Monday, May 25, 2020

Grant's Sixth Offensive at Petersburg: Brief Observations

With the much-anticipated Grant documentary coming up from the History Channel, I shared some brief observations about him in a recent thread over on Twitter (@hamptonnewsome). The short quotes below come from Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864 (Kent State Univ. Press), my study of Grant's Sixth Offensive at Richmond and Petersburg in October 1864. Those operations (the battles at Burgess Mill, the Williamsburg Road, etc.) are often overlooked but instructive in examining his command style.
Previous Efforts During the Petersburg Campaign
"In each offensive, Grant demonstrated patience in waiting for the right conditions as well as flexibility in trying new approaches. The extraordinary length of the Confederate front allowed him to vary the location, strength, and intensity of his advances ... [He] tried different combinations of movements and strengths, multipronged and single attacks, diversions, lunges at different locations along the rebel line, and different force sizes. However, he had yet to conjure a successful plan."

Pre-Election Decisions 
"Grant appreciated that the arithmetic of beans, bullets, and manpower favored him.  However, he also understood that lack of progress & military failures could degrade Union will and destabilize Lincoln’s support. Excessive delay, or worse yet, disaster...in Virginia, could damage Lincoln at the polls."

Inspiration For the Sixth Offensive 
"Even as the pressing need for military success waned, the Cedar Creek victory may have inspired Grant to consider a strike against Lee despite ample reasons for caution. Election or no, he would not hold back."

Day of Battle - October 27, 1864
"Grant had exercised his direct, hands-on command style...he rode directly to the key locations and consulted with the commanders... [he] took personal risks to examine conditions on the front firsthand. This ... helped him make reasonable choices."


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Albert Mackey Reviews The Fight For The Old North State

Over on his Student of the American Civil War blog, Al Mackey has posted a nice review of The Fight For The Old North State.  It starts with a line I really love (and what author wouldn't): 

This book by Hampton Newsome was a lot of fun to read.

Here are some more excerpts:

It’s deeply researched, well written with a compelling narrative, and delves deeply into a part of the war most accounts simply gloss over .... Newsome masterfully places these actions within their historical context and doesn’t shy away from controversial and difficult issues, such as the confederate murder of surrendered and wounded black soldiers at Plymouth. His clear descriptions and the fantastic maps in the book facilitate easy understanding of what happened. This is an excellent book all students of the war will find useful. I can highly recommend it.

Mackey is a veracious reader and regularly posts reviews of books, talks, and other Civil War-related items on his blog. I was happy to provide him with a review copy of my book.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Thread Four: How Did the Confederates Capture Plymouth, North Carolina in April 1864?

Over on Twitter (@hamptonnewsome), I'm posting a few threads on the Battle of Plymouth in North Carolina to mark the anniversary of the fight. This is all detailed in The Fight For the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 1864. Here is Thread 4:

Battle of Plymouth Anniversary: THREAD FOUR 
https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-2746-2.html
How Did the Confederates Capture Plymouth, North Carolina in April 1864?
Robert Hoke arrived outside the Plymouth fortifications on April 17. He captured an outer work, Fort Wessells, in a nighttime attack on the 18th. However, the primary Union positions- a continuous line on the right & detached redoubts on the left – remained secure.
But everything changed when the ironclad Albemarle arrived early on April 19th and attacked the USS Southfield and Miami, ramming & sinking the former immediately and driving the Miami away downstream.
The Albemarle’s victory made all the difference. The Union positions at Plymouth were not designed to protect from a naval threat. With the rebel gunboat firmly in control of the Roanoke River, it shelled the rear of Union positions. And Hoke prepared to land a decisive blow.

On April 20, Matt Ransom’s brigade, supported by the Albemarle, attacked the Union left to the east of Plymouth, overran the detached positions there, and flooded into town behind the Federal lines. After intense fighting, Union commander Henry Wessells surrendered to Hoke.
 


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Thread Three: Who Were the Union Defenders at Plymouth, North Carolina in April 1864?

Over on Twitter (@hamptonnewsome), I'm posting a few threads on the Battle of Plymouth in North Carolina to mark the anniversary of the fight. This is all detailed in The Fight For the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 1864. Here is Thread 3:

THREAD THREE:  Yankees, Buffaloes, & USCT Recruits.  Who Were the Union Defenders of Plymouth, North Carolina?
The Plymouth garrison, led by Henry Wessells, totaled about 2,800, including the 16th CT, 85th NY, and 101st and 103rd PA - along w/ detachments from the 2nd MA & 3rd PA Heavy Arty, 12th NY Cav., 24th NY Lt. Indep. Batt., 2 co's. of white NC volunteers (2nd NCUV), and 200+ African-American recruits.
The white NC Union volunteers were known as “Buffaloes.” At New Bern in Feb, Pickett captured and executed nearly two dozen of these men after finding they had previously served in rebel units. The controversy from the “Kinston Hangings” would follow Pickett well beyond the war.
Plymouth was an important recruiting station for USCT units. At the time of the battle, recruiting officers from the 10th, 37th, and 38th USCT, & the 2nd USCC were in the town. The new recruits, about 245, filled the fortifications to help fend off the Confederate attack.
Behind Plymouth's fortifications, the USS Southfield and Miami patroled the Roanoke River. The naval commander at Plymouth was Charles Flusser, a young, aggressive officer who had become obsessed with defeating the Confederate ironclad Albemarle incubating upriver. 
 









Friday, April 17, 2020

Battle of Plymouth Anniversary: Why Did the Federals Establish a Base at Plymouth, North Carolina?

Over on Twitter (@hamptonnewsome), I'm posting a few threads on the Battle of Plymouth, North Carolina to mark the anniversary of the battle. This is all detailed in The Fight For the Old North State: The Civil War in North Carolina, January-May 1864. Here is Thread 2:

THREAD TWO 
Battle of Plymouth Anniversary

Why Did the Federals Establish a Base at Plymouth, North Carolina?

The Federal garrison at Plymouth was set up in 1862 after Union forces under Ambrose Burnside took control of eastern NC. It provided a springboard for operations into the surrounding area & served as an important refuge & recruiting station for emancipated persons.
Not everyone thought a base at Plymouth was such a good idea. Union naval officers, particularly Admiral S. Phillips Lee, objected early on to maintaining small, isolated positions at places like Plymouth & Washington (on the Pamlico). He urged greater concentration at New Bern.
Much later, after Plymouth’s loss, both U.S. Grant and Benjamin Butler claimed to have expressed similar reservations about maintaining these positions. However, no evidence of such objections has surfaced.

Whatever the case, by early 1864, a force of several thousand men led by Henry Wessells manned the works covering the town. Several wooden gunboats bobbing in the Roanoke River backed up the garrison.

Grant's Sixth Offensive at Petersburg: Brief Observations

With the much-anticipated Grant documentary coming up from the History Channel, I shared some brief observations about him in a recent t...