Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Trans-Mississippian Classic

Harold B. Simpson’s Hood’s Texas Brigade: Lee’s Grenadier Guard (1970) is a classic of its genre. Colonel Simpson, a veteran of the United States Air Force, also earned a doctoral degree from Texas Christian University. Hood’s Texas Brigade: Lee’s Grenadier Guard is actually volume two of a four-volume set with the other volumes being Hood’s Texas Brigade in Poetry and Song, Hood’s Texas Brigade in Reunion and Memory, and Hood’s Texas Brigade: A Compendium.

Hood’s Texas Brigade: Lee’s Grenadier Guard is 512 pages long and is the most complete history to date about the brigade. In spite of the name of the brigade, there were some non-Texan units that served in it as well. Most notably the 3rd Arkansas Infantry served from late 1862 to the end of the war with the 1st Texas Infantry, the 4th Texas Infantry, and the 5th Texas Infantry. Earlier in the war, the 18th Georgia Infantry and Hampton’s South Carolina Legion served with the Texans, and in the middle part of the war the Rowan Artillery from North Carolina served in the brigade. The core part of the brigade, though, was comprised of trans-Mississippians.

Hood’s Texas Brigade assembled an outstanding combat record that really is unnecessary to detail. The three Texas regiments and the one Arkansas regiment that served in the brigade were the only units from those States that served in the Army of Northern Virginia. Their casualties were tremendous and most certainly rank as among the highest in any brigade of the war. Simpson estimated that about 5,300 men served in the three Texas regiments and the one Arkansas regiment during the conflict; of that number about 4,700 soldiers were either killed, invalided, discharged, died of disease, or deserted. W. H Hamby, a veteran of the 4th Texas, studied surviving records of the Texas regiments and concluded that the 1st Texas suffered 332 killed or mortally wounded; the 4th Texas lost 316 killed or mortally wounded, and the 5th Texas had 303 killed or mortally wounded. Regrettably, I could not locate casualty figures for the 3rd Arkansas, but I suspect that they were also quite high.

Hood’s Texas Brigade: Lee’s Grenadier Guard is a good read and a worthy history of one of the best fighting units of the war.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Favorite Reference Books

It’s been a shamefully long time since I last posted to this blog. Work demands and a fall break meant there was little time left in my days for blogging. So, it’s time to get back to posting!

While perusing my bookshelves the other day, I noticed three of my favorite trans-Mississippi reference works and decided that writing about them would be a good way to restart my blogging.

The oldest of the group is Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr.’s Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units, 1861-1865 (1989). Regrettably, I never met Art in person, but he fielded some research queries related to a project that I was working on then. His Guide has a straightforward organization and brief historical sketches about each unit, a listing of officers, and a bibliography. Two appendices deal with independent companies and Louisiana volunteer state troops. Bergeron’s book has been an invaluable resource for me, and I have turned to it again and again.

The gaudy cover of Ralph A. Wooster’s Lone Star Regiments In Gray (2002) is unappealing to me, but the contents of the book are solid. Wooster’s book is organized into seven chapters with titles such as “Texas Cavalry in the Heartland” and “Texas Cavalry in the Trans Mississippi.” Many of the chapters are then further subdivided; for example, the trans-Mississippi chapter has sections about the Sibley-Green-Bagby Brigade, Hamilton P. Bee’s Division, and other units. There is a great deal of useful information in this well documented volume, and, as a bonus the author provided a lengthy annotated bibliography. I have never regretted purchasing this book!

James E. McGhee’s book, Guide to Missouri Confederate Units, 1861-1865 (2008) is modeled after Bergeron’s book with a similar organization and level of detail in the historical sketches. McGhee did a masterful job of piecing together information on military units whose histories have often confused scholars.

Now, we just need top-notch reference works about territorial units and Missouri’s Union regiments as well as ones dealing with Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota.   

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"'We hate you with a cordial hatred.'"

On October 21, 1862, Colonel R. A. Cameron of the 34th Indiana Infantry left Helena, Arkansas, with a small group of men, and under a flag of truce journeyed toward the Confederate lines. Cameron carried dispatches from Generals Samuel Curtis and William T. Sherman addressed to Major General Thomas C. Hindman. After a three- day trek, Cameron was escorted to Major General Theophilus H. Holmes in Little Rock. Often derided and purportedly nicknamed “Grannie” by his troops, Holmes came across as a stern warrior with very decided opinions in Cameron’s account.

The two men met for over two hours one morning, and Cameron detailed their conversation in his report. After complaining “‘that in the route of General Curtis’ army houses were ransacked, women’s and children’s apparel taken without provocation, and all kinds of damage done to the property of citizens,’ Cameron responded by saying that such actions were certainly not ordered or condoned and that “Texans in his army had stolen the people’s meat and chickens.”

Holmes assured Cameron that his men would follow “the rules of warfare” as long as they fought organized forces “‘but…should we be beaten, and our army under Lee in Virginia and Bragg in Kentucky be crushed, we would rise as individuals and each man take upon himself the task of expelling the invaders.’” Colonel Cameron expressed doubt that the Confederate people were as “desperate” as Holmes. “ ‘Yes,’ said the general, ‘we hate you with a cordial hatred. You may conquer us and parcel out our lands among your soldiers, but you must remember that one incident of history, to wit, that of all the Russians who settled in Poland not one died a natural death.’ I [Cameron] replied I could not, and knew our people did not, reciprocate the hatred he expressed. The general then entertained me with his former love for our flag and his present hatred at the sight of it, but fell into a pleasant vein in regard to his old acquaintances in the Federal Army whom he knew.”

This exchange is from the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 13, pp. 769-770.