Book Chat
Tennessee's Forgotten Warriors
Frank Cheatham and His Confederate Division
Christopher Losson

This chat took place in the Civil War Home Chatroom on 05/014/07 and covered Chapters 1, 2, & 3.

5/14/2007 8:06 pm (et) ks:
Tennessee’s Forgotten Warriors
Frank Cheatham and His Confederate Division
by Christopher Losson
5/14/2007 8:06 pm (et) ks:

I like a book that gives me something to chew on in the Introduction, and this one did. We read the account of Benjamin Franklin Cheatham’s funeral on September 6, 1886 and how the happenings of that day would have lead one to believe BFC would be long remembered. 30,000 participants or spectators and that attributed to the affection many Tennesseans felt for Frank Cheatham. Soldiers who’d fought at his side 20 years earlier were there in great number. But as Losson states, “One generation’s hero is likely another’s trivia question, and vice versa.”

Thoughts on the dimming of Cheatham’s historical lights, anyone?

5/14/2007 8:07 pm (et) Widow: He wasn't a conquering hero like Sherman, or a conquering loser like Lee. He wasn't in the right theater for fame and glory.

5/14/2007 8:07 pm (et) ks: I liked that phrase referring to the dimming. Not original to me btw. ;)

5/14/2007 8:08 pm (et) Widow: A division commander who didn't die in battle like Cleburne doesn't stand a chance in the fame game.

5/14/2007 8:08 pm (et) Babs: His light is nearly out up here in the north. I had heard the name but couldn't tell you a thing about him.

5/14/2007 8:08 pm (et) ks: True enough, Widow. But Losson stated how people expected CHEATHAM to be the man remembered...let me put up his aide's quote....

5/14/2007 8:08 pm (et) mobile_96: Lee and the AoNV in the spotlight

5/14/2007 8:08 pm (et) Widow: Same with me, Babs. Just brief mentions in passing, not enough to remember.

5/14/2007 8:09 pm (et) mobile_96: seems like many in the West were abandoned for a long time

5/14/2007 8:09 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Even the "normal" size of his tombstone, compared to many other CW figures, shows why his troops must have loved him. He was one of them even in death.

5/14/2007 8:10 pm (et) ks: From James D. Porter..."When the part taken by Tennessee in the war is written, he [Cheatham] will be named as her representative soldier and none can dispute his title." But then who does popular history seem to recall? Nathan Bedford Forrest

5/14/2007 8:10 pm (et) Widow: Mobile, you said it. The Western Theater was abandoned from 1861 on.

5/14/2007 8:10 pm (et) Widow: Abandoned by Davis, I mean.

5/14/2007 8:10 pm (et) Widow: Who thought he was Alexander and Napoleon of the modern era.

5/14/2007 8:11 pm (et) ks: amhistoryguy, have you seen his tombstone? I'd like to some day. BTW Cheatham wasn't unknown to me. But that's only because AoT spoke of him frequently in the chatroom and I knew his TN hound (Frank) was named after BFC.

5/14/2007 8:11 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Hooker's marker in Cincinnati is identical to Napoleon's.

5/14/2007 8:12 pm (et) Babs: I wonder how Frank is doing.

5/14/2007 8:12 pm (et) Widow: ks, of course Porter's view was too close in time. Another five or six decades, and who remembers?

5/14/2007 8:12 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Cheathams rests in Mt. Olivet, in Nashville.

5/14/2007 8:13 pm (et) ks: When you DO get your copy of the book you'll read numerous accounts of the common man loved by his troops. Some poignant, some humorous....

5/14/2007 8:13 pm (et) Widow: Well, we've got a smackdabber of a biography tonight. I'm glad to read about a person instead of a battle.

5/14/2007 8:14 pm (et) ks: Agreed again, Widow. But the man whom 30,000 gathered to mourn, who'd have thought so few would remember him now? Who of that crowd, I mean.

5/14/2007 8:14 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Unfortunately, being loved by your troops does not necessarily mean you are a "good" commander.

5/14/2007 8:14 pm (et) ks: Any other thoughts on the Intro?

5/14/2007 8:14 pm (et) Widow: AHG, being hated by your troops almost guarantees you won't be a successful commander.

5/14/2007 8:15 pm (et) amhistoryguy: But it increases the chance you will be remembered.

5/14/2007 8:15 pm (et) Widow: May I offer Bragg as "proof" of my just-invented world-famous observation?

5/14/2007 8:16 pm (et) mobile_96: Locally maybe, not necessarily nationally.

5/14/2007 8:17 pm (et) ks: Seeing none, I'll proceed.

Chapter One
From Nashville to Mexico City

Those reading know the chapter began with JEJ's letter to Cheatham wherein he stated that the AoT never received justice and how its troops were not inferior to those who fought under General Lee.

5/14/2007 8:17 pm (et) Widow: ks, I thought Losson spent too much time telling us that there was little material to work with. One paragraph would have covered that topic.

5/14/2007 8:17 pm (et) mobile_96: And if those locals start moving around, then you can fade even faster.

5/14/2007 8:17 pm (et) ks: Also we know that Ben never made the time nor seemed to have the inclination to write that account.

5/14/2007 8:17 pm (et) Babs: Just a comment in general on the writing. I feel it is ever so much easier to read than the last two books. I think it is more than it being a bio (though that helps). He writes in simple declarative sentences that I don't have to reread to decipher.

5/14/2007 8:18 pm (et) Widow: Babs, AMEN and HALLELUJAH!

5/14/2007 8:18 pm (et) ks: Babs, Agreed. Much easier to read. Much more interesting to me.

5/14/2007 8:18 pm (et) mobile_96: KS, more reporting on the eastern conflicts.

5/14/2007 8:18 pm (et) ks: Any comments about the Mexican War Service accounts?

5/14/2007 8:19 pm (et) Widow: Frank wasn't an intellectual, ks, and probably thought book-writin' ain't for gentlemen. :=))

5/14/2007 8:19 pm (et) ks: First I'd like to point out that I loved the Mex War picture of Frank. :) So reminded me of the one we so often see of REL at that same time. And I know the uniform's the same. Something more in my opinion made it seem familiar.

5/14/2007 8:20 pm (et) Widow: KS, his Mexican service helped me understand what was to come. The more I learn, the more important it becomes.

5/14/2007 8:20 pm (et) ks: Widow, but horse raising, horse racing, drinking and fisticuffs must have been, huh? :)

5/14/2007 8:21 pm (et) Widow: ks, um-hum. Tennessee Gents, but not Virginia gentlemen.

5/14/2007 8:21 pm (et) Widow: You forgot to mention Tennessee whiskey.

5/14/2007 8:21 pm (et) ks: I think we can say that about many of the CW participants. Looking at their Mexican War records is something of an indicator of things to come.

5/14/2007 8:21 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I'll drink to that !

5/14/2007 8:21 pm (et) ks: Thought "drinking" covered it. :) :)

5/14/2007 8:22 pm (et) Widow: ks, sorry, I didn't see that. :=)) New glasses in 2 weeks.

5/14/2007 8:23 pm (et) Babs: New glasses all around. I'll pour.

5/14/2007 8:23 pm (et) mobile_96: I thought his viewing some Mexican areas as a farmer and not a warrior was interesting.

5/14/2007 8:23 pm (et) ks: The Mexican War accounts seemed very familiar as well. Having read books on Winfield Scott and Shaara's novel on the Mexican War, names of people and locations were familiar.

5/14/2007 8:23 pm (et) Widow: Of course in 1846-1848 nobody knew that their Mexican experience would be critical only 15 years later.

5/14/2007 8:25 pm (et) ks: Losson stated "Cheatham found his prewar pursuits insignificant and sought to find his niche in the military. There he could prove to himself that he could do at least one thing well: lead men into battle." Comments??

5/14/2007 8:25 pm (et) ks: That last "prewar" referred to pre MEXICAN war...

5/14/2007 8:26 pm (et) Widow: It brought out the best in him, leadership, decision-making, responsibility for the lives of others. He couldn't have learned that anywhere else.

5/14/2007 8:28 pm (et) Widow: Courage on the battlefield isn't the same as riding a horse in a race or brawling in a saloon.

5/14/2007 8:29 pm (et) Widow: Frank admired his father and was so strongly influenced by him. Looks like Leonard and Elizabeth did a good job.

5/14/2007 8:29 pm (et) ks: That brawling come up soon. I belive I'll get to the next chapter.

5/14/2007 8:29 pm (et) ks:

”One of the Wickedest Men I ever Heard Speak”:
The 1850s and the Onset of the Civil War

Here we find former “Colonel Cheatham”, like thousands of others “roused” by California Gold. The descriptions of Frank during this time are fascinating, and quite a contrast to the humanitarian we read about in Mexico. Anyone care to share some of those descriptions and thought on same?

5/14/2007 8:30 pm (et) Babs: This part reminded me of when we read the bio of Hooker.

5/14/2007 8:30 pm (et) mobile_96: He was able to adjust to conditions around him, quickly.

5/14/2007 8:31 pm (et) ks: This is the "Bad Boy" chapter, amhistoryguy. Quite colorful. :)

5/14/2007 8:31 pm (et) Widow: Losson hit it exactly right about the lawlessness in the goldfields. No rules, no civilization to discipline and protect people. So naturally young Frank was swallowed up by that kind of behavior. Doesn't make him a bad person.

5/14/2007 8:31 pm (et) mobile_96: In Cal. he had to be extra tough to survive.

5/14/2007 8:32 pm (et) Widow: Maybe the gold rush brought out the worst in him and everybody around him.

5/14/2007 8:32 pm (et) ks: Well, some people thought it did. Believe Losson says the description of Frank at this time is "sordid". Recall how he was depicted? :)

5/14/2007 8:33 pm (et) ks: I don't doubt that, Widow.

5/14/2007 8:33 pm (et) ks: Page 21 was especially full of interesting descriptors.

5/14/2007 8:33 pm (et) Widow: Losson's opinion is based on civilized notions. I think Frank was no worse than the others, and probably better than some scoundrels.

5/14/2007 8:34 pm (et) ks: Losson's descriptions though were based on accounts from contemporaries of the time.

5/14/2007 8:35 pm (et) Widow: It struck me that Frank went back home and changed his ways. Nashville isn't Stockton, of course, and I think Frank did some serious growing up after the gold rush.

5/14/2007 8:36 pm (et) Widow: He'd seen a side of human nature that was pretty ugly.

5/14/2007 8:37 pm (et) ks: For those who've not yet this time Frank was running a hotel and dining establishment, Hotel de Mexico. It was located where riverboats "plied their way" with passengers and cargo. The hotel was a base of operations for Frank. What's that hot HBO series on the Dakotas?? Descriptions brought it to my mind although without the extreme profanity of the HBO series.

5/14/2007 8:37 pm (et) amhistoryguy: He was about to see a part that was even uglier.

5/14/2007 8:38 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Where was Hotel de Mexico?

5/14/2007 8:38 pm (et) ks: He's described as having had a clique and of doing things to exalt himself in their eyes. He's referred to as a southern gambler, a corrupt politician, and a cowardly leader in some account.

5/14/2007 8:38 pm (et) Widow: They used rough language in the gold fields. There were the meanest men from all over the world. No reason to be civilized. But they didn't WRITE about it.

5/14/2007 8:39 pm (et) Widow: AHG, in Stockton. On the river, I think.

5/14/2007 8:39 pm (et) ks: Stockton

5/14/2007 8:39 pm (et) ks: Yes, that's right, Widow.

5/14/2007 8:40 pm (et) Widow: ks, his natural leadership qualities even among those tough men would make him stand out.

5/14/2007 8:40 pm (et) Babs: KS, You are thinking of Deadwood.

5/14/2007 8:40 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I've been through the "gold area" north of there many times.

5/14/2007 8:40 pm (et) ks: The one account that really stood out wasn't in Stockton, but rather in Sonora, a mining town about 45 miles to the east. That's the account of the lynching of Jim Hill.

5/14/2007 8:41 pm (et) Widow: And because those Victorians didn't quote themselves verbatim, we tend to think they didn't talk dirty.

5/14/2007 8:41 pm (et) ks: That's it, Babs! I don't watch the show. The Tall Guy does though...regularly. I'm apalled by the language.

5/14/2007 8:42 pm (et) Widow: Justice delayed is justice denied. Jim Hill's justice was before his trial, not after.

5/14/2007 8:43 pm (et) ks: Widow, if I were to believe the language used on Deadwood was anywhere near realistically representative of the time, place and people...I'd have to believe their vocabulary was EXTREMELY limited. As in one or two four letter words again and again. My brain turns off and I leave the room when that show's on.

5/14/2007 8:44 pm (et) ks: Vigilante style justice is what he got.

5/14/2007 8:44 pm (et) Widow: They weren't educated and they weren't gentlemen, and there weren't any moms and sisters to keep things under control. Men talk like that all the time when we're not around.

5/14/2007 8:45 pm (et) Widow: Anyway, Frank got a good dose of frontier life. And left it behind to go back home to Nashville. Good for him.

5/14/2007 8:46 pm (et) ks: I would agree thought that even thought Cheatham is portrayed as rather unsavory at this time, but he wasn't different from the others around him.

5/14/2007 8:46 pm (et) mobile_96: That talk does show up in letters.

5/14/2007 8:46 pm (et) ks: Yes, he went back to Nashville and with very little gold. Not a successful venture for him.

5/14/2007 8:47 pm (et) Widow: We don't know how much conscience he had. But he had a blast! Quite a change from the lovely green meadows of the Cumberland River.

5/14/2007 8:48 pm (et) ks: mobile, does it really? I'm asking if you've read letters to the extreme depicted on Deadwood? Seriously, I think the writers only know two words to make come out of people's mouths.

5/14/2007 8:49 pm (et) Widow: ks, I believe some Confederate soldiers were shocked, shocked by the coarse language they read in letters captured from Yankee soldiers. Letters to be sent home, not FROM home.

5/14/2007 8:50 pm (et) Widow: One more reason to loathe the Yankees.

5/14/2007 8:50 pm (et) ks: And to those lovely meadows he returned after a farmer. During this time his friends sought to get him an appt. as Gov. of Utah, but Buchanan had other ideas. Any comments on his military and political activities during this time.

5/14/2007 8:51 pm (et) Widow: I think he wasn't a serious politician like Lincoln, perhaps more of a dabbler, just trying to see what's out there.

5/14/2007 8:51 pm (et) ks: It's at this point he was appointed as major-general of TN militia.

5/14/2007 8:52 pm (et) ks: And his attempt to run for mayor wasn't successful.

5/14/2007 8:52 pm (et) Widow: That appointment was more along his line, it was something he knew and understood. Not like politics.

5/14/2007 8:53 pm (et) Widow: Not only understood, but was comfortable in that role. Social, military, fun.

5/14/2007 8:53 pm (et) ks: Anything else on Chapter Two?

5/14/2007 8:54 pm (et) Widow: ks, I don't recall, did Leonard Cheatham own slaves?

5/14/2007 8:54 pm (et) ks: I don't recall having read material concerning that, Widow. Did anyone else?

5/14/2007 8:54 pm (et) ks: Moving along...

5/14/2007 8:55 pm (et) ks:
Chapter Three
”Old Frank Is One of the Boys”:
Shiloh and Its Aftermath
Most fascinating to me were the sections dealing with Belmont and Cheatham and Grant meeting face to face a few days after the battle. The author did make some comparisons of the two men. What do you all think?

5/14/2007 8:56 pm (et) ks: Grant and Cheatham. There were certainly similarities.

5/14/2007 8:57 pm (et) Widow: Grant's experiences in the 1850s are well known, at least to us in this room. Cheatham's history was completely new to me. I was intrigued by Losson's discussion of their similarities. Not in character but in their unsuccessful struggles in the 1850s.

5/14/2007 8:58 pm (et) ks: And in their Mexican War experience, their being criticized for drinking...

5/14/2007 8:59 pm (et) Widow: Grant was married with a family, Frank was still a bachelor. But neither man found his niche after Mexico.

5/14/2007 9:00 pm (et) Widow: ks, when I read how MUCH everybody drank (nearly everybody) it's a wonder they weren't all alcoholics.

5/14/2007 9:00 pm (et) Widow: Folks, my PC is screwing me up. Gotta go. So Sorry.

5/14/2007 9:01 pm (et) Widow: logs off.

5/14/2007 9:01 pm (et) ks: I apologize again, but I must take my leave. Please do proceed with the discussion. When you've completed pertinent remarks, someone needs to so note for the log.

5/14/2007 9:01 pm (et) Babs: To back track. Cheatham's father owned slaves including one Frank saved from drowning.

5/14/2007 9:01 pm (et) ks: Oh, this isn't good. :(

5/14/2007 9:02 pm (et) Babs: and I have only read through chap 2. Mobile may be talking to himself.

5/14/2007 9:02 pm (et) ks: We can proceed with the rest of the discussion next week. That would let Basecat and ahg get caught up.

5/14/2007 9:02 pm (et) ks: If you wish, I mean.

5/14/2007 9:03 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Ok then, Babs, thanks for that.

5/14/2007 9:03 pm (et) mobile_96: not the first time Babs

5/14/2007 9:03 pm (et) Babs: I think that's a good idea.

5/14/2007 9:03 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Sorry to be so unprepared.

5/14/2007 9:04 pm (et) ks: Why don't we plan to do so, then? Please do continue to chat as you please. But we'll finish up remarks on Chapters 3 and 4 next week. THANKS for your patience. :)

5/14/2007 9:04 pm (et) mobile_96: good idea KS, then more can get in.

5/14/2007 9:04 pm (et) Babs: Hey, stuff happens.

5/14/2007 9:04 pm (et) ks: And I'll look the book over to add another chapter or two. Nothing too overwhelming.

5/14/2007 9:05 pm (et) ks: It does at that, Babs. And HEROES beckons... :) AFK for now.

5/14/2007 9:05 pm (et) mobile_96: Happens AMH, sometimes we all can't mesh together.

5/14/2007 9:05 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Thanks ks, enjoy