CWRT flagge



Volume 30, No. 2 – February 2017

The President’s Message:

Thank you to Robert Franke for his donation of Civil War artwork, bonds, and currency.  Most of the collection has sold and the proceeds are now in our treasury.  I appreciated all the assistance George and Morag Nimburg gave me at the Toy Soldier Sale this weekend where many of the things were sold.  One picture will be in the raffle in February as well as a $30.00 gift card to Publix which was graciously donated by Doug Mogle.

A series of sketches by well-known artist, B. Horton, are still available. They are numbered and signed by the artist. The subjects include Robert Rodes, Longstreet, Richard Taylor, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart, Benjamin Cheatham, Kirby Smith, Joseph E. Johnston, A.P. Hill, P.G.T. Beauregard, and Nathan Bedford Forest. If you would like to see this artistic, please call me 561/967-8911 or e-mail

Please remember to sign up on the Forage Sheet for refreshments. Every member is asked to bring a refreshment once a year to a meeting.  Please pay your dues.

Gerridine LaRovere


February 8, 2017 Program:

Our speaker is David Meisky who will present Confederate money.  A history graduate of George Mason University, Mr. Meisky retired from the Fairfax County, Public Library. He has re-enacted for a number of years and started appearing as “Extra Billy” Smith in the spring of 2008, after a good deal of study. He has also performed a first-person portrayal of Captain David Meade, a Confederate army paymaster, which allowed him to display and discuss his collection of period money. As an infantry private, he has served for a number of years with the Fairfax Rifles, Company D of the 17th Virginia Infantry Regiment.

January 11, 2017 Program:

Joseph Rose gave us an alternative view of Ulysses S. Grant in a talk entitled Grant Under FireGrant.  This is the same title of his over 800-page book of the same name.  This article was taken directly from Joe’s speaking notes.  This accounts for the use of the first person.  This is a highly unpopular subject.  I’ll offer an overview of Grant’s career in the American Civil War, highlighting controversies which, when thoroughly investigated, demonstrate how deficiencies in Grant’s generalship and in his character detracted from the Union war effort.  Further, his unreliability as a writer detracts from the war’s historiography.

Chronology: As both a general and president Ulysses Grant had a tremendous impact on the United States in war and in peace.  Many of his intentions and actions were indeed praiseworthy.  He was brave, persistent, and aggressive.  He had an extraordinary life.  The late Brian Pohanka once stated, however, “A lot of folks like their Civil War history cut and dried, with a predictable cast of characters–they like to cheer the hero and hiss the villain.  The curtain falls, and they say, ‘Very good, just as I remember the play.’”  Most of history’s myths and mistakes about Grant are in his favor, and his supporters have insisted, for over 150 years, that Grant’s writings are truthful, and that he “won” the war.  But the devil is in the detail.

WashburneWashburne: It is said: “Opportunity makes the man.” Grant had left the regular U.S. army seven years earlier under a cloud of alcohol.  But the Civil War restarted his military career… through politics.  His congressman, Elihu Washburne and other influential Illinoisans introduced Grant to Governor Richard Yates, who finally made Grant colonel of an Illinois regiment.  In his second inaugural address, Grant denied the importance of this political support: “I did not ask for place or position, and was entirely without influence or the acquaintance of persons of influence.”  He was doubly wrong.  During his tour around the world, he erroneously proclaimed: “When the rebellion came I returned to the service because it was a duty.  I had no thought of rank.”  Actually, the former captain had refused anything he thought inferior to a colonelcy and considered baking bread instead of fighting.  Before engaging in a single battle, Grant was promoted to brigadier-general in the volunteer army at Washburne’s behest.  He ranked high on the official list, due to his previous service in the regular army.  Luckily assigned to Major-General John Frémont’s Western department, Grant was only ranked by John Pope as a brigadier.  In the Army of the Potomac, ten new brigadiers and several major-generals would have ranked him.

John Aaron Rawlins: For his new staff, Grant’s two aides-de-camp were inferior, drinking men.  But, Grant made no mistake in choosing John Aaron Rawlins as assistant adjutant-general.  Among a host of accolades earned during the war, Grant and his friends thought Rawlins was “absolutely indispensable,” “invaluable,” one of the war’s “most admirable characters.”  “No one appreciated [him] more highly than” Grant.  Grant’s success was due to Rawlins’ “brains and good sense.” “Rawlins was more necessary to Grant than Grant to Rawlins,” “Without him Grant would not have been the same man,” “Rawlins is infinitely Grant’s Superior.” And “without Rawlins there would have been no Grant.”

How did Grant reward Rawlins?  By almost entirely excluding the completely loyal, self-effacing subordinate from his Memoirs.  And Grant’s biographers also downplay Rawlins’ importance, even adding insult to injury.  Geoffrey Perret declared that Rawlins “was a man incapable of loyalty.”  Even more obtusely, Bruce Catton protested that, “with a defender like Rawlins, Grant had no need of any enemies.”

Grant likewise ignored his essential advocates Charles Dana and Elihu Washburne in his Memoirs, while he turned the generally supportive Henry Halleck into an adversary.

USS Tyler and USS St. Louis (later renamed the Baron de Kalb): Another major component of Grant’s western successes was the Union’s immensely powerful fleet of transports and gunboats.  These vessels were focused at the hugely strategic riverport of Cairo, IL.  Here naval assets helped Grant obtain his all-important second star early in the war.  Steam-driven transports moved and supplied his army and bases, while the growing flotilla of woodenclads and ironclads overpowered enemy forts and interrupted lines of communication.  Throughout the conflict, the Confederates could hardly compete with the Union’s naval superiority, in coastal operations, through the blockade, or on the western rivers.

Grant often did not reveal his reputed common sense or keen grasp of strategy.  Before being assigned to Cairo he bemoaned, “I should like to be sent to Western Virginia, but my lot seems to be cast in this part of the world.”  From Cairo, he wanted to descend the Mississippi although ascending the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers was practical.  One reason: Any gunboat that became disabled while attacking a fort downriver could drift down into the enemy’s hands, but in an upriver attack it would float back to safety.

Paducah: The first major incident of the war where Grant’s Memoirs are taken as literal truth, in spite of the evidence, is the occupation of Paducah, KY.  In early September 1861, Confederate general Leonidas Polk breached Kentucky’s self-proclaimed neutrality by occupying Columbus, where artillery emplaced on the Mississippi’s bluffs could stop traffic heading downriver.  Well, if Polk was foolish for doing this (and almost everyone says so), then Frémont and Grant were foolish, because they also wanted to do it.  Polk just beat them to it.  One of Frémont’s spies made it to Cairo and convinced Grant to occupy Paducah ahead of the enemy.  The traditional story credits Grant with telegraphing Frémont for permission, but setting off before getting it.  Although the Official Records indicated that Grant received Frémont’s reply, historians apparently overlook this.  And none seem to use Grant’s own lengthy, unsubmitted, report in the Library of Congress.  It states that Grant received Frémont’s orders with authorization to occupy the town, if possible, and that “I replied” the same day.  It’s a small affair, but it’s proof of one in a long line of exaggerations and untruths that pepper his Memoirs.

Henry Halleck & Charles F.  Smith: A West Pointer, Brigadier-General Charles F. Smith, came from the East to take command at Paducah.  The authorities in Washington later removed department commander Frémont and soon replaced him with Henry Halleck, another West Pointer, who was prejudiced against so-called “political generals.”  Grant wrote his wife on September 22nd that “I would like to have the honor of commanding the Army that makes the advance down the river, but unless I am able to do it soon cannot expect it.  There are too many Generals who rank me that have commands inferior to mine for me to retain it.” 

Belmont: Although he had distinct orders not to, Grant challenged the Confederates in battle.  Escorted by two woodenclads, five transports took five regiments from around Cairo downstream to a point opposite from the Confederate stronghold of Columbus.  The one rebel regiment encamped at Belmont on the west bank was soon reinforced by four more under Gideon Pillow.  Each side had a six-gun battery.  Although evenly matched, Grant’s infantry, helped by superior artillery, pushed the Confederates back to their camp and overran it.  But Grant lost control of his men, while the enemy got away.  The Confederates took advantage of this interval by sending more men across the Mississippi.

Now, Grant was forced to cut his way out and get back to the boats.  The retreat turned into a rout and the rear of the column suffered severely.  But with the gunboats providing protection, the transports cut their hawsers and steamed off just before enough Confederates arrived to annihilate the federals.  Grant escaped with two Confederate cannon, and he had inflicted somewhat more casualties than he suffered.  But he also left his wounded, many weapons, and much equipment on the battlefield.

Grant informed headquarters that the “victory was complete.”  He told his wife and his father that it was “most complete.”  But his actions afterward belied such claims.  He pulled back a column in Missouri that was to have joined him.  In 1864, Grant compiled an expanded report of the battle.  It amounted to a forgery.  It was backdated to November 17, 1861, ten days after the original, it had an anachronistic heading and addressee, and Lieutenant-General Grant signed it “Brigadier-General Grant.”  He further added two outright fabrications in an attempt to justify his insubordination in attacking.  Thomas A.  Scott said “It appears strange that officers, having an eye to the interests of the Government, could in such a manner countenance, much less certify to, such injustice,”

Cairo: Over and over, his biographers stated that Grant was not personally corrupt.  But, back in Cairo two ringleaders led a regime of fraud.  Grant’s assistant quartermaster, Reuben Hatch, brother of one of the Illinois politicians who helped secure Grant’s colonelcy, and George Washington Graham, Grant’s commodore of river boats clearly were corrupt.  This encompassed bread, lumber, cordwood, shingles, ice, coal, oats, hay, and, river boats.  Grant admitted “the great abuses,” but supposedly wanted to investigate further, while he stalled Hatch’s court martial.  Secretary of War Edwin Stanton sent an eminent committee, which verified the “gross fraud.” Assistant Secretary of War Scott did also and, after examining the books, thought it strange that army officers would certify such corruption.  He noted that William Kountz came to replace Graham and look into the boat and coal contracts.  “In a very short time his explorations appeared to trouble the Commanding Officer [Grant] who placed him under arrest.” Graham was reinstated.

And Grant’s delays in prosecuting Reuben Hatch apparently gave Illinois politicians enough time to convince President Lincoln to handpick an auditing committee: Charles Dana (who became a strong Grant supporter), George Boutwell (Grant’s future Secretary of the Treasury), and Stephen Cullom (John Rawlins’ classmate and good friend).  The author of The Sultana Tragedy: America's Greatest Maritime Disaster, wrote, “It is not surprising that Lincoln’s hand-picked commission acquitted Hatch of all blame.” The committee implicitly exculpated Graham and Grant’s administration at Cairo, as well.  Reuben Hatch later returned to Grant’s staff as Chief Quartermaster and Grant glowingly endorsed a recommendation to Lincoln for Hatch’s promotion, saying he was wrongfully accused, “without a fault being committed by himself” and a “full investigation has entirely exonerated him.”  Later, Grant pushed him as master of water transportation at New Orleans.  But when Hatch got a job in 1865 as a quartermaster along the Mississippi, he overloaded the transport Sultana with recently freed Union prisoners.  The boat exploded and the sixteen hundred to eighteen hundred victims approximated the federal death-toll at Shiloh.  Grant’s favoritism had its costs, sometimes monetary, sometimes human.  Andrew Foote has said: “I strongly objected to open on Fort Donelson when we did as by waiting three days, as I wanted to do, we could have brought four mortar boats, and shelled out the Fort and troops, with the saving of hundreds of valuable lives.”

Ft. HenryFort Henry: Grant tried, in his Memoirs, to make Henry Halleck appear unsupportive of a movement up the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.  Actually, both of them and naval officer Andrew Foote favored such a plan.  Although Grant initially “preferred” to assault Fort Donelson on the Cumberland, he yielded to Foote, who proposed attacking Fort Henry first.  A small armada steamed up the Tennessee in early February 1862.  While planning the combined attack, Foote advised that the infantry start before the gunboats.  Grant refused.  So, by the time that Foote’s four ironclads, backed up with three woodenclads, had shelled Fort Henry into submission, the infantry was still a long way off.  This allowed almost the whole garrison to escape to nearby Donelson.  Ironically, many authors credit Grant alone for a victory won by the navy.

Ft. Donelson: Although he did not know how many troops were at Fort Donelson or who commanded them, Grant aggressively led his army over to the Cumberland, where he almost surrounded the fort.  Hoping for a repeat of Fort Henry, Grant unwisely pushed a more cautious Foote into a premature naval attack.  It failed, as Confederate artillery knocked out several ironclads.

I really wish we knew what Grant was doing when he went to visit the wounded Andrew Foote early the next morning.  He was off the field and out of touch for about six hours.  Grant left no orders in his absence, except for his three divisions to maintain their positions, and apparently didn’t empower his staff to act in his stead.

Knowing that they had to break out or surrender, and having backpedaled on an attack the day before when they had a much greater chance, the Confederates assaulted McClernand’s open right flank early in the morning.  Without support and running out of ammunition, McClernand’s division was driven back.  His requests for reinforcement went unheeded at headquarters, and Grant was gone. Before McClernand’s division completely shattered, Lew Wallace insubordinately sent him a brigade.  That was insufficient.  Again, Wallace acted against orders bringing artillery and most of his remaining men to stop the enemy, and he did.  Instead of escaping when they had the chance, the Confederates returned to their entrenchments.  After noon, Grant finally arrived on the battlefield and ordered attacks on both flanks.  The Confederates, penned up and with truly incompetent commanders, surrendered the next day.

It was a great victory and Halleck congratulated both Grant and Foote, and he pushed for Grant’s promotion to major-general of volunteers, thus placing Grant very high up the army rankings.  In most narratives, Andrew Foote doesn’t share in the credit for this victory.

Soon after the battle, Halleck became annoyed at Grant for three things.  His relatively undisciplined army was plundering Fort Donelson, while many captured Confederates escaped by merely walking through the lines.  Grant left his army and cruised up the Cumberland River to visit newly captured Nashville and see Don Carlos Buell, commander of the Union department to the east of Halleck’s.  Lastly, he didn’t provide Halleck with reports of his army’s strength.  On top of everything, there were indications he had been drinking again.

Shiloh: Because of this, Halleck placed Charles Smith in charge of the expedition heading south up the Tennessee River, even though John McClernand was the next ranking officer.  But Halleck was not Grant’s jealous tormentor, as many historians suppose, and he soon put Grant back in command.  Grant started out well enough, concentrating all but one of his divisions around Pittsburg Landing and Shiloh Church.  The Confederates, meanwhile, were gathering strength under Albert Sidney Johnston at Corinth twenty miles away… one good day’s march.  Grant wanted to advance, but was restrained by Halleck, who now also commanded Buell, who was ordered to join Grant for a unified advance.  Staying in a mansion at Savannah, ten miles downriver and on the opposite bank, Grant neglected his army and ignored proper precautions, especially as he believed that the Confederates him about two to one.  He stopped sending out spies, scouts, or patrols; he didn’t place cavalry vedettes in front of the camp; he placed the newest, least experienced divisions at the front (or he let who was in de facto command do it); he didn’t emplace artillery, he switched his artillery and his cavalry among the divisions; he transferred some commanders for personal reasons; and he didn’t entrench or construct entanglements or clear fields of fire.

Albert Sidney Johnston:  Consequently, his army was surprised and seriously unprepared when Albert Johnston’s Confederates attacked on April 6th.  Only brigade commander Colonel Everett Peabody’s insubordinate decision to send out a patrol early that morning prevented a total surprise.  The first day’s battle nearly ended up being a catastrophe and Peabody’s action, by itself, may have saved Grant’s army.

Before battle: Grant, on the other hand, committed mistake after mistake, as the battle began.  He was still residing at Savannah, on the day before battle, when he postponed meeting General Buell, the supposed reason for being away from his army.  And he refused to forward Buell’s advance division, under William Nelson, to Pittsburg Landing, as he said it couldn’t march through the swamps along the east bank of the Tennessee.  When Grant heard cannon-fire sometime after 7:00 the next morning, he ordered Nelson to march through those swamps.  Grant said that Nelson could easily find a guide, but none was located until noon.  After merely notifying Buell that a battle had begun, Grant hurried upriver on his flagship Tigress.

Going upstream: His next mistake came at Crump’s Landing almost halfway to the battlefield.  Tigress stopped long enough for Grant to confirm that the battle was at Pittsburg Landing, but he only directed Lew Wallace to be ready to march in any direction.  Further along, a steamboat came down with news of the battle.  Grant ignored the opportunity to send it further downriver to alert Lew Wallace and Buell that their troops would be needed.  Upon reaching Pittsburg Landing around nine o’clock, Grant rode up the bluff and met William Wallace, another of his division commanders.  Although Grant claimed that he immediately sent Tigress back with instructions for Lew Wallace to march to Pittsburg Landing, that can hardly be true.  His messenger, going downstream on Tigress, did not reach Lew Wallace until 11:30.  Grant probably didn’t give his orders until around 10:00 o’clock.  Again, he ignored the opportunity to have the boat continue to Savannah to inform Buell and bring up some of his men.  Grant seemed willing to jeopardize the battle by keeping Buell out of it.  The orders Lew Wallace received directed him to the right of the army flank (not to Pittsburg Landing), and Wallace’s Division, after a half-hour lunch, set out on the Shunpike, a route that they had corduroyed and bridged.  By the time that they had reached the bridge one of Grant’s staff arrived and informed Wallace that Sherman had been driven back and they would be behind enemy lines if they kept going.  So, Wallace backtracked to the river road to the battlefield.  His division arrived around sunset, and Grant turned him into a scapegoat once the country had heard the news about the army’s surprise and near defeat.

ShilohShiloh battlefield: Grant’s Memoirs allege that, “During the whole of Sunday I was continuously engaged in passing from one part of the field to another, giving directions to division commanders.” This, also, is untrue. Stephen Hurlbut complained that Grant gave him no orders.  Sherman repeatedly recalled how Grant gave him no orders.  Grant didn’t even see John McClernand.  Grant’s dealings with William Wallace are unknown, as Wallace was mortally wounded, but none of Wallace’s three brigadiers indicated any orders from Grant.  In the Hornet’s Nest, Benjamin Prentiss was ordered to hold at all hazards.  That seems the extent of Grant’s continuously giving directions to division commanders; except for one time more.

Grant’s Memoirs blamed Prentiss for not falling back during “one of the backward moves” leaving his flanks exposed which “enabled the enemy to capture him with about 2,200 of his officers and men.” But there were no coordinated backward moves, and Prentiss had been ordered to hold fast.  Even worse, by 4:00 pm the Confederates had enveloped both ends of the Hornets’ Nest and the Union supporting divisions on both flanks were heading toward the rear.  Prentiss, in a speech that Grant’s Memoirs vouched for as correct, remarked that “Grant knows that I communicated to him at 4 o’clock at the landing, and tried to get re-enforcements, and received orders to hold on.  I held.” So, Grant, not Prentiss, was responsible for allowing the Confederates to capture these troops.  And Grant didn’t bother to note that, if Prentiss had been culpable for not retreating in time, so was his friend William Wallace.  Except negatively, General Grant seemingly had little impact at the brigade and division levels on the first day of the battle, nor did he have much on the second day.

Pushed back towards the river, Grant was reinforced by Lew Wallace and joined by three of Buell’s divisions.  The next day, the two armies drove the Confederates off the field and in retreat back to Corinth.  Although authorized to do so, Grant never took command over Buell and his army.

Afterward, Grant claimed victory and, “As to the talk of a surprise here, nothing could be more false.  If the enemy had sent us word when and where they would attack us, we could not have been better prepared.” Although all of the Union division commanders performed well, Grant showed his favoritism by showering praise on William Sherman, who was likewise responsible for both the surprise and the lack of preparations.

[Ed. note:  At this point Mr. Rose describes Vicksburg in some detail and other side stories to illustrate his premise.  Space does not allow me to reproduce it here.]

Chattanooga: Chattanooga, Tennessee, has been called a natural amphitheater.  From the perspective of the Army of the Cumberland defending the city, Missionary Ridge stretches on the east, with a roughly 45-degree slope up to the crest, some three hundred feet high.  To the west, Lookout Mountain looms over twelve hundred feet above the railroad, road, and river routes into Chattanooga from Union-held areas.

Bragg’s Army of Tennessee occupied both of these heights and breastworks lined the foot of the ridge and curved over toward Lookout With the river and the rugged Cumberland Plateau behind them, and only one tenuous route for supplies, the Union troops were in a precarious position.  Before Grant reached town, Rosecrans and William (Baldy) Smith planned operations to open up a new route for supplies, the “cracker line,” and it was put on foot by General Thomas the very evening he was promoted.  Grant concurred upon his arrival days later.  Directed by Thomas, Smith, and Joseph Hooker, who was sent from the East with the small 11th and 12th Corps to prevent catastrophe, it worked to perfection.  Troops silently floated down the river a pontoon bridge was laid at Brown’s Ferry and Hooker came in from the west. But disliking these four officers, Grant seized their laurels: “I issued orders for opening the route to Bridgeport,” and “in five days from my arrival in Chattanooga the way was open.”

Sherman and four divisions of Grant’s old Army of the Tennessee marched from northern Mississippi to be part of the upcoming battle.  Grant’s plan gave Sherman the starring role, put Thomas in support, and tried to keep Hooker out of the fight.  That didn’t happen when Sherman’s trailing division couldn’t cross at Brown’s Ferry.  So, Thomas told Hooker that he could attempt to take the slope of Lookout Mountain.  On November 24th, Hooker did so in spectacular fashion—the Battle Above the Clouds, but “there was no such battle,” Grant insisted; “It is all poetry.” Usually, a commander praised his successful subordinates, but not Grant.  Not if he didn’t like you.  Meanwhile, Sherman muffed his surprise crossing upstream.  He started late, didn’t dash to the ridge as planned, and he stopped too soon. Grant still commended Sherman’s efforts.

Although Hooker was now in position to join the attack against Missionary Ridge, Grant sent him to the top of now-abandoned Lookout Mountain, seemingly willing to jeopardize the battle by keeping Hooker out of it, but Thomas ordered Hooker forward.  On the 25th, Sherman performed even worse than before.  Although Grant gave him all the troops he wanted and more, Sherman utterly failed to dent the enemy defenses with his piece-meal attacks.  To help his friend win the battle, not knowing that Sherman was stopping for the day, Grant foolishly ordered a demonstration by some of Thomas’ divisions to take the rifle-pits at the base of Missionary Ridge, which would put them in an untenable situation under the guns on the crest.  Thomas delayed for an hour, and when Grant forced the issue, the men went forward.  But from this indefensible position they kept going, up the ridge, scattering the defenders, and winning a glorious victory, with help from Hooker who did great work flanking the enemy on the right.  Grant and his biographers claim that he meant to ascend the ridge, just in two steps.  But the evidence leaves no doubt that he merely wanted a demonstration in Sherman’s favor.

Reporter Sylvanus Cadwallader, in his later manuscript, was maybe the only person on Orchard Knob who echoed Grant’s version.  But, in an article written that very evening for the Chicago Times, which historians seem to know about: “Division commanders were especially instructed to make no attempt to ascend,” but when the officers couldn’t restrain the men, “whole regiments began to dash up the slope of the ridge, in positive disobedience to orders.”

In the charge up Missionary Ridge, Grant displayed his lack of tactical ability, his gross favoritism, and his unreliability as an historian in one stroke.  He lionized Sherman and Sheridan, at the expense of Hooker, Granger, and Thomas.

Overland campaign: The rest of the war amply confirmed these deficiencies in Grant’s generalship and in his character.  During the Overland campaign his blatant favoritism in giving protégés Phil Sheridan and James Wilson cavalry commands backfired.  And there was no need to do this.  Five times, Grant maneuvered. Five times his movements failed.  He failed to get through the Wilderness to open country; he failed to reach Spotsylvania first; he failed to get over the North Anna safely; he failed to get his army to Cold Harbor before the enemy could fortify; and he failed to move on Petersburg with his entire force to ensure that town’s capture.

Five times Grant went to battle— at the Wilderness; Spotsylvania; North Anna; Cold Harbor; and Petersburg, and didn’t come close to beating Robert E. Lee, despite having an almost two-to-one advantage in manpower, with better artillery, better cavalry, and much better logistical support. He lost the next two battles in a row, as well: at Jerusalem Plank Road and the Crater. Over and over Grant ordered frontal assaults, in terrible terrain, against fortifications, all along the line, impetuously, and with little planning.  He wore out and used up the Army of the Potomac.  In the end, the Confederacy died of exhaustion far more than from Grant’s strategy or tactics.





Last changed: 01/26/17

Home  About  News  Newsletters  Calendar  Memories  Links  Join