Book Chat
"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 11/23/08 and covered Chapters 12 & 13.

11/23/2008 9:03 pm (et) 20thMass: Tonight we will be discussing Chapters 12 and 13 of Richard Miller's book Harvard's Civil War. Please refrain from using the PM function during the book chat.

11/23/2008 9:05 pm (et) Susansweet: One thing I keep forgetting to say is how much I enjoy the summary at the start of each chapter.

11/23/2008 9:06 pm (et) 20thMass: Poor Captain Thomas McKay to survive all those battles and then get murdered.

11/23/2008 9:06 pm (et) Susansweet: What has happened and a foreshadowing of what is to come.

11/23/2008 9:06 pm (et) Susansweet: Gets you into the chapter

11/23/2008 9:06 pm (et) Pvt Miles: I agree Susan.

11/23/2008 9:06 pm (et) 20thMass: I enjoy the summary too.

11/23/2008 9:07 pm (et) Susansweet: That is one of those foreshadowing in this summary. A murder is about to happen in the war.

11/23/2008 9:08 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The chapter starts out with an apparent softening of the So what was the purpose of general order 182; was it primarily political?

11/23/2008 9:09 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Sorry, had 2 thoughts in there just meant the second part.

11/23/2008 9:09 pm (et) Pvt Miles: Gen. Order. 182 penalized those regiments that had the highest casualty rates. They deserved better.

11/23/2008 9:09 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Yeah, I think so too.

11/23/2008 9:10 pm (et) 20thMass: I wonder if it wasn't an attempt to save money. Fewer Colonels less money spent.

11/23/2008 9:10 pm (et) Susansweet: I agree Pvt. , and then the Officers had to spend more time away from the battles to drum up more men

11/23/2008 9:11 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Don't think so, 20th. The gov't sure had enough money to bring recruits from oversees as we'll see later.

11/23/2008 9:11 pm (et) mobile_96: Maybe more an attempt to consolidate regiments?

11/23/2008 9:11 pm (et) Susansweet: That's what I think it was mobile.

11/23/2008 9:12 pm (et) Susansweet: Consolidate regiments not so many commanders.

11/23/2008 9:12 pm (et) Susansweet: But less group of friends together.

11/23/2008 9:13 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The army needed to fill the regiments in order for promotions to be made also.

11/23/2008 9:13 pm (et) mobile_96: And cut down the numbers of officers from the ranks, and those new officers lack of a formal military education.

11/23/2008 9:14 pm (et) Susansweet: Right

11/23/2008 9:14 pm (et) Pvt Miles: Regiments having the same number of men as some companies. Needed to re- organize.

11/23/2008 9:17 pm (et) mobile_96: Right, you send 2 or 3 needed regiments to re-enforce and line, and only 300 men show, with 20 of them officers.

11/23/2008 9:17 pm (et) Susansweet: What was interesting was the different ethnic groups listed that joined the ranks.

11/23/2008 9:18 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Macy needed to recruit to "bulk up his regiment" in order for him to muster in as a full colonel.

11/23/2008 9:18 pm (et) Susansweet: French , Italian Germans I had heard about in large numbers but was surprised by the Chinese reference although I know a young man who's ancestor came from China and joined a Confederate Regiment in Texas.

11/23/2008 9:19 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: The number of ethnic groups surprised me also.

11/23/2008 9:20 pm (et) 20thMass: That had to be a scene with all those recruits on a ship fighting.

11/23/2008 9:20 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: And at last it seems the class barrier had begun to soften just a little.

11/23/2008 9:20 pm (et) Susansweet: Oh yeah.

11/23/2008 9:21 pm (et) Susansweet: Speaking of Macy did anyone else catch the comment the other was saying something about Macy's choices at some point. Can't find it now but he says "On the one hand . . .

11/23/2008 9:22 pm (et) Susansweet: Considering Macy only had one hand I thought it was an interesting choice of words.

11/23/2008 9:23 pm (et) 20thMass: Macy's choices?

11/23/2008 9:24 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I never caught that. I keep wondering about his motives for all the recruiting he did. All that concern for the regiment or for his personal gain.

11/23/2008 9:25 pm (et) mobile_96: Both I'd think, advancement in recognition of his work, and more men for the regiment.

11/23/2008 9:26 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: That conscript camp doesn't sound like some place I'd like to spend time.

11/23/2008 9:26 pm (et) Susansweet: Macy was really dedicated to the regiment.

11/23/2008 9:26 pm (et) Susansweet: Oh yeah not some where I would wander into with an armed guard!!!

11/23/2008 9:27 pm (et) Susansweet: Lovely conscripts there.

11/23/2008 9:27 pm (et) Babs: It sounded like the prison camps where the fresh fish were jumped on.

11/23/2008 9:27 pm (et) 20thMass: I agree Susan. You through what he went through with a group of guys you will stick together.

11/23/2008 9:29 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Well it's no wonder the veterans weren't too sure how they would act under fire.

11/23/2008 9:29 pm (et) 20thMass: Those fresh fish did get their revenge.

11/23/2008 9:30 pm (et) Susansweet: They are interesting men, Macy Holmes , Abbott etc.

11/23/2008 9:30 pm (et) Susansweet: Oh yeah major revenge.

11/23/2008 9:31 pm (et) 20thMass: And Abbott finally gets too lead the regiment in battle.

11/23/2008 9:31 pm (et) Susansweet: Poor MCKay.

11/23/2008 9:31 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Top of page 287 Dr. Perry talks about the demoralized condition of the camp, yet the regiment continues to be known for its discipline and order.

11/23/2008 9:32 pm (et) Susansweet: One of the techniques used in the book is the use of letters written to family at home. I have really enjoyed the individual thoughts of the men as they write home, For example Dr. Perry.

11/23/2008 9:33 pm (et) Susansweet: We know much about the battles in these two chapters from the eyes of Dr. Perry.

11/23/2008 9:33 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: McKay, if he had known he was going to die, would probably much rather have been killed in battle than at the hands of a jealous suitor.

11/23/2008 9:34 pm (et) Susansweet: Right . He goes to see what is going on and is ambushed. Who knew there was fragging even back then.

11/23/2008 9:35 pm (et) mobile_96: Especially in a gentleman's regiment.

11/23/2008 9:35 pm (et) 20thMass: I am not convinced it was a jealous suitor.

11/23/2008 9:36 pm (et) Susansweet: Right Coly we really don't know who it was .

11/23/2008 9:36 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Than who, 20th?

11/23/2008 9:37 pm (et) 20thMass: Perry is the one who talks of a jealous suiter but some of his account has been proven false.

11/23/2008 9:40 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Any feelings on the executions of the deserters. I know it was done but still think it was horrible..

11/23/2008 9:41 pm (et) Susansweet: Was interesting how some were reprieved and some were not.

11/23/2008 9:41 pm (et) Susansweet: Didn't seem to slow deserters down either except the one shot .

11/23/2008 9:42 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: They felt they were going to die anyway and they probably had a better chance if they deserted.

11/23/2008 9:42 pm (et) Susansweet: Right

11/23/2008 9:43 pm (et) mobile_96: Actually, we'll never know how many might have been deterred from deserting from these public displays of punishment.

11/23/2008 9:44 pm (et) mobile_96: Besides, how many deserters Could be spies.

11/23/2008 9:45 pm (et) 20thMass: I don't think any of the soldiers liked this method either.

11/23/2008 9:46 pm (et) 20thMass: The ones carrying out the execution.

11/23/2008 9:48 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: They were probably glad to be on the march again.

11/23/2008 9:48 pm (et) mobile_96: For shooting, not all the guns actually held a live charge, so ones in the firing squad could say that their shot was a blank, so they were not the one that did the execution.

11/23/2008 9:48 pm (et) Susansweet: I can't imagine they would like killing their own as opposite to the enemy.

11/23/2008 9:48 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: They still do that in firing squads, don't they?

11/23/2008 9:49 pm (et) Pvt Miles: I don't believe it strengthened morale.

11/23/2008 9:49 pm (et) mobile_96: Susan, they didn't, as many accounts say.

11/23/2008 9:50 pm (et) Susansweet: Thanks Mobile.

11/23/2008 9:50 pm (et) mobile_96: Miles, probably not with the conscripted, or substitutes,

11/23/2008 9:50 pm (et) 20thMass: I believe that could make them feel worse. Wondering if you killed a man.

11/23/2008 9:52 pm (et) mobile_96: Could, but then again, they could fall back on the "I fired a blank" defense.

11/23/2008 9:52 pm (et) Susansweet: To change the subject the maps in this book are not the best in the world.

11/23/2008 9:52 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Can we move on to Bristoe Station, which I'll admit I knew nothing about before this book.

11/23/2008 9:52 pm (et) 20thMass: Sure can.

11/23/2008 9:53 pm (et) Susansweet: Good idea. There was alot to cover in these two chapters.

11/23/2008 9:53 pm (et) Susansweet: This is one place where I could have used some good maps to follow along.

11/23/2008 9:53 pm (et) Babs: Susan I agree about the maps.

11/23/2008 9:54 pm (et) mobile_96: Thought there was more on Mine Run, family farm was used by Meade as headquarters.

11/23/2008 9:54 pm (et) 20thMass: Abbott finally got to command the regiment.

11/23/2008 9:54 pm (et) mobile_96: Should have checked online for better maps.

11/23/2008 9:55 pm (et) Susansweet: I always forget to do that Mobile,

11/23/2008 9:55 pm (et) Susansweet: I know too maps are expensive.

11/23/2008 9:55 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I liked Perry's comment when they were marching parallel to some troops that they thought were Union, then the troops turned and fired on the 20th. Perry said "This was sufficient proof that we faced an enemy".

11/23/2008 9:58 pm (et) Susansweet: Gee Perry , Ya think?!!!!

11/23/2008 9:58 pm (et) Susansweet: Good quote.

11/23/2008 9:58 pm (et) mobile_96: That could prove to be very scary, and deadly to the regiment, especially when the enemy get in the first couple volleys.

11/23/2008 9:59 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Do these guys actually ever win a battle?

11/23/2008 9:59 pm (et) Pvt Miles: The conscripts did well fighting from the embankment, but advancing against enemy entrechments may have met with a different result.

11/23/2008 10:01 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: That's another thing, advancing against enemy entrenchments. Did that ever work? I can't think of any time?

11/23/2008 10:02 pm (et) Susansweet: Scary isn't it that they keep trying to advance against entrenchments.

11/23/2008 10:03 pm (et) 20thMass: Missionary Ridge.

11/23/2008 10:03 pm (et) Susansweet: One time against orders.

11/23/2008 10:03 pm (et) Susansweet: Or lack of orders.

11/23/2008 10:04 pm (et) Susansweet: What really grabbed me in this reading was the description of the Wilderness.

11/23/2008 10:06 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Oh, gosh, yes. You can almost imagine how it must have looked. I've tried to compare it to anything I've seen and can't.

11/23/2008 10:06 pm (et) Susansweet: What a horrible place for a fight.

11/23/2008 10:06 pm (et) Susansweet: I have been to the site but it's trees. It wasn't just that at the time of the battle.

11/23/2008 10:07 pm (et) Susansweet: Can't even begin to imgaine the horrors of the place , the sounds etc.

11/23/2008 10:07 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I've been there also and it's very wooded, but nothing like the book's description.

11/23/2008 10:08 pm (et) Susansweet: So thick you couldn't even send out skirmishers.

11/23/2008 10:08 pm (et) 20thMass: A lot of brush which made it hard to maneuver.

11/23/2008 10:08 pm (et) ole: At the time, the trees were all much younger.

11/23/2008 10:08 pm (et) mobile_96: Or aim.

11/23/2008 10:08 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Why would one decide to fight there?

11/23/2008 10:09 pm (et) Susansweet: So thick you can't make a straight line.

11/23/2008 10:09 pm (et) ole: When trees get taller, the brush dies back.

11/23/2008 10:09 pm (et) Pvt Miles: What made things worse, was the fires that incinerated the wounded.

11/23/2008 10:09 pm (et) Susansweet: Where the two armies met and clashed.

11/23/2008 10:09 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Yeah, ole, but it was also all the brush and thickets.

11/23/2008 10:09 pm (et) ole: I'd heard, LF, that Grand wanted to get through there before he ran into Lee. Didn't work.

11/23/2008 10:10 pm (et) Susansweet: But fan see what he is saying because the trees were small the thicket was thicker .

11/23/2008 10:10 pm (et) ole: The Wilderness was there because the old growth forests had been cut to feed the "furnaces." The wilderness was what had grown since.

11/23/2008 10:11 pm (et) mobile_96: I have a slight idea, from bumming around in the woods just north of Mobile, brush so thick there was no thought of trying to even crawl thru it.

11/23/2008 10:11 pm (et) Susansweet: That's right the Cathlain furnaces were nearby right?

11/23/2008 10:11 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Yes, Susan, but I had already typed my message before I read Ole's.

11/23/2008 10:12 pm (et) Susansweet: lol oh sorry Fan

11/23/2008 10:14 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Sometimes, reading about battle after battle, you almost get used to the descriptions, and the gore, but I'll never get used to reading about this battle. And what about the casualties. I thought we were going to lose everyone for a while.

11/23/2008 10:15 pm (et) Susansweet: Then there is Wadsworth.

11/23/2008 10:15 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: How, how, how did he pull rank?

11/23/2008 10:16 pm (et) mobile_96: Franklin is as bad, IMHO.

11/23/2008 10:16 pm (et) Susansweet: Heat of battle.

11/23/2008 10:17 pm (et) Susansweet: Battle of Franklin? Mobile?

11/23/2008 10:18 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I'll never understand why someone would have to obey a stupid order like that which could only have one result.

11/23/2008 10:18 pm (et) Susansweet: Macy sure wasn't happy about it .

11/23/2008 10:19 pm (et) mobile_96: Si'

11/23/2008 10:19 pm (et) 20thMass: Macy protested the charge which tells you how crazy it was.

11/23/2008 10:19 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Wasn't that decision ever investigated? Did Wadsworth remember giving the order, and if so, how could he justify it.

11/23/2008 10:20 pm (et) Susansweet: I agree then mobile.

11/23/2008 10:20 pm (et) Pvt Miles: I wonder what became of the German recruits who refused to leave the breastworks? The advance lasted only about 15 min. and no mention of them is made when the regiment returned.

11/23/2008 10:20 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Probably still there, Miles.

11/23/2008 10:21 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I wonder what they thought about the good old USA about then.

11/23/2008 10:22 pm (et) 20thMass: The only person Wadsworth had to explain the move was St. Peter since that is the next person he saw.

11/23/2008 10:22 pm (et) mobile_96: Right, he was shot in the head shortly after giving the order, while leading the charge.

11/23/2008 10:23 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Oh, that's right. Instant judgment from on high.

11/23/2008 10:24 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: We should have a moment of "silence" here for Abbott.

11/23/2008 10:24 pm (et) 20thMass: Wadsworth just grabbed the 20th to go on that charge. Webb never knew they were gone.

11/23/2008 10:24 pm (et) Susansweet: Yes we should.

11/23/2008 10:26 pm (et) mobile_96: Don't see any mention of those German recruits.

11/23/2008 10:27 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Mobile, did you go to the end of the book? I was hoping we would find out about the germans also. I just thought it would be later.

11/23/2008 10:28 pm (et) mobile_96: Only skimmed part of the next chapter, they might be still show later.

11/23/2008 10:28 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: I'll have to look in the beginning of the book again to see how many of the original regiment survived the war.

11/23/2008 10:29 pm (et) Susansweet: Wow we finish the book next week.

11/23/2008 10:30 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: That was a pretty good offer the government made to the overseas recruits. The first stimulus package.

11/23/2008 10:30 pm (et) 20thMass: I know. The time has flown by.

11/23/2008 10:31 pm (et) mobile_96: Lot of pages left for only 1 wk.

11/23/2008 10:32 pm (et) Susansweet: This was a good read . I have enjoyed learning about the 20th. Can't wait for round table presentation on it February.

11/23/2008 10:32 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: We'll all be reading as we eat Thanksgiving dinner.

11/23/2008 10:32 pm (et) Susansweet: I maybe late but hope not , I have to help decorate the Drum next Sunday.

11/23/2008 10:32 pm (et) mobile_96: Not me, probably be out of town couple days.

11/23/2008 10:33 pm (et) mobile_96: Never spend time reading when I can eat a Thanksgiving dinner.

11/23/2008 10:33 pm (et) Lincoln Fan: Who is giving the presentation.

11/23/2008 10:33 pm (et) Susansweet: Going to Kentucky Mobile?

11/23/2008 10:33 pm (et) 20thMass: Next week we will be discussing Chapters 14 and 15.

11/23/2008 10:34 pm (et) 20thMass: Thanks for the great discussing everyone.