Failure in the Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest, Joe Wheeler, and the Confederate Cavalry in the Chickamauga Campaign

Overview

WINNER, 2010, RICHARD HARWELL AWARD, GIVEN BY THE CIVIL WAR ROUND TABLE OF ATLANTA

Confederate cavalry has a storied and favorable relationship with the history of the Civil War. Tales of raids and daring exploits create a whiff of lingering romance about the horse soldiers of the Lost Cause. Sometimes, however, romance obscures history.

In August 1863 William Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland embarked on a campaign of maneuver to turn ...

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Failure in the Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest, Joe Wheeler, and the Confederate Cavalry in the Chickamauga Campaign

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Overview

WINNER, 2010, RICHARD HARWELL AWARD, GIVEN BY THE CIVIL WAR ROUND TABLE OF ATLANTA

Confederate cavalry has a storied and favorable relationship with the history of the Civil War. Tales of raids and daring exploits create a whiff of lingering romance about the horse soldiers of the Lost Cause. Sometimes, however, romance obscures history.

In August 1863 William Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland embarked on a campaign of maneuver to turn Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee out of Chattanooga, one of the most important industrial and logistical centers of the Confederacy. Despite the presence of two Southern cavalry corps (nearly 14,000 horsemen) under legendary commanders Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joe Wheeler, Union troops crossed the Tennessee River unopposed and unseen, slipped through the passes cutting across the knife-ridged mountains, moved into the narrow valleys, and turned Bragg’s left flank. Threatened with the loss of the railroad that fed his army, Bragg had no choice but to retreat. He lost Chattanooga without a fight.

After two more weeks of maneuvering, skirmishing, and botched attacks Bragg struck back at Chickamauga, where he was once again surprised by the position of the Union army and the manner in which the fighting unfolded. Although the combat ended with a stunning Southern victory, Federal counterblows that November reversed all that had been so dearly purchased.

David A. Powell’s Failure in the Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest, Joseph Wheeler, and the Confederate Cavalry in the Chickamauga Campaign is the first in-depth attempt to determine what role the Confederate cavalry played in both the loss of Chattanooga and the staggering number of miscues that followed up to, through, and beyond Chickamauga. Powell draws upon an array of primary accounts and his intimate knowledge of the battlefield to reach several startling conclusions: Bragg’s experienced cavalry generals routinely fed him misleading information, failed to screen important passes and river crossings, allowed petty command politics to routinely influence their decision-making, and on more than one occasion disobeyed specific and repeated orders that may have changed the course of the campaign.

Richly detailed and elegantly written, Failure in the Saddle offers new perspectives on the role of the Rebel horsemen in every combat large and small waged during this long and bloody campaign and, by default, a fresh assessment of the generalship of Braxton Bragg. This judiciously reasoned account includes a guided tour of the cavalry operations, several appendices of important information, and original cartography. It is essential reading for students of the Western Theater.

About the Author: David A. Powell is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute (Class of 1983) with a BA in history. He has published numerous articles in magazines, more than fifteen historical simulations of various battles, and is the co-author (with David A. Friedrichs) of The Maps of Chickamauga: An Atlas of the Chickamauga Campaign, Including the Tullahoma Operations, June 22–September 23, 1863, a selection of the History and Military book clubs.

REVIEWS

“…a richly detailed and elegantly written study full of insightful tactical commentary, new perspectives on the strategic role of the rebel horseman, and fresh insights on every engagement, large and small, waged during the bloody North Georgia campaign.”
James Durney, 10/2010

“David A. Powell’s deeply researched and thoroughly analyzed Failure in the Saddle demonstrates that the vaunted Confederate cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joe Wheeler failed miserably during the Chickamauga Campaign. Their errors mislead Gen. Braxton Bragg, lost Chattanooga to the Confederacy, and turned the great success at Chickamauga into an empty victory.” – Eric J. Wittenberg, award-winning Civil War cavalry historian

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Editorial Reviews

CW Blog
...richly detailed and elegantly written study full of insightful tactical commentary, new perspectives on the strategic role of the Rebel horsemen, and fresh insights on every engagement, large and small, waged during the bloody North Georgia Campaign.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932714876
  • Publisher: Savas Beatie
  • Publication date: 1/13/2011
  • Pages: 408
  • Sales rank: 631,075
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 13, 2011

    If you like reading about the Civil War, you'll love this book.

    For Civil War buffs of various different levels, this recent book (initially published in 11/2010) offers an excellent study of what made the battle of Chickamauga a "barren victory" for the Confederates.


    This is author David Powell's second book (the first being Maps Of Chickamauga) and it goes even further to demonstrate his expertise about the 1863 campaigns that occurred in middle Tennessee and northwest Georgia. Dave is probably one of three people who could honestly be referred to as an "expert" on the subject. Along with his recent entry into writing, he had designed three games on the subject and co-leads an annual tour (in mid-March) at the Chickamauga/Chattanooga National Military Park. He has concentrated his studies of the abovementioned campaign for well over a decade now.


    There is a myth of Southern superiority throughout the Civil War regarding their horsemen, especially their leaders. Ironically in their only victory in a large battle in the western theater of the Civil War, Confederate cavalry was found seriously wanting. Failure In The Saddle reveals the mistakes that were made by Confederate cavalry leaders during the Tullahoma and Chickamauga campaigns. One of the leading characters in the drama was the much celebrated Confederate cavalry raider, Nathan Bedford Forrest, who to many in the South is above reproach. These operations marked the first time that Forrest commanded a corps of cavalry and his unfamiliarity with the position led to several glaring mistakes throughout the campaign and battle. Even more suspect in the series of errors committed by Confederate cavalry during the campaign was Joseph Wheeler the Army of Tennessee's other cavalry corps commander. Where General Forrest's mistakes were honest missteps committed by a man new to higher command within a larger organizational structure, many of Wheeler's mistakes seemed like pure sloth and insubordination.


    Included in the book are fourteen maps, five appendices (including a driving tour with GPS coordinates, a list of Confederate cavalry casualties during the campaign, a Confederate inspector general's report of Wheeler's cavalry during the 1864 Georgia Campaign, an analysis of a legendary, and probably embellished confrontation between Forrest and army commander Braxton Bragg and an interview with the author).


    In short, the book is a fact filled, but fast paced, eye opening read about the Confederate cavalry during one of their less than spectacular moments.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 12, 2011

    If you like reading about the Civil War, you'll love this book.

    For Civil War buffs of various different levels, this recent book (initially published in 11/2010) offers an excellent study of what made the battle of Chickamauga a "barren victory" for the Confederates.

    This is author David Powell's second book (the first being Maps Of Chickamauga) and it goes even further to demonstrate his expertise about the 1863 campaigns that occurred in middle Tennessee and northwest Georgia. Dave is probably one of three people who could honestly be referred to as an "expert" on the subject. Along with his recent entry into writing, he had designed three games on the subject and co-leads an annual tour (in mid-March) at the Chickamauga/Chattanooga National Military Park. He has concentrated his studies of the abovementioned campaign for well over a decade now.

    There is a myth of Southern superiority throughout the Civil War regarding their horsemen, especially their leaders. Ironically in their only victory in a large battle in the western theater of the Civil War, Confederate cavalry was found seriously wanting. Failure In The Saddle reveals the mistakes that were made by Confederate cavalry leaders during the Tullahoma and Chickamauga campaigns. One of the leading characters in the drama was the much celebrated Confedrate cavalry raider, Nathan Bedford Forrest, who to many in the South is above reproach. These operations marked the first time that Forrest commanded a corps of cavalry and his unfamiliarity with the position led to several glaring mistakes throughout the campaign and battle. Even more suspect in the series of errors committed by Confederate cavalry during the campaign was Joseph Wheeler the Army of Tennessee's other cavalry corps commander. Where General Forrest's mistakes were honest missteps committed by a man new to higher command within a larger organizational structure, many of Wheeler's mistakes seemed like pure sloth and insubordination.

    Included in the book are fourteen maps, five appendices (including a driving tour with GPS coordinates, a list of Confederate cavalry casualties during the campaign, a Confederate inspector general's report of Wheeler's cavalry during the 1864 Georgia Campaign, an analysis of a legendary, and probably embellished confrontation between Forrest and army commander Braxton Bragg and an interview with the author).

    In short, the book is a fact filled, but fast paced, eye opening read about the Confederate cavalry during one of their less than spectacular moments.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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