Saturday, March 28, 2015

Union Brigade Commanders Hancock and Burnside

BG Winfield Scott Hancock and Ambrose Burnside.

Winfield Scott Hancock was the son of Benjamin Franklin Hancock a school teacher in Montgomery Pennsylvania. Winfield was named after Winfield Scott, a popular American general during the War of 1812. Winfield was also a twin. His brother, Hilary  Baker Hancock. In 1840 congressman Joseph Forance nominated Hancock to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Hancock was an average student and graduated 18th in his class of 25 in 1844. During the Mexican War Hancock experienced battle at Contreras and Churubusco. He was appointed a brevet first lieutenant for gallant and meritorious service. After the war he served in such places as Fort Myers Florida, Fort Leavenworth Kansas, and southern California. In November of 1858 he was joined by his wife Allie and their children. As a Captain he served as assistant quartermaster under future Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston. He made friends with several southern officers including Lewis A. Armistead of Virginia.
 At the beginning of the Civil War Hancock returned east and assume his quartermaster duties in the rapidly growing Union Army. He was promoted to brigadier general on Sept 23, 1861 and given an infantry brigade to command in a division of Brig Gen. William F. "Baldy" Smith. He earned the nickname "Hancock the Superb" during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. After leading a critical counter attack at the Battle of Williamsburg, the army commander, George B McClellan telegraphed Washington stating that "Hancock was superb today." and the name stuck. At Antietam Hancock assumed command of 1st Division, II Corps following the mortal wounding of Israel B. Richardson. Hancock was elevated to Corps command after his friend John Reynolds was killed on the first day at Battle of Gettysburg. July 3, 1863 found Hancock and his troops placed on Cemetery Ridge. Across the field came Confederate General George Pickett's Division. One of the brigades that crossed that deadly field was lead by Lewis Armistead. Armistead was mortally wounded during the assault and died two days later. His friend, Winfield Scott Hancock, never came to see him before he died. He too was wounded during the assault. A bullet striking the pommel of his saddle entered his tight thigh along with wood splinters and a bent nail. He was helped from his horse and had a tourniquet applied. he refused evacuation to the rear until the conclusion of the action. After the war, Hancock continued to serve in the army. He later became a democratic candidate for the presidentcy of the United States. He lost the 1880 election to James A Garfield, also a former Union Army General. Later in 1881 Hancock was elected president of the National Rifle Association.

Ambrose Burnside was born in Liberty, Indiana and was the fourth of nine children. His great great grandfather Robert Burnside was born in Scotland and settled in South Carolina. Ambrose's father Edghill Burnside was a slave owner who freed his slaves when he relocated the family to Indiana. Through his father's political connections he obtained an appointment to West Point. In 1847 he graduated 18th out of a class of 47. During the war with Mexico he arrived after hostilities had ended and served mostly garrison duty around Mexico City. At the close of the war, Lt. Burnside served two years on the frontier serving under Captain Braxton Bragg in Nevada and California. In 1849 he was wounded in the neck by an arrow during a battle with Apache Indians near Las Vagas New Mexico. in 1852 Burnside was assigned back east to Fort Adams in Rhode Island where he met and married his wife Mary Bishop. in 1853 he resigned his commision in the regular army but held a position in the state militia. He focused his energy to the manufacture of the Burnside carbine. The Secretary of War under President James Buchanan, John Floyd contracted with Burnside Arms company to equip the cavalry with his new carbine. No sooner had he completed building the Bristol Rifle Works than another gunmaker allegedly bribed Floyd to break his contract with Burnside. This and his unsucessful congressional campaign lead to his financial ruin. He went west and worked for the Illinois Central Railroad where he met and became friends with George McClellan.
At the beginning of the war, Burnside returned to Rhode Island and raised the 1st Rhode Island Infantry regiment. He was appointed its Colonel on May 2, 1861.  He saw action a month later at First Manassas as a brigade commander. he then served in North Carolina with expeditionary forces that captured Roanoke Island and New Bern. In March of 1862 he was transfered back to Newport News Virginia.
After George McClellan's failure during the Peninsula Campaign, Burnside was offered command of the Army of the Potomac. He declined to accept because of his loyalty to his friend McClellan. He also understood his own lack of military experience. It says something about a person who can admit when they are not prepared for higher command. When John Pope's Army was defeated at Second Manassas, Burnside was again asked to take command, again he passed. At the battle of Antietam, Burnside was in command of IX Corps and experienced difficulty in crossing what was to be known as "Burnside"s Bridge." Burnside requested reenforcements from his old friend McClellan which were denied. He managed to get his men across the bridge but ran into Confederates under his old West Point Classmate A.P. Hill. After Fitz-John Porters Court Martial for the defeat at Second Manassas and Lincoln sacking McClellan for a second time, It fell on Burnside to take over the Army of the Potomac.
December of 1862 found the Confederate army under Robert E. Lee on the high ground behind a stone wall at Fredericksburg Virginia. The crossing of the Rappahannock River was mismanaged and lead to enormous casualties. He gained the nickname behind his back as "The Butcher of Fredericksburg." The following month, January 1863 found Burnside replaced by Joseph Hooker, an officer that Burnside firmly detested.
After the war he was elected to three terms as Governor of Rhode Island, he was also commander of the veterans group the Grand Army of the Republic. He was also the very first president of the National Rifle Association. He is most well known for his famous whiskers that are known as "sideburns" today.

Completed a Confederate Headquarters. This is modified from the basic Federal HQ set painted in Confederate colors.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thomas Francis Meagher and the Irish Brigade.

Thomas Francis Meagher was from Ireland. He is probably
one of the most well known commanders of the Irish Brigade during the American Civil War. Before coming to America, Meagher was a leader in the Young Irelanders during the Rebellion of 1848. Their goal was to free Ireland from British rule. After being convicted of sedition by the British court, he was sentenced to death. He was later commuted to life in prison at Van Diemen's Land in Australia. in 1852 he managed to escape Australia and made his way to the United States where he settled in New York City.New York City had a large Irish immigrant population and he soon put his life together. Meagher studied Law and was also a journalist. He also traveled giving lectures on the Irish cause.

At the beginning of the American Civil War Meagher joined the U.S. Army as a Captain. He organized K company of the 69th new York Infantry.During the course of the war he rose to the rank of Brigadier General. He is well known for recruiting and leading the Irish Brigade. The Brigade was made up of the 69th, 63rd and the 88th New York Infantry Regiments. These units where composed in whole of Irish Immigrants. Later the Brigade was expanded and the 28th Massachusetts and the 116th Pennsylvania  Infantry Regiments, also made of Irishmen, where added. This brought the Brigade up to five regiments.

Several of the officers were allowed to purchase non-regulation model 1850 staff officers swords bearing a large four-leaf clover pierced into the hand guard. The brigade also contained a group of paid chaplains. having Catholic Chaplains in the brigade implied a social acceptance for Irish Catholics which had eluded them during the antebellum period. The head chaplain, Father William Corby gave mass before the Battle of Gettysburg. He  gave "conditional absolution" to the troops before the battle. After the war, William Corby would go on to be the President of Notre Dame University. The regimental flags of the Irish Brigade were green in color and decorated with a white cloud with rays of sunshine beaming down on an Irish Harp. The Brigade motto was "Faugh a Ballaugh" which is Gaelic for "Clear the Way."

The brigade was mostly armed with old Springfield Model 1842 smooth bore muskets. The officers believed that the fighting would be up close and the old muskets loaded with "buck and ball" would do the trick. Buck and Ball shot was a combination of a .69 caliber musket ball and four smaller balls. This effectively gave the musket a "shotgun effect." Only the original New York Regiments used Buck and Ball. The 28th Mass and 116 Penn Infantry used newer Springfields and Enfields.
The Brigade served in the Army of the Potomac starting with the Peninsula Campaign at the Battle of Fair Oaks. They were also engaged at Battle of Gaines Mill, Savage Station, and Malvern Hill during the Seven Days. Later they fought at Antietam were they attacked the Sunken Road. They were immortalized by their charge up Marye's Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg.

In 1863, the brigade participated in the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Later in the war it saw service at The Siege of Petersburg and finally the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse in April of 1865.

Notable members of the Irish Brigade also include St. Clair Mulholland who was a Lt Col. in the 116th Pennsylvania. He earned the Congressional Medal of Honor at Chancellorsville for Gallantry in Action. The Award citation reads. "In command of a picket line held the enemy in check all night to cover the retreat of the army." After the war he returned to Philadelphia and became Chief of Police.
Michael Corcoran, close personal friend of Abraham Lincoln and the first commander of the 69th New York Infantry Regiment. He gained notoriety for refusing to parade the regiment in new York City during the Prince of Wales visit. He was in Court Martial proceedings for "Disobeying a Direct Order" when the American Civil War started. His experience as a leader and the  general lack of commanding officers in the peacetime army ensured that the charges were dropped and he returned to duty. He was captured at the First battle of Manassas but later was part of prisoner exchange.