October 17th, 2012 – Our 103rd meeting
The next meeting of the Clarksville (TN) Civil War Roundtable will be on Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 at the Bone & Joint Center, 980 Professional Park Drive, right across the street from Gateway Hospital. This is just off Dunlop Lane and Holiday Drive and only a few minutes east of Governor’s Square mall. The meeting begins at 7:00 pm and is always open to the public. Members please bring a friend or two – new recruits are always welcomed.
OUR SPEAKER AND TOPIC: “DOUBTING THOMAS OR TOUTING HIM? – AN ASSESSMENT OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS”
George Henry Thomas’s military accomplishments in the Civil War mirrored his solid physical stature, leading him to emerge as one of the best of the Union’s general officers. Ezra Warner, the compiler of two volumes of biographical sketches of Union and Confederate commanders has described Thomas as the “third of the triumvirate who won the war for the Union.” Widely known as the “Rock of Chickamauga,” for his stand on Snodgrass Hill in September 1863, Thomas was also “Old Pap” to his men and “Old Slow Trot” to critics who found his methodical approach to warfare offsetting. Yet, from Mill Springs in 1862 to Nashville in 1864, where he propelled the Confederate general John Bell Hood and the Army of Tennessee from the outskirts of the city and added “Sledge of Nashville” to his impressive list of nicknames, George Thomas demonstrated success on the battlefield and reliability and dependability in command.
Born in Southampton County, Virginia, he grew to adulthood in the paternalistic world of Southern slavery. Young Thomas developed the core of his life’s values, particularly a sense of duty, justice and determination in these years. Educated at the United States Military Academy at West Point he graduated in 1840 ranked twelfth. Despite these credentials and a long period of military service that included the War with Mexico, doubts concerning George H. Thomas existed at the opening of the War Between the States. The outcome of a battle in Kentucky, known as Mill Springs in January, 1862, should have settled matters. Thomas accomplished the destruction of the opposing army forcing a near rout. Instead, questions continued in the minds of some of the highest-ranking officials in the government he had chosen against the wishes of members of his own family.
Thomas exhibited his best traits at Chickamauga. When Confederates under James Longstreet broke through the Union lines driving most of William S. Rosecrans’s army from the field only the stubborn defense of the Union left flank by George Thomas prevented the entire collapse of the Union command. From that point he was known as “the Rock of Chickamauga.” Subsequently, Thomas took charge of the Union defense of Chattanooga, vowing to hold the town “until we starve.” Ulysses S. Grant arrived to take command taking on a more aggressive attitude. Grant reopened the supply lines and later directed his trusted lieutenant, William T. Sherman, to turn the Southern right flank. Stubborn Confederate resistance prevented Sherman’s success, forcing Grant to use Thomas to draw attention to the Confederate center with a probing attack. The action accomplished this and much more as his troops drove up the slope. The charge carried Missionary Ridge routing Bragg’s army surprising Thomas, Grant, and the Confederates.
In the Atlanta campaign of 1864, Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland constituted the largest part of a three-army juggernaut and frequently held the center of the advance. Through the course of these operations, the same General Sherman who chided his friend and subordinate continually in communications with General Grant for being “slow,” nevertheless called him “my wheel-horse” and demonstrated a dependency on his talents and capabilities that he could not deny. Thomas’s final great wartime accomplishment came at Nashville in late 1864. Despite persistent harassment by General Grant and horrible winter weather, Thomas staged a two-day assault on December 15-16 that smashed John Bell Hood’s depleted Army of Tennessee. As the Confederates fell back in chaos Thomas exclaimed to his cavalry chieftain James H. Wilson, “Dang it to hell Wilson, didn’t I tell you we could lick ‘em, didn’t I tell you we could lick ‘em?” The victory added to his laurels as “the Sledge of Nashville.” Yet, Ulysses Grant did not alter his views about the Virginian. In 1865 he confided to Sherman, “Knowing Thomas to be slow beyond excuse I depleted his army. . . ,” with part of it going to the Carolinas to reinforce Sherman; part to East Tennessee; and part to Mississippi. “The Sledge of Nashville” found his own command hammered to bits.
Thomas remained in the service, having been promoted to major general in the regular army. George Thomas was in California in command of the Division of the Pacific when he suffered a stroke on March 28, 1870. It is ironic that “Old Pap’s” last battle concerned his response to public statements concerning the 1864 Nashville Campaign attributed to a disgruntled subordinate, John M. Schofield. In death, Thomas did not return to his native Virginia, but was interred in his wife’s home community of Troy, New York.
This month’s speaker, Dr. Brian Steel Wills, noted biographer of Nathan Bedford Forrest, has recently released an acclaimed biography of George Thomas. In addition to telling his story, Dr. Wills will also analyze how Thomas fought his war. Was he better on defense or offense? Was he as slow as he had been criticized or was he the object of the professional jealousy of Grant and Sherman? Was he as good as his career suggested? There is obviously a renewed interest in Thomas with Dr. Wills’ book being the third released over the last dozen years. It seems “Old Pap” is finally getting his just due.
Brian Steel Wills is the Director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era and Professor of History at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., after a long tenure at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. He is the author of numerous works relating to the American Civil War. His latest work is George Henry Thomas: As True as Steel (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012).
His biography of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, A Battle From the Start: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest is currently in reprint as The Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forrest (University Press of Kansas). This work was chosen as both a History Book Club selection and a Book of the Month Club selection. Dr. Wills also authored, The War Hits Home: The Civil War in Southeastern Virginia, released in October, 2001, and No Ordinary College: A History of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, (2004), both by the University Press of Virginia. Gone with the Glory: The Civil War in Cinema appeared in 2006 with Rowman and Littlefield. An updated edition of the James I. “Bud” Robertson, Jr., Civil War Sites in Virginia (Virginia, 2011) appeared just in time for the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. In 2000, Dr. Wills received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the state of Virginia, one of eleven recipients from all faculty members at public and private institutions across the state. He was named Kenneth Asbury Professor of History and won both the Teaching award and the Research and Publication award from UVa-Wise.
LAST MONTH’S MEETING
Martin Stewart of Troy, Ohio gave us a fine program on the 71st Ohio Infantry regiment. Based on his book, with a revised edition due imminently, Stewart offered an interesting look into the makings of a typical Union infantry regiment with a twist; this unit fought in few battles and spent most of the war as a garrison unit dealing with civilians and guerrillas. That being said, the 71st Ohio’s baptism of fire was at Shiloh, and from the start their role was controversial. With the Illinois media taking on the Ohio media pointing fingers as to whose regiments broke before whose, Stewart showed that the 71st Ohio itself did not break or run but the same could not be said of its colonel Rodney Mason. The casualties they suffered alone disprove this contention but it was not enough for them to be assigned to garrison Clarksville, Tennessee. In August 1862, six companies of the regiment (the other four being at Dover), were captured without a shot being fired by Confederate cavalry raiders under Adam Rankin Johnson and Thomas Woodward. This time Mason was cashiered and the regiment operated under a stigma for some time. After serving in other Tennessee towns, they were sent to Georgia for the end of the Atlanta Campaign. Back in Tennessee in late 1864, their second big battle at Nashville, gave them their chance for redemption, the title of Stewart’s book. Stewart’s book and program do what good historians are supposed to do; seek out new sources to challenge previous assertions and, when they allow for it, disprove those assertions. Stewart successfully did so.
Thanks Martin for coming to see us and for the informative program.
November 2012 – Ruth Hill McAllister, author/historian – “The Memoirs Of Sam Watkins, Company Aytch”
December 2012 – Krista Castillo, Fort Negley Park – “Christmas In The Civil War”
January 2013 – Rick Warwick, historian/author – “Confederate Reunions in Franklin, Tennessee1877-1925”
February 2012 – Kevin McCann, author/historian – “Hurst’s Wurst: The 6th Tennessee Cavalry U.S.”
March 2013 – Nancy Baird, Western KY University – “Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary”
April 2013 – David Bastian, historian/author – “Grant’s Canal in the Vicksburg Campaign” (based on his book)
May 2013 – Jerry Wooten, Johnsonville State Park – “The Devil On The River: The Battle of Johnsonville, November 1864”
October 2013 – William C. Davis, VA Tech University, noted author/historian – Topic TBA
MEMBERS AND DUES: – You should have a Clarksville CWRT membership card if you are current with your dues. If you do not have one then please pay your dues at this meeting! Thank you if you have already done so.
Thanks to all of you, the Clarksville CWRT continues to grow. We would love to have you join us! If you have friends interested in the Civil War, please bring them along. July is our fiscal year when dues for the current campaign were due. If you haven’t paid your dues for this season yet please do so. Our dues help us get great speakers and for historical preservation. Annual dues are as follows:
Student – $10
Single membership – $20
Family – $30
Military – Active duty and veterans – $15
Military family – Active duty, veterans, and family – $25
CIVIL WAR NEWS AND EVENTS
Annual Stones River Civil War Symposium – October 26-27, 2012
The 2012 installment of the annual Stones River Civil War Symposium, held in Murfreesboro, TN, will be held on Friday, October 26 through Saturday, October 27th. The Friday portion includes tours of downtown Murfreesboro, period Civil War music, a teacher’s workshop and more. The day will be capped with a lecture by noted Civil War historian and author Larry Daniel. On Saturday, historians Earl Hess, Richard McMurry and Dwight Pitcaithley will offer lectures along with Tennessee historians Antoinette van Zelm and park ranger Jim Lewis. All of this runs a most reasonable $20. You can download the registration form at – http://www.nps.gov/stri/planyourvisit/upload/LegacyStonesRiver-final-RGB-1.pdf – or get more information from the Stones River Battlefield park web site – http://www.nps.gov/stri – or the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area web site at – http://www.tncivilwar.org. All events will be held at the Stones River National Battlefield and the First Presbyterian Church in Murfreesboro.
Anniversary Events At Johnsonville State Park, New Johnsonville, TN – November 3-4, 2012
On November 3-4, 2012, Johnsonville State Historic Park, located in New Johnsonville, Tennessee, in Humphreys County, will commemorate the 148th Anniversary of the Battle of Johnsonville which took place on November 4, 1864. On that date, General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry attacked the massive Union supply depot and destroyed millions of dollars in supplies as well as gunboats and transports. Part of the post was defended by United States Colored Troops and units of the U.S. Quartermaster Forces raised in Nashville. This raid cost the Union more in dollar value than any other Confederate raid in the Civil War.
The weekend features cannon firing demonstrations hosted by Porter’s Battery and a Union infantry encampment where you can witness musket firing demonstrations and learn more about Civil War camp life at historic Johnsonville in 1864. There will be anniversary walking tours offered both days. One covers the battle and historic sites in the park while the other tour takes a look at the nature perspective on this beautiful location. To participate in one or both tours (approximately 1.5 hrs.) bring good walking shoes, a light jacket, rain gear, and a water bottle. All tours will leave promptly at the scheduled time. Please plan accordingly. Be sure to stop by and visit the new Welcome Center at Johnsonville State Historic Park. View brand new exhibits on the Civil War, watch the award winning film about the Battle of Johnsonville, and be sure to visit the wonderful park gift shop.
For more information about Johnsonville State Park’s anniversary event, November 3-4, 20102, please call:
(931) 535-2789. You can also visit their web site for more details at – http://www.tn.gov/environment/parks/Johnsonville/ The park is located about 40 miles southwest of Fort Donelson just off Highway 70 at the Tennessee River. Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park, also connected to this raid, is close by as is the Union fort at Waverly, Tennessee.
United States Colored Troops Living History Association’s Annual National Meeting Will Be in Clarksville October 19-21, 2012.
Friday afternoon, October 19th, two authorities on African Americans in the Civil War will speak at a reception at the APSU African American Cultural Center from 1 to 2:30. The reception is free and open to the public. Hari Jones, assistant director and curator of the African American Civil War Freedom Foundation and Museum, and Dr. David H. Slay, member of the Vicksburg National Military Park service will give short talks and answer questions during the reception.
Local re-enactors are invited to join US Colored Troops re-enactors in period dress at the APSU McCord parking lot at 5:30 p.m. Saturday to form a processional to the Morgan University Center for the banquet, which marks the conclusion of the conference. Hari Jones will also be the keynote speaker for the convention banquet Saturday, October 20th. The banquet is $25 and is open to the public. Tickets may be purchased until October 16th through the Clarksville-Montgomery County Arts and Heritage Development Council website, http://www.artsandheritage.us.
Mt. Olive Historical Preservation Society, Clarksville/Montgomery County Arts and Heritage Development Council, APSU Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, Inc., Clarksville/Montgomery County Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, and the Office of APSU President Tim Hall are hosts for this event.
Some Wonderful Civil War Events Being Held in Middle Tennessee
October 29, 7 pm – Grave Matters, Rest Haven Cemetery, Franklin – Tour with actors portraying those buried in the Rest Haven Cemetery
November 12, 11 am – Veterans’ Day Ceremony, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Nashville – Honoring Union Gen. Alvan C. Gillem, SUVCW Fort Donelson Camp # 62
November 17, 6:30 pm – STFB Membership Meeting, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Franklin – Speaker: Lee Ann Newton, editor, The Civil War Memoirs of Erastus Winters
November 19-20 – Blue-Gray Days, Carton Plantation and the Carter House, Franklin – Civil War Living History with reenactors and military demonstrations
November 27, 4 pm – March to The Carter House, Franklin — The public is invited to join the Confederate reenactors’ march from Winstead Hill or the Union reenactors march from Fort Granger (leaving from Pinkerton Park)
Well Done Clarksville CWRT Members! Clarksville Parks & Recreation Volunteer Service Awards
We were so thankful to be able to present Frances Sumner, Bob Parker, and Mike Connel with Volunteer Service awards, given at the annual TRPA conference, for their work at the Fort Defiance Interpretive Center. Thank you for what you do! – Tonya Vaden, Clarksville Parks & Recreation