Assignment 4

For my assignment I chose CSA Brigade General P. R. Cleburne who led the second brigade. Cleburne describes how his brigade was stationed to the far left of the CSA line and describing his position as left of General Hardee’s force. They staged their first attack in the early morning of April 6th. He describes having to move through thick leaves and woods, and describes how several times his brigade was pushed backwards and experienced a heavy loss of life in the early morning. After the morning Cleburne described that around 12-1pm that day he was ordered to try and reorganize his fleets but was unable to. This account of the early morning into the afternoon is very representative of the Civil War Trust animated map. The early morning section depicts Cleburne’s brigade heading quickly towards the US forces but being heavily targeted. The mid morning video then depicts a map in which Cleburne’s forces are far behind all other CSA brigades and is much smaller, which supports Cleburne’s account of that time. The Civil War Historical map also supports Cleburne’s statements, especially his description of his brigade’s fall back. In describing the second day, Cleburne says that when he awoke, his forces were heavily depleted. From about 2,700 he now numbered only 800 between his brigade being killed, wounded, or running away in the night. He indicated that he joined forces with another force and moved towards the left which is supported by both the Trust map as well as the Historical. Both shifted the placement of Cleburne’s brigade back and to the left as well as diminishing its size.

While completing this assignment I was surprised to find that the primary maps located on the Library of Congress’s website weren’t as helpful to me. In the end I discovered the secondary maps to be much more descriptive and informative. One theory i thought of was that brigades were likely organized under one higher ranking general, and that his movements, rather than those of much smaller fleets, were much easier to track. It definitely made me wonder however where else historians were getting such specific information to create sources like the secondary I used to track Cleburne’s movement. Additional sources that might be helpful to consult would be accounts from higher ranking generals like Hardee for example in my case. Also, it could be beneficial or just interesting to reach reports from the battlefield hospitals, as that may shed light on where forces were heavily depleted and whether or not the locations and numbers correlated. I think that the most difficult challenge historians face when using a primary account is where it came from. A CSA report, for example, may have the incentive to report less casualties or a greater defence in order to look more competent or stronger which obviously would skew results by historians.

3 thoughts on “Assignment 4”

  1. As to your theory as to why it was so easy to track Major General Cleburne, you’re right. As a commander of a brigade, he did in fact oversee several battalions, companies and units, each with corresponding Majors, Captains, and Lieutenants that each wrote a report and fed into his collective brigade movement. So he had a lot of information feeding into his account whereas if you were to follow the movements of a battalion or even company, you would have a difficult time due to lack of officers’ reporting.

  2. You suggest that casualties might be underreported. This is a good point since a commander would want to seem like they had a more decisive victory without the loss of life on their side. This would seem to the public like a better victory but it would also make it hard for historians to get an accurate account of what happened.

  3. With such staggering loses, its hard to believe either side would claim victory. Your point about the casualties being underreported is really good because both sides would want to maintain the illusion of victory so as not to discourage soldiers or supporters but yet the loved ones of those killed had to be notified at some point so ultimately there had to some accurate count. I wonder if the government conducted any censuses before and after the war?

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