Assignment 4

Assignment 4

I chose to track the movements of Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Thomas E. G. Ransom, Eleventh Illinois Infantry, Second Brigade, First Division.  LTC Ransom was stationed at a camp in Pittsburg, Tennessee.  At the beginning of the battle on April 6, 1862, LTC Ransom formed the right of the brigade, falling under command of General McClernand. According to secondary maps, LTC Ransom is essentially at the center of the enemy line where there is high enemy concentration respective to the rest of the battle field. Initially, LTC Ransom took heavy losses but maintain the line for some time.  It wasn’t until the firing line to his left started to fall back that he himself would have to fall back as well.  At this point, he and the rest of the regiment formed a rear line, regrouping on Pittsburg Landing Road. There, they began to effectively fight of the Confederacy, holding their position for some time.  LTC Ransom was then ordered by General McClernand to move on the offensive and push the enemy back. His regiment regained several hundred yards of ground until the regiment to his right broke ranks in panic, ultimately forcing him to return to his position on Pittsburg Landing Road.  At this point in the battle, LTC Ransom had been severely wounded and taken to the rear, leaving command to a Major Nevins. Major Nevins had been separated from the brigade, so he took the regiment to the extreme left, I’m assuming this means Pittsburg Landing.  Due to the Eleventh Illinois Infantry loses during the battle on the 6th, the regiment was moved to the rear by command of General Grant and did not participate in the battles on the 7th.

This was actually a very interesting read.  I think it was mainly due to the relatively detailed report by LTC Ransom compared to the others.  His record of the event was easy to follow but there were some discrepancies when it came to his information and the secondary information.  For example when he began orienting the reader to his initial position on the battlefield, he stated that he was next to the 12th Illinois Infantry Regiment, but when you look at the secondary map, you see that is not the case.  From the secondary sources we see that the 12th IL IN is to the far left line under the command of General Hurlbut.  As far as his position of the battlefield, from what I read and looking at the annotated maps, the events appeared to match correctly.  His initial position, as he stated was the left of a large hill and right in front of the enemy.  If you were to look at the topographical map of the battlefield and reference that to the secondary material involving enemy movements and positions, it’s clear as to where his position was. For this assignment, the secondary material was more useful as it helped provide more references to positions in relation to other units and enemies.  To fill in the gaps of information if I didn’t have secondary sources, I would have to go through every report and account myself to understand the orientation.  I can definitely see where the difficulty comes in for historians who have to piece battles like these together.  They have to take each individual account and one at a time, examine it and then cross reference it with the other primary sources to check for accuracy and that takes time especially if there are discrepancies between the reporting.  They also have to take into account the possibility of the reports being puffed up for the reporters’ benefit, to which they would have to compare and contrast both forces accounts to determine what actually happened. 

3 thoughts on “Assignment 4”

  1. You said your unit counterattacked and was initially successful. The eighteenth illinois which I read about also attempted to go on the offensive. I think this is interesting because after reading and looking at the map in the book it seems like the union forces were retreating the entire day. Without reading reports it could be hard to realize that the union was attacking at times even though they were driven back.

  2. I also found the primary accounts of the battle to be really interesting. You make a good point about the reports possibly being puffed up for the reporters advantage. I followed Col. C. Carroll Marsh, twentieth Illinois Infantry, who a couple of times in his report made sure to mention how he consistently followed the orders of his superior officers and successfully rallied the troops and then goes on to end his report by congratulating his commander on the “brilliancy of our success”. He definitely wanted to make sure his commander knew that he and his men fought bravely.

  3. Along with changing the stories for reporters, I would be interested to see how much of battle recalling is altered to protect the general. Slight lies could be told to cover up promises that were broken, unnecessary retreats that were taken, and embarrassing losses. While reading through McPherson’s commentary, I have been amazed to see how many generals were replaced and relocated after a particularly bad leadership account at a battle. If stories could be altered to put a general in a better light (perhaps taking credit for another’s successes), the general may have another day with their infantry.

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