Breechldrs Influence of repeating rifles in the Civil War

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
No, I'm talking about the action on the 19th, because 67th provided a specific citation to an article which discusses the value of Lilly's artillery support in the action on the 19th and which argues that the cannister support provided on that occasion by Lilly's guns was the key factor in the engagement.

(I assume you read the article.)
Yep - but it wasn't clear to me that you were not intending to address the action on the 18th, which has been the subject of numerous assertions by him, and the role of Lilly's four guns using shell and shrapnel ("long range canister") against infantry in the terrain described by Liddell. That's why I conditioned mine with "if", as I'm sure you noticed.

There are abundant reports about the actions of the respective units on the 19th which have not yet been vetted here. However, I have already noted that some of the field officers in Walthall's Brigade explicitly noted coming under artillery fire during the battle on the 19th and 20th -which was customary for infantry officers to note for obvious reasons. They did not do that in their reports of the 18th. And - if you've actually been following this - I'm unaware of anybody asserting that artillery played no role if it supported a unit armed with repeaters. Of course it did. The discussion about the 18th took off because somebody was claiming that the Confederate casualties in that specific fight were attributable to Lilly and not to the Spencer-armed units, in contradiction of all the primary sources. I take it you don't agree with that.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Yep - but it wasn't clear to me that you were not intending to address the action on the 18th, which has been the subject of numerous assertions by him, and the role of Lilly's four guns using shell and shrapnel ("long range canister") against infantry in the terrain described by Liddell. That's why I conditioned mine with "if", as I'm sure you noticed.
Well, yes, but I was weighing in on the way that Rhea was saying that 67th's claims were false and that they should therefore be ignored, by pointing out that (in that case) 67th had provided an article analyzing the action.


As for the action on the 18th, 67th's case rests substantially on the fact that two regiments (on the left of the advance at different times) suffered heavy casualties, while the others (who were not on the left) did not.

We certainly know that Lilly put fire on the Confederate forces for about four hours, presumably intermittently:

1621882907188.png


Which is the first part - there was clearly artillery fire going on, and Lilly felt that he was doing so effectively. The range is quite long for effective fire but getting enfilade could amplify that destructiveness.

What this means is that what is left to be demonstrated is why those two particular regiments suffered particularly heavy casualties. This means that there are these possibilities:

- Both the 29th and 34th were separately in situations where they were hit with intense Spencer fire while the other regiments were not in a similar situation (explaining why the 29th and 34th were the only two which suffered heavy casualties).
- Neither the 29th nor the 34th were in a situation where they in particular should have been the focus of intense Spencer fire (i.e. they did not get particularly close to the bridge or river relative to the other regiments, and so any Spencer casualties should have been distributed fairly evenly across the brigade)
- Or the 34th (for example) were exposed to intense Spencer fire when they approached the bridge, while the 29th were not.

In examining the reports I note that the commander of the 30th says that they advanced some 300 or 400 yards "under the fire of the enemy, who was posted on a hill immediately in our front". I don't think this makes sense for the fire under which they were advancing to be Spencer fire, first because it wasn't that long ranged and second because if they're referring to the men defending the bridge they were by the riverside, not at the nearby hill. (There were some men on the hill itself but they were even further away.) Meanwhile Walthall mentions that his men were under artillery fire, though the regimental commanders in general do not.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Well, yes, but I was weighing in on the way that Rhea was saying that 67th's claims were false and that they should therefore be ignored, by pointing out that (in that case) 67th had provided an article analyzing the action.


As for the action on the 18th, 67th's case rests substantially on the fact that two regiments (on the left of the advance at different times) suffered heavy casualties, while the others (who were not on the left) did not.

We certainly know that Lilly put fire on the Confederate forces for about four hours, presumably intermittently:

View attachment 401739

Which is the first part - there was clearly artillery fire going on, and Lilly felt that he was doing so effectively. The range is quite long for effective fire but getting enfilade could amplify that destructiveness.

What this means is that what is left to be demonstrated is why those two particular regiments suffered particularly heavy casualties. This means that there are these possibilities:

- Both the 29th and 34th were separately in situations where they were hit with intense Spencer fire while the other regiments were not in a similar situation (explaining why the 29th and 34th were the only two which suffered heavy casualties).
- Neither the 29th nor the 34th were in a situation where they in particular should have been the focus of intense Spencer fire (i.e. they did not get particularly close to the bridge or river relative to the other regiments, and so any Spencer casualties should have been distributed fairly evenly across the brigade)
- Or the 34th (for example) were exposed to intense Spencer fire when they approached the bridge, while the 29th were not.

In examining the reports I note that the commander of the 30th says that they advanced some 300 or 400 yards "under the fire of the enemy, who was posted on a hill immediately in our front". I don't think this makes sense for the fire under which they were advancing to be Spencer fire, first because it wasn't that long ranged and second because if they're referring to the men defending the bridge they were by the riverside, not at the nearby hill. (There were some men on the hill itself but they were even further away.) Meanwhile Walthall mentions that his men were under artillery fire, though the regimental commanders in general do not.
Now you're doing what I thought you had disclaimed - you're simply ignoring Liddell and the clearly baseless claim that he wasn't present and you're simply ignoring - from the other side - the first hand accounts of three members of the 72nd/17th Indiana about the Spencers. And you're ignoring Liddell's description of the terrain where the actual fighting took place which he personally reconnoitered and the efficacy of firing shell and shrapnel at troops in that sort of cover. Note Col. Campbell's (27th Miss.) description of the terrain, as well. Henry Hunt covered the wisdom of that practice pretty demonstratively to his gunners - for a reason. As for Walthall, he simply says that any of his units that were under artillery fire were in that state as they swung around through a field before taking position at the bridge. That's the only time he mentions artillery fire - not in connection with the heavy firing at the bridge/from the opposite bank. Odd, isn't it, that Brantly of the 29th Miss. says nothing about artillery in the "fierce engagement" at the bridge. Apparently none of these guys were familiar with the difference between shell/shrapnel and small arms fire. Disconcerting.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Something that shouldn't be in dispute is that artillery fire was taking place - we have Lilly's report as to that. What is at dispute is whether it was the cause of the great majority of the casualties.

As to Liddell, his report says that he attributes the casualties to the breech loading rifles because of the attack having been made through "thick woods and cedar underbrush" indeed. However:

- Walthall mentions that there was an open field area starting 200-300 yards short of the bridge.
-- The 24th MS report (right flank) mentions going through thickets.
-- The 27th MS report (second from the right) mentions thick woods.
-- The 29th MS report (middle, and one of the ones which took heavy casualties) does not mention the terrain.
-- The 30th MS report (second from the left) mentions advancing 300 to 400 yards "through an open field under the fire of the enemy".
-- The 34th MS report (left, and one of the ones which took heavy casualties) mentions moving across "an old field".

So it seems that the simple answer is that the right half of the brigade moved through underbrush, the left half of the brigade moved through open terrain, and the central regiment (29th MS) may or may not have gone through underbrush.

Since one of the two units which took heavy casualties (34th) was one of the ones which went through open terrain, and the other (29th) may or may not have done, and since Liddell attributes the casualties to the breech loading rifles on the strength of "their artilley could not have done heavy damage because of the underbrush", Liddell's conclusion is suspect - that does not mean it was false, but it means the central premise of his argument (to whit, the "our men were protected by underbrush and were not in the open, so it can't have been artillery" angle) is at best incomplete - the 34th was in the open, and the 29th may have been.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Something that shouldn't be in dispute is that artillery fire was taking place - we have Lilly's report as to that. What is at dispute is whether it was the cause of the great majority of the casualties.

As to Liddell, his report says that he attributes the casualties to the breech loading rifles because of the attack having been made through "thick woods and cedar underbrush" indeed. However:

- Walthall mentions that there was an open field area starting 200-300 yards short of the bridge.
-- The 24th MS report (right flank) mentions going through thickets.
-- The 27th MS report (second from the right) mentions thick woods.
-- The 29th MS report (middle, and one of the ones which took heavy casualties) does not mention the terrain.
-- The 30th MS report (second from the left) mentions advancing 300 to 400 yards "through an open field under the fire of the enemy".
-- The 34th MS report (left, and one of the ones which took heavy casualties) mentions moving across "an old field".

So it seems that the simple answer is that the right half of the brigade moved through underbrush, the left half of the brigade moved through open terrain, and the central regiment (29th MS) may or may not have gone through underbrush.

Since one of the two units which took heavy casualties (34th) was one of the ones which went through open terrain, and the other (29th) may or may not have done, and since Liddell attributes the casualties to the breech loading rifles on the strength of "their artilley could not have done heavy damage because of the underbrush", Liddell's conclusion is suspect - that does not mean it was false, but it means the central premise of his argument (to whit, the "our men were protected by underbrush and were not in the open, so it can't have been artillery" angle) is at best incomplete - the 34th was in the open, and the 29th may have been.
What happened to those "thick woods" in your "paraphrasing" of Liddell's conclusion? The 30th also points to a skirt of timber along the creek after moving through the field. Your assumptions also seem to include steady firing by Lilly of shell and shrapnel at 600-1200 yards for four hours. He actually refers only to the engagement, not to his own expenditure of ordnance, for good reason. You actually haven't pointed to anything indicating that in the fighting at proximity of the bridge the Confederate casualties were caused by Lilly. Firing shell and shrapnel at a target in close proximity to friendly troops was universally frowned on, again for good reason.

On the other hand, it appears that we're good with the fact that Liddell was indeed "present" and was familiar with the ground.
Still "crickets", however, on those pesky Union primary source references to the Spencers on the 18th.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
What happened to those "thick woods" in your "paraphrasing" of Liddell's conclusion? The 30th also points to a skirt of timber along the creek after moving through the field. Your assumptions also seem to include steady firing by Lilly of shell and shrapnel at 600-1200 yards for four hours. He actually refers only to the engagement, not to his own expenditure of ordnance, for good reason. You actually haven't pointed to anything indicating that in the fighting at proximity of the bridge the Confederate casualties were caused by Lilly. Firing shell and shrapnel at a target in close proximity to friendly troops was universally frowned on, again for good reason.

Well, Liddell's argument was predicated on the idea that his men hadn't moved through space in which artillery could give good execution, but obviously two of the regiments at least (34th and 30th) did so and a third (29th) may have done.

And yes, of course Lilly wasn't firing continuously for four hours, though you wouldn't know it from his report (he says he immediately opened fire on them and did "fine execution" - but if he had been then we'd expect an awful lot of damage done. Since he wasn't, we shouldn't expect as much damage as we'd get from his firing continuously for four hours, but in the same vein we should expect that Lilly would be conserving his fire to some extent (as otherwise he'd run out of ammunition) and only firing at good targets. An example of a good target might be an enfilade shot on a misaligned regiment, though even in that case the long range and the dispersal of the shrapnel might not result in any single concentrated burst of casualties. Lilly getting a good enough target to generate 10 casualties with one volley from four guns every 20 minutes would suffice to produce the observed casualties (12 volleys = 120 casualties in this vein) and being extravagant enough to fire once every ten minutes (still only 24 rounds fired per gun) would mean an average of around one casualty per round fired. Which I believe isn't entirely outside the realm of possibility for artillery fire if many of the shoots are at good targets.


On the other hand, it appears that we're good with the fact that Liddell was indeed "present" and was familiar with the ground.
I did contemplate raising that it's a little hard to determine whether Liddell was present in the sense of "actually watching" or present in the sense of "half a mile back and directing events", and I feel I should do so. We certainly know that he admitted his own initial recce was very imperfect and that he was misinformed as to the details of the terrain before the action, and while he may have corrected this afterwards that doesn't really change that there was certainly a space of a few hundred yards in which there was open terrain (which Liddell doesn't actually mention). It seems at least not beyond the realm of possibility that he was aware of the route taken by the brigade's right flank but not the route taken by their left flank.


Out of curiosity, I assume you're of the view that both the 29th and 34th were closely engaged with the Spencer armed infantry, and that the 30th, 27th and 24th were not? That seems to be the natural conclusion based on the casualty rates, if they're attributed to the Spencers rather than to the artillery, and I wanted to confirm that that was the understanding you had.


Still "crickets", however, on those pesky Union primary source references to the Spencers on the 18th.
That the Spencers were present is, like the fact Lilly was present and firing, not in dispute. What is in dispute is which of the two was the actual cause of the majority of the casualties - Lilly says he did "fine execution", which presumably means he thought he was doing quite well, and that means we have two possible sources of casualties (Lilly's guns and the Spencers) where in both cases the operators felt they were responsible for the casualties.

If the cause of the casualties was primarily the Spencer fire, we should expect the weight of the casualties to be determined by the extent to which each given unit was engaged with Spencer armed infantry. If the cause of the casualties was primarily Lilly's rifled artillery, we should expect the weight of the casualties to be determined by the extent to which each unit was exposed to Lilly's artillery fire.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Well, Liddell's argument was predicated on the idea that his men hadn't moved through space in which artillery could give good execution, but obviously two of the regiments at least (34th and 30th) did so and a third (29th) may have done.

And yes, of course Lilly wasn't firing continuously for four hours, though you wouldn't know it from his report (he says he immediately opened fire on them and did "fine execution" - but if he had been then we'd expect an awful lot of damage done. Since he wasn't, we shouldn't expect as much damage as we'd get from his firing continuously for four hours, but in the same vein we should expect that Lilly would be conserving his fire to some extent (as otherwise he'd run out of ammunition) and only firing at good targets. An example of a good target might be an enfilade shot on a misaligned regiment, though even in that case the long range and the dispersal of the shrapnel might not result in any single concentrated burst of casualties. Lilly getting a good enough target to generate 10 casualties with one volley from four guns every 20 minutes would suffice to produce the observed casualties (12 volleys = 120 casualties in this vein) and being extravagant enough to fire once every ten minutes (still only 24 rounds fired per gun) would mean an average of around one casualty per round fired. Which I believe isn't entirely outside the realm of possibility for artillery fire if many of the shoots are at good targets.



I did contemplate raising that it's a little hard to determine whether Liddell was present in the sense of "actually watching" or present in the sense of "half a mile back and directing events", and I feel I should do so. We certainly know that he admitted his own initial recce was very imperfect and that he was misinformed as to the details of the terrain before the action, and while he may have corrected this afterwards that doesn't really change that there was certainly a space of a few hundred yards in which there was open terrain (which Liddell doesn't actually mention). It seems at least not beyond the realm of possibility that he was aware of the route taken by the brigade's right flank but not the route taken by their left flank.


Out of curiosity, I assume you're of the view that both the 29th and 34th were closely engaged with the Spencer armed infantry, and that the 30th, 27th and 24th were not? That seems to be the natural conclusion based on the casualty rates, if they're attributed to the Spencers rather than to the artillery, and I wanted to confirm that that was the understanding you had.



That the Spencers were present is, like the fact Lilly was present and firing, not in dispute. What is in dispute is which of the two was the actual cause of the majority of the casualties - Lilly says he did "fine execution", which presumably means he thought he was doing quite well, and that means we have two possible sources of casualties (Lilly's guns and the Spencers) where in both cases the operators felt they were responsible for the casualties.

If the cause of the casualties was primarily the Spencer fire, we should expect the weight of the casualties to be determined by the extent to which each given unit was engaged with Spencer armed infantry. If the cause of the casualties was primarily Lilly's rifled artillery, we should expect the weight of the casualties to be determined by the extent to which each unit was exposed to Lilly's artillery fire.
If the cause of the casualties was Lilly's firing of "long range canister" and shell, that would be fairly easy to determine by the commanders whose units suffered the casualties. That would especially be the case in the vicinity of the bridge and creek where the "fierce" fighting occurred - a location, by the way, in which the Federal units were in close enough proximity that firing the types of rounds referred to by Lilly was against sane artillery doctrine. And yes, "in both cases the operators felt they were responsible for the casualties", but here's the difference. As regards the combat in the vicinity of the bridge and creek, at least, Lilly was at a disadvantage in assessing the effects of his fire even assuming that he was recklessly firing timed projectiles into that location. That was true of artillery throughout the war unless it was literally the use of canister at close range against an attacking force with no impeding issues of elevation, conformation, cover/vegetation, etc. Whatever similar disadvantage the 72nd and 17th Indiana were at, it was necessarily less.

The notion, again, that Liddell was not "present" or "on the field" is directly refuted by every available account that mentions him. While those accounts don't state where he got his information from other than his personal observation, the only valid assumption is that he was in communication at least with Walthall.

I doubt that further exchanges on this topic will be fruitful. Nothing in any of this will ever be "100%" but I'll rest on the only accounts that mention the Spencers either way and on the assessments by Eric Wittenberg, Dave Powell, and Joseph Bilby - all highly qualified to locate and evaluate the sources and make their own judgments.

As usual, it's time for us to stop extending a thread solely to make some kind of point as fewer and fewer members remain interested. I'll do my part.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I doubt that further exchanges on this topic will be fruitful.
Well, it might be; do you have a reason for why the 30th, 27th and 24th MS didn't suffer casualties anything like the other two? If it's as simple as "they were not engaged with the Spencer armed infantry to the same extent as the 29th and 34th" that's fine, but I wanted to be clear about that (as my understanding is that 67th has claimed that at least one regiment which suffered heavy casualties was not closely engaged with the Spencer armed infantry, and I assume you disagree there).
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Well, it might be; do you have a reason for why the 30th, 27th and 24th MS didn't suffer casualties anything like the other two? If it's as simple as "they were not engaged with the Spencer armed infantry to the same extent as the 29th and 34th" that's fine, but I wanted to be clear about that (as my understanding is that 67th has claimed that at least one regiment which suffered heavy casualties was not closely engaged with the Spencer armed infantry, and I assume you disagree there).
Let's end this. The short answer is that the difference could be for multiple reasons - positioning relative to the lunette, conformation/cover, etc etc. - not subject to scientific testing/confirmation this far and long removed. We can't even determine with a GPS where these units were at a specific time. We have what we have in the way of primary accounts and relative weight. There's a consistent effort by some to cull contemporaneous records, set these things up, and put together "definitive" charts, maps, etc. But the starting point is always defective, because the records are necessarily incomplete, possibly erroneous in certain respects (location, timing etc) and were almost always compiled later based on the writer's own perspective/perception, calling on recollection after several intervening events (here, a major two-day battle). On this issue, as I said, I'll go with the weight of what was said by multiple participants and the fact that others far more qualified than I have accepted that. My only real objection is when somebody puts up a "definitive" assessment by simply ignoring contrary evidence that is readily available or by distorting it. We should be able to have dialogue about these inherently uncertain events without that sort of "gaming" and forcing posters to invest the effort in locating what was deliberately omitted.
 

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
Saphroneth, the answers to your Alexander's Bridge questions in posts #506, #508 and earlier are largely answered by the Confederate reports, principally Walthall's, Smith's, Campbell's, Brantly's, Johnson's, Benton's and Liddell's, as you may already be aware. All quotes are from O.R. series I, vol. 30, part II.

Low casualties in the 24th and 27th, the two regiments on the right, are explained by their having largely missed the fight:

Brig. Gen. Walthall
reports: "the two regiments on the right [24th MS and 27th MS] meeting no opposition, except in front of the two companies on the left of the Twenty-seventh Regiment." {i.e., only the two companies nearest the hard-hit 29th} (Oct. 6, p. 272.) Why did they miss the fight? Because they became thoroughly disrupted by being on the outside of a left wheel in dense woods:

Capt. Smith, 24th reports: "The movement of the regiments on our left being being very rapid, and the direction of the front of the brigade being changed to the left the 24th, soon after starting, was compelled, in order to keep upon the line, to take the double-quick and then the run, making something similar to a 'left wheel', which continued for nearly a mile. In this movement the regiment became much confused and scattered, and did not arrive on the line at the river in time to take any part in the engagement which occurred there, any more than to fire a few shots at the enemy's skirmishers." (Smith, Senior Captain, Commanding, 24th MS, No Date, p. 277.)

Col. Campbell, 27th MS reports: "The forward movement commenced, but owing to the fact that the woods were very dense and many fences to cross, and that the regiments on the right of the brigade (my regiment being next to the right regiment) had much farther to march than those on the left, the movement assumed more the nature of a left wheel than a forward movement, and my regiment was compelled to take the double-quick step, which caused some confusion, but pressed forward as fast as possible until my left struck the bank of the creek, at which point the enemy from the other side of the creek fired upon them, which was responded to promptly and sharply. On discovering that the banks of the creek were very abrupt on both sides, and not knowing the depth of the water, I ordered my regiment to lie down on the bank of the creek and hold their position. The enemy abandoned his position...." (Oct. 5, p. 279.)

Where did the 29th suffer its heavy casualties and who caused them? In the center, at the bridge, and caused by the Spencer-armed infantry on the opposite bank. Much of this was already covered in post #429 but here goes again.

Walthall reports: "I moved forward through a dense thicket, and after advancing a quarter of a mile the enemy's skirmishers were encountered in front of my left and center.....The road on which my left rested in the beginning of the movement turns to the right at a point 200 or 300 yards from the bridge, forming a right angle. At this point the [34th MS and 30th MS], in advancing passed across the road into an open field, and the Twenty-ninth Mississippi Regiment, Colonel Brantley (the center regiment), being immediately opposite the bridge was stubbornly resisted for about fifteen minutes, and in the meantime the regiments to the left of this, driving the skirmishers of the enemy before them, swung round under the enemy's artillery fire through an open field until the line they formed was nearly at right angles to that formed by the other three regiments, conforming in the main to the general direction of the creek. When the bridge was gained by the 29th Mississippi Regiment it was done under a heavy fire from the enemy posted on the opposite bank of the creek....In this action the Twenty-ninth Mississippi Regiment lost heavily...." (Oct. 6, pp. 271-72)

Col. Brantly reports: "My regiment struck the enemy in considerable force near and immediately in front of the bridge above mentioned, and a fierce engagement ensued. I pressed forward with my command and took possession of the bridge, which had been so torn up as to prevent crossing. In this engagement the loss of my regiment was 56 killed and wounded." (Oct. 5, p. 282)

Col. Govan reports: "Walthall's brigade, moving forward, soon engaged the enemy, who occupied a dense thicket on the south side of the creek, near the bridge. After firing several volleys he retreated, leaving us in possession of the bridge, which was, however, rendered useless, the planks having been removed. The brigade was not actively engaged excepting the skirmishers, who were thrown forward on General Walthall's left to the creek, sustaining a loss of 1 killed and 5 wounded." (Col. Govan, commanding Liddell's brigade, Oct. 6, p. 257) [Govan's skirmishers (one or two companies per regiment) engaged Wilder's skirmishers on the Confederate left and perhaps across the creek with the Co. F, 72d Indiana which was on the left (from the Confederate perspective) (upstream) of Co. A, 72d in the lunette. The company from 8th Arkansas "had three men slightly wounded by the shells of the enemy" (p. 268). The 5th Arkansas threw out two companies as skirmishers, who engaged Union skirmishers on the south side of the creek. "The regiment was in the meantime also moved forward...but, though subjected to a heavy fire of artillery, which wounded 2 men ... did not become engaged." (pp. 262-63).]

Capt. Swett, Acting Chief of Artillery, reports: "The enemy had but one battery, which was posted near a house on the opposite bank. of the creek, and which fired upon our skirmishers, a few shots passing over the line. Fowler's battery was moved to the front and placed in position near the road and on the edge of a cultivated field....

Brig Gen. Liddell reports: "I instructed Brigadier-General Walthall, of my division, to make an attack upon the enemy in possession of the bridge....The force in our front consisted of Wilder's mounted infantry, from which were captured a half-dozen or more breechloading rifles. Our loss was 105 in killed and wounded, and I can only account for this disproportion from the efficiency of this new weapon, our attack having been made through thick woods an cedar underbrush, rendering the artillery of the enemy that was used on the occasion relatively harmless."

Why the moderate casualties in the 34th (25) and only slight in the 30th? The 34th engaged Wilder's "main line" at relatively close range; the 30th spent most of the battle behind a hill.


As mentioned above, The road (on which Walthall's left flank rested) "turns to the right at a point 200 or 300 yards from the bridge, forming a right angle. At this point the [34th MS and 30th MS], in advancing passed across the road into an open field," and while the 29th was engaged in its firefight with the defenders of the bridge, "the regiments to the left of this, driving the skirmishers of the enemy before them, swung round under the enemy's artillery fire through an open field until the line they formed was nearly at right angles to that formed by the other three regiments, conforming in the main to the general direction of the creek." (Walthall, p. 272)

Maj. Johnson, 30th MS reports: "When the signal to advance was sounded the regiment moved forward, guiding left, and after advancing about half a mile we crossed the road which led to the bridge. This road her made an abrupt turn to the right, forming a complete right angle. The regiment advance some 300 or 400 yards through an open field under the fire of the enemy, who were posted on a hill immediately in our front. [these are likely federal skirmishers on the hill Johnson's skirmishers eventually briefly occupy] Here it was found that this regiment, with the 34th (the regiment on our immediate left), had become separated from the balance of the brigade, and the order was given to the men to lie down behind an abrupt hill in the field. Here Colonel Scales ordered the men to cease firing (the enemy having disappeared)[likely means the federal skirmishers have finally left and crossed the creek] and dispatched the adjutant to the brigadier-general to report the position and the situation of the regiment. The brigadier-general arriving on the ground[all of this takes time], ordered the colonel to press forward his skirmishers and occupy the hill, which was done. The skirmishers had hardly occupied the hill when the brigadier-general ordered them to be withdrawn, and the regiment to move back and join the balance of the brigade," which then marched to Byram's Ford. (Oct. 5, pp. 282-83) Thus, the 30th appears to have been under skirmisher fire for several hundred yards and then spent much of the action behind an abrupt hill, hence its slight casualties (5 wounded). It may possibly also have been under ineffective long range artillery fire though there is no mention of it in the regiment's report.

Col. Benton, 34th MS reports: "A company of skirmishers had been thrown forward, but as the line was not parallel to the stream, owing to wrong information as to the roads, the brigade had to swing rapidly around to the right, and it was difficult for the skirmishers to keep in advance. The command moved across an old field, in which the enemy's skirmishers were encountered and driven back. Advancing toward the stream at a point above the bridge [i.e., to the left, not the right, of the bridge], a destructive fire was received from the enemy's main line, under cover of a skirt of timber and dense undergrowth [is this perhaps Co. F, 72d, or cross-fire on Co. A, 72d?]. It was promptly returned and after a sharp engagement of twenty to thirty minutes they were dislodged from their position. The bridge having been destroyed by the enemy, the regiment moved with the brigade a mile a half further down to Byram's ford and crossed....The command behaved with steadiness and spirit, and sustained a loss of 24 wounded, 2 of whom died shortly afterward. The wounds of several of the others were severe. " (Oct. 6, pp. 284-85)

Thus, the two regiments (29th and 34th) who engaged closely with Wilder's "main line" suffered severely. The other three regiments, two of whom missed the fight almost entirely and one which spent most of it sheltered behind an abrupt hill after passing several hundred yards either under skirmisher fire or long range artillery fire, did not. Few casualties were credited to artillery fire.

Bragg's map in the O.R. Atlas shows the Confederates hitting the bridge straight on and on both sides of it, consistent with the above descriptions by Brantly and Benton, but it is not a very detailed map.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
I had been heavily relying upon the map in Powell. However, on a reread, it's quite possible Powell's map is wrong. From the reports alone, this may be a better representation:

Alexander Bridge alt.png
 

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
I had been heavily relying upon the map in Powell. However, on a reread, it's quite possible Powell's map is wrong. From the reports alone, this may be a better representation:

View attachment 401920
Yes, that appears closer, except that the reports make clear that the movement started with the left flank of the left regiment on the road, and guided on the road. What none of the maps show is the 90-degree turn to the right the reports show the road taking about 300 yards before the bridge. I wonder if the road shown on this map is a modern, straightened road. 19th century roads tended to be more cooked than modern roads. It's also unclear to me where the "abrupt hill" was that the 3Oth (which was in between the 34th and the 29th) sheltered behind.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
The sharp bend appears to be the one much further south that is on the map. The 30th Mississippi crossed it, entered an open field of 3-400 yards which they crossed under heavy fire from the hill (i.e. Lilly's battery). They then found the 29th had disconnected and Scales had the 34th and 30th shelter behind a rise. After inquiring what to do, the 30th briefly sent skirmishers to the top of the hill.

Walthall's report is clear (as Powell notes) that the brigade formed on the right of the road. Thus that sharp 90 and back may have been the issue. The 30th and 34th became confused and disconnected. This would leave the 29th dressing on the road, and them wheeled at the turn and came in roughly a little the right of the bridge. The 27th and 24th struggled to follow them round such a turn and the outside had to double to keep up.

Alexander Bridge mod 2.png
 

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
The sharp bend appears to be the one much further south that is on the map. The 30th Mississippi crossed it, entered an open field of 3-400 yards which they crossed under heavy fire from the hill (i.e. Lilly's battery). They then found the 29th had disconnected and Scales had the 34th and 30th shelter behind a rise. After inquiring what to do, the 30th briefly sent skirmishers to the top of the hill.

Walthall's report is clear (as Powell notes) that the brigade formed on the right of the road. Thus that sharp 90 and back may have been the issue. The 30th and 34th became confused and disconnected. This would leave the 29th dressing on the road, and them wheeled at the turn and came in roughly a little the right of the bridge. The 27th and 24th struggled to follow them round such a turn and the outside had to double to keep up.

View attachment 401945
I will see if I can find an older base map tonight. We're making progress but not quite there yet.

I tend to think the "fire from the hill" you reference is fire from Wilder's skirmishers as described in post #510, not Lilly's battery. The 30th's report says they were "under the fire of the enemy, who were posted on a hill immediately in our front." It sounds like the hill they eventually posted their own skirmishers on briefly.
 

Jantzen64

Corporal
Joined
Aug 10, 2019
I will see if I can find an older base map tonight. We're making progress but not quite there yet.

I tend to think the "fire from the hill" you reference is fire from Wilder's skirmishers as described in post #510, not Lilly's battery. The 30th's report says they were "under the fire of the enemy, who were posted on a hill immediately in our front." It sounds like the hill they eventually posted their own skirmishers on briefly.
This doesn't show the movements, but the contours are different . . . https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3922cm.gcw0160000/?sp=6&r=0.433,0.67,0.252,0.119,0 If you sleuths can figure it out, I'm all ears . . .
 

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
Will look this evening. Here is an 1886 topo, surveyed in 1884, but is 125,000:1 and has 100' contours so still not very detailed.
 

Attachments

  • TN_Ringgold_247768_1886_125000_geo (2).pdf
    7.2 MB · Views: 8

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
Will look this evening. Here is an 1886 topo, surveyed in 1884, but is 125,000:1 and has 100' contours so still not very detailed.
Jantzen's helpful map suggests the Confederates approached from the bottom of the map, not the right side. However it seems to lack accurate detail about the actual course of the road.

The attached 1935 topo is 24,000:1 and lacks contour intervals but provides more detail as to the road bed at that time. It also does not show a right angle turn to the right, except about 3000 ft/1000 yds south of the bridge at the south end of what appears to be cleared ground on the road that is double-dashed as a secondary road or trail. That is too far south according to the accounts, which say the right turn was within 200-300 yards of the creek (Walthall).

The only other nearly right angle turn is on the main road from Burning Bush School, about 2000 ft/650 yds south of the creek. If that was the road Walthall used to guide the left flank of his approach (rather than the double-dashed line road to the south), the descriptions would seem to make sense, and if the 30th and 34th marched straight ahead at that point they would appear to enter a cleared area and be heading directly for the hill 67th Tigers suggested as being the "abrupt hill" they sheltered behind. If so, that would seem to confirm that the fire they received came from skirmishers on that hill. (Maj. Johnson: "The regiment advanced some 300 or 400 yards through an open field under the fire of the enemy, who were posted on a hill immediately in our front.") However, that would also seem to present a partial enfilade target for Lilly.

A possible explanation for why the 30th & 34th, if guiding off the Burning Bush School road, would have marched straight ahead into the open area is provided by Jantzen's map from the Library of Congress. Note how that road continues into the field. Perhaps 30th & 34th didn't realize the main road had turned right and instead thought at the time that they were continuing on the road to the bridge by marching straight ahead?

It shouldn't be too hard to figure out from other accounts by what road Walthall approached and what road he used to guide the left flank of his brigade. I would bet Chickamauga NMP also has resources that would help identify the course of the 1863 road and the likely route of Walthall's approach, and where the "complete right angle" turn was, etc. Determining those points would aid in understanding the fight.

For perspective, the straightaway before the road turns left and then crosses the creek is about 1000 ft/ 330 yds.
 

Attachments

  • GA_East Ridge_245625_1935_24000_geo.pdf
    8.2 MB · Views: 4

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Will look this evening. Here is an 1886 topo, surveyed in 1884, but is 125,000:1 and has 100' contours so still not very detailed.
Interesting stuff. If I used that scale for my back country climbing trips, they'd find me splayed out at the base of those short drop-offs you can only see with the 20- or 40-foot contours. 😎
 

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
This 1943 edition adds 20-foout contour lines.
 

Attachments

  • GA_East Ridge_245626_1943_24000_geo.pdf
    12.6 MB · Views: 6

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
All OR references are to vol. 30, part II.

Walker's Reserve Corps camped the previous night near Leet's Tan-yard and Rock Springs (e.g., OR p. 261), well to the south. Powell's Maps of Chickamauga show it marching north up the first road east of Chickamauga on the 18th, which makes sense and would be the most direct route (pp. 33-35). The map from the LOC that Jantzen provided in post #515 also shows the Confederates coming up this road and it is the only road on the various maps that has a long 45+ degree left hand turn in the right place to have caused a line of troops guiding on it to do the left wheel that threw Walthall's right hand regiments (24th & 27th MS) into such confusion that they essentially missed the fight. So that seems to settle the question of the approach road.

What caused the two regiments on the left (30th & 34th MS) to advance west of the road into the cleared field? It may be that skirmisher fire from the field drew them west or northwest. Or, it may be they continued more or less straight ahead and not only the road but the field turned to the right so that they entered the field more or less going straight ahead but continued farther north than the rest of the brigade, thus opening the interval between them and the 29th Miss., and also putting them on the left (upstream) of the bridge.

Gen. Walthall says he was ordered to form his brigade "when the head of General Walker's column reached a point about a half mile from Alexander's Bridge." (p. 271) If we take that as the point where Walthal formed, that would be a little south of where the LOC map locates Wilson and Ector's brigades at 3 pm. (Senior Capt. Smith of the 24th MS says they formed "about 1 mile from the river" (p. 277) and Col. Campbell of the 27th MS says the battle line was formed "about three-quarters of a mile from Alexander's Bridge (p. 279). The other three regimental reports do state the distance. However, since we know they formed in dense woods, it had to have been north of the field shown on the right of the road on the LOC map and therefor "about a half mile" looks right.)

Walthall formed "almost at right angle to the road, the right slightly retired," and with skirmishers 200 yards in front. (p. 271)."[A]fter advancing abut a quarter mile [i.e., about half-way to the bridge] the enemy's skirmishers were encountered in front of my left and center." That would seem to be about where the cleared field to the left of the road begins, and suggests at least the left of the left hand regiment (34th MS) became visible and began to take skirmisher fire there. Within about 100-150 yards north from that point (and about 350 yards south of the bridge) the road from the east intersects the bridge road and continues into the field, according to the LOC map. By that point perhaps the skirmisher fire had become annoying enough, or perhaps it was thought they were shielding the main enemy line, such that the left two regiments diverged leftward into the field in pursuit of the skirmishers, after which at least the 34th swung back around to the right. Or, they continued more or less straight ahead but, due to a bend in the creek, were able to advance further north than the rest of the brigade, thereby opening up the interval:
  • Col. Benton (34th MS, on the extreme left of the brigade line): "The command moved across an old field, in which the enemy's skirmishers were encountered and driven back. Advancing toward the stream at a point above the bridge [i.e., to the left of the bridge], a destructive fire was received from the enemy's main line, under cover of a skirt of timber and dense undergrowth." (pp. 284-85)
  • Maj. Johnson (30th MS, next to the 34th): "after advancing about half a mile we crossed the road which led to the bridge. This road here made an abrupt turn to the right, forming a complete right angle. [the intersection perhaps, or a dogleg in the road not shown on the maps?] The regiment advanced some 300 or 400 yards through an open field under the fire of the enemy, who were posted on a hill immediately in our front [unclear if skirmisher or artillery fire]. Here it was found that this regiment, with the 34th (the regiment on our immediate left), had become separated from the balance of the brigade, and the order was given to the men to lie down behind an abrupt hill in the field. Here Colonel Scales ordered the men to cease firing (the enemy having disappeared)[likely means the federal skirmishers have finally left and crossed the creek] and dispatched the adjutant to the brigadier-general to report the position and the situation of the regiment. The brigadier-general arriving on the ground, ordered the colonel to press forward his skirmishers and occupy the hill, which was done. The skirmishers had hardly occupied the hill when the brigadier-general ordered them to be withdrawn, and the regiment to move back and join the balance of the brigade, which was immediately done. " (pp. 282-83)
  • Gen. Walthall: "The road on which my left rested in the beginning of the movement turns to the right at a point 200 or 300 yards from the bridge, forming a right angle. At this point the [34th MS and 30th MS], in advancing passed across the road into an open field, and the Twenty-ninth Mississippi Regiment, Colonel Brantley (the center regiment), being immediately opposite the bridge was stubbornly resisted for about fifteen minutes, and in the meantime the regiments to the left of this, driving the skirmishers of the enemy before them, swung round under the enemy's artillery fire through an open field until the line they formed was nearly at right angles to that formed by the other three regiments, conforming in the main to the general direction of the creek....The [34th and 30th MS], after swinging to the right as above mentioned, in the field, had been halted by their commanders and the men ordered to lie down, the enemy having disappeared in their front [i.e., the enemy skirmishers]. I then directed the skirmishers of these regiments...to be recalled and the regiments to move by the right flank until they closed up an interval between the [30th and 29th MS] near the angle in the line." (p. 272)
The Reports of Govan's regiments also shed light:
  • Lt. Col. Murray (5th Ark.): "[T]he regiments, with the rest of Liddell's brigade, were posted on General Walthall's left, and two companies were thrown forward as skirmishers on a line with those of General Walthal's brigade. The skirmishers were immediately pressed forward and soon became engaged with the skirmishers of the enemy, who were posted on the south side of the creek....After a spirited skirmish of abut an hour and a half,...the enemy retired to the north bank of the creek...." (p. 262-63)
  • Capt. Meek (2nd Ark.): "Our skirmishers wee advance through an open field near the above-named bridge." (p. 261)
  • Maj. Watkins (8th Ark.): "We were soon ordered to form on the left of Walthall's brigade and to cover the front with skirmishers. The skirmishers engaged the enemy, who were concealed in the woods on the opposite bank of the river." (p. 268)
The LOC map provided by Jantzen (attached again below), the sketch map included with Gen. Walker's report (p. 242a, fourth attachment below (photo)), the sketch map included with Liddell's report and appearing in the O.R. Atlas (Plate 30, no. 6, fifth attachment below) (photo)), the Bragg map in the O.R. Atlas (Plate 46, no.4, sixth attachment (photo), the Ruger/Merrill map, sheet no.1, in the O.R. Atlas (Plate 46, no.1, seventh attachment below (photo)) and the more detailed map included in Baumgartner's Blue Lightning (1st & 2d attachments below), all show Walthall's brigade engaging above (i.e. to the left from the Confederate perspective) as well as at and below the bridge. The Walker sketch map may also actually show the dogleg, covered up by the right hand half of Walthall's brigade (note how the line of the road coming up from the south connects to the left center of Walthall's brigade but then emerges from near the brigade right to continue on to the bridge.) Unfortunately few maps show much topographical, road or vegetation detail on the south side of the creek (Jantzen's LOC map shows the most) and none trace the route of Walthall's individual regiments. The Baumgartner, Walker and Ruger/Merrill maps may best show regimental locations during the heaviest fighting.

Alexander'sBridge.jpg


AlexandersBridgeLOCmap.png


IMG_1138.JPG


IMG_1141.JPG


IMG_1130.JPG


IMG_1125.JPG
 

Attachments

  • AlexandersBridge.Baumgartner150.pdf
    408.2 KB · Views: 5
Top