Annihilation of a Regiment

It was with great pleasure that I read the article “Annihilation of a Regiment” in the July issue by J. David Petruzzi. Fifty plus years ago,I purchased a .31-caliber Colt revolver with the name “Capt.Samuel Starr, 2nd U.S. Cavalry” engraved on the backstrap.The weapon has three notches in the wooden grips.

Reading about the role Captain Starr played in the Battle of Fairfield let me put a face with the pistol.Thank you.

Charles Monday

Glen Carbon, Ill.

Rebs One Day, Fenians the Next

Pursuant to Dave Petruzzi’s article “Annihilation of a Regiment,” perhaps you could stand a bit of a human interest story. John Wesley Miller, born in Bowmanville, Ontario, on October 4, 1845, enlisted as a bugler in Company A, 6th U.S. Cavalry, in Rochester, N.Y., on August 20, 1861. Due to his youth, Miller joined using as an alias the name of his older brother, William F. Miller.To my knowledge John Wesley (as William F.) Miller was the only Canadian-born Gettysburg campaign participant to be present at the 1938 Gettysburg reunion.

Anyway, to Fairfield. On July 3, 1863, Bugler Miller had the misfortune to suffer three broken ribs when his horse went down and landed on top of him.Captured by the Confederates, Miller was sent to Libby Prison in Richmond, from whence he was subsequently exchanged.Honorably discharged on August 22,1864,John Wesley Miller returned home to Ontario.

In 1866, due to the threat of a Fenian invasion from the United States, Miller enlisted in the local militia company, the Peterborough Rifles.The company subsequently became the 57th Battalion Canadian Militia (the Princess of Wales Own Regiment), with Miller as colonel.

Back to the Gettysburg reunion, John Wesley died three months after participating in the affair, on October 28, 1938. His remains were interred in Little Lake Cemetery, Peterborough.

T.W. Brooks

Second Nations Reserve

Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada

Perpetuating the Smear?

Kim A. O’Connell’s one-page article “Choked by Developement, Iuka Battlefield Endures” in the September issue on the current status of the Iuka,Miss.,battlefied is a welcome addition to the battlefield preservation movement,one that I heartily recognize and support.

I have no problem with the article itself, which is a concise and encouraging report of how the Civil War Preservation Trust, local Iuka historians and community leaders are holding unrestricted commercial developement at bay.But I do have a problem with the emblazoned quotation from Ulysses S. Grant that graces the bottom of the page in bold red letters and states,“I was disappointed at the result of the battle of Iuka—but I had so high an opinion of General Rosecrans that I found no fault at the time.”

I’ll assume that the quote was selected and inserted to provide some perspective on the actual event for those readers who are fuzzy on their historical facts about Iuka, and as an invitation to reacquaint themselves with the battle. As far as that goes, fine! Those of us who pursue the invitation to any depth will find a fascinating account in both the Official Records and within a few extant works, notably Peter Cozzens’ The Darkest Days of the War.

Those who don’t continue reading, however,will go on their way thinking exactly what Grant wanted us to think; that Rosecrans somehow bungled the issue while hiding behind an undeserved reputation! A bit unfair,don’t you think? Unfair of both Grant and whoever decided to insert that old quote again!

Ever since the war was fought, historians have been plagued with these oft-repeated 19th-century sound bites.Author William Marvel has gone expertly out of his way in attempting to debunk a classic example of this very type of thing in his excellent article “Sculpting a Scapegoat,” in this same issue of America’s Civil War,which in my opinion should be required reading for anyone attempting to fully understand the events that occured related to Ambrose Burnside on September 17, 1862, during his crossing of Antietam Creek.

Another poor recipient of this kind of innuendo was the commander of the 2nd Division,Right Wing,XIV Army Corps,at Stone’s River,Brig.Gen.Richard W.Johnson, who was castigated for having his division unprepared for the Confederate onslaught of December 31,1862.

Johnson attempted to answer the charges at the time and in his 1886 autobiography,A Soldier’s Reminiscences in Peace and War,but “history”already had a stifling grip on the issue.

After exhausting his own refutations to the charges, Johnson could only plaintively echo what many other Civil War commanders, both North and South, would sadly find out.“I have always supposed that truth would ultimately vindicate itself,” Johnson wrote, “but in the evening of a life prolonged beyond the average, I am forced to say that error, when once well on its way, is very difficult to overtake and correct.”

I do not pretend to be a Rosecrans apologist, nor do I seek to perpetrate revisionist history for revision’s sake and sensation. But I do intend to shine the light of history a little more brightly on one of this country’s greatest patriots who has unfortunately suffered more than his share of unjust criticism.

It is said that the measure of man’s greatness may lie in the power of his enemies, and Grant went went widely out of his way to ridicule and defame the reputations of a number of more deserving individuals.

Grant’s quote about his disappointment in Rosecrans’s performance at Iuka was as disingenuous then as it is now and perhaps better belongs as a marquee quotation headlining an article about how insidious, vicious and uncharitably demeaning Grant could become with his personal enemies, especially one who had rivaled his own reputation and popularity.

Joe Meyer

Antelope, Calif.

Wrong About Wright

As I have a keen interest in the actions of Wright’s Brigade on July 2, 1863, I purchased a copy of the July 2007 America’s Civil War and came away a bit disappointed with Eric A. Campbell’s article “So Much for Comrades in Arms.”

I agree with Mr. Campbell’s grading of the noted historians—Freeman, Coddington and Pfanz—and their interpretation of Ambrose Wright’s controversial Gettysburg letter to his wife.But I have to disagree with Mr. Campbell’s assertion that Wright was “sick in an ambulance,far to the rear,”while his men charged the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge during the afternoon of July 2.

In Wright’s account from the Official Records, he clearly indicates that Colonel William Gibson of the 48th Georgia was commanding the brigade the previous day, July 1, due to Wright’s “severe indisposition.” In a letter to his wife,Wright indicated he had been sick all July 1 and “at 2 o’clock, PM, could no longer ride in my saddle,and had to seek shelter and a bed in a house by the wayside.”He may have had diarrhea, as the malady was making its rounds in the brigade.In the Official Records report,Wright says he resumed command of his brigade on July 2 at 7 a.m.

I’m not cognizant of any wartime accounts that Wright was not in charge of his brigade.Over the years I’ve amassed a considerable file on Wright’s Brigade at Gettysburg for use in my next book, Georgia at Gettysburg. I offer two wartime accounts supportive of his presence with his brigade on July 2.

In a July 15, 1863, account by a member of his brigade identified only as “D” (probably from the 3rd Georgia) that appeared in the August 4, 1863, edition of the Augusta Weekly Chronicle & Sentinel,the witness states: “As they pressed forward volley after volley greeted them, but led by the intrepid Wright, and assured by the presence of Adjutant General Girardy, whom no danger can excite, they moved on, each step leaving the field strewn with dead and wounded.One after another fell, while the slaughter among the officers was terrible.”

In a July 8, 1863, letter by Lieutenant Clifford Anderson of General Wright’s staff, when referencing the enormous loss in the charge of officers in the brigade, he states: “Gen.Wright and staff are all safe.” In the same letter, Anderson says of the July 2 charge:“Gen.Wright remarked to me as soon as our line was formed and after he had reconnoitered the position of the enemy, that if we were required to charge it the sacrifice of life would necessarily be very great.His judgement proved to be correct.When the orders came, however, he [Wright] did not hesitate, but advanced with his usual energy and vigor.”

I’m aware of a couple postwar reminiscences of veterans that served in his brigade and other units that allege Wright was sick or indisposed during the famous Confederate charge up Cemetery Ridge. Surely Wright’s absence would have been mentioned in one of the many official reports of the engagement. Quite popular among his men,Wright would not have been able to fool his tough veterans by reporting something he himself did not see,or at least participate in.

If anyone knows of wartime accounts that place General Wright somewhere other than with his command on July 2, 1863, please share them.

Gregory C.White

Canton, Ga.

Young Jemison

I just wanted to write and thank you for your article on Private Edwin Jemison in the May issue.When I saw that photo of him on cover, my heart just sank, and I paused to remember all the young “boy” casualties of that horrific war. Please do more articles of a similar nature. I’ve just renewed my subscription.

Chris R. Courson

Opp,Ala.

Riveting Misery

Never has an article riveted my attention and compelled such complete heartbreak as did John H. Nelson’s “Misery Holds High Carnival” in the September issue.

I have read many accounts of the Civil War and its field hospitals, doctors, nurses, soldiers and casualties. No account, however, has resonated like Mr. Nelson’s. His writing reminds us all that such suffering should never be forgotten.

Lisa G. Samia

Avon, Conn.

 

Originally published in the November 2007 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.