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eHistory’s Civil War Newsletter
A Free Monthly Newsletter
Issue Date: October 1, 2002
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A View From the Top: Colonel Theodore Lyman at Meade’s Headquarters From the Official Records: Preparations for Shiloh Stat of the Month: 210 On the Battlefield: Major Battlefield events for the month of October Specials
***************A VIEW FROM THE TOP***************
Colonel Theodore Lyman at Meade’s Headquarters
Colonel Theodore Lyman served on General George Gordon Meade’s staff from 1863 until the close of the war in 1865. His position gave him a unique look at the men running the war and the decisions they made. In his letters home, Lyman vividly described his superiors, the conditions at the front, and the enemy.
The following are some excerpts from his letters:
On General Ulysses S. Grant: April 12, 1864
“Grant is a man of a good deal of rough dignity; rather taciturn; quick and decided in speech. He habitually wears an expression as if he had determined to drive his head through a brick wall, and was about to do it. I have much confidence in him.”
On General Meade September 29, 1863
General Meade “is a thorough soldier, and a mighty clear-headed man; and one who does not move unless he knows where and how many his men are; where and how many his enemy’s men are; and what sort of country he has to go through. I never saw a man in my life who was so characterized by straightforward truthfulness as he is. He will pitch into himself in a moment, if he thinks he has done wrong; and woe to those, no matter who they are, who do not do right.”
On Confederate Trench Digging at Cold Harbor: June 2, 1864
“The Rebel lines were about parallel to ours and they were throwing up dirt as hard as they could. No country could be more favorable for such work. The soldiers easily throw up the dirt so dry and sandy with their tin plates, their hands, bits of board, or canteens split in two, when shovels are scarce; while a few axes, in experienced hands, soon serve to fell plenty of straight pines, that are all ready to be set up, as the inner face of the breastwork.”
On Southerners July 10, 1864
“Instead of being exasperated at the Southerners by fighting against them, I have a great deal more respect for them than ever I had in peace-times. They appear to much more advantage after the discipline of war than when they had no particular idea of law and order.”
On Robert E. Lee after the Surrender: April 23, 1865
Lee is, as all agree, a stately-looking man; tall, erect, and strongly built, with a full chest. His hair and closely trimmed beard, though thick, are now nearly all white. He has a large and well-shaped head, with brown clear eyes, of unusual depth. His face is sunburnt and rather florid. In manner he is exceedingly grave and dignified . . . but there was evidently added an extreme depression, which gave him the air of a man who kept up his pride to the last, but who was entirely overwhelmed.. . . He too is punished enough: living at this moment at Richmond, on the food doled out to him by our government, he gets his ration just like the poorest negro in the place! We left Lee, and kept on through the sad remnants of an army that has its place in history. It would have looked a mighty host, if the ghosts of all those soldiers that now sleep between Gettysburg and Lynchburg could have stood in the lines, beside the living.”
Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman, From the Wilderness to Appomattox. Selected and Edited by George R. Agassiz. The Atlantic Monthly Press, Boston, 1922.
You can read more about Civil War personalities at http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/features/people/list.cfm
***************FROM THE OFFICIAL RECORDS***************
Preparations for Shiloh
After the fall of Fort Donelson in Tennessee in February 1862, the situation for the Confederacy in the West became critical. General Albert Sydney Johnston moved much of his army into Mississippi and Alabama, abandoning large portions of Tennessee as well as large depots of supplies. If the Federals made any kind of push against Johnston’s new lines, they might possibly have driven the Confederates in the Western Theater all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Realizing just how dire the situation was, Confederate Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin issued a call to strip the Gulf Coast of as many troops as possible and send them to aid Johnston and protect the railroads to Richmond. To Braxton Bragg, Benjamin wrote the current situation in Tennessee “renders necessary a change in our whole plan of campaign. . . . You are therefore requested to withdraw all such forces as are now employed in the defense of the seaboard of Florida . . . and to send forward the troops to Tennessee. . . .”
As directed, Bragg pulled as many troops as he could from the coast, especially Florida, leaving just enough men in Mobile and New Orleans to defend against any possible attack from the water. The troops joined Johnston in Mississippi. The men knew there was something major brewing, but what they did not know was just how big. For on April 6 and 7, the Confederates would surprise the Federals at Shiloh Church near Pitsburg Landing, and commence the first truly major battle of the Civil War.
You can access the Official Records online at http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/library/or/index.cfm
*************** STATISTIC OF THE MONTH***************
The Heaviest of the Heavy: First Maine Heavy Artillery at Petersburg, June 18, 1864.
210 Killed (including the mortally wounded) 489 Wounded (95 mortally) 28 Missing
22.1% killed 66.5% total casualties
The 1st Maine Heavy Artillery “. . . sustained [the] greatest loss of any one Regiment in any one action of the war. . . .” A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. Frederick H. Dyer.
“The heaviest loss in this arm of the service[Heavy Artillery]—and, also, in any regiment of the army— occurred in the First Maine Heavy Artillery, of Birney's Division, Second Corps. During its term of service it lost 23 officers and 400 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded in battle. This regiment is remarkable, also, for its large percentage of loss; for the large number of officers killed; and, for having sustained in a certain engagement the greatest loss of any regiment in any one battle.” Regimental Losses in the American Civil War, 1861-1865. William F. Fox, Lt. Col., U. S. V.
More on Civil War regiments may be found at http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/features/regimental/index.cfm
***************ON THE BATTLEFIELD*************** 1861 October 3—Action on the Greenbrier River, West Virginia October 9—Battle of Santa Rosa Island, Florida http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/features/battles/states/florida/0002.cfm October 21—Battle of Ball’s Bluff, Virginia http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/features/battles/states/virginia/0011.cfm
1862 October 1—Engagement at St. John’s Bluff, Florida October 4—Union forces capture Galveston, Texas
1863 October 10—Affair at Tipton, Missouri October 14—Battle of Bristoe Station, Virginia http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/features/battles/states/virginia/0056.cfm October 25—Battle of Pine Bluff, Arkansas http://www.ehistory.com/USCW/BattleView.cfm?BID=501&WID=2 October 28—Battle of Decatur, Alabama
1864 October 2—Action at Saltville, Alabama October 5—Battle of Allatoona, Georgia http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/features/battles/states/georgia/0027.cfm October 19—Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/features/battles/states/virginia/0106.cfm October 25—Battle of Charlotte, Missouri
October 27-28—Battle of Boydton Plank Road, Virginia http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/features/battles/states/virginia/0108.cfm
For more on the battles, engagements, actions, and skirmishes during the civil war, see: http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/features/daily_dispatch/intro.cfm
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Edited by Thomas R. Long, Jr.