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 Posted: Sat Jan 12th, 2008 10:28 am
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Roger
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Over the past few weeks I have been reading the books by Gordon C Rhea about the Overland Campaign of 1864.

During this campaign extensive use was made of fieldworks and fortifcations, at times I could have been mistaken for reading about the Western Front c.1914-18.

Now I have some questions:)

I would imagine the basic lay out of the fieldworks would be laid out and the supervision of the work would be done by an officer of Engineers. Am I correct?

Next, I assume much of the manual  work would have been carried out by the rank and file of the infantry , but did the infantry regiments/battalions carry Pioneers on their strength? and did an infantry unit carry tools etc with it's train for such work?

Were there seperate units of pioneers or labourers who could be called upon for such work?

I might have more later but I think that will do for now:D

 

Roger    



 Posted: Sat Jan 12th, 2008 02:00 pm
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39th Miss. Walker
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In the ideal situation the fortifications would be laid out by an engineer. In the case of rapid entrenchments the soldiers themselves would do what was necessary. In most cases at least "guided" by an officer.
Later in the war the common soldier on both sides became very proficient in laying out and erecting earthworks. Engineers for the CS folks were always in short supply.

In the case of the Union troops they did most of their own digging.
In the case of the CS forces it would depend. Much of the earthworks build for defense were built using slave labor. Rapid entrenchments were built using any manpower they could get, slave or troops. Later in the war CS forces built many of their own earthworks.
Most of the coastal defenses, large forts etc. were slave built.
The Union did use black labor to help where is was possible to secure their use. The pioneers were used mostly to clear roads, help erect bridges etc. not necessarily as earthworks builders, although they certainly did some.

Keep in mind the South had the "luxury" of using slave labor, and were on their own home turf. The union forces being "invading" forces had what, who, they carried with them and didn't have the availability.

Yes they did carry digging implements with their baggage where possible.

The CW was interesting period in that the tactics did change from a Napoleonistic form of warfare to the trench warfare as was so common in WWI. It's tactics were the predecessor of the Great War later to come.

Last edited on Sat Jan 12th, 2008 02:02 pm by 39th Miss. Walker



 Posted: Sat Jan 12th, 2008 02:18 pm
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Johan Steele
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Fieldworks... it depends upon the timeframe and locale. For the most part the extensive CS works around Vicksburg, Atlanta and Petersburg were dug by slave labor under the supervision of an army engineer. The US works around Nashville & Washington were dug by contraband labor again under the supervision of an officer of the engineers.

Now the tactical fieldworks were anything but sophisticated sometimes no more than a shallow hole scraped out w/ a bayonet or plate w/ a couple three fence rails or hastily felled trees in front.

Somewhere around here I have a list of the tools carried by each company.

Each Army was a little different about their pioneers, so many men volunteered from each regiment from a Brigade and put in the vanguard of the march. Rosecrans and the AoC had a regular brigade strength Pioneer Corps.

I recall reading an account of men digging rifle pits where they weren't under enemy fire. The man's description sounded a lot like digging a grave w/ the finished product about that size.

Troini has done a study of an AoC pioneer w/ his distinctive crossed axes insignia. And I have CDV that illustrates a pioneer beautifully... taking a break after some work.

Pioneers, in both armies, were exempt from any additional duties such as water detail, diging sinks guard duty etc. So it was a worthwhile volunteer job. The Pioneer Brigade of the AoC was made up of men who had prior experiance that would be useful. Everything from lumberjacks to professional carpenters. Sherman disbanded the Pioneer Brigade and put the men back in their Regiments to be used in the more traditional manner. IIRC Company sized detachments per brigade able to be more responsive and more closely respond to the needs of their Brigade commanders. Both were very effective as used.

Many have been suprised by how simple and effective many fieldworks were; little more than a hole scooped out of the ground w/ a bit of fence and a pile of dirt in front. The kind of thing the average GI of WW2 would recognize.



 Posted: Sat Jan 12th, 2008 02:41 pm
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Roger
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Thank you both of you)(90.

After I'd posted my query I remembered I have  the Troiani AoC Pioneer study, not the first time I've done that, doh!

My other interests include the Napoleonic Wars and WWI which is probably why I find the ACW so fascinating and bit of a mixture of both conflicts.

Roger



 Posted: Sat Jan 12th, 2008 03:00 pm
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Johan Steele
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Roger, this may well be one of my favorite photos of the war, note the pioneer down in the lower left doing what all good soldiers do when the opportunity presents itself: resting.

Attachment: 01824r.jpg (Downloaded 167 times)



 Posted: Sat Jan 12th, 2008 03:01 pm
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39th Miss. Walker
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If you are really interested you may want to go to this site; http://civilwarfortifications.com/
Look up Mahan"s book Field Fortifications.
Mahan was the leading expert in his day on field fortifications and his book was the "Bible" for almost 50 years. It was used by engineers and officers on both sides.
Mahan was a professor at West Point.



 Posted: Sat Jan 12th, 2008 03:16 pm
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Roger
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Double )(90  )(90

 

Thanks for the photo and the link, both are saved for future use.

Roger. 



 Posted: Sun Jan 13th, 2008 11:35 pm
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CleburneFan
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What an interesting web site on fortifications! I really enjoyed the lexicon and was surprised at how many terms are French. It was interesting to see all the different shapes and styles of walls, trenches and trench protection. I had no idea how sophisticated the construction could be at that time of history.

Of course, I did know about the massive coastal fortifications all along our coasts, but I didn't realize how much rapidly built and rustic field fortifications could resemble  bigger masonry forts.

Until recently I figured intricate and complex trenches were a World War I fixture. The web site above shows how far advanced the Civil Waralready  had brought this facet of warfare.



 Posted: Mon Jan 14th, 2008 06:02 am
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Roger
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Cleburne Fan the design and construction of fortifications well advanced long before the Civil War. Have a look here at this site about the French Marshal Vauban.

http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/6750/

Roger



 Posted: Mon Jan 14th, 2008 03:06 pm
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39th Miss. Walker
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The Americans freely borrowed from the French which were head and shoulders above just about any else in publishing and defining fortifications.
The Civil War was intensively studied both during and after the war by many of the European powers and the end result was the doctrines used by both sides in WWI.
Interestingly some of the actual philosohies used by Robert E. Lee in South Carolina during his stay in 1861 were borrowed from his father Lighthorse Harry Lee. Then when he went on to Virginia he encountered a different kind of warfare than what he put into place in South Carolina. This lasted until after Gettysburg.
If the doctrine of the use of field fortifications and trench warfare had been put into effect across the South much earlier in the war the outcome may have been quite different.
The Confederacy was able to protect the Charleston to Savannah RR despite being outnumbered at times by more than 10 to 1 until the very end of the war. The Charleston to Savannah RR was the main supply line and link for both cities.
Field fortifications could be very sophisticated. While in most cases engineers laid out the works they were not always available, particularly on the Confederate side. Some of the Confederate field fortifications, thought to be crude in comparison with the Union fortifications, upon study have been found to be remarkable.
Rarely do you see just the simple rifle pit. Both sides fully appreciated the terrain and the use thereof.

Last edited on Mon Jan 14th, 2008 07:40 pm by 39th Miss. Walker



 Posted: Mon Jan 14th, 2008 04:14 pm
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j harold 587
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Johan you indicate that Sherman disbanded the pioneers. Please give some direction for additional reading. My Great grandfather who was in the march to the sea was injured while building a railroad bridge after leaving Savana. He was invalided out due to his injuries. He had to keep surgons from amputating his right leg three times. He had an open wound and would periodicaly have bone chips work out of it untill his death. He did receive a pension for the injury, I have a letter where he indicated he was assigned to pioneers shortly before Savanna was taken. 

Just a thank you for your interest in the grunts and the fact of who fougth the battles that were directed by the generals. I really like the picture of camp life. I recognize the posture having assumed it a few times myself.



 Posted: Mon Jan 14th, 2008 05:41 pm
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ole
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J Harold:

Suspect Johan is on the road again. My understanding is that there was a unit of pioneers (brigade?)and, when Sherman took off for Savannah and points north, he redistributed the pioneer troops into smaller groups.

Sherman very well understood the value of pioneers -- he just wanted them distributed among his columns. Varying interpretations of the word "disbanded" are probably the reason for your question

ole



 Posted: Mon Jan 14th, 2008 09:08 pm
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Johan Steele
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J Harold, Ole was right tried to reply at noon but lost my net conection.

Sherman disbanded the Pioneer Brigade of the AoC that Rosecrans had created. The men were sent back to their units to form Regimental & Brigade level pioneer detachments. This gave Brigade level commanders tactical control of their pioneers. This had been standard practice prewar & elsewhere tghroughout both the US & CS Armies. Rosecrsans had consolidated most of the Pioneers into a Brigade sized unit where he had more control over where and to whom Pioneers were doled out in time of battle. I can understand Rosecrans method as it gave him direct control; whereas Sherman believed his individual Brigade commanders would have a better idea where to use them.

In one sense Rosecrans was thinking more big picture on the use of his pioneers while Sherman was thinking on a more tactical level.

The reality was that the men who had been pioneers were still pioneers they just no longer had a seperate command organization. There are two good articles on the Pioneer. One was in a past issue of Civil War Historian and another is a book chapter... I have no idea of the title off hand it made up a chapter on the History of the Army of the Cumberland. Sorry I can't be more help. As is happening too often of late I'm away from my resources.



 Posted: Mon Jan 14th, 2008 09:24 pm
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Johan Steele
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Just as a note, the simple rifle pit was likely the most common entrenchment seen or utilized by both sides. It was quick to build and provided a lot of protection particularly for skirmishers and every battle and camp had skirmishers out... especially after the US was caught napping at Shiloh. Two soldiers (typical skirmisher rifle pit) could put together a very effective fighting position very quickly and if necessity demanded those pits could be connected.

Entrenchments as we know of in the CW were by no means a new invention. The Romans had utilized extensive and sophisticated marching camps prior to the time of Caesar and they were well known throughout history since. The Yorktown fortifications built by the British were every bit as formidable as those built by the CS there most of a century later. The CS was certainly not lacking in competant engineers to design field works as any student of West Point was for all practical purposes an expert on the subject.

The works outside Atlanta, Vicksburg, Petersburg & Mobile to name just a few were massive undertakings w/ superb design behind them. The works at Ft Donelson & Henry as well as all of those entrenchements Shermans boys had to deal w/ on the way to Atlanta are proof of several things. 1. Southerners could dig a hole as well as any man on earth. 2. Entrenchments tie an army down and limit it's ability to manuever almost as much as it hampers an enemy army. After all what good are a set of entrenchments designed for 1000 men when only 100 are manning them... almost more of a hinderance. Relying upon entrenchments for defence gives the initiative to the enemy. In short the enemy who can and will manuever will invariably win. Trapping an enemy in his works is a good thing, that leads to seiges and seiges to surrenders.

In more than a decade of studying the words of the men of the day never have I seen mention to ineffective or crude CS works; in fact the reverse is true. I can think of only two instances where the CS created poorly designed or executed fieldworks: Ft Pillow & the siteing of arty at Chattanooga. Ft Pillow was designed to withstand attack from the river not the landward side and the US did not rectify such an oversite. Chatanooga... Bragg screwed the pooch there and for some unknown reason arty was sited to strike the town & Union works not deal w/ an attack from below. In his defence anyone who has ever walked the terrain can understand why. His folly was expecting the AoC to stay penned up in the city.



 Posted: Mon Jan 14th, 2008 09:36 pm
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Johan Steele
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Here is picture of two men using a rifle pit, it was hastily dug last spring, took about thirty minutes IIRC.  I hope the pic gives an idea of what one looked like.  The art of the rifle pit involved a lot of variation depending upon the ground, season and how much time men had to create one.

Attachment: Tanner_BryceAbovetheClouds3.JPG (Downloaded 137 times)



 Posted: Mon Jan 14th, 2008 09:46 pm
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Johan Steele
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Here is another pic that might interest some of you.  Four of us had just finished a work detail, digging rifle pits, fishing out some deadfalls for firewood and all around physical labor nonsense.  Good shot; I'm the ugly one.  Btw ladies the boys on the ends are single. ;)

For you weapons geeks there is one Enfield, three M1860's and a Colt Special Model in that stack.

Attachment: AboveCamp2.JPG (Downloaded 136 times)



 Posted: Mon Jan 14th, 2008 11:50 pm
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CleburneFan
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My goodness me! You mean to tell me reenactors have to dig trenches and fabricate rifle pits? I knew you guys were dedicated, but I had no idea you had to work that hard. Wow!



 Posted: Tue Jan 15th, 2008 12:17 am
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Johan Steele
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Cleburne; a lot of what we do, my unit anyway, is practical Living History. Some of it is seeing how the gear actually wears on a 5 mile or greater cross country hike, how well the equipment actually holds up, how long it takes two men to dig a rifle pit etc.

It's a whole different experiance to actually dig a rifle pit or set of sinks and stand pickett for a 24 hour period than just driving to a "battle" setting up tents and playing war a couple times a day w/ a bit of drill in between.

I like to be able to possitively say that a man can hit a man sized target at 400 yards w/ the M1841 or M1861 I'm holding and say yes you can do a 12 mile march w/ everything you see in that tent behind me on your back. Then sleep w/ nothing more than a gum blanket and a blanket fairly comfortably. I can say those things w/ a straight face when I'm teaching kids because I've done them.

I think I have a marginally better understanding of the men of 61-65 than a book has given me because I've done some of the same style marches w/ the same kind of gear and weapons on the same rations. I can tell you it's an experiance waking up in the morning w/ a light coat of snow over you and the water in your canteen more than half frozen or going three days w/out ever really getting dry living in mud so sticky your shoes come off.

One of the most memorable experiances in my re-enacting career has been a 2-3 mile patrol where we moved in full skirmish order through relatively unknown territory and for that morning the only reminder of the 21st Century whatsoever was the single barbwire property fence. About half way through the patrol our 2nd Sgt threw up his hand for us to halt and we all did, in absolute silence, he motioned for us to close on him and there not 3' in front of him using a log for cover was a fawn and it simply laid there perfectly still just like it's mama taught it. I had passed w/in 5-6' of it and hadn't seen it, and me the hunter of the group. We saw three more does that morning. Fun... well my wife does say I'm crazy on occasion.

But I just smile and remember her fry bread or period donuts and bread... yummmm.

All that said... I know I'm going to go back to work Monday morn after a hot shower and a good supper and sleep Sunday night. And most importantly dysentery isn't gonna kill me and that smoke being tossed my way by some enthusiastic rebs isn't pushing lead death before it.



 Posted: Tue Jan 15th, 2008 12:41 am
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Johan Steele
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Roger; an off topic WW1 question. I recently... ok last Veterans day (Nov 11) heard a bit on the radio about a Tommy at the Somme. I believe in either the 95th or Royal Rifles the platoon went over the top and pretty much ceased to exist. The Leftenant and one private soldier were the only two to survive the battle. The Lt was invalided out after he went a little nuts writing letters to the families and the Private mustered out of the British Army in 1919 a Sgt w/out a serious wound. He'd been in pretty much every major battle of the war.

He wasn't considered a lucky guy because everyone around him died... and he would live through it. Somewhere around 1930 he was asked what he did to earn his Victoria Cross and his reply was quite telling. "I was the one that lived."

Obviously not what you would call a common story but I've been wondering if it was legit or just a bit of fiction.

 

Anyway it reminded me of an Alabama soldier a geneology buddy told me about.  Every major battle of the ANV to include Longstreets little jaunt westward to Chickamauga & Knoxvillle.  Not a scratch, got out healthy as an ox.  Traveled the world as a mercenary finally ending up back in the US somewhere out west I think.  Almost 100 kids (a penchent for twins) by I think eleven or twelve wives spread across three continents.  Proof anyway that southern boys do know how to do at least two things really well.  :D

Last edited on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 12:47 am by Johan Steele



 Posted: Tue Jan 15th, 2008 06:20 am
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Roger
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Some great information and more phots for my collection, thanks.
The "I was the one that lived" story has rung some bells but I can't say any more than that at the moment, I'll see what I can find.



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