Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fort Pulaski Complete

The Fort Pulaski section is now complete!

Fort Pulaski

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Then and Now pages are up.

Well, this week I've finished the extensive Then and Now section. Modern pictures of the fort and Tybee Island from every conceivable angle, "then and now" pictures featuring period photos and their modern equivalents, and video.

Now is the easy part. Next week I'll be writing the text for the history page, completing the small order of battle, and generally finishing up.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fort Pulaski

I've started working on the Fort Pulaski section, and things are going fast. I have the main page, logos, and text up. This week I also finished most of the maps. As a result, the maps page has also been completed and uploaded.

Next week I will concentrate on organizing the "Then and Now" pictures, creating the webpages, and getting them uploaded and live.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


So, it's been a quiet four months. My wife and I had a new baby, and I've been taking it easy. However, I'll get back to work on CWVT projects in February. First up is working on and completing the Fort Pulaski section. It shouldn't take but two months or so. I already have the photographs, and there won't be any battle maps to create, organize, and upload.

I'll probably work on some Historic Imagination products to keep the money flowing in on the business side, but then its time to start working on another battle. Right now it looks like Shiloh will be the next major battle featured on CWVT. That should take about 12-18 months. It should be a fun project!

Monday, October 11, 2010

General Oliver Howard at Pickett's Mill Part 2

Unfortunately, having decided to conduct a mere reconnaissance-in-force by sending in only one brigade under General Hazen with dubious and late support from Colonel Scribner’s brigade, Howard then proceeded to reinforce Hazen when it was obvious the initial attack had failed. In continuing the assault Colonel Gibson’s brigade suffered even more casualties than Hazen. Shortly after he sent Gibson forward (or acquiesced to the division commander, Brigadier General Thomas Wood sending Gibson forward) Howard received an order from Sherman to cancel the attack. This likely influenced the decision to have Colonel Knefler’s brigade advance to cover the other two brigades until nightfall. A prudent decision, but it only added to the casualty rolls and sent many of his men on their way to Andersonville prison when Granbury boldly launched a night attack to clear the ravine to his front. Instead of a feeling the enemy’s defenses, Howard ended up sending a division to attack by individual brigades and piecemeal. Had he stuck to his reconnaissance, only Hazen’s men would have suffered severe casualties. Having decided not to attack with all of his force, why did Howard then send in most of it anyway in a piecemeal fashion after the assault had begun? There has never been a satisfactory answer.

Nor did Howard perform well tactically or personally. He failed to coordinate the movement of the forces he had on hand. For one, he did not send in Scribner’s brigade to follow Hazen on the left for at least half of an hour. If Scribner’s division commander, Brigadier General Richard Johnson was too slow in issuing the order Howard certainly wasn’t on hand to demand faster action, or didn’t have the presence to do so. He also didn’t call Johnson to task for Scribner’s timid advance right there and then when it could have made a difference. In addition, Brigadier General Nathaniel McLean’s brigade of the Twenty-Third Corps had been assigned the task of connecting the two divisions to the rest of the Union army by a thin skirmish line, as well as protecting the flank of any attacking force; a nearly impossible task in its own right. However, when Hazen’s attack began McLean did not send whatever men he had on hand forward to occupy the Confederates to his front. Howard apparently did nothing to intervene and personally make sure that McLean followed through. It is interesting that McLean ended up losing his job because of his lack of aggressiveness, while Howard kept his by the mere appearance of aggressiveness. The appearance of boldness at the expense of his men’s lives at that. Finally, Howard failed to withdraw Knefler’s brigade from in front of the enemy in a timely manner. For three hours the brigade stayed in front of the enemy, ostensibly to provide cover while rescuing the wounded and trapped men from the previous assaults. However, it appears doubtful that many of the wounded actually made their way to safety, and many of Knefler’s troops ended up casualties or prisoners in their own right as a result. Howard did nothing to speed the progress of helping the wounded or recall Knefler before it was too late.

In short, Howard found the enemy’s flank shortly before nightfall. He decided on a half-hearted measure, staying neither on the defensive, nor throwing all of his men forward in a determined assault. Having chosen a timid move, he then failed to follow through and withdraw when confronted by a powerful enemy and responded aggressively at the wrong moment, all the while failing to coordinate the rest of the brigades under his command. It was a total command failure. It’s hard to image a Hancock, Gibbon, Logan, or even a Joe Hooker (who was performing well as a corps commander in Georgia) losing control of the situation in such a manner.

Would a bold attack have made a difference? It is not unreasonable to assume that five brigades attacking in column could have taken the ridge near Pickett’s Mill. Only Granbury’s Brigade and Kelly’s cavalry skirmishers opposed them at the time. Even with the ability to quickly reinforce their lines, which the Confederates took full advantage of during the actual battle, it is likely the five brigades could have stood their ground against the counterattack, and possibly have gotten pretty close to Due West Road along the level ground near Pickett’s Mill Creek. How would have the Confederate commander, General Joseph E. Johnston have reacted? No one can say for certain. However, similar instances encountered by Johnston during the campaign may serve as a guide. The appearance of Union troops at Lay’s Ferry led Johnston to abandon the line at Resaca. Union troops making their way down the Sandtown Road close to the Chattahoochee River led Johnston to abandon the Kennesaw Mountain line later in the campaign. Is it unreasonable to guess that Johnston might have withdrawn from the New Hope Church line if his direct access to the Western & Atlantic Railroad was threatened? Of course, we’ll never know, but there is a reason the phrase “fortune favors the bold” is ancient and serves as the motto of several military units. More often than not, bold action brings positive results, and Oliver O. Howard was not a bold man.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

General Oliver Howard at Pickett's Mill Part 1

General Oliver O. Howard’s orders as given to him by General William Tecumseh Sherman were to find the end of the Confederate line, attack it, and drive the enemy from his dug-in position. Did Howard accomplish this goal? No, he did not. The question then becomes, why not?

When examining the reasons for Howard’s actions it is paramount to consider them in the context of what he knew at the time, not with the hindsight we have today. So what did Howard know on the morning of May 27th? The left of the Union lines ended at the Dallas-Acworth Road (present day Mount Tabor Church Road) and at the time, the Union high command did not know of the shift in the Confederate lines, i.e. the movement of Stevenson and Cleburne’s divisions to the east of New Hope Church. Sherman’s orders in the early pre-dawn hours charged the Fourth and Twenty-Third Corps to advance down the Dallas-Acworth Road and seize higher ground to the south. Active skirmishing at first light revealed that the two corps were no longer at the end of the Confederate line, and this caused a change in plan. Sherman then ordered Howard to take a division from his corps and another from the Fourteenth Corps and march past the Union flank, find the end of the Confederate line, and attack enemy’s flank.

Howard dutifully complied, but it took longer than expected. He deployed the two divisions ready to fight, each regiment in line of battle. This slowed the advance considerably. Each regiment had to at least attempt to keep its formation, and also its alignment with the other units of the brigade, all the while marching up and down every ravine and draw, and through every briar patch and thicket.

His first attempt at navigating in the backwoods of Paulding County was a failure. He ended up behind the end of the Union line, instead of beyond its flank. He then had to reform the column facing east and march three quarters of a mile past the end of the army. Only then did he find the end of the Confederate line. By this time his men were understandably tired, if not exhausted. It was also 4 o’clock in the afternoon. There were only about 2 hours left before twilight, and another hour of rapidly diminishing daylight before total darkness around 7 o’clock. He would have to attack, break through the enemy’s defenses, consolidate his gains, and reform his attacking force against a possible enemy counterattack before nightfall. All the while almost a mile beyond and out of reach of the main body of his army. That’s a pretty daunting prospect for any general.

Howard had three options. He could aggressively launch most of his command at the enemy, perhaps prudently leaving a brigade behind as a last reserve. This option obviously had the most to gain, and the most to lose. If he drove the Confederates away from their position he could place himself beyond the end of the Confederate lines. Once there he would threaten the enemy’s direct line of retreat; the Due West Road was only half a mile away, with no defensible terrain feature in between. However, if he failed he would find himself isolated from the rest of the Union army with two divisions of tired, demoralized, and disorganized men. A commanding officer had to expect an aggressive foe to counterattack and destroy or capture such a force. It takes a bold and aggressive general to take that kind of gamble. Unfortunately, nowhere in Howard’s career had he exhibited that type of aggressiveness and daring.

His second option was to do nothing. He had prolonged the Union line considerably, and reinforcements would easily be able to fill the gap between himself and the Twenty-Third Corps the next day. While prudent, it was not what Sherman had ordered. Sherman had already taken Major General George Thomas to task for not attacking immediately at New Hope Church two days before. While this proved to be unfounded and unfair to Thomas, at the time Howard would only have taken it as a reprimand against an officer that Sherman deemed to slow or unwilling to bring on a battle. Since Sherman had sent him to find and attack the Confederate flank, to dig in without attacking would appear to Howard as a damaging or unwise career choice.

The third option was to attempt some course of action between the two. A reconnaissance-in-force would involve sending only a few of his units forward to feel the Confederate defenses. If they were successful, then Howard could order more brigades into action to support a breakthrough. If not, then he could call off his attack with minimal casualties (overall at least) and report the enemy too strong to assault. This would appear to be the course of action Howard decided to take.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Pickett's Mill finished!

The Pickett's Mill section of Civil War Virtual Tours if finished! Come take a tour!