As we commemorate the 157th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam on September 17, we shouldn’t forget that on both the 16th and the 18th a Union attack of any size would have decimated Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. On the 16th almost half of his forces were not in place in Sharpsburg, but McClellan let the fog and indecisiveness stop him from attacking. On the 18th Lee’s forces were bloodied, unbowed, but ready to be overwhelmed because of the massive casualties of the previous days. McClellan, with major reinforcements on the way and many troops still fresh (not active the day before), instead did nothing and let Lee escape.
Had McClellan attacked in force either day, Antietam could have been THE turning point of the war as Lee and his men would have been overwhelmed. Instead we had two more years of death and destruction.
Yes, “what if” is always an interesting discussion. In fact, that’s why I wrote my second book about just such a scenario. But it describes a Union victory on the 17th. Victory on the 16th and 18th, in k20-20 hindsight, admittedly, were there for the asking.
Although it is little remembered now, for at least a few hours, the Battle of South Mountain, September 14, 1862, was almost one of the most memorable of the Civil War. As historian Scott Hartwig put it, “thanks to Jacob Cox’s early initiative and aggressive generalship, McClellan had nearly won Fox’s Gap and Turner’s Gap cheaply and early in the day.”
That is, Cox and his men of the Kanawha division (including future presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley) almost pushed the Confederates off South Mountain — and would have with better support (which arrived too late). As it was, the Union victory that day caused Robert E. Lee to decide to return to Virginia, ceasing his movement to the North at least for a time. Ultimately he reversed that decision and the Battle of Antietam three days later was one result.
The paperback version of my newest book, “Ohio Heroes of the Battle of Franklin,” is now available for sale for 13.99 at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1686821778
Note: the cover and colors of the book have a unique meaning. The title and the images of Cox, Opdycke, and Casement appear on a field of green leaves. These leaves symbolize the Orange Osage plant (pictured below), a prickly bush with clinging leaves and sharp thorns. The Union forces under Cox and Casement, on the advice of the farm boys among the Union soldiers, who had used this plant as a hedge to control their livestock. placed large amounts of the bushes in front of their defensive lines. The Confederates who charged into those lines at the Battle of Franklin were startled to find that what looked like an innocuous bush was in fact a briar patch which held them, scratched them, and made them easy targets for the Union.
The title page is surrounded by a field of Orange to symbolize the Orange Osage plant, though admittedly it is a misnomer since the Orange Osage fruit in fact is not orange when it ripens. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maclura_pomifera for a description of the “Maclura Pomifera” plant — also known as the “hedge” or “hedge apple” tree.”
The paperback version will be on sale soon at the same web-site, but you can now buy the ebookfor only $4.49 at the site below. This unique re-telling of the Battle of Franklin underlines how the Civil War was truly a “citizens war,” as these three men, none formally trained in the military arts, helped ensure a Union victory in the West that fateful day, November 30, 1864. Please, after you have read it, feel free to comment about it on the amazon.com page. Many thanks.
Ohio Heroes of the Battle of Franklin is a unique re-telling of the Battle of Franklin through the eyes and lives of the three Ohioans who were central to the Union triumph that day, November 30, 1864. This battle was the key to the final victory of the Union in the West.
The e-book version of the book is now available for pre-sale at:
I hope to have the paperback version available in early September — just finishing up some quirks in the publishing process.
I am in the final stages of publishing my new book, Ohio Heroes of the Battle of Franklin, and I wanted to make sure my “reading public” was aware of my new venture. It is a unique re-telling of the circumstances leading up to and the events of the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864. That battle was a Union victory which tore the heart out of the Confederate Army of the Tennessee and eventually led to the final triumph of the Union in the Western Theater.
The book “sees” those events through the eyes and lives of three Ohioans, Generals Jacob Cox, Emerson Opdycke, and Jack Casement. These men were all “amateur soldiers,” but on this day, the professional soldiers observed while these and many other amateurs, all citizen-soldiers, “saved the day” for the Union.
The book will eventually — within a week or so — be available in ebook and paperback form via my amazon.com author’s page — https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HV4SSWK More info to come, so stay tuned!
Below is a copy of the cover, which integrates one of the oddities of this battle, the role of the Orange Osage bush. The latter is a sticky, prickly, thorn-filled growth which the Union soldiers spread in front of their lines, and which proved to be very difficult obstacle for the charging Confederates.
During the past weekend’s celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary, we took the time (naturally) to take a few Civil War pictures. Here they are, underlining that then, as now, Washington remains a small town.
The first is the monument to W.T. Sherman, just behind the White House and the Treasury Department. The second is the Renwick Gallery, across the street from the White House, now part of the Smithsonian, but during the Civil War the headquarters of the Quartermaster of the Union Army, General Montgomery Meigs. He is one of the most unsung, yet most essential heroes of the Union victory, a mastermind of supply and logistics. The third is Blair House, next door to the Renwick, where General-in-Chief Winfield Scott offered Robert E. Lee the command of the Union army. I know it’s a “what-if” issue, but I think there is very little doubt that Lee leading the Union army would have shortened the war and the bloodshed immeasurably.
Side note re Lee and Meigs. In the 1830s Lee, a great engineer, was sent to St. Louis to oversee efforts to make the Mississippi River flow more efficiently, removing obstacles, etc. His assistant in the venture was Montgomery Meigs. Thirty years later, Meigs would decide to create Arlington cemetery on Lee’s plantation grounds.