October 15th, 2012 – Our 43rd Meeting!! We continue our fourth year!
The next meeting of the Nashville (TN) Civil War Roundtable will be on Monday, October 15th, 2012, in the visitor’s center of Ft. Negley Park, a unit of Metro Parks, Nashville, TN. This is located off I-65 just south of downtown between 4th Avenue South and 8th Avenue South on Edgehill Avenue/Chestnut Avenue. Take Exit 81, Wedgewood Avenue, off I-65 and follow the signs to the Science Museum. 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
The Nashville CWRT was fortunate to have Ruth Hill McAllister, great-great granddaughter of the legendary Sam Watkins, the private in Co. H, 1st Tennessee Infantry (Maney’s) tell us how his memoir, considered one of the great Civil War classics, came to be revised by Sam after its success as a book in the late 1800’s. She was able to work with the actual manuscript, maintained by another family member and reissue it in book form with the original text as well as Sam’s own changes and additions merged in where he intended. The result is a great classic made even better. Her story was fascinating and gave much insight into how this classic came into being and how it was revised.
Thanks Ruth for a different and interesting program.
FUTURE PROGRAMS (please check our new web site for other events):
November 2012 – Dorothy Kelly, Knoxville CWRT and author – topic TBA
December 2012 – Krista Castillo, Fort Negley and Nashville CWRT – “Christmas In The Civil War”
January 2013 – Rick Warwick, Williamson County Historian – “The Confederate Reunions at Franklin, 1877-1927”
February 2013 – Kevin McCann, author/historian – “Hurst’s Wurst – The 6th Tennessee Cavalry U.S.”
March 2013 – Jerry Wooten, New Johnsonville State Park, TN. – TBA
April 2013 – David Bastian, author/historian – “Grant’s Canal in the Vicksburg Campaign”
October 2013 – William C. Davis, noted author/historian, Virginia Tech University – topic TBA
Coming soon – dates to be determined: Carole Bucy, Lee Ann Newton, Brian Allison and Stewart Cruickshank
MEMBERS AND DUES – The membership has decided that every May will be our fiscal year. Please plan on taking care of your membership renewals at this meeting. The annual dues structure for the Nashville CWRT is as follows:
Single membership – $20
Family – $30
Military – Active duty and Veterans – $15
Military Family – Active duty and Veterans – $25
Student – $10
Senior (age 60 plus) – $15
Senior couple – $20
When your dues are paid your name badge with three stars on it will be available at the following meeting. If your badge does not have three stars on it then you are not current. Our dues go to paying for speakers as well as donations for Civil War preservation causes especially those of a local nature. Please be sure to pay your dues so we can offer the best programs possible for you! We also utilize donated items for silent auctions each month to help add to the treasury. If you have something you would like to donate for these auctions, please bring them to the meetings. Books, art, or anything Civil War, works very well. Thanks very much to all of you who have made such donations!
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 – www.nps.gov/stri – or the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area web site at – 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 anda 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 Donelsonjust 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.
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)