Monday, April 29, 2013

Just Finished Reading - Granbury's Texas Brigade

Being a long time student of the too often overlooked Western Theater of the Civil War, I was excited to see Granbury's Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates, by John R. Lundberg, offered by LSU Press last year.

What eventually became Granbury's Brigade - one of the Army of Tennessee's premier fighting units - coalesced between the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga. However, their regimental parts had inauspicious beginnings. Several Texas cavalry regiments that were captured at Arkansas Post, and an infantry regiment, the 7th Texas, which had been captured at Fort Donelson, made up the command of Hiram Bronson Granbury. Granbury was formerly the colonel of the 7th Texas.

Lundberg contends that this command was steeled by their previous defeats, surrenders, and prisoner of war experiences and became - through the superior leadership of their commanders, Granbury and division leader Patrick Cleburne - one of the Army of Tennessee's most reliable and steadfast brigades.

The regiments that made up Granbury's Brigade suffered significant losses early in the war due to desertions,  but Lundberg claims that these defections for the greatest part were not due to a lack of commitment to the Confederate cause. Rather, many of these soldiers were disappointed by having their cavalry mounts taken away and forced to fight dismounted. Another factor in the desertions was the desire for a number of the men to fight closer to home. Lundberg contends that enlistment records of units serving in Texas bear this out.

When Granbury's Brigade was finally formed it made quite a name for itself. Its first major combat was on Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga in November 1863. Cleburne's Division, and in particular Granbury's Brigade, held the Confederate right flank against the Union attacks. After the center of the line crumbled, finally forcing the brigade's retreat, it served as rear guard troops and rebuffed another Union assault at Ringgold Gap, which allowed the Army of Tennessee to reach Dalton, Georgia, in relative safety.

During the Atlanta campaign the following spring and summer, Granbury's Brigade won a number of smaller engagements and fought well as Gen. Joseph Johnston backed the Army of Tennessee up to the important city. Battles such as Pickett's Mill show the hard fighting devotion to both the Confederate cause and their commanders, Granbury and Cleburne, that the Texas soldiers continued to exhibit.

The beginning of the end of Granbury's Brigade occurred at the Battle of Franklin, in November 1864, where both Granbury and Cleburne were killed. And, while the Texans continued to battle at Nashville, and later in the Carolinas, now with many fewer men, and without their inspirational leaders, the brigade was  never quite the same and morale sagged.

Granbury's Texas Brigade is a well researched and written book. My only gripe (and small one at that) is the author's continual rehashing that the brigade's combat record refutes Richard Beringer, et al.'s arguments in Why the South Lost the Civil War.  That book claims that lack of Confederate commitment cost the South the war. Similarly, Lundberg often claims that the brigade's history supports the contentions that Gary Gallagher in The Confederate War and Jason Phillips in Diehard Rebels make. That is, that the majority of Confederates fought to the bitter end. I personally think this observation needed to be stated only once or twice, but it is made at the beginning and end of a number of the chapters throughout the book. Despite this minor complaint, I think any student of the Western Theater will enjoy this work. On a scale of one to five, I give Granbury's Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates a 4.75.

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