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THE BATTLE OF STONES RIVER or BATTLE OF MURFREESBORO (Part II)

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confederate
Confederate infantry reenactment (copyright: John Moore-Getty Images).
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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THE BATTLE OF STONES RIVER or BATTLE OF MURFREESBORO (Part I)

On the night before the big showdown, there was a “singing battle” between the rival soldiers who were established in positions within a few hundred meters apart. Some Federals began to sing their ‘national’ folk songs “Hail Columbia” and especially the “Yankee Doodle”, and the Confederates answered immediately singing their own traditional songs “Dixie” and “The Bonnie Blue Flag”. Soon the two rival lines began to sing each one its own traditional song more and more loudly, in an almost unbearable squealing. Eventually a group of soldiers started to sing the nostalgic song “Home Sweet Home” for the home and the family that every soldier had left behind, which brought a “musical compromise” of the opponents. Soon, thousands of ‘Yankees’ and “Rebels” were singing simultaneously its nostalgic lyrics, as an informal peace, without knowing that in the next day they would clash in the second bloodiest battle of the Civil war, after the battle of Gettysburg.

At dawn of December 31, Major General Hardee led the Confederate left wing and a strong cavalry force against the Federal right. The impetuous Southerners quickly outflanked their opponents who fell back towards the bank of Stones River. Thus Bragg surprised Rosecrans, forcing him to cancel his own envelopment maneuver. Around 7.00 am and under the pressure of the Confederate attack, Rosecrans recalled the division of his left wing which he intended to use for the maneuver. Its commander, Major General Thomas Crittenden, had crossed with his men the Stones in order to outflank the Confederate right wing under Major General John Breckinridge. Meanwhile, in the center of the two lines, the Union division of Major General Philip Sheridan and the Confederate Army corps of Major General Polk were clashing with unusual ferocity. The two rival army corpses were “familiar” to each other since the battle of Perryville, where they had clashed with the same determination.

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THE BATTLE OF STONES RIVER or BATTLE OF MURFREESBORO (Part I)

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Re-enactors Union troops

Union infantry reenactment (copyright: EPA).
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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(OK, I know that you are a little disappointed when I’m not posting on ancient and medieval topics, but as you have probably guessed the Colonial Americas and the American Civil War are among my favorite topics. This article is a summary of the chapter “The Battle of Stones River or Battle of Murfreesboro” of my book “The Civil War”)
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In July 1862, the skilful Confederate Commander in Chief in the West, General Beauregard, was assigned back to the Eastern Front, but President Davis did not define a replacement for his office. The Confederate president confined in assigning the thrice distinguished in the Mexican War, Major General Braxton Bragg, as general commander of the armies at the Tennessee-Mississippi front, who was from now on the unofficial Commander in Chief in the West. Braxton Bragg and his subordinates Major Generals Kirby Smith and Earl Van Dorn started to prepare the Confederate counterattack in order to recover the lost territories in the Western Front. Their distressed forces were reinforced and revived by the recent conscription.

map(copyright: US Military Academy)
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The general Confederate plans involved three synchronized campaigns in all the fronts from the Mississippi River to Virginia. In the East, General Robert Lee (the new commander of the Army of Northern Virginia) would invade Maryland. On the Western Front, the armies of Bragg and Smith would launch major offensives to Kentucky rushing from Chattanooga and Knoxville respectively (southeastern Tennessee). Simultaneously, Van Dorn would campaign from the Mississippi State against Grant’s army in western Tennessee. If he could manage to force back Grant’s army, he would then join Bragg and Smith somewhere in Kentucky. The ultimate aim of the Southerners was to encourage the (Southern after all) states of Maryland and Kentucky in leaving the Union and joining the Confederacy. Much depended on the speed of their march, the communications and the logistics.
The success of the Confederate plan would also yield benefits on the diplomatic field because Britain and France would probably acknowledge the C.S.A. as a sovereign state – a much desired aim of the Richmond government. The French Emperor Napoleon III wanted to promote his plans on turning Mexico to a French dominion or semi-colony, but he would not officially acknowledge the Confederacy if the British did not do the same. However, the British were waiting patiently watching the progress of the war.

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THE IRISH BRIGADE IN THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

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By  Periklis  Deligiannis

Irish Brigade at Gettysburg

The  Irish  Brigade  at  Gettysburg.  A  classic  artwork  by  Don  Troiani.


The  Irish  Infantry  Brigade  of  the  Federal  Army  (USA)  in  the  Civil  War  consisted  mainly  of  Irish  immigrants  and  Americans  of  Irish  descent,  Catholics  almost  entirely.  After  the  Civil  War,  the  69th  Infantry  Regiment  of  New  York  is  considered  to  be  the  descendant  unit  of  the  Brigade  (because  its  power  was  decreased  because  of  the  losses  and  the  demobilization  after  the  end  of  the  war).  Moreover,  the  69th  Regiment  which  goes  on  serving  the  U.S.  Army  was  the  original  core  of  the  Brigade.  The  Irish  Brigade  became  famous  for  the  high  aggressiveness  of  its  men  and  their  characteristic  Celtic  battle  cry  ‘Fag  an  bealach!’  (‘Open  the  way!’,  in  Gaelic  Celtic),  typical  of  its  risky  missions.
The  Celts  have  always  been  renowned  (already  from  Antiquity)  for  their  bravery  on  the  battlefield,  being  elite  combatants  (warriors  and  then  soldiers)  and  renown  mercenaries.  On  the  other  hand,  the  Celtic  soldiers  (expect  possibly  the  Highlander  Scots)  were  often  considered  to  be  expendable  by  the  Anglo-Saxon  political-military  leaderships  of  the  U.S.  and  Britain  until  the  end  of  World  War  I.  However,  the  heavy  losses  suffered  generally  by  the  Fed  Irish  soldiers  during  the  Civil  War  were  not  always  necessarily  due  to  this  mutual  antipathy  between  Anglo-Saxons  (‘natives’  as  they  called  themselves)  and  Celts  (usually  newcomer  immigrants),  which  in  this  period  often  ended  in  street  clashes  with  several  people  dead  in  major  American  cities  of  the  North  like  New  York,  Boston,  Philadelphia  etc.  Their  losses  in  the  war  were  due  to  a  significant  extent,  to  the  aforementioned  martial  reputation  of  the  Celts:  they  used  to  undertake  a  major  part  of  the  fighting,  thereby  they  had  such  heavy  losses.

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AMERICAN CIVIL WAR: THE GEOPOLITICAL STRUGGLE & THE CLAIM ON CANADA

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By  Periklis    Deligiannismap

At  the  begginings  of  the  American  Civil  War  (1861-1865),  the  government  of  the  Confederacy  (Confederate  States  of  America),  had  many  hopes  for  help  from  Europe (military,  resources, diplomatic  etc.), especially  from  Britain  and  France.  The  Confederate  President  J. Davis  hoped  for  an  official  recognition  of  the  Confederation  by  these  countries  and  (his  ultimate  hope)  for  their  military  involvement  in  the  war  in  favor  of  the  American  South.  But  efforts  to  approach  these  countries  failed,  because  of  the  following  reasons.  First,  because  of  the  fear  of  Britain  and  France  for  military  intervention  of  the  Union/Federation  (United  States  of  America)  in  their  American  colonies.  Second,  due  to  the  common  opinion  of  the  people  of  the  two  European  countries  which  rejected  slavery  and  therefore  did  not  want  to  enforce  the  Confederacy.  Third,  because  of  the  skilful  diplomacy  of  two  Republican  colleagues  of  the  Federal  President  Abraham  Lincoln:  Foreign  Minister  William  Seward  and  Federal  ambassador  in  London,  Charles  F.  Adams.
It  seems  that  the  British  government  could  not  “forgive”  the  “rebellion”  of  the  Americans  in  1776-1783  and  their  independence  from  the  British  Empire.  Although  the  English  could  not  support  openly  the  Confederation,  they  did  whatever  they  could  for  its  “preservation  to  life”,  aiming  possibly  to  a  permanent  break  of  the  U.S.A.  Except  the  aforementioned  vengeful  tendencies  of   London  and  its  concern  for  the  exponential  growth  and  rise  of  the  U.S.  in  international  politics,  the  British  had  two  more  good  reasons  to  seek  covertly  for  the  weakening  of  the  Union:  the  permanent  American  assertion  in  Canada  and  the  national  Irish  liberation  cause  (Canada  and  Ireland  were  parts  of  the  British  Empire).  But  the  same  reasons  prevented  the  British  from  their  active  support  to  the  American  South,  as  we  shall  discuss  below.

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