The Experiences of a Boy Soldier of the Confederacy:
Excerpts from and Comments on My Great-Grandfather's Civil War Memoir
Part Four


Warren F. O'Rourke
Birmingham, Alabama
January 5, 2011

Among his reasons for writing a memoir was Old Tom's desire to get some of the story of the Army of Tennessee told. You will recall, I hope, from your school days that the lion's share of coverage of the Confederate armies went to Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart and other worthies of the Army of Northern Virginia. In Tom's day everyone knew about Lee and the Battle of Gettysburg, about the Battle of Bull Run, about General Jackson "standing like a stone wall." Hardly any books at all had been written about all those men and boys from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee who formed the Army of Tennessee.

Even today the history books in our high schools and the illustrated histories of the Civil War on the shelves and remainder tables at Books-A-Million mostly tell the story of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

As Tom put it:

Oh, do you not know that for every southern soldier who fell at Gettysburg, two fell on the frozen fields of Franklin and Nashville? Do you not know that we marched into Tennessee with about 30,000 men? Do you not know that, when we were thoroughly whipped, we retired towards Tupelo, Mississippi, in December with no more than 15,000 soldiers left able to answer the roll calls?

The "charge" of General Pickett at Gettysburg, about which there has been so much talk and boasting, "paled in comparison" to our losses in the frontal attack Hood ordered at Franklin.

Oh, you Virginians, tell me no more about the bravery and sacrifice at Gettysburg. The Army of the Heartland has its own tale to tell!

VII. From Atlanta to Nashville: Tom's Long Winter March

Atlanta had fallen. The Georgia campaign was lost. The Battle of Mobile Bay ("Damn the torpedoes! Full sspeed ahead!") had cut off the last port able to feebly supply the army Tom was with. Republican Abraham Lincoln had been re-elected President of the United States after a bitter contest pitting "Old Abe" against former Union General George B. McClellan, a Democrat whose platform promise was to seek a negotiated peace with the South. To anyone with a lick of sense it should have been clear that the war was lost. The Confederate States of America had about seven months left to live.

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