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Buford Protege

Favorite Commander Choices

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3 hours ago, Sir R. Calder of Southwick said:

I occasionally read alternate history. A few years ago when I read 1901 you can imagine my pleasant surprise when an 80 year old James Longstreet (with Arthur MacArthur as field commander) was selected by President Theodore Roosevelt to take command of the US Army to halt a German invasion.

Roosevelt served under an old Confederate during the Spanish-American War.  Joe Wheeler was brought back to the US military to help bring the country back together.  Wheeler led the cavalry in Cuba in initially, both regular and volunteer units.  Malaria kept him down more than he would have liked but, he was still the division commander.

Wheeler, I think is another officer who doesn't get enough credit.  He was the eyes of the Confederate armies of the West.  It is said he fought in around 1,000 engagements over the course of the war.  He constantly kept A.S. Johnston, Beaureguard, Bragg, J. Johnston, Hood and more always informed of the Union movements.  He was always where he was needed and I would argue he made a herculean effort that gets ignored by many for flashier commanders.  Forrest gets all the glory while Wheeler did the dirty work.

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I was fully aware of Wheeler, and you are right in that he deserves more credit.

 

And, as you might also know, Wheeler in addition to commanding the cavalry division in Cuba was also the de facto second in command under Shafter.

 

Joshua Chamberlain volunteered for service in 1898 as well. He was not accepted due to his health - his wound from 1864 caused him serious problems for the rest of his life. In fact, when he died in 1914 it was as a direct result of continued complications and infections so Chamberlain was in fact the last man to die of wounds from the war. At any rate, despite his health he lamented that not being brought into service for the Spanish War was the greatest disappointment of his life.

 

That's a very interesting "what if": had Chamberlain been deemed healthy it is very likely he would have commanded at a brigade, possibly even a division in Cuba. While it's hard to speculate what if any differences that would have made on an already successful campaign, it would still have made quite a book end for his military career. (I live not far from where Chamberlain died in Portland, Maine - it's very sad that even in Maine he is barely remembered now).

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Careful Mr. Hill, you might come down with a stomach ailment and make you miss the battle. :D

 

I would say Chamberlain is a solid commander who learned on the job and succeeded when given chances.  He greatly benefits from having very well written and received memoirs, then again that can be said for many a commander who survived the war. The performance of his unit at Gettysburg has been turned into something of legend.  Though if you go back to the period, it was the 1st Minnesota's attack that had the whole army buzzing more than the 20th Maine.  Its argued that had the 20th not held as long it would have meant less as the entire 6th Corps was arriving on the field on the Union left and likely would have pushed off the exhausted Confederates, had they taken the hill. 

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8 hours ago, Buford Protege said:

Careful Mr. Hill, you might come down with a stomach ailment and make you miss the battle. :D 

Actually A. P. Hill's ailment was far more serious than this.

I have two biographies on him and both tell that while Hill was at West Point, and travelling back and forth between Culpepper VA and West Point, his travels routed him through the city of New York, and it is rumored that he visited the red light district and contracted gonorrhea.   Much of his physical sickness during the war had to deal with the effects of that disease. 

Edited by A. P. Hill

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14 minutes ago, A. P. Hill said:

Actually A. P. Hill's ailment was far more serious than this.

I have to biographies on him and both tell that while Hill was at West Point, and travelling back and forth between Culpepper VA and West Point, his travels routed him through the city of New York, and it is rumored that he visited the red light district and contracted gonorrhea.   Much of his physical sickness during the war had to deal with the effects of that disease. 

 

I've read the same thing, and it seemed to be relatively well known at the time.

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On 11/17/2017 at 3:58 PM, Buford Protege said:

How is Reynolds questionable or his actions at Gettysburg controversial?  He led from the front, and that led to his capture early on in the war.  Then shuffled back and forth from Division to Corps command in the III Corps AOV and then I Corps AOTP.  All accounts have him as a very good fighter when allowed to make the fight.  His troops punctured Jackson's lines at Fredericksburg, yet he was not allowed to send support (Franklin's orders).

 

On 11/18/2017 at 3:37 PM, Sir R. Calder of Southwick said:

I also question in what way Reynolds' actions at Gettysburg could be considered controversial. I remember reading one book (might have been "Generals at Gettysburg") which indicated that there was a school of historical thought which suggested that Reynolds was the "best of a mediocre lot", describing the Army of the Potomac's corps commanders. However, the author took the view (which I do as well) that Reynolds never truly had the opportunity - except for a few hours at Gettysburg - to show what he was really capable of.

 

Oohhh that makes more sense and seems to corroborate with the limited reading I've done. (also, sorry for the late reply)

What I heard about Reynolds that is controversial regards Gettysburg primarily. While he certainly put his men into battle and committed them ASAP (very admirable for a commander and very well done despite his death 1 hour into the fighting) I recall reading and thinking about whether Reynolds had the authority to choose said battleground. 

Reason being is that Reynolds decision to confirm and escalate Buford's defense of the crossroads meant that he kinda picked Meade's battleground for him. I think that we all can agree that Reynolds was spectacularly effective in defending said battleground in the short time before his death and Doubleday was able to take advantage of the situation Reynolds left him in. The problem is that b/c Reynolds picked the battleground at that location and committed his 1st Corps against a Confederate force that was growing in superiority, these actions directly led to the 1st Corps being basically butchered to the point they were disbanded later on. Some may blame Howard and XII corps for screwing it up, which I also blame, but basically: from what I've read, I interpreted Reynolds actions at Gettysburg as having some some severe consequences that honestly could have been disastrous, and it's only in hindsight and followup from other competent commanders that his decision-making seemed to have paid off.

Sorry for seeming like I"m hating on Reynolds. I'm not, I just am surprised he seems to have such a reputation around him to the point of it's like seeing the US Civil War Version of Rommel. I'd still pick him for my Dream Team anyway based on his reliability, character and general competence in comparison to the rest of the Union Generals available. I just only have an inkling about why he's so famous and so well-liked and I'm glad to learn more about him.

 

 

Edited by vren55

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21 hours ago, A. P. Hill said:

Actually A. P. Hill's ailment was far more serious than this.

I have two biographies on him and both tell that while Hill was at West Point, and travelling back and forth between Culpepper VA and West Point, his travels routed him through the city of New York, and it is rumored that he visited the red light district and contracted gonorrhea.   Much of his physical sickness during the war had to deal with the effects of that disease. 

I've heard that's why he didn't get along with bible-thumper Jackson.

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11 hours ago, vren55 said:

Reason being is that Reynolds decision to confirm and escalate Buford's defense of the crossroads meant that he kinda picked Meade's battleground for him. I think that we all can agree that Reynolds was spectacularly effective in defending said battleground in the short time before his death and Doubleday was able to take advantage of the situation Reynolds left him in. The problem is that b/c Reynolds picked the battleground at that location and committed his 1st Corps against a Confederate force that was growing in superiority, these actions directly led to the 1st Corps being basically butchered to the point they were disbanded later on. Some may blame Howard and XII corps for screwing it up, which I also blame, but basically: from what I've read, I interpreted Reynolds actions at Gettysburg as having some some severe consequences that honestly could have been disastrous, and it's only in hindsight and followup from other competent commanders that his decision-making seemed to have paid off.

 

Reynolds most definitely did have the authority to do so. The Army of the Potomac marched north to Gettysburg in two "wings" - Reynolds was in command not just of his corps, but his wing consisting of half the army. He and Meade always had a fairly close relationship, but it was Hooker who designated Reynolds wing commander before his relief; Meade simply left it in place (of course he had many other pressing matters to attend to in the two days he was in command prior to the battle as well).

 

The I Corps might have been nearly annihilated at Gettysburg, but that is not a poor reflection on Reynolds' choice of ground, quite the opposite in fact. Howard's XI Corps broke first, that is a historical fact. The I Corps held their ground against superior numbers long enough for a good defensive position to be set up on Cemetery Hill.

 

What if they hadn't?

 

What if, instead of being "butchered" as you put it, they had fled? What if the corps that Hooker and Reynolds built had broken like the XI did? I surmise - and I think many others would as well - that the route would have taken them well past Cemetery Hill and the Confederates would have occupied the same position that the Federals did. Then, just as Sam Elliot's Buford predicted in Gettysburg: "Meade will deploy spread out around these hills with messages hot from Washington: 'Attack! Attack!' and once Lee is all nice and entrenched behind fat rocks on the high ground we will charge valiantly. And be butchered valiantly."

 

John Buford, with the keen eye of a seasoned general, selected the best ground for miles to make his stand. When John Reynolds arrived, he had the authority to either ratify or reject Buford's decision. He chose to ratify, and reinforce it, for which our nation owes him an eternal debt of gratitude. He made the right decision, but he paid for that decision with his life - which was given I might add while personally placing regiments from the Iron Brigade, which further demonstrates his commitment to duty and how vital he recognized the ground and the coming fight was to be.

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On 11/27/2017 at 3:15 PM, A. P. Hill said:

Actually A. P. Hill's ailment was far more serious than this.

I have two biographies on him and both tell that while Hill was at West Point, and travelling back and forth between Culpepper VA and West Point, his travels routed him through the city of New York, and it is rumored that he visited the red light district and contracted gonorrhea.   Much of his physical sickness during the war had to deal with the effects of that disease. 

I knew of his extra-curricular activities and the having contracted gonorrhea.  I first read about it when reading "The Class of 46."  George McClellan and Hill were courting the same woman and McClellan even used it as leverage to win her hand and steer her away from Hill.  Really quite sad, yet that is how he decided to do it.  

 

5 hours ago, Fred Sanford said:

I've heard that's why he didn't get along with bible-thumper Jackson.

He generally had problems with Jackson due to his lack of discipline on the march.  Jackson quite frequently condemned him for the heavy straggling in his division.  Something Jackson did not allow.  Also, Hill wanted more information than Jackson would give and that also led to issues between them professionally.  Jackson had an ability to look the other way on a person's personal issues if it benefitted him on the field of battle.  He took in the eccentric Ewell, worked with the extremely profane Isaac Trimble, allowed Turner Ashby to do as he pleased, as well as Hill's issues when the battle came.  Many officers did not get along well with Jackson off the field of battle, but few wanted anyone else when in the thick of the fray.

 

4 hours ago, Sir R. Calder of Southwick said:

 

Reynolds most definitely did have the authority to do so. The Army of the Potomac marched north to Gettysburg in two "wings" - Reynolds was in command not just of his corps, but his wing consisting of half the army. He and Meade always had a fairly close relationship, but it was Hooker who designated Reynolds wing commander before his relief; Meade simply left it in place (of course he had many other pressing matters to attend to in the two days he was in command prior to the battle as well).

 

The I Corps might have been nearly annihilated at Gettysburg, but that is not a poor reflection on Reynolds' choice of ground, quite the opposite in fact. Howard's XI Corps broke first, that is a historical fact. The I Corps held their ground against superior numbers long enough for a good defensive position to be set up on Cemetery Hill.

 

What if they hadn't?

 

What if, instead of being "butchered" as you put it, they had fled? What if the corps that Hooker and Reynolds built had broken like the XI did? I surmise - and I think many others would as well - that the route would have taken them well past Cemetery Hill and the Confederates would have occupied the same position that the Federals did. Then, just as Sam Elliot's Buford predicted in Gettysburg: "Meade will deploy spread out around these hills with messages hot from Washington: 'Attack! Attack!' and once Lee is all nice and entrenched behind fat rocks on the high ground we will charge valiantly. And be butchered valiantly."

 

John Buford, with the keen eye of a seasoned general, selected the best ground for miles to make his stand. When John Reynolds arrived, he had the authority to either ratify or reject Buford's decision. He chose to ratify, and reinforce it, for which our nation owes him an eternal debt of gratitude. He made the right decision, but he paid for that decision with his life - which was given I might add while personally placing regiments from the Iron Brigade, which further demonstrates his commitment to duty and how vital he recognized the ground and the coming fight was to be.

Reynolds as the senior officer on the field always had the authority to choose what to do in the moment until higher ranking officers arrived.  That is how the structure of command works.  There were no field telephones or satellite uplinks like we have now for him to be in constant contact with Meade.  He had essentially 3 choices in front of him.

Option 1: Give up admirable ground and Buford's work and defend further back or disengage completely with nothing gained or lost.

Option 2: Send a courier to Meade and wait hours for any orders (basically this is option indecision, ala Sumner at Williamsburg on the Peninsula)

Option 3: Continue the fight that Buford started with the strategic and tactical planning of long and short term combined.

 

I can't see men like Reynolds or Buford, much less Reynold's commanders allowing option 2 to be a real choice.  I would argue that had Reynolds lived and kept command of the field throughout the day the XI Corps would have been better placed and the rest of his wing given more orders and possibly arrived sooner.  We know that Buford briefed Reynolds before he arrived and after he arrived and he likely had the best view strategically of anyone as he knew exactly where his entire wing was and added to Buford's reports it gave him the strategic mind to know that it wasn't impossible for the I & XI Corps to hold out until the II & III Corps of his wing could arrive, much less the XII Corps arrival as he could have sent orders ordering Slocum to move sooner rather than Howard having to request aid from a senior officer.  Granted this is all hypothetical, but knowing the man he was and his relationship with Meade, I believe Meade would have signed off on his judgement rather than micromanaging the affair from miles away.  Its not unlike Lee leaving operational decisions to Jackson or Longstreet.  He let Jackson have his head in the Valley and at Chancellorsville.  While he gave the order for Longstreet to attack, he allowed Longstreet to decide when and how to attack at 2nd Manassas.  When you have people whom you trust you let them make decisions.  Hence why Meade didn't race forward and allowed Reynolds to command the fight until he could arrive.  Then with Reynold's death he sent forth Hancock with written orders to take command until he could arrive.

I guess my question is what else Reynolds could have done?  Buford and Gregg were the two most reliable of the 3 Union cavalry commanders and known to have reliable information.  He trusted Buford to do his job and Buford trusted Reynolds to do his.

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3 hours ago, Buford Protege said:

 

I guess my question is what else Reynolds could have done?

Not die, ideally. :P

Hancock might've had a great quote in Gettysburg, but a Corps Commander, let alone an important one like Reynolds, is a bit -too- important to the overall strategic picture to lose.

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14 hours ago, Hitorishizuka said:

Not die, ideally. :P

I agree with that, and as @Buford Protege pointed out, a Reynolds who stayed alive would have had the ability, strategic sense, and authority to direct the battle and quite possibly get Howard to do a better job with the XI Corps than he historically did. (Remember that even despite Hancock having written orders from Meade to "take command" of the area, Howard protested vehemently that he was senior to Hancock and was very reluctant to agree to being superseded).

 

There is a biography of Reynolds called "Towards Gettysburg". I read it years ago and it might be time for me to dust it off and read it again.

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4 hours ago, Sir R. Calder of Southwick said:

I agree with that, and as @Buford Protege pointed out, a Reynolds who stayed alive would have had the ability, strategic sense, and authority to direct the battle and quite possibly get Howard to do a better job with the XI Corps than he historically did. (Remember that even despite Hancock having written orders from Meade to "take command" of the area, Howard protested vehemently that he was senior to Hancock and was very reluctant to agree to being superseded).

With Howard not directing the field it would have left Carl Schurz in command of just his division and Howard (hopefully) focusing on his troop placements.  I feel Howard would have been better strategically than the failed revolutionary Schruz, but there is no way to know for sure.  Barlow felt able to disobey Schurz and I don't know if he would have done so to Howard.  Schurz and Howard were already feuding by the time of Gettysburg as to the dispositions at Chancellorsville.  A very poor leadership dynamic was in place in the XI Corps at the very least and probably also led to its failings.

Howard was always one with an ear to the politics and stickler for his image.  Hence the bashing of Doubleday and not wanting to yield command to Hancock.  

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The Civil War commanders fascinate me, i know this isnt the right place to ask buy can anyone recommend a good solid book about the Civil War? One that handles the events prior leading to the war, the war, battles itself and aftermath.

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One book???!!!

 

That's a large order as there are over 50,000 books on the topic.

However,  if I had to pick one, it would have to be one of the earliest books I've ever read and acquired for my personal library.  American Heritage Picture Book of the American Civil War, by Bruce Catton.

630 extra large pages for your reading pleasure. 

 

Enjoy.

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3 minutes ago, A. P. Hill said:

One book???!!!

 

That's a large order as there are over 50,000 books on the topic.

However,  if I had to pick one, it would have to be one of the earliest books I've ever read and acquired for my personal library.  American Heritage Picture Book of the American Civil War, by Bruce Catton.

630 extra large pages for your reading pleasure. 

 

Enjoy.

will check that one out, one book is perhaps crazy :D maybe a top 5 books about the war? The book by Bruce Catton is on my first list now ;)

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My personal book of the War Between the States, is... well, I can't choose, honestly.

Burke Davis wrote a fascinating trilogy of books, the most comprehensive available in my personal opinion. The Last Cavalier, The Grey Fox and They Called Him Stonewall are what originally drew my interest to this short but brutal period in history. I personally learn best through biographies, by seeing the conflict through the eyes of its greatest generals. And if you look for a biography, look no further then Burke Davis's magnificent trilogy. 

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The works by Stephen Sears and James McPherson are a great place to start and get a very good grasp with some differing opinions. Then delve deeper.

i recommend Douglas Southall Freeman’s “Lee’s Lieutenants” and also “The Class of 46” by Jon Waugh or Sears’ “Lincoln’s Lieutenants” if you want in depth on the commanders in particular.

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On 12/6/2017 at 10:09 AM, A. P. Hill said:

One book???!!!

 

That's a large order as there are over 50,000 books on the topic.

However,  if I had to pick one, it would have to be one of the earliest books I've ever read and acquired for my personal library.  American Heritage Picture Book of the American Civil War, by Bruce Catton.

630 extra large pages for your reading pleasure. 

 

Enjoy.

Thanks so much for that link.  I had the paperback version of it as a kid in the 70's, it was my introduction to the topic.  I don't know what happened to it, hasn't been in the house my entire adult life.  What I'd always remembered, and had never seen anything like it elsewhere, were those wonderful panoramic color drawings of the major battles.  So much better than even the best of maps in terms of conveying the movements.  Has always stuck with me, and have long wanted to restore to my library.  Lol...all this time, however, I couldn't remember the actual title, and also didn't remember that Catton had written it.

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