Friday, May 17, 2019

Drewry's Bluff

On today's date in 1864 Major General Benjamin Butler's Army of the James completed its retreat from this battle site to Bermuda Hundred, Virginia, where it was effectively bottled up (as Grant put it) by the Confederate army of Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard, between the James and Appomattox rivers. 
Beauregard was a better general than Butler, and won an important strategic victory in the May 16 battle. But Butler's subordinate major generals, Baldy Smith and Quincy Gillmore, helped stave off the rebel counter-offensive that day -- notably by Smith's pioneering use of wire (repurposed from the telegraph) as a defensive tool.
Smith, Gillmore and Beauregard were all West Pointers, and Butler's Civil War career is a prime example of how an untrained volunteer general who failed to learn from his military experience was a liability as long as he was retained in field command. However, Smith's own account, in my view, does not show either himself or Gillmore in much better a light. The two of them had reason to take umbrage at a stupid and insulting response of Butler's just before the battle, but not to let their amour propre get in the way of effectively working with him.
At Smith's suggestion to Grant via Sheridan, his corps was shipped north to join the Army of the Potomac, which was a sensible move. Unfortunately, things were not to run smoothly there

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