Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lundberg: "GRANBURY'S TEXAS BRIGADE: Diehard Western Confederates"

[ Granbury's Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates by John R. Lundberg (Louisiana State University Press, 2012). Hardcover, 8 maps, photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index.  Pages main/total:263/334. ISBN:978-0-8071-4347-6  $39.95 ]

The dysfunctional nature of the Confederate Army of Tennessee's high command has been well documented, but many of the army's lower echelon formations were second to none in terms of leadership and combat performance. Among these is the Texas Brigade of Hiram Granbury, a unit that coalesced in the aftermath of Chickamauga and fought ferociously as part of Patrick Cleburne's famous division during the Chattanooga, Atlanta, and 1864 Tennessee campaigns, the latter witnessing Granbury's death and the wreck of his command at Franklin. John Lundberg's Granbury's Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates is an organizational, command, and service history of this hard fighting formation.

Eventually, eight regiments would form Granbury's Brigade -- the 6th, 7th, and 10th Texas infantries and 15th, 17th, 18th, 24th, and 25th Texas regiments of dismounted cavalry -- with losses from desertion, casualties, and disease leading most to undergo consolidation. Widely differing paths were taken by these Texas regiments prior to Granbury's appointment to brigade command, and Lundberg traces the organization and history of each. Some, like Granbury's own 7th Texas Infantry get more attention than others. The 7th fought at Fort Donelson and was captured there, returning from parole to participate in the Vicksburg Campaign, where the regiment distinguished itself at Raymond. After training in their home state, the other Texans were sent to Arkansas. Captured at Arkansas Post in January of 1863, they suffered a similar fate to the 7th in their first major action. Instead of being immediately paroled, as they expected, these men were imprisoned for a time, not fighting again until September at Chickamauga. As stated before, it was after that terrible battle that Granbury's Brigade would be formed. Their brick solid Chattanooga Campaign defense of Tunnel Hill and Ringgold Gap presaged later heroics during the Atlanta Campaign (especially Pickett's Mill), Franklin, and Nashville. Using a variety of published and unpublished sources, Lundberg satisfactorily describes these events, and the specific role played by the Texans.

Three major themes emerge in Lundberg's work.  His study of the regiments comprising Granbury's brigade led him to reject the thesis promoted by some historians (perhaps most famously in Why the South Lost the Civil War by Beringer et al) that a lack of Confederate nationalism was a critical factor in eroding the morale and effectiveness of the military units and the support of the home front. Although he does not examine their claims in depth, he cites the work of Gary Gallagher and Jason Phillips as offering similar thoughts to his own1.  Lundberg's argument that the early war high rate of desertion in the cavalry units of Granbury's brigade [the result of being forced to give up their horses and, after prison, the order to leave the Trans-Mississippi behind for the West] did not represent a lack of faith in the Confederacy but rather a desire to serve nearer home is only partially persuasive.  He supports this contention with the fact that most of these deserters and escapees from Arkansas Post rejoined other Confederate units closer to home, an important point unappreciated (according to Lundberg) in Mark Weitz's well regarded study of desertion More Damning Than Slaughter. On the other hand, one might argue with similar force that it is just this kind of trumping of national interests by local loyalties that critics contend ultimately undermined the Confederate war effort.

More persuasive are Lundberg's two themes related to unit cohesion.  The idea that the exceptionally high degree of battlefield cohesion and combat effectiveness exhibited by Granbury's Brigade was in large part forged by their shared experience of capture and imprisonment, with a dual desire to prove themselves and get back at their captors (although the harshness of the captivity varied), carries the ring of truth.  The binding effect that top shelf leadership at regiment, brigade, and division levels had on the men is also apparent, with localized victories on Granbury's tactical front in so many fights serving to counterbalance the overall sting of defeat at the army level.  Maps are absent for some campaigns, but key inclusions (for Arkansas Post, Tunnel Hill, Pickett's Mill, Bald Hill, and Franklin) show the tactical deployments of all the regiments of Granbury's brigade.

With shifting unit composition over time, brigade studies, in contrast to regimental histories, rarely address unit demography.  This is not the case here.  In the main text, and in the appendices, Lundberg compares and contrasts the socioeconomic makeup of the brigade with other Texas military and civilian groups.  As other researchers have discovered, the regiments formed after the initial rush of enlistment (in this case, the brigade's higher deserting dismounted cavalry regiments) were composed of older men far more likely to be married, factors consistent with a desire to fight as close to home as possible.

Granbury's Texas Brigade is a well researched and thoughtful military and social history study.  Author John Lundberg not only describes how the brigade conducted their battles but why they fought so well for so long.  One of the finest combat formations in the western theater has finally been accorded the coverage and quality of scholarship it deserves2.

1 - The point is well taken but Lundberg's repetition of the similarity of his own findings to those found in Gallagher's The Confederate War and Phillip's Diehard Rebels at the beginning and ending of every chapter (or nearly so) is unnecessary.
2 - In his introduction, Lundberg notes two previous noteworthy but brief and/or flawed studies. James McCaffrey's This Band of Heroes (TAMU Press, 1984) is sketch length and Danny Sessums's doctoral dissertation "A Force to be Reckoned With" apparently has presentation issues.

More CWBA reviews of LSUP titles:
* The Last Battle of the Civil War: United States Versus Lee, 1861-1883
* Confederate Guerrilla: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia
* Lincoln and Citizens' Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security
* War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914
* Isham G. Harris of Tennessee: Confederate Governor and United States Senator
* Executing Daniel Bright: Race, Loyalty, and Guerrilla Violence in a Coastal Carolina Community 1861-1865
* Mosquito Soldiers: Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the Course of the American Civil War
* Homegrown Yankees: Tennessee's Union Cavalry in the Civil War
* John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal
* A Wisconsin Yankee in the Confederate Bayou Country: The Civil War Reminiscences of a Union General
* Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas
* Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era
* Where Men Only Dare to Go Or the Story of a Boy Company, C.S.A.
* Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks
* Walker’s Texas Division, C.S.A.: Greyhounds of the Trans-Mississippi
* The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew's Regiment of Mounted Rifles
* A Crisis In Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor, And The Army Of The Trans-Mississippi
* The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock


  1. We got in a manuscript on this very topic way back in the mid 1990s--I think it was at one point a Ph.D. dissertation--but it was so poorly written and the author so incapable of fixing it that we pulled away. I am glad this came out. Nice addition to the literature.

    Ted Savas

  2. I'm glad to see Danny Sessums has finally gotten his book published.


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