Assignment 4

The commander that I choose to track was Col. C. Carroll Marsh of the twentieth Illinois Infantry. From the maps, I think I was able to get a general sense of where the unit was on the battlefield, but the more detailed primary maps were more useful than the map in Battle Cry of Freedom. The commander wrote many times that he was by a certain regiment, river, or batteries, so the primary maps that I found that had those details displayed gave more of an ability to track the unit. Where I had trouble tracking the unit was in how the commander used language like “backwards”, “forwards”, “left of McClernand”. From the Civil War Trust video, it seemed like on day one the union troops were only moving backwards and then on day two push forwards, but Marsh’s account has the Union troops moving various different directions. It was confusing to know if the units perspective on the battlefield was the same as mine viewing from the maps. There also were maps that did not have a scale, making it hard to determine if the amount of ground Marsh was covering was possible if the map accurately depicts the movements in the report. Other sources I would consult with are other reports from the same unit or surrounding units in the area of McClernand and Sherman to compare with Marsh’s report and better understand which directions he was moving. This could help verify what commander Marsh wrote in his report and also help clarify how the unit was moving. I believe the biggest challenges historians face when attempting to use primary written accounts to explain the way battles were won or lost are trying to follow the language/directions of a report in relation to maps, reading the writing on older maps, being able to find the same location on multiple different maps that have different portions or view the battlefield from a different angle, also discerning the accuracy of a report considering that it was not written during the battle, but after.

4 thoughts on “Assignment 4”

  1. I had the same sort of back and forth movement in the report I chose as well. I think that when historians are building these videos and collective documents, they chose to do net movement of battles because it’s more concise and mitigates confusion.

  2. I think you point out an important idea that forward and backward depend on the perspective of the unit. In the report I read I assumed backwards a mile meant they retreated a mile towards the landing. I hadn’t thought that from their orientation backwards might not be the same as what I thought it was.

  3. I think that the fact your general gave landmarks to show location was really beneficial for not only you for this assignment but for historians. My general also stated which other infantries his was next to or around but unlike yours did not provide landmarks to show where they were so I had a hard time placing him on a map.

  4. I agree with your idea to look to surrounding units to see if that helps clarify the movement of another troop or brigade. I think it would be very interesting to see whether or not doing so supports or negates facts given by other commanders. I also ran into the same problem as you did in the Trust video as it didn’t depict as much of the side to side movements and backtracking that the primary accounts did.

Leave a Reply