PRESENTATION SCOTT’S INFANTRY TACTICS BOOK OF COL. WILLIAM CHRISTIAN, 26th NEW YORK, BREVET BRIGADIER GENERAL, “HE’D ALWAYS HAD A GREAT FEAR OF SHELLING.”

$450.00 SOLD

Quantity Available: None

Item Code: 2022-1005

This is an appropriate memento of Col. W. H. Christian of the 26th New York. He had a talent for drill. A member of Stevenson’s New York Regiment in the Mexican War, which served in California, he had risen to sergeant by war’s end, remained there during the Gold Rush, returned east in 1856 to be the city surveyor for Utica, and use his military experience as drill instructor for a local militia unit. He also put his expertise to use at Antietam.

This is volume 1 of the three volume set of infantry tactics authored by General Winfield Scott in 1834 and still in use at the beginning of the Civil War by New York state and, officially at any rate, by the U.S. until 1862. Inside the front cover in period ink is inscribed: “Presented to Col. Wm. / H. Christian by the / Adjt. Genl. N.Y. / Elmira 1861.”

The volume is divided into several parts {“Titles”) including “Formation of a Regiment and General Instructions,” which covers the number of companies, officers, strengths, etc. The “School of the Soldier” describes the physical positions, movements, and procedures of loading and firing of individual soldiers. The “School of the Company” instructs company commanders in maneuvering the company in battle and on the march. The volume includes plates illustrating maneuvers and also music calls for transmitting orders by drum beat. Subsequent volumes dealt with the organization and maneuvers of larger units. This was the essential basic volume on which the others built.

At the outbreak of the Civil War Christian, age 36, raised a regiment that eventually consisted of six companies from Oneida County, two from Monroe, and one each fom Tioga and Madison. Elmira, where the volume was presented by the state Adjutant General, was one of several depots established by New York as points of rendezvous for regiments to organize and recruit up to war strength. Christian’s regiment was not part of the state’s quota of 17 regiments for three-months service called for by the President in April, but was one of 21 other regiments recruited by the state on its own accord for two-years service. The situation was complicated later by the federal government asking for three-year regiments and even more confused by Christian’s regiment being mustered into U.S. service for just three month’s service on May 21, although the government wanted no more three-month regiments at the time. The mess was not straightened out until August when, at the request of the federal  government, they were mustered again for U.S. service, this time for the remaining time of their two-year state service. In the meantime, they left the state for Washington on June 19 and served in and around Washington in the brigades of McCunn, Heintzelman, and Slocum, and were posted at Fort Lyon toward the end of 1861.

They had helped cover the retreat from First Bull Run in July 1861, taken part in an expedition to Pohick Church in October 1861, and seen service at Cedar Mountain in August 1862, but had not been engaged in any fighting until Second Bull Run Campaign as part of the 3rd Corps in Pope’s Army of Virginia. There they were hard hit, losing 4 officers and 50 men killed or mortally wounded, another 89 wounded and 25 missing as part of Tower’s Brigade. Christian’s performance was hardly impressive: he had remained in the rear, complaining of sunstroke, and seemed only to reappear during the retreat when his seniority gave him brigade command after the wounding of Tower. Officers of the regiment were concerned, but took no action and a little over two weeks later at Antietam he still commanded the brigade in Rickett’s Division of Hooker’s Corps.

Ricketts and Doubleday led Hooker’s attack on September 17. Christian led his brigade forward from the North Woods into the East Woods, but apparently had to be prodded to do so. Once there a member of the 88th PA recalled, “if the brigade had been taken into Bull Run like a mob, it was evident that that error was not to be repeated here; but, to the anxious men in the ranks it seem that an unnecessary amount of drilling was performed.”

Commanders occasionally steadied men under fire by calling upon muscle memory and instinct to perform the manual of arms, but in this case Christian seems to have merely added to the chaos by pointless maneuvering. Officers in his 88th PA were apparently relaying his orders in, “giving commands in quick succession: ‘Forward, guide centre,’ then ‘By the right flank,’ followed by ‘Forward’ again, the shells from the enemy’s cannon meanwhile shrieking and flying all around, striking the ground in a wicked manner and throwing up the dirt and dust in great clouds as high as the trees. The hideous noise made by these projectiles as they screamed through the trees was indescribable…”

Whether still suffering the effects of his reported sunstroke or from some other cause, Christian apparently broke. Deaf, literally and figuratively, to requests for aid from Ricketts’ other brigade commanders, he simply left the field and his command with the comment that he had, “always had a great fear of shelling.” In the aftermath Ricketts offered him a courtmartial or resignation, which he submitted two days after the battle. Some blamed it on the sunstroke he claimed to have suffered a little over two weeks before. His own explanations seem to have varied and in some fashion he was redeemed in part in 1868 by receipt of a commission as brevet brigadier general for “gallant and meritorious services,” to date March 1865. The claims of sunstroke or some mental issue may well have some weight. His erratic behavior in postwar years led to his commitment to an asylum in 1886, where he died the following year.  [sr] [ph:m]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

THIS ITEM, AS WITH ALL OTHER ITEMS AVAILABLE ON OUR WEB SITE,

MAY BE PURCHASED THROUGH OUR LAYAWAY PROGRAM.

CLICK HERE FOR OUR POLICIES AND TERMS.

THANK YOU!

Inquire About PRESENTATION SCOTT’S INFANTRY TACTICS BOOK OF COL. WILLIAM CHRISTIAN, 26th NEW YORK, BREVET BRIGADIER GENERAL, “HE’D ALWAYS HAD A GREAT FEAR OF SHELLING.”

should be empty