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 Post subject: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 5:01 pm 
Opinion Question Really....

Who is your favorite "colorful" general to read about in the Civil War? Maybe he wasn't the best general or the brightest but he was never dull.

Mine has to be Daniel Sickles. For all his flaws he was never dull at all. He raised his own Brigade in New York and became a general the old fashioned way (political favors). At Chancellorsville he discovered Jackson's flanking march before anyone else. His role at Gettysburg is very controversial but he went out in style puffing on a cigar. He murdered his wife's lover before the war and had an affair with a Queen after the war. Of all the scoundrels of the War Sickles has to be among the best.


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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 7:25 am 
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Agree with Sickles, but I think Van Dorn deserves an honorable mention. :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:30 am 
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Sickles was quite interesting, but nobody compares with Nathan Bedford Forrest who started his service as a private and ended the war as a lieutenant general.
There are too many stories about him to record here, before and after the war, but a few episodes:

1. He personally killed 31 Yankees while having 30 horses killed under him.
2. He was shot by one of his disgruntled lieutenants whom he then stabbed with a pen knife, and the lieutenant died the following day, after they made up.
3. He was a slave trader and a millionaire at the start of the ACW. He assigned about 50 slaves to drive his supply wagons with their freedom promised for faithful service. (I have read that one deserted of 44 and that none deserted of 50.)
4. He had black, fighting troopers in his command throughout the war, 8 serving in his HQ company, considered his elite force and 65 on his roster when he surrendered his command at the war's end.
5. He was unschooled, had no previous military experience, and regularly beat professional West Point officers in battle. His greatest victory was against experienced BG Sturgis with 8500 men to Forrest's 3500 at Brice's Crossroads.
6. He was exonerated by a federal board of inquiry under Gen. Sherman for the Ft Pillow so-called massacre.
7. General William Tecumseh Sherman called him "the most remarkable man our war produced on either side," while Sherman also said, "Forrest should be hunted down and killed even if it costs 10,000 lives or if it bankrupts the Federal Treasury!" and then concluded by cursing Forrest as "that devil Forrest!"
8. He killed two Matlock brothers before the war during a fight that his uncle was also killed. A surviving Matlock brother served under Forrest during the ACW.
9. He threatened with death his commanding officer, Gen. Braxton Bragg, after the mishandled battle of Chickamauga and what he considered disrespect.
Bragg then gave Forrest an independent command.
“I have stood your meanness as long as I intend to. You have played the part of a damned scoundrel, and are a coward, and if you were any part of a man I would slap your jaws and force you to resent it. You may as well not issue any more orders to me, for I will not obey them, and I will hold you personally responsible for any further indignities you endeavor to inflict upon me. You have threatened to arrest me for not obeying your orders promptly. I dare you to do it, and I say to you that if you ever again try to interfere with me or cross my path it will be at the peril of your life.”
10. He was persuaded to join and lead the KKK after the ACW, but by 1869 resigned and ordered its disbandment, "being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace."

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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 11:15 am 
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A very compelling argument for Nathan Bedford Forrest. A controversial person before, during and after the ACW. As the question was "Most Colorful General of the War", his activities after his surrender should not enter into the debate, IMO.

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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:02 pm 
I used Sickles pre- and post-war activities as well so I think I violated my own question as well Ernie :shock:

Forrest is colorful to say the very least. Van Dorn does deserve special mention as does Jefferson C. Davis who murdered "Bull" Nelson but escaped any trial since he was an experienced field officer. Also you can add Sherman to the list as he was in an asylum for a while during the War. I am missing a few more I am sure.


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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 4:06 pm 
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I agree with General McDaniel that Forrest was by far the most colorful general of the war, but he has barely scratched the surface of his accomplishments.
I have read a number of biographies of Forrest, and the most entertaining to me was "Forrest: in Search of an Enigma." Brian Wills' book "A Battle from the Start" isn't as entertaining but has a reputation for more accuracy. I recommend anyone with an interest in colorful generals to read a Forrest biography.

One little-known colorful general was Adam Rankin "Stovepipe" Johnson. He got his nickname by capturing Newburgh, Indiana from a large Union detachment "with the help of twelve men and two joints of stovpipe mounted on the running-gear of a decrepit wagon." He was accidentally shot and blinded by his own men, but still went on to found the town of Marble Falls, Tx.

Another is Lawrence Sullivan "Sul" Ross. He spent his summer vacations from college with the Texas Rangers, and is credited with rescuing Cynthia Ann Parker from the Comanche ( a rescue she did not desire) and killed Chief Peta Necona in single combat. He fought in 135 battles and engagements during the war and went on to be governor of Texas and president of what is now Texas A&M, an institution that idolizes him to this day.

Note: Facts on Stovepipe Johnson and Sul Ross were from "Generals in Gray" by Ezra Warner.

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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 11:47 pm 
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mihalik wrote:
One little-known colorful general was Adam Rankin "Stovepipe" Johnson. He got his nickname by capturing Newburgh, Indiana from a large Union detachment "with the help of twelve men and two joints of stovpipe mounted on the running-gear of a decrepit wagon." He was accidentally shot and blinded by his own men, but still went on to found the town of Marble Falls, Tx.

Another is Lawrence Sullivan "Sul" Ross. He spent his summer vacations from college with the Texas Rangers, and is credited with rescuing Cynthia Ann Parker from the Comanche ( a rescue she did not desire) and killed Chief Peta Necona in single combat. He fought in 135 battles and engagements during the war and went on to be governor of Texas and president of what is now Texas A&M, an institution that idolizes him to this day.

Note: Facts on Stovepipe Johnson and Sul Ross were from "Generals in Gray" by Ezra Warner.


Interesting people!

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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 12:05 am 
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Of course, you cannot speak of "colorful" generals and not mention Gen George Armstrong Custer and, J.E.B. Stuart.

It is hard to compare the two, as Stuart was overall ANV cavalry commander and Custer was a brigade commander.

But, Custer was in 2 major actions vs Stuart, East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg and at Yellow Tavern and the Union cavalry carried the day in both battles, with Custer's Michigan troopers being prominent in both engagements.

It is said that a 5th Michigan trooper of Custer's Brigade fired the shot that mortally wounded JEB Stuart.

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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 10:14 am 
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Honorable mention should go to John B. Magruder for his theatrics on the Peninsula.
Jim Gleason LG 3-3-I AoP


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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2011 12:22 pm 
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This young fellow must get at least a mention.

"Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me." He added, after a pause, looking me full in the face: "That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave"

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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 1:00 am 
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Quote:
"Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me." He added, after a pause, looking me full in the face: "That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave"


I would certainly Stonewall that one!

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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 3:47 am 
What about Thomas Wood who abandoned the position he held at Chickamauga despite knowing he would leave a perfect hole in Rosecrans line. Rosie had reprimanded him in the past for not following orders immediately and without question and Wood took this opportunity to extract a bit of revenge on Rosie at the expense of his own Army.

Also, Joe Wheeler. A decent cavalry officer during the War (Forrest made everyone else look average by comparison) ended up fighting with Roosevelt and Rough Riders in Cuba and then in the Philippines before retiring from active service in 1900. But thats if we look outside the strictly military service of 1861- 1865.


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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 5:15 pm 
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It's hard to argue against Forrest, Jackson, Sickles, Jackson et. al. However, I would like to submit Edwin Vose Sumner for 'Honorable Mention.'

1. "Bull" Sumner was born in Boston, December 30, 1797. This made him 64 years old when he commanded II Corps in the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsula Campaign. Those of us on the far side of 60 who have also lived rough on active service can appreciate what that statement means.

2. Sumner received a direct commission to the Army in 1819. This meant he had served as a cavalryman longer than many of his contemporary commanders had been alive. This includes his GinC, George McClellan.

3. Sumner has been described as a 'Martinet' with 'Old Army' ideas about discipline. His nickname 'Bull' is attributed to many origins. Some say the troops referred to him as the "Bull of the Woods" for his stentorian voice. Others say it was because he was notoriously "Bull-headed!" My favorite explanation comes from Colonel Marvin Sully when he commanded the 1st Minnesota. Sully maintained that during a firefight with some plains Indians before the War, Sumner was in the middle of the firing line and was struck in the forehead. Someone picked up the round after if bounced off Sumner's forehead and found it had been flattened. Sully claimed that the troops called Sumner 'Bullhead' after the incident. (Sully may have gotten the wrong war. At Cerro Gordo, Sumner was struck in the forehead by a spent Mexican round.)

4. Sumner was no stranger to danger. Sumner had been wounded in Mexico and at Glendale. He personally led his corps into the fight at Antietam and was well forward at Fredericksburg. This personal involvement in the fight has led critics to say that he was less than effective as a Corps Commander. Probably true-but no one can deny his courage. A Dr. Hand describes Sumner's demeanor in a fight (Again Glendale): "As we reached General Sumner he was, in his usual way, swinging his spectacles in his hand, and just then, a bullet broke one of the glasses. He was much annoyed, but then quickly told Colonel Sully to bring up all the reserves.

5. Sumner has been criticized for being an Old School Cavalry Colonel not suitable for Corps Command. He suffered criticism at Williamsburg from McClellan (Who was starting his pattern of not being where the fight was) for not handling the troops efficiently. Since this was the Army of the Potomac's first real battle under McClellan's regime, I might argue that few others would have done better and that McClellan was looking for a scapegoat. At Savage Station and Glendale, Sumner again took command in the conspicuous absence of McClellan and fought two creditable delaying actions. Of course, at Savage Station, 'Bull' refused to leave the field after the rebels had fallen back even though the Army was in General Retreat (Oops! I mean it was changing its base!). Anyway, it took a direct order and threat of arrest to get the old fighter to fall back.

6. Sumner could be generous. At Glendale, Sumner sent the better part of his Corps to support Franklin against Stonewall. Again, at Malvern Hill, when Porter's Corps was being hit hard, Porter observed, "At an early hour of the day Sumner kindly sent me Caldwell's brigade, as he thought I might need help." This, to me, reflects a flexibility and grasp of battle command not normally associated with Bull Sumner. These are handy traits to have when your GinC habitually makes himself scarce when the bullets start flying.

7. Sumner's finest hour was perhaps at Fair Oaks/Seven Pines. After the drubbing Keyes and Couch took on the first day, it appeared that the Confederates were poised to destroy 40% or better of the Army of the Potomac. Sumner had his Corps lined up on the northern side of the Chickahominey at Grapevine Bridge ready to strike in the event that McClellan would get off his butt to order his advance. When the order came, a nervous Engineer Officer pointed out that the river was at flood stage and that the bridge would not hold the weight of his troops and guns, Sumner exclaimed, "But Sir! I am ordered!!" At that, Second Corps advanced, the weight of the troops and guns settling the bridge and Sumner did what he did best, He 'Marched to his front like a soldier' (Thank you Mr. Kipling) and saved the day.

8. Edwin Vose Sumner resigned his command after Hooker was selected as the Army of the Potomac commander after the debacle at Fredericksburg. Perhaps Sumner was tired of being passed over by junior officers, perhaps he was just tired of the slughter in Virginia. I personally think he couldn't stand to be under the command a a man as morally bereft as Hooker.

9. Edwin Vose Sumner requested and was granted command of the Department of Missouri where the old cavalryman could fight the war he learned on the plains against irregular forces and brigands. 'Bull' Sumner contracted the flu on his way to Missouri and died in Syracuse, New York

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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 4:34 pm 
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Very good accounting of Gen Sumner.

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 Post subject: Re: Most Colorful General of the War
PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2011 7:49 pm 
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Interesting stuff on Sumner.

I personally prefer Joe Wheeler myself.

But how about Mosby, the Gray Ghost! :)

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