Monday, July 20, 2015

Mansfield Lovell: Awaiting Further Orders

An Early War Photograph of Major General Mansfield Lovell

       Most of my blogs are about great Confederate General's that happen to be my hero's. This is not one of those blogs. Mansfield Lovell may have tried his best, but just wasn't a great commander. He was known for his ability with artillery and perhaps in engineering, but he just wasn't a leader of combat troops. 
       Lovell was born in Washington, D.C. in 1822. His father was the first surgeon general of the United States Army. He grew up in Washington, and after 1836, moved to New York. His grandfather was a prominent politician in Boston, Massachusetts. His ancestry hailed from the north. Lovell received an appointment to West Point and graduated ninth out of 56 cadets in the Class of 1842. His high class ranking ensured he wouldn't be assigned to the infantry and he received an appointment as lieutenant in the artillery. He would see action in the Mexican War, where he was wounded twice and cited for gallantry. Lovell's star was on the rise. For the latter part of the Mexican conflict, Lovell served on the staff of Brigadier General John Quitman. 

Brigadier General John Quitman

       Quitman, like Lovell was born in the north, studied law, and eventually moved to Natchez, Mississippi. He would become governor of Mississippi from 1850-1851. The relationship between the two men became like a father and son. It is believed that Quitman is the man that swayed Lovell to consider himself a southerner. 
       In 1854, Lovell resigned his commission from the U.S. Army and moved to New Jersey. He eventually became the deputy street commissioner for New York City under another southerner named Gustavus W. Smith (see my blog 
       When the Civil War began, both Gustavus Smith and Mansfield Lovell left New York City for the south. They arrived and reported to Joseph Johnston, who in turn recommended them to Jefferson Davis as the two "best officers whose services we can command." Lovell would be sent to New Orleans, Louisiana where he would be promoted to major general and begin service in command of the coastal defenses there. 
       The Confederate government believed that New Orleans was safe from the south because of Fort's Jackson and St. Phillip. They soon began to strip Lovell of guns and men believing the real threat came from the upper Mississippi River. Six months later, a Federal fleet under David  Farragut would run past the forts and capture New Orleans. Lovell received an unfair share of the blame for the loss, but in truth, the government was at fault. Lovell reacted quickly and sent men, guns, and supplies to Vicksburg to hold that important city. Although criticized, Lovell was beginning the war doing the best that could be expected of anyone. 

Mansfield Lovell has grown his whiskers out for this photograph

       To appease the people of Mississippi and the state government, President Davis placed Major General Earl Van Dorn over Lovell. Van Dorn himself had become something of a failure as a general of troops having almost lost his army at the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern in Arkansas. He assigned Lovell to a division of his new command in Mississippi and marched northward intending to retake Corinth, Mississippi. The Federal commander waiting there was William Rosecrans and ironically, his army was occupying the same breastworks built by the Confederate Army in the spring of 1862. 
       Lovell began the campaign as a division commander under Van Dorn, but Lovell was an arrogant man. He believed himself superior to Van Dorn and equal to the best general in the Confederate Army. This would be the recipe for a disaster. It was said he had a swagger that reminded his subordinates of a conquering Caesar. To make matters worse, while advancing toward Corinth, he spotted what appeared to be the wheels of a single artillery piece on the horizon. He ordered skirmishers thrown out and an entire brigade to advance across the field toward the enemy threat. The distance was covered quickly, every man expecting to receive enemy fire in an instant. Once the skirmishers reached the position, they found to their amazement, a single pair of abandoned wagon wheels from an old sawmill. 
       During the first day of the battle, Lovell's division advanced on the far right and after serious fighting took possession of Oliver's Hill. (One of his regiments that my grandfather fought in, was the 35th Alabama Infantry. They captured a cannon there named "The Lady Richardson.") At this point in the battle, Lovell seems to have lost his nerve. With the Federal troops in full retreat, he halted his advance. His three brigade commanders were just itching to finish the fight. Lovell allowed the two divisions on his left to do the remainder of the days work. Brigadier General John Stevens Bowen (see my blog was extremely irritated that the battle had been won when Lovell inexplicably called a halt. He went to Lovell and asked for permission to attack. It was only 3 p.m. For the remainder of the day, Lovell's division cared for their wounded and collected their dead for burial as they listened to the fury of the battle. Lovell's actions are inexcusable. 

Another uniformed photograph of Mansfield Lovell

       He continued to do little on the second day of the battle. Ordered to attack by Van Dorn, he simply ignored the order and did nothing. Van Dorn must have been out of touch with what was occurring that day because he praised Lovell's actions in his official report. That praise would not save Lovell. President Davis still blamed Lovell for the fall of New Orleans. Jefferson Davis was famous for holding grudges. There were positions where Lovell could have possibly excelled, but Davis refused to give him the chance. 
       A court of inquiry was held on Lovell's responsibility for losing New Orleans and the court cleared him of any blame. Once this occurred, Joseph Johnston asked Davis to assign Lovell to his army to command a corps. Davis refused. (Likely a good thing considering Lovell's failure commanding troops at Corinth). Again, Braxton Bragg suggested Davis make Lovell chief of artillery of the Army of Tennessee, a position Lovell had excelled in before. Again, Davis refused. The only message from Richmond to Lovell was "Await further orders." 
       Lovell finally gave up on receiving a new assignment and served Joseph Johnston as a volunteer aide during the Atlanta Campaign. When A.P. Stewart took command of Leonidas Polk's old corps following that officers death, Johnston asked that Lovell be assigned to command Stewart's division. Not surprisingly, Davis refused this request also. Once Hood took command of the army, he asked Davis to assign Lovell to command his old corps. Despite the close relationship between Hood and Davis, the president still would not relent. 
       Not until Robert E. Lee was made commander in chief of all Confederate troops would Lovell receive another assignment. Johnston was given command of the Army of Tennessee during the Carolina's Campaign in 1865 and asked Lee for Lovell's services. Lee assigned Lovell to command Confederate forces in South Carolina. He held the assignment from April 7 until his surrender one month later. 

Lovell's frock coat in the Louisiana State Museum

       Following the war, Lovell attempted to run a rice plantation in Savannah, Georgia, but high water wiped out his first crop. He then moved to New York City where he became a civil engineer and surveyor. He helped with the removal of river obstructions in Hell's Gate, Queens, New York. Lovell would die in New York City on June 1, 1884 before the completion of the job. He was 61 years old. He rests today in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York. 

Mansfield Lovell

Lovell's grave

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completing the work at Hell's Gate one year after the death of Mansfield Lovell.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lawrence Sullivan Ross

Brigadier General Lawrence Sullivan Ross

       One of my favorite Confederate General's is Lawrence Sullivan Ross. "Sul" as he was called was an aggressive commander of Texas cavalry. Sul Ross was born in Iowa in 1838, but his family migrated to Texas before he turned a year old. Although, he began his college studies at Baylor University, he would earn his degree from Wesleyan University in Florence, Alabama. Wesleyan University was in what is today called Wesleyan Hall on the campus of the University of North Alabama or UNA. 

Image result for wesleyan hall una

Modern view of Wesleyan Hall built in 1856

       Sul earned his degree in 1859 in Florence, Alabama. The year before graduation, Ross returned to Texas to help put down hostile Comanche raids on Texas settlements. His father was the Indian Agent. Sul Ross served as a captain on the expedition and was wounded by an arrow to the shoulder. He was then shot in the chest by a .58 caliber bullet. As he lie, temporarily paralyzed, the warrior who shot him, dismounted and approached him with a knife. A fellow soldier killed the warrior as he bent over Sul in a scalping attempt. 
       The wounds were so severe, it was believed he would soon die. Ross lay where he had fallen for five days unable to be moved. He begged those tending his wounds to just kill him and put him out of his misery. After five days, he was carried ninety miles to a post. The wounds became infected and Ross suffered throughout 1858 with health issues. 
       Following graduation from Wesleyan Hall, he became a Texas Ranger and served in that capacity until Texas seceded. Ross married Elizabeth Tinsely in 1861 and became major of the 6th Texas Cavalry. He led a successful raid on a Union supply train at Keetsville, Missouri and his commanding officer said of him, "but a boy, he has earned imperishable honors as an officer." 
       The command soon moved east of the Mississippi River and Sul was promoted to colonel of the 6th Texas Cavalry. At the Battle of Corinth, he was extremely sick with a fever and he found the heat excruciating. Despite his ailments, he refused to leave the field and fought as the rearguard during the retreat and his actions at Davis Bridge earned him a much deserved promotion to brigadier general. His promotion though was delayed by jealous officers and not received until 1864 to date from December 21, 1863. 
       From September of 1863 until April of 1864, Sul Ross suffered from the effects of malaria, but never asked for a furlough and faithfully continued to serve. Following this bout with disease, he would suffer respiratory problems for the remainder of his life. His brigade fought in Mississippi through the spring of 1864 and then was sent to Joseph Johnston's Army of the Tennessee at the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign. 
       When Hood moved his army into Northern Alabama, Ross's Texas brigade reported to Nathan Bedford Forrest. His brigade would lead the advance into Tennessee and play an important part as rearguard during the retreat from Nashville. During the spring of 1865, his brigade would again serve in Mississippi. 
       He would have a busy life following the war. Back in Texas, he began his post-war career as a farmer. He would then become sheriff, Texas State Senator, and eventually governor of Texas where he served two terms. Sul then became president of Texas AMC (which would later become Texas A&M). 

The Sullivan Ross home while serving as President of Texas A&M

       He went on a hunting trip with his son and several friends and became sick with chills and stomach problems. He returned to College Station just in time to die on January 3, 1898. Some speculate he died of a heart attack, while others say it was from exposure during the hunt, or "acute congestion of the stomach and bowels." Regardless of the cause, Sul Ross was 59 years old. He rests today in Oakwood Cemetery in Waco, Texas. 

Grave of Lawrence Sullivan Ross

       Sul Ross's bravery was well known both before and during the Civil War. A Southern newspaper correspondent best summed up Ross's brigade by saying when they attack, "something must give way, and somebody is sure to get hurt." He was often called chivalrous, gallant, and even a daring knight. It was said he had the heart of a true soldier. Women considered him a handsome young officer. 

Statue of Sul Ross at Texas A&M University

       Legend says that Ross as president of the University would often tutor students before an exam. He would refuse pay, but only accept a penny for their thoughts. Today, at exam time, students place pennies on the statue above. 

Pennies on the statue at exam time

Post-war image of Lawrence Sullivan Ross