2017 Civil War Institute Day Three

Day Three is in the books. We started off with a round table discussion on George Gordon Meade. The participants were Brooks Simpson, Scott Hartwig, Jennifer Murray, and John Hennessy. This was a pretty good discussion, moderated by Pete Carmichael. They started off by considering why Meade is forgotten. Scott Hartwig identified three factors: Dan Sickles, who lied about Meade in his “Historicus” articles and in his testimony to the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War and his conversations with Lincoln; the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, which stacked the deck against him, and the Edward Cropsey incident. John Hennessy said there was a fixation on existential moments, when the war could turn on an instant. Brooks Simpson said Meade is an army manager while other people do the dramatic things. There’s nothing he does that affects battle dramatically. He’s not the man who will lose the war–he’s very competent; however, he’s also not the man who’s going to win the war. Scott Hartwig said Meade didn’t court the press. Also, his men respected him but didn’t love him, and he didn’t do anything to enhance his reputation. Jennifer Murray said duty underscored his life. Brooks Simpson said Meade is the general most responsible for the destruction of the Army of Northern Virginia. Jenn Murray said Decisive battles are very rare in world military history. Lee is so frustrated after Falling Waters he offered his resignation.

You can see the full discussion here: https://www.c-span.org/video/?429297-2/historians-discuss-leadership-general-george-g-meade

Next up were concurrent sessions. C-SPAN filmed Lisa Tendrich Frank’s session on Confederate Women & Union Soldiers in Sherman’s March, which you can watch here: https://www.c-span.org/video/?429297-3/historians-discuss-women-union-soldier-encounters

I attended Andrew Bledsoe’s lecture on Citizen Soldiers: Junior Officer Corps. Andrew is an assistant professor of history at Lee University in Tennessee. This presentation had a ton of information in it. He told us volunteer soldiers didn’t recognize any innate superiority of officers. The volunteer officers first had to master themselves and acclimatize themselves to the horrors of battle and hospitals. They had to share the perils of the men. They led by example, cared for the men, and in many cases died as a result. Each company had three junior officers: a captain, who commanded the company, a first lieutenant, and a second lieutenant. They also had sixteen noncommissioned officers and sixty-four to eighty-three privates. A volunteer company commander had to master all the duties of his subordinates, see to the well being of the company, command the company, settle disputes, reward merit, and punish offenders. The lieutenants monitored conditions, served as officer of the guard, assist with administrative duties, and commanded in the absence of the captain. There were five paths to a commission: election, which declines after 1862, appointment, patronage, merit/promotion/attrition, and transferring to US Colored Troops regiments. They had to quickly win the confidence of the men and project leadership. Elections broke down the social and economic divisions among the candidates. The average age of a Union junior officer was 26, and for confederates it was 27. The average wealth of a Union junior officer was $6,263.08, while for confederates it was $11,245.09. 40% of Union junior officers were married, while 51% of confederate junior officers were married. Also, 40% of the confederate junior officers were from slaveholding households. The officers were the moral center of gravity for the company and served as emotional touchstone in battle. It was also a dangerous job. 43% of Union junior officers and 47% of confederate junior officers were casualties. The deadliest year for Union was 1864, and for confederates it was 1862. Their authority came from internal factors and external factors. The internal factors [internal to the officer; in other words, character] were regularization, credibility, confidence, and virtue. The external factors, or tools an officer had, were coercion, persuasion, competence, courage, and prudence. Coercion was the most rudimentary method, but persuasion was key. The men were willing to obey when they believed the demands were reasonable, and the officers had to show they cared about the men.

After lunch we had more concurrent sessions. C-SPAN filmed Laura Lawfer Orr’s “Wrecked But Not Forgotten: Civil War Ships in Hampton Roads.” You can see that session here: https://www.c-span.org/video/?429297-4/laura-lawfer-orr-discusses-civil-war-naval-engagement

I attended “Clara Barton and the Missing Soldiers Office” by Amelia Grabowski of the Missing Soldiers Office and the Civil War Medical Museum. This was a very good presentation. Clara Barton spent twenty years as a teacher and decided she wanted to be paid the same as a man and went to Washington, DC where she worked as a patent clerk for the United States Government, being one of the first women to work for the national government. She lost her position when Buchanan was elected, but regained it when Lincoln took office. She wants to help in the war effort, and while she had no nursing training the Baltimore Riot of 1861 showed her how to contribute. Some of the injured soldiers were from her home town. She talked with them and found out what they were lacking and was able to acquire supplies for them. At least one of the wounded soldiers was a former student of hers. She writes to people around the country asking for donations and soon has rented three warehouses to hold these supplies. The first battle she went to was Cedar Mountain, followed by Antietam. She’s known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.” She still wants to help after the war and located about 23,000 missing soldiers, 12,000 of whom were buried at Andersonville. Barton’s life could be made into an engaging movie.

Next, T. J. Stiles gave an excellent presentation on “Jesse James: The Last Rebel of the Civil War.” He told us James played a more important role than most people realize. He started off by talking about conditions in Missouri. In 1864, a special census by the state showed the state was missing 1/3 of its 1860 population. 42% of all military trials of civilians were in Missouri. Slavery followed the rivers, generally, with most enslaved people living along the rivers. Political leaders in Missouri were slave holders from the river counties. The second most popular form of property in the state was enslaved people. He traced the mobilization of proslavery people in the state, as well as the growth of political intimidation of antislavery people. With the outbreak of the Civil War, control of Missouri eventually went to the Unionists and a massive guerrilla campaign broke out. The traditional reason given has been retaliation for Jayhawkers from Kansas raiding into Western Missouri. While there were some raids, this was a false reason. The In fact, fighting broke out across the state. It was not just a border war. Insurgent activity wasn’t dependent on Jayhawker provocation. Bushwhacker Warfare in Missouri had these characteristics: it was concentrated in the slaveholding area; it was led by wealthier slaveholding families; it was conducted by small groups with no central direction, meaning it wasn’t possible to crush it out but also it was no threat to seize control of the state; it featured close-range mounted tactics, with the guerrillas using lots of ambushes and the .36 Colt Navy Revolver. They typically had as many as a dozen revolvers each. They would empty the revolver and simply draw another one instead of taking the time to reload it; it was dependent on civilian support, and it was increasingly directed against opposing civilian populations in a form of political cleansing, with confederate guerrillas burning out unionists; it had a rising use of terror with summary executions and mutilations; and the guerrillas had a winter refuge in Texas. We learned the James-Samuel Family, which lived in Clay County, had seven slaves in 1860. Frank James fought at Wilson’s Creek and joined Quantrill in 1862, participating in the Lawrence Massacre. The family was strongly secessionist, strongly proslavery, and strongly proconfederate. In 1864, when he was 16 years old, Jesse James joined the guerrillas, The men he rode with included Fletch Taylor and Archie Clement. They go house-to-house murdering their Unionist neighbors. Later they will join Bloody Bill Anderson, and Archie Clement would be known as Anderson’s Chief Scalper. They engage in a massive campaign of dismembering and scalping their victims. During Reconstruction most guerrillas surrendered, but Archie Clement didn’t. In 1866, the guerrillas returned to Clay County and committed the first daylight bank robbery in US history, against the Clay County Savings Association, a bank owned by Unionists. Their targets are political.

You can see this excellent presentation here: https://www.c-span.org/video/?429297-5/life-outlaw-jesse-james

The next presentation was a fact-filled lecture by Professor Lorien Foote of Texas A&M on “Escaping Confederate Prisons: The Journey of Union POWs.” From September of 1864 to February of 1865 almost 3,000 escaped prisoners were moving through the Carolinas. They escaped while being transported, either from Georgia to South Carolina or from South Carolina. Professor Foote details how the soldiers were able to escape. There are basically three destinations: the Union lines around Charleston, which are headquartered at Hilton Head Island; the most popular route was northwest to Knoxville, TN; and another group tries to find Sherman’s army in Georgia and head toward Augusta. They are able to see the collapse of slavery, the collapse of the home front, and the collapse of the borders. The low country of South Carolina experienced collapsing slavery already. There were many runaways, and much sabotage among those left. In the up country, slavery was much more stable, but the mass escape gives slaves in that region, as well as the low country, a chance to escalate their resistance. The low country slaves actually form military companies to protect the Yankees. The slaves have communication networks and trails to use, and slave guides move the escaped soldiers from station to station. The Home Front also collapsed. Households mobilized to fight within the community, including children. They were helping escaped prisoners and deserters as well. The collapse of borders led to thousands being on the move. There were confused military jurisdictions, and escaped prisoners traveled with large numbers of confederate deserters. Often, these deserters turn into recruits for the Union army. One thing helping then was the convoluted and confused boundaries of military districts. They were never able to form an effective response.

You can see this excellent presentation here: https://www.c-span.org/video/?429297-6/escaped-union-prisoners-war

After dinner we had a panel on the Myths and Realities of Civil War Battle Tactics with Earl Hess, Carol Reardon, Jennifer Murray, and Tim Orr, moderated by Pete Carmichael. They started out with a clip of the Fredericksburg battle scene from Gods and Generals and commented on the clip. It was generally pretty accurate as far as usage of tactics was concerned. They also considered the question of whether the rifled musket was a revolutionary innovation. It wasn’t, according to them. And they discussed Emory Upton and his innovations, as well as his bureaucratic battling against what he called “Boards of Dessicated Colonels” who it seemed existed in order to squash new ideas. This was a pretty good  panel, though C-SPAN wasn’t there any more.

We capped off the day with a preview of our battlefield tours tomorrow. I’m going on the Cedar Mountain Battle Tour with Greg Mertz, the supervisory historian at the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park. He went over Stonewall Jackson’s leadership style and placed it in the context of Jackson’s previous Civil War experiences, then he gave us a quick overview of the major events of the battle, using maps from Robert K. Krick’s excellent book, Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain.

This was another great day, and we’re ready for the battlefield tours tomorrow.


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