Archive for November, 2012

Line of Battle, The Ross Brigade

When  did the Ross Brigade become Ross’. My guess would be after the first battle of the Atlanta Campaign. A member of the Brigade might have said in the cold days of January 1864 when Ross led them in ferrying rifles across the Mississippi. Others might say it was much earlier. Some might even say it was when Ross was selected to Major in the 6th Texas in  September 1861. Whitfield was its first Commander from December 1862 to December 1863. But he was not there for many months due to wounds received at the Battle of Iuka, and due to trips to Richmond to get his Brigadier promotion. In doing so he allowed Ross to become well known by the troops. When Ross was on the north Mississippi-Alabama reinforcement mission for General Stephen D. Lee from September to December 1863, the troops missed him. In December when he returned to assume command it was like a lover coming home. They even wanted to sing to him on the first night.

Stephen Kirk has written an excellent book on the Brigade. He provides a picture of the Brigade during the struggles of the Atlanta and Tennessee Campaigns. If you had ever driven from Rome to Atlanta Georgia on US Interstate 75, you would be able to list the battles of the Atlanta Campaign from the road signs even though it does not say that each was a battle. From those road signs you would also know where the brigade fought. Though a Cavalry Brigade all the regiments had fought as Infantry at Corinth and two of the companies were trained as skirmishers and sharpshooters. The regiments went into the line where ever they were needed. They fought as infantry, served as pickets, scouted and acted as pure cavalry.

Stephen Kirk is 87 years old and has books on the 6th and 9th Texas Cavalry Regiments under his belt. This new book is inclusive of all the regiments and has a muster roster of each included with more than just history from the National Archives. He has searched out detail from the census and the letters the men sent home. He writes so that we know these men and their units. His detail of the period from May 1864 to May 1865 provides a first look at the brigade during this period. Where the Hood Brigade had historians telling its stories right after the Battle of Gettysburg, the Ross Brigade was known only by its soldiers. In Texas that fame gave Ross an easy two terms as governor. But the rest of the world did not know the story. Here Kirk is adding a chapter that has been untold.

The story until this time has been a comment that the Brigade was in combat for a total of 110 days without let up. Now with Kirks writing we know how those days were spent. We know the names of the battles where they fought, not just the Atlanta Campaign. There was Rome, Dallas, New Hope Church, Kennesaw Mountain, Lost Mountain,  Brown’s Mill, the Siege of Atlanta, Jonesboro, Nash Farms and the wild raids of McCook and Kilpatrick are just a small portion of the battles in which the brigade participated. The fact that they went where ever they were sent caused them to be a most dependable part of both Johnston and Hoods Armies.

When Hood started the Tennessee Campaign, the Brigade was the lead element all the way to Franklin. With luck they were placed on the far right flank at Franklin and hardly saw any of the fighting.  During the Nashville Battle they were given a diversionary mission at Murfreesboro. Thus they missed being chewed up with Hoods Army. But then they were chosen by General Forrest to protect the Armies rear in the retreat. Ross ask for and received an Infantry brigade and then protected the retreat so that at no point did the Army get into serious trouble.

I like this book and have enjoyed the reading. It took longer than normal, because it has so much detail that I did not know, and it had so much detail that I did know. That was a problem. I stopped time and again to check fact. Early in the book I tripped over some small detail until I realized that it was data that the proof readers had missed. That slowed me down. Once I was past the first few pages I began to really enjoy the book. In a reread I decided that most people would miss the items that I tripped over. The detail was military in nature and was not important enough to stop the presses. I will inform Stephen of the small items that I have found for a reprint.

Why is the book important? Because it is the first material that goes almost day by day into what was going on in the summer of 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign and finally tells the story of Ross’ Brigade. Ross’ Brigade was an unknown item until now. It explains the autumn of 1864 and the the winter Campaign into Tennessee. Not much was known about what Ross did during this time. I am very familiar with much of this detail from going through the  rosters of the 3rd and the 27th. I have started on the 6th but Kirk has already done the 6th and the 9th. The pain of constant battle, heat, rain, and then the cold of Tennessee are almost unbelievable. They were almost doing two shifts a day. They replaced each other and had no problem either leaving during a contact or staying when the contact was more than they could stand. All of the commanders were great and could have run the brigade. Ross seemed to be the only one who could run it well. We also see that Ross had good re-pore with the Army and Division commanders. He would report to General Johnston or to General Hood without hesitation and kept up reports to the same during contact. In this respect he was the perfect cavalry commander. The detail in this respect by Stephen Kirk displays the ability to seek out information and put it in its proper order.

In all the other books on the brigade and the separate regiments, 1863, 1864 and 1865 were years that were either glossed over or were skipped completely. The Legion, aka. the 27th Texas Cavalry seems to disappear after the Carter Creek affair in 1863 when they were caught napping. Yet this unit was a great part of the brigade in 1864 and was still functioning in 1865. We see the interplay of the units filling in for each other. In this respect this was a well functioning brigade and each regiment even when down to 200 men still was able to put up a great battle and uphold the brigade name. The Union knew who they were. General Kilpatrick, a Cavalry Division Commander bragged about running over and destroying the Ross Brigade, when in fact the greatly reduced Ross Brigade, regrouped, and quickly took up the chase of Kilpatrick who was running for his life.

This book is an excellent and easy read. It is not filled with word and detail to the extent that you go to sleep before you know what is going on.  No, you are in the battle and are able to follow. In fact with a map, you would quickly become familiar with the Atlanta Campaign. Sherman knew this unit and was glad when it no longer opposed his march to the sea. Had the brigade been in front of General Sherman, his march might not have been so successful. They would have kept fighting to the last man.


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A Veteran’s View

Today there were a posted 60,449 comments out of 101,455 that have been submitted. Over 40,000 were spam and many of  the 60,000 are spam. We are in a society of people who will try in any way they can to make a little money. We do not believe in what we do but only in what We can make.

The Veterans that I know are not this way. Oh, I know there are a few, but in general, when you commit to give your life for your country and fellow soldier, you become a member of a new society. When you see the WALL or The War Memorial, it is hard not to tear and feel in your heart a gratitude to those who gave their lives. I feel that same gratitude when I stand beside the grave of a Civil War Soldier.

Many will say that the soldiers of the South were not veterans but rebels. But the members of that war were both members of an American Army. They both fought in a long and hard war that cost this country more than 750,000 of its finest. Men who died in the most horrible ways and of the worst diseases. Yet many feel that the soldiers of the South and the people of the South are not Americans. But we were founded by the same founding fathers. We both had the same Constitution. In fact when the two separated the Constitution, except for a few words  were the same. Both ran their governments the same and the members of the one government who went to the South, were members of that Government. Jefferson Davis was selected to be the new President and a few others were appointed. Some like the Director of the United States Postal Service went to the South, he took a lot  of the Service with him. The mail system in the South ran fairly well during the war.

So why do so many still hold a grudge against the South, and try in all ways to stop it from remembering its fallen and Veterans. We who are Sons and now Grand and Great Grandsons of Confederate Veterans have chosen to remember. We will not forget that our kin died for our country. Both yours and mine. Both North and South, East and West. We have Sons of Confederate Veterans in every state and many foreign countries. We all remember those who died for our country and those who fought.

Before and after the Civil War soldiers of the South fought for the United States. When I entered the Army in 1956, I was a Southerner. I was also a citizen of the United States. I was a Texan. I was of Irish descent. I did not know then how much. I did not even know when my kin came to the United States. Today I know that my kin have fought in every war the United States has fought since the American Revolution. That makes me as much an American as any Northerner and as much as any other American. I know that race or origin does not make an American, but the soul of a person knows when he is an American.  Much like the new citizen when he receives his citizenship. He or She suddenly knows they are American and they can feel it in their heart.

An American would not run the American flag up a pole upside down under a Mexican Flag. An American would not burn an American Flag.  An American would not say God Damn the United States. But we have people in this country that think they can do this and they are still Americans. I guess the Constitution says this and I have fought for their right to do this, but I also have the right to say that what they do is wrong.

I was Infantry and then Engineer as a Soldier. In Vietnam, I enjoyed doing what Engineers do. We built roads, bridges, airfields, fire bases and cantonments. It was good Engineer work. I saw death and I saw life. I worked with Vietnamese and had Vietnamese as friends. I sometimes feel that because I did not fire a rifle or throw a grenade that maybe I do not deserve to be a Veteran. But in building the structures that I helped build, I helped the war effort and the grenade throwers. Maybe I do belong. Only some one like me knows the part that those who fought paid in the way they live and what they gave. We are Veterans, but they are more so. An those who died, are the ultimate. They are the true Veterans. Those who lost a limb, sight or were mentally damaged are only slightly behind those who died. And we who were not injured or who worked in support know of their giving.

Our country has awarded many of these with medals as heroes. And many who deserved medals quietly stand with pride knowing that what they did was seen by fellow soldiers but was not singled out. When others are honored, we stand quietly. Was I one of these? No. But I know that there are many who deserve, but are too proud to state their honor. This is how life is. It is not always fair. But we can rest in knowledge that there will be a day of recognition.

I often note that the people at the events, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Armistice Day and even Flag Day are usually Veterans and their kin. There are a few more, but the ones who deserve recognition are the ones doing recognition. We no longer have Civics in our school, nor God, nor the Ten Commandments, nor do we have respect. We do not have respect for our flag, our Veterans, our Parents or Our God.

We all stand around and say, how do we get back to a point where these things will be important. In all likelihood we will not  have these things back in this life. Only after the Second Coming will they return. Only then will children respect their parents. Only then will the Veteran be truly respected. Only then will we really be happy.

In the military there are sayings that the streets of Heaven will be guarded by Marines and maintained by Engineers. The first are known fighters and the Engineers are there, because they allow things to happen. They build the battlefields and maintain the roads of War. Other services have their saying which are just as true. Thank God for a military that does not fight for its leaders but for its Country. We pledge our allegiance to the Country and to defend the Constitution. Thus we are not for a General or a President. But we work for the people and are answerable to them. In this we earn our respect as Veterans and Defenders of the Constitution.

But in truth, only a Veteran understands Veterans Day. Next it is understood by the wives and children and then the parents. A parent who has given a son deserves Veteran’s Day as much as any Veteran. This goes for wives and children. They know and understand the pain. In the movie We Were Soldiers, the part where the telegrams started to be delivered at Ft Benning were as painful to Veterans as it was to kin of those soldiers who were dying in Vietnam. For we all know the sacrifice.

Today there are those that are trying to have the crosses removed from cemeteries and there are those who are trying to have crosses and stones placed in cemeteries. We in the Sons of Confederate Veterans are trying to have stones placed on every grave at the cemetery in Richmond Virginia, where only one small stone represents four dead Confederates. Around the country we are trying to find and mark every Confederate grave and to ensure they are being maintained. Many of us are Veterans trying to care for other Veterans. Yet, there are those who for their own purposes, want all remembrance of any respect for God to be removed. But as Charleston Heston said, “From My Cold Dead Hands”, meaning that the people who want to remove guns from the population, would have to shoot him before they could take his gun. We Veterans know the rights that are guaranteed in the Constitution. We will protect the graves of those who fought for this country on either side.

God Bless the Military, the God Bless the Veteran and God Bless the United States!

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