04 Sep 2016

Still Audible Defeatism

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John C. Frémont

S.C. Gwynne, Rebel Yell — The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson, 2014, p. 319, on the impending Battle of Cross Keys, June 8, 1862:

(emphasis added)

Frémont should’ve won the battle quickly. He had a two-to-one numerical advantage, and better than that in artillery. If he had thrown his entire force at Ewell’s line, which was set up on a long ridge, he would very likely have broken it. But with Frémont nothing was ever that simple. He was facing not just Stonewall Jackson now but also the myth of Stonewall Jackson, and the myth told him and his officers that they were facing twenty thousand battle-hardened Confederate troops instead of the five-thousand-plus effectives in front of them. At Frémont’s council of war he and his brigade commanders worried about this terrible numerical disadvantage and bemoaned the poor condition of their ragged, starved-out, exhausted army. A hundred and fifty years later, you can almost hear the defeatism.

Result: Decisive Confederate Victory.


5 Feedbacks on "Still Audible Defeatism"

margot darby

It’s COUNCIL of War. I had to read that three times to realize ‘counsel of war’ wasn’t some strange term of art but a misspelling. Grant said he never held a council of war. Councils of war were typically called so everyone could agree to retreat next morning. But Frémont had been retreating all his life.


Thanks for catching the typo. I must confess: I lazily read the text into Dragon, and then I missed the software’s error.

Greetings, btw. It’s been a long time. Cheers, David

margot darby

Really, books are so poorly edited now that I assumed it was published that way. Have not read that book, but noticed it.

I find it dubious that Jackson was already a terrifying legend at that point. A few months later, perhaps…

(My father’s mother’s grandfather was wounded three times at Second Manassas about August 30; with help of the naturopath family doctor in Saratoga he managed to hang on for nearly a year.)


On which side was your great-great grandfather? Do you know his unit?

margot darby

Union, 30th NYS infantry volunteers, Company F. Pvt James Gearry or Geary or sometimes (hard g) Gerry. Lots of correspondence from Adjutant General’s office, 63-64, which is how I know those details.

Also had a CSA great-great-granduncle who was NOT wounded and never got north of Tennessee. Andrew Shehan (sometimes Sheahan in muster rolls) in the Texas 8th Cavalry, Company H. He got a discharge in Chattanooga in ’62, went down to Atlanta with his travel pay, eventually found his way back to Houston.

And some Marylanders, more distant, with brothers fighting on both sides.


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