Archive for December, 2010

Whitfield’s Company/Battalion/Regiment/Brigade

Allen G. Hatley wrote an interesting book called the First Texas Legion.  He provided us with a lot of information about the 1st Texas Legion.  He is well informed on John Wilkins Whitfield and provided some good information about him and his units. He spent a lot of time establishing a theory that Lawrence Sullivan Ross was out to replace him for his whole life. To me this theory ruined his book.  Ross was 22 when he was appointed Major in the   6th Texas Cavalry. Nine months later he was selected Colonel for the 6th Texas.  It was then seventeen months before he was selected to lead the Texas Cavalry Brigade. So he was the commander at 26.  Whitfield was commander at close to 40.  His command started at Thompson Station and was not that great during 1863 in Mississippi.  The great problem of command in Mississippi lies with the two commanders above the brigade and their inability on using the brigade correctly. Two good examples of how to use the brigade were the Holly Springs Raid and Thompson Station.

Hatley describes a 90 day leave taken by Ross in late 1862.  He assumes that there was no reason, but politics.  Ross Commanded the 6th at Corinth and was in the battle at at Battery Robinett and lost his horse in the battle. He ended up assisting  others from the battle field.  The next day Ross was the acting commander of Phifer’s Brigade at Hatchie Bridge and initially set up a blocking action to allow the remnants of the division and the 27th Texas that had been shot up.  Hatley gives Ross no credit for holding the high ground.  I find myself protecting Ross when it is not necessary to put either officer down.

Whitfield, a soldier of the Mexican War immediately recruited a company in the summer of 1861 and rushed to Arkansas to help General McCulloch.  He was respected and given four other companies to command. After Pea Ridge and being dis-mounted, he recruited eight new companies and gave up one of his Arkansas companies.  No matter, his regiment was a 12 company regiment.  A legion normally has infantry and artillery, but Whitfield’s Legion had neither.  Probably because of the training to take Corinth and a lack of artillery and horses.  The battle at Iuka soon whittled his regiment down. Almost one company was lost to KIA, WIA and missing.  The next battle for the Regiment was at Hatchie Bridge. With Whitfield out from wounds at Iuka, Colonel Hawkins managed to take the core of his regiment and at Ross’ direction crossed the bridge and assumed a position among the 1st Arkansas  Sharpshooters. Once Ross had brought the blocking force across and consolidated his forces, Cabel’s Brigade had come up with artillery, and the blocking force was in position to do some damage.  Next the Union lost a regiment and two others were in no position to fight. In the darkness the Confederate Army continued it’s withdrawal.  Before dawn Ross’ and his force had gone and the Union had nothing, not even the will to follow.  I have found no others that give Ross credit for covering the retreat.

Both were good officers. both would have flourished if given the freedom that was extended to Forrest.  For over 110 days the Brigade worked both as Cavalry and Infantry in the Atlanta Campaign. It followed the orders from above and did as they were told.  The day after Ross was captured in the McCook Raid , Ross told General Hood what had happened.  Hood told Ross, it was not his problem.  The Infantry Brigade that was supposed to back up Ross was in trouble. Ross had been released when Wheeler’s Cavalry put pressure on McCook and the Union left all prisoners and the captured goods.

The Brigade produced many extremely good officers.  Many more were killed or wounded in Battle and were not able to return.

The 1st Texas Legion or officially the 27th Texas Cavalry Regiment was an exceptional unit. Few could have sustained the losses at Iuka and Hatchie Bridge and the mass capture in Tennessee and still remained functional. But they did. They were in the thick of the Atlanta and Tennessee campaigns and took the rough killing pace that the Brigade with stood for over 110 days and then led Hoods Army into Tennessee, and back to Mississippi after Franklin and Nashville.  Though the unit fought no more battles, there were a few skirmished near the Black River and the Regiment did not lay down and quit.

I cry that there were no more writers in the brigade, who would have provided more than Victor Rose did. The writing of Hatley and Hale put black marks on the Brigade that should not have occurred.  These units were the product of their time.  They fought long after they should have and continued to produce results.  They deserve more than many Union units which were far more troubling than the Whitfield – Ross Texas Cavalry Brigade, and none fought better or longer.

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