Question of the Week: 3/1-3/7/21

Last week we talked about high ground and it’s advantages, so let’s reverse it this week…

In your opinion, what was the worst ground that Civil War troops fought through or attacked over?

19 Responses to Question of the Week: 3/1-3/7/21

    1. The worst attack, in my opinion. The worst ground though, again just my opinion, would have to be swamps in general, wherever they were encountered.

  1. Speaking through the eyes of a trained infantry officer my vote is for the Battle of the Wilderness. With the exception of Petersburg I have walked through extensive sections of the ground over which the Army of Northern Virginia fought. All of these battles were ugly but the terrain allowed for some form of unit cohesion. At the Wilderness, the individual soldier was on his own.

    I cannot speak for the Western Theater. Hopefully this will change one day.

    1. Hard to dispute this one from a command and control perspective. In the western theater I might add Champion Hill and maybe Shiloh.

  2. There are a lot of candidates for that honor, but the Chickahominy swamps around Richmond were very difficult.

  3. From my reading, the Wilderness, is the first place that pops into my mind. However, after thinking about it, Hooker’s men on Lookout Mountain, or the troops that fought in the Slaughter Pen at Stone’s River had no walk in the park!

  4. The ground originally assigned to Sickles and the 3rd Corps at Gettysburg. Situated south of where Cemetery Ridge tapers off, it is low and lacks good defensible terrain. There are no good anchor points. This is the area between Hancock’s Left and Little Round Top. Today the driving tour passes through and you can see the terrain. It was low and dominated by higher ground to the west, which is why Sickles disobeyed orders and moved out there. I’m not justifying his actions but it helps explain them and its worth considering that he may have had a valid point in being unhappy with the assigned area.

    1. Obviously what Sickles did was contrary to his orders. However, Sickles apparently was mindful of a previous battle in which his corps was subjected to artillery fire while in a lower position. He had a reason for wanting better ground.

      The 4th Maine was part of Sickle’s corps. At about 3:00 in the afternoon of July 2, 1863 Col. Elijah Walker found himself and his 4th Maine regiment in position next to Devil’s Den. It was quiet there. He looked up at the hill (Little Round Top) and only saw a few men from the army signal corp. waving some signal flags. He then realized that the 4th Maine was, at that time, the extreme left wing of the Union army. Shortly after, the assault on the Union left started, with Alabama and Texas regiments heading toward Little Round Top and that hill being occupied with Federal troops with only minutes to spare. Some Alabama regiments turned left to hit the 4th Maine.

      Sometime after the war Col. William Oates, who had commanded the Alabama regiments that assaulted the position held by the 20th Maine said if he had one more regiment he could have turned the Union left flank. One, perhaps two regiments that might otherwise have been in that assault against the 20th Maine’s position were instead engaged with the 4th Maine in a fight that was as intense and dramatic as the stand by Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine on Little Round Top. In fact, the accounts show interesting similarities between the two engagements.

      Did the 4th Maine, with its desperate stand at the left of Sickle’s corp, draw off enough Alabama units to weaken the assault by Oates’s regiments enough to keep the 20th Maine and the other regiments along the line on Little Round Top from being overwhelmed? Possibly. Therefore, did Sickles’ movement forward indeed save the Union army, by this engagement in addition to others? Possibly. All speculation. In my opinion this debate will never be settled.

  5. I first thought of Morris Island at Charleston. Narrow front and charging over sand and trying to avoid the marsh must have not been good.

  6. So many good choices, but I would go with the Confederates attacking across Shiloh Branch near the beginning of the first day at Shiloh and then across the Dill Branch at the end of the first day.

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