Category: Locations (page 3 of 9)

Grant Takes Forts Heiman and Henry on Tennessee River 6 Feb 1862

On 6 February 1862, Union forces descended on the hapless Forts Heiman and Henry on the Tennessee River near the Kentucky / Tennessee border. If there was the one action that precipitated the fall of the Confederate west militarily, this was it. With control of the Tennessee River from Illinois through western Kentucky and western Tennessee all the way down to North Alabama, the Union changed the war with one stroke.

Forts Heiman and Henry

Fort Henry was under the Confederate command of General Lloyd Tilghman, but little could any General do about a poor position and a rising river. If Grant and Foote had not taken him, the river would have. Torrential rains had made the fort almost untenable for river guns. The heights across the river at Fort Heiman were to have been improved and might have made a difference, but the lack of men and equipment meant that the construction was not complete.

Confederate hopes flooded

A few days previous, Tilghman actually thought the Rebels might inflict a terrible loss on the Yankees, if reserves could be brought down from Columbus and over from Bowling Green. In the end, Tilghman saw he had a losing hand when no re-enforcements came to his call. Tilghman decided to save the infantry and personally join a small artillery detachment to hold off the Yankees long enough to let the infantry escape to Fort Donelson. He succeeded and surrendered to Foote on a gunboat at the entrance to the fort. Grant’s infantry divisions were bogged down in mud on either side of the river after alighting from Foote’s troop transports, so they didn’t even get in place before the surrender.

Commodore Foote’s ironclads had taken a significant beating in the battle with the Confederate river guns, but Foote had a few fast timberclads continue up the Tennessee River to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to wreak havoc with Confederate shipping and railway river bridges.

Whiskey and Combined Operations

An excellent anecdote from Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: Fort Sumter to Perryville pages, 184-185;
“At fifty-six he [Foote] had spent forty years as a career officer fighting two things he hated most, slavery and whiskey. It was perhaps a quirk of fate to have placed him thus alongside Grant, who could scarcely be said to have shown an aversion for either.” But both men got along, because they both believed in combined operations fervently. Foote was quoted as saying the Army and Navy “were like blades of shears–united, invincible; separated, almost useless.”

Forts Heiman and Henry Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

If you’re in Memphis, try this ride through beautiful far west Tennessee going through the Reelfoot Lake State Park area and on to the Fort Henry area in Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

Battle of Kasserine Pass, Tunisia, 14 – 22 February 1943

A bloody introduction to modern armored warfare

The US Army got its first taste of the German Army in the Atlas Mountains of Tunisia in mid February 1943. It was not a glorious time for the untried American II Corps. Poor leadership by II Corps commander Floyd Fredendall led the Americans to a humiliating defeat in a series of defensives positions and ill-conceived counter-attacks. Almost 6,000 were killed or wounded and hundreds more were captured in the battles around Sidi Bou Zid (14th/15th), Sbeitla(16th) and the Kasserine Pass(19th). The whole action is often referred to in the aggregate as the Battle of Kasserine Pass.

In early February 1943, General Erwin Rommel and his German Africa Corps were in danger of being cut off from its provisions in Tunisia. The American Army’s II Corps had taken up positions in the passes of the Grand Dorsal section of the Aurès Mountains at the eastern end of the Atlas Mountain chain which were blocking Rommel’s way to his northern Tunisian supply ports. Rommel sent two Panzer Divisions to take the passes. They surprised The American 1st Armored Division, led by General Orlando Ward, on the morning of 14 February 1943 with a well choreographed air and land maneuver. The disarrayed Americans were ordered by Fredendall to regroup, with minimal re-enforcements, and counter-attack. Ward thought this was ill-advised, but did not object vigorously. Rommel was prepared and unleashed hell on the unsuspecting Americans with a classic ambush near Sidi Bou Zid. The 1st Armoured was mauled again.

The Battle of Kasserine Pass

Finally, the Americans were allowed to fall back and re-group. The next point of defense would be the Kasserine pass, which was an opening in the range where a road, a river and a railroad track went through…an obvious point to hold. Rommel knew this as well. After probing the line sufficiently, Rommel launched. Already learning the very hard lessons that Rommel was teaching them, the Americans held at first and Rommel had to try again. The Desert Fox’s second attempt was to prove successful and the way was open for his panzers to rush through the gap.

Rommel was in open conflict with the Italians and many of his German colleagues and superiors, so he did not hold the area for long. However, in conducting the actions around the Kasserine Pass, he had taught the Americans a great lesson and it was taken to heart fully.

The Battle of Kasserine Pass Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

I have not ridden this, but would love to some day. II Corps landed around Oran, Algeria in early November 1942 as part of Operation Torch. They traversed northern Algeria to enter Tunisia in late 1942 through early 1943. The ride I describe follows the Tell Atlas range running parallel to the Mediterranean coast. It is mostly on the new A1 highway from Oran to the Battle of Kasserine Pass battlefields in northern Tunisia.

The Battle of Kettle Creek , Georgia 14 February 1779

Map Credit: By Otis Ashmore and Charles Olmstead [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Loyalists

An enduring idea the British had about the American colonists during the Revolutionary War was that many of them were actually loyal to the Crown. The British had spent considerable effort trying to round up these Loyalists and get them in the fight. After several years of being disappointed by the lack of Loyalist fervor in the North, the British became sure that there were more Loyalists to be found in the backwoods of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. In early 1779, a Loyalist named James Boyd was dispatched by the British with a open Colonel commission from Savannah to recruit more Loyalists in the Georgia interior. He had done this and even fought a few skirmishes with Patriots when he arrived at the Battle of Kettle Creek, in Wilkes County, Georgia on 14 February 1779. His 600 men set up camp on the creek and many of them set off to forage for food.

Colonel Andrew Pickens was a patriot commander in the area and he had heard of Boyd’s expedition. Pickens decided to tail Boyd and put a Georgia whupping on him for stirring up the area. Pickens had with him Colonel John Dooly, Lieutenant Colonel Elijah Clarke and 340 Patriots.

The Battle of Kettle Creek

Pickens caught up with Boyd at Kettle Creek and planned to surprise the camp. Pickens took a little over half the force and went straight at the camp. Dooly and Clarke each took half of the rest and went around the swampy ground on either side of the camp. Pickens’s men, however, were spotted by Boyd’s pickets. Boyd was able to get his men behind rocks and trees and fend off Pickens for several hours. Things were looking pretty grim for Pickens, because Dooly and Clarke were delayed in the swamps. Boyd must have been feeling confident that he could see off this group of traitors. He was confident right up to the point that a musket ball got him. Seeing their leader fall put the panic in the Loyalists and they all ran for their camp. About this time, Dooly and Clarke emerged from the swamps and converged on the camp from opposite sides. The rout was now on and the battle swung wildly in favor of the Patriots.

Although a small battle of volunteers in the backwoods of Georgia, the battle of Kettle Creek was important. It disabused the British of the notion that the backwoods of Georgia could be held for the Crown. It effectively ended the Loyalist cause in Georgia.

Battle of Kettle Creek Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Try this ride through some of East Georgia’s best country and end up at the Kettle Creek Battleground Memorial.

1LT Jimmie Monteith Omaha Beach 6 June 1944

I’ve spent a lot of time around Omaha Beach in Normandy. It is a very special place for me as it is for many others. Every time I walk up the cliffs, I see the area where the 1st Infantry fought their way up. The 16th Infantry Regiment sector saw especially intense fighting under the gaze of the “wiederstandneste.” These were heavily fortified, concrete strong points that were connected by trenches and had interlocking fields of fire. They brought death and destruction to any unit who could not take them out. The planning for D-Day was meticulous and required, but the only thing that took that day for the Allies was determined junior leaders who took the mission as their personal mission to deliver that day. There were many valiant men that day, but none more so than 1LT Jimmie Monteith. Below is his Medal of Honor citation.

Jimmie Monteith Omaha Beach

Jimmie Monteith at Omaha Beach Cemetery

Jimmie W. Monteith Jr’s cross at Omaha Beach Cemetery

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Colleville-sur-Mer, France, 6 June 1944.

Entered service at: Richmond, Va.

Born: 1 July 1917, Low Moor, Va.

G.O. No.: 20, 29 March 1945.

Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, near Colleville-sur-Mer, France. 1st Lt. Monteith landed with the initial assault waves on the coast of France under heavy enemy fire. Without regard to his own personal safety he continually moved up and down the beach reorganizing men for further assault. He then led the assault over a narrow protective ledge and across the flat, exposed terrain to the comparative safety of a cliff. Retracing his steps across the field to the beach, he moved over to where 2 tanks were buttoned up and blind under violent enemy artillery and machinegun fire. Completely exposed to the intense fire, 1st Lt. Monteith led the tanks on foot through a minefield and into firing positions. Under his direction several enemy positions were destroyed. He then rejoined his company and under his leadership his men captured an advantageous position on the hill. Supervising the defense of his newly won position against repeated vicious counterattacks, he continued to ignore his own personal safety, repeatedly crossing the 200 or 300 yards of open terrain under heavy fire to strengthen links in his defensive chain. When the enemy succeeded in completely surrounding 1st Lt. Monteith and his unit and while leading the fight out of the situation, 1st Lt. Monteith was killed by enemy fire. The courage, gallantry, and intrepid leadership displayed by 1st Lt. Monteith is worthy of emulation.

Jimmie Monteith Omaha Beach Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Take the ferry from Portsmouth, England to Ouistreham, France then follow the following beach route to the US Cemetery at Omaha Beach.

The Kilpatrick Dahlgren Raid 28 February to 1 March 1864

By early 1864, Lincoln was despairing that he could find no General to prosecute the Union’s war against the South in the eastern theatre. All of his leaders around the Potomac seemed to be frozen with indecision and a fear of failure. Much to his delight, a plan from a junior Cavalry General, H. Judson Kilpatrick, came into his view through Secretary of War Stanton. Kilpatrick knew that his immediate superiors would either poo-poo the idea or steal it as their own, so he approached Lincoln’s administration directly through back channels. Such was the state of the Union military leadership in the east. Kilpatrick was proposing a daring raid into the mouth of the lion to snatch Federal prisoners held in deplorable conditions in Confederate held Richmond. Kilpatrick’s plan suggested more as well. Stanton and Lincoln were attracted by the idea that a raid into Richmond, apart from freeing prisoners, would also serve as a huge propaganda victory. Kilpatrick was summoned to Washington for a private meeting with Stanton and given the go ahead. Kilpatrick’s superior’s were not amused, although they had no choice but to support him as he had the direct support of Lincoln.

Kilpatrick, like many Cavalry officers from the North and South, had dreams of great daring-do, but was known to some peers and subordinates as “KillCavalry” for his reckless behavior. However, many, including Lincoln, believed that more of this type of risk taking was necessary to dislodge a stubborn foe in Virginia. Kilpatrick had no problem attracting another officer of similar ideals, named Colonel Ulric Dahlgren. Dahlgren, the son of a Union Admiral, had made his name in previous engagements, including chasing Lee’s forces out of Maryland after Gettysburg, and lost a leg for his work. Having recovered and sporting a prosthetic leg, Dahlgren was ready for more grandiose riding.

The Kilpatrick Dahlgren Raid

The operation started just before midnight on the night of the 28th of February 1864. They were aided by a diversionary attack further west by General Sedgewick and a Cavalry Brigade commander who probably would have longed to have been involved in the raid. His name was George Armstrong Custer. The diversion drew the Rebels west and cleared a path for Kilpatrick and Dahlgren. Custer was especially effective in drawing the Confederates on a wild goose chase as far away as Charlottesville. Leaving Elys Ford at the Rapidan River, north of Chancellorsville, the The Kilpatrick Dahlgren raid set out at a good cavalry pace and reached Spotsylvania courthouse by leap day, 1864. Here, they split forces with Kilpatrick heading straight into Richmond from the north with 7/8ths of the force. Dahlgren took a wide, westerly path to enter Richmond from the southwest with a force of approximately 500. The idea was to give the impression that the city was being attacked from multiple sides and cause panic long enough to get the prisoners out. If they could destroy a few things in Richmond, all the better.

Kilpatrick continued well through appalling weather of sleet and high winds. Dahlgren met a slave boy to guide him over a ford-able point on the James River and was on time, so was feeling pretty high at this point. Kilpatrick fired flares to see if Dahlgen would respond, but the weather was so bad that the flares could only be seen locally. Both drove on, but Dahlgren soon came to grief as the guide led him to a point at the rain swollen James that they could not ford. Dahlgren was thrown off track and was furious. The boy probably just did not know that the river was that high, but this did not appease Dahlgren. In a fit of rage, Dahlgren hung the boy for treachery. Unable to find a fording point, Dahlgren was stuck and could not complete his mission. Kilpatrick had entered north Richmond by now and encountered a force of old men and clerks, but misread the situation as regular troops. In an uncharacteristic delay, Kilpatrick hesitated whilst he waited for the signal from Dahlgren that the southwest attack was on. The “Dad’s Army” force held on well and long enough for re-enforcements to arrive and drive Kilpatrick off. Kilpatrick now decided to avoid the fate of the prisoners he had come to save, but left Dahlgren in a bind by pulling back. Kilpatrick was harried all the way back to Union lines, but Dahlgren and many of his 500 were to die trying to elude the Confederates.

The The Kilpatrick Dahlgren raid was a failure on the tactical as well as strategic front, but it was to get worse. The Rebels searched Dahlgren’s body and allegedly found orders to destroy Richmond and kill Jefferson Davis and his cabinet. The Union denied the existence of such orders, but the outrage in the South had the opposite effect of the propaganda coup Lincoln had hoped for.

Kilpatrick Dahlgren Raid Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

I call this ride the “Rapidan Return.” It covers the path Kilpatrick took to Richmond and then passes over the James River near Goochland where Dalgren had hoped to cross. It continues on the beautiful VA state routes 6 and 20 to Charlottesville where Custer worked the area. the ride finishes near the battlefield parks of WildernessChancellorsville and Spotsylvania.

Blucher Defeats Napoleon at Battle of Laon 9-10 March 1814

Map Credit:By Gregory Fremont-Barnes (main editor) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon on the run

After defeat in Russia in 1812, Napoleon was being chased by the European Allies across central Europe and into France by early 1814. The Prussian and Russian forces were led by the Prussian Marshal Blucher and were threatening Paris by early 1814. Napoleon was fighting for his very survival.

After several battles on the trot, some won, some lost, Blucher occupied the town of Laon. Laon was strategically important because it was a major communications crossroads near Paris. Holding Laon would give Blucher the logistical base to attack into Paris. Napoleon obviously felt it could not remain held by the enemy. Laon was also a tactical stronghold due to its placement on a plateau with steep slopes for defense.

The Battle of Laon

On the first day of the battle (9th), both sides fought skirmishes for the small towns around Laon. Both sides missed opportunities for exploitation, but the sun set on the Allies holding the town. On the second day (10th), Napoleon decided to try the ploy that had worked at Craonne a few days earlier. Napoleon sent Marshal Auguste Marmont to deliver the flank attack. Blucher saw what was happening and threw a decisive counter-attack at Marmont and nearly annihilated his forces were it not for an exceptional defense by a small number of the Old Guard. The battle continued, but Napoleon could not dislodge Blucher from Laon and decided to retire.

The loss at the Battle of Laon was not the end of Napoleon in France, but Blucher and the Allies were tightening the ring around Paris and the Battle of Laon would provide an important link.

Battle of Laon Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Check out the wooded circular route on the “D” roads south of Laon. If you are looking for more rides in the area, try the Battle of Neuve Chapelle ride to the north of the Battle of Laon.

Patriots Take Dorchester Heights Over Boston 4-5 March 1776

British Boston in the Revolutionary War

In early 1776, the American colonists were trying hard to limit the area in which British forces, based in Boston, could operate. As long as the British could retreat to the safety of Boston and its harbor, General George Washington would not be able to control the eastern end of Massachusetts. From Boston, British General Howe could re-supply from the sea and conduct operations with Boston as a base. In fact, Howe had taken nearby Bunker Hill (albeit with heavy losses) and was planning more of these types of operations in early March 1776.

Henry Knox and the Guns of Fort Ticonderoga

Washington knew bold, unexpected and decisive action was needed to disrupt Howe’s plans. In Late 1775, Washington had dispatched Artillery Colonel Henry Knox to Fort Ticonderoga, a British garrison captured by the Green Mountain Boys with Benedict Arnold tagging along, to bring the impressive array of artillery to Boston as soon as possible. Washington had probably expected it in late Spring, but the big man Knox drove his oxen and men hard over the lakes, rivers and frozen terrain of New England to get the 44 guns, 14 mortars and one howitzer to the outskirts of Boston by early February 1776. Knowing good fortune when he saw it, Washington wanted to take aggressive action immediately. Washington wanted to conduct a daring cross Charles River attack from Cambridge, but his council of war thought it too risky. Washington’s leaders agreed on the decisive action, but wanted to do it without significant risks to their small and largely untested militias. The compromise was to take aggressive action on Dorchester Heights which overlook Boston from the southeast.

Taking Dorchester Heights

On the 2nd and 3rd of March 1776, the Patriots fired the Knox artillery on the British in Boston and the Brits returned the favor. Washington had prepared a river crossing unit to the west of Boston to provide relief, if Howe tried to break out and disrupt the Dorchester Heights plan, although it seemed as if he had no idea what was going on. Whilst the artillery dueled, heavy, but transportable, fortifications were being fabricated down the hill. On the night of 4 March 1776, General Artemas Ward’s forces used an old ploy of Washington’s and put straw on the wheels of his wagons’ wheels to move quietly and began occupying Dorchester Heights from neighboring Roxbury. With a mammoth effort and 300 ox carts of material moved up the hill, the rebels had constructed 4 works on the heights and the flanks. By daylight on the 5 March, General Howe awoke to incomplete, but substantial works on the southeastern hills overlooking the harbor and the city. Howe was reported as saying, “The rebels have done more in one night than my whole army would have done in a month.”

The British Admiral Molyneaux Shulddown informed Howe that he could not maintain his ships in the harbor with such a threat. In the following days, Howe planned a quick counter-attack, but bad weather or a bout of under confidence or both made him quit Boston. By 17 March, in agreement with Washington not to destroy Boston if allowed to leave unmolested, the British had left Boston on ships for Halifax, Nova Scotia. They would be back, but for now Boston was in the Patriots hands and the radicals of the American colonies had a lot to crow about.

Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Try Massachusetts state route 3A (MA-SR-3A) from Dorchester Heights down to Plymouth where the colony began.

Benedict Arnold Fort Ticonderoga 10 May 1775

Fort Ticonderoga

In the early morning hours of May 10th, 1775, a guerrilla force from the New Hampshire Grants area (present day Vermont) with a vainglorious co-leader crossed Lake Champlain into New York and took the British garrison at Fort Ticonderoga whilst they slept.

Three weeks after Lexington and Concord and on the very day that the Second Continental Congress was to meet in Philadelphia, Ethan Allen (with his brother, Ira, and his cousin, Seth Warner) led the “Green Mountain Boys” from Hands Cove on the eastern side of Lake Champlain to a landing point near Fort Ticonderoga. They had a fellow traveller who tried to assert his control over the party, but seeing him commanding only his own person at the time, the rough Green Mountain Boys decided to only allow the poppinjay to travel as co-leader. His name was Benedict Arnold.

At the time, Ethan Allen was wanted by the New York authorities for offenses committed in the New Hampshire Grants (Vermont) against New York settlers. The NH Grants area was claimed by three colonies (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York) and would soon become an independent Republic in 1777 before joining the United States as the fourteenth. Allen and his Boys had responded to an approach from concerned citizens about the safety of the Lake Champlain corridor from British penetration. The fort at Ticonderoga, on the western shore of Lake Champlain, was the obvious place to secure against this type of incursion, so the band of mountaineers set sights on Hands Cove as a jumping off point. Benedict Arnold was from Rhode Island, late of Connecticut, but applied to the Massachusetts Committee of Safety to secure the fort as well. Given permission, but no men, the ever confident Arnold set out for Hands Cove as well.

Benedict Arnold Fort Ticonderoga

After meeting in Hands Cove, Arnold (Mass. Committee of Safety papers in hand) presented himself as the new leader of the New Hampshire grantsmen. One can imagine the chuckles the mountain men suppressed as they listened to the city boy make his claim. Whether Arnold convinced them to let him become co-leader or if they tolerated him like the village idiot who claims to be Napoleon, no one will know (yes, I know Napoleoon was 5 at the time, but the analogy still works). Either way, the future traitor was on the boat to Ticonderoga that morning.

After landing, the force quietly made their way up to the fort and overtook the only sentry. They then proceeded to enter the fort which was really nothing more than a fortified hamlet of 2 officers, 48 men and 24 women and children. Finding all of the fort asleep, Allen announced his presence and his authority and demanded surrender which was quickly forthcoming. Allen sent Warner further north up the lake to take the fort at Crown Point as well. Arnold, not to be outdone, went all the way to Canada to occupy Fort Saint Johns at the intersection of Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River. Perhaps, realising his invitation of a rout by British forces, Arnold thought twice and left the area. Allen took it anyway, but was run off soon thereafter.

As one can easily read, the action on 10 May 1775 was not really all that important tactically and its strategic importance geographically at the time was questionable. However, I have left out one important detail of strategic importance. Fort Ticonderoga, as frail as it was, housed a large cache of reasonably modern artillery consisting of 44 guns, 14 mortars and one howitzer. The infant Continental Army was woefully short of artillery and these pieces would begin to play a decisive role less than a year later at the Dorchester Heights above Boston when used to lay siege to the cooped up British Army and Navy.

As for the main players, Allen was later captured by the British in Quebec and sent to a Cornish prison. The British army were to run into Seth Warner and the Green Mountain Boys again near Bennington, Vermont in 1777 and lose again. Fort Ticonderoga was still to play a major role in the war as British General Burgoyne took it back in 1777 and used it as a base to attack further south in his disastrous New York campaign. As for Benedict Arnold… after a vain, but generally well-regarded stint as an American commander, he became the one name that all American school children learn when being taught about loyalty to the nation.

Benedict Arnold Fort Ticonderoga Ride Recommendation

Lake Champlain is really quite striking and it is easy to travel its length largely in eye-shot of it. Its importance to the founding wars of the USA cannot be understated.
Start at the Hands Cove Road in Vermont to see the launch area and go to the Larrabees Point ferry for a short ride across the lake with Fort Ticonderoga in view. Visit the Fort, then head north on NY Route 9N to Crown Point Historical Park and across the bridge into Vermont and the Chimney Point Historical Park. From there head north following Lake Champlain from the Vermont side and through the Grand Isle and Hero Islands, across the Canadian border into Quebec to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (site of the former Fort St Johns). Don’t forget the passport! Google Map of the route.

Second Battle of Winchester 13-15 June 1863

The Second Battle of Winchester

Before Gettysburg came the preparation of the route north. After the victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee decided to move north to secure provisions for his increasingly ragged troops. As well as this practical matter, Lee hoped the move would encourage the peace activists of the north by threatening Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia from the west. Whilst encamped in Culpeper, Virginia with his infantry (LG Richard Ewell’s and Longstreet’s two Corps), Lee’s cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart met a large Federal Cavalry force led by Alfred Pleasanton near Brandy Station on 9 June 1863. This ended up being the largest cavalry battle of the entire war. It ended in a tactical draw, but had two significant outcomes. First, Stuart was successful in screening Lee’s force in Culpeper and the Union left the field not knowing where Lee was, but suspected he was amassing a large army on its doorstep. Second, the aggressive fighting of the Federal cavalry marked the end of Stuart’s domination of the cavalry field in the eastern theatre. The legend of the southern cavalry had been broken by excellent cavalry leaders, such as John Buford. Regardless of who won at Brandy Station, Lee’s army was still in Northern Virginia and on the move northward with determination to cause havoc.

Lee sent Ewell’s II Corps to clear the Winchester area of the Shenandoah Valley of known Union emplacements there. This was to be the route north and Lee wanted nothing slowing him down when he began his big gamble. The Union forces at Winchester were commanded by BG Robert Milroy and were significantly smaller than Ewell’s numbers. The emplacements were made up of the the “Star” fort to the west of Winchester and the main fort in the town itself. Because of the general havoc created by the advancing Confederates and the Union’s shallow numbers, Milroy had been ordered to withdrawal from Winchester to Harpers Ferry. However, after skirmishing all around Winchester on the 13th, Milroy decided to try to hold the town. This decision would later get him relieved of command, but the Confederates would relieve him of many of this troops before then.

On the 14th of June, Ewell began in earnest by sending Jubal Early’s Division to take the Star Fort during the day and increasing pressure on the main fort into the evening. As the Confederates closed on Winchester, Milroy was starting to think better of his option of withdrawal. After a quick counsel of war, he decided to retreat to the north. However, Ewell had anticipated this and sent Edward “Allegheny” Johnson’s division to cut him off. Johnson’s forces met Milroy’s retreat in the early morning hours of the 15th at Stephenson’s Depot on the Harpers Ferry road to the north of Winchester. Johnson created chaos around the Federals and Milroy’s command collapsed in panic. Milroy and some of his cavalry got away, but virtually all of the remaining infantry were killed or captured along with a great number of artillery, horses and supplies. By the morning of the 15th, all that was left was to mop up the stragglers.

The road was now clear for Lee to march northward with the mountains and Stuart’s cavalry as a screen. Gettysburg and destiny awaited.

Second Battle of Winchester Ride Recommendation

I’m writing about the Second Battle of Winchester, because I never miss a chance to recommend a ride in the Shenandoah Valley, especially any part of the Skyline Drive. I’ve also included some lesser known roads in West Virginia that are worth the ride. The Skyline Drive ends near Front Royal which is where Ewell staged from before the Second Battle of Winchester.

Map Credit:By U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880–1901. (U.S. War Department,) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cromwell Delivers at Battle of Naseby 14 June 1645

If there is one obvious point in the English Civil War where Oliver Cromwell’s star emerged from mere cavalry commander to driving force in the New Model Army, the Battle of Naseby may be it. Cromwell convinced his commander, Fairfax, to move to an adjacent, more neutral hill, so as to encourage the Royalists to attack. Cromwell was so confident that he wanted to goad the Royalists, especially Prince Rupert, into a fight by giving them a better chance. That level of confidence was not misplaced. Cromwell’s actions, as well as the actions of Prince Rupert, were to confirm their reputations. Rupert was the European shock trooper with élan and Cromwell was the disciplined English soldier and stern Puritan. At Naseby, both armies put forward their “A” teams with Prince Rupert, Prince Maurice and the King himself present on the Royal side. Fairfax, Cromwell and Skippon led the Parliamentarian’s New Model Army. There would be no denying the superior force after Naseby.

The Battle of Naseby

Although the King was present, Rupert commanded the Royal lines. Rupert’s plan was to crush the Roundhead left with his signature cavalry charge, which he would lead with Prince Maurice, and then cross behind the Roundhead (Parliamentary forces) centre to turn Cromwell’s flank. All of this was to happen as the Royalist infantry tied down the middle with a quick and unannounced push (i.e. no artillery preparation). Cromwell was supposed to be kept in check by Langdale’s cavalry and a rough ground of rabbit warrens and heavy gorse. The first part went well as Roundhead Ireton’s cavalry (the Parliamentarian left) was beaten from the field. However, Rupert’s cavalry did not cross behind the New Model Army’s infantry centre, either due to battlefield congestion (the New Model Army infantry reserve?) or through their excessive exuberance. Eventually, Rupert’s cavalry ended up in the Parliamentarian rear attacking the baggage trains. One might say it was unplanned, but one must ignore Rupert’s previous actions to call it unlikely. The Royalist infantry held more than their own and actually worked through the New Model Army’s infantry, only to find the reserve behind the ridge.

Disaster for the King’s Forces

The Battle of Naseby was an unmitigated disaster for the King. Virtually all of his northern infantry was captured or killed. He could never recover from the loss of such a force this late in the war. The war would drag on, but the cause was militarily lost on those Northamptonshire fields. Unfortunately for the Royalists, Cromwell also performed to stereotype. After working through the rough ground on the Royalist left, Cromwell attacked and dispersed Langdale’s cavalry. Then Cromwell worked over the Lifeguard who had come to the aid of the cavalry only to join the flight. However, rather than pursue the Royalist cavalry off the field, Cromwell held a blocking position as his cavalry reserve completed the encirclement of virtually the entire Royalist infantry. The King watched the whole thing unfold. He and Rupert tried to rally his cavalry for a counter attack, but thought better of it as he watched his infantry surrender. To add insult to injury, Cromwell’s cavalry harried them all the way to Leicester.

Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Try this ride to and from Northampton that criss-crosses the battlefield north of the village Naseby. There are two major monuments on these roads with the main one, due north of Naseby on the Sibbertoft Road, giving a sweeping view of the battlefield and an interpretative board.

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2019 Battlefield Biker

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑