Tag Archives: George Crook

Book Review: Another Day in Lincoln’s Army: The Civil War Journals of Sgt. John T. Booth; 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Gen. George Crook

Marie Mollohan has done the Civil War community a great service by publishing this book. It is so much more than the title indicates. Aside from 21 pages of photographs, it is nearly 700 pages of raw Civil War source material from the soldiers of the 36th Ohio. You see, Booth was supposed to have written the regimental history of the 36th Ohio but never quite got around to putting it together. Like many of us modern day Civil War historians, he found it hard to stop researching and finalize his project. The result was a box of material known as the John T. Booth Papers at the Ohio Historical Society, a veritable treasure trove of detailed accounts of the Civil War by soldiers of the 36th Ohio. It includes Booth’s journals and those of other members of the regiment, letters, memoirs and newspaper clippings.

The 36th Ohio has never been mentioned in the same breath of more famous units such as the Irish Brigade or the Iron Brigade, but it was indeed a crack combat regiment that was melded together by no less a man than General George Crook. The regiment quickly became known as Crook’s Regulars and like their modest commander, the men never took to bragging about their accomplishments in the post war years. Their feats on battlefields as varied as South Mountain, Antietam, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Cloyd’s Mountain, Opequon Creek, Fisher’s Hilll and Cedar Creek make them a most unusual regiment to study as they do not fit into any of the normal eastern or western theater pattern of operations.

This book is great for anyone who loves to research and delve into primary accounts of the Civil War. The regiment’s diverse experience means that it will have something to interest almost everyone. I am also grateful that instead of writing the usual cookie cutter regimental history, Ms. Mollohan decided to share with everyone this fine collection of primary source material. In essence, she has let the soldiers of “Crook’s Regulars,” as the regiment was known, tell their own story. She has arranged it chronologically so that readers can easily compare the accounts of the same event by various participants. While this may not sit well with those looking to just sit down and read a story, this book is a researchers dream. The only drawback is that at nearly 700 pages, the cost is $50, but then again some publishers are selling Civil War books at higher cost than that for much smaller books.

Ms. Mollohan, you have nobly honored the fighting men of the 36th Ohio and fulfilled Sgt. Booth’s assignment to publish their story.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Regiments/Units

Memory versus Reality: A Comparison of Two Colonels: Rutherford B. Hayes and Joseph Thoburnh

Post War Perceptions of Leadership in the 1864 Valley Campaign

These two men had Civil War careers that in many respects were very similar. Both men capably commanded brigades and divisions as colonels on many hard fought battlefields, but never wore a general’s star in combat. Yet their respective roles in the memory and history of the 1864 were markedly different. The purpose of this article is primarily to examine how post war developments influenced their relative roles in history as compared to what they actually accomplished as military officers.

Outside of Philip Sheridan and George A. Custer, Rutherford B. Hayes is probably the most well known Union officer in popular history of the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. He was an attorney and a local politician prior to the Civil War. After the war, Hayes was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio in 1864 and governor of that state in 1867. In 1876 Hayes was elected president in an election that was decided by the House of Representatives in what was term by some as the “Crooked Bargain.” Hayes secured his election by agreeing to pull U.S. troops out of the South, effectively ending reconstruction.

Joseph Thoburn was born in County Antrim in the North of Ireland and his family immigrated to America, where he grew up near St. Clairsville, Ohio. He studied medicine and ultimately became a doctor in nearby Wheeling, Virginia. When war erupted in 1861, he became the surgeon of the 1st Virginia (U.S.) infantry which was recruited in the Virginia panhandle between Ohio and Pennsylvania. The regiment reorganized for three years, the men voted Thoburn Colonel.

In 1862, Thoburn led the 1st Virginia in a charge against Stonewall Jackson’s forces at the First Battle of Kernstown. Leading his men forward with his hat on the tip of his sword, Thoburn went down wounded as his troops raced to the wall against fellow Virginians of Jackson’s army. Thoburn returned to duty in time to lead his regiment again at the Battle of Port Republic. That summer he participated in the campaign in Northern Virginia under Gen. John Pope as a brigade commander at Cedar Mountain and Second Manassas. That fall he returned to West Virginia where he served as a regimental and brigade commander guarding Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and chasing down Rebel raiders in the Mountain State for the next eighteen months.

In the spring of 1864, Thoburn returned to the Shenandoah Valley as a brigade commander. At New Market his troops covered the retreat of the beaten Union force. At Piedmont, Thoburn led a rapid attack on an exposed Confederate flank that captured 1,000 prisoners and several battle flags and cleared the way for the first ever occupation of Staunton by Union forces. He performed ably during Gen. David Hunter’s Lynchburg Raid. When Hunter’s forces returned to the Shenandoah Valley under Gen. George Crook that July, Thoburn had risen to command of a division. On July 18 at Snickers Gap or Cool Spring, Thoburn maintained his composure when his superiors put him in a now-win situation with the Shenandoah River at his back and three Confederate divisions in his front and on his flanks. He fought off their attacks from the banks of the river and successfully extricated his force to the east bank of the river at night. His next action came at the Second Battle of Kernstown. In this engagement, Thoburn found himself covering the retreat of a shattered Union army in the Valley once again.

When Sheridan took over in the Shenandoah Valley for the Union cause, Thoburn continued to be a key contributor to the Ohioan’s success. At the Third Battle of Winchester, his division drove Confederate General John B. Gordon’s division from its position and then attacked a brigade of Confederates that was holding up Col. Isaac Duval’s division along the swampy banks of Red Bud Run. Thoburn’s advance struck these Southerners in the flank and rear, and cleared they way for Duval’s division, to join the fight en masse. At Fisher’s Hill, Thoburn’s division encountered the most difficult resistance of any Union forces and was responsible for capturing much of the Confederate artillery and prisoners at that engagement. Thoburn’s final engagement came at the Battle of Cedar Creek, where Jubal Early routed Crook’s tiny Army of West Virginia from its camps early that morning. Thoburn lost his life attempting to rally troops in the streets of Middletown. He would be remembered fondly as “Cool Joe” Thoburn by the men who served under him, but his name and his contributions for the Union cause have been largely lost to history.

Hayes began the war as major of the 23rd Ohio Infantry, initially troubled by his assignment to a regiment from northern Ohio. As a major, he participated in the battle of Carnifex Ferry, West Virginia in September 1861. He remained in West, Virginia conducting raids and chasing down Confederate partisans. In the late summer of 1862, he went to Virginia with the Kanawha Division to reinforce the Army of the Potomac. By then he was a lieutenant colonel in command of the regiment. His arm was shattered as he led the 23rd Ohio in a charge against a Confederate brigade at the battle of South Mountain, Maryland. After a lengthy recovery he returned to duty and like Thoburn, saw dramatic uptick in his combat experience after U.S. Grant assumed overall command of U.S. forces and had every able bodied man attacking the Confederacy on some front.

At the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain on May 9, Hayes once again led from the front, leading his men across the miry Back Creek and doggedly advancing under a galling Confederate fire. When a flank movement played out to his left, Hayes’ men stormed over the Confederate works from the front and led the pursuit of the beaten Confederates toward Dublin. He participated in the Lynchburg Campaign, and skirmished with Confederate cavalry during the campaign near Snicker’s Gap. On July 24, George Crook ordered Hayes into a no-win situation, but the brave Ohioan dutifully lead his troops forward until they were savagely attacked on their left flank by Confederates under Gen. John C. Breckinridge. Although Hayes’ men were the first to be hit, he regrouped his men under fire, and formed part of the rear-guard, firing the last shots of the day at Bunker Hill, 14 miles north of the point where they were first attacked.

At the Third Battle of Winchester, Hayes, still in command of a brigade, was sent north of Red Bud Run with Isaac Duval’s division to conduct a flank march. All went well until the division stumbled blindly into a swampy stretch of Red Bud Run. Under fire from a brigade of Confederates stationed on the Hackwood farm, Hayes plunged his horse into the “morass” as his men would forever after call it, and attempted to cross. When his horse became bogged down in the slimy mud, he dismounted and struggled across followed by comparatively few men. Isaac Duval saw that the stream narrowed a few hundred yards west, and ordered the men out of the swamp and to cross in that direction which they did after Thoburn’s appearance on the flank and rear of the Confederates opposing Duval forced them to conduct a hurried retreat. Then Duval and Hayes’ joined the final attacks against the Confederates, joining Thoburn and driving the Confederates from a stonewall to the Smithfield Redoubt on the outskirts of Winchester. In front of these works, Duval’s division became pinned down under heavy artillery fire. Shortly before they made the final assault, Duval was wounded, and Hayes ascended to command of the division leading it in the final assault and was the first command into Winchester.

Three days later, Hayes’ division was part of Crook’s flanking column that marched along the eastern slope of Little North Mountain and attacked Early in his rear at Fisher’s Hill. Hayes played an important role as his division advanced well to the rear of the Confederate line and flanked the Confederates out of every position they attempted to take as they tried to confront Thoburn.

At Cedar Creek, Hayes and his command were surprised and routed as part of Early’s predawn assault. He rallied a cadre of men and remained with Crook throughout the day, helping to cover the retreat. All in all however, the battle of Cedar Creek, while a resounding Union victory, was a disappointing way for Hayes to end his career as a combat commander. Never again would he lead his men in battle. Although he was elected to congress in the fall of 1864, he remained with the army until the war ended.

In looking at the relative military careers and accomplishments, both Thoburn and Hayes had their share of successes and failures, often on the same battlefield. However, Thoburn clearly had more combat experience than Hayes and more at a division level. In short, he was a marginally more accomplished combat officer than Hayes. Yet Thoburn died at Cedar Creek and Hayes went on to become President. As a result of Hayes’ post-war political career, Hayes’ role in every action he was involved in has been called to everyone’s attention by every author who writes about those engagement, and quite naturally so. However, we need to keep in perspective that there were many “Cool Joe” Thoburn’s out there who did not go onto become president who had equal or better combat records than Hayes during the 1864 Valley Campaign. To Hayes’ everlasting credit, he always regarded his time as commander of the 23rd Ohio during the Civil War as the greatest accomplishment of his life, even after spending four years in the White House (or perhaps moreso).

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Major General William H. Emory and the Battle of Cedar Creek

Maj. Gen. William H. Emory, “Old Brick Top,” as he was known in the Regular Army or more simply the “Old Man” to the young soldiers who served under him, is generally viewed as the weak link in the command structure of Gen. Phil Sheridan’s Army of the Shenandoah. He was certainly an outsider; General Horatio Wright commanded the Sixth Corps from the Army of the Potomac and had fought through Grant’s bloody Overland Campaign. General George Crook was Sheridan’s West Point roommate and a fellow Ohioan. Sheridan’s chief of cavalry, Gen. Alfred T. A. Torbert had served his commander as a division commander since May of 1864. All three of these men had, to one degree or another, already established a relationship with Sheridan, their commander. At fifty three years of age, Emory was also significantly older than the other officers, including Sheridan who was only 32. Emory developed a reputation as a worrier throughout the war. During the Port Hudson, Louisiana Campaign of 1863, staff officer David Hunter Strother believed that Emory’s timid councils were having a negative impact on Union commander Nathaniel Banks. When the fighting at the Third Battle of Winchester or Opequon Creek, temporarily went against the Union, Emory believed that all was lost, but in the end the Union forces achieved victory.

One month later at Cedar Creek while Sheridan was away at Washington, however, Emory prophetically warned Wright and Crook that the army’s left flank was vulnerable to attack. However, the two men whose commands emerged from Third Winchester and Fisher’s Hill with significantly enhanced reputations, “pooh-poohed” Emory’s warnings. Jubal Early struck precisely where Emory had warned. Perhaps Emory had worried one time too many, and Crook and Wright saw his forebodings at Cedar Creek as a case of the boy or cried wolf. In fairness to Emory, however, military officers earn their paychecks considering all of the possibilities and taking action to prevent failure and ensure success. That is exactly what Emory did at Cedar Creek, but he was an outsider and not a member of Sheridan’s inner circle nor was he from the Army of the Potomac. Although, his forewarning only earned him the enmity of Wright and Crook, Emory had done his job. Had Wright and Crook listened to Emory, the need for Sheridan’s famous ride may have very well been eliminated.

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles, Biographical

The Battle of Cedar Creek as seen by Col. Rutherford B. Hayes

Hayes' 23rd Ohio Infantry in 1865 at Muster Out in Cleveland

Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes of the 23rd Ohio Infantry went on to become President of the United States. For all of his political success, he treasured the time that he spent leading his men during the Civil War more than any other achievement in his life. Below is his brief diary account regarding the battle of Cedar Creek.

Wednesday, October 19. — Before daylight under cover of a heavy fog Rebels attacked the left. Colonel Thoburn’s First Division was overwhelmed. His adjutant, Lieutenant —brought me the word. We hurried up, loaded our baggage, and got into line. [The] Nineteenth Corps went into the woods on right (one brigade). General Sheridan was absent. General Wright, in command, directed my division to close up on [the] Nineteenth. Too late; the fugitives of the First Division and the Nineteenth’s brigade came back on us. The Rebels broke on us in the fog and the whole line broke back. The Rebels did not push with energy. We held squads of men up to the fight all along. My horse was killed instantly. I took Lieutenant Henry’s, of my staff. We fell back–the whole army–in a good deal of confusion but without panic. Artillery (twenty-fivepieces) fell into Rebel hands and much camp equipage.

About two and one-half miles back, we formed a line. [The] Rebels failed to push on fast enough. P. M. General Sheridan appeared; greeted with cheering all along the line. His enthusiasm, magnetic and contagious. He brought up stragglers. “We’ll whip ‘em yet like hell.” he says. General Crook’s men on left of pike. — Line goes ahead. A fine view of the battle. [The] rebels fight poorly. Awfully whipped.

-Cannon and spoils now on our side. Glorious!

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles

The Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain, May 9, 1864

 

As we have just passed the anniversary of the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain, fought on May 9, 1864 as part of Union Major General Franz Sigel’s general-offensive out of the Department of West Virginia in the spring of 1864.  Major General George Crook defeated a smaller Confederate force under the command of Brigadier General Albert G. Jenkins who was mortally wounded in the battle.  The battle occurred in Pulaski County in Southwest Virginia, not too far from modern day Radford, which was known as Central Depot on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, a key objective of Crook’s.

The ensuing letter was written by Chaplain A. H. Windsor of the 91st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, one of the finest, and perhaps most unsung, regiments that campaigned with Crook throughout 1864.  I would also refer readers to John Hamill’s online tour of Cloyd’s Mountain Battlefield. The scenery is great and you have to visit that field and follow Crook’s route in.

Meadow Bluff, West Va

May 18, 1864

Mr. Van Law:

We have but today returned from the southern part of Virginia and though still some fifty miles distant from Fayette the point of starting, yet we feel in a measure at home. Some enterprising friend of the United States has erected the telegraph line from Gauley Bridge to this place and is extending the line on toward Lewisburg – “southward the Star of Empire takes its way.”

Another blow has been struck against the rebellion, and since the expendition if over, since the long, tedious march has been accomplished, the battle fought and the victory won, we may, far away from the field of strike and the din of battle, look calmly back over the past, see clearly the object of the movement, estimate its cost, and measure its effect upon the downfall of the rebellion.

It has been know since the first of February that a foce was being assembled in the Kanawha Valley for some purpose, but for what purpose the  soldiers of the command knew as little as they did the activities at Richmond, or the more enterprising bushwhackers of Western Virginia.  The General in command [Crook] knows how to keep his own secrets, showing that he is wise in counsel, as his success in the present undertaking indicated his qualifications for the field.

The army consisted of three brigades, each having a certain number of regiments, the whole supplied with batteries of artillery in proportion ot the number of troops. These troops began to pour into Fayetteville on the 2d of May, and on the 3d, at an early hour, they set out upon an expedition, nearly, if not quite as imortant and as full of peril as Napoleon’s celebrated crossing o fthe Alps. They did not cross as lofty mountains, but the forded larger and more rapid streams-they crossed and recrossed several ranges of the Allegheny Mountains.  They traveled nearly three hundred miles, fought three battles, and were victorious in every contest.  The route o fthe army lay through some of the roughestk, as well as the most beautiful country in Virignia.  The army took the road elading form Fayette to Raleigh [now Beckley, WV], thence to Princeton, and then passed over the East River Mountains [?], and down Walker’s Creek to Poplar Hill. Five miles from that place on the road to Dublin was fought hte battle of “Claude [Cloyd's] Mountain.”  The army passed on to Dublin, and form thence down the railroad to the bridge across New River, which was burned. It then began its retreat, “homeward bound,” by way of Blacksburgh-across Salt Pond Mountain, and the lofty Alleghenies, through Union [WV], across the Greenbrier River to Meadow Bluff where it reposes upon its well eanred laurels to recuperate, prepartory to other achievements-we trust as equally brilliant…

Besides the burning of the bridge, we conquered the rebels in one large engagement and two small ones, destroyed numerous stores at Dublin, took about three hundred prisoners, three pieces of artillery, accidentally came across several good horses, were joined by the colored population to the number of about four hundred and destroyed the railroad for fifteen or twenty miles.  I never realized the hard ships that were endured by our brave soldiers till I learned by bitter experience some of their realities in this raid.  If this rebellion is eer put down, the American nation will owe a debt of gratitude to the common soldier that it will never be able to pay….

Windsor’s detailed account of the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain to follow soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Battles

The 1864 Valley Campaign – St. Patrick’s Day Post – Col. James A. Mulligan

Welcome to my blog on the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. My name is Scott Patchan and I have studied this topic in intricate detail for nearly twenty-five years. Over the course of that time, I have written three books on the topic, The Forgotten Fury: The Battle of Piedmont; Shenandoah Summer:  The 1864 Valley Campaign; and Opequon Creek: The Last Battle of Winchester. I also served as an historical consultant for Time-Life’s Voices of the Civil War: Shenandoah 1864 and have written dozens of articles and led dozens of tours on Valley Topics, not to mention my scores of visits to Valley battlefields. I have served on the Kernstown Battlefield Association Board of Directors for nearly ten years now.

My purpose in writing this blog is to move beyond the bounds of traditional publications and share aspects of my research with fellow Civil War enthusiasts that might not otherwise see the light of day. Having met so many good friends over the years in the course of my research, I hope to make many more through this blog. With my inaugural post coming on Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought it appropriate to delve briefly into the life of Colonel James A. Mulligan who gave his life for the Union Blue on the green fields of Kernstown on July 24, 1864.

Mulligan was born to Irish parents in Utica, New York on June 25, 1830, but the family moved to budding frontier town of Chicago, Illinois in 1836. His father died while he was still young but his mother subsequently married a successful Irish farmer

Col. James A. Mulligan

whose largess later allowed Mulligan to attend college. Of his youth in Chicago, Mulligan looked back fondly upon his “halcyon days when we hunted pigeons and hoed corn, [and] sparked the girls in mellow sunshine.” Mulligan also grew up to be a devout and practicing Roman Catholic, graduating from the University of Saint Mary’s of the Lake in 1850, quite an accomplishment for the son of immigrants in those days.

After graduation he studied law in Chicago, but yearned for adventure. He found it in 1851 when he joined an expedition that was surveying the path for a railroad across the Isthmus of Panama, serving as clerk for the project. When he returned home in 1852, he resumed his legal studies. In 1855, he became the editor of The Western Tablet, a Catholic newspaper published out of Chicago. The following year, Mulligan gained admission to the Illinois Bar and began practicing long. He soon became a rising star on Chicago’s Democratic political scene, becoming associated with the powerful Senator Stephen A. Douglas. Mulligan moved to Washington and spent a year clerking at the Department of the Interior but determined he had had “enough” of Washington and went home to Illinois.

In 1857, Mulligan met the beautiful Marian Nugent and made her his “Darling Wife” after two year courtship. In 1860, Mulligan used his powerful oratorical skills to campaign for Douglas in the presidential election. When the Southern States began to secede from the Union upon Lincoln’s election, Mulligan wrote, “ Dare now to preserve this government, vindicate its strength and the republic passed through this crisis will stand with such assured dignity and firmness through all the coming centuries, that no foe without, no Judas within shall ever dare raise an armed hand against her.” He then used his powerful personae to raise “Mulligan’s Irish Brigade” from Northern Illinois with one company of Detroit Irish thrown in for good measure.

The unit subsequently was designated the 23rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry and saw its first action at the Siege of Lexington, Missouri in September of 1861. When the firing briefly ceased, Confederate General Sterling Price sent note asking Mulligan why the firing stopped. Although vastly outnumbered, Mulligan coyly replied, “General, I hardly know unless you have surrendered.” Although Mulligan ultimately surrendered his outgunned forces, he became a symbol of hope against long odds at a time the north had endured shameful defeats at Bull Run in Virginia and Wilson’s Creek in Missouri.

After being exchanged, Mulligan and his men spent the next two years guarding the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in West Virginia. Although he longed to join the Army of the Potomac’s famed Irish Brigade, it was not to be. Nevertheless, in the spring of 1864, Mulligan and his men signed up for another tour of duty when their enlistments expired, lured no doubt by the opportunity for a thirty-day furlough home.

Mulligan returned to action in time to resist the General Jubal Early’s Confederate raid on Washington, D.C. and assist in the pursuit back to the Virginia. On July 24, 1864, Mulligan led his command at the Second Battle of Kernstown. Although he warned his commander, General George Crook, that the Confederate army was in full force, Mulligan received orders to attack. Mulligan questioned the orders through a staff officer but was told in no uncertain terms to advance immediately. He complied and the results were disastrous. Mulligan rallied his Irish Brigade and 10th West Virginia infantry behind a fence lining a lane on the Pritchard Farm. As he rode behind his battle line urging the men to stand firm, a Rebel bullet struck his leg. His men lowered him from his horse but he was struck in the torso by two more bullets before they placed him on the ground. His 19-year old brother in law, Lieutenant James Nugent came to his aid only to be shot and killed instantly. Mulligan’s men refused to leave him so he ordered them to “Lay me down and save the flag.” He died in the Pritchard House two days later.

His pregnant wife Marian left their two young children with a Unionist family in Cumberland, Maryland and rushed to Winchester but by the time she arrived he had already died. Thousands of people awaited the arrival of Mulligan’s remains at the Chicago Rail Station and even more attended his wake and funeral.

For all of Mulligan’s popularity while he was alive, he quickly vanished from the pages of history. Yet his devotion to God, Family and Country like that of so many who have given their lives for American liberty lives on to this day in the daily lives of millions of Americans as they go about their daily lives.

For further reading see:
Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign by Scott C. Patchan

14 Comments

Filed under Biographical