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 Beautiful Belmont, Part 43 -- The Folly of War.

by John Salisbury Cochran.

See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 42 -- Some Thoughts on Gettysburg.

Many battlefields have points with more limited designations indicative of special incidents that happened during the overall conflict, or mark places of particularly bloody struggle. One point on the left center at Shiloh, for example, where the dead lay almost as thick as leaves in autumn, and over which, at times, scarcely anyone passed without being hit, was called the "hornet's nest." The slaughter at this place was fearsome. The artillery, with the mad plunging horses attached, had ruthlessly passed over many of these bodies in a wild rush for a place of vantage or in retreat. The skulls of some had been crushed, and the limbs of others broken by the wheels of the heavy cannon, while the faces and forms of others were mangled by the hoofs of the horses. The dead, both federals and Confederates, seemed about equal in number, all intermingled, resting peacefully side by side.

It was always distressing to note the many young faces among the dead. Some were mere boys and as one looked on their pale, almost childish countenances, he imagined a fond mother in a dear far away Northern or Southern home, sitting at twilight with tear-laden eyes, wondering where her son was that evening, unaware that he slept dreamlessly under a little green hillock made for him by his comrades. Now many years later, I wonder if perhaps, worn out with weeping and longing for a footstep that never came, that tenderhearted mother has likewise been softly sleeping in the country churchyard of the soldier's hometown.

It is hard to describe a battle. When one views the long line of soldiers, regiment after regiment forming, notices the buoyancy and determination of their expressions, observes their military precision and concerted tactical action, when one thinks of the high hopes motivating each breast -- that each may come through untouched and live to again see home and fireside, and yet, knowing that in the next few hours one-tenth of that noble array will be dead, one-fourth mangled and wounded -- it is sufficiently terrible to contemplate, and one cannot help but wonder why such splendid fellows are sacrificed, and why such a thing as war should for a moment be tolerated. One wonders why, despite all our civilization and education, we have not found some means to avert it.

Men have become great and heroic in producing mechanisms for the purpose of destroying life, but where is the much desired and ever deserving hero who will invent a means to prevent war? How long will the barbarous dominate the intellect of man? A terrible responsibility rests with the so-called statesmen of the United States, both North and South, for not preventing the war of 1861-1865. It could easily have been done had these statesmen been worth half the renown that history attributes to them. Their narrow souls could not look beyond their own petty ambitions and see a million corpses littering battlefields and filling hospitals, the rivers of blood, the fifty million crushed hearts, the widows, the homeless orphans, the tortured and helpless animals, the four billion dollars in war debts, and the countless millions in pensions to be subsequently paid to veterans, wounded or otherwise -- all the results of their so-called statesmanship. If there be a judgment day, God's mighty wrath will fall with fearful force upon the statesmen of 1861.

A few of the leading battles and incidents of the conflict seem important to me, as a soldier and an American, to mention as landmarks in the war and in my memory. I mention them as much to memorialize the brave men who died during each battle as to illustrate the heavy price, the almost measureless slaughter that the common soldier is forced to endure as a result of the failings of those in power:

The first battle of Bull Run was fought 21 July 1861, and won by Confederates. The federal forces under McDowell numbered 28,000, and the Confederates under Johnston and Beauregard, 31,000.

General Grant captured Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River, on 6 February 1862, and immediately besieged Fort Donaldson, which he subsequently captured along with 15,000 prisoners and many munitions of war.

The battle of Shiloh next followed, 6-7 April 1862, in a victory for the federals; General Floyd, ex-secretary of war under President Buchanan, and General Pillow, of Mexican War fame, escaped.

The battle of Gains Mills occurred 27 June 1862, with a victory for the Confederates. The federals under Porter numbered 20,000, and the Confederates under Robert E. Lee, 35,000.

The battle of Second Bull Run was fought 29 August 1862, between Generals Pope and Jackson, with 40,000 troops each, resulting in a victory for the Confederates.

Perryville was fought 8 October 1862, and won by the federals, although greatly outnumbered. The federal loss was 4,300, with the Confederate loss being even higher.

The battle of Murfreesboro, or Stone River, took place the 31 December 1862 and 1 January 1863, Bragg having 63,000 Confederates and Rosecrans 43,000 federals. In this battle my brother Robert, then on General Negley's staff, had his horse shot out from under him while in full gallop in plain view of the line. He was thought killed at first, as the horse plunged forward, fell, throwing Rob some distance over its head. Although stunning him so badly he could not rise immediately, Rob was not struck, however, and soon resumed his duties on a fresh horse. This battle was a victory for the federals.

The battle of Chancellorsville was fought by the forces of Hooker and Lee, 1-4 May 1863. In this battle there were 16,000 killed and 40,000 wounded. It was one of the bloodiest of the war. Stonewall Jackson was killed there.

The battle of Gettysburg transpired on 1-3 July 1863, Generals Meade and Lee facing one another, with 80,000 troops each. The federal loss was 28,190, and the Confederate, 30,000.

Vicksburg, under Pemberton, surrendered to Grant in July 1863, with its garrison of 25,000 men.

The battle of Chickamauga was fought 19-20 September 1863, Bragg having 70,000 and Rosecrans 55,000. The federal loss was 16,000 and the Confederate 18,000, the federals retreating to Chattanooga.

The battle of Chattanooga, or Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, continued through 23-25 November 1863, resulting in a victory for the federals, the forces being commanded by Grant and Bragg.

The siege and battle of Knoxville occurred from 17-29 November 1863, with the federals victorious.

The battle of the Wilderness was fought 6-7 March 1864 between the forces of Grant and Lee, Grant having his nose bloodied.

The series of battles of Dalton, or Rocky Face Ridge, occurred 5-9 May 1864. Sherman commanded 90,000; Johnson 55,000, entrenched. Johnson withdrew.

The battle of Resaca was fought 14-15 May 1864; Sherman had 100,000 and Johnson 55,000.

Picketts Mills was fought 27 May 1864; Lost Mountain was fought 1 June 1864.

The battle of Cold Harbor was fought 1-12 June 1864, Grant having 120,000 and Lee 100,000 men. The federal loss was 10,000 and Confederate 8,000.

The series of battles at Pine and Kenasaw Mountains involved almost constant fighting from 14 June 1864 to 1 July 1864. Confederate General Polk was killed here.

The battle of Peach Tree Creek, or Atlanta, was fought 10-22 July 1864, Sherman having 30,000 and Hood 50,000. Atlanta surrended on 2 September 1864.

The battle of Winchester was fought 19 September 1864, Sheridan and Early having 40,000 each. Sheridan was victorious.

The battle of Franklin, Tennessee, was fought on 30 November 1864, by a portion of the army of Thomas, under Schofield, and Hood's army. Hood lost 5,500 and Schofield 2,300. Relative to the numbers engaged in this battle, it was probably the bloodiest battle of the war.

The battle of Nashville was fought by the forces of Thomas and Hood on the 14-15 December 1864. This was one of the most complete victories of the war, the number of killed and captured of the Confederates amounting to over 26,000. The forces of Hood never existed as an army afterwards. General George Thomas was one of the most remarkable federal commanders of the war, and has never received his proper due of praise. He had the capacity for commanding a large army. He was cautious, but unconquerable. On the evening of the last day's battle at Chickamauga, when some of the federals were taken prisoners, a Confederate officer rode up to them and said, "Who is that Yankee officer still fighting on the hill over there?" He was informed it was Thomas. "Well, that man has not sense enough to know when he is whipped. We've whipped that fellow two or three times today, and still he keeps on fighting," said the officer. "You have not whipped one side of him, and will not, until he and his men are all dead," was the reply. Thomas was soon appropriately nicknamed "The Rock of Chickamauga."

On 14 November 1864, Sherman began his famous march to the sea from Atlanta. He reached Savannah on Christmas, left it in February 1865, and after fighting the battles of Averysboro and Bentonville, received the surrender of Johnston's army on 26 September 1865.

The siege and series of battles before Petersburg, Virginia, continued from June 1864 to April 1865.

The battles and surrender at Appomattox occurred 8 April 1865, and hostilities closed, for all practical purposes, on the surrender of Johnston.

I am aware I have not mentioned many hard fought battles and bloody struggles by the land and naval forces. Instead, my memories of the principal commanders of the federal forces will conclude my war chronicle. It was upon our arrival at Shiloh that I first got a glimpse of our future commander and president, Ulysses S. Grant. He was suffering from an injury received in his foot the day before, but despite it and the terrible scenes through which he had passed, I think the army never saw a more placid and collected leader. As his countrymen watched him under such circumstances, they never afterwards had a fear but that he would be the greatest general of the war. This was certainly justified by subsequent history.

My first impressions of General Philip Sheridan were altogether favorable, although, when I first saw him at Nashville, I wondered how such a common-looking individual could ever have secured a star upon his shoulder. I attributed it to possible political favoritism. He was small and rather spare at that time compared with his later years. I afterwards wondered how I could possibly have had such a misconception of the qualities and ability of this remarkable man.

See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 44 -- Mose Becomes a Soldier.

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.

This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
CO-AUTHOR: Schultheiss, Tom. (Asst. Editor)

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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