Gods and Generals: Chancellorsville

I’ve gotten to the end of the movie, through some of the more droll scenes in between Fredericksburg and the final engagement of the movie. The portrayal is a little stilted, only showing Jackson’s Corps assault on the 11th Corps and not the other fighting until it leads up to Jackson’s wounding, but I appreciated the construction of those scenes, the reenactor extras who took time to run silently out of the trees tens of times to get the scene right, and the view where this video spot starts of several brigades worth of Confederates at right shoulder shift arms at the double quick showing how it probably looked had one been there to witness it.

Visiting the battlefield is interesting. There are gun emplacements still visible, emplacements that were dug before the battle started pointing to something of Hooker’s mindset at the time. These emplacements had to be repositioned, faced in a direction Hooker suspected he might be attacked and they had to be swiveled as Jackson’s attack drove the 11th Corps in on the III Corps positions. These are small burms now, preserved and cut into the earth to protect field batteries. They are sort of unique for this time period on a civil war battlefield save for Petersburg and Vickburg where long term siege lines were constructed. Emplacements such as this were constructed when one thought they were going to occupy this spot for more than a day.

Union Artillery facing Hazel Grove’s confederate batteries, dug in emplacements in the foreground facing towards the Orange Plank road.
View of Union Artillery positions looking towards Hazel Grove, emplacements in the background.

Joseph Hooker had stolen a march on Lee, placing the bulk of the Army of the Potomac on Lee’s flank and leaving two corps back on Stafford Heights overlooking Fredericksburg to demonstrate – which Sedgewick does and takes Maryes Heights finally. Why Hooker paused and waited and why he waited for Lee to make the next move is up for debate. The fighting was ¬†a precursor to what fighting would be like in a year when Grant pushes the AoP into the Wilderness and Lee meets him again near the site of the bitter two day struggle known as Chancellorsville. Jackson’s attack is commenced with limited daylight left and is able to push in the 11th Corps but is unable to do more, the other attacks by Lee’s army also fail to drive into the Union left and center and a stalemate ensues the continuing day with neither side gaining any advantage. Hooker finally pulls back across the Rappahanock river and the rest is history leading up to the invasion of Pennsylvania and Gettysburg.

At the bottom is a Google Maps view of land that the Civil War Trust is trying to save on the Jackson Sneak Attack and marshaling area. You can see from the patchwork of colors that this area is only partially preserved. This battlefield is hemmed in by lots of development and a fight was waged several years ago to prevent a Walmart going in on ground that abutted the park.

In other news, work on Iuka to Corinth has gone into its final phases, the first pass edit has come back from the editor and I’m busy rewriting a few chapters to flesh out the Michael Greirson character introduced first in They Met at Shiloh and his involvement with the renowned 2nd Texas Infantry. The rewrite is always an interesting exersize as you cover stuff you are already over familiar with but need to read with a new eye for the detail that needs to be added. The conflict had already been set when I first wrote the manuscript out and fortunately this is just bringing certain things out and not a full alteration of the text.

ARC versions of Iuka to Corinth will be available soon, if you’re interested in a copy in electronic format, sign up for the news letter as I’ll be letting members have first stab at copies.

 

Satellite view of Jackson’s Flank attack, noting the land preserved by the Civil War Trust (blue), CVBT (brown), and the National Park Service (green). The 2013 target properties are highlighted in yellow. (Google Earth)

Gods and Generals – Fredericksburg

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20th Maine assault up to Maree’s Heights, Fredericksburg 1862.

I’m again on this topic as I watched a brief scene last night before bed on my iPad; movie watching this way is punctuated and drawn out and takes me days sometimes.

From the movie we know that Burnside was a stubborn boob, Hancock was a prescient anti-boob, and Lee talks too much with a pseudo southern lisp. We also know that of all of the other brigades that stormed Maree’s Heights the Irish Brigade is most remembered. It’s a movie, so you have to cut some stuff.

General Sumner, in command of Burnside’s Left Grand Division, and Hancock have a little chat about the probably outcome of the battle and Hancock exclaims that Jackson’s line will not be turned. Well, it almost was in the real battle, not the movie one. Jackson’s Corps occupies Lee’s line on the right and extends along a treed and forested area parallel to the Mine Road and behind the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac railroad.

The following is excerpted from the NPS Fredericksburg web site about this action:

Burnside had reinforced Franklin’s sector on the morning of battle to a strength of some 60,000 men. Franklin, a brilliant engineer but cautious combatant, placed the most literal and conservative interpretation on Burnside’s ill-phrased instructions. He designated Major General George G. Meade’s division — just 4,500 troops — to spearhead his attack.

Meade’s men, Pennsylvanians all, moved out in the misty half-light about 8:30 a.m. and headed straight for Jackson’s line, not quite one mile distant. Suddenly, artillery fire exploded to the left and rear of Meade’s lines. Major John Pelham had valiantly moved two small guns into position along the Richmond Stage Road perpendicular to Meade’s axis of march. The 24 year-old Alabamian ignored orders from Major General J.E.B. Stuart to disengage and continued to disrupt the Federal formations for almost an hour. General Lee, watching the action from Prospect Hill, remarked, “it is glorious to see such courage in one so young.” When Pelham exhausted his ammunition and retired, Meade resumed his approach, Jackson patiently allowed the Federals to close to within 500 yards of the wooded elevation where a 14-gun battalion lay hidden in the trees. As the Pennsylvanians drew near to the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad north of Hamilton’s Crossing, “Stonewall” unleashed his masked artillery. Confederate shells ripped gaping holes in Meade’s ranks and the beleaguered Unionists sought protection behind wrinkles of ground in the open fields. Continue reading “Gods and Generals – Fredericksburg”

Gods and Generals

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I started watching my copy of Gods and Generals this weekend, working through my war movie collection. I know several of my civil war online acquaintances dislike various things about the Maxwell movies, some things that I’ve not even noticed before unless they were pointed out for me, but one of the things I liked most about the movie was its grounding in the unit and soldier portrayals. Not just satisfied to show you men in blue or grey moving hither and thither, but to tell you who they were. The opening sequence also sets this up rather well:
Gods and Generals opening

Having served in the military in the late 80’s through 2002 I had an appreciation for unit designations. I served all of that time in the 44th Army Band in Albuquerque, NM and we marched hundreds of ceremonies and trooped the line with a new or outgoing commander and the unit’s colors with its battle streamers (New Mexico is home to the predecessors of 200th Coastal Artillery Regiment – the Battling Bastards of Bataan fame) and other awards adorning and often eclipsing the flag itself. Each unit has a stand of colors and each is unique. The opening sequence with the music by Mary Fahl rightly sets the stage for the movie to come, that it is not going to be partisan (though, for better or worse it is almost wholly about Jackson with Chamberlain as the Union counterpoint) and it is going to portray a level of historical performance not seen in many war movies.

It can be preachy, there are some annoying soliloquy’s by a few characters you’d just soon fast forward over, but I appreciated adding dimensions to what I already knew about Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville and 1st Bull Run.

Novel #3 is off to the editor who is hard at work with it, my wife has worked up the cover and is tweaking it, I hope to do a cover reveal soon. A recent bargain book promotion moved more copies of They Met at Shiloh and moved copies of the other books in my series which was nice to see.

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