Monday, April 15, 2013

Hard Luck Soldiers

If I close my eyes, I can smell the powder and hear the cannons.  Federal troops advance across a cornfield, taking casualties from artillery fire.  They move up a hill and charge the Confederate entrenchments.  Minnesota troops plant their battle flag atop the Confederate positions.
Lieutenant Colonel William Shy is shot in the head as he attempts to stem the raging torrent of Federal troops.  The Confederate defense collapses.  1500 men are captured.  Thousands more stream towards the rear, trying to escape total disaster.
Federal Cavalry come within 700 yards of cutting off their escape.  But the Army of Tennessee stages a fighting withdrawal that allows thousands of men to reach safety across the Tennessee state line.  Though they would fight again in smaller actions, the Battle of Nashville marks the dénouement for the Army of Tennessee, the Confederacy’s hard luck soldiers. 

I am always partial to the underdog and in the American Civil War, the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee were the ultimate underdogs.  Plagued by bad leadership at the top and political interference, they fought fanatically against a foe superior in numbers and material.  Their greatest victory at Chickamauga proved hollow.  Their worst defeat at Nashville nearly destroyed them.  There are no major motion pictures devoted to their service.  They died along  the muddy hollows around Shiloh Church, the fields of Perryville, the high ground of Kennesaw Mountain, and the cold, wet earth outside Nashville.  Pound for pound they were some of the toughest troops our country has ever produced, yet we barely remember them now.

I salute the Confederate soldiers of the Army of Tennessee along with their Western Federal opponents.  Fortes creantur fortibus. 

I am Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War addict.