The Man Behind The Guns

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#1
I recently read Longacre's biography of Henry J. Hunt. Hunt was the chief of artillery for the Union Army of The Potomac.
The book is a biography, so it is not a good source of data about artillery pieces, projectiles, etc. The Man Behind The Guns is an excellent source of info about Hunt, and the army's policy and practices on artillery.
I've known of Hunt's work in setting up the artillery reserve for the AOP, and a reserve ammunition train. Both the reserve, and the reserve ammunition train were extremely useful at Gettysburg- he is credited with having a lot to do with defeating Pickett's Charge. I also found a lot of info about Hunt that I did not know. For example, at Malvern Hill, most of the artillery used to hand a defeat to the ANV, consisted of guns from the artillery reserve. D.H. Hill, the confederate general who's troops were involved, later said, "it was not war, it was murder" when describing the defeat.
Hunt had 2 horses shot from under him at Malvern Hill, and another at Gettysburg.
Well worth reading. If you're interested in the eastern theater of the CW, or about a pivotal character who is ofen overlooked, you'll enjoy this book.
BTW, Hunt survived the war, retired as a Colonel at 65, and died a poor man.
 

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gary

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#2
Unlike the Confederacy, in the Union army artillery was one arm that didn't rate high promotions. Weed of Little Round Top fame was an artillery man and when he received his brigadier's star, he was transferred to the infantry. Maj. Thomas W. Osborn, USA, makes note and complains about the lack of promotional opportunities.
 

unionblue

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#3
Gary,

I got a tough time hanging with the idea that Union artillery didn't rate very high during the war. What about Malvern's Hill? What about Brock's Road in the Wilderness Campaign?

Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but didn't a Confederate General say, "Give me Yankee artillery and Confederate Infantry and I'll lick the world?"

Unionblue
 

gary

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#4
Neil,

It's not that the Union artillery wasn't very effective. It's that artillery officers didn't get promoted to command Corps artillery like the Confederates did. Porter Alexander of Longstreet's artillery corps became a general. Osborne who I believe held the equivalent rank remained a mere major. He was just as competent but as I mentioned, within the Union Army, promotions above majority were outside of artillery. Unfair, yes. True, yes.

My apologies Mr. Hamilton but I can't recall the second book in which Osborn makes a (rightful) fuss. One book is "No Middle Ground" and that only covers from 1862-64. The other book picks up from '64 to '65 and that's the one I can't find (too many books and not enough bookcases).
 

unionblue

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#5
Gary,

Thanks for clearing that up for me, and I will try and be a bit more attentive when I read these posts in the future.

And please, call me Neil, Mr. Hamilton just ain't a good fit.

Sincerely,
Neil/Unionblue
 
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#6
Not feeling too good these days, but I remember these:

Phil Sheridan: "WHAT?! THREE CORPS of infantry and ALL of my cavalry?! Jubal Early drive ME out of the Valley?! I'll LICK HIM like BLAZES before night! I'll give him the WORST licking HE EVER HAD!"

General George Patton said "Give me Southern boys. They KNOW how to fight!"

Gen. Patton : “Fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man.”
 
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#7
Just checking to see if I get auto replies from this board. Something happened yesterday and I kept getting all these emails from unknown sources so I used "block sender" on them. I might have accidentally blocked this auto-mailer.

If I don't see this come back to me, I'll know that I've committed an unpardonable sin. Does this mean I will have to change my name to come back on the board?

If so, I'm definitely coming back as CORP. Thea....I'm not giving up my hard-earned rank just because of a pointy finger! <grin>
 
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#8
Gary/Ca, The Man Behind The Guns has a lot to say about the lack of promotion for Union artillery officers.
 

ewc

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#10
This tome on General Hunt sounds like excellent reading- it's now on my list of Must-reads.

The problem with promotions in the artillery predate the Civil War and its roots are found in the organization of this branch of the service in the Regular Army. The artillery is organized along the lines of the other branches of the service- that is to say, in regiments with a colonel, lieutenant colonel, major, as field officers, although the artillery always fought and was used and stationed as batteries. Thus a colonel (who, before and in the first years of the war would have had to be to attain this rank a septuagenarian or older, would actually be the head of some bureau in the East or commander of some installation, while his batteries (companies) would be spread throughout the continental United States and territories. Many officers in the regular service transferred out of the artillery to seek promotion or resigned from the military altogether. Unfortunately, the move to update this organization of the artillery was not on the fast track even during the war.

The Confederacy was a little more enlightened on this score, though not much. it wasn't till late '63 and later that Lee's Corps Artillery commanders attained the grade of brigadier general, ( 9/63- AL Long; 2/64- EP Alexander; 2/65- RL Walker). Those in the West who commanded artillery, if a general, was one based on fort or area command, staff or engineer assignments, or through command of brigade.
 

gary

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#11
From page 27 of Maj. Thomas Osborn's account of the war as published under the title: The Fiery Trail.

"The artillery of the U.S. Army is by far its worst or most slipshod organization of any branch of the service. This arm has in the regular army always been considered the aristocratic one and sought for assignments by old officers, yet from the beginning of the war it has been permitted to remain without an organization of its own, except such as it has received as the result of incessant begging and intercession by its officers for a recognized position. The artillery owes most of its effectiveness in the field of all the armies and all of its organization to the earnest and effective work of General Hunt, Chief of Artillery of the Army of the Potomac. In his labors in this interest he has received the endorsement and encouragement of General Barry. But for these two officers the batteries would still have been scattered about, attached to divisions and brigades any where and every where that a general officer had sufficient personal influence to get a battery assigned to his command.

"The ignorance of some of our general officers in regard to the proper uses of artillery is simply stupendous. I have seen a well appointed light battery ordered by a general officer 300 yards in advance of his skirmish line for the protection of that skirmish line, and that when the enemy was expected to attack any minute. That is one specimen and I will give one more. At one time I went to look after one of my batteries which had been ordered on picket duty with a brigade commanded by a brigadier general. I found it in a heavy forest filled with dense undergrowth. The brigade was entrenched across the road. A quarter of a mile in advance were his advanced pickets, also well entrenched, and between 200 and 300 yards in advance of this picket was the battery standing ready for action with not a musket nearer than the picket, without a shovel full of earth thrown up or even a rail or other barricade to give the battery the slightest protection. I called the general's attention to the position of the battery and he asked with all seriousness, 'What is artillery for if not to protect the infantry?' I could give many more illustrations of like foolishness of general officers and colonels who have only had experience in the command of infantry, but these are sufficient to show how necessary it may be, and often is, to have men in command of artillery who have made it their special study.

"The great fault in this particular lies in the primary organization of the Army. It is one of the unfortunate results growing out of the building up of an army of three-quarters of a million of men upon the frame-work of a toy army of twenty thousand men. As a whole the increase of the Army upon this diminutive frame-work has been successful, but in some of its parts it has been woefully defective. With the infantry and cavalry it has worked well, but with the artillery and army staff it has been a dead failure."

(Message edited by Gary on October 28, 2003)
 



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