Monday, December 29, 2014

Leadership in the First Iowa Infantry

The First Iowa Infantry was a three months regiment that fought at the battle of Wilson’s Creek. According to A. A. Stuart’s, Iowa Colonels and Regiments (1865), an unusually high number of its soldiers went on to high-ranking positions in other regiments. Probably many of these men had innate military gifts, but the fact that they experienced combat early in the war probably gave them an advantage in obtaining higher rank. Stuart listed four men who were promoted to major, six went on to become lieutenant-colonels, one became a colonel, one (Charles L. Matthies) became a brigadier-general, and one (Francis J. Herron) became a major general. Pretty impressive!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Rest of the Story

Perhaps you are not guilty of this, but sometimes I become so fixated by a unit’s role in a single battle that I don't even consider what the rest of their service was like. For example, Captain Frank Sands’ 11th Ohio Independent Battery Light Artillery was wrecked at the battle of Iuka, Mississippi, with losses of 19 killed or mortally wounded, 32 wounded, and 3 missing. Over the Christmas holiday, I purchased a copy of Ohio At Vicksburg by W. P. Gault (1906). While looking through the book, I came across the sketch of the 11th Ohio and learned that the unit began its service in Missouri, and then after participating in the Vicksburg campaign it was transferred to Arkansas where it fought at Little Rock; “In this short but decisive engagement the battery expended about 100 rounds of ammunition” (Ohio At Vicksburg, p. 279). The battery served during part of the Camden Expedition, but its combat service essentially ended with the Little Rock action. The shuffling of Federal troops into and out of the trans-Mississippi would make a rather interesting study, in my opinion.

By the way, I purchased Ohio At Vicksburg at Recycled Books in Denton, Texas. If you are ever in the north Texas area be sure that you stop by the store because it has hundreds of Civil War books for sale plus nearly a half million more books in other categories. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Blunt v. Hindman: Sparring After Prairie Grove

Union Major General James G. Blunt and his Confederate opponent, Major General Thomas C. Hindman engaged in some verbal and written sparring after the battle of Prairie Grove. On December 12, 1862, just four days after the battle, Hindman sent the following note to Blunt:

“I send the bearer, Lieutenant Lawrence, to the battlefield, for the purpose of making a plat of it and the approaches to it. I request that you grant him the privilege, under such restrictions and obligations as you may see proper to impose. This courtesy to me on your part, if extended to me, will be reciprocated whenever occasion may offer.”

Blunt replied sarcastically:

“Your request, contained within, is a very modest one, and will be granted, provided you allow me to send an artist to your present camp to sketch it and the approaches leading thereto. Such little courtesies must be reciprocated.”

Hindman failed to respond.

Quotes are from the Official Records, v. 22, pt. 1, pages 81-82.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Naming A Battle

After the battle of Agincourt in 1415, English and French heralds who had observed the battle met with King Henry V, and they selected a name for the battle. In all but one instance during the Civil War, informality reigned when it came to choosing a battle’s name, with each side selecting their own name oftentimes for a battle. So we are left often with multiple, and frequently confusing, names for the same battle. Shiloh/Pittsburg Landing, Manassas/Bull Run, Sharpsburg/Antietam, Oak Hills/Wilson’s Creek are just a few examples. So, what is the one exception during the Civil War? The one time when opposing generals agreed upon a battle’s name?

On December 8, 1862, Major General James G. Blunt met his defeated foe, Confederate Major General Thomas C. Hindman. The two men discussed the disposition of the wounded, decided upon a truce, talked about paroling prisoners, and agreed upon the name of the battle that they had fought the day before. The name, as determined by Blunt and Hindman, would be Prairie Grove.