Volume 26, No. 2 – February 2013
Volume 26, No. 2
Please remember to turn off all cell phones when attending a Round Table meeting. The loud ring tone of a cell phone is a major distraction and extremely annoying to fellow members as well as the speaker. If phones are not voluntarily shut off or placed on vibrate, a $5.00 fine will be imposed beginning in March.
Elections were held in January and the officers for 2013 are:
President - Gerridine La Rovere
Please sign up to bring refreshments. The list
will be passed around at the meetings. Each member is asked to
contribute to the Forage Fund by bringing a snack once a year or making
February 13, 2013 Assembly
Sherry Bruce is a talented song writer and singer, author of poems, and as Sherry Bryce, recording star (chart topping duets with Mel Tillis, nominated twice as Country Music Duet of the Year), businesswoman and prize-winning baker. Sherry became interested in the military actions of her Cooper ancestors in the Civil War, culminating in her first book, My Brother, My Son, which will be the theme of her talk.
January 9, 2013 Assembly
Robert Schuldenfrei, our webmaster, who needs no introduction, discussed vignettes from the life of General Lew Wallace Beyond the ranks of the great commanders like Lee and Grant, he has always had great interest in the men just below the top rank. Chief among them is Lewis "Lew" Wallace, who lived a long and interesting life. When he was born on April 10, 1827 some of the founders were still alive; Adams and Jefferson had only died the year before. When he died on February 15, 1905 the frontier had closed, the Panama Canal was being built, electricity had come to the cities, and the Wright brothers had taken flight. Bob focused on certain aspects of his life that illustrate the themes which hold his imagination.
Bob starts with Lew’s early life, then events leading up to and the Battle of Shiloh, which was the seminal incident during his Civil War service. Rumor and innuendo follow this battle and Wallace is placed "on the shelf." Fortune intervenes and he is recalled to service despite those who want him left on the "scrap heap" of history. Time and time again he is the right man in the right position at the right time. Then comes Battle of Monocacy and, finally, the trial of the Lincoln conspirators. Bob wants us to see Lew Wallace in a new and different light. Having been unjustly treated, he then sits in judgment of others who could also make the claim of injustice. It isn’t easy to see how he makes the decisions he did, because he had the mind of a warrior and the heart of a romantic. Four "trials" are involved: two real ones and two going on in his head. The real trials were the investigation of Gen. Don Carlos Buell and the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. The "head trials" concern his reaction to the aftermath of Shiloh and how others judged him over the years.
Early Life, Education, Passion for Drawing, Writing, Warfare
Bob notes that what we know about Wallace’s early life comes from his autobiography, which was written in old age, and maybe colored by romance in the same way as his novels. Wallace claims he "ran wild in the great woods" as a child. During the 1832 Black Hawk War, his father raises a rag-tag band of locals to defend their town. Lew recalled this event as "splendid and inspirational," fixing for life his romantic view of the warrior and warfare. His formal education comes in fits and starts, interspersed with spells of self-education. He falls in love with the written word and drawing, at both of which he will excel. After his mother dies, his father "farms" he and his brothers out to relatives or neighbors several times. When his older brother goes away to school, the nine-year old runs away from home to live with him for a short time.
In 1837, Lew’s father, marries a 19 year old, is elected Governor, and moves the family to Indianapolis. Formal schooling is supplemented by long hours in the Indiana statehouse library. After one more deportation to a relative, by 1841 he is back with his father. He joins the Union Literary Society and participates in weekly debates, recitations, and critiques of members’ compositions (generating far more learning then most colleges) and discovers law, parliaments and legislatures. On several occasions, he runs off to see the world or to get involved in the fighting in Texas, each time to be returned home by his father’s father-in-law. Finally, his father turns him loose on the world. His first job is in the office of the county clerk. So ends the formal, but not the informal, education of Lew Wallace.
Bob then focused on Lew’s passions for drawing, writing and warfare. Drawing, started as a diversion from schoolwork, becomes a life-long passion. Lew has real talent. During the Black Hawk War the boy sketches military maneuvers and combat scenes. In later life he is able to draw practical maps and military scenes on par with any professional illustrator. At age 14 he writes The Man-at-Arms: A Tale of the Tenth Century, a romantic fancy undeterred by the fact that he knows almost nothing about the 10th Century! His fascination with honor, chivalry, and derring-do will have a great bearing on his decisions and trials.
Lew’s military education is self taught from the pages of Winfield Scott’s Infantry Tactics. By 1846 the war with Mexico is on and Lew, hungry for war, raises a company of men, who elect him a second lieutenant. Three Indiana regiments are raised by others. Wallace is surprised to discover that he knows more about drilling troops than almost any other officer in all three regiments. Onboard a steamboat bound for New Orleans, Wallace dreams of fighting battles, and entering Mexico City in triumph. Instead, he and his company are left to guard the beach at Brazos! Bugs, heat, and disease are their lot. His refusal to invoke stern military discipline makes him popular with his men, but not with his commanding officer, one Captain McDougal, a tyrant and a stern disciplinarian.
This brings us to the first trial of Lew Wallace. When a supply steamboat runs aground, Wallace helps rescue the crew and cargo. He borrows an overcoat from a broken barrel of uniforms to keep warm during the night. The steamboat’s clerk claims he also "rifled his trunk." McDougal adds to his grief with slanderous attacks. Accompanied by a group of armed men, Lew brings the clerk before Colonel Drake. The clerk, forced to testify under oath, exonerates Wallace. This incident strengthens his disdain for those above him in the chain of command, a problem that will dog him before, during, and after the Civil War.
Unit after unit leaves to go into combat with Taylor, but not the Hoosiers. Finally, in December General Robert Patterson orders the jubilant 1st Indiana to the front. After a 200 mile boat trip and 180 miles of marching, the unit is ordered back to their "accursed camp" on the Brazos. [During the Civil War Wallace learns from Patterson that he made the unauthorized order "out of pity for the suffering of the Indianans."] Two companies are to return to Brazos and the rest are to go to Matamoros. On the way by steamer, the troops runs out of supplies. A forage party is ambushed with three killed. Company H, commanded by Wallace, and others, charges across a meadow, climbs a high bluff, clambers over a log palisade, and defeats the Mexicans. The American units finally join Taylor in February 1847, but Lew never gets any real combat. He attaches himself to another unit that is ambushed and surrounded in a hacienda. They hold out for three days on short rations until the enemy gives up and leaves. While he is winning this little tussle, the battle of Buena Vista takes place, so Lew again misses a chance for glory. Lew rashly publicly criticizes Taylor’s report on the Battle of Buena Vista that says the Second Indiana retreated and could not be rallied. In fact the unit had been ordered to retreat by its commander, who then abandoned them to fight with Jefferson Davis. The Second Indiana rallied themselves and fought with the Third Indiana.
Sent home, Lew misses the Battle of Chapultepec and the occupation of Mexico City. Worse, on the way home he was robbed of the $280 he had saved to pay for college, so he switches to obtaining a law license. When Zachary Taylor is nominated for President, Wallace bolts to the Free-Soil Party. But Taylor wins and Wallace is stuck with debts run up for the Free-Soil Party. A man of honor, it takes Wallace six years to pay off this debt. He courts Susan Arnold Elston, the daughter of one of Crawfordville’s most eminent men. Lew feels he has found a kindred spirit, but it takes time to win her over, and more time to get her father’s blessing, since Major Elston remembers Lew’s boyhood antics. Lew promises to "make something of himself," returns to his studies, passes the bar, gets a job in the local court, and in 1852 marries Susan.
He joins the Democratic Party and tries for a career in politics. He cannot support slavery although the extreme views of the Abolitionists cause him angst. He squarely supports the Union and anticipates having to fight for it. In 1856 he forms a military company called the Montgomery Guards. When he stumbles across a French military book, he calls his men Zouaves, feeding his sense of the theatrical. Susan composes a "Song for the Montgomery Guards." He supports Stephen Douglas in 1860. When Lincoln wins, he parts with the Indiana "Copperheads" who support the South, goes to Governor Morton, now a Republican, admits he has been wrong, and offers his services and the services of his Zouaves should it come to war.
Romney, Fort Donelson
After Fort Sumter falls, Morton appoints Wallace, as Adjutant General, to raise six regiments (Indiana’s quota). Wallace designates the units as numbers 6th to 11th, paying homage to the five units that had fought in Mexico. These are three-month enlistees. Wallace chooses to command the 11th Indiana. In June, en route to Cumberland, Maryland, Wallace learns of a threatening Confederate force in Romney, Virginia, 45 miles to the south. Without orders, he and his men march at night over mountains and attack at dawn, leading his Zouaves into a fierce and victorious fire-fight. The Rebels flee, leaving a pile of booty behind. This may not have been a "great battle" but the North hungers for success, so Wallace is lavishly praised. However, his unit is put under commanders not predisposed to fight. When the three-month enlistments expire, Wallace returns to Indiana to recruit new men, this time for three year terms.
Wallace and the 11th Indiana go to Paducah, Kentucky, under the command of Gen. Charles Smith. Lew complains in public about the lack of action and is labeled by some as a malcontent. In September he is promoted to Brigadier General and put in charge of a brigade that included the 11th Indiana. Grant replaces Smith and in January, 1862 advances up the Tennessee River. During the successful attack on Fort Henry, the Indianans are sent to attack Fort Heiman, which is still under construction. Wallace, anxious to attack, is held back by Smith, which allows the defenders to flee without a shot being fired! Lew is disappointed when Grant orders Lew to take command of Forts Henry and Heiman while the rest of the expedition marches on Fort Donelson. The initial fight there does not go well so Grant orders Wallace to send two regiments to the fray. Grant puts Lew in charge of a division of seven regiments and 6,000 men. CSA Gen. John Floyd tries to break out, sending Pillow and Bushrod Johnson to attack McClernand and Wallace. McClernand falls back, but Wallace, disobeying orders to hold, rescues McClernand. Wallace and Smith then advance, with Wallace holding high ground. Grant then orders Wallace to retire. Wallace once again disobeys orders and keeps the hilltop. Floyd gives his command to Pillow who gives it to Buckner. Floyd and Pillow escape. When Buckner asks for "terms," Grant makes his famous statement: "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately on your works." Grant obtains national exposure as "US Grant." Wallace also gains the fame he craved. At age 34 he is promoted to Major General, the youngest to hold that rank in the West. Fort Donelson is a significant victory: the Tennessee and the Cumberland Rivers are cleared and Nashville falls. Grant’s aide-de-camp, Captain Hillyer, had praised Wallace but now complains that Wallace’s report omits his role in delivering orders. After conferring with his staff, Wallace tells Hillyer that the report will stand as no one had seen Hillyer delivering orders during the battle. This rebuff offends Grant’s aide-de-camp and has consequences.
On March 13th, Grant, Wallace, and 30,000 troops aboard 70 river boats, escorted by many gun boats, head south. Lew enjoys the spectacle. When they dock at Savannah, Tennessee, Gen. Smith tells Lew that the Confederates have gathered in force at Corinth, Mississippi, 20 miles to the Southwest. He orders Lew and his cavalry to cut the railroad between Corinth and Columbus, after which Lew is to make his headquarters at Crump’s Landing, not with the main body at Pittsburg Landing. Smith tells him to guard Wallace’s Bridge (no relation) over the Snake River to prevent a rebel attack from the North. In leaving, Smith scrapes his leg, which becomes infected, and dies within the month. The very night of this meeting Cheatham destroys Wallace’s Bridge and retires south of Pittsburg Landing, leaving Wallace to guard empty territory. Anticipating a fight, Wallace makes a detailed terrain study, locating the roads and bridges in the area. On the morning of April 4th, informed by his scouts that the "whole rebel army was on the way up from Corinth" toward Pittsburg Landing, Wallace sends his favorite orderly, Simpson, to Pittsburg Landing with a note bearing this news, but Grant had left for his headquarters in Savannah. As instructed, Simpson leaves Wallace’s note with the postmaster. Grant never gets it. Again, this has unfortunate consequences.
Sherman is sitting, fat, dumb, and happy (see shaded area on map), certain the Rebel Army is still in Corinth, and ignores reports by his pickets of several skirmishes. Sherman even reprimands an officer who reports a large body of rebels in front of his command. In fact 40,000 rebels under Johnston are camped in front of Sherman, who reports to Grant that he expects no action! In turn, Grant wires Halleck that there is nothing in front of him, but he is prepared for an attack if one should happen. In fact he is not prepared and the rebels are only two miles away. With his untrained troops Johnston decides to hold off the attack until Sunday morning. At 4:55 A.M., April 6, 1862, skirmishers on both sides open fire. Most of Sherman’s raw division are washing, cooking, or eating breakfast. Once he realizes the situation, Sherman brings up reinforcements and makes a stand. His men hold off four charges, then fall back. He is now well north of where Wallace "knows" him to be, a fact critical to understand what happens next.
At Crump’s Landing ("F" on the map), Wallace can march to Sherman’s relief by the partially submerged river road to Pittsburg Landing or by the shunpike ["F" to "A" to "D"] to the right of the army." Wallace hears gunfire and realizes the battle has begun. He orders his brigades to assemble at Stoney Lonesome ("A"). At 8:00 A.M., Grant arrives at Crump’s Landing and meets with Wallace.
Controversy will arise over what happens next: Grant orders Wallace to "hold the division ready [at Stoney Lonesome] to march in any direction," and leaves for Pittsburg Landing. At Pittsburg Landing, the chaos makes organizing a counter attack difficult. Grant sends his quartermaster, Capt. A. S. Baxter, to tell Wallace to bring his division up to reinforce Sherman’s right. In his Memoirs, Grant claims he orally instructed Baxter to order Wallace "to march immediately to Pittsburg Landing by the road nearest the river," which would be the River Road leading to Wallace’s Bridge. Baxter does not ride directly to Wallace, but takes a boat from Pittsburg Landing to Crump’s Landing, then rides to Stoney Lonesome. It takes him until 11:30 to reach Wallace. Asked how the battle is going, Baxter tells Wallace they are "repulsing the enemy." Wallace therefore is given no reason to hurry. Wallace and his staff assert then and later that the unsigned note, scribbled by Baxter on tobacco-stained foolscap and later lost, does not specify the route Wallace was to follow, only that he is to "march and form junction with the right of the army." Morsberger, ibid. page 89. Wallace’s version of the unsigned note and Grant’s later version of his oral instructions are inconsistent: Wallace can only reach the "right of the army" (where he thinks it still is) by taking the shunpike ("A" to "D"), so he off he marches, reaching "B" by 12:30 P. M. Wallace feels no urgency and gives his troops a half-hour dinner break. At 1:30 P. M., Wallace hears again from Grant, asking him to hurry. Wallace, not suspecting anything amiss, replies that he will be up "shortly."
Finally, at 2:00 P. M., Capt. Rowley, of Grant’s staff, rides up in great agitation. It becomes clear that Sherman has been whipped (see April 6 on the map). If Lew continues toward "D" he could end up behind the entire Confederate Army! For a moment, Lew considers striking the enemy’s rear, but Rowley gives him Grant’s order to march to Pittsburg Landing ASAP. This order presents a number of problems. First, Wallace has to countermarch to keep his best brigade in front ready for combat, instead of simply having everybody "about face." Next he has to find a shortcut to Wallace’s Bridge (South of "E"). Using a guide, whom he suspects might be a rebel sympathizer, the division follows a path through a forest ("H"). Another Grant staff officer, Capt. Rawlins, arrives, fuming over Wallace’s supposedly slow pace. He later recalls Wallace as "cool and indifferent." Rawlins suggests that only infantry move up, but Wallace demurs. He suspects that he will need the artillery. He does not know it, but the battle is apparently already lost. The only thing going for the Union is the death of Albert Sidney Johnston. Johnston might have urged his troops to finish off Grant, but the cautious Beauregard rests his battle-weary troops, sure of victory the next day. As Wallace crosses Snake Creek and enters the battle area late on April 6th, he expects someone to guide him into position, but no one comes. His men stumble around in the rain and the darkness. Wallace, venturing out alone, encounters a sergeant he knows, and is told he is a mere 400 yards away from a rebel battery!
Wallace sets up camp (see April 7 map), planning to attack the Confederates at dawn. The Indiana guns open the second day of the battle. Wallace finds Grant, who has spent a terrible night and is in a foul mood. Grant does not mention Sunday’s miscommunications but merely asks if Wallace is ready for action. Grant, once again, gives the skimpiest of verbal orders "to move out toward the Southwest." Asked if there were particular orders for the attack, Grant says, "No, I leave that to your discretion." Grant has every reason to be confident now that Buell has brought up the Army of the Ohio. Grant seems to have forgotten that Wallace was not on the battlefield on Sunday and does not brief Wallace on the current situation. Not knowing that Buell has arrived and uncertain of his support on his left flank, Lew nevertheless advances on Braxton Bragg. Bragg could have mauled the Indiana division badly as they go down into a valley, cross a creek, and mount the slopes on the far side, but fails to do so. Wallace engages the retreating rebels, performs a left turning maneuver, batters the enemy with artillery, risks being flanked himself, routs a cavalry charge and stops an infantry counterattack with long range cannon fire. About 10:30 A.M., Sherman’s supporting columns arrive and Wallace, always the romantic, "admired the spectacle of bayonets glistening and regimental colors flying." Meeting little resistance, the Indiana troops advance until they almost reach Shiloh Church. Louisiana artillery then rains down murderess fire on both Wallace and Sherman. Sherman’s men turn tail and run. Not wanting to retreat, Wallace orders the First Brigade to halt and take cover. From noon until 12:30 he waits until Sherman rallies and then both of them advance. Amidst the blood and gore of battle, Bob asks us to consider Lew’s mindset. In An Autobiography he writes: "Up rose all the flags, and up the men, and forward--a glorious sight I may never see again!" A few minutes later, the Union right is under counterattack, which Sherman recalls as "the severest musketry fire I ever heard." Again Sherman’s men give way with the Rebels whooping it up in pursuit and again Wallace calms his men, holding the line until Buell’s Army arrives on the scene. For the third time, Sherman brings his men back and the advance continues. With 40,000 additional Union soldiers on the field victory is assured. By 2:00 P.M. Beauregard is in full retreat. At about this time Grant rides up and talks briefly with Wallace. He directs the division to wheel to the right in order straighten the Union line for an advance. That is all and Grant rides off. It gives Wallace great satisfaction to think he is in advance of the whole Army. Except for some light skirmishes, the battle has ended. All appears well to Lew Wallace. He believes he and his division have done a great job and is certain to bask in the glory in the near future. Sadly, this is not to be.
Both armies are exhausted. The Union holds the field but has over 5,000 bodies to bury and over 16,000 wounded on both sides to tend. There will be no pursuit. True to form, Wallace is full of pride in victory and overlooks the horror of the scene. He spends the night after the battle planning an attack on Corinth, but things began to come apart. On April 12th, Halleck arrives and promptly relieves Grant of command, embittering Grant. Wallace, on the other hand, revels in a flood of congratulatory letters, leading him to make unwise public statements critical of Halleck. It galls him that Halleck is promoted to command all the armies in the field. Wallace and his division are sent to Memphis. With Grant back in command, Wallace asks for and gets two weeks leave to go home.
Before the first week is up Gov. Morton invites him to Indianapolis, ostensibly to do some recruiting work. Instead, Morton shows Wallace a telegram from Stanton relieving Wallace from command. It comes as a shock. With no explanation, Wallace is put on the shelf. It looks as if his military career is over. Wallace thinks Halleck has done this, but the real story is a bit more complex. In his rapid rise from colonel to major general, Lew has been very indiscreet. Drunk on dreams of glory, he has shot his mouth off too many times. After Shiloh the country is ablaze over the terrible loss of men and material and is looking for someone to blame. The press writes that Grant was drunk and Sherman had mismanaged the battle. There are cries for a court martial. Lincoln, asked to relieve Grant, famously replies: "I can’t spare this man; he fights." So Grant survives, Sherman is promoted and Wallace becomes the scapegoat! At first Grant has only praise for Wallace. But as he grows resentful of the attacks upon himself, Grant begins to blame Wallace’s late arrival on Day One, saying that Wallace should have come to the aid of the army even without orders. Grant concludes that Lew got the order to help many hours earlier then he did and dawdled en route. Grant’s staff supports their boss. The main charge against Wallace is that he marched on the shunpike toward Purdy Road instead of on the River Road to Wallace’s Bridge. Captain Hillyer seems to be Wallace’s most malicious defamer. Having let up on Grant and Sherman, the newspapers turn on Wallace with a vengeance. Even papers who had been supporters now join the chorus. Wallace believes that in time the truth will set everything straight, but has no inkling of how long it would take. He asks Stanton for a court of inquiry, but upon the advice of Sherman withdraws the request. Even after the war, authors blame Wallace and the Indiana volunteers for delay that allegedly caused the great carnage at Shiloh.
As President, Grant collects versions of the battle that substantiate his version of events. Wallace writes Grant at this time with his version of the facts. Grant’s reply acknowledges that Lew’s later service make it unlikely that he had failed to follow orders. However, Grant in public never varies from his position that Wallace is to blame. As in battle, Grant is stubborn: once his mind is made up, he sticks to his story. Wallace never receives an official reprimand, but Grant and Sherman become national heroes, and blame for the near defeat and horrible losses of men is unjustly shifted to Lew Wallace.
Responding to New Threats
Seemingly retired, he returns to Crawfordsville and spends time hunting and fishing, which he dearly loves, and waits to see what might yet be in store for him. Fortune, so cruel up to now, is about to favor him. In August Governor Morton summons him to deal with a threatened invasion of Kentucky and Indiana by Braxton Bragg and Kirby Smith. Morton had organized five regiments that need Colonels and asks Wallace, who is a Major General, if he would head one of them. Lew swallows his pride, accepts the provisional rank of Colonel, and takes command of the 66th Indiana. To get back into the field he is ready to do anything. He reports to Brig. Gen. Jeremiah T. Boyle, who is dumbfounded to have a Major General as a regimental commander. Wallace explains he was on "special business" and is glad to offer his services. Lew’s orders keep changing. He is sent to Lexington, Kentucky, then to the Cumberland Gap to support General George Morgan. Wallace sets up a strong defensive position along the Kentucky River. Just as he is about to pick off one of Smith’s advanced units, Gen. William Nelson takes command and rejects Lew’s planned attack. Wallace, deprived of any role, takes a train to Cincinnati.
Two days after returning to Cincinnati, he receives orders to return to Lexington. Nelson has been disastrously defeated, losing 4,000 of his 6,500 men, because he did not stay behind the defenses constructed by Wallace. En route to Lexington, he is ordered back to Cincinnati to plan the defense of the city, now under threat from the victorious Rebels. No troops are available, so Wallace announces that the 200,000 residence of Cincinnati would defend themselves, declares martial law and has every citizen report for work details. 15,000 citizens dig breastworks and rifle pits. Gov. Tod of Ohio mobilizes the countryside. Some 60,000 irregulars, nicknamed the "Squirrel Hunters," pour into the city armed with a motley collection of muzzle loading hunting rifles. Kirby Smith sends Henry Heth against Cincinnati. Heth probes the defenses for a weak spot, finds none and withdraws, leaving Cincinnati untouched. The citizens hold a "splendid triumph." Congratulatory telegrams pour in and Wallace feels vindicated for the first time since Shiloh. His fortunes are beginning to turn, except in Washington.
In September 1862 he is sent to Columbus, Ohio to take command of Camp Chase, where 6,000 prisoners are to be organized to fight the Santee (Sioux) Indians. He suspects this is Halleck’s attempt to get him to quit the army and vacate his commission. Wallace follows orders and attempts to make the best of it. Wallace is appalled at the conditions at Camp Chase. The men are dying in droves from unsanitary conditions. Forgotten by their own government, they are ripe for mutiny and the citizens of Columbus live in dread of the "nest of pestilence" in their midst. So what does Wallace do? He dresses in full regalia with sword and sash and rides his horse, Old John, into the warren of slovenly shacks that passes for housing. As he rides amongst the stinking, verminous, unshorn mob he is jostled and jeered. Unperturbed, Wallace faces them down. He explains that he is the new man on the job and that things are going to change. He orders the men to wash, shave, cut their hair, and restore self-discipline. He promises back pay, new uniforms, and new tents. Three days later the first company marches into Columbus to get paid. When the Army paymaster claims there is no money, Wallace has him arrested, seizes the keys to the safe, and takes the money by force. He then goes to the quartermaster and obtains new uniforms. Within a week a new camp is established, named for Ohio Governor Tod. Camp Chase is abandoned. The Santees’ land and food had been seized by settlers. As one settler puts it, "Let them eat grass or their own dung!" Starving, they raided a warehouse for food. Eventually, 303 Santees are captured, tried, found guilty and sentenced to death. Lincoln reviews the record and reprieves all but 39, who are hanged on December 26, 1862. This is the greatest mass execution ever held in the United States.
Presiding over Gen. Buell’s "Investigation"
Lew Wallace has seen and experienced injustice. Now he will hold the fate of another officer in his hands. In November 1862, he gets a telegram ordering him to Cincinnati to investigate Major General D. C. Buell’s actions in Kentucky and Tennessee. Buell had saved Grant’s bacon at Shiloh, but now finds himself under a cloud because of his failure to keep Bragg out of Kentucky. The battle of Perryville had been a disaster. Buell, with 55,000 men had nearly been routed by Bragg, with less than one third that number. Although Buell’s headquarters was only about two miles away, unusual acoustical conditions had hidden the sounds of battle for two hours after it started. Once Buell realized what was going on, he sent orders for a full counterattack, but the courier got lost and Bragg escaped. What follows is rich in irony: Halleck, whose caution had allowed Beauregard to escape from Corinth, appoints Wallace, who had been relieved for "dilatoriness" at Shiloh, to investigate Buell on the same charge. Halleck may have appointed Wallace to heap additional shame on Buell. Wallace, however, believes that this assignment proves that Washington respects his judgment. When Buell let Bragg and Smith slip through his fingers it had been Lew alone who kept them from capturing Cincinnati. This is not really a trial but an "investigation." Nonetheless Buell, a skilled litigant, treats the proceedings as a trial. He cross examines witnesses as if he had spent his whole life at the bar. Wallace concludes that Buell could not get along with his own men, which seems very strange to him. Because this inquiry brings in many high ranking and famous military leaders, Wallace snaps at the chance to befriend those who might have some influence on his career. But this assignment drags on from November 1862 until May 1863. The judge advocate, one Major Donn Piatt, makes it very clear that the goal is not to investigate but to convict, so Stanton and Halleck can get rid of Buell. The commission’s unanimous opinion, written by Wallace, is that Buell showed skill in moving his troops to Perryville, but is too cautious and rigid to succeed on the field of battle. Wallace also blames Halleck for delaying Buell’s march, but in the end Buell’s career is ruined.
In May 1863, Wallace finds himself back home in Indiana again waiting for orders. Vicksburg falls and Meade defeats Lee at Gettysburg. Frustrated, he writes to Grant, who has nothing for him. Grant even tells Halleck he does not want Wallace serving under him. Wallace writes to others in authority, but to no avail. Nobody wants him. Then he gets a telegram from Governor Morton of that the famous cavalry raider John Hunt Morgan has invaded Indiana. Morton fears Morgan intends to free 6,000 POWs and arm them from the state’s arsenal. He gets Stanton’s permission to let Wallace command the state’s forces, consisting of 1,100 raw recruits. Wallace is greatly relieved when Morgan retreats into Ohio, where he is captured, imprisoned, escapes and rides home to North Carolina in time for Christmas. With the threat of Morgan gone, Wallace is back on the shelf. Lew learns that Stanton has asked Lincoln to remove Wallace from the rolls. Wallace finally realizes that Stanton was an "implacable enemy."
Keeping the Peace; Battle of Monocacy
In March, 1864, Lincoln, prodded by Lew’s brother-in-law, Indiana Senator Henry Lane, an influential Republican politician and a friend of Lincoln, who has helped Lew many times before, assigns Lew, over Stanton’s objections, to "keep the peace" in Delaware and Maryland. Maryland’s many secessionists are a source of trouble for Lincoln. The President wants Wallace subtly to insure the election of pro-Union delegates to a constitutional convention on the 13th Amendment. Wallace takes his entire staff in full mufti to Annapolis, marches to the Statehouse, taking Gov. Augustus Bradford by surprise. Wallace tells the Governor that many Maryland residents had petitioned him for troops to keep order at the polls. He could not do this unilaterally, but, if the governor requests troops he would be happy to comply. Bradford, pleased by Lew’s deference to state sovereignty, agrees and the "right" delegates win.
In mid-1864, Lee sends Jubal Early to clear the Shenandoah Valley. Union Gen. Hunter thinks he is outmanned and retreats. Early, not one to miss an opportunity, follows Hunter, outrunning his logistical base. Many in his army are barefoot and hungry but Early pushes through the old battlefield at Antietam and into Maryland. Only gradually does the Northern command become aware of this threat and only one commander does anything about it. While Halleck dawdles and then is frantically ineffectual, Wallace, seizing the initiative, mounts a defense at Monocacy. He feels that Early’s goal is Washington, so his objective is to slow Early down until the Capitol can be reinforced. Wallace calls up all the troops in the department that can be spared in spite of the fact that he had no authority to do so. By the time the battle begins Wallace has 5,000 men in his command, while Early has about 20,000 men. Early attacks Wallace’s left. Wallace delays Early by five hours. By then, Lew knows the fight will soon be over, but if he can keep his position until sundown, he can keep Early from advancing on Washington before the next morning. Early’s first thrust is repulsed by the outnumbered Yankees. When the next assault comes Ricketts’ men hold their ground and even counterattack. By 3:00 P.M. it is time to organize a withdrawal. Wallace tries to send telegrams to Grant and Halleck, but his telegraph operators have fled. He orders a rider to go to the next telegraph station and alert the high command. At 4:00 P.M., after two more repulses of Gordon by Ricketts, the weight of the attack is more than the Union forces can handle. With their work done the men withdrew in an orderly fashion. The Rebel pursuit is sluggish, as Early’s forces have been badly mauled. Wallace tells Halleck the 6th Corp fought magnificently. It is not until Monday afternoon that Early reaches the outer defenses of Washington, DC. On Sunday only 209 soldiers manned Fort Stevens, but by the time Early arrives there are 10,000 troops available for the defense of the Capitol. Early is late by the one day Wallace gained for the Union. As usual, Wallace is initially blamed for not beating Early at Monocacy. He is even removed from command by Grant. But, as panic dies down, Wallace is credited with saving Washington. Newspapers praise his gallant stand and even Grant speaks well of him. As for Wallace, he believes that this "defeat" did more for his legacy than any of his victories. Finally, Lew Wallace has gotten his good reputation back. Grant invites him to City Point and Wallace feels "redeemed." One cannot be sure Grant feels all that kindly as he never restores him to his staff. However others in high places feels that Wallace is the savior of Washington.
Next, trouble is brewing in Mexico. In January 1865, Grant sends Wallace to the Rio Grande in a partially successful effort to get the rebels there to surrender instead of going into Mexico and causing future problems for the Union.
The Lincoln Assassination Trial
On May 9, 1865, Wallace is assigned to the military commission trying the eight prisoners charged with conspiring to murder Lincoln and top members of the government. The evidence against most of them is overwhelming. The trial and the treatment of the accused is a study of the difference between justice and vengeance. The fact that this is a military court-martial and not a civilian trial is questioned by many, including Navy Secretary Gideon Welles. The President of the Commission is Major General David Hunter, probably because he agreed with Stanton that the court-martial should be brief followed by the rapid execution of the defendants. Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt serves in the problematic dual roles of chief prosecutor and legal advisor to the Commission. Clearly, Lew Wallace has had personal experience with this kind of justice.
Bob finds the case against Mary Surratt of particular interest as it speaks to Wallace directly. He personally thinks that Mrs. Surratt had more knowledge of the conspiracy then she lets on and more than her apologists acknowledge. Wallace is the second ranking member of the commission, he is a lawyer, and he has seen "railroads" up close and personal. He has full knowledge of evidence being withheld and other irregularities and he does not object. Sen. Reverdy Johnson of Maryland, is falsely alleged to be a Southern sympathizer and is forced to resign as Mrs. Surratt’s attorney. The charges of murder and conspiracy should have been separated. Surratt may have had knowledge of the conspiracy but was not part of it and certainly did nothing to aid the attempted assassinations.
Wallace seems to have been set against Mary Surratt at the start. Most of the evidence against her comes from the testimony of Louis Weichmann, who turned state’s evidence and probably knew more of the plot than Mary did. Wallace believes his story. The prosecution also used a drunk and a convicted horse thief to testify against Surratt. Holt, with Wallace’s help, suppresses evidence that would surely have disqualified these witnesses. This is so transparent that the press criticizes Wallace by name for unethical practices. In the end, President Hunter and four commissioners (but not Wallace) send a plea of clemency to President Andrew Johnson. Johnson never receives the plea and the executions are carried out.
Wallace feels no remorse, or does he? While the government’s case is being presented there is little for Wallace to do except to listen. He resurrects his boyhood interest in drawing, drawing fine pencil sketches of the commissioners, distinguished visitors and the defendants, later painted in oil. He even sketches a hypothetical scene with all the conspirators, including Booth and Mary’s son, posed together, but excluding Mary Surratt. Bob asks, "Could this be a clue as to Lew’s true feelings about her guilt?"
In later years, other members of the Commission receive criticism for their roles in the trial, but not Wallace, whose fame shields him from criticism. This is a marked turnaround from the period after Shiloh. Wallace is also quick to forgive the Southern officers he meets after the war. As always, he admires fellow warriors.
Bob concludes, Wallace faces other trials and triumphs during the rest of his life, but that is for another day. Bob then answered questions and received a good round of applause for an most enlightening talk.
[Editor’s note: To fit into the space for a print newsletter, your Editor has severely cut Bob’s text, which can be found in the "Memories" area of the website.]
Last changed: 01/28/13