Maj Gen. George H. Thomas: Practitioner of
by Bob Redman copyright © 5 Oct. 2000
In honor of the work of Thomas Sowell
Summary: Thomas's rebelliousness against his family (gave slaves bible and reading lessons), his attitudes towards secession, views on slavery, use of colored troops in general, doubts about their ability to sustain combat, his employment of colored troops at Nashville, defense of colored troops after war, efforts to integrate former slaves into economy while military governor of the South. Lincoln was the great moral philosopher of the social revolution of the 1860's, Thomas was its greatest practitioner. "...measuring him by the sentiment of his country...he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined." Thomas ought to be appreciated by black and white Americans, but he is not even known to most people, being ignored or, at best, played down in most popular treatments of American history.
Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard (founder of Howard University) in his "Sketch of the life General George H. Thomas" (fn1) got most of his facts about the boyhood of Thomas from a then 80-year old Negro named Artise. The 1850 census for Southampton County lists a free Negro named Artise living with the Thomas family (fn2). One fact Howard reports can be regarded as presaging the future development of the free-thinking Gen. George H. Thomas. As a boy, namely, although told by his parents (holders of about 15 slaves) to not do so, he gave the slaves lessons in the bible and reading. For information Gen. Howard could rely only on Artise, because Thomas's then eighty-year old sister Judith refused to cooperate. Her brother had ceased to exist for her, most of her family, and most of her neighbors when he opted to fight for the North in the Civil War.
It is a matter of record that Thomas, when stationed in New Orleans in 1857, bought a slave as a household servant for his wife when one of her white servants suddenly left their employ to get married. In 1860 Thomas wanted to free this slave, but his wife objected. However strongly or not strongly Thomas may have felt about the institution, his wife approved of it. There can be no doubt about who ruled the Thomas household as his was surely no different than anyone else's past and present. Not wanting to sell the person, Thomas took the servant to his home in Virginia and left her with his family when he went to Pennsylvania to reform cavalry troops arriving from Texas . After the war, he brought the woman and her family to Nashville and found jobs for them (fn3).
As the war approached it is documented that Thomas struggled with his conscience as did many other southern (and some northern) officers. However, when it came time to decide, he threw himself wholeheartedly into the northern war effort from its very beginning. As Mrs. Thomas said of her husband, "Whichever way he turned the matter over in his mind, his oath of allegiance to his Government always came uppermost" (fn4).
Concerning Thomas's overall opinion on the secession crisis, Cleaves quotes an acquaintance of Thomas as saying: "General Thomas was strong and bitter in his denunciation against all parties North and South that seemed to him responsible for the condition of affairs…but denounced the idea and denied the necessity of dividing the country and destroying the government." Of the four opposing political factions active in the 1860 presidential election campaigns Thomas supported the one headed by John Bell of Tennessee who advocated "adherence to the Constitution, continuing union of the states, and enforcement of the laws" (fn5).
During much of the war Thomas's loyalty to the Union was questioned by many northerners because of his origin, despite his continued and unequaled record of success in the prosecution of the Union war effort. This is a matter of record to anyone who will take the trouble to investigate, so I need not deal with the battles, except for his last one, Nashville, which is especially pertinent to the topic of this essay and helps demonstrate the way Thomas approached the problem of reunifying the country after a war which he considered won for the Union well before its conclusion.
We begin to learn about Thomas's views toward reconstruction when the first colored troops arrived in his units before the battle of Chattanooga. In fact Thomas was a quiet pioneer in the enrollment of blacks in the military. He took an active interest in their training and wrote the following in a letter dated 18 Nov. 63: "The Confederates regard them as property. Therefore the Government can with propriety seize them as property and use them to assist in putting down the Rebellion. But if we have the right to use the property of our enemies, we share also the right to use them as we would all the individuals of any other civilized nation who may choose to volunteer as soldiers in our Army [italics mine]. I moreover think that in the sudden transition from slavery to freedom it is perhaps better for the negro to become a soldier, and be gradually taught to depend on himself for support, than to be thrown upon the cold charities of the world without sympathy or assistance" (fn6). A born teacher, he monitored daily the progress of the colored troops assigned to him for training. By 5 April 1864 he reported six fully organized colored regiments on duty, plus three more organizing, along with a battery of light artillery.
Thomas Van Horne, the early biographer of George Thomas, described his attitude toward the colored troops in the following way ("Major General George H. Thomas", p. 214):
"In accordance with his antagonism to state rights, General Thomas supported the government in declaring slaves contraband of war, and in enlisting them as soldiers when their freedom had been proclaimed by the President of the United States. He was too pronounced in his loyalty and too direct and severe in his logic, to falter when extreme measures were adopted. He was, therefore, prepared for the radical solution of the problems of the war as they were developed in the various stages of the conflict. When the enlistment of the manumitted slaves was ordered by the National authorities no department commander performed his duty in giving efficiency to colored regiments more loyally than General Thomas. He gave advice and encouragement to the officers who were engaged in organizing and commanding negro troops in his department. And when these troops exhibited their proficiency in the manual of arms and drill, he was often among the delighted spectators."
Thomas's concept of training, however, did not include much parade ground drill. He applied to the colored troops the same principal he had developed and refined for troops in general throughout his participation in the Civil War, namely send them out in small groups on "sorties" or scouting parties in order to gain combat experience and familiarity with the danger of combat, a danger which can be limited and controlled with proper preparation, training, and battlefield leadership, as Thomas was to demonstrate time and time again. The following excerpt from Thomas's report of 13 Sept. 1864 shows how he worked (fn7). Note that colored units are fighting together with "white" units in a small-scale engagement. There is no grand-standing here, no useless sacrifice:
HEADQUARTERS DPMT. OF THE CUMBERLAND, Atlanta, Ga.,
Early on the morning of the 15th Major-General Steedman, with two regiments of white and six companies of colored troops, arrived at Dalton from Chattanooga and immediately attacked the enemy, driving him off toward Spring Place after four hours' fighting. The enemy's loss was heavy--he left his dead and wounded on the field. Our loss was 40 killed and 55 wounded. We captured about 50 wounded and 2 surgeons.
Here another example from a communication to Thomas from Granger (fn8):
DECATUR, ALA., October 28, 1864--1.15 p.m.
Major-General THOMAS: Have just finished little sortie with a colored regiment. It was quite a spirited affair. We lost 3 officers killed and several officers and men wounded. They accomplished the object for which they were sent out, namely, to spike the guns of a battery up the river. Don't know the damage done to the rebels. We drove the enemy from the rifle-pits. Received further information. Think Hood's force 40,000. R. S. GRANGER, Brigadier-General. <ar79_488
The following excerpt from Steedman's report of the battle of Nashville also illustrates this concept (fn9):
December 5 and 7, by order of Major-General Thomas, I directed a small brigade of colored troops, under the command of Col. T. J. Morgan, of the Fourteenth U.S. Colored Troops, and the Sixty-eighth Indiana Volunteers and Sixth Indiana (dismounted) Cavalry, under the command of Colonel Biddle, to reconnoiter the position of the enemy in my front. This force on both days drove the enemy from the left of the works constructed by my command on Rains' farm, which he had taken possession of after my troops abandoned them. These reconnaissances were conducted by the officers in Command with prudence, energy, and ability, and were successful in developing the enemy's position.
As far as Thomas's politics were concerned, his attitude toward the question of states' rights, sometimes thought to be the real bone of contention between Northern and Southern politicians, can be illustrated by an incident which took place after the battle of Chattanooga (23-25 Nov.1863). While stockpiling for the coming Atlanta campaign, Thomas also initiated the first national military cemetery of the war in Chattanooga. His respect for his soldiers was also manifested in his active interest in this project as well as in similar cemeteries afterward. When asked if the soldiers' remains should be interred according to their states of origin, he replied: "No, no, no. Mix them up. Mix them up. I am tired of states-rights" (fn10). In short, Thomas's entire behavior after the battle of Chattanooga demonstrated that he had completely accepted Lincoln's policy and ideas on emancipation, or more probably, shared them from the beginning, and he endeavored to carry out these policies after Lincoln's death, often in the face of opposition from the most disparate quarters. One example of such opposition is the following letter from then President Johnson (fn11). Johnson wanted those colored troops anywhere but in East Tennessee:
Major-General THOMAS: Would it not be well to send
of the colored troops now at Greeneville either to Bristol or down the
Mississippi, where their services are more needed? ANDREW JOHNSON,
|Rather than continue chronologically and deal now with the battle of Nashville, I will first discuss Thomas's reconstruction activities, first as military commander of vast areas of the South before the war ended, and second as military governor of five conquered states after the war. His balanced approach to serving the justified interests of all of the inhabitants of the area under his authority - returning Confederate soldiers, East Tennessee politicians, colored garrison troops, disoriented former slaves, and so on - is only a continuance of his attitude toward his country and his duty as he perceived it which we saw manifested in his behavior before and during the Civil War. The momentary digression will enable the reader to put into proper perspective what happened during the battle of Nashville where, for the only time in the Civil War, colored troops participated effectively and usefully in a decisive battle which the Union won.||
artist Rick Reeves
As opposed to Tennessee, where Thomas worked with appointed and then elected governors, Thomas's reconstruction projects in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi involved a novel approach to the problem of integrating mixed populaces into the normal U.S. political process. "…instead of building a civil government from the top down Thomas began to build it from the bottom up" while he acted as provisional governor" (fn15).
Wherever he had influence he took a moderate course. On the one hand he restrained, sometimes through military force, the attempts of some former Confederates to avoid any consequences for their anti-Union activities. On the other hand he "…pressured the Freedman's Bureau to make the Negro discharge his responsibilities to himself, his family and his community, and to secure to him the rights of life, liberty and property." In short, there could have been no more faithful executor of Lincoln's reconstruction policies that George H. Thomas.
I feel that this came about, in part, because he knew better than most what kind of people he was dealing with in the South, being a Southerner himself (as was Lincoln). On 5 Sept. 1865 Thomas wrote President Johnson: "As a general rule the negro soldiers are under good discipline….I believe in the majority of cases of collision between whites and negro soldiers that the white man has attempted to bully the negro, for it is exceedingly repugnant to the Southerners to have negro soldiers in their midst & some are so foolish as to vent their anger upon the negro because he is a soldier" (fn16).
However, Thomas wasn't all sweetness and light. When necessary for the furtherance of government policy he was ready, in certain cases, to quickly intercede with troops. For example, in 1866 in cooperation with Stanton (and in opposition to Grant), Thomas had 2 absent Tennessee legislators arrested and brought to Nashville so that a quorum could be reached for the vote on the 14th amendment (fn17). It was then passed 43 to 13. This was necessary for the re-admission of Tennessee into the Union, and there were many, north and south, who sought to delay this.
Another illustration of Thomas's firmness can be seen in what he wrote on 2 March 67: "…a portion of the people of the States lately in rebellion, do not and have not accepted the situation, and that is, that the late civil war was a rebellion and history will so record it.…Everywhere in the States lately in rebellion, treason is respectable and loyalty odious. This, the people of the United States, who ended the Rebellion and saved the country, will not permit (fn18)." This statement was made primarily in reference to the Ku Klux Klan which had been founded early in 1866 in Pulaski, Tenn. It was at first only a social organization for Tennessee juveniles. They turned quickly from social activities to terrorizing the local negroes through sheets (meant to signify the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers) and masks, and the movement spread until the Klan was formally organized as an adult terror organisation in 1867 in Nashville with Bedford Forrest as titular head. The terror soon became systemic and widespread, and Thomas combated the movement with all of the means at his disposal. His still functioning secret service found out who the organizers were, but Thomas's reports to Washington had no effect, other than to arouse the Republican radicals against Johnson who was not in favor of giving full citizenship and voting rights to the negroes (fn19).
In any case, either through sound administration or good luck, in spite of the sometimes chaotic situation in parts of his command, he was not often openly opposed from within his department. According to McKinney: "He had only one serious outbreak of violence in his command area" (fn20), whereas in other departments there were several bloody confrontations with hundreds of people killed, as in New Orleans under the harsh administration of Sheridan. Sheridan was, in fact, so harsh that even he became persona non grata and was sent to the West where he showed his mettle against Indian families. Towards the end of Thomas's stewardship of the five states, President Johnson had this to say about him: "[Thomas] has not failed, under the most trying circumstances, to enforce the laws, to preserve peace and order, to encourage the restoration of civil authority, and to promote as far as possible a spirit of reconciliation." (fn21)
Having outlined the context of Thomas's background, political views, and reconstruction activities, I now return to a discussion of the battle of Nashville on 15-16 Dec. 1864 where, I repeat, for the only time in the entire Civil War, colored troops performed an important function in a decisive battle which the Union won.
First the build-up to the battle of Nashville: After the battles for Atlanta, Hood threatened Sherman's railroad communications with Chattanooga. Sherman pursued as far as Rome, Ga., but simply couldn't quite catch Hood, so Sherman gave up and returned to Atlanta. While Hood refitted in Alabama, Sherman made plans to foreshadow 20th century warfare against civilians and make Georgia howl. He divided up his forces, taking Thomas's prized 14th corps (the one which Sherman had said was so slow before Kennesaw that it would stop in front of a "fresh furrow in a plowed field" - fn22) and the rest of the cream of the crop, and sent all of the discarded troops back to Thomas at Nashville. True, Thomas kept the 4th corps under Stanley as a nucleus. Sherman then blithely bid Hood good speed in his quest to reach the Ohio and beyond.
Hood's lean and mean army, along with Forrest, crossed the Tennessee River on 17 Nov. 1864. At first his intentions weren't clear to Thomas, so he had to scatter his limited forces in small, vulnerable units to act as a 50 mile wide picket system. He coordinated this system by means of telegrams, of which hundreds a day were sent back and forth prior to the final battle - in itself a major innovation in military science. Schofield's part in this strategy, with the largest of the advanced forces, was to delay Hood as much as possible without risking major battle. Schofield thus established himself at Columbia, Tenn. behind the Duck River. On 29 Nov. 1864 Wilson's cavalry warned Schofield that Hood was about to cross the river and outflank him, but Schofield reacted too slowly, even disregarding Thomas's direct order to retreat, and found Hood between him and Franklin on the road to Nashville.
During the night of 29-30 Nov. Schofield's troops marched through Spring Hill within sight of the Confederate campfires while Hood slept. Along with most authors, Mckinney writes that Hood's subordinates tried to wake him, but couldn't. In addition, Hood is supposed to have drunk alcohol the evening before, dangerous in combination with the opium based medicine he took for the pain from his maimed arm and amputated leg (fn23), war wounds from Gettysburg and Chickamauga. The next morning, when Hood discovered that Schofield had escaped, he raged and blamed his officers. Starting at 4 that afternoon, while Hood lay down to rest, he ordered his army to make a spine stiffening frontal assault without reconnaissance on Schofield's works south of Franklin, before the rear guard with most of the artillery had arrived. At Gettysburg, Lee had the sense to call it off after one charge on 3 July 63 and blame himself for the failure. At Franklin, Hood kept it up until about 10 PM. And as long as he lived, Hood assigned himself no blame. Hood's losses that day were about 25% of his army, including 6 generals killed, among them the best commander the Confederacy produced - Irish born Patrick Cleburne. Estimated forces : casualties ratio (US 27,939 : 2326, CS 26,897 : 6252). During the battle Schofield got his trains on the road, and then in the evening he abandoned the field to Hood who telegraphed to Richmond that he had won the battle, albeit with...ahem...some losses. There is no other word for this but insanity. A footnote: To the east of Franklin, Wilson's cavalry fought Forrest to a standstill. Later at Selma, Forrest would be beaten at his own game.
After such losses Hood, when he arrived in front of Nashville the next day, was not in a position to seek battle with Thomas and went into a sort of winter camp just in front of the Nashville works. In any case, it would not have been advisable to attack the Nashville fortifications, as they were the most extensive Federal works before any city in the South throughout the entire war. All he could hope for would be reinforcements which never arrived, or new recruits from the local population which fled into Nashville by the thousands to avoid conscription. His best chance lay in a premature attack on the part of the Federals which would have taken place had Grant gotten his way. Hood had come so far, couldn't go further, couldn't go back. As he wrote later in his memoirs Attack and Retreat (fn24): "…the troops would, I believed, return better satisfied even after defeat if, in grasping at the last straw, they felt that a brave and vigorous effort had been made to save the country from disaster." I think such a statement stands by itself without further comment.
So Hood waited, and the festivities and parties in Hood's mansion headquarters continued unabated (fn25). He even sent Forrest off to attack Murfreesboro (a move which puzzles nearly all writers on this battle), while Thomas had been reinforced by militia, commissary troops formed into combat units, a provisional division under Steedman (whom Thomas considered to be one of his finest commanders) including two colored brigades, and the volunteer troops of A.J. Smith's Missouri command who had arrived in Nashville at about the same time as Schofield from Franklin. Things were looking up for Thomas.
Thomas, however, had some problems. His plan was to deal with Hood's army once and for all, that is not conduct just another of the Civil War's countless indecisive battles. For this he needed horses in order to re-equip the cavalry of "boy wonder" James H. Wilson, at Chattanooga an adjutant on Grant's staff, but now a major general. Without an effective cavalry there could be no pursuit after the battle and therefore no decisive conclusion to it. Unfortunately horses were in very short supply, and Thomas was forced to impress all of the civilian owned horses in that part of Tennessee. Governor Johnson even donated his carriage horses. Another problem was the weather which worsened into an ice storm which lasted for 5 days and did not let up until the 14th.
Still another problem was Grant himself. Already on 2 Dec. he began a telegram campaign to get Thomas to attack Hood immediately. In this he was abetted by the ambitious Schofield who was sending false reports to Grant about Thomas's lack of initiative and dissent among Thomas's subordinates (fn26). The only dissent was that of Schofield who wanted to replace Thomas. In this he was seconded by Grant who wanted Hood's army further damaged at any cost in order to prevent any blame from falling on him because of Sherman's lopsided partitioning of the forces after Atlanta (which Grant had approved). Furthermore, Grant did not want Thomas to win another impressive victory which would enhance Thomas's reputation still more. And finally, if Grant could get Thomas to step down under the pressure, or if he could get Stanton, Halleck, or Lincoln to remove Thomas (Grant preferred that someone else beside himself do this), then so much the better. Grant's insistance seems remarkable from other points of view as well. Could the "savior of the nation" have been trying to distract attention from his own lack of progress in the siege of Petersburg which had been going on at that point for 7 months?
However, Grant missed the opportunity to pay Thomas back directly for having managed the battle of Chattanooga behind his back (fn27). Just as Grant was leaving Washington on 15 Dec. 1864 for Nashville in order to "take charge" there, the telegrams began arriving. Thomas had attacked and driven Hood back, another attack was planned for the morrow. So Grant canceled his trip and reverted to his strategy of correcting history in its written form.
Back to the military part of the battle: In order to give Hood the impression that the main Federal attack would be against his right flank, 2 brigades of Federals, one of them USCT under Thompson, conducted a sortie against Cheatham on 13 Dec. 1863 despite the icy conditions. Casualties were light, but the next day Hood transfered artillery to his right and had Granbury's brigade build another redoubt there (fn27.5).
On 15 Dec. 1864 Wood and Smith attacked Hood's left. Schofield was wisely held in reserve. The secondary attack with Steedman's provisional division (including colored troops) was to divert Confederate attention from Wood and Smith by attacking on Hood's right. And divert it did. Cheatham's corps of shock troops, including the former division of Cleburne who had died at Franklin, fought ferociously against the colored troops while Thomas hit the other flank with almost everything else that he had. That evening Hood pulled his line back two miles and shortened it, switching Cheatham to his left (fn28) in order to counter the main blow which was now obviously going to be directed there.
The next morning Wilson's refitted cavalry group consisting of 9000 men (out of 12,000 effectives, 3000 of them couldn't be horsed) rode around Hood's left flank. They were equipped with the Spencer repeating carbine (shorter version of Wilder's Spencer rifle), thus having the firepower of an entire infantry corps. Once behind Hood, they dismounted and set up position on one of Hood's two escape routes. Meanwhile the attack was renewed against Hood's entire line. Steedman continued on the left, and Wood and Smith on the center and right. In response to Steedman's attack which included the colored troops, Cleburne's division was shifted back again to Hood's right wing (fn29.5). Despite repeated orders to attack, Schofield on Thomas's right hesitated, and some of Schofield's units (Macarthur) attacked without orders while Wilson struck from behind. The effect was disintegration of Hood's entire army which retreated in disorder along the other road back to Franklin and beyond. The rout would perhaps have been total, that is Hood's escape route along Franklin Pike might have also been closed off, if Schofield had vigorously attacked when ordered to, thus allowing Wilson's cavalry to cover the 7 or 8 miles to the point where Granny White Pike and Franklin Pike joined.
Glatthaar puts it this way: "…at the Battle of Nashville, where Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas's troops crushed the Confederate Army of Tennessee and put a halt to Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood's Tennessee invasion, black forces played a major role despite their comparatively small size. On the first day of fighting, the two black brigades attacked the Confederate right to draw resources away from the main Federal thrust on the Rebel left flank, which was successful. During the second day, black and white troops swarmed up the slick slopes of the Confederate position on Overton Hill….Although they did not break the Confederate line, these troops again forced the Confederate high command to transfer men to its right, which weakened the left and facilitated its fall to Federal attackers. Black units sustained 630 casualties out of 2,300 men in the victory (fn29)."
McPherson confirms the above account: "A diversionary attack by a division containing two black brigades held most of one Confederate corps in position on the right, while Thomas launched 40,000 men in a bruising assault against the left….Next day the black troops again feinted against the right while the main attack rolled back the left….At a cost of only 3,000 casualties, the Federals had inflicted more than twice that many" (fn30). Buell writes in a recent book ("Warrior Generals, 1997) the following about the battle on Hood's right on 15 Dec. 1864: "...Steedman's black soldiers attacked valiantly, They suffered immense casualties but nonetheless diverted reinforecements from moving to the collapsing Confederate left wing" (fn31)
This is confirmed by the eye-witness Col. Henry Stone, (member of the staff of General Thomas): [On 15 Dec. 1864] "Two of Steedman's brigades, chiefly colored troops, kept two divisions of Cheatham's corps constantly busy, while his third was held in reserve; thus one Confederate corps was disposed of….Steedman maintained the ground he occupied till the next morning, with no very heavy loss" (fn32).
On 3 Oct. 1864, when Thomas arrived in Nashville, he didn't have much of an army. Starting from the nucleus of his 4th corps, he had to create a new army from the soldiers Sherman had rejected, namely the sick, the malingerers, and those about to be furloughed or mustered out of the service. To this Thomas was to add a stream of militia, volunteers, armed commissary soldiers, raw recruits and some colored troops which were part of Steedman's provisional division. McKinney describes this provisional division as follows: "It was a mix of 6 brigades drawn from four different corps made up of fragments of from 200 ill-equipped regiments. A large portion of them was unfit for duty. Twenty-five % of them were fresh from the hospital. Fifty % were new and untrained recruits. Their officers lacked baggage, servants, extra clothing, and money. There were no ambulances or wagons. Some of these troops weren't even armed until the evening of the fourteenth. Many were unable to speak or understand English. Two of the brigades were made up chiefly of colored troops" (fn33).
Thomas did not have a particular political agenda in using the colored troops. According to his original plan they were supposed to be employed, together with the others in their division, in the rear as would any new, barely trained troops in a complex battle plan. However, Col. Morgan (commander of some of the colored troops) remonstrated, and the plan was changed. Morgan under Steedman was given the assignment to hold the Confederate right, while the main effort, headed by Wilson's mini-corps of 9,000 dismounting cavalrymen armed with the 7-round repeating Spencer carbines, was sent behind the Confederate left while Wood and Smith attacked in front (no picnic there either).
At Nashville Union forces outnumbered Hood 57,000 to 38,000, for an attacker against prepared positions not an overwhelming advantage, even considering that Hood had made his third major error of the campaign by detaching Forrest to Murfreesboro. With what he had left, Hood had no doubt of his ability to hold his position against attack (fn34): "Should he [Thomas] attack me in position I felt that I could defeat him, and thus gain possession of Nashville with abundant supplies for the army." What upset this normal ratio of offense to attack (at least 2 to 1 and better 3 to 1 were required under the conditions of the day) were: 1) technology on the Federal right, and 2) the mere presence of colored troops on the Federal left.
In fact the Confederates on the one flank, seeing themselves confronted with their former "inferiors", now made equal by the force of history, events, and arms, were especially combatative, as in other confrontations between Confederates and colored troops in the 2nd half of the war. Steedman's provisional division thus occupied a disproportionate number of the Confederate forces which aided Thomas's enterprise on the other flank. In fact, Steedman's provisional division fought well the first day and the second day, and especially the colored troops.
The pursuit which followed was the longest of the Civil War, despite horrible weather conditions and acute shortage of forage for the horses. It lasted 30 days and covered more than 200 miles into Mississippi. Hood arrived there finally with 13,000 troops, of which 5,000 reported to Johnston for the sad affair at Bentonville, NC.
Thomas had achieved one of the most complete victories of the Civil War, indeed the only one in which an army was destroyed on an open field of battle (unless you want to count Mill Springs also), and colored troops had their important part in it. Judging from their performance their sacrifice made sense to them, and can make sense to us as much as any soldiers' sacrifice can.
They indeed suffered high casualties, as did colored troops in every engagement in which they fought. Glatthaar explains it in the following manner: "Statistically, during the last two years of the war black troops suffered one-half the fatalities in combat per one thousand men that white volunteers did, but this information is misleading. Because military authorities assigned black commands to peripheral duties and reserved the combat jobs in main armies for white soldiers, black troops fought in comparatively few major battles, even in 1864. But when they did have an opportunity to fight, they almost always battled tenaciously. On numerous battlefields black commands suffered proportionately higher casualties and performed as well, if not better, than more experienced white units. No doubt part of the reason for…higher casualties, was inexperience" (fn35).
At Nashville, however, compared to the causalities the USCT suffered elsewhere, they had not fared badly, as the following overall casualty statistics for Thomas's army demonstrate: On Thomas's left, Steedman's Provisional Detachment had 870 casualties. On the right Woods 4th Corps lost 971 men, and A. J. Smith's Provisional Detachment lost 746 men. On the far right Wilson's cavalry lost 306 men. Schofield's loss for the two-day battle was an astoundingly low 11 killed and 154 wounded, simply because he practically disobeyed orders and avoided battle. According to these statistics, Steedman's losses were commensurate with those of the other actively participating divisions in the battle. As Steedman himself writes in his report, however, his losses fell disproportionately on the colored units, "amounting in the aggregate to fully 25 per cent. of the men under my command who were taken into action" (fn36).
One reason was the extraordinary tenacity with which the colored troops usually fought, despite their relative and occasionally total lack of combat experience. "For black soldiers, this was a crusade for the right of themselves and their race, and the passions these goals generated helped them hurdle the obstacles of fear and doubt" (fn37).
Another reason for the high casualties in USCT units was the bitterness with which both the colored troops and the Confederates fought each other, wherever they met. Often both sides fought under the "black flag" which announced that no quarter was to be given, nor prisoners taken. As Glatthaar (fn38) reports: An officer in the USCT wrote his wife that some troops in his regiment trapped ten Confederates and gunned down five of them. "Had it not been for Ft Pillow, those 5 men might be alive now. 'Remember Ft Pillow' is getting to the feeling if not the word. It looks hard but we cannot blame these men much." In the same vein, a Maine cavalryman informed a friend at that he had witnessed black troops executing a number of Confederates after they surrendered: "…when one of them would beg for his life the niggers would say rember port hudson…it was the Same regiment that the rebs took part of and hung them over the walls" (fn39).
However, we should not forget that racism was not only prevalent among the Confederate soldiers, but also in the Union army. As Glatthaar reports: "Just as most Northerners and Southerners regarded blacks as inferior and discriminated against them, so the Civil War military experience of black units exemplified that inferior status and prejudicial treatment. The Northern government consistently treated blacks as second class soldiers, while white troops abused both black soldiers and their white officers on sundry occasions. In addition, abuse of black units within the military "started near the top and filtered down through the ranks, often manifesting itself in violence" (fn40). In addition there was the sanctioned violence of the especially harsh military justice applied to the colored troops. Whereas about one in every twelve soldiers was black, one in every five soldiers executed for a crime was black. Even more striking, 80 percent of all soldiers executed for mutiny were black (fn41).
A detailed treatment of the unfairness of much of the treatment accorded the colored troops by many (but not all) white soldiers and officers would fill a book. I therefore return to Thomas in Nashville and begin now sum up: At the battle of Nashville the colored troops were used in as practical a fashion as possible under the circumstances without regard for their color. True, before the battle Thomas had his doubts about their ability to stand up to the battle conditions many of them were about to face for the first time. They had been, after all, mostly garrison troops and had little combat experience. However, the colored troops displayed bravery and other soldierly traits at Nashville, and Thomas recognized this. When riding over the field after the battle he saw their dead mixed with the bodies of white soldiers and said: "This proves the manhood of the negro" (fn42).
Three other well-known engagements must be briefly mentioned here in order to put the performance of the colored troops at the battle of Nashville in proper perspective. They are Ft. Wagner, Port Hudson, and the Crater. Both Ft. Wagner and Port Hudson were, militarily, utterly trivial objectives, not worth the life of a single man, because they both fell automatically in the further course of the war as they became backwater to more important military objectives. Both featured frontal attacks along a narrow approach to a strongly fortified position, and both were bloodily repulsed. They can be most kindly described as ceremonial gestures meant to show that colored troops would fight. I say ceremonial, because if they hadn't fought well, they would have been exactly on par with other inexperienced white troops. The question of whether they could fight well in spite of their lack of experience should not have been the subject of experiments against impregnable objectives. That they were such subjects is an absolute denial of their human dignity. Today, no informed "white" person, and very few black people (who should already automatically be informed) can watch the movie "Glory" without feeling disgust or anger.
There are differences between the engagements at Port Hudson and Ft. Wagner, but they are subtle. Gen. Banks was the theater commander at New Orleans and was an avowed abolitionist. However, his abolitionist sentiments didn't go so far as to have him want colored officers in his army, and he systematically removed them. At Port Hudson, one colored brigade had lost all of its colored officers, and the other would lose nearly all of its colored officers after the battle. According to Glatthaar, the charge itself there was doomed to failure. There was a token display of artillery in support of the colored brigades' charge - two guns got off one round each before being silenced by the Confederate batteries. He writes: "Had an officer with authority and any sense examined the Confederate position, the charge of the 1st and 3rd Louisiana Native Guards would never have taken place." Consider also the statistics at Port Hudson: 20% casualties for the colored brigades, 0 casualties for the Confederates. Another historical footnote: After the engagement, the truce for bringing away the wounded and burying the dead did not apply to the Native Guards' sector. The bodies were not recovered until 6 weeks later when Port Hudson surrendered after Vicksburg fell (fn43).
At Ft. Wagner, an "engineering marvel" extending across the entire neck of an island (fn44), there is evidence that Col. Shaw's and Strong's superior, Maj. Gen. Truman Seymour, was an overt racist: Although Strong and the officers and men of the 54th Massachusetts regarded the offer to assault the fort as an honor, division commander Maj. Gen. Truman Seymour assented to the request for another reason. According to the testimony of Nathaniel Paige, Special Correspondent of the New York Tribune, Seymour told overall operations commander Maj. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore, "Well, I guess we will let Strong lead and put those d____d niggers from Massachusetts in the advance; we may was well get rid of them one time as another" (fn45) . The 54th Massachusetts suffered 40% casualties that day as part of this social experiment.
The situation at Petersburg, Va. the summer of 1864 was different. Burnside was a genuinely enlightened man. With difficulty he had gotten approval for his plan of letting his Pennsylvania engineers (former coal miners) sap a portion of the Confederate line at Petersburg in order to place powder charges underneath. Burnside also had to face opposition within the military bureaucracy in order to acquire the simplest supplies for this operation. For weeks, while the miners sapped, Burnside trained colored troops in the role he assigned them - spearheading the assault in and beyond the crater after the explosion. He had chosen them because they were his largest and freshest division. In addition, his other three divisions were simply used up by the constant fighting they had been involved in since the Wilderness. I quote here Burnside's testimony from the subsequent military court of inquiry:
"Answer. For reasons already given, and given before the fight, and from observations on that day, I am forced to believe that the Fourth Division (the colored division) would have made a more impetuous and successful assault than the leading division."
In other words, Burnside's choice of the colored 4th division to lead the assault after the mine explosion was an eminately practical one, one with which Grant after the fact concurred.
Meade had his doubts, however, from the very beginning. First about the possibility of completing the mine, then about Burnside's choice of the raw colored troops. He did not make known his final decision on the matter until the day before the scheduled explosion and assault, when the "impossible" tunnel had been built after all, and it looked as though the operation might succeed and, indeed, Grant was in need of a success. Meade visited Burnside's headquarters and told him that the plan to use colored troops as the spearhead was canceled. They were too inexperienced, and he did not trust them, he said (fn46). Burnside testified thus at the Court of Inquiry:
"I asked General Meade if that decision could not be changed. He said, 'No, general, it cannot; it is final, and you must lint in your white troops.'"
White and unprepared troops were thus substituted for the colored troops at the last moment. When the initial assault failed, Burnside then tried to get permission from Meade to not engage the 4th colored division at all, as he testified:
"After my three divisions had been put into the position they occupied in the works I hesitated to put in this colored division. I remembered having told General Meade that in case the colored division should falter in the advance I did not think it would affect our old white divisions, certainly as to holding their position; that if the white divisions were to falter in the advance it would be impossible to get the black division to pass them. I am not sure but I told him this the very day before the battle, in my tent. I received from General Meade an order to put in my whole force, which I did."
The official reason for the intervention in Burnside's plan, uncritically accepted thereafter by generations of harried and hurried scholars, was provided later by Grant at the subsequent hearing of the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, and was as follows:
"General Burnside wanted to put his colored division in front, and I believe if he had done so it would have been a success. Still I agreed with General Meade as to his objections to that plan. General Meade said that if we put the colored troops in front (and we had only one division) and it should prove a failure, it would be said, and very properly, that we were shoving those people ahead to get killed because we did not care anything about them. But that could not be said if we put white troops in front."
Gen. Meade advanced one reason which is on record. Grant the renowned humanitarian advanced another, while characteristically attributing it to Meade. The very idea that Meade would have made such a decision independently is absurd. There is, however, another possible explanation for making the last-minute change, namely that it might have been deemed inadvisable that colored troops should be successful instead of white troops in finally breaking Lee's line. For whatever reason, a carefully prepared plan was interfered with, confusion inevitably resulted, and men died.
The rest of the story is quickly told. After the explosion early in the morning of 30 July 1864, the white troops poured into the resulting crater and mostly stayed there, perhaps amazed at the enormous hole, or reluctant to continue. Witness after witness at the subsequent court of inquiry reported that not just Ledlie's lead division disobeyed orders to continue through the breach and take the crest beyond, but also the other 2 white divisions as well. The colored troops sent in after them got past the confused mass of men with difficulty, but then it was too late. More than an hour had been lost, and this permitted the Confederates to regroup and pinch off the penetration, firing at will into the mass of men inside the depression. Hundreds of men died (total Union casualties almost 4000), and many of the colored troops were killed on the spot when they surrendered. When Burnside's plan was thrown out the day before the scheduled attack, he was powerless to avert the disaster. When he and his division commanders could not reach a decision, they resorted to a lottery in order to determine the lead division, and the choice fell on the worst of the commanders. Not that it really mattered, because all three white divisions failed equally when the day came. The coup de grâce came when Meade refused to commit any more troops to support the attack and ordered a withdrawal (fn47). Afterward a court of inquiry censured Burnside and his subordinates. Grant and Meade were, of course, not included in the censure. All in all, another story of moral collapse on the part of the higher command concerning the proper usage of the colored troops placed in its care.
Anyone who denies the essential difference between these engagements and the battle of Nashville, anyone who is willing to ignore the cynical disregard for the sacrifice of these colored troops, many of the them fresh from slavery, at Ft. Wagner, Port Hudson, and the Crater has not yet come to terms with the reality of our society then and today, for reasons which I will attempt to discuss below.
To be sure, there are other points of view concerning the role which colored troops played at the battle of Nashville. Some say they were misused at Nashville just as they were at other venues in the Civil War. I believe my arguments and quotes above refute that objection. Under Thomas they carried out normal and essential roles in newly organized, partially trained, and mixed units. There was no forlorn-hope waste of men's lives here, considering the circumstances
Others state that Thomas had no intention of using the colored troops in battle, planning to use them in the rear. I reply that this role would also have been perfectly normal for troops with their state of training. Thomas's subordinates then urged that he change his orders, and he did, probably because he simply needed their contribution, knowing full well, however, what awaited them out on the battlefield. Whatever Thomas did at any battle where he fought, it never had anything to do with politics other than achieving the military objectives of the Federal government.
If you read the report of Col. Shafter who participated in the attacks against Hood's right, you will note that he mentions not being supported by (white) troops on his right. This may have been due to the design of the commanding officer of those troops, as some suggest, or it may also have been due to the conditions of rain, fog, and mud which rendered coordinated movements of troops difficult. Or it may have been due to the enthusiasm of relatively inexperienced troops who simply advanced faster than more cautious veteran troops. In any case, attributing this circumstance to Thomas is simply distorted reasoning.
A possible source for such arguments is the book "Like Men of War" by Trudeau, who oscillates accepting the determination displayed by colored troops while making suicidal charges and that something worthwhile was being proven by this, and generally soft-pedaling his treatment of the higher commanders. Trudeau apparently hesitates to draw the both logical and supported conclusion that many commanders knew that Port Hudson and Ft. Wagner were meaningless and, worse, "forlorn-hope" military objectives. He also does not subject Grant's pious statement before the JCCW to any analysis, again perhaps out of unwillingness to go the full mile.
The occasional lack of historical accuracy in Trudeau's book is evident in the following passage: [On the morning of the 15th] "…Hood was not only aware of the limited number of troops operating against his right, but also knew that Morgan's effort had failed. With hardly a further thought for the security of his right flank, Hood began shifting his troops to his left, where the momentous combat of this day would take place" (fn48).
Trudeau does not support this bold assertion with any footnote. His source might be a similar passage from the generally unreliable and tendentious book "The Decisive Battle of Nashville" by Stanley Horn (LSU Press, 1956): "...Hood had accurately interpreted the movement of Wilson's cavalry on December 13 as presaging an assault in force on his left....Also recognizing Steedman's attack for what it was, a feint, he had begun withdrawing troops from that flank and from his center during the afternoon in an effort to strengthen his left..." (fn49). Horn does not mention that Steedman's attack (which had begun that morning at about 8:00) was well over by mid-afternnoon and had fulfilled its function before Hood could have moved any troops (fn49½).
Schofield in his memoirs ("Forty-Six Years in the Army", p. 246) goes even further, writing: "The fact is that Hood's left wing had been much weakened to strengthen his right, which had been heavily pressed before."
I could cite other Confederate reports to refute the partisan assertion, but I will be content with the army commander. Hood did not attribute to himself (at least in this instance) the prescience which Horn does. In both his battle report and again, years later, in his memoirs Attack and Retreat, Hood tells a different story, and I quote him here again: "Cheatham's Corps was withdrawn from the right during the night of the 15th[italics mine], and posted on the left of Stewart…" (fn28, fn50). One might debate the meaning of the word "night" here and in other reports, but keep in mind that in mid December on a rainy day in Tennessee it gets dark around 4 PM. In any case, it is established beyond any doubt that Cheatham's corps, consisting of the troops of Cleburne (killed at Franklin), the finest shock troops of the Confederate army, spent most of the day on Hood's right wing. They had beaten Sherman at Missionary Ridge, Hooker at Ringgold Gap, and inflicted heavy casualties on Sherman wherever they fought during the Atlanta campaign. Steedman's provisional division with about two colored brigades engaged, had, according to Hood's own report, held the larger and more experienced force facing them long enough for the other Confederate wing to be driven in and softened for the final blow of the next day. And on the following day, in spite of still greater pressure on his left wing, Hood had some of Cheatham's troops transferred back tp his right wing in order to counter the renewed assault by Steedman.
The unique contribution of George H. Thomas to racial reconciliation at the battle of Nashville, that which finally earns him the title "Practitioner of Emancipation", lay precisely in his being the first commander in a major engagement to not give colored troops a "special" or symbolic role as at Ft. Wagner and Port Hudson. On the contrary, he made them a meaningful part of his military planning, treating them as best as he could like any other soldiers. Afterward, having contributed to a decisive victory, the only time (fn 52) that this occurred in the entire Civil War, they truly could call themselves "men of war". That Thomas's effort was perhaps incomplete and accompanied with doubts must be admitted, but it must, out of fairness, also be put into the context of his own background, and the racism of the military establishment including many of his own subordinate commanders, and of his times. In view of this context, an impartial observer can only be impressed with how enlightened Thomas was in his social policies, as he carried them out.
To finish I quote here Frederick Douglass who wrote the following about Lincoln: "Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined" (fn53). This same statement can be fairly applied to George H. Thomas.
After relinquishing his military governorship of the 5 Southern states, Thomas sat for 6 months on the Dyer Congressional committee investigating malfeasance in war material supply contracts during the Civl War, and then assumed the post of Commander of the Department of the Pacific on 15 June 1869. He died 28 March 1870 in his office, apparently of a stroke. Thomas wrote no memoirs, destroyed his personal papers before his death, and left only his work to witness for his basic moral message to posterity. It therefore falls to us to discern and then make known this message so that our children may profit from it.
If today Thomas is not appreciated by the black community for his role in advancing their cause, it is only because Thomas is barely or not at all known to the general public. He is poorly treated in comprehensive books about the Civil War and barely or not at all mentioned in standard American history textbooks on all levels. A typical exmple of a comprehensive popular work is the illustrated history "The Civil War" by Ken Burns in which the index mentions Thomas with 2 lines (about the same as Albert S. Johnston), Sheridan with 5 lines, Sherman with 12 lines, McClellan with 13 lines, and Grant with 22 lines. In the text of the book we read, among other erroneous assertions, that "Grant established a supply line to Chattanooga", Sheridan initiated unbidden the charge up Missionary Ridge, and "the next day" Thomas began laying out a national cemetery on Orchard Knob" (something which happened months later, and not at Orchard Knob). We also learn that Sherman bragged that he "knew Georgia better than the rebels did" (fn54), with no mention, however, of Thomas's topography books which made Sherman's flanking operations possible. And as far as our children's textbooks are concerned, I cite the examples of the college level American History textbook "The Enduring Vision" (Heath, 1996), and the brand-new middle school textbook on American history "The American Journey" (McGraw-Hill, 2000) in which Thomas is not mentioned with one single word.
If Thomas is not an icon of the NAACP today, he ought to be.
1) "War Sketches", New York Commandery, M.O.L.L.
2) Cleaves, p. 476
3) McKinney, p. 83
4) Cleaves, p. 67
5) Cleaves, p. 64
6) Cleaves, p. 204 (Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library)
7) O.R.-- SERIES I--VOL. XXXVIII/1 [S# 72] MAY 1-SEPT. 8, 1864.--The Atlanta (Georgia) Campaign. No. 7.--Reports of
Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, U. S. Army, commanding Army of the Cumberland. <ar72_163
8) O.R.--SERIES I--VOL. XXXIX/2 [S# 79] UNION CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO
OPERATIONS IN KENTUCKY, SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA, TENNESSEE, MISSISSIPPI, ALABAMA, AND NORTH
GEORGIA (THE ATLANTA CAMPAIGN EXCEPTED), FROM OCTOBER 1, 1864, TO NOVEMBER 13, 1864.(*)--#20
9) O.R.--SERIES I--VOL. XLV/1 [S# 93] NOV. 14, 1864-JANUARY 23, 1865.--Campaign in North Ala.
and Middle Tenn. No. 178.--Report of Maj. Gen. James B. Steedman, U.S. Army, commanding Provisional
Detachment (District of the Etowah), of operations Nov. 29, 1864--January 13, 1865. [ar93_502 con't]
10) van Horne, Thomas, 213
11) O.R.--SERIES I--VOL. XLIX/2 [S# 104] Union Correspondence, Orders, And Returns Relating To
Operations In Ky., Southwestern Va., Tenn., Northern And Central Ga., Miss., Ala., And West F, From
March 16 To June 30,1865.(*)--#45 WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 1865
12) Cleaves, p. 287
13) McKinney, p. 448
14) McKinney, p. 449
15) McKinney, p. 449
16) Johnson Papers, 76:6701, Cleaves?
17) Cleaves, p. 290
18) "Army and Navy Journal", Cleaves p. 293)
19) McKinney, p. 462
20) Mickinney, p. 456
21) George Fort Milton, "Age of Hate", pp. 458-59
22) Sherman, letter to Grant: O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXVIII/4 [S# 75] UNION CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN THE ATLANTA CAMPAIGN, FROM MAY 1, 1864, TO JUNE 30, 1864.(*)--#2
"My chief source of trouble is with the Army of the Cumberland, which is dreadfully slow. A fresh furrow in a plowed field will stop the whole column, and all begin to intrench. I have again and again tried to impress on Thomas that we must assail and not defend; we are the offensive, and yet it seems the whole Army of the Cumberland is so habituated to be on the defensive that, from its commander down to the lowest private, I cannot get it out of their heads."
23) Thomas Buell, "Warrior Generals", 1997, p.392
24) Hood, "Attack and Retreat", p. 302
25) Buell, p.404. Also from Buell on p. 397:
In contrast to the harsh conditions imposed on his soldiers, Hood established luxurious quarters at Traveler's Rest, the home of John Overton six miles south of Nashville. It was a place of warmth and of the pleasure of women."
26) McKinney, p. 403. Consider also this quote from Schofield in his 1897 memoirs "Forty-Six Years in the Army":
"General Thomas did not possess in a high degree the activity of mind necessary to foresee and provide for all the exigencies of military operations, nor the mathematical talent required to estimate 'the relations of time, space, motion, and force'", p. 242.
27) Bob Redman, "Politics in the Union Army at the battle for Chattanooga", http://www.AotC.net/article1.htm
27.5) Wiley Sword, "Embrace an Angry Wind", p. 320-321
28) Hood, O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XLV/1 [S# 93] NOVEMBER 14, 1864-JANUARY 23, 1865
"During the night of the 15th our whole line was shortened and strengthened; our left was also thrown back; dispositions were
made to meet any renewed attack. The corps of Major-General Cheatham was transferred from our right to our left, leaving
Lieutenant-General Lee <ar93_655>on our right, who had been previously in the center, and placing Lieutenant-General
Stewart's corps in the center, which had been previously the left."
29) (Joseph Glatthaar - Forged in Battle, The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers, 1990
ISBN 0-02-911815-8), p. 167
29.5) Henry Stone, "Battles & Leaders", p. 463: "When it was seen that a heavy assault on his right, at Overton's Hill, was threatened, Hood ordered Cleburne's old division to be sent over to the exposed point, from from the extreme left, in front of Schofield."
30) (James M. McPherson- "Ordeal by Fire, The Civil War and Reconstruction", 1982
ISBN 0-394-52470-1), p.466
31) Thomas Buell, "Warrior Generals", 1997, p. 404
32) Stone, - "Repelling Hood's Invasion of Tennessee", Battles & Leaders of the Civil War, vol. 4, p. 457
33) McKinney, p. 404
34) Hood's report of the battle of Nashville, O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XLV/1 [S# 93] NOVEMBER 14, 1864-JANUARY 23, 1865
35) Glatthaar, p.160,
36) O.R.--SERIES I--VOL. XLV/1 [S# 93] NOV. 14, 1864-JAN. 23, 1865.--Campaign in North Ala. and Middle Tenn.
No. 178.--Report of Maj. Gen. James B. Steedman, U.S. Army, commanding Provisional Detachment (District of
the Etowah), of operations Nov. 29, 1864--Jan.13, 1865. <ar93_508
37) Glattharr, p. 145
38) Glattharr, p. 157
39) Glattharr, p. 158
40) Glatthaar, p. 197
41) Glatthaar, plate p. 146+
42) Thomas Van Horne, "Major General George H. Thomas", 1882, p. 357
43) Glatthaar, p.127
44) Glattharr p. 137
45) Glatthaar, footnote 45 on p. , see slo Shaw to Strong, 6 July 1863. Emilio, Brave Black Regiment, p. 49
46) William Marvel, "Burnside", U. of N.C. Press, 1991, p. 394
47) Marvel, p. 406
48) Noah Trudeau, "Like Men of War", Little Brown 1998, p. 344
49) Stanley F. Horn, "The Decisive Battle of Nashville", Louisiana State U. Press 1956, p. 47. Horn further describes the collapse of Hood's left on 16 Dec. in this manner: "For in those few minutes an army was changed into a mob, and the whole structure of the rebellion in the Southwest, with all its possibilities [italics mine], was utterly overthrown." Horn consistently overestimates these possibilities.
49½) OR 45-1-747 - Report of Maj. Gen. William B. Bate, C. S. Army:
[I] arrived in good time to the position assigned in Cheatham's corps. I was contiguous to and on the left of the Nolensville turnpike, at a point known as Rains' Hill. I remained here in the intrenched line, with the men uncomfortable from the extreme cold and the scarcity of wood, until the evening of the 15th, when I was ordered by General Cheatham to move to the left, where the fighting was going on, and should he not be there to report to General Hood. When I passed the Franklin turnpike streams of stragglers, and artillerists, and horses, without guns or caissons, the sure indicia of defeat, came hurriedly from the left. I formed my division for battle at once, its right resting near the turnpike, and communicated the situation to General Cheatham, who meantime had come up. It was nearly dark.
ON THE FIELD, [December 15, 1864]--3.30 p.m. General WALTHALL:
General Johnson's brigades have fallen back on your left. Watch your left and right and hold as long as you can. Cheatham is coming with two divisions. Respectfully, ALEX. P. STEWART, Lieutenant-General.
50) Hood, "Attack and Retreat", p. 302
52) It must also be emphasized here that Burnside tried to do something similar, but was frustrated by the political
establishment of his times. If it hadn't been for Grant's and, perhaps, Meade's interference, Burnside would
probably have beaten Thomas to the punch. If, on the other hand, Burnside had been allowed to carry out
his original plan, using the colored troops as the spearhead of the Crater attack, and if the operation had failed,
the fact would remain that the project promised success and was anything but a ceremonial gesture.
53) Frederick Douglass, "The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass", p. 489
54) Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Knopf 1990, p. 322