Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Gap - response to comments

I wanted to respond to a few comments and not do it the comment section so it would be easier for all to read. [In the future if you leave a comment please leave at least your first name so I get to know some of you better]

Earlier someone responded that the "the verbal rebuke you refer to on Sep 20 is a fictionalized account." I didn't mean to state that it was a fact, in fact I gave Wood a chance to respond to this story. And I stated that the Sept 20 rebuke story comes from Cist originally and there are no footnotes to clarify where he got the story. [This commenter said the story comes from EV Westrate's "Those Fatal Generals" but the only copy I saw online has a 1936 copyright and Cist's 1882 copyright definitely makes it the earlier version.] What is clear though is that Rosecrans and Wood were not on the best of terms. This comes from the OR. I discussed an incident in early September, but what I left out appeared in my footnotes. Wood was upset with Rosecrans to the point of writing a 6 page letter explaining that he didn't mean the wording of the blind adherence to the details of the plan. That he thought he was acting within the framework of the plan and that he would obey any direct orders. On September 7 he covered this point and many others in detail in a long letter to Rosecrans (6 pages in the OR). In forwarding this letter to head quarters Crittenden endorsed it that he thought Wood vindicated himself from charges that were not made and the only charge Crittenden had made had only been refuted imperfectly. Wood saw this on the 8th and wrote to Rosecrans again that Crittenden's endorsement was enough for him and then went on for two more pages to try to more perfectly vindicate himself. Rosecrans finally responded to this note with the comment that he was missing too much information, information that Wood's reconnaissance should have provided.

Wood seems that he was quick to pick up on any slight, and slow to drop any point. I'd imagine he was still upset, to some degree, ten days later. If Rosecrans said anything to him I'm sure he took it as another rebuke. We'll probably never know for sure what/if Rosecrans said anything to Wood on the 20th. But also keep in mind that it was in Wood's best interests (just for the historical record) to say there never was a Sept 20th rebuke. His actions after that would seem particularly petty.

That same comment about the 20th rebuke being fiction also mentioned that the order was marked gallop and thus meant Wood had to act ASAP. An earlier comment also said much the same thing and cited a dissertation by Manville. The problem with this gets back to the blind adherence to orders. Wood has been engaged with the Confederates since nearly the moment he got into position, and not just minor skirmishing. The 100th Illinois has kicked up a huge hornets' nest. Its clear that something is in the works, when the attack might come is anyone's guess but this is not a quiet sector. The officers I've talked to have said that even if an order is marked ASAP there is some discretion allowed a division commander. A company commander is expected to move ASAP but a division commander has the power to delay the movement long enough to inform his commander that the conditions in the order do not exist (there is no gap for Wood to fill) and that his own sector is very active.

As to why Wood was never brought up on charges I think its as simple as he did provide good service on Snodgrass Hill. Rosecrans, Crittenden and McCook all abandoned the army. Wood stayed and fought. I think if Rosecrans had made his way back to Thomas and sent Garfield to Chattanooga he might have kept his job. As simple as that sounds I think that's a big factor.

1 comment:

Dave Powell said...


Interesting discussion of the Gap.

Negley provides some evidence of Rosecrans' losing his temper. When Rosecrans reached Negley that morning to find him still in line, Rosecrans, according to Negley, rebuked the division commander 'rather sharply' for pulling out before being relieved.

Several of Wood's staff, however, testify that when Wood and Rosecrans came face to face a little later, there was no animosity or rebuke. Certainly some of Negley's staff expressed impatience at how slow Wood seemed to be moving (A.L. Hough, for one) but there is really no contemporary evidence that Wood and Rosecrans had a dust-up. Personally, I believe that the story originates in Rosecrans' exchange with Negley, and got transposed onto Wood.

The point is often made that Garfield, had he written the order, would have known there was no gap. This is not true. Garfield had the same info that Rosecrans did - Brannan was moving and Reynolds needed support. That is what Kellogg thought to be true. Kellogg was wrong, but Garfield had no better way of knowing Kellogg was wrong than did Rosecrans.

The order is more fundamentally flawed than just assuming that Brannan was still in line. It was, in fact, akin to cutting off one end of a string and tieing the piece on to the other end to make the string longer. Wood's three brigades were all in line, with no reserve. Assuming Brannan moves and Wood follows suit, the same gap would still exist between Wood and Davis. Rosecrans has made no provision to actually fill the line or replace the departing force. Instead, he has just rearranged the deck chairs.

I also disagree that Wood was significantly engaged. Bartleson's idiotic advance did get the 100th ILL into trouble, but they returned to the line by the time Buell was moving, all except a couple of companies. Moreover, most of Wood's accounts do not speak of significant engagement at this time. The Rebel appearance was instead quite a shock to the 13th Mich and 26th Ohio, for example.

When Carlin moved into place on Negley's (later Wood's) right, he rode forward, crossing the Lafayette Road, to recon the ground in front of his brigade. He noted that he went out past his own picket line without seeing or hearing a Rebel. Hindman's line there was apparently farther to the east than was Longstreet's main line. All in all, however, there is a lot of evidence that Wood was not immediately threatened when he moved.

And finally, Wood did confer with a superior - McCook. McCook both reinforced the urgency of the order by telling Wood he better go at once, and also promised to replace Wood immediately on the line, thereby plugging any gap. Wood had no way of knowing that McCook could not fulfill that promise, and should never have made it.

On the whole, I believe primary responsibility for creating the gap rests with McCook and Rosecrans.

Dave Powell