Saturday, April 1, 2017

Obstinate Determination 8 x 10 Pastel on 8 ply 400 grit Uart board

In war, if you can get upon your opponents flank, you could do some serious damage to that enemy. You could create great chaos as you brought your guns to bear down their entire line also known as enfilade. Officers feared it, for not only the physical damage to their troops, but the psychological as well. In attempts to prevent this, armies would often place their flank on a geographical feature, such as a river, or hills to protect the end of their line and eliminate the risk of being taken in such a demoralizing and destructive manner.

In August in 1862, on a late afternoon of the 28th, Lt. General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson would turn to his command staff and state. “Bring out your men, gentlemen.” Jackson had been watching a column of Union troops, plodding along in the late summer heat on the dusty road to his front. The heat and long march had taken a toll on the troops in blue as their marching was somewhat ragged and Jackson sensed they ripe for the picking. Plus, he was on their flank.

To protect themselves, Confederate troops in butternut and gray would place their right flank on this area of wood and water as they filtered out in a line of battle from the safety of the shadows. They opened fire on the tired Federals, but to their surprise the expected chaos and confusion they had seen Federal soldiers in previous battles did not materialize. The Union troops this day were veterans and while surprised, panic was not in their vocabulary.

Under the command of Philadelphia born, but North Carolina raised John Gibbon, the troops this day were what was in the day, Western troops comprised of the 2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin along with the 19th Indiana, also known as the “Black Hats” or later known as the “Iron Brigade”. They were fighters and were primed to prove it.

The two sides marched toward each other until within roughly 100 yards the 2nd Wisconsin unleashed a devastating volley that staggered the Confederates to their front. After this initial blast, the two sides would halt and stand toe to toe, with many of the soldiers in both armies falling where they stood.  As the sun dropped and the fighting diminished in the late summer’s eve, where previously muzzle flashes illuminated the land, now lanterns flickered on blood stained grass, searching the field for wounded that might yet be saved.

Though the battle produced not much more than sadness for families who would never see their sons, fathers, brothers, again, in some ways the staunch fighting by the soldiers from the Army of the Potomac served noticed that things were slowly changing in the blue clad infantry. Under solid leaders they would not easily be intimidated. Confirmed by the reactions of Confederate troops and especially Jackson who were not accustomed to such stubborn resistance, prompting General “Stonewall” Jackson to later remark that these Yankees fought with an “obstinate determination”.

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