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Civil War Commanders and Units
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morris crumley
Dunwoody
GA USA
Posts: 2473

General George H Thomas
Posted on: 6/22/2019 2:36:52 PM


As time goes by I continue to be impressed with the abilities, and meritorious service of Major General George H. Thomas.

Thomas is somewhat similar to Longstreet in many ways. A steady field commander, a man who does not like to be rushed, but moves with a near scientific method of tactical deployment...both men were treated with a lack of respect, at differing times, by those who should have appreciated them. Longstreet for mostly political reasons...and Thomas for unfair suspicions and doubts by his superiors.

Yet, from Mill Springs, where Thomas helped bring about the first significant Union victory of the war...to his actions staving off further disaster for the Army Of the Cumberland at Chickamauga, to being placed in command of that army and watching his much-maligned army sieze the Confederate line on Missionary Ridge ( while Grant and Sherman`s grand design for success turned to naught at an aptly named "Billy Goat Hill")...to his prescience during Sherman`s Atlanta campaign, his victory at Peachtree Creek...and the almost complete destruction of a Rebel army at Nashville, Thomas made fools of his detractors..and honor to himself.

It was Thomas who in March of 1864 brought to Sherman the idea of holding Johnston in place at Buzzard Roost Gap while his Army of the Cumberland gained Johnston`s rear via Snake Creek Gap. Sherman liked the idea....then screwed it up by giving the assignment to McPherson`s Army of The Tennessee...a force the rebels referred to as "McPherson`s Corps."

Thomas advised Sherman to let McPherson attack Marietta from the east, instead of the costly attack at Kennesaw Mountain.

At Atlanta, Sherman goaded Thomas to move on into Atlanta while McPherson battled the bulk of the rebels to the east...totally oblivious of the major battle that raged on along the Peachtree Creek.

And the absolutely ridiculous telegrams from Sherman to Grant where he treats Thomas as an impediment to his operations..while covering for his own many mistakes.

I have come to think much less of Sherman and Grant..and a hell of a lot more favorably about "Paps" Thomas.

Respects, Morris
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"You are a $70, red-wool, pure quill military genius, or the biggest damn fool in northern Mexico."
scoucer
Berlin
 Germany
Posts: 2611

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 6/23/2019 8:23:59 PM

Completely agree Morris. He was the perfect proffessional.In many ways a forerunner of what would become a "modern" commander in the sense of understanding the methodical operational and logistical. He was one of the few on both sides who had served in all three branches. Artillery, cavalry and infantry as well as being an instructor at West Point. Nor was he an ambitious glory hunter. His main problem was that he was a southerner (Virginia) and his family had cut him off because he had sided with the Union. His loyalty and friendship to Rosecrans did not go down well with Grant and Sherman either. It didn´t help either that post-war Schofield had a personal grudge against him from West Point days. He burnt his personal papers saying he didn´t want anybody hawking around in his affairs and memoirs after his death so his view of things was never presented.

His reputation for being slow was completely unjustified.Before the war he had suffered a back injury in an accident so frequently was in pain and had a very stiff posture which gave the impression of being slow.

The point is, his troops loved him.

Trevor
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`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.
Ciscokid
Long Island City
NY USA
Posts: 11

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/20/2019 11:16:57 PM

I have never understood what was it that was the core of the dispute between Thomas and Grant? Is there someone that can explain this.
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"If the cause be just and honorable, I am prepared to give my life for it." - Henry V
Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan
MI USA
Posts: 5604

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/21/2019 12:14:07 PM

Morris, Trevor, & Cisco,

I agree with you that the "Rock of Chickamaugua, was a great CW General! Check out what this guy, definitely a fan, has to say about General GH Thomas! Keep up this great discussion on the man!?

[Read More]

How was he treated after the war, being a Virginian,
but staying with the Union??
MD
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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 627

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/21/2019 12:46:34 PM

Cisco,

Clearly (IMO), Grant just didn't "like" Thomas. Why, exactly, is probably impossible to fully explain.

There were several "incidences" during the war that can be pointed to...

1) After the Shiloh blood bath (for which Grant took a LOT of criticism), Halleck took command in the field, and booted Grant "upstairs" to be a completely useless
# two to Halleck. Thomas was given command of the troops that had been directly under Grant. While this was hardly Thomas' fault, this may well have rankled Grant.

2) According to some (but not all...) accounts, Thomas treated Grant with less than proper respect, upon Grant's arrival in Chattanooga i.e. Grant sat in wet clothes, unfed, until an aid suggested to Thomas that someone should provide Grant with dry clothing and some supper.

But I think that it goes much, much deeper than that. Thomas had, IMO, a patrician "Southern Gentleman" air about him. Grant, basically from the boonies, and an almost complete failure in private life, was, I think, intimidated by Thomas.

In addition, Grant's "boys" i.e. Sherman and McPherson, were very loyal to Grant, and it was quite clear just who the alpha dog was in the Grant/Sherman relationship.
This was NOT the case with Thomas!!!

Grant clearly played favourites, and at Chattanooga, Sherman's flank attack failed, to be bailed out by Thomas' four division frontal assault. And of course, making the mistake of not just taking the first line of trenches, but actually racing to the top of the Confederate line, and shoving Bragg's army right off of and out of Chattanooga. I would note that Grant was also reluctant to grant credit to Hooker's assault on Bragg's right...which I believe was a LOT more effective than what is generally perceived.

It was great to win, but what Grant wanted was for his "boys" (i.e. Sherman and McPherson) to be the stars-:)

As for Grant's reaction to Thomas waiting out the ice storm in front of Nashville in December '64...well, deep down, Grant knew that letting Sherman "go" without having taken care of Hood was a huge mistake...and if anything "bad" happened at Nashville, sooner or later the shit would fly and a lot of it would land on Grant.

s.c.
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John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/23/2019 10:21:56 AM

Steve,

I have to disagree with your intimidated by the "patrician Southern Gentleman" idea because of his friendships at the point and in the "Old Army," off the top of my head Fred Dent and Longstreet, and the fact that he married into a "landed" Southern family steeped in the Southern code of honor.

At Missionary Ridge the Tunnel Hill position couldn't be flanked as long as it was occupied by sufficient force and Bragg nearly screwed that up like he screwed everything else up. I don't like taking anything away from Grant or Thomas but Missionary Ridge isn't so much a victory of the prowess of Union arms as if is a defeat of the leadership of Braxton Bragg. The feud with the officer corps divides the army. The wholesale house cleaning and reorganization or the wrath of Bragg after the post Chickamauga revolt. Polk, Hill, Hinderman, Preston, Cheatham, Buckner and other officers are all relieved from command. Basically put Cleburne's is the only division in the army he doesn't screw with. You cite Hooker as deserving of more credit and I agree but the main defense to Hooker's attack is what they are calling Cheatham's Division but Cheatham isn't in command Jackson is and 3 of the Brigades that had made up the division had transferred out when Cheatham was relieved. The defensive line being sighted on the topographical crest and not the military crest. The dispatch of Longstreet's 2 Divisions days before Grant's attack and the further dilution of force of being in the process of sending the divisions of Johnson and Cleburne to reinforce Longstreet as Grant's attack is starting. He's replaced Cleburne's force with 2 regiments of dismounted cav and basically left his flank in the air because the key defensive position which make the whole position physically unflankable is now unoccupied. With respect Larry, Mo and Curly could have been in command of the Union forces and still kicked Bragg off Missionary Ridge.
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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"
John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/23/2019 10:36:08 AM

Morris,

I'm thinking specifically the morning of the second day, because I just finished a few days ago a bunch of reading on Breckinridge's attack and the Union reaction, but from that it lead me to this idea forming. Thomas is at that point and has been pleading for reinforcement from Rosey since the battle began even though at that point in time he has over a division in tactical reserve. Now the breakthrough on the right Is greatly helped because Rosey pulled a unit from in front of it to send it to reinforce Thomas. Doesn't Thomas help to create the disaster on the right? I know the fog of war and Rosey has to understand the big picture but isn't Thomas crying wolf when he has a tactical reserve?
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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"
Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 627

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/25/2019 11:52:44 AM

Hi John,

Quote:
I have to disagree with your intimidated by the "patrician Southern Gentleman" idea because of his friendships at the point and in the "Old Army," off the top of my head Fred Dent and Longstreet, and the fact that he married into a "landed" Southern family steeped in the Southern code of honor.


1) His old army experiences were disastrous. He was generally bored and very lonely, and ended up being effectively kicked out of the army.

2) Grant married into a "southern' family that - until the CW - held a very low opinion of Grant. Certainly Mr. Dent believed that his daughter had married beneath herself. If anything, this was likely to have caused Grant to have had a chip on his shoulder when it came to dealing with 'landed' southerners. Like Thomas -:)

3) All of Grant's pre-war business dealings ended in failure. This has to mark a man.

s.c.
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Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 627

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/25/2019 11:56:04 AM

John,

Quote:
At Missionary Ridge the Tunnel Hill position couldn't be flanked as long as it was occupied by sufficient force and Bragg nearly screwed that up like he screwed everything else up. I don't like taking anything away from Grant or Thomas but Missionary Ridge isn't so much a victory of the prowess of Union arms as if is a defeat of the leadership of Braxton Bragg. The feud with the officer corps divides the army


Don't disagree with anything that you have written here....but I do not believe that you have addressed my point...which is that it was important to Grant to have his 'boy' (Sherman) get the credit...and that Grant downplayed the contributions of both Thomas and Hooker. Especially the latter IMO...as fugitives from Hooker's turning movement - running behind Bragg's line that Thomas eventually took - would have played havoc with the morale of the men in the line facing Thomas' four division assault.

s.c.
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John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/25/2019 2:50:47 PM

Steve,

Fred Dent was the brother of Julia Dent Grant and they meet through him as he was Grant's classmate at West Point. During the war Dent served with the US Regulars until joining Grant's staff when he came East. The Grant's named a son after him, Frederick Dent Grant. Everything I've ever read on Grant says they were friends throughout their lives.

He was bored and very lonely because he didn't take Julia out West to live on frontier posts with him. He couldn't take the separation and would "hit the bottle" but he couldn't handle drinking and usually fell asleep after a couple drinks leading to assumptions of how much he was drinking. It really had very little to do with army life or the officers he served with and built friendships with. Again he and Longstreet were friends all their lives.

I think you are tying "landed" with strict adherence to the code of honor. To my interpretation being the type of Southern Gentleman you are implying has very little to do with being "landed" or wealthy and everything with interpretation of and living the "code." Thomas proved he wasn't that type by staying with the Union because appearance and reputation was all important.
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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"
John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/25/2019 3:05:48 PM

Steve,

Bragg was "turned" days before when Hooker took Lookout Valley when Longstreet was still defending that end of the line or when he lost Lookout Mountain the day before.(I think I have the timeline right it might be closer to weeks and days than days and a day)

But I don't think you get my point, there was really no credit to give on the Union side only blame on Bragg. Sherman has the misfortune of facing the only truly combat effective division in the AOT.


edit How can Thomas deserve credit for the attack up Missionary Ridge if it wasn't done by his orders? Everything I've ever read says that the units just kept attacking when they were supposed to stop. That the men couldn't be stopped.

Plus when Jackson's Division(it wasn't Cheatham's in any way, shape or form) folded in front of Hooker in the saddle between Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge the didn't retreat up the Ridge, they went down and the line on top of the Ridge had to be informed by messenger that Jackson had folder. In fact U believe the flank unit refused its line and for a brief period tried to hold on.
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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"
Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 627

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/26/2019 10:22:09 AM

John,

Quote:
Fred Dent was the brother of Julia Dent Grant and they meet through him as he was Grant's classmate at West Point. During the war Dent served with the US Regulars until joining Grant's staff when he came East. The Grant's named a son after him, Frederick Dent Grant. Everything I've ever read on Grant says they were friends throughout their lives.


Yes. But that does not change the fact that Julia's father felt that his daughter married beneath herself. Or the fact that Grant was a complete failure in private life. And, IMO, this changes a man...Grant eventually found something he was very good at....but IMO continued to carry a chip on his shoulder for the rest of his life, with regards to those that were born into the upper class...and Thomas came from "money" (as defined at the time). I do believe that there was a part of Grant that was, for lack of a better word, "intimidated" by people like Thomas. Certainly, during the war, Grant was a lot more comfortable with rough and tumble westerners, than he was with the Thomas' and the Meade's of this world. Which does not mean that he couldn't work with a Meade or a Thomas....albeit, he clearly struggled in his relationship (such as it was...) with Thomas.

Quote:
I think you are tying "landed" with strict adherence to the code of honor. To my interpretation being the type of Southern Gentleman you are implying has very little to do with being "landed" or wealthy and everything with interpretation of and living the "code." Thomas proved he wasn't that type by staying with the Union because appearance and reputation was all important.


I used the word "landed" cuz you did...which was perhaps a mistake. But I don't understand your comment about Thomas, "proved he wasn't that type..." IMO, Thomas showed honour by staying with the Union, that had educated him .... remembering that Thomas had sworn an oath to protect that Union. You know, enemies foreign and domestic-:) There is nothing in an oath that says, "only if it is convenient for you".

And frankly, it would have been a lot easier for Thomas to have 'gone south', as most West Point trained southern officers chose to do. IMO, he did what he did because he thought it was the right thing to do, not the convenient thing.

s.c.
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Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 627

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/26/2019 10:32:35 AM

John,

Quote:
Bragg was "turned" days before when Hooker took Lookout Valley when Longstreet was still defending that end of the line or when he lost Lookout Mountain the day before.(I think I have the timeline right it might be closer to weeks and days than days and a day)


Yes, Lookout Mountain was taken well before Thomas' frontal assault. But Hooker followed the taking of Lookout Mountain up, albeit slowly...been years since I read about this battle...but Hooker received criticism for taking (I think) 24 hours to cross a stream/brook in pursuit of the men he had driven off of Lookout. That was the stream of refugees that I was referring to....Hooker didn't just take Lookout and stop!

EDIT: There is an essay on the web, "Politics in the Union Army at the Battle for Chattanooga", by Bob Redmond, that discusses how Hooker's men (including Osterhaus' division, which had been swapped to Hooker from Sherman) attacked Stewart's division from the flank and rear, causing Stewart's men to flee back across Bragg's lines., prior to and or during Thomas' frontal assault. It is, IMO, worth a read, and not terribly long.

Quote:
But I don't think you get my point, there was really no credit to give on the Union side only blame on Bragg.
Okay. But not central to my argument that Grant was intimidated by Thomas/wanted Sherman to get the glory, not Thomas or Hooker.


Quote:
Sherman has the misfortune of facing the only truly combat effective division in the AOT.


Couple things here....most importantly, Sherman thought that Bragg's right i.e. Tunnel Hill, was on one long ridge....it wasn't until the second day (after Sherman had wasted time, digging in) that Sherman realized it was not one continuous ridge...and that Cleburne's men were on the other side of a steep ravine. And according to Baldy Smith, Thomas's army had contour maps made of the area, long before Sherman showed up. So this ravine should not have been a surprise!

The second factor is that Sherman's attacks, once he finally got going, were very, very piecemeal. A brigade at a time....Sherman's tactics, as was often the case, sucked -:)

Quote:
edit How can Thomas deserve credit for the attack up Missionary Ridge if it wasn't done by his orders? Everything I've ever read says that the units just kept attacking when they were supposed to stop. That the men couldn't be stopped.


Agree. But, for better or for worse, generals still get the credit when their men do what needs to be done-:) And the backdrop here is that Grant's order to take ONLY the first line of rifle pits was simply ridiculous!!! When taken, Thomas' men had three choices. 1) Retreat under fire, 2) Stay and get shot at, with little chance of returning fire. 3) Advance and attempt to extinguish the fire that they had to suffer under.

But my argument isn't about whether or not Thomas should get the credit, but about why Grant and Thomas did not get along....let's not go off on too many tangents-:)

s.c.
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John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/27/2019 1:25:28 AM

Steve,

Stewart's was the flank unit on Missionary Ridge, Jackson's was Stewart's flank protection in the saddle/valley between Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. Hooker's attack went through Jackson to get at Stewart's flank and rear. Plus I think he has the timing wrong because from the memory of everything I've read The breakthrough in the center took place before Hooker hits the flank unit on the Ridge. Plus again they didn't stay on top of the ridge when they retreated they went down the backside in a northeasterly retreat.

It was Grant that had the terrain wrong thinking that the forward hills were in effect Tunnel Hill and the end of the ridge. What happened was that that those two hills were masking the main Confederate position and when Sherman took them he and Grant for the first time saw the real picture.

The terrain limited the number of troops that could be put into an attack. There was the v shaped ravine, a couple of hills and a unfordable Chickamauga Creek limiting and shrinking the frontage available as the attack went forward. It also tended to separate and funnel the attack into advantage fields of fire for the defenders.

Steve I understand your argument all I'm pointing out is that the reason wasn't because Thomas was a Southern Gentleman who intimidated Grant and that using this battle isn't really valid.

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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4113

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/27/2019 4:12:03 AM

Thomas was a physically large man, to the point of being considered overweight. A trite observation perhaps.....but I begin to wonder whether the physical characteristics of people can impinge on their conduct ; and the profession of being a soldier must be susceptible to this influence ; the Canadian commander Currie, and his Australian counterpart Monash come to mind in the 1914-18 war....large men both, Currie especially being overweight, and both endowed with great tactical prowess.

Thomas had a nickname : “ Old Slow Trot “...am I right ?

Was Longstreet a heavy man by the standards of his peers ?

Perhaps someone who is physically lumbering is endowed with qualities that compensate, and enhance performance in some aspects.

Maybe I’m going nowhere with this, so forgive me if I’m making a fatuous point.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/27/2019 10:11:48 AM

Phil,

I believe I've read that at some point earlier in life Thomas had a incident and hurt his back which gave him problems for the rest of his life. That from the point of the injury forward he was very deliberate in his movements.
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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"
Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 627

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/27/2019 10:18:16 AM

John,

Quote:
Plus I think he has the timing wrong because from the memory of everything I've read The breakthrough in the center took place before Hooker hits the flank unit on the Ridge. Plus again they didn't stay on top of the ridge when they retreated they went down the backside in a northeasterly retreat.


I don't think that the timing is wrong. Read the Redmond essay. In addition, from page 297 of "Education in Violence" (Thomas biography): "Johnson's division came up on Sheridan's right. On their way they gobbled up a Rebel regiment which had been driven into their arms by Hooker's advance along Missionary Ridge fro Rossville."


Quote:
Steve I understand your argument all I'm pointing out is that the reason wasn't because Thomas was a Southern Gentleman who intimidated Grant and that using this battle isn't really valid.


Okay, let's try this one on for size....Thomas was a southern gentleman whose competence intimidated (maybe "threatened" is a better word here) Grant. Remember, their is only room for one alpha dog at the top, and Grant wanted that dog to be himself. Sherman was not a threat, cuz Cump was Grant's 'boy'. Thomas was a threat!!!

Grant's tactical style was to attack first, ask questions later, casualties be damned. And this style had generally worked quite well. At least to this point in the war.

In support of Grant's methods, if you wait until you have ALL your ducks in a row, the time you took to get ready often will benefit your adversary as well. Maybe even more....of course, Grant's style of attacking without being fully prepared worked against him in the Overland and Petersburg campaigns...but that is a story for a different thread.

In contrast, when on the offensive, Thomas was inclined to execute well thought out and well prepared plans. Kinda a Longstreet "I don't like to go into battle with only one boot on". Nashville is the classic example. Don't attack until you have sufficient cavalry to finish off the job. If Grant was intimidated by Thomas, Thomas arguably did not hold a very high opinion of Grant's tactics (i.e. Grant initially ordered Thomas to assault Bragg on November 7th, long before Hooker and Sherman were up. Fortunately, Baldy Smith talked Grant out of it....although Grant no doubt deeply resented being told by Thomas (if indirectly) that his Nov 7th plan of action was a pile of premature crap. Which is was....

As an aside, on the issue of 'who' ordered the assault of the ridge line, rather than just the rifle pits at the bottom, it seems that quite a number of Thomas' division and brigade commanders wrote in their reports that their understanding was that the ridge was to be assaulted, NOT just he rifle pits at the bottom.

Read the Redmond essay....tell me what you think.

s.c.






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John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/27/2019 10:21:58 AM

Steve,

And the backdrop here is that Grant's order to take ONLY the first line of rifle pits was simply ridiculous!!! When taken, Thomas' men had three choices. 1) Retreat under fire, 2) Stay and get shot at, with little chance of returning fire. 3) Advance and attempt to extinguish the fire that they had to suffer under.

I would agree if the line was sighted on the military crest but it wasn't meaning the arty couldn't be depressed enough to fire on the slopes or base of the hill and the defending infantry had to break cover and expose themselves to fire on the slopes and base of the hill. In effect they were "under the guns" when they got to the rifle pits and receiving very little fire. Add in that many of the Confederates were trying to retreat up the hill blocking the field of fire of those brave enough to break cover.
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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"
John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/27/2019 11:20:50 AM

Steve,

I read the essay.

The initial breakthrough was by Wood's Division which was on Sheriden's left while Johnson was on his right. Specifically it was made by a regiment from Willich's Brigade and two regiments from Hazen's Brigade. So yes his timing is wrong.

Thomas wasn't a threat because he had no political base in the public, in the government nor in Congress. Plus Thomas since Mill Creek hadn't been in command but at best a Corps commander under a Army commander and wasn't in overall command.

As for Nov 7th you are forgetting Washington's part in this and the fact that Lincoln would be pushing for a victory before the Nov elections. The US has then every Nov and state Representatives were very important to the party.

Nashville a classic example of what? The AOT was a completely spent force before it got to Nashville and you don't need Cav to chase down barefoot men in the snow.

Look I'm kinda out of my element here, I'm usually the one bitchin about Grant, I'm just not sure Thomas is the answer and I know there is very little validity in using this battle as an example except to show just how bad Bragg was.
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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"
Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 627

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/27/2019 12:39:36 PM

John,

Quote:
I would agree if the line was sighted on the military crest but it wasn't meaning the arty couldn't be depressed enough to fire on the slopes or base of the hill and the defending infantry had to break cover and expose themselves to fire on the slopes and base of the hill. In effect they were "under the guns" when they got to the rifle pits and receiving very little fire. Add in that many of the Confederates were trying to retreat up the hill blocking the field of fire of those brave enough to break cover.


That the rifle pits were 'under the guns' is a good point that I hadn't thought about...from what I have read, the "military crest" was pretty narrow at best, and not suited to artillery.

It is true that the retreating Confederate infantry would have acted as a shield....but once out of the way, the rifle pits would still have been very exposed to long distance musket fire. And eventually, some artillery fire...


s.c.


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Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 627

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/27/2019 12:48:42 PM

John,

Quote:
As for Nov 7th you are forgetting Washington's part in this and the fact that Lincoln would be pushing for a victory before the Nov elections. The US has then every Nov and state Representatives were very important to the party.


Actually, I think that the 'push' from the government was more to help save Burnsides' bacon. Though it is my impression that Burnside was actually in relatively little danger....but either way, a failed assault on the 7th served no one's purpose...except maybe Bragg's-:) I think that the reasoning was that if Thomas attacked on the 7th, Longstreet would be forced to come back to help Bragg out. And would leave Burnside alone.

Quote:
....I know there is very little validity in using this battle as an example except to show just how bad Bragg was.


Frankly, I don't remember how we got onto Chattanooga-:) And I am not arguing that Chattanooga is a good example of Thomas' generalship, so much as I am arguing that it was a good example of how Grant tried to play favourites.

Quote:
Thomas wasn't a threat because he had no political base in the public, in the government nor in Congress.


It's a good point....hard to see there being a real threat of Thomas being brought east given, as you noted, that almost all of his experience had been as a corps commander. But his reputation had taken quite a bump up after Chickamauga....and if Grant screwed up Chattanooga, who knows what might have happened -:)


s.c.

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Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 627

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/27/2019 12:51:53 PM

Phil,

Old Slow Trot was not a comment on his battle prowess. From Wikipedia:

Quote:
Thomas was reassigned to Florida in 1849–50. In 1851, he returned to West Point as a cavalry and artillery instructor, where he established a close professional and personal relationship with another Virginia officer, Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee, the Academy superintendent. His appointment there was based in part on a recommendation from Braxton Bragg. Concerned about the poor condition of the Academy's elderly horses, Thomas moderated the tendency of cadets to overwork them during cavalry drills and became known as "Slow Trot Thomas".



s.c.
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John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/27/2019 6:29:21 PM

Steve,

and if Grant screwed up Chattanooga, who knows what might have happened -:)

And as I said before Larry, Moe and Curly could have ben in command and not screwed up given the gifts Bragg was handing out.

Another thing I'll throw out there to give you something to think about. In 2 days fighting Sherman took a little less than 1,700 casualties in no more than 2 hours fighting Thomas took more than 2,300 with the very large majority coming in Wood's and Sheridan's Divisions. Which leaves a little more than 1,500 in hooker's command. Confederate loss was about 6,700 with about 4.100 POW's. So it really wasn't the walk-over its been portrayed as.
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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"
John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 11/29/2019 9:36:17 AM

Steve,

This is how we got on the subject of Chattanooga, its in your first post on this thread.

Grant clearly played favourites, and at Chattanooga, Sherman's flank attack failed, to be bailed out by Thomas' four division frontal assault. And of course, making the mistake of not just taking the first line of trenches, but actually racing to the top of the Confederate line, and shoving Bragg's army right off of and out of Chattanooga. I would note that Grant was also reluctant to grant credit to Hooker's assault on Bragg's right...which I believe was a LOT more effective than what is generally perceived.
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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"
Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 627

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 12/4/2019 11:55:51 AM

John,

Quote:
The terrain limited the number of troops that could be put into an attack. There was the v shaped ravine, a couple of hills and a unfordable Chickamauga Creek limiting and shrinking the frontage available as the attack went forward. It also tended to separate and funnel the attack into advantage fields of fire for the defenders.


I am at somewhat of a disadvantage, not having ever physically been to the Tunnel Hill area...so it is difficult for me to judge whether or not Sherman's 'one brigade at a time' form of attack was simply poor tactics or the result of a physical inability to actually use more than one brigade at a time when attacking Cleburne.

However, I am re-reading Cozzens (Shipwreck of their Hopes)...and Cozzens is very critical of Sherman's tactics. And I would assume that Cozzens was reasonably familiar with the ground. From page 208 of my copy:

"...Sherman had committed only slightly over 1,100 men to the direct assault on Tunnel Hill, whose Texas defenders numbered perhaps 1,300. The Ohioan had begun what was to be a pattern that day. Though sheer temerity, he repeatedly negated his over whelming advantage in numbers."

s.c.

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John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 12/5/2019 12:36:37 AM

Steve,

Your quote gives a very incomplete and misleading impression. For one the Orphan Brigade and at least part of Brown's Brigade were on Tunnel Hill with Smith's/Granbury's Brigade. Second that while Corse's Brigade was attacking the front, the "direct assault," other units were supporting that assault attacking other parts of Tunnel Hill and other parts of the line. Third Tunnel Hill wasn't a individual position but part of a integrated defensive line of mutually supporting positions. Last throw in the terrain which limited the options and the frontage available and was taken advantage of by the defenders.

Try this map for a little better look at what I'm trying to explain.

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/maps/chattanooga-tunnel-hill-november-25-1863

Edit Look I'm not trying to say this was Sherman's finest hour I just think its a total failure in intel and believe that its Grant's failure a hell of a lot more than Sherman's.
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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"
Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 627

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 12/6/2019 10:00:04 AM

Quote:
Steve,

And the backdrop here is that Grant's order to take ONLY the first line of rifle pits was simply ridiculous!!! When taken, Thomas' men had three choices. 1) Retreat under fire, 2) Stay and get shot at, with little chance of returning fire. 3) Advance and attempt to extinguish the fire that they had to suffer under.

I would agree if the line was sighted on the military crest but it wasn't meaning the arty couldn't be depressed enough to fire on the slopes or base of the hill and the defending infantry had to break cover and expose themselves to fire on the slopes and base of the hill. In effect they were "under the guns" when they got to the rifle pits and receiving very little fire. Add in that many of the Confederates were trying to retreat up the hill blocking the field of fire of those brave enough to break cover.



John,

Still skimming thru Cozzens (The Shipwreck of their Hopes) in my spare time.... Cozzens says that the first line of trenches/rifle pits were 200 to 400 yards from the base of the ridge...and that the Union soldiers that took those trenches suffered from intense canister and rifle fire while in them. And the longer they waited, the more accurate the artillery fire became-:)

Pages 272 to 275 have quite a number of first person accounts of the canister fire etc. that the 'victorious' Cumberlanders suffered under after taking those trenches. So staying there was simply not an option. Again, what was Grant thinking??

So no, those rifle pits were NOT 'under the guns'.

s.c.
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Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 627

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 12/6/2019 10:10:37 AM

Quote:
Steve,

Your quote gives a very incomplete and misleading impression. For one the Orphan Brigade and at least part of Brown's Brigade were on Tunnel Hill with Smith's/Granbury's Brigade. Second that while Corse's Brigade was attacking the front, the "direct assault," other units were supporting that assault attacking other parts of Tunnel Hill and other parts of the line. Third Tunnel Hill wasn't a individual position but part of a integrated defensive line of mutually supporting positions. Last throw in the terrain which limited the options and the frontage available and was taken advantage of by the defenders.

Try this map for a little better look at what I'm trying to explain.

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/maps/chattanooga-tunnel-hill-november-25-1863

Edit Look I'm not trying to say this was Sherman's finest hour I just think its a total failure in intel and believe that its Grant's failure a hell of a lot more than Sherman's.



From page 241 Cozzens:

Quote:
Thus ended one of the sorriest episodes in this or any other battle of the war. Sherman's failure to turn Cleburne's lines defies explanation That he had the forces needed to do it is undeniable.....

...In his assault on Tunnel Hill, Sherman exhibited an egregious lack of imagination. He attacked Cleburne's salient head on, and with only a fraction of his force, rather than look for a way to outflank Tunnel Hill. That it could be done, Baldy Smith had no doubt. "Sherman should have put in all his force to turn Bragg's right, instead of attacking the strongest place on the right, for Bragg had given to the right every man that he could safely spare."


Cozzens goes into a lot more detail about how Sherman screwed up...but I am tired of typing-:) Albeit, his biggest crime was in the delay to do anything in a hurry after crossing the river....giving time for Cleburne to "set up" his defenses.....

I am obviously heavily influenced by the little that I have read on this battle...and not having physically been to Missionary Ridge, I have a propensity to take Cozzens at his well researched word.

As an aside, I am hard pressed to think of any battle where Sherman handled his troops adequately....he was a pretty good planner and strategist....but a very poor tactician.

But I am not disagreeing that Grant should have taken most of the blame if the attacks had failed.

s.c.
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John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 12/8/2019 8:26:12 AM

Steve,

Cozzens is great but as I tend to lean on the Confederate perspective he tends to lean on the Army of the Cumberland perspective and since when has Baldy Smith's opinion been decisive.

Cleburne's report is a good short read and shows how the position was mutually supporting and that there were two more brigades involved in the defense of Tunnel Hill. I find it very interesting that he makes sure to mention that when he learned of the fall of Lookout he sent his wagons and guns to the rear and a staff officer to Bragg's HDQ to await the order of retreat that never came.

I don't disagree about Sherman's tactics but he's usually following Grant's plan of battle.
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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"
morris crumley
Dunwoody
GA USA
Posts: 2473

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 12/10/2019 12:16:27 PM

Who is to be held responsible for the failure of the Confederates to place their lines along the tactical crest of Missionary Ridge. Leadbetter was the Chief Engineer of the Army of Tennessee. He arrived at Knoxville on 25 November to aid Longstreet( and if we believe E P Alexander, to talk Longstreet into an attack against Ft Sanders at a terrible position to try to assault from.

The great tragedy, from the Confederate perspective, was that Jefferson Davis kept an incompetent leader( Braxton Bragg) in command of a major force of the Western theater.

Respects, Morris
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"You are a $70, red-wool, pure quill military genius, or the biggest damn fool in northern Mexico."
John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre
PA USA
Posts: 1009

Re: General George H Thomas
Posted on: 12/13/2019 12:24:29 AM

Morris,

Its my understanding that Leadbetter had laid out a new line weeks before and that work was in progress but that the constant shifting, transfers and replacement of troops and leaders made the work agonizingly slow. Add in that everybody knew the line was flanked once Lookout Valley fell and that the reality was there were never enough troops to man the line and mount a siege.

On the one hand I understand Davis's opinion of "who else is there" but then I consider he brought Pemberton with him to replace Polk. What is worse is Bragg accepted Pemberton with open arms initially.
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A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country. "to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"

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