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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