Tag Archives: Army of the Cumberland

Sherman’s March, May 24, 1865: The Grand Review and the end of the Great March

At 9 a.m., 150 years ago this morning, a signal gun and triggered the procession of Major-General William T. Sherman’s command on their Grand Review in front of cheering crowds in Washington D.C.

Sherman and Major-General Oliver O. Howard lead the procession with their staffs.  Behind them came Major-General John Logan and the Fifteenth Corps.

Behind them, Major-General Frank Blair and the Seventeenth Corps.

After the Right Wing passed, Major-General Henry Slocum lead the Left Wing on review:

The Twentieth Corps, led by Major-General Joseph Mower, came next in the line.

As I like to mention, the Twentieth Corps had its roots in the east – formed of the Army of the Potomac’s Eleventh and Twelfth Corps.  As such it provided the link between the Armies of the Tennessee and the Potomac.

The next formation in the review also offered a link – however to an army not present on parade that day. Major-General (a brevet that was soon to be disallowed) Jefferson C. Davis led the Fourteenth Corps.   And, you should know that the Fourteenth Corps had its roots as the Army of the Cumberland.

I’ve always felt their presence was somewhat representative of that “other” great Federal army of the western theater.

You may want to click over to Seven Score and Ten, Civil War Daily Gazette, and General Sherman’s Blog for more on the Grand Review’s second day.

For the photos above, I’ve relied upon the Library of Congress captions to identify the units.  As we well know, those captions have their errors.  So please take the identification with a grain of salt.  If the captions are correct, the troops of the Twentieth Corps received a good bit of attention from the photographers:

Remarkable that all four of the corps which conducted the Great March were photographed on this day 150 years ago.  We have scant few photographs from the Great March (Altanta to Savannah to Columbia to Goldsboro to Raleigh to Washington).  Aside from a number of photos taken at Fort McAllister in December 1864, the majority of the photos of the Great March come on the last day of the movement.

And just as the Great March’s conclusion was captured in photos, the veterans cemented the memory of the Grand Review in their minds and … even 150 years later … in the public’s mind.  This shaped our impression of the event to the point it becomes the “victory parade” after which similar festivities are modeled to celebrate the end of more recent wars.  Keeping with that notion, allow me to close with the somewhat definitive “lore” of the Great March by George W. Nichols:

On the 24th of May, Sherman’s Army passed in review before the President of the United States in Washington.  It was the last act in the rapid and wonderful Drama of the four gallant corps. With banners proudly flying, ranks in close and magnificent array, under the eye of their beloved Chief, and amid the thundering plaudits of countless thousands of enthusiastic spectators, the noble army of seventy thousand veterans paid their marching salute to the President of the Nation they had helped to preserve in its integrity – and then broke ranks, and set their faces toward Home.  This was the farewell of Sherman’s Army! So, too, ends the Story of the Great March.

(Citation from George Ward Nichols, The Story of the Great March from the Diary of a Staff Officer, New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1865, page 322.)

“The veteran condition of your troops would justify a material reduction in the number of guns.”: Barry starting the Atlanta Campaign

Recall back in the winter of 1864 our diarist Colonel Charles S. Wainwright lamented the re-assignment of Brigadier-General William F. Barry to the west.  Barry figures importantly for anyone looking at the Federal artillery arm. Having organized the Army of the Potomac’s artillery early in the war, he then served in Washington as the inspector of artillery with responsibilities to include managing the artillery depot.  In the winter of 1864, Major-General William T. Sherman needed a senior, experienced artillery chief, and Barry was the best choice.

To some degree, Barry was once again building – or perhaps rebuilding would be an apt word – an artillery arm to support a field army.  As such, there’s ample room to compare Barry’s actions in 1861 to those in 1864.   Let’s start out with the state of affairs Barry inherited when arriving in Chattanooga:

On the 20th of March, 1864, the date of my appointment as chief of artillery of your army, the field artillery of the four separate armies, which at that time composed your command, consisted of 16,250 men (effective), 530 guns, 4,300 horses, and 987 mules. The proportion of artillery to the aggregate infantry and cavalry force was about three guns to 1,000 men. The guns were of varied patterns, twelve different calibers being at that time in actual use. The severity of the campaigns of the previous autumn and winter had also reduced the number of draft animals much below what was necessary.

So 530 guns, of twelve different calibers, averaging out to around three guns per thousand men.  Recall that in 1861, Barry suggested a ratio of three guns per thousand men.  And that by mid-war, the Army of the Potomac actually fielded a much higher ratio – around five per thousand.  Also in 1861, Barry was content with a mix of 6-pdr field guns, 12-pdr howitzers, 12-pdr Napoleons, and rifled guns to support the infantry corps (and he accepted several larger calibers for the reserve and siege trains).  But after the 1862 campaigns, Barry urged the replacement of the light smoothbores with the Napoleons.

One might expect Barry to be content with the number of guns, but press for uniformity of calibers.  Not so.  Barry did not simply apply the 1861 formula without considering the full situation – particularly the troops supported by the artillery:

Believing that the character of the country and of your proposed operations, as well as the veteran condition of your troops, would justify a material reduction in the number of guns, and convinced that efficiency and facility of service and supply demanded a reduction of the number of calibers, I submitted both questions to your consideration. You approved of my recommendation that the proportion of artillery to the other two arms should not exceed two guns per 1,000 men, and that the number of calibers should be reduced to four. Immediate measures were taken to carry out these views. Horses and mules in sufficient numbers were provided and distributed; the proportion of artillery was reduced to rather less than two guns per 1,000 men, and all the odd or unnecessary calibers were eliminated by being either turned into arsenals or placed in the depots or other fortified posts in our rear, where they were used as guns of position.

Here’s a fine case of an artillerist being true to his word. In the Instruction for Field Artillery, which Barry co-authored, the ratio was explained as such:

The proportion of field artillery to other arms varies generally between the limits of 1 and 4 pieces to 1,000 men, according to the force of the army, the character of the troops of which it is composed, the force and character of the enemy, the nature of the country which is to be the theater of the war, and the character and object of the war. Similar considerations must regulate the selection of the kinds of ordnance, and the proportions of the different kinds.

Considering terrain and in particular the veteran nature of the troops, Barry opted for a ratio less than that adopted in 1861.  And far less than that used in 1863.  A reduction of battery strength from six guns to four guns provided a means to keep organizational flexibility – assigning the same number of batteries to each corps or division, while reducing the overall number of guns.  But the important reduction came by casting off so many odd calibers.

Barry retained an artillery reserve for each army (recall Sherman’s force consisted of three named armies – Cumberland, Tennessee, and Ohio).  But that reserve remained in the rear at readiness for a call to the front when the need arose (and it did at points later in the campaign).

When Sherman’s force stepped off on the Atlanta Campaign, on May 5, 1864, Barry could report the overall strength in guns to be 254:

BarryMissDeptArtilleryMay5_1864

However, Barry never quite reduced the variety of the guns down to the desired levels.  In a table providing the amount of ammunition expended during the Atlanta Campaign, he recorded continued use of 12-pdr and 24-pdr howitzers.  The addition of 4.5-inch siege rifles came towards the end of the campaign during the siege of the city.

BarryAmmoExpendedAtlCpg

That total should bring a whistle or sigh – 145,323 rounds from May 5 to September 2, 1864.

The story of the artillery in the Atlanta Campaign, I feel, is somewhat under-appreciated.  The arm did sterling service and was a valuable asset throughout.  As time permits, I hope to bring that story out here on the blog at the appropriate sesquicentennial moments this summer!

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 38, Part I, pages 119-123; Instructions for Field Artillery: Prepared by a Board of Officers, Philadelphia: J.B. Lippingcott & Co., 1861, page 4.)

“With these changes this army will be a unit in all respects”: Sherman organizes for his march on Atlanta

On this day (April 2) in 1864, Major-General William T. Sherman wrote Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant seeking approval for organizational changes in his department, in front of preparations for the spring campaign season:

Hdqrs. Military Division of the Mississippi,
Nashville, Tenn., April 2, 1864. (Received 6 p.m.)
Lieut. Gen. U.S. Grant,
Washington, D.C.:
After a full consultation with all my army commanders, I have settled down to the following conclusions, to which I would like to have the President’s consent before I make the orders:

First. Army of the Ohio, three divisions of infantry, to be styled the Twenty-third Corps, Major-General Schofield in command, and one division of cavalry, Major-General Stoneman, to push Longstreet’s forces well out of the valley, then fall back, breaking railroad to Knoxville; to hold Knoxville and Loudon, and be ready by May 1, with 12,000 men, to act as the left of the grand army.

Second. General Thomas to organize his army into three corps, the Eleventh and Twelfth to be united under General Hooker, to be composed of four divisions. The corps to take a new title, viz, one of the series now vacant. General Slocum to be transferred east, or assigned to some local command on the Mississippi. The Fourth Corps, Major-General Granger, to remain unchanged, save to place Major-General Howard in command. The Fourteenth Corps to remain the same. Major-General Palmer is not equal to such a command, and all parties are willing that General Buell or any tried soldier should be assigned. Thomas to guard the lines of communication, and have, by May 1, a command of 45,000 men for active service, to constitute the center.

Third. Major-General McPherson to draw from the Mississippi the divisions of Crocker and Leggett, now en route, mostly of veterans on furlough, and of A. J. Smith, now up Red River, but due on the 10th instant out of that expedition, and to organize a force of 30,000 men to operate from Larkinsville or Guntersville as the right of the grand army; his corps to be commanded by Generals Logan, Blair, and Dodge. Hurlbut will not resign, and I know no better disposition of him than to leave him at Memphis.

I propose to put Major-General Newton, when he arrives, at Vicksburg.
With these changes this army will be a unit in all respects, and I can suggest no better.

Please ask the President’s consent, and ask what title we shall give the new corps of Hooker, in lieu of the Eleventh and Twelfth, consolidated. The lowest number of the army corps now vacant will be most appropriate.

I will have the cavalry of the Department of the Ohio reorganize under Stoneman at or near Camp Nelson, and the cavalry of Thomas, at least one good division, under Garrard, at Columbia.

W. T. Sherman,
Major-General.

Looking at this request 150 years after the fact, we know Longstreet’s corps in East Tennessee returned to Virginia before Major-General John Schofield’s Army of the Ohio had anything to say about the matter.  The Army of the Ohio was for all practical matters simply the Twenty-third Corps when counting maneuver elements.  But Sherman purposely kept that command separate for use as a “left guard.”

Major-General George Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland formed Sherman’s “center.” And Sherman mentioned two very significant changes within that army.  The first of which, consolidating the old Eleventh and Twelfth Corps into (though not known at the time of writing) the Twentieth Corps, involved old Army of the Potomac formations sent west in the fall of 1863.  Generals Alpheus Williams, John Geary, and Daniel Butterfield retained divisions in that consolidated corps.  And of course, Major-General Joseph Hooker remained employed as the head of that corps.  So the names involved were familiar to you “easterners.”

The Fourth Corps, Army of the Cumberland, received a new commander in the form of Major-General O.O. Howard.  Major-General John Newton, formerly of the Army of the Potomac’s First Corps, took command of the Second Division of Howard’s Corps.  So disregard that “exiled to Vicksburg” line from Sherman.  Major-General Henry Slocum drew that assignment instead.

The Fourteenth Corps, Thomas’ old corps, was, in my opinion, the cornerstone of the Army of the Cumberland.  But despite Sherman’s reservations, Major-General John Palmer remained at the head.  Don Carlos Buell left the service instead of serving under Sherman.  Buell’s explanation was he held date-of-rank over Sherman.  Read into that what you will, as Grant has long since weighed in on the matter.

The Army of the Tennessee was once Grant’s command and later Sherman’s. Now it served under the very capable Major-General James McPherson. Note however, the three corps in that army had non-West Pointers in charge – Major-General John A. Logan with the Fifteenth Corps; Major-General Grenville Dodge with the Sixteenth Corps; and Major-General Frank P. Blair with the Seventeenth Corps.

With mention of these commands and commanders, I would pose a question.  Were the personalities and internal friction in Sherman’s command any better or worse than that of armies in the east?

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 32, Part III, Serial 59, page 221.)