Mementos 1

COLLECTANEA OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

from The National Tribune, Other Contemporary Newspapers, Diaries, Letters, Books,
Court Martial Records, Pension Files, Compiled Service Records
and Other God-Knows Wheres

Mementos 2       Mementos 3

Fox's 300 Fighting Regiments
   
As synopses of Fox's "300 Fighting Regiments" started appearing, one or two per issue in The National Tribune, old soldiers responded with extreme irritation with Fox's selections and numerous questions about the criteria by which he selected. "Fighting" used as an adjective in conjunction with "regiment" seemed to connote a regiment that was adept and courageous on the battlefield. There was so much consternation and bad feeling among members of regiments left out of the "fighting" three hundred that The National Tribune published this clarification of Colonel Fox (Lt. Col. William F. Fox):

"Col. Fox explains that he does not mean that the regiments he enumerates are the fighting regiments, but that they are 300 regiments which evidently did considerable fighting. There may have been others which did equally good or better fighting but for the lack of other information he can only take those which sustained the heaviest losses, and he has made the line of demarkation on those regiments which lost over 130 killed and died of wounds. This may be unjust in many instances, but still the regiment which lost 130 men killed must have done some hard fighting."

In other words, Fox said, the fighting regiments are not the fighting regiments. The fighting regiments are something else. They are the regiments that suffered over 130 killed and mortally wounded. His criterion was single, unambiguous, and fairly easy to measure—its only limitation being less than perfect casualty counts. Fox might better have named his regiments "the suffering regiments"—or "the regiments with losses over 130 in killed and mortally wounded". But, even understood correctly, Fox's measure of "fighting", was hotly criticized. Herbert Valentine of the Twenty-Third Massachusetts Infantry wrote (08-23-1906), "Is it not unjust discrimination that places [regiments] in two classes by the use of a term that leads those who do not know the basis of discrimination to view the one class as superior to the other in that which goes to make up an efficient regiment, namely, its fighting quality?" B. [Orestes B.] Wright of the 132nd Pennsylvania was one of numerous complainants who objected to "the dictum of Col. Fox". Wright thought, in the paraphrase of the editors of The National Tribune, that "grading a regiment by the number lost in action—assuming that the more killed and wounded, the more brilliant and brave the work done"—is a false mode of grading. Wright went on,

"Heavy losses may be the result of great bravery and splendid work. Again, they may be chargeable to cowardice and inefficiency of officers and men. According to the standard of Col. Fox's fighting regiments, the least deserving are likely to be credited with the best work. To illustrate: The regiment to which I belonged fought over four hours in the battle of Antietam, and out of 800 men engaged it lost 30 killed and 114 wounded, many only slightly wounded. Again, this regiment in the charge at Fredericksurg, VA., Dec. 13, 1862, on Marye's Heights, out of 340 engaged lost 150 in less than 15 minutes. At Antietam, where it fought, the sunken road in front was literally filled with dead rebels, three deep in some places. This showed desperate fighting, and the wonder is that all were not annihilated, from the number of shots fired. The reason why our loss was so comparatively light was on account of our position, while the enemy, who were more exposed, lost heavily. At Fredericksburg, on the other hand, we were in one of the most exposed positions in making our change, and accomplished nothing, tho we lost so heavily... According to Col. Fox, the 132d Pa. will never be classed as a fighting regiment, yet it did all that was required of it during its term of service. It helped put down the rebellion and to restore the Union. The best could do no more" (November 22, 1906).

Naturally, in the 2000s, people—not all people—continue to think that Fox meant something like "fighting quality" by "fighting". A current website, focusing on a particular regiment, speaks of the regiment as being one of Fox's "Top 300 Regiments".

Of the four regiments brigaded together with the 51st Illinois for most of the war, the 22nd Illinois and 42nd Illinois were among Fox's three hundred fighting regiments. The 27th Illinois and the 51st Illinois were not.

They Are All Generals
I was wounded twice; in prison (Libby) once; scared nearly to death several times; always ate my rations when I could get them, and I am ready to testify that Southern sweet potatoes, chickens and hams were as good as can be found in the North. I have been South since the war and found that our brother Confeds have been promoted; they are all Majors, Colonels and Generals now.
—James Carmichael, 65th Ill., National Tribune 12-3-1885

51st Illinois on Rocky Face
F. Willich, Co. G, 51st Ill., Russell, Kan., says a recent communication in The National Tribune in regard to Rocky Face says that some troops made a junction with Hovey on his extreme right, reaching up among the rocks to a point, beyond which was entirely inaccessible to the boldest climber. "If that is so," says Comrade Willich, "our regiment (the 51st Ill.) was bolder than the boldest, for we were up there and stayed until the Johnnies left the ridge." —National Tribune 10-29-1885
By the next fight if every man is killed, we will think it a very small loss
They try to say our Reg did not lose as many here [Shiloh] according to number as we did at Donelson. I do not think we did quite, but very near. Our strength there was just about 520, and we lost in killed, wounded, and missing 346. In this first fight Sunday morning we did not have over 160 all told and we lost 97 killed, wounded, and missing. So you see, there was very little difference in our loss at the two places. But still it was the heaviest at Donelson, and then we felt it, once there. We are getting use to it. By the next fight if every man in the Reg is killed, we will think it a very small loss.
—William Moore Parkinson, 11th Illinois

Kiss my royal star-spangled ass
An officer was court-martialed at Big Springs, Mississippi in July 1862. The specification against him read, 'In this that Lieut Edward L. Friday, 10th Illinois Volunteers, did while on leave of absence from his Regiment send word by letter to the Colonel of his Regiment to the following effect, namely: "You will please tell Colonel Tillson, for me, that I am going to St. Louis day after tomorrow to get another extension and if he don't like it, he may kiss my royal star-spangled ass—and be damned to him."'
—Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General, Case KK158, 9 July 1862, Record Group 153, NARA
Are you that man?
During the Winter of 1864-5 I was in Andersonville, and one afternoon, while I was eating mush in my hole, I looked up and saw one of the most terrible-looking beings I ever saw. His bones were absolutely without flesh, he was shivering with cold and covered with vermin. I yelled to him to go away, but he never moved, keeping his eyes fixed on my spoon as it traveled from dish to mouth. I couldn’t stand it, so carried the remainder of my mush to him, telling him I would feed him every day if he would rid himself of the vermin. He did so, and from that time till we moved to our lines I fed him every day. I had quite forgotten the incident, when one day at Camp Chase, O., a nice, clean-shaven, well-dressed young soldier came to our barracks and inquired for me. He climbed up on my bunk, saying he had come to eat a can of peaches with me. I naturally wanted to know who he was, when he replied, “Don’t you remember that poor devil you used to feed in Andersonville?” “Great God,” I said, “Are you that man?” He said he was.
—Thaddeus Waters, 2nd Michigan Cavalry, National Tribune 3-5-1908

You all have surely got very religious since I left home. Or you are very anxious to meet me on the other side of Jordan. I am glad you are so interested in my welfare.
—William Moore Parkinson
Gregg of 51st at Chickamauga
Thomas C. Gregg, Co. H, 51st Ill., Manson, Iowa, in a recent letter tells of his being wounded and captured at Chickamauga, and, after lying in the rebel field hospital for 10 days was taken to Richmond, where he lay in the Carey St. Hospital for about two months, when he was exchanged.
National Tribune 10-23-1884

A Near Near-Death Experience
At length a fifth ball struck General John B. Gordon, now Senator from Georiga full in the face, and entering his cheek, knocked him senseless. He fell, and for some time his prostrate body was wrapped in the smoke of battle. We hear from General Gordon's own lips a story that, in a metaphysical point, is exceedingly interesting. He said when he fell he was utterly incapable of moving. He gradually began to think of his condition, and this is the half dream and half soliloquy that he carried on: "I have been struck on the head with a six-pound solid shot. It has carried away my head. On the left side there is a little piece of skull left, but the brain is gone entirely: therefore, I am dead. And yet I am thinking. How can a man think with his head shot off? And if I am thinking I cannot be dead. And yet no man can live after his head is shot off. I may have consciousness while dead, but not motion. If I can lift my leg, then I am alive. I will try that. Can I? Yes, there it is lifted up! I'm all right!" The General says that every stage of this soliloquy is indelibly stamped on his mind, and then in his exhausted state the reasoning was carried on as logically as ever man reasoned at his desk... He says he will never forget with what anxiety he made the test of lifting his legówith what agony he waited to see whether or not it would move in response to his effort, and how he hesitated before trying it for fear it might fail and his death be thereby demonstrated.
National Tribune, April 1879
   

Mementos 2       Mementos 3

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