Archive for April, 2010

The First Texas Legion

Miss named from the beginning, the Legion still is being miss-managed. Allen G. Hatley’s book on The 1st Texas Legion (aka. the 27th Texas Cavalry Regiment) is a sad commentary on a grand organization. He spent all his effort white washing Whitfield and tar and feathering Ross, that he fails to really show his regiment. This is truly not and honest effort.

John Whitfield was a true Texas hero. He organized and left Texas to help General McCulloch. He is made a battalion commander because of his experience and age. Placed with commanders who did not know how to use Cavalry, he performs as Infantry in a grand manor. No one can fault his military ability or leadership.

But Hatley starts from the beginning to state that a very young Sul Ross (Hatley never used “Sul”) was out to destroy Whitfield. Through out his whole book Hatley keeps harping on this subject, till like Hale in his 3rd Texas Cavalry book, he fails to bring out the true story.

Hatley used Union reports to prove his points. He never tries to read between the lines to see the truth. I am not so naive to say I believe Southern reports or books, but I spend a lot of time pointing out that things were not as Union Reports put them. Seldom did the South have the effective manpower that is reported. Thus seldom were the facts reported correct. I am sure the Union effective s were lower also, but these were seldom reported.  Like efficiency reports on officers, field battle reports never really told the truth. Weakness was covered up and bad performance was seldom reported,  except by someone with a grudge to carry.

Early battles in the west had bad generals on both sides. Command at the company level was probably the best, but higher than that there was no experience, thus the generals and colonels were learning by on job training. Mistakes were made by all.

Returning to command after a wound, was not a smart thing to do. Many bad decisions were made by weak, sick officers who tried even though they were not ready. Hatley states Ross was not wounded at Corinth, and then took three months leave. He fails to believe that being thrown from dying horses three times was an easy task, and having to have help to get out from under one did not have any pain. Some times the obvious was not so obvious. Ross also had excellent officers under him and the courage to let them lead while he recuperated.

Lieutenant Colonel John Griffith led the Brigade in it’s first minute of glory. The Holly Springs Raid was almost all second in command leaders because of Iuka and Corinth. To say that one was great and another was weak, without looking at the whole picture is folly. Hatley fails to give Ross his due and to provide a true story of Whitfield. The times that Whitfield was not in command were many, and Ross usually backed him up. Hatley has Maybre leading the 3rd at the same time he was in a Union prison for not signing his parole. When he was finally released, he was given command to test his abilities before he was sent to Forrest. Whitfield had not been relieved.

Ross was recommend for General after Corinth and Hatchie Bridge. Ross was in command of Phiffer’s Brigade at Hatchie Bridge. Whitfield was still out of action from Iuka. Ross has not been given his due for Hatchie Bridge. He established command of the rear guard action that let Van Dorn lead his Army past and to safety. Ross was across the bridge with the 6th Texas and Stirman’s Sharpshooters when they were hit. He then acted to hold while the 6th and Stirman’s Regiment returned across the bridge and the remnants of the brigade and 1st Texas Legion could retreat across. General Maury told Ross to run, but Ross held and the Army was saved. Many others are given credit such as Cabel who had failed to reinforce at Corinth and probably caused the loss of the battle. Ross had his mistakes, such as the slaughter of Black Soldiers in Mississippi, and probably others, but Whitfield also had his.

Hatley makes mistakes early with the units in the Indian Territory. He fails to have a detachment of 6th Texas Cavalry with the 9th Texas Cavalry Detachment to make almost a complete effective regiment. His oversights caused me to question more than his command of grammar and knowledge of Whitfield. After Whitfield leaves the story, the story of the 1st Texas Legion is weak. The Texas Brigade was in contact for over 100 days of the Atlanta Campaign. Grissom talks of one regiment replacing another on line or even in engagements. During the Kilpatrick Raid, the Legion was the first regiment brushed aside by a Division of Cavalry.  The 3rd was next and the 6th and 9th raced to join the fray. The Legion, did not quit, but paralleled the force to reestablish a defense line farther up the road.  In this respect the brigade was leap frogging to keep up with the front till Armstrong and Jackson could arrive. General Wheeler would not be the savior for this battle.

Kilpactrick was trapped in his own mind. He was going to have regiments abreast attack the Ross line. This would have protected Ross, but not saved him. General Hood said the next day that the Infantry Brigade that had been designated to back him up should have been there. They were not and Kilpatrick’s commanders lined up in columns that made it much more difficult to stop. In this manner a much stronger force over ran approximately 500 men of the Legion and 3rd Texas. The first line were dismounted Cavalry, the second were the horse holders and the last the train of wagons and ambulances.

Hatley takes the Union version of this battle and never realizes that the three flags captured were either in ambulances or in private homes. None were at that battle that day. That Ross called assembly after the Kilpatrick force had ridden over him and his command, and the men of the brigade assembled and took up the chase to recapture there captured comrades. Kilpactrick’s men were riding for their lives from a force that did not exist. All of the Southern command that day did not equal the force that Kilpatrick commanded. But the Union force ran and the forces of Armstrong and Jackson chased them.

Morgan, Forrest and others operated as free Cavalry forces. They had great success. Van Dorn at Holly Springs was also successful, but Whitfield and Ross were usually operating under other commanders. Only when Ross had the 6th and the 3rd Mississippi was he rushed across the State of Tennessee to block a raid from Memphis. This he did so well that the Union Force thought they had run into a Southern Division.  This action does not receive any credit in any book I have read. Both Whitfield and Ross would have done well as Independent commands on the scale of Forrest. They were never given that chance, because of superiors such as Armstrong and Jackson.

Alan Hatley did not need to malign Ross to glorify Whitfield. Action at Wilson Creek, Elkhorn Tavern or Iuka would have been enough. Why does he seek to rewrite history. It gains him nothing and belittles the Legion. I have nothing against the name Legion, though we know they were not a legion. The 4 regiments of the Texas Cavalry Brigade ended at about the same strength (about 200 each), which indicates they all fought well and long. That the Brigade has not received it due is true, but Hatley does not help its cause.

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