s quarters and ask him to accompany us, and we will examine both forts." When this officer joined us (he was temporarily in command of Hill's Corps during the latter's absence on sick-leave), General Lee at once asked: "General Gordon, how are you getting along with your fort?"
     "Very well, sir. It is nearly finished."
Turning to the officer, he asked: "Well General ------, how is the work upon your fort progressing?"
This officer, who had felt no special responsibility for the fort, as he was only temporarily in charge, was considerably embarrassed by the general's pointed inquiry. He really had little or no knowledge of the amount of work done upon it, but ventured, after some hesitation, the reply: "I think the fort on my side of the run is also about finished, sir."
   Passing by my work after a short halt, we rode to the point at which the A.P. Hill fort was to be located. No fort was there; the work was scarcely begun. General Lee reined up his horse, and looking first at the place where the fort was to be, and then at the officer, he said: "General, you say the fort is about finished?"
   "I must have misunderstood my engineers, sir."
   " But you did not speak of your engineers. You spoke of the fort as nearly completed."
This officer was riding a superb animal which General Lee knew had been presented to his wife. His extreme embarrassment made him unusually nervous, and his agitation was imparted to the high mettled animal, which became restless and was not easily controlled. General Lee in the blandest manner asked: "General, doesn't Mrs. ---- ride that horse occasionally?"
    "Yes, sir," he replied.
    "Well, general, you know that I am very much interested in Mrs. -----'s safety. I fear that horse is too nervous for her to ride without danger, and I suggest that, in order to make him more quiet, you ride him at least once every day to this fort."
     This was his only reprimand; but no amount of severity on the part of the commander-in- chief could have been more trying to the sensibilities of the officer, who was an admirable soldier, commanding General Lee's entire confidence. The officer's mortification was so overwhelming that, on the return, he rode considerably in the rear. General Lee observed this, and could not resist the impulse to mitigate, as far as possible, the pang caused by the rebuke that he had felt compelled to administer. Halting his horse for a moment and looking back at the officer in the rear, he called to him: "Ride up and join us General. I want to ask you and General Gordon how long this war is to last." (1)

General Lee rode with both subordinate officers back to the rear areas and engaged in conversation on the length of the war and news from relatives back home.. The General made his point about the importance of the fortifications being built.

Reminiscences of the Civil War by John B. Gordon. Ch 26 pg 378-381.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Battle of Sebastian Creek

This was a battle fought in 15 turns.

The objective was for the Federal Division to force a river crossing into the enemies side of the river. The secondary objective was to force the enemy from the field in 15 turns or less.
The Confederate objective was to defend the hill and deny the enemy from fording Sebastian Creek.
this is a basic division vs division encounter.

Initial set up; each side set up a brigade on the road and one brigade in the field.

Union Division.
General Michael commanding.
General Aaron and New York Brigade
General Bill and New York Brigade
Aco 3rd Artillery
Bco 3rd Artillery

Confederate Division.
General Steven commanding
General  Mark and Virginia Brigade
General Keith and Mixed Brigade
Stacey's Battery
Duncan's Battery

Turn 1. The Federal Brigades took there time getting ready. They made a lot of noise in the trees.
The Confederates knew that the battle was upon them when two brigades emerged from the tree line to their front.

General Mark and his Virginia Brigade set up on the hill with Duncan's Battery.

General Michael places his field glasses back in their case. Satisfied with the set up, he produces his pipe from his coat. He lights it and slowly puffs. The adjutant asks if he should give the order. The General only nods in approval. 
The long roll is beat on the drum as the men in blue move forward.

The Rebs make ready and hold their fire.

"Johnny, look at all them purty blue uni-forms." said Elias.
"Don't worry Elias, in about 15 minutes they will close enough for you to get a real good look at them." said Johnny.

The Federal Left Flank advancing. General Bill with his brigade

By the third turn it was obvious once the Federals cleared the woods that they were pushing on the Confederate Right Flank.

Turn 4. the advance was going well for the Federals until The Rebs opened up. General Steven, being satisfied with
the range, Gave the order. The batteries and regiments opened up at once and Hell itself reigned supreme on the field. The
results were horrendous, One regiment was shaken and another routed.

Turn 5. The Union Advance was stopped cold. As they recovered from the barrage they returned the musketry in kind.
high casualties were taken on the Confederate side. With two regiments routed the center collapses. The U.S.
artillery had been doing counter battery fire.

two regiments broken and retreating. One already crossed to the opposite bank of the river. General Steven decides to hold
his remaining men on the reverse side of the hill. Taking a page out of Ol' Stonewall's playbook.

General Steve holds the fresh brigades in place. None have fired their first volley yet. The deadliest contest is about to begin.

"Press on men!!!  The rebel scum is skedaddling!!" 

"Is it over yet?"

By chance and not design, General Steven was observing the battle behind Stacey's Battery.  The Kentuckians covered the retreat of the remaining Infantry.  With the strongest discipline imaginable, they limbered their guns and rolled back down the hill and redeployed. with the rest of the  force...waiting...



In the proceeding turns the Federal brigades rallied and moved forward up the hill. As they crested
the hill they were met with a ferocious volley of muskets and canister.
General Michael coughed and choked on his pipe as he realized that he should have ordered his artillery to advance. Confederate General Steven and his "bloodied" brigades sat at the bottom of the hill, shielded from the enemy's. They managed to break two Union regiments and force the attack to halt. By this time the sun began to set on the field with the ford still in Confederate hands.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Army Of the Potomac Commanders

Here are some Corps and division level Generals for the Army of the Potomac.

 General George McClellan Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac with (from L to R)
BG Edwin V. Sumner II Corps, BG Samuel P. Heintzelman III Corps, BG Erasmus Keys IV Corps, and BG Fitz John Porter V Corps.

II Corps Commander. BG Edwin V. Sumner and his division commanders.
 1st Division Commander MG Israel Richardson affectionately known as "Fighting Dick"
2nd Division Commander John Sedgwick

Sadly all three men would not live to see the end of the war. General Richardson was mortally wounded at Antietam on 17th September 1862. The wound was not considered life threatening. When Lincoln visited McClellan in Antietam he paid his respects to the popular general. Soon afterwards infection set in and pneumonia. Richardson died November 3, 1862.

General Sumner gained the nickname of "Bull Head" while at the Battle of Cerro Gordo during the Mexican American War. Legend has it that a Mexican smoothbore musket ball bounced off his head after being shot at him from long range.Sumner, who was an acquaintance of Lincoln, asked to be relieved soon after Joseph Hooker was placed in command of the Army. Disillusioned and disgusted with the petty arguing in the Army of the Potomac. Before heading to his next assignment in Missouri he was visiting family in New York. While there, he suffered a Heart Attack and Died March 21. 1863.

MG John Sedgwick "Uncle John" Served in The Army of the Potomac until he was killed by a Confederate Sharpshooter at the Battle of Spotsylvania on May 9. 1864. While at the front, he was observing a federal artillery battery take cover from Confederate musket fire. he rode up to the artillerist and spoke his famous last words. "Why are you dodging like this? They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." Shortly afterwards The General caught a rebel miniball in the face under his left eye. He fell from his horse dead. He was the highest ranking Union General killed in combat.

III Corp Commander MG Samuel P. Heintzelman
2nd Division Commander Joeseph Hooker "Fighting Joe"
3rd Division Commander Philip Kearny
It should be noted that 1st Division was commanded by MG Fitz John Porter. The 1st Division was reassigned to the newly activated V Corps with Porter in command of the corp.

IV Corps Commander Erasmus Keys
1st Division Commander Darius Couch
2nd Division Commander William F. Smith
3rd Division Commander Silas Casey

V Corps Commander Fitz John Porter
1st Division commanders George W. Morell
2nd Division Commander George Sykes

McClellan considered V Corps to be the model Corps of the army. There were no political appointees. All of the General Officers were West Point grads and contained several Regular Army Regiments. George Morrell graduated first in his class of 56 cadets. George Sykes Division was known as "Sykes Regulars." Being a professional unit did not make it immune to political turmoil. When McClellan was fired, Fitz-John Porter who was a close personal friend of Little Mac's, was court martialed for the failure at Second Manassas. Morrell testified on Porters behalf and in doing so killed his military career. He was appointed Major General on July  4, 1862 but, the appointment expired the following year without confirmation by the United States Senate. After Antietam he held no field commands. He ended the war commanding a Draft Depot in Indianapolis Indiana.
Sykes was promoted to V Corps commander before the Gettysburg Campaign. In 1864 he was transfered out to Kansas.