"Harvard's Civil War:
The History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment"
Richard E. Miller
This chat took place in the Civil War Home Chatroom on 11/09/08 and covered Chapters 9 & 1011/9/2008 9:05 pm (et) 20thMass: Welcome to to tonight's book chat. We will be discussing Chapters 9 and 10 of Richard Miller's book chat Harvard's Civil War.
11/9/2008 9:06 pm (et) shapbruin: Does anyone have any thoughts on Don Troiani's painting "Fire on Caroline St" which is on the cover of the book?11/9/2008 9:07 pm (et) 20thMass: I felt bad for Colonel Lee. Poor guy couldn't take it anymore.
11/9/2008 9:08 pm (et) mobile_96: Excellent painting, reflects the description of the fighting in this book.11/9/2008 9:08 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The painting looks accurate according to Miller's description.
11/9/2008 9:08 pm (et) mobile_96: IMHO11/9/2008 9:08 pm (et) shapbruin: I've always had an issue with Troiani's work, and this one is no exception
11/9/2008 9:09 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: What issue.11/9/2008 9:09 pm (et) shapbruin: He NEVER shows any blood. Totally sterile, and thus, in my opinion, totally unrealistic.
11/9/2008 9:10 pm (et) shapbruin: His reputation is built on his dedication to realism, and yet somehow paintings of battle without blood, gore, and trauma still meet that criteria.11/9/2008 9:10 pm (et) shapbruin: I understand people don't want art that looks like that, but he can't have it both ways.
11/9/2008 9:10 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Never noticed that, but, come to think of it, a lot of civil war art shows no blood.11/9/2008 9:10 pm (et) 4eyes: Never noticed that sharp.
11/9/2008 9:11 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Am I correct - Norman Hall is the same guy at Fort Sumter in "Allegience".11/9/2008 9:11 pm (et) shapbruin: LF, you are absolutely right, (though Mort Kunstler does sometimes), which begs the question, should this stuff be painted at all if we can't be faithful to what actually happened?
11/9/2008 9:12 pm (et) shapbruin: LF, you're also right about Norman Hall.11/9/2008 9:12 pm (et) 20thMass: Yes that is the same Hall. Very underrated brigade commander.
11/9/2008 9:13 pm (et) Pvt Miles: Never made it to Brig. Gen.11/9/2008 9:13 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The book said he was from the 7th Mich. How'd he get there? I don't remember if that company was in the former book.
11/9/2008 9:13 pm (et) shapbruin: If you read what happened at Fredericksburg in the words of Miller, Abbott, and Holmes, it's pretty clear that Troiani is missing something very important.11/9/2008 9:14 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Hall should have been promoted.
11/9/2008 9:15 pm (et) shapbruin: Sorry, the painting "Fire On Caroline St" on the cover of the book, depicts the 20th charging through Fredericksburg.11/9/2008 9:15 pm (et) shapbruin: Sorry for the confusion.
11/9/2008 9:16 pm (et) 20thMass: The street fight was horrific and bloody. Dead and wounded men everywhere.11/9/2008 9:17 pm (et) mobile_96: Hall was sent to Fort Moultrie in '59. would have been Regular Army at that time.
11/9/2008 9:17 pm (et) Babs: Book says Hall came from the regular army. Maybe he was still a "regular" at Sumter.11/9/2008 9:17 pm (et) Babs: Yeah, what Mobile said.
11/9/2008 9:18 pm (et) 20thMass: Men being shot at from all sides and out in the middle of the street like it was a shooting gallery.11/9/2008 9:19 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I have a question re regular army vs volunteers. somewhere in this week's reading, I think I read where the volunteers were preferred for a certain task over regulars. Did the army feel they were more expendable? What was the difference after they became "veterans".
11/9/2008 9:19 pm (et) shapbruin: Difficult too, in that the men weren't trained for that sort of fighting. First they launched the first amphibious assault under fire in US history, then get in a street fight.11/9/2008 9:20 pm (et) shapbruin: oooh, LF, that's a really good question.
11/9/2008 9:20 pm (et) 20thMass: Volunteers joined and knew there would be fighting while for regulars it was more of a paycheck.11/9/2008 9:20 pm (et) mobile_96: Officers, or men in the ranks?
11/9/2008 9:21 pm (et) 20thMass: Both11/9/2008 9:21 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Both, I guess, but certainly the ranks.
11/9/2008 9:21 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Were the volunteers paid less?11/9/2008 9:21 pm (et) Pvt Miles: Why did they stay in formation? Inexperience in street fighting?
11/9/2008 9:22 pm (et) 20thMass: Inexperience.11/9/2008 9:22 pm (et) shapbruin: Pvt, yup, thought some men did split off to clear houses and fire pits.
11/9/2008 9:22 pm (et) mobile_96: Miles, correct, American armies had no experience in urban fighting.11/9/2008 9:22 pm (et) shapbruin: Holmes wrote about Abbott leading one platoon right down the middle of the road, having nearly everyone get shot down, and go back to get another platoon.
11/9/2008 9:23 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The book said they hadn't yet developed a strategy for urban fighting. Shame they didn't have one by Gettysburg.11/9/2008 9:23 pm (et) 20thMass: I believe they were ordered to go house to house but Macy changed the orders. We now know house to house is the way to do it.
11/9/2008 9:23 pm (et) 20thMass: They did go house to house eventually.11/9/2008 9:24 pm (et) Pvt Miles: Communication was always a problem.
11/9/2008 9:24 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: They certainly went through the town quickly enough when it came to looting.11/9/2008 9:25 pm (et) shapbruin: LF, that's pretty hard on them. The same houses they trashed had sheltered men who had killed dozens of their comrades.
11/9/2008 9:26 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I know some of you didn't care for Gods and Generals, but I thought they did a fair job showing some of the townspeople defending their property.11/9/2008 9:26 pm (et) shapbruin: It's a really difficult issue for me to cast judgment upon.
11/9/2008 9:27 pm (et) shapbruin: Not to mention that Miller doesn't describe men of the 20th participating in the destruction, just burying their dead.11/9/2008 9:27 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Yeah, I know, but people owned those houses and possessions that had no part in the battle and probably fled from both armies.
11/9/2008 9:28 pm (et) shapbruin: That's a fair and valid point. I think each case of vandalism would need to be evaluated separately, as I don't think too many men of the 20th were involved.11/9/2008 9:28 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The 20th did participate in the looting. The book describes some of them sending items home.
11/9/2008 9:29 pm (et) shapbruin: But again, not the entire regiment.11/9/2008 9:29 pm (et) 20thMass: Mark, I believe Abbott took part as did other men. Ropes states that he did not.
11/9/2008 9:29 pm (et) shapbruin: Miller says he did too, hang on, lemme grab something.11/9/2008 9:30 pm (et) shapbruin: Again, though, remember what he went through. Revenge was a recurring theme for this regiment, no question about that.
11/9/2008 9:30 pm (et) 40 yards: All it take is a few and the whole unit get tarred with the same brush.11/9/2008 9:31 pm (et) 20thMass: I believe this was the same brigade they faced at Ball's Bluff.
11/9/2008 9:31 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Yes, it was, and that may have had a lot to do with it.11/9/2008 9:33 pm (et) shapbruin: Neither Abbott nor Holmes refer to looting at all in their letters home.
11/9/2008 9:33 pm (et) 4eyes: The rebs tore apart and ate everything and burned everything at Warrington 4 months earlier.11/9/2008 9:33 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The author does a good job of describing the attempt to reach the base of Marye's heights.
11/9/2008 9:34 pm (et) shapbruin: Coly, I think I need to add this issue into my lecture.11/9/2008 9:35 pm (et) 20thMass: This would make a good topic.
11/9/2008 9:36 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Speaking of letters home, shap, does anyone think the men were truthful in describing their performance in the battle(s) or were their accounts inflated?11/9/2008 9:37 pm (et) shapbruin: Abbott referred to assault as "Nothing but murder"
11/9/2008 9:37 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: That's true. I wasn't thinking of Abbott.11/9/2008 9:38 pm (et) Babs: Linc, I doubt they were completely accurate. They probably want to spare their parents some details.
11/9/2008 9:38 pm (et) shapbruin: LF, most of what Abbott and Holmes wrote home was usually quite short, sometimes terse. Rarely anything self-congratulatory.11/9/2008 9:38 pm (et) mobile_96: Most men probably wrote home what they saw.
11/9/2008 9:39 pm (et) shapbruin: I agree with Babs. If anything, actual battlefield performance was understated if anything.11/9/2008 9:39 pm (et) shapbruin: Any accounts written after the war are a different story (ie Josh Chamberlain).
11/9/2008 9:39 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: OK, good points.11/9/2008 9:39 pm (et) shapbruin: The 20th was lucky to have so many letter-writers
11/9/2008 9:39 pm (et) 20thMass: Abbott lost his good friend Leander Alley on Marye's Heights and was torn up about it. He said he felt the same as he did when he lost his brother.11/9/2008 9:40 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: It took a lot of nerve to go out, find him, and bring his body back.
11/9/2008 9:41 pm (et) shapbruin: I liked Miller's point about trying to reclaim something out of such a disaster. Poignant.11/9/2008 9:44 pm (et) 20thMass: The casualty rate for the 20th was extremely high at Fredericksburg. In fact it had the highest casualty rate of any regiment at the battle.
11/9/2008 9:44 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I don't see how they had a chance crossing that field. Reminds me of Pickett's charge. Have any of you been to Fredericksburg?11/9/2008 9:44 pm (et) 20thMass: It was also the 5th or 6th highest casualty rate of any regiment during a battle during the Civil War.
11/9/2008 9:45 pm (et) 4eyes: Wasn't there a company of the 20th raised from Cape Cod?11/9/2008 9:45 pm (et) 20thMass: I company was made up of men from Cape Cod and Nantucket.
11/9/2008 9:46 pm (et) shapbruin: After such destruction, imagine having to storm the exact same field 5 months later.11/9/2008 9:46 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: You're probably thinking of the same company, 4eyes.
11/9/2008 9:46 pm (et) 4eyes: Irish guys.11/9/2008 9:46 pm (et) 20thMass: I have been to Fredericksburg but Marye's Heights is a residential neighborhood now.
11/9/2008 9:47 pm (et) shapbruin: Coly, are you serious!!??11/9/2008 9:47 pm (et) 20thMass: About Marye's Heights?
11/9/2008 9:48 pm (et) shapbruin: Yeah! That's terrible.11/9/2008 9:48 pm (et) cskuzel: What was once the Fairgrounds, or the field where the slaughter occurred, is a residential neighborhood now.
11/9/2008 9:49 pm (et) cskuzel: Marye's Heights and the Sunken Road has been preserved by the park service.11/9/2008 9:49 pm (et) 20thMass: The Innes house is still there with bullet holes from the battle still visible and the area where the Confederates has been rebuilt.
11/9/2008 9:50 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I've been to Fredericksburg, but don't remember going up to Marye's Heights, stopped at the stone wall.11/9/2008 9:50 pm (et) 20thMass: The Lacy House is also there across the Rappahannock river.
11/9/2008 9:50 pm (et) shapbruin: Wonder what the level of awareness amongst the residents of that neighborhood is about the land they own.11/9/2008 9:51 pm (et) cskuzel: I wondered the same thing when visiting.
11/9/2008 9:52 pm (et) 20thMass: When I walked Caroline and Hawke streets taking pictures I wondered if people knew why I was taking pictures and if they did if they would be upset about it.11/9/2008 9:52 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Is the Lacy House the same as Chatham Manor? If so, that's were RE Lee courted his wife?
11/9/2008 9:52 pm (et) cskuzel: Yes, Chatham is the Lacy House.
11/9/2008 9:53 pm (et) 20thMass: The Nantucket Experience which was co written by Richard Miller.
11/9/2008 9:54 pm (et) cskuzel: I asked the question about Lee courting his wife while at Chatham ... that may be a myth, as they can't find proof through that Lee courted his wife there11/9/2008 9:54 pm (et) mobile_96: Coly, more than likely they knew exactly what you were doing, and why
11/9/2008 9:54 pm (et) cskuzel: Although, they did say it was likely ...11/9/2008 9:54 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I wish I could go back now that's I've read so much more about the battle. I was a relative newbie to the CW at the time.
11/9/2008 9:56 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The residents of Fredericksburg have probably had so many tourists going through, they can't help but be aware of what happened there. But, can they appreciate it for it's significance?11/9/2008 9:57 pm (et) 20thMass: If anyone does get to Fredericksburg then you must visit the Lacy House.
11/9/2008 9:57 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Can we move on to the next chapter?11/9/2008 9:57 pm (et) shapbruin: The United States National Slavery Museum is going to be built there as well.
11/9/2008 9:58 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The Lacy House was closed when we were there, as most historic sites are on Mondays.11/9/2008 9:58 pm (et) 20thMass: Sure can LF
11/9/2008 9:59 pm (et) mobile_96: Good idea LF11/9/2008 9:59 pm (et) 20thMass: After Fredericksburg more controversy on who will lead the regiment.
11/9/2008 9:59 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: What do you make of everyone writing all those letters to Andrew. He must have felt like a baby-sitter or a referee.11/9/2008 10:00 pm (et) shapbruin: LF are you referring to the petition about Lt. Paine?
11/9/2008 10:00 pm (et) Babs: Tough to squeeze each of these major battles into just a chapter each. We have read whole books on each battle.11/9/2008 10:01 pm (et) 20thMass: Mark, I believe the petition is Chapter11. :)
11/9/2008 10:01 pm (et) mobile_96: Babs, easier when you're trying to deal with only 1 regiment, and not the entire army11/9/2008 10:02 pm (et) shapbruin: Sorry, jumping the gun.
11/9/2008 10:02 pm (et) Pvt Miles: I thought the political machinations of some of the "gentlemen" were interesting.11/9/2008 10:02 pm (et) Babs: You are correct Mobile.
11/9/2008 10:02 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Not just that, letters of endorsement for appointments or complaints. Just seems as though everyone was trying to lobby for Macy.11/9/2008 10:02 pm (et) mobile_96: Think they were trying to correct an injustice, too bad Andrew didn't consider Abilities, instead of social standings.
11/9/2008 10:03 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: That's what I'm trying to say pvt Miles.11/9/2008 10:03 pm (et) 20thMass: Dreher was in line for command however he was in no condition too lead and died soon.
11/9/2008 10:04 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I liked how the men tried to clear the field for Macy, then got Revere.11/9/2008 10:05 pm (et) 20thMass: Mobile, I think Andrew tried to consider abilities.
11/9/2008 10:05 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I'll bet the men never would have accepted Dreher.11/9/2008 10:05 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Would the men have accepted Dreher if he had been able to assume command?
11/9/2008 10:05 pm (et) mobile_96: Then why holding back Macy.11/9/2008 10:06 pm (et) 20thMass: Revere was respected but they thought the way he went about taking command of the regiment rubbed them the wrong way.
11/9/2008 10:07 pm (et) 20thMass: With Dreher being a foreigner and against slavery he would had a hard time being respected.11/9/2008 10:07 pm (et) Pvt Miles: Dreher definitely was a victim of xenophobic attitudes, even though his facial wound, etc hampered him.
11/9/2008 10:08 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Andrew didn't like Macy because of the slave incident (can't remember the name).11/9/2008 10:08 pm (et) 20thMass: Mobile, Andrew hadn't forgotten the trouble Macy had caused with fugitive slaves about a year earlier.
11/9/2008 10:09 pm (et) 20thMass: LF, whose name?11/9/2008 10:09 pm (et) mobile_96: True, but...that was a year ago, and Macy had already shown his abilities to lead the regiment.
11/9/2008 10:09 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I wanted to say the fugitive slave incident but had a senior moment.11/9/2008 10:11 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: By xenophobic attitudes, do you mean class distinction?
11/9/2008 10:12 pm (et) Babs: Aversion to foreigners.11/9/2008 10:13 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Another interesting thing is that the men loved little Mac and were anti-Lincoln. Ah, thanks, Babs.
11/9/2008 10:15 pm (et) 20thMass: They were hoping McClellan would come back but got Hooker instead. Lincoln would never bring back Little Mac.11/9/2008 10:15 pm (et) Babs: Mac had two chances already.
11/9/2008 10:16 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: From their position, they couldn't see the bigger picture, I guess.11/9/2008 10:17 pm (et) 20thMass: The blue bloods of the 20th did not care for Hooker but fresh food and passes to go home changed their mind.
11/9/2008 10:18 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Responding to Pvt Miles comment, it seems like the regiment could fight together, help each other, die together, but the "gentlemen" would always set themselves apart (and over) the others.11/9/2008 10:18 pm (et) mobile_96: And both were a great incentive to change their minds.
11/9/2008 10:19 pm (et) Babs: Well said, Linc.11/9/2008 10:20 pm (et) Pvt Miles: LF maybe that would change later.
11/9/2008 10:21 pm (et) 20thMass: These "gentlemen" where young men who were taught this stuff since childhood. It was ingrained in their minds.11/9/2008 10:22 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Sure hope so, Pvt.
11/9/2008 10:22 pm (et) 20thMass: Colonel Lee and Major Revere had life experience and did not have these prejudices.11/9/2008 10:22 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Any theory on why the unidentified dead major in the deserted mansion was wearing women's clothing?
11/9/2008 10:23 pm (et) 20thMass: Experimenting :)11/9/2008 10:25 pm (et) 20thMass: I know alot of soldiers were wearing women's clothing and getting drunk I wonder if he got so drunk he got alcohol poisoning.
11/9/2008 10:27 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Could be, the book doesn't say he was wounded. Goodness knows what he drank.11/9/2008 10:27 pm (et) 20thMass: The 20th fought at Chancellorsville but did not have the casualties they had in other battles.
11/9/2008 10:27 pm (et) mobile_96: Might have been a heart attack also, remember, some men were running around in women's clothes.11/9/2008 10:28 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Maybe he had the attack when I looked at himself in the mirror.
11/9/2008 10:29 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: When HE looked at himself. (I'm not quite that old).11/9/2008 10:31 pm (et) mobile_96: Thought the regiment stayed near Fredericksburg.
11/9/2008 10:32 pm (et) 20thMass: At first it looked like they were going to do the same thing they did in December but fortunately they didn't.11/9/2008 10:32 pm (et) 20thMass: They did in fact held off an attack by Barksdale brigade.
11/9/2008 10:32 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Boy, I can't imagine being told I have to cross that field again.11/9/2008 10:35 pm (et) 20thMass: Macy mentions hoping never to fight another battle and just doing provost duty. That tells you it had to be wearing on them.
11/9/2008 10:36 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Up to this point at least, their percentage of deserters is low.11/9/2008 10:37 pm (et) 20thMass: This was a disciplined regiment.
11/9/2008 10:37 pm (et) mobile_96: Right, but Barksdale was at Fredericksburg, to keep the Left wing from crossing the river and heading for Chancellorsville.11/9/2008 10:40 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I have a final question. On page 217, the intro to Chapt 10, what is meant by "white gloves and paper collars".
11/9/2008 10:40 pm (et) Harry: Rookies. Band box. FNG's.11/9/2008 10:42 pm (et) Harry: Usually anyway. Technically, regulation uniforms.
11/9/2008 10:42 pm (et) 20thMass: They were on Provost duty during the winter of 1862-63andI believe they had to be in uniform.11/9/2008 10:43 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Thanks, Harry. With that answered, I'll sign off, and see you all next week. A great chat tonight, all.
11/9/2008 10:44 pm (et) 20thMass: I believe we will end the chat for this week. Next week we will be discussing Chapter 11which is on Gettysburg.
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