Question of the Week: 12/7-12/13/20

Last of the corps commander questions for a little while…

In your opinion, who was the best corps commander for the Confederate Army of Tennessee?

15 Responses to Question of the Week: 12/7-12/13/20

  1. If Richard H. Anderson had not experienced a major falling out with Braxton Bragg as result of New Year’s celebrations January 1862, this capable Corps Commander would have been present at Battle of Shiloh (instead of wasting his talent in the Eastern Theatre.)
    Therefore, the only acceptable answer is Nathan Bedford Forrest.

    1. I would argue Forrest was a mediocre Corps commander. He was more effective with a brigade or smaller units. He didn’t even want to be a Corps commander, but Bragg wanted him to one of his two cavalry corps commanders. He performed better than Joe Wheeler and his natural aggressiveness brought him into contact with Union forces giving Bragg some idea about what was going on in front of him.

    2. Civil War cavalry commanders generated such mystique and popular notoriety that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Here are the major exploits of N. B. Forrest of which this author is aware:
      FEB 1862 – Forrest manages to extract over 1500 men (and himself) from the trap that Fort Donelson has become.
      FEB 1862 – Forrest assists in destroying military supplies as Confederate Nashville is evacuated.
      APR 1862 – Forrest takes part in rearguard action that stops Federal pursuit of fleeing Confederates after Battle of Shiloh.
      JUL 1862 – As Battalion commander, Forrest leads assault on Murfreesboro.
      Summer 1862 – Forrest given command of Cavalry Corps.
      DEC 1862 – Forrest takes part in operation that ALMOST captured U.S. Grant in Northern Mississippi. Meanwhile, raids against crucial railroads slow Federal supplies to a crawl and almost succeed in isolating Memphis and Corinth Mississippi.
      DEC 1862 – Forrest victory at Parker’s Cross Roads.
      SEP 1863 – Forrest uses his cavalry as “dismounted cavalry” during Chickamauga operation. [Many times previous, cavalry were held in the rear in ineffectual roles, when their rifles and shotguns could have been put to aggressive use.]
      FEB 1864 – Forrest victory at Okolona Mississippi.
      FEB 1864 – Forrest victory at Ellis Bridge.
      APR 1864 – Fort Pillow. This likely war crime soured historic view of otherwise successful harassment and disruption operations conducted by Forrest in West Tennessee/ Northern Mississippi.
      JUN 1864 – Forrest victory at Brice’s Cross Roads.
      Summer 1864 – While Forrest was mostly successful in protecting western CSA food supplies, his presence in the west was seen as Federal “victory” [because he was not further east disrupting Sherman’s operations.]
      Autumn 1864 – Joining Hood after commencement of the movement north, Forrest was put in overall command of cavalry and tasked with screening Hood’s advance…
      NOV 1864 – Disaster at Franklin.
      DEC 1864 – Disaster at Nashville.
      [Although Forrest continued to command cavalry in the West through the end of the war, his best days were behind him: all efforts were ultimately ineffectual.]

  2. Judging on battlefield performance, the answer is Hardee or A.P. Stewart. Buckner ranks pretty high also, but was only with the army for a short time.

  3. James Longstreet. His corps, on loan from the Army of Northern Virginia, crashed through the enemy at the Battle of Chickamauga, leading to the Army of the Tennessee’s defeat. He later faltered somewhat during the siege of Chattanooga and failed to capture Knoxville. But his troops’ performance at Chickamauga more than made up for the two latter incidents.

  4. Arguably none were great. Hardee was okay. No better than Bragg when Bragg was a corps commander. Stewart was about the same.

    Longstreet was arguably the best when part of the AoT.

  5. Since Patrick Cleburne commanded a corps at Jonestown (or what was left of one), I think he should be in the running. His performance leading a division was always nothing short of spectacular., Just think of what he could have done with a corps. I think Ringgold Gap demonstrates that he brought Hooker’s XX Corps sent to chase Bragg after Chattanooga to a screeching halt with his division.

  6. I agree with Charles Martin about Pat Cleburne, the Stonewall Jackson of the West. Our nation is lucky that the rabid white supremacy of Southern political leaders prevented him from being promoted to corps commander.

    Cleburne’s promotion was blocked after he suggested black slaves be allowed to become Rebel soldiers. His suggestion resulted in some Southern leaders lambasting Cleburne as a traitor. The entire controversy is one of the CW’s great ironies.

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