UPCOMING PROGRAMS 2018
|Apr 5||Bruce Cossar||Kingstonians and the Civil War|
|May 3||Gord Sly||Guerrilla War in the Civil War|
|Jun 7||Dr. Cheryl Wells||The Civil War from a Global Perspective|
"Col. Starkweather Holds On at Perryville"
presented by Murray Hogben, CWRT-GK
The Battle of Perryville was the topic of the March 1, 2018 meeting of the Civil War Round Table of Greater Kingston in a presentation by veteran member Murray Hogben. Perryville, sometimes known as the Battle of Chaplin Hills, was the climax of a Confederate offensive into Kentucky in the summer of 1862. The general objective of the campaign was to recoup the losses of territory in Eastern Tennessee resulting from Grant's capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in February and the subsequent Union victories at Shiloh, Corinth, and Nashville, as well as the advance on Chattanooga made by the Army of the Ohio under General Don Carlos Buell in June.
The instruments of deliverance by which the crucial border state of Kentucky was to be won over to the Southern cause were the Army of Mississippi under General Braxton Bragg, numbering about 35,000 troops recently arrived at Chattanooga, and the newly minted Army of Kentucky of about 15,000 men at Knoxville commanded by General Edmund Kirby Smith.
Bragg and Smith conferred at Chattanooga on July 31st and Smith agreed to unite his forces with Bragg's for an advance into Middle Tennessee. Returning to his army in Knoxville, however, Smith was encouraged by news of Colonel John Hunt Morgan's recent cavalry raid into Kentucky. According to Morgan, there were thousands of Kentuckians only awaiting the appearance of a Confederate army to come flocking to the Stars and Bars. Smith then decided to march north into Kentucky where a campaign to capture Lexington promised greater dividends than driving Buell out of Middle Tennessee. Bragg, too, was guardedly favourable towards this plan and when Smith marched north out of Knoxville on August 14th, the Army of Mississippi followed two weeks later with a corresponding north-westerly advance from Chattanooga towards the Kentucky border.
Meanwhile, General Buell was still convinced that Nashville was the Confederate objective when Bragg was already well on his way to the Bluegrass State before the Army of the Ohio took up the pursuit. Buell marched north through Bowling Green and managed to forestall Bragg's entry into Louisville. It was now the end of September and Smith's army was scattered in detachments around Lexington while Bragg remained at Bardstown, about thirty-five miles southeast of Louisville. Bragg suggested to Smith that he join forces with him to confront Buell. Smith protested that he could not abandon the Lexington area and insisted that Bragg had sufficient strength to deal with Buell on his own. While the two Confederate commanders debated with each other, Buell was finally prodded into action by news that President Lincoln intended to replace him with General George Thomas. On October 1st the Army of the Ohio set forth from Louisville with Buell intent upon attacking Bragg before he could be reinforced by Smith. It was at about this point that Murray took up the story.
Buell commanded about 55,000 men organized into three corps. The I Corps was under General Alexander McCook, the II Corps under General Thomas Crittenden, and General Charles Gilbert commanded the III Corps. As second-in-command of the army-for the time being at least-was General Thomas. Facing Buell was the Army of Mississippi whose roughly 16,800 men Bragg had organized into two wings; the Right Wing under General Leonidas Polk-"the fighting bishop"-and the Left Wing under General William Hardee. Buell's numerical superiority was offset by the fact that many of his troops were new recruits.
While his main force advanced on Bardstown, Buell dispatched a diversionary force of two divisions towards Frankfort in the direction of Lexington. This move deceived Bragg into thinking that the main Union effort was being made against Smith's Army of Kentucky. Bragg then gave orders to Polk and Hardee to prepare their troops to withdraw to the east in preparation for a move against the right flank of Buell's column as it advanced on Lexington. In reality, Polk and Hardee were about to face the main force of the Army of the Ohio at Perryville.
Murray noted that the summer of 1862 had been hot and dry in Tennessee and Kentucky and the drought conditions had been hard on man and beast alike. The reports of water in Doctor's Creek just east of Perryville made the town a vital objective for both opposing armies. On the evening of October 7th the vanguard of Gilbert's III Corps skirmished with rebel troops holding Doctor's Creek. The next morning, Brigadier Philip Sheridan commanding a division in the III Corps attacked the Confederate line at Doctor's Creek and seized Chaplin Heights on the opposite bank. Gilbert sent forward his remaining two divisions to support Sheridan while McCook's I Corps began taking station to the north-i.e., the left flank-of Gilbert, and Crittenden's II Corps filled out the line on Gilbert's right flank to the south.
Buell had given orders not to bring on a general engagement until he had concentrated his three corps; he expected it would take another day before he would be prepared to give battle. Bragg had other plans, however, and he ordered an immediate attack against what he believed was only a small part of the Army of the Ohio. General Benjamin Cheatham's division of Polk's Right Wing and General Simon Buckner's division of Hardee's Left Wing assailed Brigadier James Jackson's division of McCook's Corps at the northern end of the Union line. Jackson's men were thrown back in confusion and the Confederates pushed forward about a mile capturing fifteen guns. McCook appealed to Gilbert for assistance and two III Corps brigades set off to help Jackson's men while Sheridan turned his artillery against Cheatham's and Buckner's troops.
The fighting was confused and deadly as some Union troops fled to the rear while others stood their ground and fought, too green to know when to retreat. There were instances of troops on both sides falling victim to friendly fire. General Polk was almost captured when he rode up to an Indiana regiment thinking it was one of his own.
While these dramatic events were taking place, General Buell was taking his ease at his head- quarters just a few miles away. He was not expecting a battle this day and was recovering from a bad fall he had taken from his horse. As Murray explained, Buell was also the victim of a strange atmospheric phenomenon known as an acoustic shadow. By a freakish combination of varying air densities, prevailing winds, and/or the intervening geographical features, the sounds of the battle being waged only a few miles away did not reach his headquarters. It was not until late in the afternoon that Buell became aware of what was going on when couriers arrived from the battle line with requests for reinforcements. Lacking any overall command and coordination on the field, Buell's three Corps fought their own separate battles with Crittenden on the south end of the Union line scarcely engaged at all.
In giving his account of the battle, Murray focused on the role played by Colonel John Converse Starkweather and his infantry brigade in General Lovell Rousseau's division of McCook's I Corps. [It was the name "Converse" that captured Murray's attention and resulted in his dedication of this talk to our long-serving, now-deceased member, John Converse.] On the day of the battle, Starkweather's brigade numbered about 2,200 men and consisted of the following regiments: the 79th Pennsylvania, the 1st and 21st Wisconsin, and the 24th Illinois. Of these units, the 79th Pennsylvania had been organized as a three-year regiment in September 1861. The 1st Wisconsin had been recruited by Colonel Starkweather himself at the beginning of the war and the 21st Wisconsin had been mustered into service in September 1862. The 24th Illinois had been raised in Chicago in July 1861 and consisted almost entirely of German, Hungarian, Czech, and Slovak immigrants, many of them refugees from the 1848 Revolution in Europe. For all these Union soldiers, Perryville was to be their first major action. As for Colonel Starkweather, he was a New Yorker who moved to Milwaukee in the late 1850s and was practicing law when war broke out in April 1861.
Murray described Starkweather's contribution to the battle at the north end of the field in some detail. The Confederates drove back the brigades of Jackson's division over the rolling Kentucky countryside, past features such as the Open Knob, the cornfield, and an elevation of land now known as Starkweather's Ridge. It was here that the Colonel and his raw brigade finally succeeded in bringing the rebel advance to a halt. Protected by a low stone wall and with a dozen artillery pieces in support, Starkweather's troops held their ground against three Confederate assaults. Exhausted and short of ammunition, the rebels finally withdrew. This was, as Murray pointed out, the high water mark for the Confederacy in the West.
At the close of day, Union casualties numbered about 4,300 while the Confederates absorbed about 3,400 men killed, wounded, or captured. By this measure, Bragg had won the battle and could also claim to have gained a tactical victory for having attacked and driven back an army larger than his own. But as night fell and reports arrived confirming that he was facing the main force of the Army of the Ohio, Bragg gave the orders to withdraw eastwards to Harrodsburg and join forces with Kirby Smith. This was accomplished and the united Confederate armies then stood to face Buell, who was advancing tentatively from Perryville. The opposing armies were about equal in size but Bragg had the advantage of commanding veteran fighters while Buell's raw troops were still smarting from the bloody nose they had received on the 8th of October. Nevertheless, Bragg gave the order to retreat and left Kentucky behind, where he and Smith had reluctantly concluded that their invasion had been a bust. Despite their declarations of allegiance to the Southern cause, few Kentuckians had been willing to stake their lives and fortunes on the success of Confederate arms. Moreover, the outcome of the Battle of Perryville had shown them the wisdom of their decision.
Editor: Tom Brzezicki
I'll bet you didn't know your board ever did anything, but it does. Mostly we meet informally over our weekly Wednesday luncheons at Smitty's: 12 to 1 p.m., and sometimes afterwards. [Anybody is welcome at any time; no reservations or notice needed.] But this is an organization that sort of "runs itself". And that is thanks to you, our members, who step forward to make a presentation and who operate as a bunch of friends. Love it!
However, two decisions are in the works that need your participation. Elections come up this time of year. Our Vice-President Bill Cookman cannot step up until January 2019 so Roger Taylor has agreed to stay on until that time. Lloyd and Paul have agreed to stay on as Treasurer and Secretary respectively for another year, and of course Paul may never ever get out of the Webmaster position. We therefore need a Vice-President (who also serves as program chair) beginning in January 2019. The executive hopes to present a "slate" at the April meeting for a vote at our 7 June meeting.
Civil War Trust Target Property for Us This Spring
The second decision is which of the Civil War Trust projects will receive our personal donations this year. Last year, you may recall that we supported the preservation of many acres at Brandy Station and below you will read of the success of that campaign. Our Round Table contributed CA$1060 which translated into US$778.32. With a multiplier effect of 6.5 to 1, we contributed US$5,060 to the cause of preservation and interpretation. At our 5 April meeting, your executive is proposing we support the preservation of 81 acres at Cold Harbour. The one property is a portion of the Confederate line; the second is a portion of the Federal line where Union troops aligned for their attack on 3 June. See portions in yellow on map below.
PLEASE bring your cheque (or cash) donation to the April meeting. Following our May meeting we will be sending this year's donation: your contributions plus proceeds from our book sales this year. THANK YOU AGAIN.
Brandy Station Preservation Update: VICTORY
To save lands recently made available to the Civil War Trust, $1,235,000 was needed to save the designated 244 acres. To help us, donations from other sources that the Trust is so capable of finding were provided to match member donations 6.5 to 1. That meant that we, the members of the CWT, had to raise $190,000. Jim Lighthizer, President, wrote us:
"I am honored to share that, thanks to generous people like you as well as our partners in preservation, we can now declare victory on this land. This includes 70 acres at the northern end of Fleetwood Hill, and 174 acres at Hansbrough's Ridge, where 800 Confederate soldiers barred a Union cavalry division from the main fight. [You all remember my talk in January, of course.]
Sites like Hansbrough's Ridge are rare. It was both a pivotal battleground and a secure refuge where thousands of soldiers recuperated from the trials of the campaigns for Mine Run, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg. It remains nearly as it was when the Yankees broke camp and marched east to cross the Rapidan River and battle Robert E. Lee's Confederates. [The area including Culpepper, Fleetwood Hill and Hansbrough Ridge (east of Culpepper) was the winter quarters for the Army of the Potomac in 1863-64.] Special thanks to our partners in the Old Dominion - the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources - for leading the charge on preserving this historic land.
This victory also marks the first acreage saved on the northern end of Fleetwood Hill. On June 9, 1863, Confederate forces under Gen. W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee repulsed multiple Union attacks here in what one observer called "the finest fighting of the war." [This is the area south of Buford's Knoll and the stone wall he defended until 1 p.m. while the rest of Stuart's command struggled to save Fleetwood Hill.]
Over the years, our members have saved more land at Brandy Station than at any other battlefield - more than 2,000 acres. Current and future generations will be able to walk this land and truly understand what took place on the ground here in 1863."
What will we help to save this year!
PS: Did you know that the CWT has 55,000 members world-wide and that it and its predecessor APCWS (Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites) have raised US$23.53 million, preserving over 49,000 acres. The Trust continues to offer informative websites of Civil War battles, superb maps and a journal, and it interprets sites preserved with signage and trails. We who follow and respect the lands where soldiers fought and died owe this trust our deepest appreciation.
EXECUTIVE - 2017-18
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