Saturday, June 2, 2007

Cleburne’s handing of brigade

Confederate General Patrick R. Cleburne’s initial assault at the swamp near Shiloh Branch split his brigade. Until this obstacle was cleared he would stay with one half of his brigade for awhile, then ride around the swamp to the other half and help them for awhile before going back. He did this several times and was not able to do much with either half.

His other option was to temporarily attach one half to another nearby commander to command until the brigade could be reunited. Coordinating half of his brigade with another command may have been enough to more quickly carry that position. As it was neither half was able to accomplish much beyond extending casualty lists.

This was a critical decision because choosing the other option may have enabled the Confederates to capture the Shiloh Church sector much sooner. This was a difficult decision for me to make because I like Cleburne, I find him a fascinating character, but this is one of those cases where he did not do a very good job. He lost too much time riding between the two halves of his brigade. When he was away from one portion they did little, mostly because they were recuperating from the recent brutal attack.

Cleburne's brigade ended up getting mauled during the battle. Some of it was early but he was in action on both days of the battle. When the losses were counted later, after stragglers had reappeared, his losses in killed, wounded and captured amounted to 1043 of 2750, 38%. The 6th Mississippi lost 300 of 425 men, the fourth highest percentage loss by any unit in the entire war.

This map is from Craig Symonds biography of Cleburne. I scanned it, its not that great of quality but gives you idea of where the split happened. The map also shows positions later in the day, so ignore the northern part of the map for this discussion.

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