Help support TMP

"Elite brigades, later half of the war" Topic

28 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the ACW Discussion Message Board

869 hits since 23 Aug 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

gamer123 Aug 2017 7:03 p.m. PST

We all know the famous brigades, I find it interesting that most of them, on both sides formed early in the war. I was wondering if some on here more informed then me know of some others on either side that were either formed or became famous, after mid 1863? Thanks, Travis!

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Aug 2017 4:25 a.m. PST

Wilder's "Lighting Brigade" became famous later in the war. Not sure when they were actually formed.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP24 Aug 2017 5:54 a.m. PST

I think the Lightning Brigade was formed in 1862 but they achieved their real fame after being issued with mounts in 1863

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP24 Aug 2017 6:34 a.m. PST

Wilder received permission to form the unit in February,
1863. The unit received Spencer rifles in May, 1863.

The unit's most notable action after that date was in
September,1863 (Chickamauga) so that would put it in
the second half by my reckoning.

BTCTerrainman Supporting Member of TMP24 Aug 2017 7:04 a.m. PST

I think there were several Brigades on the Southern Side in the ANV that became fairly renown during the fighting in the overland campaign and later. This was mostly due to keeping a good core of veterans as a cadre to form new recruits around. The challenge was getting recruits.

The ANV select sharpshooter battalions really became the cream of the crop during the 1864 period. These special battalions were amazing in their results.

I believe the Army of the Potomac did not generate as many "elite" units later in the war due to the difficulty in getting veterans to re-enlist, the propensity of units to be filled with more recruits and draftees, and the blending of former brigades into new ones due to regiment sizes. Often these new brigades lost their identity.

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP24 Aug 2017 7:38 a.m. PST

Wilder's Brigade also forced Hoover's Gap, driving the Confederate Army out of Middle Tennessee. Operating almost 10 miles ahead of Thomas' main force, they held the gap against repeated attacks from a numerically superior foe until Thomas could arrive.

donlowry24 Aug 2017 8:36 a.m. PST

Yes, the Lightning Brigade earned its nickname during the Tullahoma campaign, not only for Hoover's Gap, but also for raiding behind Bragg's lines shortly thereafter. At Chickamauga, it plus Minty's cavalry brigade, at two different crossings, delayed Bragg's crossing of the creek for most of a day.

The quality of a brigade usually depended on the quality of its commander, so I would nominate the brigades commanded by Chamberlain and Upton. In the Army of the Cumberland, Harker's and Willich's at Chickamauga for sure.

The Vermont Brigade in the 6th Corps was still a stand-out as late as Cedar Creek.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP24 Aug 2017 6:32 p.m. PST

To repeat my post from your "other" thread that got bit by the bug:


Off the top of my head, I'd pick:

Wilder's "Lightning" Brigade of the Army of the Cumberland for the reasons stated above.

Cockrell's 1st Missouri Brigade of Pemberton's Army of Mississippi during the Vicksburg campaign who fought like wildcats at Champion Hill, Big Black River, and the siege assaults.

The Kentucky "Orphan" Brigade of the Army of Tennessee for its actions from Chattanooga and during the Atlanta campaign.

Granbury's Texas Brigade of the Army of Tennessee for its actions at Chattanooga, during the Atlanta campaign, and finally its steadfastness in the doomed assault at Franklin.

I'm sure there would be others.


Trajanus25 Aug 2017 2:27 a.m. PST

I think there were several Brigades on the Southern Side in the ANV that became fairly renown during the fighting in the overland campaign and later. This was mostly due to keeping a good core of veterans as a cadre to form new recruits around. The challenge was getting recruits.

The other equal challenge was getting officers. The ANV Field and Company level loss in officers was tremendous during the Overland Campaign and eventually had a serious impact on performance.

gamer125 Aug 2017 9:13 a.m. PST

Thanks very much for the info, very helpful and enjoyable reading:)

gamer125 Aug 2017 9:14 a.m. PST

BTW did the Union form a sharpshooter brigade that preformed well, I thought they did but can't remember off hand and if it was an early period unit or later war?

Bill N25 Aug 2017 10:42 a.m. PST

I tend to believe many of the so-called "elite" units from early in the war were simply competent, reliable and well led when that was not true of much of the army. The reason you don't hear much about elite units later in the war was that the quality of most units increased to the point where competent and reliable performance became the norm. Those units we do hear about later in the war were probably better lead, up against inferior opposition or had the opportunity to stand out, rather than being of inherently better quality.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP25 Aug 2017 11:37 a.m. PST

gamer1, for your info:


1st US Sharpshooters was formed in 1861, the 2USSS later
in the war; the two were consolidated in 1864.

donlowry26 Aug 2017 10:00 a.m. PST

What Bill N said makes sense.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2017 7:49 p.m. PST

The ANV select sharpshooter battalions really became the cream of the crop during the 1864 period. These special battalions were amazing in their results.

BTC: What results were those?

RudyNelson28 Aug 2017 3:33 p.m. PST

To me the classification of elite is hard and different in the South and the North. This would be due to their method of sending replacements. The South tended to fill ranks by keeping the original unit intact but assigning replacements as needed or as available. The Union in a lot of cases withdrew units from the line and reorganized them in the rear. The advantage and disadvantage was the strength of the reorganized unit. The Union units tended to be larger while Southern units were reduced to company size or less when the recruitment area had been captured or supply line home were cut.

Trajanus29 Aug 2017 8:08 a.m. PST

And as ever the question remains at what point does any "elite" formation become "elite" in name only when so many of its experienced officers and men are killed or incapacitated?

Topping up a unit/formation with recruits doesn't guarantee the same performance level just because the numbers stay high.

donlowry29 Aug 2017 9:48 a.m. PST

The Union in a lot of cases withdrew units from the line and reorganized them in the rear.

Not sure what you are thinking of, here. Could you give an example? (Maybe the veteranizing units in early '64?)

The Union also fed individual replacements into old units, but started doing it later -- the CSA started conscription in '62, the USA not until late '63. But the Union also kept on organizing new regiments as well.

Both sides often had to consolidate 2 or more regiments into 1 tactical battalion, and/or load brigades with 6,8, or even more regiments.

RudyNelson29 Aug 2017 1:34 p.m. PST

A Yankee researcher may be able to explain some of the unit dispositions more. I was under the impression that many of the 1861 volunteer units had been disbanded after Bull Run and other battles. I also had the impression that even after Gettysburg some units had been withdrawn to the recruiting State for home defense or to less active areas of operation.
To me this sounds like units being withdrawn for reorganization and more training for later operations.
How many heavily engaged Union units from Gettysburg fought at the Wilderness for example.
To me it is hard to regiment rate units. However it is easier to rate a company as elite, so it all depends on the rules used.

Cleburne1863 Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2017 2:44 p.m. PST

"How many heavily engaged Union units from Gettysburg fought at the Wilderness for example."

Almost all of them.

RudyNelson29 Aug 2017 4:01 p.m. PST

OK, I was not sure. I thought Grant reorganized the Army assigned structure when he took command.

Cleburne1863 Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2017 5:30 p.m. PST

Well, he did. However, because the units were so depleted, that he had to combine the First Corps with the Fifth, and the Third Corps with the Second.

I always thought the Third Corps got the raw end of the deal. It was actually the strongest corps in the army before the organization. There must have been politics involved in its break-up. After the merger, the Second Corps was way too large and unwieldy. In my opinion, Meade would have been better off with four slightly smaller corps than three huge ones. Not including the Ninth under Burnside, of course.

Bill N29 Aug 2017 5:44 p.m. PST

Have not read much on the 1864 reorganization, but my understanding is it was done by Meade in conjunction with Stanton. Would appreciate it if anyone had other information.

The troops of the 11th and 12th corps from Gettysburg were not present during the Wilderness campaign. They were shipped west under Hooker in the aftermath of Chickamauga. Units from the 1st and 3rd corps would have been present in the Wilderness but serving in different corps due to the 1964 AOP reorganization.

Trajanus30 Aug 2017 7:30 a.m. PST

Disbanding the Third Corps was a way of ensuring that Sickles never returned, along with other changes.

It was Meade who did the reorganisation not Grant.

Sickles had a letters published in the New York Herald under the name of "Historicus" giving a biased and unfavourable view of events at Gettysburg.

He went, along with Generals Butterfield, Doubleday, Howe and Pleasonton who, like Sickles, had testified against Meade to the Wade Commission on events of the battle.

Trajanus30 Aug 2017 9:38 a.m. PST

Actually, to be totally correct, Wade was only the Chairman, it was officially The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.

donlowry30 Aug 2017 5:47 p.m. PST

Some of the early Union units only enlisted for a few months; some of those were almost immediately re-enlisted for a longer period.

There were many units that reached the ends of their enlistments just before Gettysburg -- some had enlisted for 2 years after Bull Run, and some had enlisted for 9 months after 2nd Bull Run. The Army of the Potomac lost a lot of regiments at that time. Banks' 19th Corps, down in Louisiana, lost about half of its strength.

After Gettysburg, some veteran units (and some militia) were sent to New York City to put down the draft riots there.

In early '64, units whose 3-year enlistments were expiring were encouraged to "veteranize" -- that is, if a certain high percentage of a regiment's members would re-enlist, the regiment would keep its identity, officers, etc. and be rewarded with the word "Veteran" added to its title. Also, its members would be given a furlough to go home and see the wife and kiddies. They probably did some recruiting while they were there. In the Army of the Tennessee, most of these veteranizing regiments were transferred to the 17th Corps, which thus missed the early part of Sherman's Atlanta campaign, because it was home on leave.

In early '64, the 9th Corps was sent to the Northeast, where most of its regiments came from, to recruit and reorganize after its service in the Vicksburg and Knoxville campaigns.

Yes, the consolidation of the Army of the Potomac's 5 corps into 3 was Meade's doing, but Grant was often blamed for it because it took effect just as Grant was making his HQ with that army. Meade's motive seems to be more that he couldn't find 5 good corps commanders than the diminished sizes of his corps.

Trajanus31 Aug 2017 8:54 a.m. PST

Well ability did have some bearing but initially Meade was not happy with the problems of managing seven Corps as he had at Gettysburg.

Newton who had taken over the 1st Corps following Reynolds death wasn't considered good enough and neither was French at 3rd Corps, so they went along with Sykes, who Meade tried and failed, to keep as a Division commander.

Washington wanted Warren and Meade wanted Sedgwick so when Hancock returned to duty with the 2nd Corps, a quick swap round saw an end to it, following on from all those who supported Hooker, McClellan, or had undermined Burnside at one time or another being, vetoed by Secretary of War Stanton.

donlowry31 Aug 2017 9:21 a.m. PST

It was Meade who recommended Warren for his 2nd star and corps command, after Gettysburg and Hancock's wound. And Warren did well during the Mine Run campaign, whereas it was French (and division commander Prince) who screwed up Meade's whole plan for that campaign.

With 20-20 hindsight, there were plenty of good potential corps commanders in the AoP at the time, but not recognized as such (Gibbon, Griffin, Wright, Humphreys).

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.