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Cruel Twists of Fate - After the Second Battle of New Market

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Cruel Twists of Fate - After the Second Battle of New Market

Post  Father General on Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:02 am

General Georgia was victorious. Who could possibly ride against him? Who could challenge his brilliance, which flashed on the field as brightly as the finest set of polished plates stolen away from the New Market seminary?

After a series of clashes, the Shenandoah Valley was essentially his. He telegrammed word of his decisive victory back to Washington, found a fine house in New Market and sent for a nice cigar and two bottles of wine. Tonight would be very pleasant indeed!

In the mountains to the east of New Market, the Confederate army retired. Captains counted their effectives and reported them up the chain of command. By the end of the day, the butcher bill was nowhere near what was feared. Less than 500 dead. This gave both Hebert and Johnston some pause. Had they done better than they thought?

At the end of their council, Hebert and Johnston agreed that a withdraw was the best decision. Their forces had endeavored to link up, but ended up being too strung out and confused to be effective. It was the end for Hebert’s Confederate corps, whose short existence was marked with a series of frustrations.

At the end of their afternoon conversation, Johnston broke the news to General Hebert. Hebert was to be relieved and together they would return to Richmond where he would have to give an account of the past few battles to the War Department.

Hebert was downcast. This was not the triumphant return he had hoped for. Nonetheless, he did not believe it was his fault entirely that they had been beaten. Hebert had been faced with overwhelming odds and equipped with poor artillery. Add the insanity of commanders like Neal, and, well – one cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, or so he reasoned to himself.

Johnston left Hebert after their conversation, to ride around the camps. Curiously, he took a special interest in Col. Neal. Unaware of his fiery reputation, Johnston only took note of what he saw that evening.

While other troops rested, weary from battle, Col. Neal was drilling his Mississippi men. His First Mississippi Volunteers were remarkably well-drilled and appeared to be in excellent order. Neal’s commands were instantly obeyed. It was impossible to detect a hint of defeat as the troops formed for their evening dismissal.

Johnston sat down in the evening twilight and took his pen in hand…

Just as Johnston was writing his parting orders, General Georgia was starting into his second bottle of wine when he received a packet of messages, some three days old. He put them in order by date, then read through each communication. Every single note was from Washington, frantically asking him for his location, his situation, for more reports and did he need help. Help? Ha! All he needed were more wagons.

Then, the telegrams took a desperate tone, noting, “Lee was active in northern Virginia.”

The last telegram, a response to the first one he sent in days – and one that announced that day’s victory, was surprisingly shocking. Lincoln himself was ordering his corps back to Washington, and by forced march no less!

He went from joyous to sober within the span of a minute.

The third cigar was extinguished and the bottle eventually abandoned. Within hours, the victorious corps, with campfires still burning behind them, began to march north in the dark of night.

The genius of General Georgia could defeat rebels for days, but it was no match against the incompetence and cowardice of Washington politicos.

In four days, he would reach Washington with a caravan of silverware as a consolation gift. He was quite upset that despite his victories, he had collected less than ten percent of the valley’s silverware, before being rushed back to Washington to oppose a threat that would never approach.

In New Market, Johnston had surprised everyone, both in the Valley, and in Richmond. With the stroke of his pen he did the unthinkable, appointing Col. Neal as the commander of the corps.

Neal was surprised. By next morning, he was doing much more than meeting with his captains. Still dressed in his colonel’s uniform, he was meeting with men who the day before outranked him. Now he was giving the orders, and despite his eccentricity, they were just the orders that needed to be delivered. Johnston knew the corps needed to be better prepared. Neal might have been a dubious field commander, but as far as training went, he was an expert, so Johnston made his choice.

The corps had a drillmaster.

The first thing Neal did was order the army to form for combat operations. Suddenly, he appeared everywhere riding a white horse, yelling at privates and officers alike. On his first day in command, the army marched back into New Market in full battle formation, although word had already come that the Federals had fled.

Seventeen officers and two hundred enlisted men were arrested that day. Infractions ranged from sloth, which was a new, yet amazingly common charge, to gluttony – also a new charge. The day following it was 8 officers and about a hundred enlisted. The corps reached Edinburg.

By the third day, only a few men were arrested. The word was out that when you see a white horse, you’d better be running.

Fortunately, most punishments were no worse than being compelled to listen to a sermon, but a few lashes were also carried out. Many joked the sermons were worse than the lashes.

Within a few days, the corps reported itself in control of Winchester. The War Department telegraphed the General personally to keep him out of Harper’s Ferry, where General Georgia had left a powerful garrison.

So the frustrated Neal took it out on the men. Drill, drill, and more drill. Firing exercises, and bizarre special missions which consisted of absurdities like approaching the enemy positions, deploying into battle lines and drawing long-range artillery (to acquire bravery), then marching back to camp, were normal routines.

Despite the weirdness which made him many enemies amongst the officers who expected an easier time, the practice tamed the corps and made the men quick and efficient. Within weeks, the corps was something much different than it was when it marched against Georgia.

As the summer days began to shorten into fall, Richmond grew accustomed to General Neal’s absurdities and periodic requests to attack. One bad idea after another was nixed, but all the while, the quality of the troops improved. The men themselves even warmed to the general, who had mellowed out after weeks of intense and outrageous behavior.

Slowly, the title which was originally coined by the officers as an insult against his fiery religious beliefs by implying he was a papist, became a sobriquet, a term of endearment. The “Father General” had come into his own.
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Re: Cruel Twists of Fate - After the Second Battle of New Market

Post  Leffe7 on Sun Jan 20, 2013 11:46 am

To: War Department, Richmond
Re: Second Battle of New Market
Lt. Gen Hebert, I Corps, Army of Eastern Virginia


Sir, I humbly report on the actions performed by the I Corps in yesterdays battle near New Market.
The men initially had found new confidence when they heard that the legendary General Johnston would join the upcoming fight as our reinforcements.
My plan therefor was to link up with Johnston, who was arriving from the east, and then to crush the enemy with our combined strength.

Several officers were out of commission as they got severly ill, among them was my cavalry commander and one of my division commanders.
But the bad luck didn't stop there. Maj Gen McCoy didn't follow the marching order and led his division directly to the south where he encountered what must have been the majority of the enemy forces.
The enemy deployed firmly on Shaeffer ridge and a direct assault there would be a slaughterfest! Just when I sent a courier to McCoy to rejoin the rest of the corps he was shot down by a sharpshooter.
Using the battle reports of my officers, I was able to draw this sketch to explain the situation: [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

In the last possible moment, the remaining officers in McCoy's division where able to disengage and move back in direction of Steffey house.
I also ordered Gen Cleburne to disengage from the northern slopes of Schaeffer ridge and move up to the crest of Harpst ridge where also Gen Rubinchick, cavalry and two batteries have arrived.
For the remainder of the battle, Gen Cleburne, Gen Rubinchik (including Col Neal's brigade) and Col Flashmans cavalry would fight vigourously on top of Harpst Ridge against Federals coming from Shaeffer Ridge.
To the north I have left one battery protected by McKinneys brigade. The battery was able to shoot some enfilade fire, but there were too few guns to have an impact.
Later I found out that most of the couriers to and from McKinney were intercepted by advancing Federal collumns in the valley north of Harpst Ridge.

Gen Johnstons forces in the east reported very early that they had made contact with the enemy (mostly cavalry) and requested help.
But it was impossible that they would fight against a large force as I was expecting the main enemy force to be in the west. I then declined to move Rubinchik to his aide and let him attack on Harpst ridge as explained earlier.
I was informed by Gen Johnstons that they fought on difficult terrain against enemy forces. He lost most of his artillery but was pushing the Federals towards the southwest.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

But then Johnston must have been too close to the action, when he was severly wounded by a stray shot.
Meanwhile I ordered McCoys division to advance to the west between Johnston and Harpst ridge. Soon McCoy found strong enemy positions near J Harpst house. His attacks and also those of Johnston were repelled and their lines collapsed later.
I ordered them to retreat back towards Harpst ridge were our position was threatened but still strong.
When these survivors reached Harpst ridge I received disturbing news from Col Neal, that their attack was also coming to a halt and they are being outflanked. With the majority of our troops falling back or routed, I gave orders for a general retreat towards the northeast. This withdrawal was made in relatively good order and under the protection of the reserve units, among them the brigades of McKinney, Col Hebert, Digbys cavalry and the corps batteries.

Our forces were beaten in a chaotic battle and I still await the final counting of the casualities but I am prepared for the worst.
I take full responsibility for this loss and under these circumstances I offer my resignation as commander of the I Corps and await your decision and orders.

Your most humble servant
Lt. Gen Hebert, I Corps, Army of Eastern Virginia
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Re: Cruel Twists of Fate - After the Second Battle of New Market

Post  mitra on Mon Jan 21, 2013 5:53 pm

Someone saved the replay?

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Re: Cruel Twists of Fate - After the Second Battle of New Market

Post  M.Jonah on Tue Jan 22, 2013 1:55 pm

yes i will dig it out and upload it in the KS Teamspeak entrance channel for to download.
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Re: Cruel Twists of Fate - After the Second Battle of New Market

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