Friday 23 January 2015

CSA Department of Western Virginia and East Tennessee

Department of Western Virginia and East Tennessee – Order of Battle 28/02/1865
Notes and Appraisal

The below Order of Battle – for the Confederate Department of Western Virginia and East Tennessee – takes as its basis the “Abstract from Return of Forces” and “Organization of Troops” tables of said department given in OR Volume XLIX.1.1021-1022 (dated February 28th 1865, the last provided in the OR), with the general context and much valuable information being given in Volumes XXXIX, XLV, and XLIX. Beyond that, researching individual units online has tended to be the best way of pinning down numinous information, given the relative obscurity of the theatre (the best formal resources I have found tend to be books dealing with Kentucky in the war). However, it is an interesting theatre, microcosmic of many issues in the war in 1865 as a whole, and the Confederate forces included an interesting variety – Echols' hardened veterans, the remnants of Morgan's Men, and Vaughn's mounted infantry foremost amongst them. The various large skirmishes in late 1864 are of some interest to the wargamer, too – Bull's Gap, Morristown, Marion, and 2nd Saltville. The references given at the end of this article are representative only and not exhaustive.

Department of Western Virginia and East Tennessee – OOB 28/02/2015
Brigadier General John Echols (commanding Echols' Brigade)

Artillery and Engineers – 12-16 Field Guns, 127 Engineers
Page's Battalion – 12-16 Field Guns
Major Richard C.M. Page
Burroughs' Battery (Tennessee) – 2 3-Inch Navy Parrotts & 2 6-Pounder Iron Smoothbores ~ Captain William H. Burroughs
Lynch's Battery (Tennessee) – 4 US 3-Inch Ordnance Rifles ~ Captain Peyton Lynch
McClung's Battery (Tennessee) – 19 Gunners ~ Lieutenant W.G. Dobson [1]
Botetourt Light Artillery (Virginia) – 4 12-Pounder Howitzers ~ Captain Henry C. Douthat [2]
Engineer Battalion – 127 Engineers
Captain Richard C. McCalla
3rd Confederate Engineer Regiment, Company A
3rd Confederate Engineer Regiment, Company E – Captain William T. Hart

Infantry – 928+ Infantry [estimated 968-1028]
Echols' Brigade [Wytheville, Virginia] – 662 Infantry
22nd Virginia Infantry Regiment – Lieutenant Colonel John C. McDonald
23rd Virginia Infantry Battalion Major William Blessing
26th Virginia Infantry Battalion – Lieutenant Colonel George M. Edgar
Preston's Brigade [Saltville, Virginia in 12/1864]– 266+ Infantry [estimated 306-366]
Colonel Robert T. Preston (commanding 5th Reserves)
5th Virginia Reserve Infantry Regiment – 222 Infantry
4th Virginia Reserve Infantry Battalion – 44 Infantry ~ Lieutenant Colonel Samuel M. Wallace
13th Virginia Reserve Infantry Battalion – Lieutenant Colonel Robert Smith [3]

Cavalry – 2808+ Cavalry [estimated 2908-2958, including unknown number dismounted]
Cosby's Brigade – 243 Cavalry
Brigadier General George B. Cosby
6th Confederate Cavalry Battalion – Lieutenant L.C. Norman
2nd Kentucky Mounted Rifle Battalion – Captain J.K. Bradshaw
3rd Kentucky Mounted Rifle Battalion – Captain William T. Havens
Duke's Brigade [Abingdon, Virginia] – 324 Cavalry [4]
Brigadier General Basil W. Duke
1st Kentucky Cavalry Battalion – Colonel William W. Ward
2nd Kentucky Cavalry Battalion
3rd Kentucky Cavalry Battalion – Colonel Joseph R. Tucker
4th Kentucky Cavalry Battalion – Captain W.R. Messick
Giltner's Brigade [Lee County, Va.; Va.-Ky. Border] 823+ Cavalry [estimated 923-973]
Colonel Henry L. Giltner
7th Confederate Cavalry Battalion – ~200 [23/02/65] ~ Lieutenant Colonel Clarence J. Prentice [5]
4th Kentucky Cavalry Regiment – Captain John G. Scott
10th Kentucky (Diamond's) Cavalry Regiment – Lieutenant Colonel George R. Diamond [6]
13th Kentucky Cavalry Regiment – Colonel Benjamin E. Caudill [7]
Jenkins' Cavalry Company (Kentucky) – Captain Barton W. Jenkins
64th Virginia Infantry Regiment (Mounted) – Colonel Auburn L. Pridemore
Vaughn's Brigade [Bristol, Tennessee] – 1303 Cavalry
Brigadier General John C. Vaughn
13th Georgia Cavalry Regiment – Lieutenant Colonel Samuel J. Winn
1st Tennessee (Carter's) Cavalry Regiment – Colonel James E. Carter
12th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion – Major George W. Day
16th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion – Lieutenant Colonel John R. Neal
3rd Tennessee (Lillard's) Infantry Regiment (Mounted) – Colonel Newton J. Lillard
39th Tennessee Infantry Regiment (Mounted) – Colonel William M. Bradford
43rd Tennessee Infantry Regiment (Mounted) – Colonel James W. Gillespie
59th Tennessee Infantry Regiment (Mounted) – Colonel William L. Eakin
60th–61st–62nd Tennessee Infantry Regiment (Mounted) – Colonel James G. Rose
Abbott's Scout Company (Tennessee) – Captain W.R. Abbott
Witcher's Brigade – 215 Cavalry
Lieutenant Colonel Vincent A. Witcher
34th Virginia Cavalry Battalion – Major John A. McFarlane
Swann's Cavalry Battalion (Virginia) – Lieutenant Colonel Thomas B. Swann

Notes and Appraisal
1: McClung's Battery had been all but destroyed at the Battle of Morristown on the 28th October 1864; its 19 remaining personnel were attached to Lynch's Battery thereafter.
2: In March Douthat's battery seems to have been ordered to Richmond; it was ordered back to Wytheville a few days later, before being ordered into different positions at Richmond a few days after that.
Lynch's, McClung's, and Douthat's had all served at Vicksburg and elsewhere; Burroughs' had only served “domestically”, in east Tennessee. On the whole the gunners will have been good, experienced troops. Their artillery armament was probably better than Echols reported; there were 16 guns in the department prior to the assignment of first King's and then Douthat's batteries to the Petersburg lines. Even if they had taken their guns with them (which is not certain, especially as Douthat's manned emplaced guns at Richmond), this would have left 8 guns under Echols' command, and indeed Federal reports are that Echols had spiked 16 guns at Christiansburg when he dissolved his command. Though few, they probably will have performed respectably.
The 3rd Engineer Regiment was raised late in the war from the states in which this department operated – Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, as well as North Carolina. Many had served at Atlanta and in the Franklin campaign, whilst some may have been with Early in the Valley in 1864. They may have ended up fighting alongside Early at Waynesboro, though the evidence is scarce. One might safely assume they were fit for their task, but badly under-resourced.

Echols' Brigade
Echols' Brigade had chiefly been raised in the future West Virginia, and were seasoned veterans of many encounters. The 22nd Regiment and the 23rd Battalion had both seen service in the 1861 operations in western Virginia during the Cheat Mountain Campaign, and then later at Droop Mountain. The 26th Battalion was formed of members of the 59th Virginia (Wise Legion) not captured on Roanoke Island, and saw action thereafter in the Seven Days Battles. It spent its service after that along the eastern coast of the Confederacy, before returning north in 1864 to fight Virginia. All three saw action at New Market, at North Anna and Cold Harbor, and then during Early's Valley Campaign. They performed creditably throughout, and probably represent the best troops in the Department. Echols himself, too, had a respectable war record, starting in the Stonewall Brigade and leading its 27th Virginia at 1st Bull Run and in the Valley. He then spent several years chiefly in Western Virginia, losing with honour intact at Droop Mountain against significantly superior forces, before commanding a division under Breckinridge in Early's Valley campaign.
Preston's Brigade
3: The 13th Battalion, Virginia Reserves were on furlough at the time of the report. Their strength is not included in the brigade total; I would estimate the unit strength at between 40-100, given the strengths of other battalions of Virginia Reserves in 1865, both here as well as in the Valley and the Petersburg lines.
We may presume that Preston's troops were fairly par for the course for Reserve troops, consisting of old men and young boys, drilled intermittently, with a high absentee rate. They might perform adequately on their day, especially if in fortified positions, but are usually to be considered very unreliable. Preston commanded his troops at 2nd Saltville and seems to have kept them in good order in retreat.

Cosby's Brigade
Cosby's troops had all been recruited locally and only fought locally. The 6th Confederate Cavalry Battalion consisted of men from Virginia and Kentucky. Though they put in a solid showing at Marion defending breastworks, they are unlikely to have been of the highest grade. Cosby was a competent Chief of Staff to Buckner, Polk, Bragg, and in the District of the Gulf, before receiving a cavalry brigade under Forrest, which he seems to have commanded solidly if not with such inspiration as to remain in Forrest's command.
Duke's Brigade
4: Duke's four small battalions were the remnants of “The Raider” Morgan's cavalry division, which had been mostly captured in his 1863 raid into Indiana and Ohio; much of the remainder had been captured at 2nd Cynthiana, during his 1864 Kentucky raid. The remnant regiments who were consolidated into the four battalions are as follows: 2nd Kentucky (Duke's) Cavalry Regiment; 5th Kentucky Cavalry Regiment; 6th Kentucky Cavalry Regiment; 7th Kentucky Cavalry Regiment; 8th Kentucky Cavalry Regiment; 10th Kentucky (Johnson's) Cavalry Regiment; 11th Kentucky Cavalry Regiment; 14th Kentucky Cavalry Regiment; 9th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. Some online resources report that officers of Morgan's Men were recruiting in west Kentucky at the end of the war; I have found no evidence for this in the OR, other contemporary accounts, or more scholarly works.
Many of Duke's men were combat veterans of one or other of Morgan's disastrous raids. That notwithstanding, however, the remaining troops are unlikely to have been of the very highest quality; on the one hand they had the potent memory of “The Raider” Morgan's reputation to buoy them, but on the other hand their hero was dead and over 2,000 of their comrades languished in Union prisons as a result of their exploits. John Ferry, in JTS's Campaign Overland, is likely harsh in rating them Quality E (on an A-F scale). They performed adequately in the retreat from Cloyd's Mountain, and quite well at Marion. They will have been armed with carbines and rifles, and been used to serving in a mounted infantry role. Duke was Morgan's brother-in-law, and a competent soldier.
Giltner's Brigade
5: The 7th Confederate Cavalry Battalion also failed to file a return; Giltner reported that they numbered around 200 (likely present rather than effective) in late February.
6: The OR entry notes that the Tenth Kentucky Cavalry did not file a return; given the denotation of Caudill's regiment as mounted rifles, I judge this to mean Diamond's regiment. An estimated strength of around 100-150 – given the strength of the rest of the brigade – would be reasonable.
7: Referred to regularly as the 10th Kentucky Infantry; certainly sometimes officially known, and most usefully referred to, as the 13th Kentucky Cavalry. Marked as mounted rifles in the OR entry.
Giltner gives a grim picture of his brigade in late February, fairly typical of the Confederacy at the time; many of his men are dismounted or without weapons and many of the remainder have lame horses. Their morale is mixed, and absenteeism, desertion, and bushwhacking are common. Giltner himself seems to have remained willing to take to the field, though he wryly comments on the state of the roads. Giltner's old regiment, the 4th Kentucky, had performed excellently as rearguard at the debacle at Rheatown in 1863, arguably saving the whole Confederate force there from destruction. The other Kentucky units and the 64th Virginia had been raised and stationed locally from about 1863, and have the fairly ordinary record common to most such units.
Vaughn's Brigade
Vaughn was of the same breed as Kirby Smith, constantly assailed by care, offering his resignation, keenly describing the plight of his badly armed, badly clothed, and badly fed troops, but nonetheless willing to assay any necessary effort to impede the overwhelming Federal advances upon his country. Some of his troops had been with him since 1st Bull Run, where he commanded the 3rd Tennessee; he had led them as infantry at Vicksburg, before mounting them in late 1863. He fought at Piedmont, earned the victory at Bull's Gap, but was routed at Morristown. His brigade joined President Davis' Last Ride and surrendered with him. They are likely to have been the best-mounted troops in the department, and will generally have been of a reasonably high quality.
Witcher's Brigade
Witcher's 34th Virginia Cavalry Battalion had been raised in the future West Virginia, and had seen action, having fought as part of Albert Jenkins' command at Gettysburg, and then at Piedmont and in Early's Valley Campaign that followed. They may be regarded as of reasonable quality. Swann's battalion had taken a great deal of time to raise, and only completed organization in late 1864; it is likely to have been of better quality than normal Reserve units, but still fairly raw.

As late as mid February, Vaughn was raiding successfully beyond Knoxville; at Marion, the Kentucky brigades successfully resisted a massively superior Union force for two days, and only withdrew due to a lack of ammunition; in October, the department's cavalry had beaten Gillem at Bull's Gap on a successful foraging mission; Vaughn's brigade contained troops who had fought at 1st Bull Run; and Echols' brigade consisted of hardened veterans with a good record. Its commanders were of respectable record, especially Echols and Vaughn. It only left the field when dissolved by Echols at Christiansburg on the 12th April, having heard of Lee's surrender – whilst Marse Robert fought, they were willing to fight also.

On the other hand, it would have been hampered as a field force not just by its small numbers. It struggled for foodstuffs (foraging, after all, being the chief objective of the Bull's Gap expedition), mounts for cavalry, clothing, and sometimes munitions. Morale was spotty, and some units had seen very little action – and some, perhaps, had seen too much. It technically had responsibility for a vast area of land, and some of its practical limitations are perhaps best illustrated by Vaughan's urgent messages to Echols over Stoneman's raid into North Carolina in March and April of 1865. Vaughan failed to receive much response from Echols, indicating both the poor state of communications available, and perhaps Echols' attention shifting to what was happening at Petersburg as the Confederacy finally collapsed. Vaughan eventually suggested that he might pursue Stoneman in accordance with Lee's general orders, albeit with a vastly numerically inferior force, but he evidently did not hold out much hope of success. Echols' command, by Spring of 1865, would likely have fought well in pitched battle, but struggled to function as an operational force.

Kentuckians in Gray: Confederate Generals and Field Officers of the Bluegrass State edited by Bruce S. Allardice and Lawrence Lee Hewitt – Kentucky Confederate Units

Page's Battalion – Botetourt Light Artillery

3rd Engineer Regiment – History of the Confederate Engineer Corps

Echols' Brigade - 22nd Virginia Infantry Regiment

Cosby's Brigade

Giltner's Brigade – account of the Battle of Rheatown

Witcher's Brigade

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