American Civil War

The American Civil War was fought between the free states (and five border slave states) and the eleven slave states who declared a secession from the U.S. In this section, you can remember the battles and leaders of the deadliest war in American history.

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2613 days ago

Today is March 28, and on this date in history, in 1862, we witness the last day of the Battle of Glorieta Pass, that emerged as a Union victory and decisive in the West. Henry H. Sibley had lead a Confederate invasion from Texas with the objective to break Union control in the area and establish a Confederate territorial structure. After a series of successes, Sibley fought this battle that ostensibly was a Confederate victory but lead to a Confederate retreat after the battle because of logistical problems. The retreat continued until the Confederates abandoned New Mexico altogether and never ventured west of Texas for the rest of the war.

Sibley's New Mexico campaign was a strategic defeat for the Confederate cause although one wonders what the Confederate Government could have accomplished in New Mexico where slavery had been abolished when it was part of Mexico and there were no slaves or a large group of southern supporters.

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2696 days ago

McCulloch was famed pre-war for being an expert in scouting, path-finding and horsemanship - indeed he was one of the foundes of the Texas Rangers.

He made his name as a soldier at the Battle of San Jacinto where he made excellent use of grapeshot from his two cannons against Mexican Positions then became widely respected as an expert Indian fighter. On the back of this fame he sought a position in the Texas House of Representatives, during the election campaign he was involved in a duel with Reuban Ross that resulted in crippling his left arm perminantly.

Leaving politics he returned to Scouting and his reputation once more increased in actions against the Comanches at the Battle of Plum Creek, and again in resisting Mexican incursions into Texas under Rafeal Vasquez - he was a prominant figure in driving the Mexicans from San Antonio back across the Rio Grande. When th Mexicans invaded again he once more rose to the challenge but this time things did not go so well and he and his brother just barely managed to avoid Capture int he Somervell Expedition.

In the Mexican-American War McCulloch raised a mounted milita group of Rangers which became Company A in Colonel Hays regiment of Texas Volunteers. This company was famous for being able to cover 250 miles in ten days or less. Zachary Taylor picked McCulloch to be his chief scout and this led to McCulloch becoming famous nation wide for daring exploits in the role, slipping between the lines undetected and once coming within a mile of Santa Anna's tent. He led mounted infantry at the Battle of Monterrey and saved Taylor's army from destruction through his reconnaisance before the Battle of Buena Vista.

By the Mexican-American War's end he was the chief Scout for David Twiggs. After the war he joined the Gold Rush in California but was unsuccessful. He became sherrif of Sacremento the same day his old commander Colonel Hays became sherrif of San Fransisco. Sam Houston and Thomas Rusk attempted to get him a commission in the US Military but his lack of a formal education prevented this. President Franklin Pierce promissed him the command of teh US Second Cavalry but the Secretary of War Jefferson Davis gave the position to his friend and idol Albert Sidney Johnston. He was eventually made US Marshal of the Eastern District of Texas and served in that role under Presidents Pierce and Buchannon but the prejudice he suffered for his lack of a formal education led him to spend most of his time reading up on military science.

When Texas seceeded he was automatically made a Colonel. He raised 1,000 troops and surrounded his old Commander Twiggs at San Antonio. Twiggs surrendered and handed over Federal property in the area. This resulted in McCulloch's promotion to Brigadier General and transfer to command of the Indian District. McCulloch then devoted himself to building the Army of the West using troops from Texas, Arkansas and Louisana.

However McCulloch's authority west of the Mississippi was not absolute. In Missouri former Governer turned General Sterling Price had already had some successes on the Battlefield and commanded a force of similar size to McCulloch's Army of the West. Price believed the Confederates should take the war to the Federals as soon as possible and drive them out of Missouri. McCulloch disagreed, arguing that there was not the manpower of logistics to do so. Instead he sought to consolidate a defensive line in Arkansas while building an alliance with the Indian tribes in the area - the Cherokee, Choctaw and Creek Nations - and relying on them to keep the Federals busy and dispersed.

Nevertheless he was forced to commit to battle at Wilson's Creek following the aggressive campaigning of Nathanial Lyon. McCulloch reported a shortage of ammunition per man and in depots prior to the battle and additionally to his disagreements with Price he did not think highly of the Missouri troops on hand, believing them poorly armed, poorly trained, ill-disciplined and led by politicians who did not have any idea what they were doing. This led to McCulloch's reluctance to commit to an agressive offensive when Lyon's army may have been destoryed for fear of a lack of meaningful support from the Missourians. Wilson's Creek was a major victory for the Confederates but there was little cooperation between McCulloch and Price and the chance for a crushing victory had been lost.

In the aftermath of Wilson's Creek McCulloch chose to pull back into Arkansas while Price chose to press on into Missouri. The two continued to quarrel and Davis, not prepared to chose one above the other, sought a commander to place above them to keep the peace. His first asked Braxton Bragg who turned the position down, then he offered the position to Henry Heth who also refused, finally he offered the job to Earl Van Dorn who accepted.

Van Dorn united Price and McCulloch to create a larger Army of the West and began an expedition towards St. Louis against McCulloch's protests. In the expedition McCulloch provided expert reconnaisance and commanded the right wing of the Army at Pea Ridge where he fell mortally wounded while scouting enemy positions. His second in command James McIntosh was killed moments later in a cavary charge while trying to recover McCulloch's body and that was the end of the right wing of the Army of the West.

Earl Van Dorn was to blame for McCulloch's death, the collapse of the Right Wing of the Army of the West and the dismal failure of the Expedition. If he had heeded McCulloch's advice then Pea Ridge would never have been fought, if he had paid more attention to his right wing while the battle was being fought he could have placed another man in charge when McCulloch and McIntosh fell to keep cohesion and his decision to abandon the baggage train left the Army of the West undersupplies and in a bad positon once the attack failed.

The loss of McCulloch was a great tragedy for the Trans-Mississippi theater. He had counciled a cautious strategy for the area, a defence focused on Arkansas with raids into Missouri and a close reliance on the Indians. With his death and the failures of Van Dorn Pea Ridge became a disaster and Arkansas was left unprotected.

Perhaps the most famous thing about McCulloch as a Confederate General was his refusal to wear his Generals uniform. He was never fond of uniform and instead went to battle wearing a black velvet civilian suit and Wellington boots.

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2697 days ago

Sherman was a little cracked around the edges, but as the war dragged on, he came into his own.

The war at the beginning was fought under the old 18th Century gentleman's rules. As time and casualties mounted, political pressure mounted to end it all.

Sherman was a far seeing strategist who could see what it would take to defeat the Confederacy, and he used the indirect approach to do so.

It seems to be the curse of many generals to think only of the direct attack and slogging it out. That is the direct approach. The indirect approach strikes at the strategic center of the enemy and attempts to go through a weaker area.

In the American Civil War, the east was the direct approach and the west was the indirect approach.

In the west, the Union cut off the western part of the Confederacy by capturing New Orleans and controlling the Mississippi River.

Grant's brilliant Vicksburg campaign accomplished that and basically on the same date, July 3-4, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg in the East accomplished very little.

Sherman could see that taking Atlanta was a key to the defeat of the Confederacy. After he took Atlanta, he planned the March to the Sea, a classic example of the indirect approach. At first Grant and Lincoln opposed it, but Sherman had their confidence and prevailed.

The gloves came off and Sherman and his army made modern war on Georgia, and later South Carolina. Industries, railroads, commodities were wrecked and burned. The shock to and drop of morale caused by an unstoppable Union army in the heart of the deep South was a severe blow to the Confederacy.

Sherman's unstoppable march north doomed Lee in Virginia, but the Union armies in the east were fortunate that Lee ran out of gas before Sherman arrived on the scene, thus gaining the glory for the armies in the east.

A brilliant soldier, Sherman deserves the glory that is his today. His humanity later in life towards his former enemies and towards his old soldiers also gives great credit to his name.

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2697 days ago

Longstreet was a brilliant soldier, but often had his counsel ignored or downplayed. He criticized Lee after the war and earned much opprobrium for it. He also became a Republican and held several offices under Republican administrations. That added to the Southern hatred.

He was in the doghouse for decades because of the anti-Longstreet attitude of southern historians, but as memories of the Lost Cause continue to fade, historians are giving Longstreet his due.

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2697 days ago

I didn't know much about General Curtis until I became interested in the Pea Ridge campaign in Missouri and Arkansas in 1861-62 in the American Civil War. Curtis is largely responsible for securing the Trans Mississippi area for the Union by winning the Battle of Pea Ridge, the Gettysburg of the West.

The battle occurred in March, 1862, and this year is the 150th anniversary. I noticed a small page on Facebook about the event and I am going to have to check it out further.

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2702 days ago

Patrick Cleburne was born in Cork, Ireland, and was part of the Protestant upper middle class that was strongly represented in the the future republic before independence. He emigrated to the USA and settled in Arkansas and became a leading member of society there.

When the Civil War broke out, he joined the CSA Army and rose from private to major general.

He was a good soldier and tactician and fought in many battles in the western theater. He was killed at the Battle of Franklin, south of Nashville, Tennessee, in 1864, as a result of the bone headed Confederate commander, J. B. Hood, sacrificing his army.

I found the place where Cleburne died when I visited Franklin a few years ago. Franklin is in the middle of one of the higher if not highest income counties in the country, Williamson, Tennessee, and most of the battlefield is obliterated by development. Cleburne's death occurred in the middle of what is now a strip mall parking lot. There is a small memorial to Cleburne in Franklin, however.

When he realized that the Confederacy was losing the war, Cleburne suggested freeing and arming the slaves. This suggestion was met by polite silence.

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2889 days ago

Earl Van Dorn was successful until the Civil War. He was the Confederate commander at the catastrophic Confederate loss at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas in early 1862 where the Confederate position West of the Mississippi River was permanently lost, and also was unsuccessful in North Mississippi thereafter.

He was known as a great womanizer but met his fate by being shot twice and killed by a jealous husband who stated Van Dorn had an affair with his wife. The husband was arrested by Confederate authorities but never brought to trial for the killing.

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2920 days ago

Under-appreciated genius at defensive warfare. Ahead of his time, Longstreet fully understood the advantages of modern military equipment (such as rifled muskets) that gave a decisive advantage to the defending troops. Master of the counterpunch, he would defend until he saw an opening, then would often exploit it to full advantage (such as his attacks at Second Manassas and Chickamauga).

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2920 days ago

Meh. Clobbered the Union army at Stones River, but lost the battle simply because Rosecrans refused to give up the field after getting his butt whupped. Bragg had a talent for pissing people off, and during the Chickamauga campaign, his corps commanders, tired of his shenanigans and foul temper, held him in such disrespect that they refused to move their troops when ordered, and blew a big chance to wipe out Rosecrans's army in detail. The battle was a bloody defeat for the Federals, but that was more to Rosecrans's gaffe at pulling a division out of the middle of the line right in front of Longstreet. Bragg got his ass handed to him by Grant at Chattanooga, his last major contribution to the war effort.

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2920 days ago

Today is May 26 and on this date in history, in 1865, the last Confederate general still in arms in the American Civil War surrendered to Union forces. Edmund Kirby Smith was that general, and the surrender was at Galveston, Texas.

Kirby Smith rose to be commander of Confederate forces west of the Mississippi River, and after that river came under complete Union control, his command became isolated. In fact many wags referred to that area as "Kirby Smith's Confederacy."

He was a remarkable man and very successful in his military campaigns. The Union was never able to gain control of his area until after the surrender.

He was born in Florida and graduated from West Point with service in the Mexican War and in the American West.

After the surrender he sailed to Cuba to avoid prosecution but came back after the amnesty of former Confederate officers.

After the war he eventually became a college professor and was so occupied when he died. He was the last full general of the Confederacy still surviving when he died, an unusual and talented individual.

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