What were the Strengths of Forrest's Units at Brice's Crossroads?

limberbox

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Have any of you worked out either morning strengths or battlefield strengths of the Confederate units that engaged at Brice's Crossroads? While the Federal regimental or brigade strengths are fairly well established from their reports, Forrest did not include strengths in his report, no reports of his subordinates are in the OR's and the numbers I've seen most frequently provided for the Confederate brigades that participated in this battle seem internally inconsistent and do not seem to tie well to those numbers that are available in the OR's. Do any of you have morning reports, field returns or other better sources for Confederate regimental or brigade strengths for this battle?

Ed Bearss, in the most thorough history of the campaign I've read, Forrest at Brice's Crossroads (1979, 1994), on p. 64 cited to p. 286 of Henry, First with the Most (1944, 1991), for brigade strengths. Henry gave no citation but seems to have been using Jordan & Pryor's 1868 Campaigns of General Nathan Bedford Forrest for the numbers for Lyon's, Rucker's, and Johnson's brigades and Wyeth's 1899 Life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest for Bell's brigade.

Lyon's, Rucker's and Johnson's Brigades
Jordan & Pryor state on p. 468 that:
"Forrest's force immediately in hand at the moment consisted of --

Lyon's brigade .... 800 rank and file" [but on p. 457 Jordan & Pryor stated the brigade "numbered 1717 fighting men" upon their return from W.TN andW. KY a month before, and O.R. vol. 39, part II, p. 640-41 shows 1859 present for duty in mid-May.]
Rucker's Brigade ... 700 " " "" [but Forrest on 5/31/64 described Rucker's 3-regiment brigade plus a 150-man squadron under W.H. Forrest as "all numbering 1500 men." O.R. vol. 38, part IV, p. 734]
Johnson's Brigade ...500 " " " " [but in the footnote four pages earlier on p. 464 Jordan & Pryor stated Johnson's brigade "was about 1000 strong"]

The accounts I've read do not mention massive straggling. However, various units had done a lot of marching in the prior nine days and it had rained heavily and incessantly the past five. Perhaps the key is in the phrase "immediately in hand at the moment." Perhaps Jordan & Pryor are only giving estimated strengths of these three brigades at the time each first went into action and are not counting others who may have joined later during the battle? Their numbers for these three brigades seem low unless fairly massive straggling occurred or large numbers were unhorsed by the rigors of the march to Russellville, AL and back and then on to Booneville.

In potential justification of their estimate of Johnson's brigade having only 500 at the battle, Jordan & Pryor say it had "been constantly in the saddle for a week, on a forced march from North Alabama" and mention the "incessant torrential rain" (p. 469 footnote). However, Johnson's brigade had come from Cherokee, AL (Jordan & Pryor, p. 464), which appears to have been a shorter distance from Baldwyn, MS (where it spent the night before the battle) than Buford's Division's return march from Russellville to Tupelo (after which Bell's brigade marched to Rienzi then back to Booneville while Lyon's stayed and Booneville and both then marched on to the battlefield). (See Bearss frontispiece map). Rucker's brigade had marched from Oxford to south of Ripley, skirmished, and then marched to Booneville where it spent the night before the battle.

Bell's Brigade
In describing Bell's brigade, Wyeth gives a surprisingly high number -- 2787-- attributing it to the "official report of this officer for that day." Wyeth, p. 347 (1989 LSU edition). Henry and Bearss use Wyeth's ("nearly" or "almost 2800") number. Jordan & Pryor did not give a figure for Bell's brigade at the battle, only giving a figure of "about 250" on p. 472 for a portion of Newsome's regiment (the newest of Bell's four regiments, formed from combining McDonald's Battalion and Newsome's Battalion [O.R. vol. 39, Part II, p. 641]) and on p. 477 giving a figure of "not more than 250 strong" for Barteau's 2d Tennessee detached at Old Carrollville to take back roads to gain the Federal rear. (Hancock in Hancock's Diary (1887), says "about 250" and notes that a "heavy detail" had earlier been taken from the regiment to guard the trains to Okolona and that two companies that had been on picket the night before "had not caught up when the regiment was detached" but "fell in with the rest of the brigade and remained with it throughout the battle", p. 382.) Jordan & Pryor did, however, give the strength of Bell's brigade as "about 1700 strong" and "now mustered over 1700 well-mounted horsemen" at the end of April (pages 422 and 457) . Furthermore, Bell lost 298 men on May 23d identified as deserters from Army of Tennessee infantry regiments, arrested and returned to their units. (O.R. vol. 39, part II, pp. 614). More may have deserted the following night for fear of suffering the same fate (Neely's Tennessee brigade in Chalmer's Division lost 126 overnight to desertion after the May 23d arrests. (O.R. vol. 39, part II, pp. 618) Thus, if anything, Bell's numbers in early June were likely less than the "about 1700" reported in late April, not 900 more.

The above suggests to me that the strengths of Lyon's, Rucker's and Johnson's brigades, which arrived first, may have been underestimated by Jordan & Pryor, and the strength of Bell's brigade, which arrived last, may have been considerably overstated by Wyeth. These numbers were then repeated by subsequent authors. This impression seems supported by the mid-May returns reported for Buford's Division (3587 effectives plus 292 officers). (O.R. vol. 39, part II, p. 630) Bell's "1700 well-mounted horsemen" plus Lyon's 1859 present for duty total 3589, which is close to the 3587 effectives plus 292 officers reported in the May 20, 1864 field returns for Buford's Division. (O.R. 39, part II, p. 630)

I'd be interested in your thoughts about the above and would greatly appreciate learning of any more specific unit strengths you may be aware of for April, May and early June.
 

bdtex

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Reposting; trying to fix spacing; can't get the BOLD or underlining to work:

Have any of you worked out either morning strengths or battlefield strengths of the Confederate units that engaged at Brice's Crossroads? While the Federal regimental or brigade strengths are fairly well established from their reports, Forrest did not include strengths in his report, no reports of his subordinates are in the OR's and the numbers I've seen most frequently provided for the Confederate brigades that participated in this battle seem internally inconsistent and do not seem to tie well to those numbers that are available in the OR's. Do any of you have morning reports, field returns or other better sources for Confederate regimental or brigade strengths for this battle?

Ed Bearss, in the most thorough history of the campaign I've read, "Forrest at Brice's Crossroads" (1979, 1994), on p. 64 cited to p. 286 of Henry, "First with the Most" (1944, 1991), for brigade strengths. Henry gave no citation but seems to have been using Jordan & Pryor's 1868 "Campaigns of General Nathan Bedford Forrest" for the numbers for Lyon's, Rucker's, and Johnson's brigades, and Wyeth's 1899 "Life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest" for Bell's brigade.

Lyon's, Rucker's and Johnson's Brigades

Jordan & Pryor state on p. 468 that:
"Forrest's force immediately in hand at the moment consisted of --

Lyon's brigade .... 800 rank and file" [but on p. 457 Jordan & Pryor stated the brigade "numbered 1717 fighting men" upon their return from W.TN andW. KY a month before, and O.R. vol. 39, part II, p. 640-41 shows 1859 present for duty in mid-May.]
Rucker's Brigade ... 700 " " "" [but Forrest on 5/31/64 described Rucker's 3-regiment brigade plus a 150-man squadron under W.H. Forrest as "all numbering 1500 men." O.R. vol. 38, part IV, p. 734]
Johnson's Brigade ...500 " " " " [but in the footnote four pages earlier on p. 464 Jordan & Pryor stated Johnson's brigade "was about 1000 strong"]

The accounts I've read do not mention massive straggling. However, various units had done a lot of marching in the prior nine days and it had rained heavily and incessantly the past five. Perhaps the key is in the phrase "immediately in hand at the moment." Perhaps Jordan & Pryor are only giving estimated strengths of these three brigades at the time each first went into action and are not counting others who may have joined later during the battle? Their numbers for these three brigades seem low unless fairly massive straggling occurred or large numbers were unhorsed by the rigors of the march to Russellville, AL and back and then on to Booneville.

In potential justification of their estimate of Johnson's brigade having only 500 at the battle, Jordan & Pryor say it had "been constantly in the saddle for a week, on a forced march from North Alabama" and mention the "incessant torrential rain" (p. 469 footnote). However, Johnson's brigade had come from Cherokee, AL (Jordan & Pryor, p. 464), which appears to have been a shorter distance from Baldwyn, MS (where it spent the night before the battle) than Buford's Division's return march from Russellville to Tupelo (after which Bell's brigade marched to Rienzi then back to Booneville while Lyon's stayed and Booneville and both then marched on to the battlefield). (See Bearss frontispiece map). Rucker's brigade had marched from Oxford to south of Ripley, skirmished, and then marched to Booneville where it spent the night before the battle.

Bell's Brigade

In describing Bell's brigade, Wyeth gives a surprisingly high number -- 2787-- attributing it to the "official report of this officer for that day." Wyeth, p. 347 (1989 LSU edition). Henry and Bearss use Wyeth's ("nearly" or "almost 2800") number. Jordan & Pryor did not give a figure for Bell's brigade at the battle, only giving a figure of "about 250" on p. 472 for a portion of Newsome's regiment (the newest of Bell's four regiments, formed from combining McDonald's Battalion and Newsome's Battalion [O.R. vol. 39, Part II, p. 641]) and on p. 477 giving a figure of "not more than 250 strong" for Barteau's 2d Tennessee detached at Old Carrollville to take back roads to gain the Federal rear. (Hancock in Hancock's Diary, 1887, says "about 250" and notes that a "heavy detail" had earlier been taken from the regiment to guard the trains to Okolona and that two companies that had been on picket the night before "had not caught up when the regiment was detached" but "fell in with the rest of the brigade and remained with it throughout the battle", p. 382.) Jordan & Pryor did, however, give the strength of Bell's brigade as "about 1700 strong" and "now mustered over 1700 well-mounted horsemen" at the end of April (pages 422 and 457) . Furthermore, Bell lost 298 men on May 23d identified as deserters from Army of Tennessee infantry regiments, arrested and returned to their units. (O.R. vol. 39, part II, pp. 614). More may have deserted the following night for fear of suffering the same fate (Neely's Tennessee brigade in Chalmer's Division lost 126 overnight to desertion after the May 23d arrests. (O.R. vol. 39, part II, pp. 618) Thus, if anything, Bell's numbers in early June were likely less than the "about 1700" reported in late April, not 900 more.

The above suggests to me that the strengths of Lyon's, Rucker's and Johnson's brigades, which arrived first, may have been underestimated by Jordan & Pryor, and the strength of Bell's brigade, which arrived last, may have been considerably overstated by Wyeth. These numbers were then repeated by subsequent authors. This impression seems supported by the mid-May returns reported for Buford's Division (3587 effectives plus 292 officers). (O.R. vol. 39, part II, p. 630) Bell's "1700 well-mounted horsemen" plus Lyon's 1859 present for duty total 3589, which is close to the 3587 effectives plus 292 officers reported in the May 20, 1864 field returns for Buford's Division. (O.R. 39, part II, p. 630)

I'd be interested in your thoughts about the above and would greatly appreciate learning of any more specific unit strengths you may be aware of for April, May and early June.
Is this how you want it? I can copy-n-paste it into your first post and delete the original content.
 

limberbox

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Is this how you want it? I can copy-n-paste it into your first post and delete the original content.
I was trying to indent the second line of the bracketed data for each of Lyon's, Rucker's and Johnson's brigades but with the bolding I've now been able to add I think it works. Could you replace the original post with the version I just posted? Thank you for your help.
 

bdtex

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I was trying to indent the second line of the bracketed data for each of Lyon's, Rucker's and Johnson's brigades but with the bolding I've now been able to add I think it works. Could you replace the original post with the version I just posted? Thank you for your help.
Check post #1 now. Is that how you want it?
 

limberbox

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Nathanb1

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Bell's Brigade, then, seems to be the big sticking point over the numbers? I was always taught to go with the ORs first, then the "best-first" source, which would be Jordan & Pryor. I like your counts and rationale for each...

I almost feel like Wyeth's might have been a typo that was never corrected...it happens. :nah disagree:
 

limberbox

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It's both. Jordan & Pryor's numbers for Lyon, Rucker and Johnson seem low by 1000-1500 (compared to the reports from a couple of weeks before) and Wyeth's number for Bell seems high by about 900. So, they offset each other to a large extent. Weird.

If the numbers held similar to those reported around May 20, then Forrest (Lyon, Rucker and Johnson) should have outnumbered Waring and Winslow's cavalry brigades in the morning phase of the battle (roughly 4200 to 3300 plus artillery for each). Wastage from hard marching would have reduced the numbers for both sides somewhat, but the approximately 50% reductions inherent in Jordan & Pryor's numbers seem too large (the Federals sent back 400 men who were sick, disabled or had broken down horses, 41 empty wagons and "a large number of worn-out animals" on the morning of the day before the battle (Bearss, p. 53)).

Bell arrived roughly around the time the Federal infantry began to arrive. Once the infantry had arrived in strength the Federals had a decided manpower advantage. (Sturgis seems to have thrown that advantage away by pulling most of his cavalry out of the line, enabling Forrest to fight him piecemeal.)
 

DixieRifles

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I wonder he may have compiled some statistics on the opposing troop strengths at Brice's Crossroads ?
Sorry. That battle likely had 5 Times the number of troops to research.

I do know that Capt. Carl A. Lamberg of the 2nd USC Light Artillery was assigned to Fort Pillow but he missed it. Good luck. However, he was part of the 2 USCLA that was routed at Brices Crossroads---bad luck.
 
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Sorry. That battle likely had 5 Times the number of troops to research.

I do know that Capt. Carl A. Lamberg of the 2nd USC Light Artillery was assigned to Fort Pillow but he missed it. Good luck. However, he was part of the 2 USCLA that was routed at Brices Crossroads---bad luck.
Thanks for the reply.

I remembered your statistical research has always been very informative.
 
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