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Great Raids

PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:53 am
It is a little known historical and cinematogriphal fact the John Ford directed only one Motion Picture using the civil WaWar and John Wayne.

It was the "Horse Soldiers" of 1958 if I am correct. Fred will Corect me if I am wrong in any event.

The photography and the "equestrian skills" of the "stunt and extras" was superb and the actors and extras, to add to it all, well very well mounted.

This was also the only time William Holden appeared, to my knowledge, with William Holden playing the part of the redoubtabtle medic who rejoined to Wayne's character when asked what trouble he was stirring up now: "Your soldiers are digging the latrines upstream of the camp, how would you like your coffee to taste in the morning?"

A once inconic but now almost forgotten tennis Great Althea Gibson Played the irrepressible personal servant of the one "noble lady" taken prisoner taken in the raid.

The movie had a fairly solid base in reality.

The Union Army of the West (as opposed to the Army of the Potomac, which stayed close to home, and for good reason) was bogging down in their attmept to take Vicksburg,

Thus the Ist Cavalry Brigade of the First Cavalry Division Of the Union Army 16th Army Corps was tasked to harass and or destroy rail junctions and other routes of communication and supply feeding Vicksburg.

A Colonel by the name of Benjamin H. Grierson, who had turned down and West Point education and had a real aversion to horses was in charge of the raid which was to run from Tennessee deep into Missipppi in early 1863 before Grant's forces had truly been deployed to attack the "Gibraltar of the Missipppi".

From the military History Quarterly: "Grierson ----led ---1700 horsemen (from Tennesee, I Believe, the article omits this piece of information) '-----with no hopre of support----"---marauding (ing) the entiore length of the lions dens, tearing down telegraph line and tearing up railroad tracks, destroying militry and goverment buildings, living off the land and generally confounding the South citizenry and Army-------"

In the Motion picture the troopers repeated Sheridan's tactics in his ride to the sea two years later by heating real tracks in the center and wrapping the whte hot middles around trees.

this was important as it was not possible to repair rail sections thus damged, and replacement was not Something the south could Easily accomplish.

Although the characters in the Movie talk much about Andersonville, the commentars on TCM correctly, I believe, noted the the infamous prison camp did not exist at the time of the raid.

It is alleged in the quarterly that "-----confederate forces were so disconcerted by the raid that-----slithered more than 600 miles through Mississippi------that Grant was able to shuttle 23,000 troops across the Missippippi----" to positions south of Vicksburg . Enabling the encirclement, siege and, for the South, near fatal fall of the City to Northern forces.

Grant telegraphed Lincoln: "mother of waters flows unfetterred to the sea".

Well, that was his opinion, I guess.

A few notes: at the time of the making of the movie there existed a dearth of trained re-enactors-so Trapdoor Springfields were used in the film.

Ford was clever enough not to focus on the actions of the weapons. When the 'trapdoors" were closed, the breech loading rifles were almost indistinguishable from a muzzle loadeer.

I had a chance visit to the town hall of Wakefield Mass, which had , at the time, an indoorr set of tablets naming the civil war dead. I do not remeber to much detail from the said tablets except to say that I was struck by the youth of the lost soldiers and the high percentage of them who did perish in Andersonville.

great raids

PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2010 5:38 pm
by mikemurphy

Research into the US Civil War will discover many amazing "raids" from both sides. The first great raid would have to be Gen. Jeb Stuart's ride around the Army of the Potomac during the 1862's Union Army's Peninsula Campaign. Stuart and his Confederates rode completely around, all the while being chased by his father-in-law.

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Grierson's raid during the 1863 Vicksburg Campaign was designed to keep General Joseph E. Johnston's potential reinforcements from going to Gen. Pemberton's aid in Vicksburg. The most important result of the raid was that Grant learned he could live off the land down there instead of keeping a supply base, and supply line open, which proved his downfall in his 1862 campaign against Vicksburg. Gen. Earl Van Dorn's raid to his supply depot forced Grant to withdraw.

Other raids by Gen. Forrest into Tennessee and Kentucky were noteworthy in any history book. John Hunt Morgan's raid into Indiana got him into Northern headlines. And the North's Abel Streight's great railroad chase was amazing to read about.

There were others that had the opposite effect as well. For example Jeb Stuart's raid into the North behind Joe Hooker's men, many historians believe cost Lee and the South their victory at Gettysburg.

Either way, the raid had more effect in the West than in the East during the Civil War.



PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 8:50 pm
Hi mike:

Glad to hear your voice, so to speak.

In some respects I regard, as perhaps Lee did, J.E.B. Stuart as a bit of a two edged sword.

When Lee was counting on him to circle to the Union rear at Getttysburg, he was hard to locate, a bit tardy, and got faced down by non other than G.A. Custer.

In many ways I think Meade was an underated and overlooked leader and hero.

But I understand that he was depressive--but he was far from stupid and did not fear to delegate.

Custer's 'breakup" of Stuart's pincer movement was all the more pivotal as Lee did not know that it had failed, apparently, and committed Pickett's men thinking that the seemingli inpregnable Union front would be disrupted.

I have war gamed Gattysburg since I was a kid.

Some what naturally, unless one is really dumb, one heeds Meade's command:

"Find me and hold me some good ground."

Garnet seemed to and is another unsung hero.

Many years ago you took exception to a quote about the numbers of weapons found on the field, and the fact that some were double loaded, and one loaded five time and unfired. Point taken, but thses were isolated events and no note were set forth in the volume as to what type of weapon was so 'overloaded". Obviously if is was an Enfield, it could have belonged to someone on either side, a note that applies to many of the firearms carried by Lee's men.

But, as to the other 30,000 or so, I should imagine you might be inclined to drop your weapon if you have been shot.

But, in any event, Meade's 'Great Fishook" was strongly held, it was good ground, it offered some of the benefits of "interior lines".

Lee did, I think, make the decisions he had too inorder to win, but, Stuart's failure and the disaster of Pickett's charge were too much to over come. the second's success depended on the first.


PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 2:06 am
by mikemurphy
Hi John,

Love to talk Gettysburg. As far as Jeb Stuart goes, his 1862 raid around the Union army was amazing (especially as he was being chased by his father-in-law). However, his raid around Gettysburg is a double edged sword as you put it, but not in the way you put it.

Stuart received permission from Lee to go on the raid, but he did leave several brigades of cavalry with the Army of Northern Virginia. But he really left to reclaim his reputation after being surprised at the Battle of Brandy Station. The fact that he got trapped behind the Union line shouldn't have mattered so much as Lee had cavalry to do what he wanted. Lee boggled the job though. This is the crux of the entire battle. Lee's constant mistakes during the battle is the real cause of the Southern defeat.

And the Battle at the East Cavalry Field on the third day of Gettysburg did not have the desired results for the South. I'm not sure if Custer was as grand as you think as he had some trouble with his horse. It wouldn't have made much of a difference.

I couldn't disagree with you more concerning Meade as an army commander. He was like many generals of the Civil War. He was a good division or corps commander, but totally out-matched when trying to command an entire army. He had a chance to end the war two years ahead of schedule, but let Lee escape across the Potomac. When given choices to make, he screwed them up. He's the commander who switched the brigade that was going to charge the Crater in 1864 at Petersburg. He constantly conflicted with Gen. Phillip Sheridan, who was one of the true commanders of the war. It was by design that Grant traveled with him and the Army of the Potomac.

As for Lee's decisions, he couldn't have been more wrong in his tactics or strategies:

1. Chose to fight on the offensive against stronger position.
2. Did not give orders to corps commanders, instead, he gave suggestions. General Ewell not taking Cemetery Hill on the first day sealed the fate of the Rebel Army.
3. Not allowing Longstreet the ability to take Round Top or to go around hurt his cause.
4. Not side-stepping Meade and having Meade attack him was a mistake and a step away from the strategy he was used to.
5. Pickett's charge was not thought out and killed thousands for nothing.

It was said that Lee was suffering from cardiac problems during the battle; Ewell was useless; and AP Hill was in bed for three days of the battle. Longstreet was the only reliable leader and he was not for this union

Lee escapes blame because the post-war writers were from Virginia


PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 12:24 am
by f.Channell
Are you trying to say Southern Historians were bias? :P


PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 2:37 am
by mikemurphy
Gee Fred,

All you have to do is look who was writing the history after the war to see to what extent they went to protect people like Gen. Lee, Stuart, Jackson, etc. Of course, you can narrow it right down to the Virginian veterans who really played a huge role in the writing. I mean, look how quickly they turned on Gen. Longstreet and Gettysburg just to protect Lee and others. The list of writers is extensive.


PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 11:03 am
by f.Channell
I was kidding Mike!

I just read C. Vann Woodward Thinking Back largely about bias after the
Civil War through segregation. Were they just trying to protect the man or the institution with their portrayal of him?


PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 7:00 pm
by mikemurphy

I know you were kidding. To answer your question though, I think that it was a matter of two factors. On one hand they were trying to protect Marse Lee, while on the other hand, they were trying to protect the sanctity of Ole Virginia. No Virginian ever did anything wrong in the war don't you know. History dictates otherwise.



PostPosted: Tue Jun 29, 2010 6:34 pm
i was unaware of Meade's blunder at Petersburg.

If you have seen "cold Mountain" it is quite clear what a screwup the attack following the mine explosin was-in graphic detail.

However, sometimes the battle goes to the man who makes the fewest mistakes.

At Gettysburg, Meade made, apparently, fewer mistakes.

Mining along the German Trench line near Amiens (I will get the exact area) left British troops in somewhat of a similar situation.

The lesson learned:

Don't destroy or rublble up the objective to the extent it becomes impassable to forces you wish to deploy.

The same mistake was make at Cassino (not Monte Cassino) and doubtless manny other times, such as von Paulus did at Stalingrad. he destroyed his own Urban mobility. The rubble after the incessant bombardments saved the soviets from having to dig more tank traps..

Allegedly Allied Bombers were to have cratered Omaha beach, but this may be a bit of 20/20 bad hindsight.

the beaches had been tested (assuming they tropp in the first wwave land on the right spot) for consistency before the landings. Perhaps the caterering would have made things worse.

Your thoughts?

PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 1:15 am
by mikemurphy
Hi John,

Well, I'm not getting into coversations about Amiens, Cassino, or Normandy tonight. Way too much for one thread. However, concerning Meade and Gettysburg. You are correct when you stated he made fewer mistakes than Lee. In fact, the biggest Union mistake was made by Gen. Dan Sickles who moved his corps ahead of the union line leaving a gap in between Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top. This was done against Meade's orders. So, the point here is Meade proved himself a great defensive general. When put on the offensive, however, he was a reluctant leaders.

As for the Battle of the Crater. This was not the first time this happened. It's amazing Grant even agreed to the plan considering the debacle at Vicksburg when he tried it (the same thing happened). However, he put the onus on Meade at Petersburg and Meade made Burnside change the brigade that was to make the initial thrust after the explosion to an all-white unit that had not trained for what was to happen (not to count the drunk Gen. Ledlie who was passed out in his bunker during the attack). Ledlie will be court-martialed and Burnside will be put on the shelf, but nothing happened to Meade.

I think it's funny that Grant basically ran the Army of the Potomac but kept Meade around. He obviously didn't have much confidence in the Pennsylvanian, and yet, has nothing but accolades for him in his memiors. Go figure.


Keeping to the Point

PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 3:07 am
Yes, well I do tend to wander a bit and will probably never fail to drag in what I think was a similar tactical of strategic situation.

No, I think my feelings about Custers' "Glorious Conduct" at Gettysburg are well in the 'grey" as I have not heard much about it.

I wish the old "board game" by Avalon Hill of Gettysburg. It has been a long time since I had it. I gave me more of a feel for the battle and the fog of war.

The fog of war was mimicked by only reuquiring Unit markers to be placed on the board when they cam within detection range of were attacking or "tripped over an opposing unit.

But It could be played with this Fog as a set piece and it was still critical to make the right deplyment decisions quickly, as the units did not really move very fast.

In a meeting enagement (so called) such as Gettysburg was (is both armies depling for 'route march" to their interim deployment sites) I recall it was very difficult for Lee to grab ground across Emmitsburg Road-although it sounds good to say Lee should not have "settled in where he did.

Overconfidence, or playing the hand he was given?.

Your educated replies are always welsome. FYI "alexander" and "Jutland" were my other two favorites by avalon hill.