Battle of Lake Peipus, 5 April 1242

Battle of Lake Peipus, 5 April 1242, in which forces of Novgorod under Alexander Nevskii defeated Northern Crusaders led by Bishop Hermann of Tartu. Following wide-ranging manoeuvres largely confined to areas of frozen marsh between dense forests, both sides crossed the frozen channel linking Lake Peipus with its southern extension, often called Lake Pskov.

Initial dispositions:

(A) Alexander Nevskii’s household cavalry drawn up behind Novgorod militia;

(B) Russian left wing;

(C) Russian right wing, including contingent of Turco-Mongol horse-archers;

(D) Crusader array, with Livonian feudal contingent on right, Teutonic Knights in centre, and Danish feudal forces from northern Estonia on left;

(E) Estonian auxiliaries.

Movements:

(1) Russian army crosses frozen lake, then adopts a defensive position at Raven’s Rock;

(2) Probable route of pursuing Crusader army across frozen lake;

(3) Alternative Crusader route, via Piiris Island;

(4) Crusader frontal attack forces back Novgorod militia;

(5) Attack by Russian right, including horse-archers, hits Danes in flank, causing them to flee. They are followed by the Crusader right flank and Estonian auxiliaries, leaving the Teutonic Knights surrounded.

The Teutonic Knights in Prussia were concerned about the Mongol threat. Even though a legend concerning the Prussian master, Poppo, has been repeatedly demonstrated to be false, popular historians continue to revive the story that he met his death at the battle of Liegnitz under a hail of Tatar arrows. The kernel of truth to this myth is based on the order’s responsibility to defend Christendom against all its armed foes, and perhaps Poppo had been present at the battle and wounded. Direct evidence is lacking. Poppo did die at Liegnitz and was buried there, but that was many years later, when he was visiting his wife’s convent.

In any event, the current moment was not a good one for Andreas to risk Livonian knights who might be needed elsewhere. Andreas was aware also that the knights most eager to attack Novgorod were rebels who were determined to annul the Treaty of Stensby and plunge his order into war with Denmark. Perhaps the temporary nature of his authority, that of acting-master, limited his confidence to offer bold leadership. Whatever his reasons, Andreas does not seem to have been committed to the crusade after the spring of 1241.

More importantly, Andreas von Felben had a more pressing problem to deal with than assisting crusaders in an attack on Novgorod. That was to subdue an uprising on Oesel, which he accomplished that winter by leading an army across the ice and overawing the rebels. The peace treaty survives, providing us with valuable insight into the crusaders’ demands on their subjects. First of all, anyone performing pagan ceremonies was to be fined and whipped. Second, farmers were to convey their taxes by ship either to Riga or the bishop. Third, anyone who was guilty of infanticide was to be fined, and the mother was to be taken to the cemetery nine successive Sundays, stripped, and whipped. Fourth, once a year, at the time the taxes were paid, the advocate would hold court, rendering justice as advised by the elders of the land. Lastly, murderers were to pay a wergild of ten marks for homicides committed on strangers or among themselves, a heavy penalty which could be paid only with the help of one’s clansmen. In short, the treaty dealt with a variety of concerns – religious, financial and social – which presumably were not covered by existing agreements. The treaty also demonstrates that the Oeselian Estonians were by no means powerless serfs. A master does not sign a formal treaty requiring the presence of priests, friars, vassals, his marshal and numerous knights and multorum aliorum fidelium, Theutonicorum et Estonum, unless the seniores de Estonibus Maritimae et alii quam plures were men of power and substance.

Meanwhile, Duke Alexander had been invited to return to Novgorod. The abased citizens, now persuaded that they could not fight the German-Pskov forces alone, apparently conceded all the points over which they had quarrelled. Late in 1241 Alexander overwhelmed the German-Danish garrisons east of Narva. Significantly, he spared the Westerners for ransom but hanged the Estonians as rebels and traitors. He thus demonstrated his limited aim: to retain control of the vital border territories. He had no intention of driving the crusaders into the sea; his attention was directed more to the south – where the Mongols held sway – than to the west. His intent was merely to guarantee that he would not be attacked from the rear while he was engaged with the Tatars. His move against the Western garrison in Pskov on 5 March 1242 was described by a German chronicler in these terms:

He marched toward Pskov with many troops. He arrived there with a mighty force of many Russians to free the Pskovians and these latter heartily rejoiced. When he saw the Germans he did not hesitate long. They drove away the two Brothers, removed them from their advocacy and routed their servants. The Germans fled . . . If Pskov had been defended, Christianity would be benefited until the end of the world. It is a mistake to conquer a fair land and fail to occupy it well . . . The king of Novgorod then returned home.

The corresponding account in the Chronicle of Novgorod is very short: ‘Prince Alexander occupied all the roads right up to [Pskov], seized the Germans and the Chud men, and having bound them in chains, sent them to be imprisoned in Novgorod’.

Alexander led a relatively small force into the diocese of Dorpat, only to turn back after Bishop Hermann’s men routed his scouts at a bridge. Perhaps a small number of Teutonic Knights joined in the pursuit of Alexander’s retreating forces, making the order’s total contribution more respectable. The Orthodox and Catholic armies then met at Lake Peipus – the famous Battle on the Ice. Neither army was large. The Westerners had perhaps 2,000 men, the Russians perhaps 6,000, but these numbers were, in effect, balanced by the superior armament of the crusaders

The battle has become undeservedly famous, having been endowed – for twentieth-century political considerations – with much more significance than it merited in itself, through Sergei Eisenstein’s 1938 film Alexander Nevsky, and the stirring music of Sergei Prokoviev. Indeed, although this movie is a reasonably accurate portrayal of some aspects of the battle, especially the costumes and tactics, and gives us an impressive sense of the drama of medieval combat, other aspects are pure propaganda. Certainly the ancestors of today’s Estonians and Latvians were not dwarfs, as the movie suggests, nor were they serfs. Master Andreas was in Riga, and thus could not have been taken prisoner by Alexander himself and ransomed for soap. The Russian forces were mainly professionals, not pre-Lenin Communist peasants and workers facing the equivalent of German armoured columns; the Germans were not proto-Nazis, blonde giants who burned babies alive. In short, many scenes in Alexander Nevsky tell us much more about the Soviet Union just before Hitler’s invasion than about medieval history. On the other hand, it is just possible that the crusaders did possess a portable organ – Henry of Livonia had mentioned an incident in an earlier combat in which the playing of a musical instrument caused the two armies to stop fighting momentarily to listen in wonder, and records from the end of the century list organs among the religious objects destroyed by Lithuanian pagans. Certainly Lake Peipus is far enough inland that the last days of cold weather might have preserved sufficient ice along the shores to support the weight of men on horseback.

Spring had not yet come on 5 April as the crusader army proceeded across the lake or, more likely, along the shore to meet the Russian forces that were massed in a solid body. Although some of the fighting probably took place on the ice, it is unlikely that the cavalry forces ventured onto it in significant numbers. The heavily armed Western knights formed the spearhead of a column followed by light cavalry and foot soldiers, which charged into the Russian infantry. The Livonian Rhymed Chronicle summarised the battle tersely:

The [Russians] had many archers, and the battle began with their bold assault on the king’s men [Danes]. The brothers’ banners were soon flying in the midst of the archers, and swords were heard cutting helmets apart. Many from both sides fell dead on the grass. Then the Brothers’ army was completely surrounded, for the Russians had so many troops that there were easily sixty men for every one German knight. The Brothers fought well enough, but they were nonetheless cut down. Some of those from Dorpat escaped from the battle, and it was their salvation that they fled. Twenty brothers lay dead and six were captured.

The battle, of course, had repercussions beyond the Livonian-Rus’ian border region: revolts broke out in Kurland and Prussia which threatened to involve the Teutonic Knights on so many fronts that they could not cope with their enemies. Alexander Nevsky, however, had no interest in destroying the crusader states in Livonia. First of all, the former Swordbrothers and Teutonic Knights who were represented at the battle lost only half as many knights as had perished at Saule. When one considers that these would be quickly reinforced by troops that the master held in reserve, the Teutonic Order remained a formidable foe; moreover, the crusaders would be fighting on the defensive in well-constructed wooden forts, and Alexander Nevsky had not equipped his forces for sieges. Moreover, the Mongol threat was so immediate that the prince could not afford to postpone attending to it. Consequently he offered generous terms to the Roman Christians, which the crusaders immediately accepted: Novgorod withdrew from Pskov and other border territories, Alexander freed his prisoners, and the Germans released their hostages. Three years later Alexander defeated a Lithuanian effort to exploit Novgorod’s weakened condition. In the end, however, like the other Russian princes, he acknowledged the authority of the Golden Horde and performed military service for the Mongol khan. For the next twenty years there was no war between Rus’ians and Germans.

It had been a dangerous moment for Novgorod, but perhaps less dangerous than is sometimes thought. If Novgorod had been occupied by the Westerners, the Rus’ian state might indeed have shared the fate of Byzantium after the Fourth Crusade, to be dominated temporarily by foreigners, perhaps so permanently lamed in political and economic terms that it would be unable to ward off the more dangerous enemy advancing from the East. Nevertheless, it is difficult to imagine the crusaders permanently suppressing Russian culture, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Russian nobility. If the Golden Horde could not do this, could the Westerners, whose capacity vis-à-vis the Mongols’ pales into insignificance? It is easy to exaggerate the importance of the Battle on the Ice. In the short term, it was more important for the crusaders, in that it put an end to the eastward drive of the armed mission; in the long term it gave Russians a memory of a glorious victory over formidable foes, a victory that stood out so brightly because of its rarity.

Victory, if the outcome had been reversed, would have given new life to the tensions in Livonia and Estonia. Those Teutonic Knights who had been former Swordbrothers and wholeheartedly supported the attack might have incurred new obligations that the Teutonic Knights as a whole would have to meet. Although the survivors of the former Swordbrother Order would continue to complain that they had not been properly supported (‘The bishop . . . had brought along too few people, and the brothers’ army was also too small’), they had no choice other than to submit to Master Dietrich. Only one of their knights appears later in Livonian records, and he only after the lapse of many years. At least one of their surviving leaders was sent to the Holy Land. Were other former Swordbrothers among those Teutonic Knights there who left the order in 1245 to join the Templars? We do not know. Even Andreas von Felben left the country temporarily, being stationed in his native Netherlands in 1243. Defeat seems to have provided Master Dietrich with the opportunity for a thorough housecleaning, a task he performed with such efficiency that in 1246 he was elected Prussian master, then eight years later German master.

Ariobarzanes

ALEXANDER the Great : Battle of the Persian Gate.

A Persian commander in the army of Darius III (r. 336–330 BCE), the last Achaemenid king. Ariobarzanes was present at the Battle of Gaugamela (Arbela), which was fought between Darius III and Alexander the Macedon in present-day northern Iraq in October 331 BCE. As the governor (satrap) of Parsa (Persis) in present-day southern Iran, Ariobarzanes fought Alexander in January 330 BCE in the Battle of the Persian Gates in a last-ditch effort to prevent the invading Macedonians from reaching the Achaemenid ceremonial capital of Persepolis.

In the Battle of Gaugamela, Ariobarzanes served as the co-commander of a unit of Persian, Mardian, and Sogdian forces, sharing this command with Oronotobates (Quintus Curtius Rufus: 4.12.7). The “supreme command” of the unit “rested with Orsines,” who was descended from one of the Persian officers who had supported Darius I when he seized the Persian throne in 522 BCE and “also traced his line back to the renowned King Cyrus” (Quintus Curtius Rufus: 4.12.8). According to Arrian, in the Battle of Gaugamela, Ariobarzanes and Oronotobates were commanders of the “contingents from the neighborhood of the Persian Gulf” (Arrian: 3.8.5). After he was defeated, Darius III fled to Hagmatana/Ecbatana (modern-day Hamedan) accompanied by a group of his generals. With their king in flight and in the absence of any centralized authority that could organize an empire-wide resistance, each governor became responsible for the defense and security of his own province. Left to their own means and without any support from the Achaemenid central government, many Persian satraps surrendered to Alexander and accepted his suzerainty. Initially, Alexander accepted the surrender of these satraps and preserved them in their posts.

Meanwhile, after his victory at Gaugamela, Alexander moved south and seized Babylon and Susa. He then marched against the province of Parsa (Persis) and Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. Alexander split his forces. His general, Parmenio, “was given orders to proceed by the main road into Persia,” while Alexander himself, “at the head of a force consisting of the Macedonian infantry, the Companion cavalry, the Agrianes, the archers, and advanced scouts, set off with all speed through the hills” (Arrian: 3.18.2). The Persian satrap of Parsa (Persis), Ariobarzanes, tried to slow down Alexander’s march to Persepolis on a mountainous track called the Persian Gates (Arrian: 3.18.2; Strabo: 15.3.6). According to Arrian, Ariobarzanes fled to the mountains with a band of horsemen (Arrian: 3.18.9).

At the Persian Gates northeast of modern Yasuj, the capital of the present-day Iranian province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, the Macedonian units under the command of Alexander “encountered Ariobarzanes,” who “had already built defenses across the pass” and with his force “had taken up a position there to prevent Alexander from getting through” (Arrian: 3.18.2). Curtius claimed that Ariobarzanes had occupied the pass “with 25,000 infantry,” while Arrian stated that Ariobarzanes commanded an infantry force of 40,000 supported by 700 cavalrymen (Arrian: 3.18.6). These numbers are not only grossly exaggerated but are also laughable. Such embellished numbers were used as a means of portraying the Achaemenid state as a military giant with unlimited resources and manpower and converting Alexander into a military genius who fought and defeated armies many times larger than the size of his own. If they admitted that a small force of desperate but determined Persians inflicted a humiliating defeat on a much larger Macedonian army led by Alexander, who was forced to retreat, then one could not glamorize the Macedonian victory over a disintegrating polity as a unique moment in human history.

Confident of his ability to score an easy victory against the small Persian force that blocked his path to Persepolis, Alexander attacked Ariobarzanes with a force of 10,000 men (Arrian: 3.18.1). Holding a commanding position over the narrow pass, Ariobarzanes and his small Persian force fought back. The Persians rolled “massive rocks down the mountain slopes” (Quintus Curtius Rufus: 5.3.16). “Stones, shot from slings, and arrows were also showered” on the Macedonians (Quintus Curtius Rufus: 5.3.19). The Macedonians “suffered severely from missiles hurled or catapulted from above,” and Alexander was forced to retreat (Arrian: 3.18.3). At this critical juncture, a native who knew the various passes in the region led Alexander and his commanders under the cover of darkness through roundabouts to the rear of the Persian position. At dawn Alexander attacked the Persian force under the command of Ariobarzanes, while his general, Craterus, assaulted the gate from the front. Surrounded, the Persians put up “a memorable fight. … Unarmed men grappled with men who were armed, dragging them to the ground by virtue of their bodily weight and stabbing many with their own weapons” (Quintus Curtius Rufus: 5.4.31–2; Arrian: 3.18.3–8). The Persian defenders were mostly killed. According to Curtius, Ariobarzanes “broke through the center of the Macedonian line” and “hurried to occupy the regional capital, the city of Persepolis,” but he was shut out from there by the city garrison (Quintus Curtius Rufus: 5.4.33–34). Left with no other alternative, Ariobarzanes renewed the battle and died fighting together with all those who had fled with him (Quintus Curtius Rufus: 5.4.34). The valor, audacity, selflessness, and heroism of Ariobarzanes, who sacrificed his life in defense of Persia, has been celebrated by numerous Iranian writers of the 20th century. Today, a statue of the Persian commander welcomes visitors to the city of Yasuj, the capital of the province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, located in the Zagros Mountains of southwestern Iran.

Further Reading

Arrian. The Campaigns of Alexander. Translated by Aubrey De Sélincourt. New York: Dorset, 1986.

Briant, Pierre. From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire. Translated by P. T. Daniels. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2002.

Cook, J. M. The Persian Empire. New York: Schocken Books, 1983.

Dandamayev, M. A. “Artabazus.” Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1986, http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/artabazus-gk

Diodorus Siculus. Translated by C. H. Oldfather. London: William Heinemann, 1933.

Quintus Curtius Rufus. The History of Alexander. London: Penguin, 2004.

Shahbazi, A. Sh. “Ariobarzanes.” Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1986, http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/ariobarzanes-greek-form-of-old-iranian-proper-name-arya-brzana.

Strabo. The Geography of Strabo. Translated by Horace Leonard Jones. London: William Heinemann, 1930.

 

Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip, Farragut’s Run Past – April 24, 1862 Part I

This map shows the Confederate fortifications at Fort Jackson and Fort St Philip and the Union fleet under Farragut. To capture New Orleans, the largest city and principal port in the Confederacy, Farragut overcame the Confederate warships (the massive CSS Louisiana could not move for want of her engines, while the CSS Manassas only mounted one thirty-two-pounder) and bypassed the two forts at night, but only after the river was freed of obstacles. Off Manila in 1898, Dewey employed the technique he had observed when taking part in Farragut’s attack: of passing heavily fortified shore positions at night. Farragut’s success had not been matched by the British in 1815. The map included the longest range of fire from the forts.

The capture of New Orleans was a key element in the Lincoln administration’s Anaconda Plan. New Orleans was the Confederacy’s most important seaport and its largest and wealthiest city. Beyond denying to the South this outlet for the shipment of cotton, securing the entire Mississippi would open the river to oceanic shipping for goods from the Northwest, as well as split off the trans-Mississippi West from the remainder of the Confederacy.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox was the strongest proponent of an assault on the Crescent City. He believed that Union victories at Port Royal, South Carolina, and Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, had proved that steam warships could successfully engage and defeat shore forts and that Union ships could defeat Confederate forts Jackson and St. Philip, which guarded the southern approach to New Orleans along the Mississippi. Commander David D. Porter convinced Fox and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles that bombardment of the forts by a flotilla of mortar boats would be essential to success of the plan. He pledged that both forts would be rendered ineffective, if not destroyed, within 48 hours of shelling from large 13-inch mortars.

President Lincoln gave his endorsement. General in chief Major General George B. McClellan was opposed, that is until he learned that the operation was to be essentially borne by the navy with only about 10,000 troops required to garrison the city and its forts once the navy had forced their surrender. In December, Welles called Captain David G. Farragut to Washington and offered him command of the operation, which Farragut immediately accepted. Porter received command of the mortar flotilla. Farragut took as his flagship the screw sloop Hartford and arrived at Ship Island in Mississippi Sound on February 20, 1862.

Farragut spent nearly a month preparing for the expedition, ultimately assembling 17 ships mounting 192 guns. The most powerful of these were 8 steam sloops and corvettes: the Brooklyn (26 guns), Hartford (28 guns), Iroquois (11 guns), Mississippi (22 guns), Oneida (10 guns), Pensacola (25 guns), Richmond (22 guns), and Varuna (11 guns). These ships mounted in all 154 guns. There were also 9 gunboats: the Cayuga (4 guns), Itasca (4 guns), Katahdin (4 guns), Kennebec (4 guns), Kineo (4 guns), Pinola (5 guns), Sciota (5 guns), Winona (4 guns), and Wissahickon (4 guns). Farragut also had Porter’s squadron of 20 mortar schooners, each mounting a single 13-inch mortar. Major General Benjamin F. Butler com manded the 13,000 soldiers who would accompany the expedition.

On April 16, following careful planning and preparations, Farragut moved his ships from the Gulf into the Mississippi River estuary, just below and out of range of the river forts. Once the ships had passed the forts, Butler’s troops were to join the squadron by means of a bayou about five miles upriver. Welles hoped that Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote and his Union naval forces on the upper Mississippi would steam south and join Farragut at New Orleans. If that proved impossible, Farragut was to proceed north as far as possible.

Confederate leaders in Richmond bore considerable responsibility for subsequent events. They believed that the chief threat to New Orleans was from the north and thus sent there the scant resources available. This same attitude contributed to the failure to complete the Confederate ironclads Louisiana and Mississippi that were under construction at Jefferson City just north of New Orleans.

Major General Mansfield Lovell had charge of the New Orleans defenses. Initially commanding 6,000 men, he had expressed confidence that he could hold the city against any land attack. By early April, however, more than half of his men and much equipment had been siphoned off from New Orleans to Corinth, Mississippi, to challenge Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s forces at Pittsburg Landing. Another major problem lay in a divided command structure that included multiple army and navy commanders. Thus, Brigadier General Johnson Kelly Duncan, not Lovell, commanded Forts St. Philip and Jackson. The naval command was even more fractious.

Despite the paucity of Confederate manpower facing them, it would not be easy for Union forces to ascend the Mississippi. The Union ships would first have to pass the Confederate forts. Fort Jackson was a stone and mortar star-shaped works mounting 74 guns and situated some 100 yards from the levee on the west bank of the river. Fort St. Philip, mounting 52 guns, and located about a half mile upstream on the opposite bank, was of brick and stone covered with sod. High water in the river had flooded portions of both works, but Confederate engineers worked around the clock to control the water and strengthen the two installations against attack. Another liability was that the 1,100 men in the forts were inexperienced and largely untrained. This would impact the fighting, especially in conditions of poor visibility.

On the river itself, the Confederates assembled only 14 warships, most of which were small. They mounted a total of only 40 guns. There was no unity of command, and the vessels were in three major divisions. Captain John A. Stephenson commanded the Confederate River Defense Fleet of six small converted river tugs mounting a total of 7 guns and fitted with iron-reinforced prows for ramming. These were the Defense, General Breckinridge, General Lovell, Resolute, Stonewall Jackson, and Warrior. Stephenson was a Confederate Army officer who reputedly disliked naval officers and refused to obey orders of the senior Confederate naval officer in the lower Mississippi, Commander John K. Mitchell.

The Louisiana State Navy provided two side-wheeler gunboats in the Governor Moore and General Quitman. They mounted two guns each, while the Confederate Navy contributed six warships under Mitchell: the gunboats CSS McRae (eight guns) and Jackson (two guns) and the launches No. 3 and No. 6 (one gun apiece). The other two ships were the ironclads Manassas and Louisiana, but only the ram Manassas with a single gun was operational at the time of the Union assault.

The Louisiana posed the only real naval threat to the ships of Farragut’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron, and many in the Crescent City regarded it as the strongest defense for the city, after the forts. The 1,400-ton Louisiana was 264 feet in length and protected by four-inch railroad rail iron. Unfortunately for the South, the ship was not yet ready when Union forces began their attack. Nonetheless, when Porter’s mortars opened up on the forts, Mitchell had it towed down river with mechanics still working on it. The ship was then moored to the shore north of Fort St. Philip as a floating fort. Soldiers drawn from the Crescent Artillery worked its 16 guns.

Stephenson also had ordered fire rafts prepared so that they might be set loose in the current against any Union ships advancing upriver. Although the river was too swift and deep for obstructions, Lovell advocated and the Confederates built a river barrier. It consisted of two long chains formed from those of ships idled at New Orleans. Seven anchored hulks supported the chains, which passed across the river, over the forward part and amidships of the hulks, from Fort Jackson to the opposite shore.

Assembling off Pass a l’Outre, by mid-March all the heavier Union warships were able to pass over the bar with assistance from Porter’s steamers. A month later, all the other ships had assembled at Ship Island along with Butler’s troops.

On April 15, Farragut gave the order for the operation to begin. On the evening of April 18, Porter’s 20 mortar boats, towed into position by 7 steamers and moored along the riverbank some 3,000 yards from Fort Jackson where they were protected by a bend of the river and woods, opened a bombardment. For six days and nights the mortars fired 16,800 shells, almost all of them at the fort, without notable result. The problem seems to have been the fusing, the shells either burst in air or buried themselves in the soft earth before exploding without major effect. Although the mortar shells did dismount some of the guns in Fort Jackson, most of the Confederate crews bravely kept to their positions and were able to remount the guns. Indeed, Confederate counterbattery fire on April 19 sank the mortar schooner Maria J. Carlton, killing and wounding some Union sailors. The Confederates also sent fire rafts down the river at night, but Union boat crews grappled these and towed them off without damage.

Farragut knew that too much delay would have a negative effect and on the night of April 20, while Porter’s mortars kept up a steady fire so as to distract the gun crews in the Confederate forts, he sent the screw gunboats Itasca and Pinola against the river obstructions. Under heavy but inaccurate Confederate fire, the Union crews worked to open a gap through which the squadron might pass. An attempt to blow up one of the hulks with an electronically detonated torpedo (mine) failed, but some of the men of the Itasca managed to break the chains with a chisel, opening a passage that Farragut thought would be sufficient for his ships to pass through.

The Union crews, meanwhile, prepared their ships. The men landed anything that might be a potential fire hazard or inhibit smooth operations, including extra spars, rigging, boats, and all but a few sails. They also strung heavy iron cable chains on the outsides of the ships to provide additional protection to the most vulnerable areas housing the engines and steam boilers. These acted as a kind of chain mail armor. They also packed around the boilers bags of ashes, extra clothing, sand, and anything else readily available. Clearly, protecting the boilers was the major concern. Clouds of steam from a punctured boiler could inflict heavy personnel casualties. Also, such an event could immobilize the vessel, perhaps jeopardizing the entire operation.

The crews also worked to distribute weight so that the ships would draw more water forward than aft. This was so that if a vessel grounded while heading upstream, the bow would strike bottom first and the ship would not be turned around by the swift current. The crews also whitewashed their vessels’ decks so that the gunners’ tools would stand out more clearly at night; at the same time, they gave the hulls a coating of oil and mud to render them more difficult to distinguish from the shore.

On April 22, Farragut met with his subordinate commanders to discuss his plans in detail. The ships were to proceed single file through the obstructions. Porter’s mortars would provide covering fire to occupy the Confederate gun crews and hopefully drive them from their guns. Once the ships had passed the forts, Butler’s troops would be put ashore at Quarantine from the Gulf side through that bayou, allowing the Union land and naval forces to move in tandem to New Orleans. Farragut reserved the option of reducing the forts, but instructed his captains that, unless otherwise ordered, they were to steam past them.

The prevailing view among the captains, freely stated during the meeting, was that the risk was such that any attempt should be delayed until the mortars had reduced the forts. Farragut demurred. Porter would soon run short of shells, and his men were exhausted from the bombardment that had already extended over six days and seven nights. Farragut informed the captains that, given these considerations, he had decided on an attempt that very night. The attack was delayed for 24 hours, however, on pleas by two of the captains that they were not yet ready.

Soon after midnight on April 24, the crews were awakened, and the squadron got under way. The ships then moved upriver in two divisions to approach the opening in the obstructions made earlier. Captain Theodorus Bailey commanded the first division of the Cayuga, Pensacola, Mississippi, Oneida, Varuna, Katahdin, Kineo, and Wissahickon. The center (second) division, under Farragut, consisted of the Hartford, Brooklyn, and Richmond. The third division, commanded by Captain Henry H. Bell, included the Sciota, Iroquois, Kennebec, Pinola, Itasca, and Winona.

Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip, Farragut’s Run Past – April 24, 1862 Part II

The Cayuga was the first ship through the water barrier at about 3:30 a. m. The Confederates did not discover the Cayuga until about 10 minutes later, when it was well under Fort Jackson. Understandably, General Duncan at Fort Jackson subsequently complained that Mitchell had failed to send any fire rafts to light the river at night, nor had he stationed any vessel below the forts to warn of the Union approach. The different naval commands and lack of cooperation between land and naval commanders indeed proved costly for the defenders.

As soon as they spotted the Cayuga, gunners at both Confederate forts opened up almost simultaneously, with the Union ships in position to do so immediately replying. Soon the river surface was filled with clouds of thick smoke from the discharges of the guns. This smoke obscured vision from both the ships and the shore, but on balance it favored the ships. Porter, meanwhile, had brought forward the five steamers assigned to his mortar schooners and these opened up an enfilading fire at some 200 yards from Fort Jackson, pouring into it grape, canister, and shrapnel shell, while the mortars added their shells. This fire did drive many of the Confederate gun crews from their guns and reduced the effectiveness of those who remained.

The Pensacola, the second Union ship through the obstacles, was slow to get under way, and this meant that for some time the Cayuga faced the full fury of the Confederate fire alone. Lieutenant George H. Perkins, piloting the Cayuga, had the presence of mind to note that the Confederate guns had been laid so as to concentrate fire on the middle of the river and therefore took his ship closer to the walls of Fort St. Philip. Although its masts and rigging were shot up, the hull largely escaped damage.

The captain of the Pensacola, Captain Henry W. Morris, apparently interpreted Farragut’s orders to mean that he was to engage the forts. Halting his ship in the middle of the obstructions, he let loose a broadside against Fort St. Philip, driving the gun crews onshore to safety. On clearing the obstructions, he ordered a second broadside against the fort. But stopping the Pensacola dead in the water made it an ideal target. It took nine shots in the hull, and its rigging and masts were also much cut up. The Pensacola also suffered 4 killed and 33 wounded, more than any other Union ship in the operation that day.

The leading division continued upriver, engaging targets as they presented themselves. The remaining Union ships followed, firing grape and canister as well as round shot. The shore batteries had difficulty finding the range, and damage and casualties aboard these vessels were slight.

About 4:00 a. m., the Confederate Navy warships above the forts joined the battle. The most powerful of these, the McRae, lay anchored along the shore 300 yards above Fort St. Philip when its lookouts spotted the Cayuga. Lieutenant Thomas B. Huger, captain of the McRae, ordered cables slipped and fire opened. The McRae opened up with its port battery and pivot gun, but the latter burst on its 10th round. The Cayuga continued upriver, passing the McRae. Two other Union ships, the Varuna and Oneida, then exited the smoke and steamed past the McRae without firing on it, probably taking it for a Union gunboat. Huger ordered his vessel to sheer first to port and then to starboard, delivering two broadsides. The Varuna and Oneida also sheered and returned fire. Each of these ships mounted two XI-inch Dahlgrens in pivot and these guns soon told. The explosion of one Union shell started a fire in the McRae, and only desperate efforts by the crew kept the blaze from reaching the magazine.

Although most of the remaining lightly armed Confederate warships fled upriver on the approach of the Union ships, this was not the case with the ram Manassas. Although his ship was armed with only a single 32-pounder, Lieutenant Alexan der Warley was determined to attack, even alone. Warley understood that the only chance for a Confederate victory lay in an immediate combined assault by the gunboats and fire rafts to immobilize the Union vessels long enough for the heavy guns in the forts to destroy them.

The Manassas lay moored to the east bank of the river above Fort St. Philip, when flashes in the vicinity of the obstacles indicated action in progress. Warley immediately ordered his ship to get under way. He attempted to ram the Pensacola, but skillful maneuvering by the Union pilot avoided a collision, and the Pensacola let loose with a broadside from its IX-inch Dahlgren guns as the Manassas passed. Damaged in the exchange, the Confederate ram nonetheless continued on.

Warley then spotted the side-wheeler Mississippi. Lieutenant George Dewey tried to turn his ship so as to ram the onrushing Manassas, but the latter proved more agile than the Union paddle wheeler and was able to strike the Mississippi a glancing blow on its port side, opening a large hole there but failing to fatally damage the Mississippi.

As the Union ships cleared the forts, they came under fire from the Confederate ironclad Louisiana along the riverbank. Its gun ports were small and did not allow a wide arc of fire, so the gun crews scored few hits.

Proceeding north, the leading Cayuga overtook some of the fleeing Confederate vessels and fired into them. Three of the Confederate gunboats struck their colors and ran ashore. The Varuna and Oneida soon came up, but in the confusion sailors in the Varuna mistook the Cayuga for a Confederate vessel and fired a broadside into it.

Impatient with the Pensacola’s slow progress, meanwhile, Farragut ordered the Hartford to pass it and then climbed into the mizzen rigging so as to secure a better view over the smoke. As the Hartford proceeded upriver, Farragut saw a fire raft blazing off the port bow, pushed forward by the unarmed Confederate tug Moser. Farragut ordered his own ship to turn to starboard, but it was too close to the shore and its bow immediately grounded hard in a mud bank, allowing Captain Horace Sherman of the Moser to position the raft against the Hartford’s port side. The blaze soon ignited the paint on the side of the Union vessel, which then caught the rigging. With his ship on fire and immobilized, Farragut thought it was doomed. Fortunately, the gunners at Fort St. Philip were unable to fire into the now stationary target as the fleet’s fire had dismounted one of the fort’s largest guns and another could not be brought to bear.

Farragut came down out of the rigging to the deck where he exhorted the Hart ford’s crew to fight the fire. Gunfire from the flagship, meanwhile, sank the Moser. Farragut’s clerk, Bradley Osbon, brought up three shells, unscrewed their fuses, and dropped them over the gunwale of the Hartford into the fire raft. The resulting explosions tore holes in the raft and sank it, extinguishing the flames. With the raft gone, the Hartford’s crew was able to extinguish the fires. The men cheered as their ship backed free of the mud bank and resumed course upriver.

In the confusion and smoke, accidents occurred. The gunboat Kineo collided with the sloop Brooklyn; although seriously damaged, the Kineo was able to continue on past the forts. The Brooklyn, meanwhile, plowed into one of the Confederate hulks, then suddenly ground to a halt just north of the obstructions, its anchor caught in the hulk and hawser taut. The river current then turned the sloop broadside to Fort St. Philip. With the gunners ashore having found the range and the Brooklyn taking hits, a crewman managed to cut the cable and free the sloop.

Captain Thomas T. Craven of the Brooklyn ordered it to pass close to Fort St. Philip, the sloop firing three broadsides into the Confederate works as it steamed past. The Brooklyn then passed the Louisiana at very close quarters. In the exchange of fire, a Confederate shell struck the Union ship just above the waterline but failed to explode. Later, the Brooklyn’s crew discovered that the Confederate gunners had failed to remove the lead patch from the fuse.

Smoke from the firing was now so thick that it was virtually impossible to see and take bearings. Craven merely conned his ship in the direction of the noise and flashes of light ahead. But the tide carried the sloop over on the lee shore, perfectly positioned for the guns of Fort Jackson. As the sloop touched bottom, Craven saw the Manassas emerge from the smoke.

Warley had previously tried to ram the Hartford without success. The Manassas had taken a number of Union shell hits and its smokestack was riddled and speed sharply reduced. Warley decided to take the ram down river to attack Porter’s now unprotected mortar boats. But when the Confederate forts mistakenly opened up with their heavy guns on the Manassas, Warley decided to return upriver. At that point he spotted the Brooklyn lying athwart the river and headed for Fort Jackson. Warley ordered resin thrown into his ship’s furnaces to produce maximum speed and maneuvered the ram so as to pin the Brooklyn against the riverbank.

Seamen aboard the Brooklyn spotted the ram’s approach and gave the alarm. Craven ordered the sloop’s helm turned, but this could only lessen, not avoid, the impact. Only moments before the collision, a shot from the Manassas crashed into the Brooklyn but was stopped by sandbags piled around the steam drum.

The Manassas struck the Union ship at a slight angle, crushing several planks and driving in the chain that had been protecting the ship’s side. Craven was certain his ship would go down, but the chain and a full coal bunker helped lessen the impact. Meanwhile, the Manassas disengaged and resumed its progress upriver.

The tail of Farragut’s force, Porter’s mortar flotilla, was also under way. When his vessels came under fire as they approached Fort Jackson, Porter ordered the mortar boats to stop and open fire. This was about 4:20 a.m. The mortars fired for about a half hour, sufficient time it was thought for the remainder of the Union squadron to have cleared the forts. However, when Porter signaled a halt, some of the Union ships were still engaging the forts.

In the thick smoke the Wissahickon, the last ship in the first division, grounded. As the sun rose, Lieutenant Albert N. Smith, the Wissahickon’s captain, discovered he was near three third-division ships, the Iroquois, Sciota, and Pinola, but also in the vicinity of the Confederate gunboat McRae, soon hotly engaged with the much more powerful Iroquois. The McRae was badly damaged in the exchange and Lieutenant Huger was mortally wounded; 3 men were killed outright and another 17 were wounded.

At this point the Manassas came on the scene. Warley tried without success to ram first the Iroquois and then the other Union ships. Realizing the danger if their ships were to be disabled close to the Confederate forts, the Union captains then broke off firing on the McRae and resumed their passage upriver.

Three of Farragut’s ships failed to make it past the forts. The Kennebec and Itasca ran afoul of the river obstructions. In an effort to back clear, the Itasca then collided with the Winona. The Itasca then took a 42-pounder shot through its boiler and had to abandon the effort. The Winona was able to retire before dawn. The Kennebec, caught between the two Confederate forts at daybreak, also withdrew. Fourteen of the 17 ships in Farragut’s squadron had made it past the forts, however.

Farragut lost one ship, the screw steamer Varuna, in the first division. At about 4:00 a. m., Lieutenant Beverly Kennon of the Louisiana state gunboat Governor Moore spotted the Varuna, which was faster than its sister ships and was advancing alone. Kennon immediately ordered the Governor Moore to attack; but in order to reach the Varuna, it was obliged to run a hail of shot and shell from the other Union ships, which cut it up badly and killed and wounded a number of its crew. But the exchange of fire also produced so much smoke that the Confederate gunboat was able to escape and follow the Varuna upriver.

Some 600 yards ahead of the trailing Union ships, the Governor Moore trailed the Varuna by 100 yards. The Union warship engaged its adversary with its stern chaser gun and repeatedly tried to sheer, so as to get off a broadside, but Kennon carefully mirrored the motions of his adversary and was thus able to avoid this. Nonetheless, the Governor Moore took considerable punishment. Shot from the Varuna’s stern chaser killed or wounded most of the crewmen on the Confederate vessel’s forecastle. With his own ship then only 40 yards from his adversary and his bow 32-pounder unable to bear because of the close range, Kennon ordered the gun’s muzzle depressed to fire a shell at the Union warship through his own ship’s deck. This round had a devastating effect, raking the Varuna.

Kennon ordered a second shell fired, with similar result. With the two ships only about 10 feet apart and after firing a round from its after pivot gun, the Varuna sheered to starboard so as to loose a broadside, but Kennon could see the Union ship’s mastheads above the smoke and guessed what was intended. Swinging his own ship hard to port, he smashed it into the Union vessel. The Governor Moore then backed off and rammed the Varuna again, taking a full broadside from the Union ship in the process that made casualties of most of the Confederates on the weather deck. Shortly thereafter, however, another Confederate warship, the Stonewall Jackson, appeared and rammed the Varuna on its opposite, port, side. This blow produced such damage that the Varuna’s pumps were unable to keep it afloat, and Commander Charles S. Boggs ran his ship ashore. Having absorbed two broadsides from the mortally wounded Union vessel, the Stonewall Jackson was itself in a sinking state, and its captain ordered it also run ashore and burned to prevent capture.

As he watched the Varuna ground, Kennon was faced with a new problem in the remaining rapidly closing Union ships, which soon subjected the Confederate gunboat to a devastating fire. His own ship in danger of going down in the river, Kennon grounded it just above the stricken Varuna and ordered it fired. The casualty toll on the Governor Moore was appalling. Fifty-seven men had been killed in action and 7 more wounded out of a crew of 93.

As dawn broke, between 5:30 and 6:00 a. m., the Union ships assembled at Quarantine Station. At this point the Manassas suddenly appeared, heading for the squadron. Standing on the hurricane deck of the Mississippi, Lieutenant Dewey saw the Hartford, blackened from the recent fire, steaming by. Farragut was in its rigging and calling out “Run down the ram!” But when Warley saw the extent of his opposition, he knew the battle was over. The speed of the Manassas was now so much reduced, and it had sustained such damage that an attack would have been suicidal. Warley headed his ship ashore and ordered his crew to scatter.

The battle for the lower Mississippi was over. With the Union fleet past the forts and the Confederate gunboats destroyed, there was now no barrier between Farragut’s squadron and New Orleans. Union casualties had been surprisingly light: the total from April 18 to April 26 was just 39 killed and 171 wounded. Farragut reported to Porter: “We had a rough time of it . . . but thank God the number of killed and wounded was very small considering.”

The Italian–Turkish War 1911–12 – Qunfudha Bay [Kunfuda Bay]

Italy and Turkey went to war in 1911, with Italian forces invading Libya. Turkey mounted more resistance than had been anticipated, leading to a broadening out of the war. This was notably so with conflict in the Aegean, which led to the Italian conquest of Rhodes and the other islands of the Dodecanese and to Italian torpedo boats entering the Dardanelles. Italian warships also attacked the Hejaz, the Turkish part of Arabia. The maps locate the war and show Italian warships as victorious at the battle of Cunfida or Al Qunfudha Bay, 1912, the largest naval battle of the war. Naval bombardment of Turkish coastal positions is also shown. On 7 January 1912, the Italian cruiser Piemonte and the destroyers Garibaldino and Artigliere which had been searching for the Turkish Red Sea squadron found it in Cunfida Bay. In spite of shallow waters, the narrow entrance to the bay, and the opposition from coastal batteries, the Italian ships attacked and easily destroyed seven gunships out of the eight vessels composing the squadron. The eighth, the armed yacht Shipka, was captured and added to the Italian Red Sea squadron.

The Idrisi’s rebellion in `Asir had effectively driven the Turks from most of the country by the end of 1910. Abha, however, held out and the governor and an Ottoman garrison were bottled up. Attempts by Ottoman forces coming up from the Yemeni coastal town of Hodaida to relieve Abha were unsuccessful, and there was a real chance that the besieged town would fall into rebel hands, with the Ottomans unable to mount a relief expedition or to convince the Idrisi to accept some form of autonomy under Ottoman suzerainty. There was no alternative for the Istanbul government but to ask Sharif Hussein to lead an expedition against the Idrisi and to re-establish Ottoman authority. The Porte sent two battalions of regular Ottoman troops with artillery to join Hussein’s force of five thousand armed Bedouins and militia. On 15 April 1911 Hussein, together with his two sons `Abdullah and Faisal, marched out of Mecca to relieve Abha.

One of the columns, about three thousand strong and led by `Abdullah, with Faisal in charge of the cavalry and the sharifian units, had reached the town of Qunfudha on the way to Abha. The weather was scorching hot and the land scape bleak and desolate. The column was ambushed by the Idrisi forces in a place called Quz Aba al’Ir. In the ensuing battle that lasted six hours, both sides suffered heavy losses, but the Idrisi had the better of `Abdullah, who was obliged to retreat to Qunfudha with a greatly reduced force. Regrouping, the force, now stiffened with about 1,200 regular Ottoman troops, once more left Qunfudha fifteen days later. They met the Idrisi near the site of the earlier battle. Intense fighting ensued, in which Faisal led his cavalry against one of the Idrisi columns trying to break the relief force’s formations, and routed them. The second battle was decided in favour of the combined Ottoman and sharifian forces, but another enemy laid them waste: cholera. A third of the relief force came down with the dreaded disease, which disproportionately affected Turkish troops with their reduced immunity. Faisal later related the extent of the disease’s devastation. He ordered one of his sentries to shout out that the enemy was near. The call was carried into the tents, but out of a force of nearly seven thou sand only five hundred were able to get up and prepare themselves for battle. Faisal could only thank God that in fact there was no enemy in the vicinity.

The two battles of Quz showed both the courage and cruelty of the regular Ottoman troops. Their reprisals against innocent villagers whom they suspected of supporting the Idrisi were fearsome, and the burning of people alive, the impaling, mutilations and beheadings all profoundly disturbed Faisal. It was an early exposure to the horrors of war. Such dreadful scenes would multiply during the Arab Revolt.

Hussein’s forces finally entered Abha on 16 and 17 July 1911. The Idrisi forces fled to the mountains, but the `Asir campaign did not end the rebellion. The Idrisi’s influence on the tribes did not diminish and he continued to rule from his headquarters in Sabia, biding his time for another uprising. Nevertheless, Sharif Hussein could claim victory as he did lift the siege of Abha. His forces had done their fair share of fighting and the Istanbul government acknowledged his help in containing the threat of the Idrisi’s secession in `Asir by awarding him medals. Sharif Hussein, `Abdullah and Faisal returned to Ta’if in triumph in August 1911. Faisal, however, was carried on a litter. He had contracted malaria towards the end of the campaign, which debilitated him for a long time afterwards.

The confrontation with the Idrisi took another turn when the Italians declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 29 September 1911. Italy had coveted the Ottoman provinces of Libya ever since they had dreamed of an Italian overseas empire to rival that of Rome and put Italy on the same footing as other western imperial powers. On the pretext of the Ottomans’ `mistreatment’ of the Italian colony in Tripoli, the Italians invaded and occupied the coastal areas. The interior, however, continued to resist. The Idrisi took immediate advantage of this Italian declaration of war. The Italians promised him financial, military and logistical support. The Italian navy controlled the Red Sea and freely attacked Ottoman coastal installations. The port of Luhayya was besieged by the Italian navy from the sea and by the Idrisi’s forces on land. Elsewhere the Idrisi took over the important town of Jizan, which the Ottomans had evacuated. He then concentrated on cutting the Ottoman lines of communication between the `Asir and the Hijaz, and with the sea route blocked the Ottomans had little means of confronting the renewed challenge from the Idrisi. For the second time, they called on Sharif Hussein to help them in their predicament. Hussein agreed and this time put Faisal in charge of the campaign.

Faisal rode out at the head of a force of 1,500 Bedouins and 400 irregular troops of the sharif ‘s own private army (the bisha) and a Turkish- financed mercenary force of tribal Arabs from the Qasim area (the `uqail). The `uqail fighters only rode female camels on their expeditions, while the bisha mainly comprised people of African origin, that is, freed slaves. They were paid from the sharif ‘s own resources and were entirely loyal to him. They were frequently used for escorting pilgrim caravans. Faisal’s force reached Qunfudha and joined up with two Ottoman battalions that were already in the town. The Idrisi was also assembling his army in the area of Qunfudha in preparation for the expected battle. The Italian navy had sent its warships to support the Idrisi with their guns and to land Italian troops into Qunfudha. A fierce battle ensued between Faisal and the Turks and the Idrisi’s army supported by the Italian naval guns. The Italians abandoned the landing of their troops when the Idrisi was defeated on land, and fled the battlefield with the remnants of his troops. 30 In spite of Faisal’s military victory, the Qunfudha encounter did not eliminate the threat from the Idrisi. Faisal returned to Mecca, and the Idrisi continued in his activities against the Ottomans. The peace treaty that ended the Italian war in October 1912 left the Idrisi in his position and later Ottoman attempts to come to terms with him led nowhere. The situation in `Asir at the outbreak of the First World War had not fundamentally changed since 1912. But the Italians gained Tripoli, which the Ottomans had to concede to face a far bigger threat that broke out in September 1912: the First Balkan War.

Patton Tanks in the Vietnam War

In what the United States military and political senior leadership saw as a continuing struggle against the spread of Communist aggression, small numbers of American military advisors were sent to South Vietnam in 1956 to help train the South Vietnamese military to resist armed aggression sponsored by the Communist government of North Vietnam. An armed insurgency orchestrated by North Vietnam began in South Vietnam the following year. In response, additional American military advisors were sent to South Vietnam. By 1965, there were almost 20,000 American military advisors in South Vietnam.

As the South Vietnamese military floundered in its struggle against the Communist sponsored insurgency, a decision was made in 1965 to officially commit American military ground forces to the growing conflict. The first American military ground force unit to arrive in South Vietnam was the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (9TH MEB), which waded ashore near the coastal city of Da Nang, on 8 March 1965. The next day they brought ashore a platoon of five M48A3 Patton tanks belonging to the 3rd Tank Battalion. It took until July 1965 before the battalion’s entire inventory of tanks was ashore in South Vietnam.

The first major combat encounter in South Vietnam that involved American tanks occurred in August 1965 when Marine Corps armor went up against enemy defensive positions in “Operation Starlite,” and inflicted heavy losses on the Viet Cong troops manning them, with some losses to themselves.

The deployment of the Marine Corps 3rd Tank Battalion was against the wishes of the United States ambassador to South Vietnam and the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) who felt that tanks were not suitable for the terrain, the counter insurgency warfare taking place, and would place an undue strain on the logistical support system. With this thought in mind, U. S. Army ground force combat units that arrived in South Vietnam in 1965 had mostly been stripped of their tank battalions before arriving in country. At the same time, however, American units began encountering not just enemy guerilla units (referred to as the Viet Cong or VC) primarily using hit and run tactics, but main force North Vietnamese Army (NVA) units that often employed conventional tactics when the opportunity presented itself.

The appearance of main force NVA units in South Vietnam helped overcome the resistance of many senior leaders in the U. S. Army who initially felt that there was no place for tanks in the battle for Southeast Asia. U. S. Army ground force units that began arriving in South Vietnam in 1966 came with their full complement of M48A3 tanks. The successful combat use of these vehicles in various battles that took place between 1966 and 1967 convinced many of the non-believers that there was indeed a valuable place on the battlefields of Southeast Asia for tanks despite various terrain obstacles such as jungles and often less than optimum weather conditions.

The usefulness of the M48A3 tank and the other American armored fighting vehicles (AFVs) was proven again during the January/February 1968 surprise Tet offensive in which the VC and NVA moved out of their countryside lairs and struck at the urban population centers of South Vietnam and various large American military bases. It was American tanks and other mechanized vehicles that were able to respond to the enemy offensive in a timely manner with their mobility which disrupted many of the enemy’s attack plans.

In the urban fighting that took place during the Tet offensive it was the firepower of the M114 90mm main guns mounted on the M48A3 tanks that often rooted out the VC and NVA from their urban strongholds. When the VC or NVA attempted to retreat from the cities of South Vietnam after their surprise offensive failed, it was American tanks that helped chase them back to their countryside base camps.

Sometime after the Tet offensive a shortage of M48A3 tanks caused the U. S. Army to ship an unknown number of M48A2C tanks to South Vietnam as is evident from pictorial evidence and the memories of American tankers who served during the conflict.

The only time American M48A3 tanks actually engaged in face to face combat with NVA armor during the Vietnam War occurred on the early evening of 3 March 1969, at the Ben Het Special Forces Camp, located in the mountains of South Vietnam’s Central Highland. The NVA attacked the base with a number of Soviet-supplied PT-76 amphibious light tanks and at least one BTR-50 amphibious armored personnel carrier (APC). Unbeknownst to the NVA tankers there was a platoon of M48A3 tanks guarding the base. In the ensuing engagement the NVA lost two PT-76s and a BTR-50. The American tankers suffered two killed and slight damage to a single M48A3 tank.

American M48A3 tanks were employed in a variety of roles during their time in the Vietnam War; one of the best known was referred to as “search and destroy.” These search and destroy operations were intended to locate enemy installations, attrite VC and NVA forces, and to destroy or remove the opponent’s supplies and equipment. Less importance was given to seizing and holding critical terrain than to finding and finishing off the enemy. When enemy units were located they were attacked by a combination of maneuvering and blocking elements, both supported by artillery and aircraft. During many search and destroy operations, armor units (especially Cavalry elements) were initially engaged in area reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. When contact was made units they then undertook offensive operations, in what the American military describes as a “meeting engagement.”

Many search and destroy operation began with dismounted infantry deployed as skirmishers to conduct a detailed hole-by-hole and bush-by-bush search with M48A3 tanks positioned well back. When a significant enemy combat unit was found, the dismounted infantry would seldom have the firepower needed to overcome the enemy at the point of contact. The tanks were then committed to the assault in order to destroy the enemy unit. A variation of this same mission would find the tanks leading the way and dismounted infantry following to protect the tanks from enemy antitank teams. In jungles and heavily overgrown areas, M48A3 tanks were employed to break pathways for the dismounted infantry, detonate antipersonnel mines, and support the dismounted infantry by firing on enemy defensive works and crew served weapons.

The combat engagement ranges that occurred during search and destroy operations between M48A3 tanks and their opponents were generally under 328 yards (300m); however, engagements at 16-27 yards (15-25m) were not uncommon, especially in areas of dense vegetation.

The most commonly employed main gun round M48A3 tanks used during search and destroy operations was called “canister.” The canister round was designed solely for use against enemy personnel at relatively short range. When fired, the casing of the projectile split as the round left the muzzle of the tank’s cannon releasing 1,281 steel pellets. The pellets moved down range in a conical pattern acting in the same manner as a shotgun blast. The canister round was capable of inflicting casualties in an area 33 yards (30m) wide and 202 yards (185m) deep. Its heavy use led to the improved “beehive” round for the M41 90mm main gun on the M48 series tanks designated the XM580E1 Anti-Personnel Tracer (APERS-T), which contained 4,100 small steel flechettes and was even more deadly against the VC and NVA.

Other types of operations American M48A3 tanks took part in during the Vietnam War included “clear and hold,” which was aimed at driving enemy forces out of designated areas and keeping them out. There was also something referred to as “security.” Security operations for armor units included route security and convoy escort.

Route security required a large armored force for the entire time of a planned convoy mission. Bridges and other critical points first had to be secured with mobile tank-heavy outposts. There also were tank-heavy patrol actions, nicknamed “roadrunner” operations, conducted at random times and in varying directions between the mobile outposts to fend off attempts by enemy forces to lay an ambush. To deter the enemy from emplacing mines during the hours of darkness, some M48A3 tank units conducted roadrunner operations at night, firing their tank’s machine guns and canister main gun rounds to both sides of a planned convoy route at irregular intervals to disrupt any enemy plans at laying an ambush.

Convoy escort missions required a much smaller force of M48A3 tanks, and that only for the time needed to move the convoy from one point to another. In some cases, a combination of route security and convoy escort operations were employed to safely move convoys through enemy infested areas.

It was not an uncommon practice during the Vietnam War to open convoy routes each day by driving M48A3 tanks over them before permitting other vehicles to use the local road network. Due to the thick, elliptically shaped hull of the vehicle, it was normally able to absorb the shock of most mine explosions with only light to moderate damage. However, the VC and NVA would on occasion use much larger than normal charges as improvised mines that could cause extensive damage to M48A3 tanks and kill the crews that served upon them.

Mines were the most widely used weapon employed by VC and NVA forces against American and Allied tanks. Other tank killing weapons employed by the enemy included crew-served 57mm and 75mm recoilless rifles, as well as man-portable shoulder-launched rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPGs). The VC and NVA originally used the Soviet designed RPG-2 until it was in turn replaced by the longer ranged and more effective RPG-7, which fired a roughly five-pound (2.25kg) rockets with a shaped-charged warhead out to 547 yards (500m) which could penetrate approximately 260mm of steel armor.

Growing frustration by the American public with the conflict in Southeast Asia and the continued losses suffered by the American military pushed the country’s political and military senior leadership to begin withdrawing American troops from Southeast Asia in 1969. The tempo of withdrawal increased in 1970 and 1971. The last remaining American military tank unit departed Southeast Asia in April 1972.

Filling the void left by American ground forces was the ARVN in a process known as “Vietnamization.” Among the weapons left behind by the American military to aid the ARVN was a battalion’s worth of M48A3 tanks, which were used to form the 20th Tank Regiment. The primary tank of the ARVN since 1965 had been the American-supplied M41A3 Walker Bulldog light tank, armed with a 76mm main gun.

With the departure of American ground forces from Southeast Asia, the emboldened military and political senior leadership of North Vietnam mounted a massive offensive operation against South Vietnam on the Easter weekend of 1972. In the vanguard of the NVA operation were up to 600 tanks, including Soviet-supplied T54 medium tanks armed with a 100mm main gun. However, American airpower assets in the region helped blunt the NVA offensive along with a surprisingly strong showing by many ARVN units. The AVRN 20th Tank Regiment took a heavy toll of NVA tanks during the spring invasion. During a single engagement along National Highway 9 on 9 April 1972, the M48A3 tanks of the ARVN 20th Tank Regiment destroyed sixteen T54 tanks and captured a Chinese built copy of the T54 tank, designated the Type 59.

After being defeated in their 1972 spring invasion of South Vietnam, North Vietnamese leaders began rebuilding their ground forces in both North Vietnam and South Vietnam and awaited the departure of the American military from South Vietnam.

The turning point for the United States long involvement in the Vietnam War occurred when secret American negotiations to end the war in Southeast Asia finally bore fruit on January 23, 1973, and various combatants signed the Paris Peace Accords. America soon got back its last prisoners of war and slowly but surely withdrew the last vestiges of its military-power from the region. In response, the NVA mounted another massive tank-led offensive operation against South Vietnam on March 1, 1975. Without the cover of American airpower, the ARVN crumbled and Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam fell on 30 April 1975.

Dracula’s Armies

Vlad the Impaler was a medieval Romanian prince famed for his brutal torture techniques and vicious lust for battle. His family name was Draculea, meaning ‘son of the dragon’. In legend, he is said to have turned against God after the death of his wife, becoming the evil undead. This myth lead to the modern interpretation of Count Dracula and other Vampire stories. In reality, Vlad was not a count but a prince. Whilst he was born in Transylvania, Vlad was Crown Prince of Wallachia, a country in the south of present day Romania, bordering Transylvania. He frequently made attacks on Transylvania, which was a contested region, and slaughtered many there for not accepting his authority.

Whilst Dracula is commonly associated with evil he is sometimes seen as being somewhat of a Christian hero. He was a member of the ‘order of the dragon’, an order of Hungarian knights sworn to protect Christian lands from the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Located between Christian Hungary and the huge Ottoman Empire, Wallachia was on the front line in the Ottoman expansion into Europe. Vlad’s barbarous torture techniques have earned him a place in history but they were not altogether unusual in medieval Europe. They may also have been exaggerated by his enemies. Impalement was supposedly his preferred method of execution, but this was common practice at the time. Reports that he burned entire villages to the ground are also unsurprising. In Western Europe, however, tales of Vlad’s attacks across the Balkans led to him being branded a ‘bloodthirsty’ tyrant. In Russia, on the other hand, stories of his brutality were equally rife, but most portrayed him as being a strong ruler and justified in his actions. These Russian accounts tell that he nailed hats to ambassadors’ heads.

The idea that Dracula was immortal may be derived from his own propaganda or that of the Ottomans, who found it difficult to put an end to his insurgency. When he finally was killed in battle, the Ottomans removed his head and placed it on display as proof of his death. It was impaled on a spike in a final twist of irony.

Stephen the Great and Vlad Tepesh.

Military

The military of Wallachia was called the Host [Oastea]. When fully mobilized, the Wallachian army could number 30-40,000 warriors. The ruler of Wallachia was the grand general of the army, called “Mare Voievod”/”Grea Warlord.” The army was divided into two groups, the Oastea Mica [Small Host] and the Oastea Mare [Large Host].

The small host was a semi-permanent, rapid-response force composed primarily of cavalry. It comprised of the Voievod and his guard, the voievod’s Curteni [“men of the court”] and slujitori [“servants”] as well as the boieri nobles and their retinues. Towns which were direct property of the voievod took part in the Oastea Mica, but recieved economic benefits for this. Each boier was assigned as the commander of the troops he brought, organized under their “flags.” In times of crisis, the system of “flags” was symbolic and the entire army was temporarily placed under the command of the voievod. To this was also attached any specialized divisions of infantry, mercenaries, and border guards [plaiesi]. The fact that this part was mostly cavalry allowed the Wallachians to respond quickly to Ottoman or Tatar raids. Long campaigns outside of Wallachia’s borders were almost exclusively only done with this force.

The second part of the army, called the Oastea Mare [“Great Host”] was composed of a general levy throughout the country and comprised mostly of infantry. This was composed of troops taken from cities [targoveti], free peasants [mosneni] which were levied, and rarely, serfs [vecini]. The right to call the Oastea Mare and to grant towns leave from this was only held by the voievod, and the boieri were completely excluded from the act of levying this force. In cities the troops for the Oastea Mare were organized under the leadership of the city’s head, a jude. The jude was the voievod’s representative and thus still kept the force directly under the voievod’s command. This in some sense kept Wallachia’s army from being feudal in nature, as the vast majority of it was always under the voievod’s command. This army was only called in times of dire emergencies, like a major Turkish assault, and the best exhibited use was by Vlad Tepes, who raised 25,000 troops to fight off Mehmed II. The Oaste Mare was a potent defensive force but had no logistical preparation for long campaigns, with soldiers needing to feed off the land as they marched.

Alongside the army was added a system of defense of border fortresses. All of these were at the borders of Wallachia, with the most powerful being on the Danube (Turnu Severin, Giurgiu, Turnu, Braila) but some to guard the mountain passes as well (like Poenari). Of these the most powerful was Giurgiu, which after it was occupied by the Ottomans in the 15th century, posed a continuous danger for Wallachia.

Most of the military equipment was made in the towns and villages of the country, as well as some in the cities, but there are also reports of purchases of swords and gunpowder weapons from Transylvania, as well as armors from Italy. The earliest recording of the use of gunpowder weapons is in 1445 referring to two bombards placed on Giurgiu to defend it from the Turks. The use of cannons and firearms was noticeable but still very low in number, with muskets being used in far greater numbers in Moldavia.

 

RAPPAHANNOCK BRIDGE AND MINE RUN 1863 Part I

Burning the Rappahannock Railway bridge. Oct. 13th 1863

Back on the south side of the Rappahannock, the Army of Northern Virginia, which had been in good spirits during the Bristoe expedition, was satisfied that the year’s bitter fighting had at last been ended. Meade was somewhat of the same mind. He believed that Lee had advanced to Bristoe Station in order to destroy the railroad and thereby to hold off the Army of the Potomac while he sent more troops to Tennessee—”a deep game,” Meade said, “and I am free to admit that in the playing of it [Lee] has got the advantage of me.” But Lee was not so sure that all was over for the winter. He presumed that Meade would advance again. “If I could only get some shoes and clothes for the men,” he said, “I would save him the trouble.” On the possibility that supplies might be forthcoming for a limited offensive, he kept his pontoons on the Rappahannock, close to the piers of the old railroad bridge at Rappahannock Station. Simultaneously, he fortified a bridgehead on the north bank of the river. In doing this, he had a defensive as well as an offensive object in view, for as long as he was able to maintain the pontoon bridge he would be in position to divide Meade’s forces and could throw a flanking column over the river in case his adversary attempted to cross the Rappahannock, either above or below him.

Two weeks and more passed without important incident. The Army of the Potomac advanced to Warrenton, halted there for some days, and then began to feel its way slowly toward the Rappahannock; but Meade did not appear to threaten a general advance. During the respite thus afforded him, Lee experienced some concern over the unsatisfactory handling of affairs in western Virginia. There was, too, the usual futile effort to get reinforcements, especially of cavalry; and some correspondence passed with the War Department over a proposed transfer of troops to South Carolina, a movement against which Lee protested with the reminder that “it is only by the concentration of our troops that we can hope to win any decided advantage.” For the rest, Lee was content to give the men a vacation from marching and to remain at headquarters near Brandy Station, as quietly as was possible, for he was in constant pain, and for five days at the beginning of November was unable to ride. He had set November 5 for a review of the cavalry corps and had invited Governor John Letcher to witness it, but he was afraid he would not be able to endure this ordeal. Fortunately, though, he felt better that day and was able to participate in a ceremony that delighted the spectators and made the heart of Stuart proud. Several of Lee’s nephews and his youngest son were among those passing in front of the commander, who had a secret parental delight in noting that Rooney’s old regiment, the Ninth Virginia, made the finest showing.

Ever since the famous review of June 8, 1863, on that same historic field near Brandy Station, there had been a tradition in the army that pageantry was always followed by action. Once again this was vindicated. On the very day of the ceremonies the outposts reported the enemy advancing to the Rappahannock, and by noon on November 7, Federal infantry was in front of the tête de pont, while a large column was moving to Kelly’s Ford. As the ground on the south bank of the river at this ford was somewhat similar to that at Fredericksburg, in that it offered no deep defensive position from which to dispute a crossing, Lee intended to permit Meade to cross and then to attack him in superior force by holding part of the Federal force at Rappahannock Bridge. The Confederate troops were well disposed for this purpose. Ewell’s corps extended from Kelly’s Ford to a point beyond the bridgehead, Hill was on the upper stretches of the river, guarding the fords, and the cavalry covered both flanks.

When, therefore, Lee learned during the afternoon that the enemy had crossed at Kelly’s Ford, in front of Rodes’s division, he felt no particular concern. Johnson’s division was ordered to reinforce Rodes, Anderson was brought up close to the left of the railroad to support Early, who commanded the crossing, and the rest of Hill’s corps was put on the alert. Early had only Hays’s brigade on the north side of the river, in the works covering the pontoon bridge, and no units resting directly on the south bank; but without waiting for orders he advanced the rest of his division as soon as he heard that the enemy was concentrating in front of the tête de pont. Lee overtook Early on his way to the bridge and rode forward with him to a hill overlooking the position on the north bank.

Early hurried across the pontoon bridge, which was in a protected position, and Lee busied himself with disposing two batteries of artillery that were at hand. After half an hour or more, Early returned and reported that the enemy was gradually approaching the bridgehead under cover of a range of hills, and that the defending force was entirely too small to man the works. On the arrival from the rear of the head of Hoke’s command, the leading brigade of Early’s division, Lee ordered it over the bridge to support the troops already in position, but he declined to send more men to the north side. He believed that seven regiments would suffice to defend the bridgehead, inasmuch as the enemy could not advance on a longer front than the two brigades held.

Soon after Hoke’s brigade crossed, the Federals planted artillery where it could deliver a cross-fire on the bridgehead. Answering this challenge, the Confederate batteries quickened their fire, and Lee moved up to a hill nearer the river in order that he might observe the fight more closely. He soon discovered that the Southern gunners were accomplishing nothing because of the length of the range, and he ordered the fire halted.

In a short time dusk fell. A heavy south wind was blowing and carried away from the river the sound of the action. Soon the Federal ordnance ceased its practice. Shortly afterward flashes of musketry could be seen, but these were not long visible. This stoppage of fire convinced Lee that the Federals were merely making a demonstration against the bridgehead, probably to cover their advance at Kelly’s Ford; and as the enemy had never made a night attack on a fortified position held by the infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee concluded that the action in that quarter was over for the day. If the enemy came too close, he believed it would be possible for the troops on the north side to return to the south bank under cover of the batteries. Leaving General Early in charge, Lee rode back to headquarters, where he received the unwelcome news that the enemy had captured parts of two regiments at Kelly’s Ford, had laid a pontoon bridge, and had sent a large force over to reinforce the first units.

In this situation, of course, the logical course was to carry out the plan previously prepared for this contingency-to hold the bridgehead, to demonstrate there, and to move the greater part of the army eastward to engage the troops that were facing Rodes and Johnson at Kelly’s Ford. But before Lee could execute this plan, Early sent him almost incredible news from the tete de pont: After darkness had fallen, the enemy had massed in great strength, had stormed the bridgehead and had captured the whole force on the north side, except for those who had swum the Rappahannock or had run the gauntlet over the pontoon bridge! Fearing an attempted crossing, Early had set fire to the south end of the bridge and had lost the pontoons.

Lee’s defensive plan collapsed as he read Early’s dispatch. If the bridgehead was gone, it would be futile to demonstrate on the left while attacking on the right at Kelly’s Ford. Meade would laugh at the helpless Southern troops opposite the old railroad bridge. Moreover, the Army of Northern Virginia could not safely remain where it was, on a shallow extended front, with the Rapidan River behind it. Pope had nearly been caught there, with the positions reversed. Lee saw that he must move back, and at once. Within a few hours after Early had reported the disaster at Rappahannock Bridge, the troops had been routed out from their huts, the wagons had been packed, and the army was retiring to a line that crossed the Orange and Alexandria Railroad two miles north-east of Culpeper and barred the road from Kelly’s Ford by way of Stevensburg. Lee was, of course, concerned over this hurried movement, but he did not let it upset his poise. As he prepared to leave his headquarters near Brandy Station, he went to Major Taylor’s tent and found that officer stretched out in front of a roaring fire. “Major Taylor is a happy fellow,” he commented cheerfully, and went on his way. There was no sleep for Lee that night, and he was glad to see his faithful staff officer snatching rest while he could.

As the army formed line of battle in its new position on the morning of November 9, there was some expectation that Meade would attack, but when he let the day pass without following up his success at Rappahannock Bridge, Lee again put the columns in motion and, on November 10, was back on the south side of the Rapidan, whence he had started one month and one day previously for Bristoe Station.

The troops were much chagrined at the necessity which threw them back from the Rappahannock. The affair of the bridge was, Taylor insisted, “the saddest chapter in the history of this army,” showing “miserable, miserable management.” Sandie Pendleton, son of the chief of artillery and one of Jackson’s former staff officers, was burning for Lee to attack Meade and “let us retrieve our lost reputation.” He went on: “It is absolutely sickening, and I feel personally disgraced by the issue of the late campaign, as does every one in the command. Oh, how each day is proving the inestimable value of General Jackson to us.” A young North Carolinian, less close to the saddles of the mighty, probably voiced the sentiments of the army when he said, “I don’t know much about it but it seems to me that our army was surprised.” Early was intensely humiliated, though he did not feel himself responsible. Lee called for prompt reports both of the attack at the bridgehead and of the capture of the skirmishers at Kelly’s Ford; but when the documents were received he could only say that sharpshooters had not been properly advanced in front of the bridgehead, and that Rodes had erred in placing two regiments on picket duty, instead of one, at Kelly’s Ford. “The courage and good conduct of the troops engaged,” he said, “have been too often tried to admit of question.”

The morale of the army was not impaired by this unhappy affair. The men went cheerfully to work building new huts, and contrived to make themselves comfortable after a fashion. Lee sought once more to get shoes for those who were barefooted and began a long correspondence with the commissary bureau concerning the rationing of the army. Supplies were so scanty and the operation of the Virginia Central Railroad so uncertain that he was compelled to serve warning that he might be forced to retreat nearer Richmond. As he could not leave the army to go to the capital to discuss these matters with Mr. Davis, he requested the President to visit the army, and, during a period of rainy weather from November 21 to November 24, conferred with him on the situation. Lee’s most immediate concern was for the horses, which were almost without forage. He anticipated the loss of many of them from starvation during the winter, and he did not believe that without food they could survive more than two or three days of active operations. The country round about had been stripped almost as bare as the devastated area north of the Rappahannock.

But whether men or mounts survived or perished, Lee had to guard his front against the powerful, warm, and well-fed enemy that might again descend upon him. A little tributary of Mine Run, known as Walnut Run, fifteen miles north-east of Orange Courthouse, was fortified to cover the right flank. Ewell’s corps was extended from that point westward to Clark’s Mountain, where the old lookout was re-established. In Ewell’s absence on account of sickness, this part of the line was entrusted to Early, with particular instructions to study the defensive possibilities of Mine Run. From Clark’s Mountain westward to Liberty Mills, a distance of approximately thirteen miles, Hill’s camps were spread. The cavalry covered both flanks, and as Lee thought it probable Meade would make his next advance from Bealton to Ely’s and Germanna Fords, Hampton’s division on the lower Rapidan was enjoined to maintain a ceaseless watch for an advance in that quarter.

For more than two weeks after the line of the Rapidan was manned, Meade showed no sign of any disposition to assume the initiative except for minor cavalry demonstrations. Then, on the night of November 24, one of Lee’s spies reported that eight days’ rations had been issued the I Corps, and another scout told of suspicious movements by Federal horse in Stafford County. The next morning Stuart’s cavalry was put on the alert, and the army became expectant of a new battle. “With God’s help,” wrote Major Taylor, “there shall be a Second Chancellorsville as there was a Second Manassas.”

Lee’s belief was that his able adversary, in making another thrust, would attempt, on crossing the Rapidan, to advance through the Wilderness of Spotsylvania in the direction of the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad. He had already suggested to General Imboden in the Shenandoah Valley that he join with Mosby’s Rangers in operations against the Federal line of communications, and he now prepared to move quickly to the north-east in order to interpose between Meade and his objective. For once the roads favored him, and he had three fair highways almost to Wilderness Run and two nearly to Chancellorsville.

A heavy fog limited vision from the Confederate signal stations early on the morning of November 26, but this lifted as the day wore on, and disclosed the enemy moving in force through Stevensburg toward Germanna Ford. As this was precisely what Lee had expected Meade to do, orders were issued for the Confederate movement to begin during the night. Care was taken to cover both flanks, and a route was selected for the wagon train that would place it where it could either reach the army quickly or retire southward toward the line of the Virginia Central Railroad. At 3 A.M. on the morning of the 27th, Lee left his headquarters near Orange Courthouse and started for Verdiersville. The weather was excessively cold, and icicles formed thickly on the beards of the officers, but Lee was in high spirits, now that there was a prospect of battle. He was quite unconscious of the inward grumbling of his staff that he had started ahead of everyone else and would arrive at his destination ere more seasonable sleepers were astir.

True to these chilly predictions, when Lee reached Verdiersville he found no troops there, but down the road, in a thick pine wood, fires were burning and Confederate cavalry outposts were to be seen. After establishing his headquarters at the Rhodes house, Lee walked down the plank road and found Stuart just rising from beside the fire, where he had slept since midnight with only one blanket. “What a hardy soldier!” Lee exclaimed as Stuart approached. The same thing might have been said of Lee himself, for he had cast aside his cape and wore only his uniform.

In a brief conversation with his chief of cavalry, Lee directed him to cover the roads in the direction of Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania Courthouse, as the enemy was believed to be moving in that direction. Not long after Stuart rode off to look for Hampton’s division, which had not yet come up, General Early reported in person. Ewell’s corps, Early said, was already beyond Verdiersville on the old turnpike, which approximately paralleled the plank road. Lee simply ordered him to continue his advance in the direction of Chancellorsville and to attack any force he encountered Early rode off to direct this movement. He soon sent back word that the cavalry pickets had been driven in and that General Hays, who was leading Early’s own division, had met Federal infantry at Locust Grove, situated on a ridge about a mile and a half east of Mine Run. Assuming that this was a force thrown out to protect the rear of Federals moving eastward from the nearby fords, Lee did not ride forward to reconnoitre in person, but waited at Verdiersville for the arrival of Hill’s corps, which had a long march on the plank road from its encampments.