Sunday, May 30, 2010

Monterey Pass

While out driving with my wife to enjoy a beautiful cloudless day (we don't get many of these in Maryland), I took in about half of the tour for the battle of Monterey Pass, the chaotic night engagement fought by elements of Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick's Federal cavalry division and various cavalry detachments from the Army of Northern Virginia assigned to guard the passage of Imboden's train through the South Mountain passes.

I followed the tour suggested on the Monterey Pass Battlefield Association site. I also took along One Continuous Fight by Eric J. Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent, which includes a first rate tour section of it's own featuring the entire scope of action of the retreat from Gettysburg. This is a great reource, particularly for those that have a GPS. As this was a casual touring day, I cut the tour short and detoured on the road to Emmitsburg for some ice cream.

I plan to take in the whole tour at some point this summer. The tour route has a number of interpretive signs and winds along quiet mountain roads for much of the route, and should make for a nice day away from the noise of modern civilization.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Do You See What I See?

No, not dead people (or bad jokes). While waiting for guests to arrive at my grandaughter's birthday party, I scanned the open fields and woodlots surrounding a park on Old Frederick Rd, near Frederick, Maryland. I had been thinking about McClellan's army moving west in pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during the Maryland campaing of 1862. Many of his troops marched along that very road.

Whenever I approach a Civil War battlefield, I begin to look at the landscape differently. Instead of grassy slopes in the distance, I see battery positions. In place of tree lines along the edges of fields, I see cover for skirmishers, perhaps even sharpshooters. And the occasional old clapboard structure? Headquarters, of course. Does this happen to you as well?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bentonville 145th - Morgan's Stand

The stand of Morgan's Division may have been the decisive moment of the battle of Bentonville. Morgan's Division of Jefferson C. Davis's 14th Corps deployed on the right flank of Slocum's wing of Sherman's army in a boggy area of light woods opposite the forces of Braxton Bragg's troops, comprising mainly Hoke's Division.

When Morgan's veteran troops encountered resistance, they started digging in. As the fighting with Hoke's troops intensified, Bragg lost his nerve, calling for reenforcements in the form of McLaws's Division from Hardee's Corps. The removal of these troops from the Confederate right deprived their main assault of reserves at a critical time, and the addition of McLaws's troops to Bragg's lines ultimately proved unecessary.

As the pressure on the Federal center from D.H. Hill's assault increased, Morgan's men found themselves nearly surrounded, at one point hopping over their works and fighting them from the opposite direction. Had McLaws remained on the right, the added pressure of his division applied in conjunction with D.H. Hill's assault may have crushed Morgan, with disastrous results for Slocum's entire wing.

See a map of the heroic stand of Morgan's Division here (requires Adobe PDF Reader).

The Reenactment:

Rebel batteries deployed in the distant woodline opened on the recently entrenched Federals as cavalry felt for an open flank, finding the Federal position secure. After a short bombardment, Hoke's Division stepped off to the assault. Hoke's men advanced steadily, but failed to close on Morgan's works in the faced of devastating volleys delivered by Morgan's veterans.

As Hoke's men struggled to regain their momentum, rebels forces of the Army of Tennessee under D.H. Hill emerged in Morgan's flank and moved to envelop his entire position. Morgan's troops, undaunted, deployed to face the threats from both directions. For a time, it seemed the rebels had Morgan in a death grip, but a timely counterattack with close range artillery support relieved the pressure, and the rebels retreated, leaving Morgan in command of the field.